A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Mandate

And this was why Selenay had sent Talia, Kero thought. The Monarch’s Own had established a give-and-take in the conversation already, so they could negotiate like equals, no matter what their actual role. Hellfires, if sect heirs were minor princes, they’d damn well better start off as close to equals as they could manage. Maybe that would help get past the twitchiness Kellen had reported.

:It would. If it were just war nerves,: Sayvil mused.

Kero didn’t raise a brow. :You think it’s not.:

:Most mages can’t tell we’re anything more than white horses, unless we want them to. These cultivators are different.:

:Different?:

:Kellen says when he came out of the Choosing? Both Nies had all their shields up, and Huaisang in particular looked like he’d been smacked with a board. It’s crazy, but-:

Kero swallowed unease. :But?:

:Chosen. They know damn well we are not horses. And that makes them twitchy.:

“Mostly my cousin trains younger disciples, and keeps me out of trouble,” Huaisang was saying. “We’ve heard many different things about Heralds and Chosen in our travels. What are you, officially?”

“Now, that’s a story.” Talia sipped her cider, eyes bright as any Bard with an unsuspecting audience. “Centuries ago when our kingdom was founded, King Valdemar realized he had a problem. He’d seen the Eastern Empire, and how other kingdoms rose and fell. Without a good monarch, everything goes wrong. He knew he was a good king, and his Heir would be, but what would happen in three generations? In ten? Our kingdom was created by those who fled the East because it was horrible and cruel. How could he make sure that never happened here? So he built an altar and prayed to all the gods he knew for an answer. And the first Companions appeared.”

Green and white flinches, Kero noted. Well, she couldn’t blame them. Finding out about Companions had been one thing; the Plains had their own guardian spirits. Finding out a whole kingdom had been founded on divine intervention? It was enough to make any sane soul twitchy.

Although in her experience, most outsiders didn’t believe the Founding of Valdemar when they heard it. People from Jkatha, or even nearby Rethwellan, mostly just smiled and nodded. Everybody had their myths, after all.

The way the cultivators twitched, they did believe it. And they didn’t like it.

“He prayed for an answer.” Lan Wangji’s face was still as ice. “Not that his line would keep the mandate of heaven?”

85 thoughts on “A Long Road Chapter 3 Ficbit – Mandate

  1. Yikes. As someone currently writing a paper on the Mandate of Heaven – and what happens when you lose it – well. I can definitely see where NHS is coming from.

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    1. The Founding of Valdemar graphically illustrates very deep cultural differences between them and the sect setup – especially with the background of Wen Ruohan’s bloody overthrow and Jin Guangshan trying to establish a new Mandate. Our visiting trio are definitely twitchy.

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    2. 1. “What’s the mandate of Heaven?”

      2. Yup, there’s a very big cultural difference. Any culture founded on, or strongly influenced by, the Bible is going to have the basic assumption that, sure, you can pray to God to keep your descendants on the throne and to keep them good; but unless your descendants try to be good and wise and to maintain consistency about it, God is perfectly capable of either giving them the heave-ho, or letting them fail miserably. And frankly, it’s just as realistic/cynical about The People, because the general populace does the same sort of thing. And then there’s the amazing speech about “Kings stink and you’re going to regret this” in the Book of Samuel. All the historical books of the Bible are like that, and most of them are handbooks on “what not to do.” The whole solution is, “Really you need a democracy/republic, and God as your king; and you need to be a good citizen, but be willing to go with God over unjust laws of men, and be ready to die for it.” Very subversive.

      Chinese history has some of that, but… there’s a lot more spreading of the blame to ministers, the weather, etc. Which is fair, but lacks the unrelenting sense that “No, really, be ready to die for your beliefs at any time, because governments all stink.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 3. On a more general Western level, there are an awful lot of cultures that have a tribal assembly or city assembly model, where everybody at least got a chance to listen and speak, and cheer or boo, even if it might get ignored. A lot of kings and rulers were elected, even if by representatives or nobles or guild leaders.

        Chinese and Middle Eastern/Egyptian cultures tend to be influenced by the twin needs for canal irrigation and flood control, which require a lot of centralized planning and maintenance. Even if the rulership moves around a lot, you still must have some kind of ruler, and a lot of bureaucracy and soldiery/law enforcement.

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    1. LWJ does have resting bitch-face, yeah, but when he’s very displeased with something it’s noticeable. And we’re getting this from Kero’s POV, who as a mercenary captain has to be quite good at reading people, and as a Herald has to be good at it too. And Talia’s a powerful Empath.

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    2. Usually. If this were Selenay she might not be able to read him as well, political experience or not. But Kero’s really, really good at dealing with people invested in keeping a stone face….

      And even then, she’s not going to be able to read all of it!

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  2. If I recall correctly, the Companions themselves were less an answer and more the mechanism by which Valdemar’s wish would be granted. Which I doubt would make the boys any more comfortable…might make them even more twitchy, because when you get down to it? The Companions pick the Monarch. You need to be Chosen to rule or to officially be heir, and I doubt that MDZS cultivators would be comfortable with that concept.

    And bloodline doesn’t matter to Heralds, which is likely even weirder to them, given how much bloodline DOES matter in the sects. Hell, pretty much all of WWX’s problems come from him being seen as “the son of a servant,” (never mind that his mother was the disciple of an immortal, and his father was JFM best friend and right hand) so his strength offended the people in power. Luckily there are no Jins (all Jins except JZX and JL suck) here, and the ones making up the delegation will adapt well, since: NHS is best friends with WWX and was friends with Meng Yao, NZH seems sensible (I don’t much about him), and LWJ is LIFEBONDED to WWX, and a HUGE factor in the initial attraction between them was that they were equals in power and skill.

    Oh, is THAT particular facet of the lifebond mess showing up? LWJ, socially speaking, MASSIVELY outranks WWX. LWJ’s the second young master of the Lans, a sect heir until his brother has kids, and WWX is just the son of a servant. He’s NEVER really had any power of his own. The highest position WWX has ever had is Head Disciple, and that’s a teaching position, not a lot of direct power comes with it. And he’s been kicked out of the Jiang Sect, and so has lost even that position. WWX is at the very bottom of the social ladder, and LWJ is nearly at the top, beaten out only be sect leaders. And that’s not a huge problem in Valdemar, but the sects care a hell of a lot more about status.

    Oh, and WWX is convinced LWJ hates him, because literally everyone’s been telling him that since the day they met. And LWJ is incapable of actually successfully talking to WWX without some sort of buffer (cute baby A-Yuan, needing to kill a murderous tortoise) pre-WWX;s death, so he’s done nothing to clear that up. In fact…he kinda made it worse because every non-buffered conversation WangXian has had up to this point inevitably devolves into the “Come to Gusu” argument, where LWJ wants to bring WWX to Gusu for healing but doesn’t say that, and WWX thinks its for punishment/imprisonment, and is very vocal about it.

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    1. Don’t forget, though, that while bloodline might not matter to Heralds it matters very much to a lot of the rest of Valdemar. Selenay may have to do some fast maneuvering in certain cases.

      Kellen’s eventually going to get to the bottom of that “Come to Gusu” mess. 😉

      Oh, and speaking of bloodlines – you do wonder what the Court would do if they found out about King Randale’s daughter Jisa centuries back actually being Herald Vanyel’s biological daughter. (She married a distant cousin of Randale’s, Treven, who’d been picked as Heir, so it’s still the original Valdemar bloodline even so.)

      …Yes, I have a reason to bring up Vanyel. Otherwise known as the bunnies started giggling that Vanyel actually sired 4 children, canon. Jisa for poor Shavri, two for his Tayledras mentors (Brightstar and Featherfire k’Treva)… and Arven, a daughter for two retired fighters from his sister Lissa Ashkevron’s command.

      We know about Jisa’s descendants, and Firesong is the obvious k’Treva heir, but so far I don’t think we’ve ever heard anything about Arven or possible children….

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      1. OHHHHH, that is EXCELLENT.

        Sooooo, did Arven or a descendant wander into sect lands?????? Are we looking at LWJ or WWX being defended from Vanyel? WWX DOES have those pretty grey/silver eyes….. (go ahead and River Song us, I look forward to the eventual reveal!!! XDDDD)

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      2. Apparently later Velgarth canon stories make it clear that some poor descendants of the main royal family who manifested Mage-Gift had to beat feet out of Valdemar, so given a lot of Vanyel’s bloodline comes up with Mage-Gift, Arven’s descendants would have been in the same boat.

        And yes. Yes, WWX’s description has a lot in common with Vanyel, down to the swordstyle that emphasizes speed and don’t get hit. And his mother (whom he takes after in appearance!) was canon a woman of unknown lineage taken in as a child by an immortal cultivator.

        Mind, I’m not saying it’s a given one way or another. Could be sheer coincidence. Really. *Halo* I’m just saying once Kellen or Sayvil get a good look, both physically and magically, there will be much sputtering.

        (Not to mention if Firesong or Elspeth does. “How many cousins do we have?” Well, kid, given Kris was a relative of Sendar’s as well, it’s all too likely a high proportion of the Heralds are your distant relatives!)

        …Did you know it’s canon that Vanyel and Yfandes’ eyes glowed red when they were really, really ticked off?

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      3. *beams* to say nothing of when Vanyel himself shows up. And what does it say in cultivator culture when ones ancestor stuck around and successfully, safely, possessed an ENTIRE FOREST for about 600 years?

        Also, think of how much Vanyel is still sung and spoken about? All those lovely dramatic, but still mostly /accurate/ songs! WWX might have some trouble wrapping his head around being descended from such a person. XD But look! He comes by that bedrock deep moral compass honestly *points to the lyrics of Demonsbane*!

        Also, not sure if it will come up, but I think Vanyel kept journals during his life (a lot of Heralds do) and they got notice-me-not’ed by the anti-magic veil over the country. Be interesting to see all of Vanyel’s various descendants get to take a look at those and get a glimpse of who he really was outside of calling lightning down on evil assholes.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. Ah! Okay, being familiar with this series only secondhand, I was starting to think I’d misremembered which one Vanyel was when people started talking about all the kids he engendered for different people….

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      5. Well, specifically for Shavri and Randale it was because they could trust him to not talk or become attached to Shavri.

        …And then Shavri ends up wasting away dealing with Randale and Vanyel ends up Jisa’s dad by default, at least as far as “who the kid goes to with problems”.

        Like

      6. Yup, it was a thing in real life in California (mostly for lesbian couples), so it soon became a thing in Valdemar.

        Although to be fair, it is a thing that allegedly happened in some real life monarchies, albeit usually one didn’t pick a gay guy for it — usually one picked a man with lots of kids (ie, a siring history) who looked vaguely like one’s husband. (Hence the real life Spanish historical rumors behind Bujold’s first two Five Gods books. Not that your genetic heritage really mattered in Spain, because every other noble was already your cousin five different ways.)

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    2. Hah, just waiting for the slightly baffled, “What’s that?” from the valdemarians. And Kero, because that’s probably not a thing in her experience either. Valdemar’s ‘There is no one true way’ encompassing rule does not fit well with what little I know about the whole mandate of heaven thing.

      It’s also evident that the people of Valdemar always say ‘heavens’ plural, and almost never ‘heaven’ singular. It’s another way Valdemar is very weird compared to other countries, where generally there is a main or major religion and while it might not be forbidden to follow another, it’s not favored or considered ‘correct’, if that makes sense? IDK, I’m out of spoons for the day and wording is hard.

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      1. I thought it was ‘havens?’ Which would fit with the idea that reincarnation is a thing, so the souls are able to either rest or move on rather than being definitely the end goal. And also the polytheistic nature of it all makes a lot of sense why there’s more then one. A Karsite Sunpriest isn’t going to be comfortable in an afterlife for one of the Shin’a’in, for example. He’d probably not even be comfortable in the the Iftel sunpriest afterlife, and they share a deity.

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      2. Eh, it seems to be interchangeable? Heavens/Havens, I think I remember both in the books. Is been a long time since I read any of the books, unfortunately.

        Valdemar seems to be the only country we see that wholly acknowledges that all of the different gods and versions of the afterlife are as real as the next? Like, there doesn’t seem to be any sniping between religious leaders or individuals about so and so being the REAL deities and such. Which seems odd to me, growing up in a monotheistic culture where people can’t even agree on which version of that single god is real.

        I always got the impression that the afterlife as applicable to Velgarth, is separate pockets/layers/planes, but not entirely apart either, because there are hints of individuals meeting loved ones that did not share their particular faiths. (Also Lackey’s cheerful assertion that Vanyel, Stefan, and Yfandes are chilling on a beach sipping maitais after they finally move on, which does not really seem to go with one particular version of heaven, lols).

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      3. Re: multiple versions of gods — Well, obviously it’s important to get your god version right, or you end up being a pre-reform Karsite. But in a polytheistic world, there’s too much going on. Now, if you happen to get the attention of the Creator God/Goddess that lurks behind a lot of polytheistic systems, though, you can definitely get into trouble.

        But if you understand that there is only one God, and that this divine being creates and sustains the universe as well as humans and other beings, and has strong opinions and operating manuals for you to follow, then obviously it is possible to mess up your life and the lives of others by misinterpretation of the One God’s identity, aims, nature, and desires.

        Physics only deals with the material world in one facet, and its study is contentious enough. Theological misinterpretation is notoriously good at messing up every facet of life, or at least at unbalancing people’s lives in serious ways.

        And then there’s the dangers of other people misinterpreting _your_ theology. It’s astonishingly routine in this world of information for all the outsider information on a group to be totally wrong.

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    3. Eh… book-canon, at least, WWX doesn’t think LWJ hates him at this point (and is probably the only person who doesn’t). He considers their relationship “so-so.”

      …mind, Nightless City screws that up, since WWX has no way of knowing that LWJ wasn’t at the pledge conference from the beginning. But that hasn’t happened yet! Their last encounter was in Yiling, which… honestly is probably the most positive encounter they have in Wei Wuxian’s entire first life.

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      1. Yeah, the Yiling Co-Parenting A-Yuan date is the best interaction Wangxian has pre-death, which is kinda sad. The star-crossed lovers thing they have the first time around is depressing.

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    4. WWX is the head of his own school, and is the founder of his own magic practice as well; so now he massively outranks almost everybody… if he can exert the power, or if he wanted to.

      Basically, the whole storyline that has been described is about other schools striving not to acknowledge the ridiculously high status and power of WWX, because it’s a lot easier not to let the political landscape change if you can kill off the person doing the changing. (It’s also about ignoring the supervillains in their own midst, because again, getting rid of their own creeps in charge would require a lot of work. Easier to just suffer and turn the aggression outward.)

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  3. I guess the shocking/disturbing thing for the cultivators is the concept that the Valdemarans have that having/receiving the Mandate of Heaven is not synonymous with being a “Righteous Ruler”. A Righteous Ruler’s actions are, well, inherently righteous/justifiable/proper, because they have the Mandate of Heaven. Should the Ruler fall from grace and be overthrown, well, that shows they lost the Mandate, and it got passed on to the victor.

    But Valdemar posited from the very begining, that Rulers are inevitably falliable, and that the embodiment/enforcement of the Mandate should not rest on solely on the shoulders of Men, and Fate.

    Or that’s how I interpret it.

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    1. Which flies in the face of all the cultural doctrine of how the Clan is the most important unit, rising within the Clan, and proving its superiority/preserving Face over the other Clans. A Ruler, admitting his Clan is flawed, and incapable of maintaining Righteousness on its own merits!? Absurd at best.

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      1. King Valdemar’s pride, for one. And he likely had to sacrifice the surety that his posterity would inherit, since it would be up to them to not be horrible people in order to convince a quasi-horselike animal thingie to Choose them. Not to mention the vagaries of genetics to possess sufficient Gifts and/or magical talent.

        In his Queen of Wands series, John Ringo has someone point out that as much as neopagans despise Christianity (for all the strawman reasons that ultimately are a cover for, “It’s too haaaaaaard!”), they have to present themselves as at least as moral as the Christian ideals of Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself, Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You, Do Justly And Love Mercy (never mind the part about walking righteously before God, see “It’s too haaaaaaaard!”), and so on.

        Mercedes Lackey, being part of that movement, needed to present the horsey collective as working well enough for contemporary American sensibilities, so she had to present them and the Heralds as moral-except-for-sex. (With the invention of lifebonding to do all the work for twue-wuv-and-they-won’t-cheat-on-each-other,-pwomise!, since without that the quickly-established libertine habits of the Heralds would _not_ support the love story she was trying for with Talia.)

        I’m interested in seeing how the sects interpret the process of holding and losing the Mandate of Heaven, since it’s possible for a tyrant to pull all sorts of shit to hang onto power (see, well, most all of human history), and the epicycle-style reasoning to label such a tyrant as righteous ought to get pretty convoluted.

        I also wonder how long it’ll be before the trio encounter the Valdemaran aristocracy, finally finding the kind of asshole-in-power that they’re familiar with.

        -Albert

        Liked by 3 people

      2. It’ll be chapter 5 before they really start encountering the nobles. That may get… interesting.

        (Especially if a certain necromancer finally gets into flute range. The bunnies are still juggling scheduling.)

        Like

      3. A very astute question, and one that the Valdemaran leadership are lately becoming more conscious of, I’ll warrant. Obvious answer, would seem the loss of magic/mages as a source of solutions to apply to problems.

        Seeing as how much long term damage magic has caused in the world Valdermar resides in, it might seem a fair trade for the stability the Heralds have provided, but as recent/current events have proven, the lack of access to magic, and experienced users thereof is proving to be of a serious nature.

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      4. Especially since the “praying to a god and getting a blessing” is very transactional to the cultivators.

        What happens when the divine entity comes around devouring souls, or worse?

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      5. I’m thinking at least part of the cost is being expected to keep doing this throughout lifetimes too. Like, it’s a choice still, but people chosen as Heralds are generally the kind of people that will agree to do this again, in another form or another life.

        I am totally picturing LWJ as a Companion someday btw. And also WWX because where one goes….. Never mind that WWX was never a Herald. His soul gets special dispensation (aka, his very own I do what I want paper). *G*

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      6. I was re-reading the first Tarma and Kethry story, and they pointed out that the Shin’a’in Swordsworn do not apparently reincarnate, and do continue their job after death also, if they are still Swordsworn at the time of death. But there is an explicit clause that you can quit being a Swordsworn at any time before death, if you’re not down with working for the Star-Eyed after death and want to move on.

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  4. Considering that the 5 great sects started out as family clans, that bit of lore would definitely stick out.
    Which leads me to a thought; in the future I’m wondering if Xiao Xingchen and Song Lan would take a trip to Valdemar to get ideas for the sect they want to create.

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      1. Xiao Xingchen was a disciple under Baoshan Sanren (Wei Ying’s mothers teacher) and Song Lan was an orphan who grew up in a temple orphanage and apparently learned cultivation from the priests there. They were rouge cultivatiors who wanted to create a sect based on skill and not family connections and politics. Season 3 of the donghua is supposed to cover the yi city arc so I won’t spoil to much but they didn’t get a happy ending.

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      2. To put it into perspective: cultivational sects in Xianxia are usually skill-based. MDZS is unique in having sect inheritance based on blood, which was started (in-universe) by Wen Mao. A few centuries pre-canon. And it comes with a whole host of problems: NHS becoming the Nie sect leader after NMJ died when he’s not suited to it, JGY having to orchestrate his brother’s death to get any power of his own, the entire JC vs WWX as presented by YZY mess…

        So XXC’s and SL’s goal is actually a return to the original sect build! Sucks that they weren’t able to do it…

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Not sure if you’re reading the manhua, but it’s got the Yi City Arc in full detail – whole thing chapters 69 through to 112, the flashback is chapters 86 to 109. Bring tissues.

        (That said, if you’re going by novel/manhua/donghua canon I guess Xiao Xingchen hasn’t even left the mountain yet at this point.)

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    1. Thought she’d decided that was one thing she wasn’t going to touch on? Huh. The one set of stories I’d love to see would be Shadowdancer and Sunlight Singer, but given some of the books she’s turned out lately… It feels like she’s lost joy in her writing? I dunno, feels very, meh.

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      1. The book’s name is Beyond. And I agree with you on the quality of her writing has declined. It started to feel very … rote by the end of the Collegium Chronicles. Not that the Herald Spy books were necesaarily bad but they certainly lacked the flair that was still evident during the Owl books. Makes me wonder if its her publisher pushing her to write more.

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      1. My local library is making it available as an ebook through the Hoopla app, so I went over and put a hold on it, in order to watch the coolness/car wreck.

        I was the first one to put a hold on it, which could mean anything.

        OTOH, they had a bunch of Hoopla audiobooks too, so I think I’m going to revisit Tarma and Kethry.

        Re: Lackey’s own religion — Well, obviously I have been missing installments in the writer saga. But IIRC, Lackey was pretty much a Christian on the liberal side (liberal for Oklahoma), but also had friends in fandom, which in the 1980’s/1990’s meant friends who were neopagan, feminist spirituality, etc. She came out of Darkover fandom and wrote for Marion Zimmer Bradley anthologies, so she was heavily influenced by that.

        At some point in the early 1990’s, she got badly scared by people who apparently thought she wrote convincing urban fantasy because she was actually a master sorceress, and part of a secret organization that ran magic. I think that at this point she got a little less into neopaganish influence and occulty stuff, although it might be that neopagan stuff got less popular. IIRC, this was the era of aromatherapy getting big in her novels. She also got more and more into raptor rescue and her second husband Larry Dixon’s interests (naturally enough).

        But frankly, I don’t think she advertises her beliefs (other than things that touch on politics, such as abortion and LGBT issues). She does seem to have a dislike of organized religion, but also seems to be trying to work that out. Shrug. If I were in fandom local to her, or had more curiosity to ask oldschool filkers about it, I could probably find out. But it’s not really my business, and that’s as much as I know.

        I used to be really fond of Valdemar, especially since I knew Lackey as a filk songwriter first. But honestly, Lackey is one of those writers that messes me up, because she is both plausible and not grounded philosophically in a consistent way, and because I disagree with a great deal of her philosophy. So from very early on, I couldn’t just turn my brain off and enjoy, even though I wanted to.

        It was sort of a microcosm of a lot of problems I had with fandom, with the sf/f field, with the politics, and with a lot of psycho-sexual/criminal problems lurking in the background of writers and fans (whether or not they were directly aware or involved). I wanted to believe that fandom was nothing but safe, welcoming, smart, and wise, and that was expecting a great deal too much of any human institution. So butting heads directly against the differences, from very early on, was actually kind of lucky for me.

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      2. Thank you for the analysis; I’m always curious to know how other people see that whole Darkover-related mess in corrupting SF/F in general. Since the facts on that came out in public I finally had words to put to “why does something feel terribly off when I read this setting?” Because on the surface Darkover seemed like intriguing SF, but there was just something about the character interactions….

        I had a similar problem with Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries – the William Monk series in particular. Excellent stories, well-drawn characters, yet always that feel of something not right.

        Then I found her author’s biography on Paperbackswap.com. Which included the murder she’d participated in as a teenager. Haven’t picked up anything by her since.

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      3. To be fair, Anne Perry is a repentant murderer. (She was a juvenile when it happened. Got out of prison, kept her nose clean, converted to a religion (LDS? Can’t remember), and basically has paid her debt to society.) But yeah, her novels take place in her own world, not the Victorian world, even though her research is very good.

        Nobody has even suggested that Lackey had anything knowingly to do with shenanigans, and she did live in Oklahoma far away from most of this stuff. But it wasn’t a benign influence to be under, even from afar.

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      4. I think it was mostly the NZ justice system decision that creeped me out: “Oh, the two girls aren’t dangerous if they’re separated, let’s do that.”

        There was just something in the books that creeped me out.

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      5. Darkover fandom was one of those fandoms where there are clique circles within circles, and in an even more deliberate way than in most fandoms run by women. So a lot of people didn’t know what was really going on. A lot. Whether or not they should have figured it out is another question.

        The other thing I should point out is that, although MZB was one of Lackey’s markets (the Sword and Sorceress anthology), I think she was much more heavily influenced by her sometime-songwriting partner, Leslie Fish. Leslie pretty much started slash Star Trek fandom, for good or ill; she’s one of the most prolific songwriters I know, she’s an anarchist who left the Wobblies for being too organized, and has many virtues — but she didn’t know what was going on, even though she’d been around fandom for ages. (Because if she had known, there would have been dead people.) Leslie is very sharp in some ways, very blind in other ways, and is also kind of inconsistent in a very definite and decided way. I admire her for her virtues and know her songs by heart, but we actually had an immediate personality clash when we met. (Not surprising.) But we also had a very interesting conversation, although I cut it rather short because the personality clash was so freaking strong.

        Lackey has always been prolific and busy, and I think that’s why she may not have noticed the bad stuff being hidden. But also, you don’t get a very subtle view of life if you’re hanging out with Fish.

        I don’t think it’s any secret that Tarma is basically Leslie Fish in a different culture. Nobody ever comes right out and says it, but it’s pretty obvious, especially the “harsh voice.” (Although that’s cigarettes and whisky, not any kind of horrific injury or disease.)

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      6. Breen and Bradley, from the documentation, were clearly playing an intelligent and careful game with layers and layers of information control and access control. The folks who were permitting the wrong doing while aware had been picked for flawed thought patterns, and for being willing to be led into worse thought patterns.

        Darkover fans would have been managed as an extension of that.

        I know one person who was in Bradley’s circles, who I am pretty confident was not aware, and that person has some biographical details that may correlate to being blind to people in certain ways.

        Lackey is pretty clearly some sort of blind. She lives/lived in Oklahoma, albeit after growing up in Chicago. During a period when the Oklahoma Democratic Party had people comfy with old school white supremacist terrorism, people from out of state with no roots to be informed through, and people who had not collected the pieces and put them together. Anyway, she came from out of state, but she had some contact with people, and her observation is good enough that she can/could write. So I figure it was a problem with deeper perception, or analysis. Either that, or she is a much better liar than I credit her with being.

        I figure that MZB’s cultivation didn’t do Lackey in favors in understanding humans, but that Lackey wasn’t in the inner layers.

        A lot of that age cohort seem to have some fairly screwed up ideas about how humans work, and some of them have serious issues that look like a result.

        Oklahoma Democrats are still pretty questionable, but the Oklahoma Republican party seems to be full of collaborationist scum.

        Of course, I say that during the pre-boog period when nobody knows anything about what is really going on.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I can attest that the kind of people who pull that sort of diseased, awful abuse are all too often the kind who know how to manage people’s perceptions of it. “Oh, you know how kids exaggerate….” etc. Brrr.

        Like

      8. Lackey owed Bradley for her first professional sale. It seems pretty clear that Bradley presented herself to Lackey as “writer mentor,” “feminist,” “freethinker,” and “person victimized by first husband and tricked by second husband,” because that’s how she presented herself to most people.

        And I think MZB largely thought of herself as “I am a rape victim who survived and empowered herself,” and that everything else that she did was justified and done for the best, because it was her doing it. She probably didn’t spend much time thinking, “I’m an evil bitch who rapes kids and facilitates kidraping,” because that’s not an attractive thing to admit about oneself.

        But the trick here is that a lot of sf fans are not just introverts or inexperienced with society, or sympathetic to people who present themselves as previously bullied, but they are also reluctant to be perceived as insufficiently openminded. So if you have MZB and Elisabeth Waters swanning around as “we are a lesbian couple who do Gnostic/pagan magic religion stuff,” it would actually create a certain amount of discomfort that would cover them from people intuiting the creepier stuff. People wouldn’t want to ask the kids too many questions. People would want to seem cool with the unusual lifestyle of their cool sf mentor.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Well, again, most people would never run into anything worse than “let’s flirt with libertarianism but decide to stick with our current politics” or “fine, let’s have the conversation about how, just because I like dressing up as a Klingon, it doesn’t mean I want a BDSM boyfriend.”

        Leslie Fish is a very trustworthy person when taken on her merits, for instance, even if she has some very odd ideas. There are people I dislike and vice versa, who would still bring somebody gas at 3 AM, just because that person needed it.

        But yeah, the closer you got to the putative/self-invented centers of Fandom Power, the more likely you were to run into people with Iago dreams and/or unpleasant morals. Mostly because most people had better things to do, like living their lives. And it could be argued that anywhere there are large numbers of the naive and the victimized, there are bound to be large numbers of people willing to take advantage.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “Mandate of Heaven”? That makes sense for Emperors but what about lesser mortals? None of the Five Great Sect Leaders had or claimed a Mandate. This is a Baron who wanted to found a kingdom. If you think about Sects it makes more sense — the Sect Leader has to have the favor of spiritual animal, The old Sect Leader choses/adopts his/her heir from those eligible.
    The Cultivators might think it presumptive to ask for continual divine intervention to run a kingdom, but they would have to say why this is particularly scary.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In fact, “nice” isn’t in the job description of most gods in most mythology/religious systems. “Strong enough to change the world according to your whims” on the other hand… oh yeah…

        The idea of gods being “nice” is… a relatively modern one all things considered…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hell, the old-school characterization of the Jewish/Christian/Muslim God show him as very much not nice! He loves his people, and can be kind, but He also flooded the world and killed all but one family because he was displeased with humanity. (Kind and nice are two ENTIRELY different things, BTW. Kind is something you are for yourself, nice is something you do for others)

        The wrath of God is very much apparent in the Old Testament. He’s much better than pretty much all other gods from that time (He’s not a rapist! Nor does he kill on a whim) but He can be very harsh. After all, parents have to discipline their kids when they misbehave, right?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Hell, the old-school characterization of the Jewish/Christian/Muslim God show him as very much not nice! He loves his people, and can be kind, but He also flooded the world and killed all but one family because he was displeased with humanity. (Kind and nice are two ENTIRELY different things, BTW. Kind is something you are for yourself, nice is something you do for others)

        ::waggles hands around as if weighing::

        A lot of the issue is trying to use language to convey meaning. Sadly, we are not able to do very limited telepathy to convey exact shade of meaning. Generally, ‘nice’ is used in a manner that is decided NOT ‘kind.’ But not-nice tends to rule out kind, or just, as well…..

        Given the stuff that non-destroyed folks are shown to do, and the kind of behavior that got a city leveled, we may have a “kindness to the cruel is cruelty to the kind” situation going on.

        I am frequently awed both by how much higher the modern level of basic decency– even in really horrible places– is, and how unaware that there IS NOT a lower level of decency that wouldn’t make Silence of the Lambs look like a fluffy bunny fantasy.

        People can be really, really horrible…..

        Liked by 5 people

      4. Unfortunately true. I sometimes suspect that the people I run into who have this endless appetite for tragedies, because – and I quote – “a happy ending is boring!” – have never, ever had something truly horrible happen to them.

        Speaking as someone who has, please, bring on the happy endings!

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, given I’m setting this in Velgarth, then the cultivators know some of the laws the gods of Velgarth operate under. Which include: They tend to help the hopeless, and the less hopeless you are, the more their aid costs.

      Cultivators consider themselves the least hopeless people in sect lands. Godly aid would cost too much.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m not sure what the gods of the Velgarth are like and their rules and customs. But to throw two ideas out
        1. Wen Mao tried to found a righteous clan and look where it ended up. Praying and hoping for virtuous descendants is not a solution.
        2. When Valdemar and its neighbors think about bargains with the divine, they are thinking about relatively restrained virtuous gods. The Cultivar clans are as appalled and scared as if the Westerners are making a bargain with the fae. They might keep their bargain to the letter but the price might be far too high. Look at the Nie and their sabres. The Nie have magical strength, but they won’t achieve immortality or even long life.
        Valdemar might/does have a just and stable kingdom but … The best of Valdemar’s young people will die young as Heralds. There are no mages — they give up magic. This is affecting not only the whole kingdom but outsiders as well. The Companions have chosen outsiders before and will again. the only fair thing about this is the Companions chose those who would have been willing to sacrifice themselves for others and for justice. Someone should protect WWX from Companions.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Speaking of Xiao Xingcheng and Wei Wuxian, I’ve recently had the thought that it’s pretty interesting that the two people we know have a direct connection to Baoshan Sanren both of spirits that disappeared after they died. They couldn’t be found and they couldn’t be summoned by the usual means, and probably whatever else Xue Yang could come up with. But Wei Wuxian says he was a very quiet wandering ghost, and Mo Xuanyu was able to sacrifice summon him. So. What if the disappearance after death is a Baoshan Sanren Feature, not a bug?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. (Looks this up) Well, if you spend your whole life on a celestial mountain cultivating, the general desired endgame would be to become some kind of celestial being yourself, getting to eat the peaches of immortality and so forth. Sometimes this is seen as reincarnation to a higher position on the wheel, but often not — it’s just where you get reassigned after death.

      And if you become a celestial spirit/fairy/minor god after death, you couldn’t be summoned. People could build a temple to you and worship you if they wanted you to show up; or they could continue to communicate with you as part of the general ancestral worship in their clan ancestor halls; but you certainly wouldn’t be at their beck and call. You would probably have a flattering new god/fairy/spirit name, too, and new responsibilities (ie, a government appointment from the Jade Emperor), and you would probably inform your descendants of this in a dream or other message. Heck, you might summon your clan head to appear before _you_.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, considering that healing is supposed to be the realm of the living and yet Wei Wuxian seems to have rested somewhat while he was dead, it’s not entirely implausible that Baoshan Sanren somehow redirects their spirits to her mountain. They be still dead, just wandering around until they either pass on or reincarnate. They’d be a defense for her, able to redirect would be visitors, and it would let her put up protections to prevent the usual course of summoning. I think Mo Xuanyu’s only worked because it was something that had only been used three or four times throughout history. (Also, it allows me to speculate that Mo Xuanyu actually swapped places with Wei Wuxian and that ripping the summoner’s soul apart was more a case of malicious spirits. Or, you know, swapping places with a demon is pretty traumatic, and he’ll is hard to get out of. I like my happy endings, alright? Sometimes that ending is posthumous, but I want the ending to be a good one. And Mo Xuanyu deserves softness.)

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Bunnies go “Star Wars”.

      Some computers back, I had a (probably badly designed) scheme to transpose Fate into Star Wars. I’m not sure if I was going to have a Herald as a Master, or if someone was going to get Baron Valdemar as a Servant. Took place during a specific period of the Old Republic’s history. Part of the plan was that it would rip off WWI the way the movie era ripped off WWII.

      Framing story would explicitly exclude both the old and the new canons.

      Anyway, I had significantly less idea how to plot back then, and now that I have a bit more idea how one of the genre’s plots work, I think the thing won’t work as written.

      Star Wars Legacy had a deep enough history, enough retcons, and enough kitchen sink that one could justify a bunch of warring polities, traces of which were later erased or overshadowed by more significant wars. To include bunches of dark side tech differing from the main line of Sith development. (I once hit upon a scheme to incorporate all the Gundam into Star Wars. Isolated system, dark side aliens living in a gas giant Did It.)

      Bleach into Star Wars was also a fun exercise.

      These days, I’m less interested in Star Wars.

      However, still, I must ask: What if Baoshan Sanren had been a Keyblade Master, and had trained in the Force under Yoda’s teaching lineage at some point prior to Yoda?

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  7. Re: “What if the gods are the kind that just eat your face?”

    I just realized. Valdemar isn’t just a theocracy; it’s a representative theocracy. The list of gods all signed onto the Companion thing (or at least didn’t send revelations that “Iiiiii Diiiidn’t Dooooo Iiiiiit!”), and the Companions are all discussing stuff with each other as a sort of Angelic/Bodhisattva Council, and then you have the monarchs under that.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. And this in one of the things I take into crazy land, at least where theoretical implementations of Valdemar are concerned.

      See, I have been somewhat exposed to the In Nomine/Good Omens, heaven and hell as a kinder gentler Cold War. Or, at least, many of the campaign sliders in In Nomine are kinder and gentler than Demons-as-Communists.

      So, why not Valdemar as the theocratic version of the UN? Non-hostile can perhaps be stretched quite far. Obviously, kinder and gentler than the real UN, because if the Companions were UN bureaucrats, Valdemar and possibly Velgarth would be gone.

      Like

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