Social Change in SF/Fantasy

23 Oct

I’m trying to rest today, but this article got me thinking …

There are times, in medieval British history, when one could reasonably think that history repeats itself.

The story is always the same. Pushed too far, the commoners revolt. Being often armed and dangerous, these revolts come very close to success. And then the monarch promises compromise and reform and the rebels disband, only to be hunted down like dogs once the government reasserted its power. Richard II, Henry VI and Henry VIII all came very close to losing their thrones to peasants. And while the rebels sometimes managed to get the government to change its mind – the poll tax of 1381 was scrapped after the revolt – it was rare for them to achieve much of anything.

Indeed, even when Charles I had proven himself a treacherous and utterly untrustworthy monarch – and he was stripped of all effective power – Parliament hesitated before executing him. He was the king!

Kings had been killed before, of course. Edward II had been murdered after he’d been overthrown (unless you believe he was held prisoner after his reported death.) Richard II was murdered after his overthrow. The Princes in the Tower vanished and were widely believed to have been murdered by Richard III. But they were all murdered by their successors or, in one case, a high-ranking nobleman. (Roger Mortimer was savaged by historians after he was overthrown and executed too, perhaps because he wasn’t crowned king himself.) The idea of the commoners overthrowing and killing the king was unthinkable.

Part of this, of course, was the myth of ‘evil counsellors.’ The myth insisted that all the bad things were done by the king’s counsellors, not the king himself. If the king actually knew what was being done in his name, the story went, he would act immediately to punish the evil-doers and rule wisely and justly from that moment on. There was very little actual truth in the myth, but it served a useful purpose. Rebels demanded the heads of ‘evil counsellors,’ not the king himself. And if matters got too far out of hand, those counsellors could be sacrificed to preserve the monarchy.

But a more fundamental point was that people of that era – even as late as the Glorious Revolution and the Jacobite Rebellion – believed firmly in the social hierarchy. The crowned and anointed king was at the top, followed by the various orders of noblemen and churchmen all the way down to peasants and serfs. This was how they thought things were supposed to be – the peasants wanted good rulers, not chaos. And those who did question the social order were often considered dangerous heretics. John Ball, for example, was rapidly smacked down when he moved from questioning the church – a cause that many noblemen privately supported – to questioning the noblemen themselves. His famous question – “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?” – was not one they wanted the peasants to ask.

The author condemns the social structure of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World – and, more fundamentally, insists that Hermione’s lust for social justice – particularly for the House Elves – fades as she adopts a pragmatic approach to civil rights. Equality is a fine thing to fight for when you’re a passionate teenager, she notes, but dreams fade into incremental bureaucratic reality when you grow up, get married, and get serious.

It’s a valid point. But it also bears some examination.

It is instructive to note that Hermione makes a number of fundamental mistakes when trying to free the elves. First, she refuses to accept that the majority of elves see nothing wrong with their treatment. Second, she is unable to grasp that not everyone shares her opinion of the situation; Ron, for example, sees nothing wrong with how the elves are treated despite not owning an elf himself. (Or, for that matter, having any real prospect of owning one.) And third, directly related to the second, she is unable to put together a coherent argument that might convince people who are neutral or leaning towards the other side. Like the vast majority of social justice warriors, Hermione assumed that her emotional reaction to House Elf enslavement – and she was right to regard it as horrific – was sufficient to force everyone else to act. She made no attempt to understand those she was trying to help – and their oppressors.

Hermione Granger Quotes

(A statement that is flatly incorrect.)

Rowling depicted the results quite accurately. Harry and Ron, her closest friends, have to be bullied into supporting her – it’s clear they find it embarrassing – while everyone else laughs at her. She gains nothing from her rather strident approach to the whole situation, while making life harder for everyone else in her dorm (as the House Elves are reluctant to clean the room.) And trying to give the elves clothes is pointless when she doesn’t own the elves and therefore cannot free them!

Societies – real as well as fictional – exist the way they do because of certain underlying realities. Throughout history, women were often regarded as second-class citizens; although it was far from uncommon for women to build power bases of their own, they did this by working within the system and manipulating it. This was not just because men were physically stronger than women, although that played a part. It was because a woman had a very real chance of dying in childbirth, even if she got the best medical care available at the time. There is no suggestion that Pompey the Great ever mistreated Julia Caesar – indeed, he was regarded as shamefully infatuated with his young bride – but that didn’t stop her dying in childbirth.

There are other points, of course. Farmers would try to have large families because they needed hands to help on the farm. Male children were often seen as more important than female children because boys stayed to work the farm while girls married out (often as soon as they could bear children themselves) and went to work for their husband’s family. The high mortality rate in the past often meant that a peasant would be married several times, with a brood of children and stepchildren that would confuse anyone trying to work out their relationships. There was always something to do on the farm, for everyone: sowing the fields, feeding the animals, cleaning the house, cooking, sewing … the tasks were endless.

This isn’t something that is easy to comprehend. Emma Watson, upon being cast as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, asked what Belle did with her time. She even insisted that the live-action Belle be an inventor. But in saying that, Emma Watson only revealed her own ignorance. A young girl growing up in such a place, without a mother, would have no shortage of things to do. She would be expected to keep house for her father: cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc. There were no mod-cons to make it easy, either. Belle would have had to do everything by hand …

… And Gaston would have been seen as a great catch. Belle’s father would have been overjoyed if such a man had been courting his daughter. And no one would have cared about Belle’s opinion at all.


Those who want social change, therefore, face two problems. First, there are plenty of people amongst the ‘downtrodden’ who fear change and what it may bring in its wake. This isn’t entirely an unreasonable concern. The French Revolution was necessary, but the Terror was chaotic – resulting in civil wars within the civil war – and the lives of many Frenchmen grew worse even before Napoleon took over. Educating one’s children might lead to them putting on airs and graces, instead of working on the farm. There actually was a brain-drain from the Russian countryside before the Revolution because the educated no longer had a place in the villages.

Second, perhaps more importantly, the people on top don’t want social change. Why should they? History tells us that if the people had waited for the elites to grant them social change, they’d still be waiting. Why would a slaveholder in Dixie give up his slaves? Freeing the slaves would mean losing the plantation – at the very least, he’d have to pay the former slaves to work – while keeping them might save his land and profits. Why exactly would he want to support abolition? Worse, perhaps, a number of men who don’t own slaves would also oppose abolition. They wouldn’t want free blacks to enter the labour market, thus driving wages down.

The writer of the article then refers to The Goblin Emperor, a book I got about a third of the way through before giving up. Her snide observation that the anarchists are regarded as insane misses the point that insane is exactly how they’d be regarded, back in the past. And this would be true of anyone who wanted too much change, too quickly. Like it or not, the rapid spread of the internet has caused us problems we have yet to resolve – in hindsight, would it have been wiser to go slower? But no one could direct the storm once it had begun …

The Goblin Emperor is apparently disappointing because social change is very slow. (I didn’t get that far, so I don’t know how true this is.) But social change – real social change – requires generations. It’s easy to smear radicals as … well, radicals. Those who want change must be prepared to argue for it – and they must have a valid answer when someone asks, as they will, ‘what’s in it for me?’

More importantly, directed social change requires an understanding of how society actually works. A lone king or emperor may not be able to accomplish much, even if – in theory – he is all-powerful. Noblemen, or the church, or even the bureaucracy will turn against him if he pushes for too much, too fast. Sometimes this will be as minor and petty as refusing to accept that a commoner can be given a knighthood, sometimes it will be more significant – insisting on keeping a monopoly, perhaps. A person who rages against the machine without understanding how the machine works will not be able to play John Galt and stop the motor of the world.

And yet, societies do change.

Sometimes, something happens that loosens the bonds of society. The Black Death killed hundreds of thousands of people, but it also allowed the survivors to start demanding better terms or they’d move elsewhere. Wages, accordingly, went up. At the same time, it also induced the gentry and nobility to start taking more interest in local postings … which upped the corruption in local government.

Other changes were technological. The spread of reading and writing allowed ideas to move from place to place, encouraging social change. Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Huckleberry Finn and Oliver Twist promoted social change by making reasonable arguments and illustrating the hypocrisy of reactionaries. So too did books like The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. It was no longer possible to shoot the messenger, once books and broadsheets became popular. Steam technology allowed faster movement from place to place, while improvements to farming technology eliminated the economic impetus for chattel slavery.

And still other changes were medical. The Pill allowed women to enter the workforce, as well as decoupling sex and reproduction. This caused other changes … premarital sex was no longer sinful, at least for the women, and virginity was no longer so highly prized. And so on and so on …

A writer who tries to use social change as the centre of the novel, therefore, faces two significant problems. On one hand, he must make social change interesting; on the other, he will face people who will argue that that ‘it wouldn’t have happened like that.’ Naomi Alderman’s The Power starts to collapse into an incoherent mess as her background overwhelms the foreground. It is very difficult to get a story out of pure social change. I would like a universe where we all develop the power to teleport, but how would I turn the social change into a story?

It’s a problem I have grappled with myself, when writing Schooled in Magic. It was always my intention to show what the influx of new ideas – first, ideas introduced by Emily; second, adaptations and improvements made by the locals – would do to a society that was, in many ways, stagnant. Emily’s education was not the best, but she knew enough to introduce everything from simple letters and numbers to paper and printing presses. (A secondary advantage is that she can imagine newer and better ways to use magic, causing yet another set of revolutions.)

This has happened in the real world, to some extent. Cortes – the Conqueror of Mexico – was a middling general by European standards. But he had a far more advanced playbook than the Aztecs and was able to use the weaknesses in their society to bring them down. Emily’s mindset allows her to make intellectual leaps that are beyond most of the locals – to them, she came out of nowhere. Her limited knowledge is more than enough to change the world.

But these changes have effects that are bad as well as good. A new banking system allows commoners to horde money, but it also kicks off a financial bubble that eventually – inevitably – explodes. Broadsheets (newspapers) allow more and more people to become aware of the world outside their spheres of interest, yet they also undermine the social order and threaten the position of the kings and princes (and sorcerers). Steam railways change the world by allowing movement over far greater distances. Newer and better understandings – germs, for example – have their own effects. Even something as simple as standardised measurements can turn the world upside down.

And yet, these changes take time. By ‘now,’ most of the low-hanging fruits have been picked. Greater changes will take time, far more time. And there will be people who have an interest in trying to put the genie back in the bottle.

And changes take time in the real world too.

The writer asks why SF has lost its ability to imagine alternatives to capitalism. But the blunt truth is that most SF utopias – The Culture, for example – require technological breakthroughs that have not – yet – happened. It also relies upon super-intelligent AIs – the Minds – to run the society. Star Trek: The Next Generation has the same problem. The human race may have evolved – Captain Picard: “the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives” – but it has done so because of technological advances that have eliminated everything from hunger to (most) disease. There is no fundamental need for humans to acquire wealth in such surroundings because they don’t need it. This is a better world, but – from a storytelling point of view – it’s also boring.

It’s also worth noting that capitalism – and competition, and enlightened self-interest – have done more for the lives of the poor than any other form of government. Communism is nothing more than the equal distribution of poverty, the ultimate end result of the steady reduction of interest in actually working. Why work when the rewards of not working are just the same? Socialism is a dead end without the technology to make it work. Fascism and monarchism – and direct democracy – have their own limits; some obvious and brutal, some so small that they appear insignificant until too late. Social change is not always a part of epic fantasy – from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones – because the basic structure of their worlds mandates against it.

In conclusion, I’d like to make a simple observation.

The reference to Hillary Clinton made me smile, for all sorts of reasons. One of them was Hillary – or her ghost-writer – comparing her to Cersei Lannister, particularly when Cersei is made to walk the streets naked as a punishment for her crimes. (Ironically, Englishwomen were often spared the worst when a king was on the throne, whatever their crimes; Mary and Elizabeth had far less hesitation in executing their sisters.) But there is no doubt that Cersei Lannister was guilty of everything from incest to murdering her husband and abusing her children. It was a cruel and gendered punishment (a man would have been executed) but it was not undeserved. If Hillary Clinton identifies with Cersei, does that mean that Hillary is guilty too? She certainly has the ‘evil counsellors’ – Anthony Weiner copped a great deal of the blame for her loss, rather than Hillary herself.

And one might also argue that one of the reasons Trump won was simply that he was more popular than Hillary – he certainly enjoyed a broader base of support – something that is not unlike to Henry VI being more popular than Richard II.

But there is a more serious point. The writer calls the Clintons a de facto aristocratic family – and one of the things aristocracies do is slow progress. Hillary Clinton had countless advantages when she took the field against Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016 – in the latter, she had the nomination stitched up ahead of time – but she lost both times. And part of the reason she lost is that she didn’t have an inherent understanding of politics, unlike Obama, Trump and Bill Clinton. But how could she have developed one when she never had to face a serious challenge until it was too late?

The monarchies – and aristocrats – want to ensure that there are no social changes which undermine their power. (This is as true of the Bushes as it is of the Clintons, as well as the Plantagenets, Tudors and Stuarts.) But this slows development to a crawl. Worse, the aristocrats lose touch with reality. On one hand, Hillary Clinton and the DNC was unable to adapt to a new reality; on the other, moderate reformers in the past got eliminated, clearing the way for rather less moderate reformers. One can argue that the RNC crushed the Tea Party, thus clearing the way for a man who proved a far more capable enemy – Donald Trump.

Perhaps the ultimate lesson of fantasy is not that knights and dragons and damsels in distress are cool, but that no one in their right mind would want to live there, let alone surrender their lives to a monarch …

… And, if you want social change, you have to start by understanding why society works the way it does.

28 Responses to “Social Change in SF/Fantasy”

  1. bretwallach October 23, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    “And yet, these changes take time.”

    One of the things I’ve found implausible in Schooled in Magic is that the changes Emily has introduced become too widely adopted too quickly. Letters and numbers are introduced and widely adopted within months? To me, that adoption rate should’ve been measured in centuries!

    • Derek Knox October 23, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

      While i agree that lettering and numbers seem to have been adopted far faster than seem likely, the use of portals at least provide a mechanism for the spread.

      • Pyo October 23, 2017 at 6:22 pm #

        I think it’s also OK to speed up these things in fantasy/scifi novels. Well, fine, so it’s not perfectly plausible – but am I reading a scientific research paper on social changes or a fiction book that’s supposed to be fun?

        The SiM world seems, by and large, to be fairly simplified. There aren’t dozens of language barriers, social norms seem to be fairly same-ish everywhere and by and large nothing too exotic, etc.

        I agree that it shouldn’t be too implausible. But in SiM, we already have an established structure of eduction. There’s no need to provide the infrastructure to teach these things – that’s already in place. Therefore it’s not too implausible that it’d happen reasonably quickly. The other problem is that the established elite is usually conservative and would balk at the adaption of new systems. But here, this elite are to large numbers mages – and they have a vested interest in these numbers and letter. Therefore, again, it’s kinda plausible they’d go along with introducing them.

        Sure, it could have been done a bit more nuanced. A “model” could for example have been the introduction of hiragana in Japanese – at first, those simpler letters were only used by women, lower class courtiers, for unofficial and unimportant messages etc. while for everything “fancy” kanji-only was preferred. But, as usual, practical advantages eventually won out, and so they started using a mix of kanji and hiragana. Similar things happened for the adoption of Arabic numbers over Roman ones. Roman numbers didn’t just disappear, heck, they are still in use nowadays.

        But do I want these nuances in a fantasy world? Is it really important enough to go on about it? Maybe “a little bit”, for world building purposes, but most likely it’s just not that crucial.

        Now, all that aside. Getting rid of capitalism is tough. It’s hard to imagine a human society that doesn’t in some way work with that, unless something really drastic changed (either an utopia or a dystopia…).

        But there still can be scifi series that work on interesting social premises. For example, Heylen’s Wisdom series is kind of “Socialist”, but with the modifier that everyone is monitored for “Contribution”. The guiding system of that society is essentially that everyone and everything contributes to a larger whole. It might not seem that different from now, but even that little twist from a fairly individualistic to a more communal effort – plus new technology – makes for an interesting read.

        Or (a quirky series I can only recommend) AC Edwards’ Maple Leaf Quartet – there’s a whole bunch of different government systems in place here. Some are the corporate dictatorship governments many fear and predict. Others, like the one the heroine gets involved in, work vaguely similar to a shareholder company. You can “invest” in your own country by buying shares of it. Buying more shares in turn gives you more say.
        And so on.

        I find these sort of things easier to buy than scifi series that re-introduce monarchies. Even if it’s something parliamentarian like in the Honorverse I just don’t see it as “realistic”. I’m not buying that’s in any way going to happen. Not that I think it matters that it’s not realistic.

    • David Pollard October 23, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

      There’s also the point that we’re only seeing what’s changed in the “cosmopolitian” capitals and elite educational institutions and port cities of this world. Deep in the rural hinterlands it’s likely little has changed or will for quite some time (except possibly in Cockatrice or Jade’s province of Zangaria)

    • KristophrKristophr October 28, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

      Arabic numbers too Europe by storm, once business owners saw how easily they could keep books with it.

      I agree that changing writing would take longer, at least amongst the literate class. But if it allowed the illiterate to become literate, the change would happen faster.

      • chrishanger November 3, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

        True. People believe that reading is power, it’s just that they didn’t have time to learn Old Script. Now … memorising 24 letters is a snap.


    • chrishanger October 29, 2017 at 8:40 am #

      It doesn’t take long to learn 10 numbers and 24 letters .

      (Though I think i need another blog post on this topic.)


  2. Derek Knox October 23, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

    I’ve always had a problem with fantasy that has a large social change aspect. So many authors ignore the huge collection of historical references proving that such revolutions are often only half thought out, and often create worst problems.

  3. Vapori October 23, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    I actually like social changes in fantasy , and while some things in schooled in magic need a stretch of imagination, it still seems plausible enough. A universal language thanks to the former Imperium quick travel for rich traders thanks to portals. and with cockatrice a spot that supported all these changes early on.

    Often times I find that Autors who try social change in one way or another miss one of the major points that you named while such a change should or could occur.

    For Communism for excample it’s not just that capitalism is better to motivate people to work hard.
    Communism or the communistic manifest didn’t describe how one could make a better longterm state, but it descried quite well what was rotten in capitalism at that time and how to make it better short term.

    The Soviet Union and Lenin had many intellectual supporters at the beginning.
    And without an Evil like Hitler, Stalin would never have been able to become a great Hero for Russia.

    Another point is that we live in a world with national states and usually work in companies, the National states compete for the companies and for individuals so it’s hard to implement drastic changes without many people switching sides specally now with globalisation in full swing

  4. Tim October 23, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

    I’m ok with Arabic numerals and movable type and the way it is introduced in SIM. The motivation for the numerals is that the accounting guild is abusing everyone who needs computation done so the merchants would jump on anything that gets them out from under the guild.
    The one issue that occasionally bothers me is that Emily seems to know more about her old civilization than someone her age and background would likely know.


  5. Dani October 23, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

    I thought highly of The Goblin Emperor. The protagonist is a genuinely-good person who succeeds while retaining that goodness. The book is about that person, and his relationships to family and subjects, not about the however-offensive-to-us society in which the book is embedded.

    He does not attempt to initiate significant reforms. His successes are what is characterized late in the novel as ‘bridge building’. The hope is that he will leave his empire better than he found it.

  6. G October 24, 2017 at 12:36 am #

    I think SIM has pushed rapid social change more than is credible for anyone with a working knowledge of history–it should move on to Emily’s personal growth and growing sorcerous and political power and her leading the Allied Lands against the Necromancers and possibly Fairie…

  7. William Ameling October 24, 2017 at 3:20 am #

    I am reminded of a comment, I think by Winston Churchill, that (I think I am mis wording it) “Democracy is a bad (or worst) form of government, except for all the rest (which are even are even worse)” with a generalization about Capitalism and all of the rest of economic systems.

  8. Ann October 24, 2017 at 3:53 am #

    Steam railways change the world by allowing movement over far greater distances.

    First, steam engines provided industrial services – lifting/lowering, hammering, sawing, rotating, etc that replaced wind/water/animal power much better.
    Second, steam railways allowed the transportation of raw materials and later finished goods more cheaply that other land transport and more easily than canals, locks and pumps and barges but only once there was plentiful and cheap iron which steam engines assisted..
    The movement of people was minor in comparison and water transport was always cheaper for movement over distances than anything else and remains so today.

  9. PhilippeO October 24, 2017 at 4:47 am #

    Very Interesting Article.

    in SiM i always find Cockatrice to be more interesting aspect of the story. Whitehall with its repeated dangers get boring after a while. Cockatrice change is unrealistic, its too fast and too easy, but inavoidable for story sake, i want to read about Emily, not Generational Saga it would be if it insists on OTL pace of change.

    as for OTL, its very strange that young aristocrats (BushII, Trump) could claim to be closer to masses, rather than ‘professional’ elite(Bill, Hillary, etc). personally, i always far more comfortable with someone who not born an elite, even if he/she spends decades inside power structures. The young aristocrats ‘change’ always look superficial and fake to me.

  10. Kell October 24, 2017 at 4:53 am #

    It should be noted that when Hermione got older she did help put through some reforms for the house elf before becoming the head of the magical law department. We can assume she learned more about the system and was able to make a difference latter.

  11. Anarchymedes October 24, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    Personally, I think in the society nothing ever changes except the form. There have always been the strong (masters, chiefs, kings, führers, executives, presidents, whatever) and the weak (slaves, serfs, ‘comrades’, ‘team players’, consumerists, voters, and what have you). Always someone wants to lead, and others want – no, need – a leader to motivate them, otherwise they’ll forget to eat and breathe. Slaves (and I use this term broadly, as in ‘visa slaves’, or ‘wage slaves’, or ‘debt slaves’) can use the talk of freedom to let their masters know they deserve a better treatment: shorter work shifts, more food, etc. But do they want freedom? God forbid! Freedom is inimical to safety. Freedom means responsibility: watching your own back. They’re not used to it, and as soon as they get it, they start looking for – you got it! – a kind, gentle master. And when given the right to vote, they never, ever, ever elect a liberator – unless they’re so desperate and angry they don’t care whether they live or die anymore. Even Paradise, in the most common religions, basically boils down to this: very happy, well-cared-for slaves of a very kind, generous, loving master. The ancients were simply not sophisticated enough to think of anything else.
    So, yes, the forms change. Slavery becomes working visas and/or outsourcing, kings (and usurpers) are voted in, instead of fighting their way to the throne with swords and pikes, or the kingmakers sponsor a campaign and plan who will win. Mass media and social networks replace street preachers (and troubadours). And just like in the past people who wanted something new boarded ships and crossed the oceans, so maybe in the future some will board starships. Eventually, it will all return to the same basics there, just as it did here, but with many a twist, which are fun to imagine. That, I think, is all there is to social changes: in reality and in SF.

  12. Stuart the Viking October 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    “The writer asks why SF has lost its ability to imagine alternatives to capitalism.”

    I wonder if the real reason is because most of the post-Capitalist philosophies rely so heavily on magic-thinking and starry-eyed delusion that even in SF/Fantasy they would either be too unbelievable, or come across as heavy-handed message fic way too boring to read.

  13. Bman October 24, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

    This is an interesting post, after all I remember reading an article awhile back that pointed out that while revolution in sexy, real change is gradual but it does inexorably occur. To the push with the Schooled in Magic series it might be worthwhile once the series concludes to do a short spin-off series dealing with the nameless world on how it has shaped and the issues it and the people who live their now face, maybe a century or two after Emily has passed away and become legendary

    • Derek Knox October 26, 2017 at 6:21 am #

      It’d have to be much later, remember powerful magicians can greatly extend their lifespan. Otherwise, perhaps a new series where Emily is an established power and maybe doing the Gandalf thing.

  14. David Graf October 25, 2017 at 1:39 am #

    War can also be an effective tool for social change. It can clear out the deadwood running a society if they are decisively defeated and introduce new ways of doing things as with Japan after WW2.

  15. G October 25, 2017 at 9:05 am #

    How significant will it likely be that Emily has not sworn oaths to either Whitehall or the Allied Lands?? Will Gordian or White Council come to regret this??

    • Kell October 26, 2017 at 9:09 am #

      Yea I feel like they have been very short sited. Ive decided that gordian is incompetent. Rather then taking the chance to get to know emily he does everything he can to antagonize her and make it clear he doesn’t like her.

      Compare this to auralius who tried to win her trust and help. If emily hadn’t been prepared it might have worked. But gordian he doesn’t even pretend to act nice this immediately puts emily on her guard. He doesn’t really get her and I think thats a big problem. Not very smart. He is supposed to be good with politics. Sometimes you have to make nice with enemies. Or even put on an appearance. Oaths at the very least means some control
      . He could have just kept a very close eye on her. He could have even been stern but no he was like I hate you the first chance I get I will kick you out.

      He even played intimidation games with her in infinate regres. Reminds me of GoT joffry is like I am the king and Tywin was like anybody who has to say they are the king is no true king.
      Its like gordian is trying to insist that he is grandmaster. I want him to lose his job but then whoever replaces him would likely be worse.

      on another note, I really can’t wait to meet more of the white counsel. Right now they are all faceless. Would love to here a counsel meeting like we had for the mountain top group I’m assuming thats another big world counsel. It would be nice to get info about that group and how they are connected to the white council.

      • chrishanger November 3, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

        I think this probably needs to be explored in a blog post, once SIM 14 is out


  16. georgephillies October 25, 2017 at 5:44 pm #

    It is not entirely clear how rapidly the changes have really spread. We see change in Cockatrice, some innovations in Zangaria, one rail company, and local spread of arithmetic and printing. The local society appears to be somewhat more technically sophisticated than Gutenberg’s Germany, as witness what is said of ship design, so perhaps a faster spread is not surprising. On the other hand, typeface printing requires a stack of inventions, not just the press.

  17. Christopher Lines (@ChrisLinesUK) October 25, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

    human nature is the only permanent.

    Always be revolts, are only significant if structure of the system changes – as with US revolting from the UK the system change made the difference. If a revolt changes the monarchy and aristocracy then so what?

    likely most peasant revolts made no difference to most peasants win or lose. No wonder they cant decide what t do with the old monarch. Likely the new boss is no different.

  18. JBird October 26, 2017 at 6:17 am #

    There seems to be a lot of conflating on economics systems. A question. Is part of the discussion about capitalism or about free markets? Economic systems with free markets especially with some form of money have been in existence for something like six thousand years. Capitalism with its companies’ ownership being divided in shares often paying dividends, and with limited liabilities, and with the running of a business effectively separate from the ownership, started in/around the Dutch Republic during in the late 16th/early 17th centuries. Regardless of its exact time and place of creation it’s only five centuries old.

    And with communism, are we talking about Stalinistic dictatorship with State ownership and top down centralized management of pretty much everything except perhaps very small businesses and farms. Or Bernie Sanders democratic socialism with its democratic government and its state ownership and management ( or not ) of some industries like utilities with tight controls to smooth out economic disparity and with a fully developed social safety net. There is even capitalism in democratic socialism too and always free markets.


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