Saturday, 24 September 2016

Invisible Devils

"Other bullets kicked up puffs of smoke around them; he saw one Assyrian stop and slam his spear at one, probably thinking it was some sort of invisible devil."
-SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter Fifteen, p. 230.

Exactly! You and I know what a bullet is but an ancient Assyrian doesn't so what will he think and how will he react? Recently in the combox, David Birr referred to a story in which a pastward time traveler killed his assailants with a gun. Witnesses thought that he held a hammer which invisibly flew from and returned to his hand...

When Stane tried to change history in post-Roman Britain:

"'None dared cross him, for he had a wand which threw thunderbolts and had been seen to cleave rocks and once, in battle with the Britons, burn men down.'" (Anderson, Time Patrol, p. 33)

Stane has "...a thirtieth-century blast-ray.'" (p. 36)

In Doctor Mirabilis, Roger Bacon believes that a gaseous explosion is demonic. In Black Easter, a scientist denies that a visible demon is real.
-copied from here

A visible demon would be another matter.

I once heard (anecdotal evidence here, folks) that Australia aborigines said that a van was moved by "spirit horses." If they insisted on this explanation, then the phrase "spirit horses" would become the term in their language for "internal combustion engine."


David Birr said...

The aborigines MAY have been inspired or at least encouraged in that belief by the tendency to describe an engine's performance in terms of horsepower. I'm familiar with a song from the 1970s that says "I've got four hundred horses tucked under the hood" -- if aborigines overheard that or something like it....

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

No combox commentator has mentioned or apparently thought of it, but I have that the Assyrian king, Tukulti-Ninurta, and his advisers made a very bad mistake attacking Babylon seven or eight months after the Nantucket/Babylon (how strange that pairing of names looks!) alliance was negotiated. Tnere MUST have been Assyrian spies in Babylon observing and reporting back home on what they observed and discovered about the Nantukh'ar and their weapons and methods. In that case my thought was that Tukulti-Ninurta should have pulled back, offered to make peace, do ANYTHING short of actual surrender to avoid war with the Nantukh'ar. That would have given time for the Assyrians to get back their balance, and start learning about the new weapons, tactics, and technology the Nantucketers were introducing. Or is this merely after the fact hindsight?


David Birr said...

The Assyrians may have thought they should hit Babylon all the quicker, BEFORE the new weapons etc. could be fully integrated with Babylonian forces. It depends on how MUCH their spies were able to sniff out and thus how much of a threat they realized the changes to be.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

I agree with these points you made. If that was how Tukulti-Ninurta thought, in the Nantucket books, then I thing he should have struck hard and fast with all he had almost immediately after the Nantucketers arrived. Waiting seven or eights months was fatal to the Assyrians.

I do grant the timing was dependent on how much the Assyrian spies discovered and how well the Assyrian leaders understood the implications.

I think it boils down to the Assyrians either striking hard, almost at once from the time the Nantukh'ar arrived or doing almost anything to avoid war with Babylon/Nantucket. What a strange pairing of names!