As I think I said when this episode was first released, or at least when I did the review of season one, A Prime's Place doesn't entirely fit with the rest of Blood Magic. Despite that, it is one of my favorite episodes. It's short, it's a very tight viewpoint, its heavy on character and short on plot. I knew going into my revisions that I wanted to make minimal changes to it, and I retained that conviction throughout my re-read.
I'm still very excited about the potential that this world and series holds, and just because I haven't made writing progress recently does not mean that I haven't been thinking about it, which is sometimes almost as useful. For instance, one of the threads I sort of dropped in the rough draft of the first book was the idea of the magic being dangerous to its wielders, and I think I finally solved just what makes it dangerous. It turns out that the "magic" has motivations and desires of its own, or at least an objective that does not necessarily align with that of its users.
Many people speak of making decisions by instinct, or of "gut feelings." Without getting into the conversation of nature versus nurture, human instinct is a peculiar thing, something in which many people place a great amount of faith, but most people don't even fully understand the difference between instinct and intuition. Instinct is something that is fundamental to a creature's biological makeup, while intuition is the result of the brain's complexity leading to the synthesis of a solution without presenting in detail all of the steps it took to reach that result.
Every time I pick up one of these classic-style science fiction novel, like Ringworld or Double Star, I find myself saying that a) I should read these sorts of books more often, and b) I wish that books like these were still written today.
There are certain principles that I have found underpin an astonishing number of our modern systems, and gaining a thorough understanding of a principle like that can enable you to understand or surmise how so many different things work. One of those, which is what we will be discussing today, is the photoelectric effect. It seems like at least once a week I come across some new piece of technology that leverages the photoelectric effect in a completely new or different way, and increasingly I marvel at how such a relatively simple principle underpins so much of our modern world. So let's talk about the photoelectric effect.
I really wanted to like this book. I thought going in that I would like this book, because it seemed to have so many things that I look for in new fantasy novels: originality, unusual inspirations, intriguing characters with conflicting and mysterious motivations, really unique world and magic, et cetera. In fact, I wanted to like this book so much that I managed to convince myself to keep reading through to the end, despite the fact that at least once per chapter I was about ready to put it down, so I guess you could say that's a testament to it being a better novel than my rating would imply, since it kept giving me just enough of what I liked to keep me from walking away from it in disgust.
As a society this days, I think we're a bit conceited. Surrounded by and immersed in this matrix we have created, we are distanced from the systems with which we regularly interact, and inured or ignorant of the complexity beyond so many of the things that we take for granted. This is not only applicable to physical things and technologies - it applies equally well to social structures, institutions, governments, administrative systems, and so forth - but it is easiest to understand and perceive in the context of technologies. I definitely suffer from this conceit, wherein I start to think that I understand enough about so many different things that I should be able to reverse engineer or recreate just about any system I might encounter, at least on a theoretical level. Whenever I start to think that way, I give myself what I've taken to calling "The Pen Conceit Lecture."
Granted that it is less "exciting" than some of the other episodes, and that it is arguably telling of a rather minor incident in the affairs of Merolate and even of the characters, I really like this episode because it seems to embody in many ways my goals for the Blood Magic series, and what are some of its strengths. The whole of episode five turns on the relationship between Kiluron and Doil, and the geopolitical implications of Blood Magic in Lufilna, which I think are arguably the two strongest pillars of the series (though you as readers are more than welcome to disagree, and I would be very interested to know what you consider the series' strengths and weaknesses).
Well, I did it again. When I consulted my reading list to pick a new book to read after finishing Meditations With Cows, instead of picking a new or well-known or at least commonly approachable book that people actually would search for and by extension perhaps find my site, I picked another ancient text that only a few people have heard of and fewer decide to read. Let it never be said that I am a slave to the search engine algorithms. That being said, it does continue my tour of historic pieces of world literature (we recently reviewed The Bhagavad Gita, and The Story of Burnt Njal, checking off (roughly) India and Iceland, plus the Middle East with the Babur-Nama), and I have legitimately been interested in reading this for awhile, it being one of the few historical autobiographies from that region of the world. In truth, doing a sort of world-tour of ancient literature is proving a very fascinating exercise, and one that I would wholly recommend (as long as you have some patience).
Don't worry: this isn't a post in which I rant about the good ol' days, and how the whole world's just about falling apart in this dilapidated modern age (although maybe I should write one, if I can pop off phrases like "dilapidated modern age"). No, this post is about education, and specifically memorization. I don't know about you, but I hated rote memorization in school, and I still do. Give me papers to read on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle or ask me to be able to explain how a Hall Effect Thruster works and I'll happily dive right in, but ask me to memorize the technical parameters of an aircraft that I'll always be able to simply look up if I need them and there will ensue great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but the point is that I am not, and never have been, fond of rote memorization.