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About that horrible Tellesberg Syndrome of Merlin's

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About that horrible Tellesberg Syndrome of Merlin's
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Feb 09, 2019 4:31 am

First Space Lord

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Okay, so Dilandu is upset that "all innovation is Charisian," that Merlin and the inner circle are "cheating," that the rest of the world is going to feel so pissed off when they find out about the Charisian "cheating" that even the other members of the Charisian Empire are going to turn on Charis, that Merlin and Nimue should not be Charisian partisans but rather be perfectly prepared to sacrifice Charis's interests — and perhaps potential survival — in favor of pushing the entire rest of the planet into innovation across the board.

Well now.

First of all, not all the innovation on Safehold is Charisian. I covered a lot of ground in this book, chronologically speaking, and that meant I stayed pretty focused on the Charisian side of the technology moves. In addition, while it's true that Charis is the realm which is obviously pushing the envelope, it's doing it in a way which makes the fundamental technological knowledge available to other nations. Sometimes it's in open and above board tech transfers, sometimes it's through engineered "betrayal" by unscrupulous Charisians, but the bottom line is that all they can provide is a basic platform, not homebrewed brilliant innovation. Charis can't force anybody to make conceptual and scientific breakthroughs of their own. What they can do is provide that basic platform upon which others can build and while they continue to innovate themselves in order to push the process abroad.

Moreover, I would like to point out that even in Charis, Owl and Merlin don't just suddenly turn up, hand over the blueprints for the Praigyr steam engine, and then stand back while he slavishly copies the blueprints in question. The Praigyr steam engine was designed and developed by Praigyr, following up on what he had already learned about steam engines. Did they go directly to advanced versions of the expansion engine during the war? For that matter, did they pour a lot of his starting knowledge into his head with a funnel? Damn tooting they did! At that moment, they were in what you might call an "existential crisis,' on the one hand, and — on the other hand — they wanted to make it absolutely, crystal clear that nations which did not adopt the processes coming out of Charis could not possibly compete successfully with Charis.

That isn't the way the process has been working since the war, however. I don't think you read carefully enough, Dilandu, because it's specifically pointed out that Edwyrd Howsmyn's employees are now the ones pushing the innovations. His contribution to Praigyr's engines was the condenser that recaptures the steam. Admittedly, that's a critical point of providing the endurance the engines enjoy, but the fundamental concept and the development to make it work came from Praigyr, not simply Howsmyn or Merlin or Owl. What Merlin and Owl can do — and do do — is to provide backup. Merlin isn't even posing the "what if" questions he used early on with Charis anymore. For that matter, Owl isn't still sneaking his remotes into the manufactories to swap out precision gauges and tools to make sure that they are as accurate as possible. In Charis, they have succeeded in their basic objective of producing an entire empire which is driven by the spread and continual improvement of technology.

The reason Charis built the "technology demonstrators," and the reason the inner circle is continuing to build technology demonstrators, is to pressure other nations into doing the same thing. That isn't the same thing as saying that every nation on Safehold has to be able to run neck-and-neck with Charis in terms of breakthroughs. It's saying that every nation on Safehold has to industrialize, whether it does it through internal innovation or by buying tech from Safehold. The object here is to spread the technology in question as broadly as possible by any means possible. Would Charis prefer to see enormous amounts of innovation and technological advancement out of other nations? Sure, and while you may not think so, they do all that they can to encourage, recruit, and mentor nonCharisians to do just that. The rest of the world hasn't thrown up its hands and declared its helplessness, either. In fact, rather the reverse is happening. Look at Desnair and its "five-year plans." Those plans aren't predicated on the basis that Desnair will always be the helpless client of Charis, but they are predicated on the basis that, for the foreseeable future, Desnair can't overtake Charis and will have to settle for the best that it can do unless it wants to adopt Charisian social patterns as well as Charisian technology.

Another thing you have to remember is that Charis is pretty sure that it's mapped out tech that can be developed without activating the bombardment system. That isn't to say that Charis knows exactly how far it can go; it's to say that Charis knows how far it's already gone and has a rational appreciation for what might cause the bombardment system to wake up. Nobody else on the planet has that insight, which means that if we really did hit massive innovation across the board, or if Merlin was wandering around handing everyone else the same sort of springboard he handed the original inner circle, there's no telling who else might inadvertently cross the line and re-create Armageddon Reef on an even greater scale.

As far as using Charis as an expendable pawn, that's precisely what the entire Inner Circle is doing. Go back and look at Crown Princess Alahnah's analysis. If the archangels come back, and they decide to undo what Charis has done, then Charis as a kingdom and the Ahrmahk dynasty in particular, has to be utterly destroyed. To what extent do you want to paste that target onto the backs of every other nation out there? You're already doing that by getting them to industrialize, trying to spread the concepts as broadly as possible in hopes that sane archangels won't want to genocide the entire planet. If, however, the archangels come back and are determined to put the brakes on, then those who are leading the charge towards more advanced technology and hardware are the ones who can be certain that they are going to take it in the neck at the end of the day.

Merlin has many reasons to have made Charis's interests his own. Part of it is to be found in the emotional ties he's forged in 20 odd years of fighting back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder with these people. In that respect, yes, it could be argued that it's a weakness on his part. I'm sure that he ought to be the cold-blooded, calculating sort who is prepared to betray his Charisian allies at the drop of a hat if that seems to be the appropriate thing to do in order to further his goal of bringing the entire planet out of the shadow of the Proscriptions. Unfortunately, he's a human being who just happens to live in an artificial body, and so, yes, he forms friendships and loves. Having said that, however, Charis is his tool. Charis is the prybar he is using to compel the widespread adoption of the innovations eroding the Proscriptions, whether those innovations begin in Charis or not. Unless you expect him to spend every hour of every day flitting around the planet, being God only knows how many different personae, whispering in God only knows how many ears, and finding God only knows how many realms facing an existential threat to compel them into pushing the Proscriptions just as hard and far as they can, how — precisely — is he supposed to re-create the "idea factory" that Duke Delthak has spent somewhere around thirty years (by the end of this book) creating and cultivating? The simple answer is that he can't, which is why he and the rest of the inner circle are concentrating on spreading the existing technology, continuing to encourage innovation by nativeborn Charisians, and trying to force other nations into pursuing innovation as a conscious strategy of their own as the only way to stay in shouting distance of Charis. Sure, there's a possibility that what they will actually create is a situation in which everyone on the entire planet throws up his hands, decides that since he can't possibly catch up with Charis there is no point in even trying, and resigns himself to being a permanent economic and industrial client/slave to Charis. How many times has it worked out that way in Earth's experience, however?

The villains in Through Fiery Trials may not be as satisfactory as villains as Clyntahn and Rayno, and we may not have seen very many of them who were up to Rainbow Waters' weight as an adversary in the field. On the other hand, you didn't see a whole lot of combat outside the Chynduk Valley and its environs, and most of the combat going on in North Harchong is between people who never had anything remotely like Charisian technology or mindset to begin with. In a lot of ways, the Empire self-selected for reactionary incompetence when it refused to let the Mighty Host come home. The really reactionary nobles, the ones who refused to even countenance the possibility of training serfs to be effective combat soldiers — which meant treating them as if they were human beings — are the ones who came home from the Host rather than serve under Rainbow Waters. The ones with the flexibility to adapt, were the ones who stayed with the Host. So it's not too surprising, I would say, that they proved just as incompetent as quite a few reactionary generals have proved throughout human history. I might also point out that for all his apparent recklessness and emotion-driven rage, Waisu has already managed something that generations of emperors haven't: he's broken the control of his great ministers and the Harchongian bureaucracy. Does that mean that he is going to make a lot of sub optimal choices operating without "expert supervision?" Probably. But it also means that in many ways he's prepared to accept sub optimal choices as long as he retains the control he's taken. So his political agenda isn't quite so black-and-white, I-hate-Charis as some people might be assuming. Does he hate Charis? Sure. Does he think Charis is responsible for the fundamental destabilization of the entire Harchong Empire? Yup. Does he believe Charis and the Church of Charis are abominations in the eyes of God? Damn betcha, Skippy. Does he blame Charis for — hold Cayleb and Sharleyan personally responsible for — what happened to his father and God only knows how many of his relatives? Of course he does. Is he the product of his own aristocratic myopia which prevents him from recognizing the real root causes for what happened in Harchong? Damn straight. And that's because he represents the blindness of countless repressive regimes throughout human history.

In Desnair, the situation is a bit different. Desnair is trying to figure out how to innovate industrially without innovating socially. Somebody pointed out that Charis is not a representative democracy or a republic. No, it isn't. Do the Commons collectively have a hell of a lot of power? Gosh, I don't know, but it does seem possible. Was anybody paying attention to the internal politics of Chisholm, for example? Or to what happened in Zebediah? Charis is in an evolutionary state, and it's beginning from a point at which there was a much greater collective involvement in governance than in the great majority of Safeholdian realms even before the jihad. I'm not sure how rapidly and to what extent people want Cayleb, Sharleyan, and the inner circle to destabilize the Charisian Empire, which is a relatively new political edifice, by compelling one-man-one-vote reforms across the entire platform. Personally, I don't think that would be a great idea. However, you might want to look at the reforms adopted in the United Provinces and, even more tellingly, at those which Rainbow Waters and his nephew adopted in East Harchong. In the case of the United Provinces, they specifically adopted an actual bicameral legislature because that was the Charisian model. It wasn't the Siddarmarkian model, but then, on the other hand, the United Provinces wouldn't have been ready for a Siddarmarkian form of government. Rainbow Waters and Wind Song took the Charisian model to its logical conclusion, with an added infusion of a little Siddarmarkian DNA, but it was the Charisian model that really inspired them.

The bottom line as far as Merlin and the inner circle are concerned is that (1) Charis has to survive if it's going to steer; (2) someone — someone who knows the truth about the Church, the Gbaba, and the Proscriptions — has to be the one to do that steering; (3) until other nations have built up a deep enough "bench" à la Delthak Enterprises and the Royal College, Charis has to be the driver in the introduction of indigenous new technology; (4) in pursuit of (1) and (3), the inner circle will continue to put a thumb on the scale whenever it seems appropriate/necessary by doing things like taking members of the Royal College's faculty into the inner circle wherever possible and using them to push critical points that aren't already being picked up by someone like a Sahlmyn Praigyr (for example, taking someone who is already working on the distillation and refining of oil into the inner circle because they have to have the petroleum industry and they can't afford to wait around and hope that someone else will produce it on demand); and (5) that they are prepared to teach anyone who wants to attend the Royal College — you might want to look at what came out of Delthak — in order to help build that deep bench of innovators and critical thinkers. But all of this is a generational process, and at least in the short term, it was more important to get existing industrial capacity spread as broadly as possible as the critical component in their short-term strategy for a potentially sometime-real-soon-now return of the archangels than it was to see to it that every other nation on Safehold had its own trove of innovations to encourage it to believe that it could overtake/supplant/or no longer needed Charisian technology. The last thing the inner circle's short-term strategy wanted to see was a hiatus in the spread of steam-powered industrial capacity while all the other nations of Safehold eschewed those awful Charisian techniques and concentrated on developing all of those technologies on their own.

Oh, and by the time the rest of Safehold finds out Charis has been "cheating," one of two things is going to have happened. (1) The inner circle is going to have won, in which case the rest of the planet is going to have adopted the "Charisian mindset" and, almost certainly, have closed the gap enormously, which will mean that the genie is irretrievably out of the bottle and the rest of Safehold isn't going to care a whole hell of a lot how he popped the cork in the first place. Or, (2) the Archangels are going to come back and blow Charis into dust bunnies, in which case nobody else is going to care one way or the other whether or not Merlin was "cheating."

This really is a case of "if you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough," given the stakes for which these people are playing.

And now it's 5 AM, and I'm going to bed. I have distracted myself from current projects entirely too long already, so I am going to attempt manfully to let this stand as my last word on the topic. Can't promise, because Dilandu and I have this tradition of wrestling a few falls, :lol: but we'll see what happens.

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: About that horrible Tellesberg Syndrome of Merlin's
Post by Dilandu   » Sat Feb 09, 2019 4:53 am


Posts: 2063
Joined: Sat May 07, 2011 12:44 pm
Location: Russia

Thank you for the complex answer. I'm a bit unwell today, so it would take a while before I could re-read it thoroughly and made an answer, but some points became a bit clearer... and other a bit more questionable. :) Anyway, good day, RFC!

- Who would won in battle between strawman Liberal-Democrat and strawman Conservative-Republican?
- Scarecrow from Oz; he was strawman before it became political.

P.S. - And he have Russian twin, to watch his back)
Re: About that horrible Tellesberg Syndrome of Merlin's
Post by dobriennm   » Sat Feb 09, 2019 1:17 pm


Posts: 167
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:44 pm

Here I'm going to pat myself on the back since I made essentially the same response (though not with as detailed logical explanation) for why the emphasis on industrialization vs innovation to Dilandu's little hysteria. Reading TFT, I always looked at the book as an explanation of a short term strategy to get thru the first potential Archangel Return (while still keeping options open for after if the Return didn't happen then). Hence,
dobriennm wrote:
Now that they are past that, they can return to their original goal of encouraging innovation while at the same time undermining the COGA, the Writ, and the Archangels themselves via Operation Androcles and the Lost Testimony of Schuler.

runsforcelery wrote: order to help build that deep bench of innovators and critical thinkers. But all of this is a generational process, and at least in the short term, it was more important to get existing industrial capacity spread as broadly as possible as the critical component in their short-term strategy for a potentially sometime-real-soon-now return of the archangels than it was to see to it that every other nation on Safehold had its own trove of innovations to encourage it to believe that it could overtake/supplant/or no longer needed Charisian technology(dobriennm's emphasis). The last thing the inner circle's short-term strategy wanted to see was a hiatus in the spread of steam-powered industrial capacity while all the other nations of Safehold eschewed those awful Charisian techniques and concentrated on developing all of those technologies on their own.
Re: About that horrible Tellesberg Syndrome of Merlin's
Post by Thrandir   » Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:07 am


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Joined: Sat Feb 04, 2012 8:08 am
Location: QLD., Australia

Yes I haven't been around for a while plus had to wait for my copy of TFT to arrive then read it & then try & absorb Dilandu's quandary & then to read RFC's response.

I love how you play devil's advocate Dilandu, but in this case I think RFC has your number :lol:

2 Reasons 1) His story, which we have become part of but he still calls the shots & 2) we all knew TFT was going to have to cover a lot of ground as a bridging story; an extremely difficult task to do in just 1 book but IMO this has been accomplished; besides which see reason 1. :lol:

Would I have liked more yes, & I am waiting (impatiently) for the next book :D

On the point about the Inner Circle/Merlin cheating.
If the Inner Circle don't cheat & pull Safehold out of the low tech base it was at then Nimune Alban's mission & that mission of humanity has failed, remember the original planners had factored in a slow emergence back into space but in such way as to challenge & beat the Gabba.
As a species we don't like losing or coming off second best - the winners in every major conflict in history have 'cheated' in some way or another … this of course depends on what you call cheating; for me it is not letting your opposition know exactly what it is you are doing & most importantly getting away with it.
The Inner Circle & more importantly Merlin & Nimune are pushing as hard as they can using any method they deem necessary to get humanity back to the stars.

PS: Hope you get/feel better soon Dilandu
PPS: thanks for the response RFC, gives an excellent insight into your 'delightfully warped mind' ;) :)

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