Escape Artists

News:

News

ATTENTION: NEW FORUM THEME Please see here for details: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=13188.0

Author Topic: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance  (Read 17852 times)

yicheng

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 221
The story was entertaining enough.  More of a fun romp than anything memorable, and it makes me wish for a Steampunk spin-off of Stargate.

I wanted to chime in on Ms Leckie's prologue piece about primitive cultures and "ancient aliens": I couldn't agree more.  I've always thought that much of that belief was based largely on colonial ethno-centrism, i.e. equating primitive people lacking in tools/technology as stupid or simple.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8657
    • Diabolical Plots
I've always thought that much of that belief was based largely on colonial ethno-centrism, i.e. equating primitive people lacking in tools/technology as stupid or simple.

On a sleepless night a few months ago, I watched a show about Rome's Coliseum.  For a long time of recent history, no one knew how they built it, raising the highest stones on top of the others with the tools of the time.  Then some time fairly recently they found one historical document that had a picture of equipment they might have used to do it.  So, as an experiment, the researchers built a machine based entirely on the diagram.  It was built entirely of wood and fashioned using only period-appropriate tools, and was powered by humans walking inside a 15-foot diameter wooden wheel that looked like a hamster wheel.  With 3-4 people on the wheel exerting only moderate effort they were able to lift a huge block (was it 1 ton?  I forget).

I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).



yicheng

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 221
I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).

Exploitation is a relative term, though.  I've heard a fairly convincing argument that the average Medieval European Peasants had better living standards and worked less hours/day and days/year than our modern-day minimum wage working class. 

I think part of that mindset is also the rather arrogant idea that History is a natural continuation of a series of ever-improving steps, with us at the pinnacle, and things graduating getting worse and worse the farther you go back.  As far as I can tell, this is a fairly modern (post-industrial) world-view, whereas most ancient societies (Romans included) believed that civilizations had life & death cycles.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8657
    • Diabolical Plots
I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).

Exploitation is a relative term, though.  I've heard a fairly convincing argument that the average Medieval European Peasants had better living standards and worked less hours/day and days/year than our modern-day minimum wage working class.  

I think part of that mindset is also the rather arrogant idea that History is a natural continuation of a series of ever-improving steps, with us at the pinnacle, and things graduating getting worse and worse the farther you go back.  As far as I can tell, this is a fairly modern (post-industrial) world-view, whereas most ancient societies (Romans included) believed that civilizations had life & death cycles.

With that statement I wasn't referring to Medieval times, because I don't think anyone theorizes that Medieval architecture was built by aliens.  I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one, putting together a huge monument that took decades to build and served the purpose of a burial chamber for the kings where they would be buried with all their most valuable possessions.  It's still a marvel of architecture, but I'd still call that exploitative.  None of the workers get a chance to be buried in pyramids.



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Logical, perhaps, but not progressive.  He tended to make the final leap - often one that defied explanation - all in one go.  He was strongly intuitive, in other words, rather than building gradually on previous work.  That is what I mean by erratic; it was always a bit of a crapshoot as to which bit of information would tip Holmes over into revelation, and he tended in general to solve things by retreating to mull things over for a time rather than methodically testing and discarding hypotheses.

Well, no. The mulling things over was after he'd collected evidence, it was the mulling that was the methodically testing and discarding hypotheses. Detectives who work more by bursts of insight and intuition include Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford and Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse.

Anyway, I'm hijacking this thread so I'll leave it there.

For now. :-)


hautdesert

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 315
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.


Another thing to remember is that slavery in the ancient near east (probably) isn't what you're thinking of when you think of "slavery." Slaves weren't chattle, they were low-status members of the community who had certain rights. In a lot of cultures, there were limitations on how you could treat your slaves, when (and whether) you could sell them, how long they could be slaves, and how many generations a family could be enslaved. It wasn't great, of course... but it also wasn't anything like, say, American slavery. Again, there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Wilson Fowlie

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1472
    • The Maple Leaf Singers
It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  ...

... there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.

The 'haut desert' sun? :)

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham



stePH

  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
The 'haut desert' sun? :)

Bad pun. Me no leckie.  :P

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


Wilson Fowlie

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1472
    • The Maple Leaf Singers

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8657
    • Diabolical Plots
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.


Another thing to remember is that slavery in the ancient near east (probably) isn't what you're thinking of when you think of "slavery." Slaves weren't chattle, they were low-status members of the community who had certain rights. In a lot of cultures, there were limitations on how you could treat your slaves, when (and whether) you could sell them, how long they could be slaves, and how many generations a family could be enslaved. It wasn't great, of course... but it also wasn't anything like, say, American slavery. Again, there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.

All right, fair enough.  I don't claim to be an expert about the economics of construction of ancient monuments.  It had just seemed to me, from the bits of information I'd absorbed, that the most impressive monuments were created during times of particularly wide caste separations where the castes in power exploited the lowest castes.  It sounds like you are more informed than I about this subject, and this does not particularly shock me.   ;D



LaShawn

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 550
  • Writer Mommies Rule!
    • The Cafe in the Woods
I'll be the lone dissenter and say that it was hard for me to get into this one. The premise was interesting, but I guess I heard it before. I was sort of half listening to it as I worked. Probably something I would pay better attention to if I read it instead.

--
Visit LaShawn at The Cafe in the Woods:
http://tbonecafe.wordpress.com
Another writer's antiblog: In Touch With Yours Truly


Fenrix

  • Curmudgeonly Co-Editor of PseudoPod
  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 3865
  • I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
I won't let LaShawn be the lone dissenter. I didn't really dig this one, although I did like the Vampire of Kabul.

The denouement was incredibly subtle and it brought the story up a notch or two for me. But the buildup to that was a relatively unsubtle story. This was the Good and Righteous Servants of the Queen (and a Jew) fighting SkyNet to prevent the termination of all humanity. Also there were a couple spots that seemed a bit racially/culturally insensitive, and although appropriate for the antiquarian style of the story, I'm surprised no one's tee'd off about them. I have to admit, I wandered off a time or two in this story while in my head Alasdair narrated a White Street Society story about the Zionist Threat.

Nothing wrong with Good beats Evil while Looking Cool, but it's not going to get my vote for the Best of PodCastle 2011.

 

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


DKT

  • Friendly Neighborhood
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4980
  • PodCastle is my Co-Pilot
    • Psalms & Hymns & Spiritual Noir
Also there were a couple spots that seemed a bit racially/culturally insensitive, and although appropriate for the antiquarian style of the story, I'm surprised no one's tee'd off about them. I have to admit, I wandered off a time or two in this story while in my head Alasdair narrated a White Street Society story about the Zionist Threat.

Oh, I think those shots were totally intentional criticisms of the time and style (at least from my perspective) - as much as anything the White Street Society stories (which I adore). It was just done in a completely different tone than tongue in cheek.