Post-NaNo Update – Worldbuilding

Of course, the downside of “ordinary people matter” is that the villains can use what regular people come up with, too.

AKA one of the neat things about writing a rough draft of a second story is figuring out some of the details the bunnies may have glossed over a little in the first story. In this case, part of how enchantment works – why Myrrh can do things that make most human magic users whimper, and even most supernatural types take a step back – and just how Steven pulled off some of his tricks.

In two words, processing power.

If you think of  a spell as an algorithm – a defined set of steps to solve a problem – then yes, in a way, it is very like a computer program. You have starting conditions (input), what you want the spell to do to them (program statements) and the hoped-for results (output).

I make no claims to be a programmer, but I did take some courses waaaaay back, and I was always very impressed by C and C++’s use of two things: libraries, and function calls.

(Note, I’m not saying I ever learned to use either very well. I can break down problems into algorithms fine, but programming? “Hello world” is about my speed.)

Still, the concepts stuck. Because algorithms for problem-solving in general are very, very helpful… and the idea that with one statement, say #include <coffee>,  you could put in a whole bunch of variables, methods to handle other problems, etc., etc., all from one predefined bunch of code.

Back to processing power. The human brain has a lot of it. To the point computers are just starting to be able to pull off some tricks our brains do without half-thinking about it.

Myrrh is, effectively, an ultramarathoner when it comes to enchantment. She is both very good and very trained at what she does. And part of what she’s done over her long life is assemble an impressive amount of information on how the world works.

Essentially, she’s built up an incredible amount of libraries, compared to most people. So when she casts magic, she can throw in with a very few “statements” what she wants done – while a mind trained in meditation under extreme circumstances yanks up the requisite libraries very, very fast.

Myrrh managed to build a lot of her libraries, in large part, during times when there were no fast ways to get anywhere. Foot, ship, beast of burden; getting information from one place to another was slow and often iffy. Yet she managed it.

Now we have the Internet. And very fast computers.

Yeah. Steven might have been one of the first to figure some nasty things out. He probably won’t be the last….


38 thoughts on “Post-NaNo Update – Worldbuilding

  1. I remember Jinx High and Arcanum 101 (more Lackey books, thanks for getting me back in a mood for her stuff) talking about the shift in liberal attitudes making it possible for ordinary people to get their hands on magic related books, and how in that ‘verse it prompted a supernatural renaissance (where renaissance also means that the things wanting to eat you also wake up as well as practitioners getting up their start).

    I mean, any aspiring witch nowadays can have amazon deliver a selection of beginner spellbooks to their door in 2 days, or download pdfs off the internet, or even go onto forums and chatrooms and find people to talk to. If magic was a proven force/legitimate area of study, how many kids are practicing this in their upstairs bedroom?

    How many of them are getting eaten?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A very good question, and one Myrrh hasn’t had time to tackle herself yet. But that’s probably one of the reasons the supernatural types have tried to seriously downplay what magic’s capable of. Ooo boy.

      AKA Reality Ensues. In an Urban Fantasy setting. I’m not sure whether to laugh or facepalm….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Considering all the horror stories that go “and this dude got his hands on a copy of the Necronomicon and it all went to shit” I’m not so sure that it’s Reality Ensues…though it would be a twist if instead of pulling out of some mouldering trunk in an attic or picking it up at an estate sale, he downloaded it off some shady site called or something…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’ve been tinkering with a Lovecraftian influenced variation on Wen Spencer’s Elfhome books, because Pennsylvania is closer to New England than I am. One issue I’ve been tackling is where the tomes of occult lore are coming from, because Pittsburgh spends most of its time isolated from mail and internet. I can’t as easily have someone come across something in the market or by accident.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. My opinion of the Elfhome books can pretty much be summed up as, there’s a place that deserves Lovecraftian influence inflicted on it.

        I came to the first one having read Spencer’s “Ukiah Oregon” SF books; they were a really neat take on “how to do an alien invasion”. I was hoping the Elfhame books would have the same view on the value of being human, or at least trying to act humane.

        …And then I hit the involuntary transformation by way of sex rite, and after that what happens to the poor kitsune. Villain character or not. I still can’t bleach that out of my brain. That was… ugh. There are plenty of things you can do to show someone is a horrible evil villain without going into bestial rape in painful detail.


        Liked by 1 person

      4. That the Oni breed people like horses and hounds is fairly significant to their characterization.

        As is that the the elves had immortality bred into them, and for that reason rebelled against their masters, relevant to that of the elves.

        There are involuntary transformations in the series, that particular one is as much an artifact of cross cultural miscommunication.

        Not arguing with your decision not to continue, those bits are perhaps fair warning for the rest of the series.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That may be key to their characterization, but showing it in graphic detail was definitely not something I’d wish on any reader. That was… ugh. I’ve never been able to touch any further of the author’s books since.

        And as for cross cultural miscommunication – you can call it that, but to me it also smacks of rape. I do not want to be in that author’s headspace, ever.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Digitized magical tomes are a dime a dozen, if you hit up the right national libraries. The Fathers are a lot more fun and a lot less yucky. And then there’s the ever-popular genre of “Renaissance Italian humanists pulling things out of their butt, and claiming they are Egyptian.”

        But yeah, translation is a problem. There are Latin and Greek words that have a lot more meanings than what you think they do, and you’re just supposed to know how they’re being used. Then there are regional and medieval strains of Latin, and writers whose Latin stinks. And then there’s a lot of intentional obscurity and cryptograms and junk like that. Really, it would probably be easier to make up your own spells than try to understand this stuff.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Oh, and the other ever-popular Italian humanist game, where they pull together their collected pamphlets and letters and treatises. So you’re searching for a Latin phrase on Google Books and you find what you want, and the next page in their book is something crackers about astrology or the very dubious messages given them in very sketchy “languages” allegedly spoken by angels.

        Faugh. Humanists. They have their uses, but their interests are a lot like one of the crazier old BBSes.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I read the second Ringo Monster Hunter Memoirs book and thought it had some relevance to this series of musings on urban fantasy. Ringo’s version of Correia’s MHI universe has someone argue printing as this, with New Orleans as an example of why it is a very good thing to have people disbelieving.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read the first Monster Hunter book and was enthusiastic about the fact that, despite the whole way overpowered monsters theme, here was a setting where high explosives and other human tech made a difference.

        …And then I hit the book where the only characters who have a good chance of surviving are already werewolves, and argh.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. IIRC, it isn’t only werewolves that survive MHI Alpha. Most books are Pitt books, and the single other viewpoint books are somewhat matched to the characters. In the case of nonhuman characters, I do not see much of a nonhumanity uber alles in them. In particular, Nemesis.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Also, Monster Hunter Memoirs are written in universe by a extreme womanizer who says he was sent back from heaven to fight. That character is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. *evil grin* have you ever read the Di Tregarde short story ‘Satanic, Versus’? (think you can get an e-book version on amazon, at least) Totally worth tracking down. Di and another kind of supernatural operative get into a hysterical call-and-answer exchange in order to understand the term ‘whoopee witch’ ie morons who start trying and/or throwing around spells without regard to consequence.


  2. Ah the internet. As usual, creating as many problems as it solves.

    The problem with trying to downplay what magic is capable of is that it always seems that sooner or later, you get a kid who does something that is supposed to be impossible simply because he or she didn’t know it was impossible. Or took that word to mean “challenge accepted!”

    In other words, what happens when the Ichigos of your universe get ahold of it?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So while everyone else is using “programs” with several thousands lines of code, Myrrh has large enough libraries to only use a few hundred lines? Meanwhile, someone else has figured out ways to process those thousands lines of code faster then usual… ouch… we’ve got a metaphysical tech war going on don’t we…

    I have to admit that I’ve yet to read someone who bends magic and computer equipment as much as I’d like to see them blend. I’m thinking things like magically wired computer components or even more mundane stuff like what effects mystical ASCII art would have (both printed and just on a computer hard-drive) or printers that print with more then ink (for the ASCII art)… Then there’s all the hi-jinks the could be got up to with mystical internet servers or virtual reality…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Pretty much spot on, for the libraries.

      Those are really cool ideas! Will have to see what fits into this story; some things might fit better into a later one. (Or possibly a different ‘verse, for the internet servers bit. My bunnies have been doing research for other Ideas, too. Eep.)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m studying graphic design and a lot of the oldest designs/symbols go back to esoteric, mystical or religious roots (or alchemy which was frequently all of the above). So visual design has been used with supernatural stuff for a long time. Given that most modern visual design is done on the computer nowadays… well, I’ve got some funny pictures in my head of techno-wizards complaining about the mystical difference between serif and sans-serif fonts or if the file format of their runes scaled correctly. Never-mind all the problems they give their local print shop for not wanting to use ink cartridges filled with very odd inks…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. <I)Very odd inks

        Ichor and print-heads have never been a good combination, especially when the copier service guys refuse to work on the machines afterwards.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Some hold that Zelazny wrote the second five Amber books for the money, and it shows in how they compare to the first five. Anyway, read the second five Amber books, and tell me if you still have yet to read that to your satisfaction.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I have to admit that I’ve yet to read someone who bends magic and computer equipment as much as I’d like to see them blend.

      Two series you may find to be of interest:

      The Laundry, by Charles Stross
      WebMakge, by Kelly McCullough

      The Laundry is written by someone who did hard time as a system administrator, and the setting revolves rather centrally on Turing’s having penned a _second_ revolutionary theorem – just as the Church-Turing thesis demonstrates that computation and logic are formally equivalent, the Turing-Lovecraft theorem shows that magic, too, is a member of that family.

      As a result, our protagonist “Bob” forces demonic forces to go back from whence they came with wit, guile, programming expertise, and a selection of useful apps on his phone. One of the earliest stories involves preventing a screensaver a college student wrote (which rendered its graphics based on just the wrong kind of higher-dimensional mathematics) from doing things to Surrey.

      WebMage, meanwhile, is of a somewhat different stripe – the protagonist Ravirn is an immortal descendent of the Greek pantheon. Specifically, the fate Lachesis. The pantheon as a whole manages a branching multiverse in much the same way as a fractious team of sysadmins manage a network – poorly, divergingly, and with enough room for creative people to do worrying things in the meantime. Somewhere near a third of the main characters are sapient computing equipment, with the most notable perhaps being Ravirn’s webgoblin (laptop, friend) Melchior.

      They get into… rather a lot of trouble. Constantly.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah, I should mention – in WebMage, one casts a spell by (essentially) whistling shellcode in binary. The real experts (such as the fates themselves…) whistle in hex. (I suspect they use 16QAM or some such).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. WebMage sounds like it’s descended from or replying to the old manga/anime, Ah! My Goddess, and its sysadmin, Skuld.

        Hm, possibly? There are some commonalities (deities are real, they manage a branching multiverse in a very tech-like way, etc), but also major differences.

        For one, there is _only_ the Greek pantheon (outside of spoilermumblespoilerspoilermumble around the… fourth? book).

        Two, rather than the factions being split into the deities and the demons, with one having rightful authority and the other… rather less so, there are four poles of chaos/order/life/death, all with rightful authority, and all feeling they ought to have more of it.

        If “Chaos” and “rightful authority” didn’t worry you (That’s Eris. She really, really ought to worry you), the fact that Hades is the “death” pole (and the Persephone myth is played heartbreakingly straight in the backstory) should.

        Into this, we throw Ravirn, who is the rough equivalent of a rebellious teenager with far too much curiosity, more instinctive skill than his WIS score can control, and a tendency to leap and then look. Like if someone put Ichigo and Urd in a mixer, and shook it very hard before he had a chance to start stammering.

        Throw in a bit of Amberite-style “friendly family backstabbing” for taste.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Eh. I personally have to say I’m more than a little bit tired of seeing Hades as a bad guy. In the myths one of his most note characteristics was his sense of Responsibility when put beside the rest of his family.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. I know one fun bit that popped up recently in a campaign… well, this is more Fantasy and Science Fiction (light on the science heavy on fiction).

      I run a Marvel Superheroes Tabletop campaign, one that borrows from comics, cinema, and my own interpretation and misrembering liberally. In most comics fantastical technology and magic already exist side-by-side with interactions usually being either… Odd or unacknowledged. My campaign – since it’s only got the one writer – is a bit more cohesive. One of my players uses nanomachines, specifically the sci-fi controlled with your mind, capable of constructing and deconstructng variant. Mostly the character uses then for internal healthcare and as nigh-undetectable spies for chemical analysis and the like. But the nanomachines /can/ be infectious – i.e. they’re self reproducing unless told otherwise and can be implanted into/used on other people, if you’re careful.

      Cue another character – a mage who uses rune magics where the shape of the rune is inherently magical – getting an aggressive parasite stuck inside them and the nanomachines user giving a fleet the orders to go in and take care of the parasite with a hilarious series of crit successes (three in a row by three different characters) and the Mage now has their own nanofleet.

      The mage isn’t super techno-savvy, but the player does some thinking and some work to communicate with the bots, and suddenly they’re massively ramping up their casting speed by having the nanomachines just form and take apart the runes for her with a thought.

      Tabletop is tabletop and /some/ balance is required, so I gave some bonus XP for cleverness and told them what they’d have to buy to get a mechanically balanced version of the effect, but I did think the base idea was pretty clever.

      Further on Marvel plus magic, check out Jedi Buttercup’s MCU Buffy crossover, it only follows through Ironman 3, but it’s pretty darn good and discusses the idea of if programming language could function as mystic runes for someone with the right know-how (which just makes me wonder about the reverse).


    5. Heh. It’s not entirely what you might be looking for, but have you read A Logical Magician and Calculated Magic by Robert Weinberg? A very interesting look at symbolism, mythology, and what can be done with tech support. The character who gets the villain uses his computer savvy to put together a demon summoning spell by using the computer’s problem solving/code breaking capability to examine all the various texts and come up with the correct name and spell to summon one.

      Only problem is, some of those “demons” were actually Old Gods….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yeah. The two books consist of 1) getting a hero and having him figure out the logic of how magic and banes work these days; and 2) working out who said villain is, and how to stop him, based on said logic. (While dealing with other revelations and Powers.) The final answer that arrives in A Calculated Magic is hilarious.

        Liked by 1 person

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