Thursday, 27 April 2017

Old Tricks And Something New

For reference, see here.

Old tricks work. When the taverner's daughter identifies VIPs and other visitors for a stranger, she simultaneously informs the stranger, informs new readers, reminds regular readers and summarizes some history. Thus, we see:

Rudi Mackenzie;
Rudi's half sisters;
Mathilda Arminger;
an Association knight;
two A-list Bearkillers;
a Mount Angel monk.

We are pleased to learn that Juniper Mackenzie and Sir Nigel are not yet in the Summerlands although unsurprised to learn that life expectancy has declined post-Change.

Is an element of fantasy creeping in? (See also here.) The stranger has had dreams and heard a Voice. But people claim such experiences in our timeline. I will continue to regard the Change as scientific or technological in origin unless and until we are informed to the contrary although I dislike the phrase, "Alien Space Bats."

There was an island of dinosaurs before the Change!


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Yes, Stirling's use of the inn keeper's daughter as a means of unobtrusively imparting useful information to old and new readers was an artistic touch.

I'm glad Stirling let on that average life expectancy declined after the Change. I commented elsewhere that I thought Stirling kinda glossed over what the DISAPPEARANCE of advanced pharmaceuticals and sophisticated surgery would mean to most people. Nothing good!

Long ago, in another forum, SF fans were using "Alien Space Bats" to refer to whoever caused the Change. Which I thought was amusing and sometimes used myself.

Darn, I don't remember this mention of a pre-Change Island of Dinosaurs! Wait, this was an allusion to the JURASSIC PART movies. Neat!


S.M. Stirling said...

Yup. There are all sorts of -stories- of life before the Change; and the Change itself means that drastic alterations in the very fabric of things are possible. Over time, popular memories of fiction and "real" history can merge -- history itself was originally regarded as a branch of literature, not a science.

S.M. Stirling said...

Demographics are tricky; you have to remember that the average is not the mean, for example.

The main reason "life expectancy" was so low in the pre-germ-theory period was that lots of very young people died of infectious disease, which brought down the average. If you made it to, say, 20, you had an excellent change of making it to your 50's or 60's, depending on where you lived.

But some places, particularly large cities, were sinks of disease; places on well-traveled trade routes got hit with epidemics more. Infectious disease was the primary cause of death at all ages, and there was a steady trickle of mortality for people throughout the possible lifespan before the rate started to tick up sharply in late middle age.

(One reason that the European advent into the Americas was so terrible for the Amerindians is that people didn't just come from 'Europe', they came through -cities- in Europe, from Cadiz or Amsterdam or London -- places were three or four times as many people died as were born every year anyway. Cities in that era could only maintain their populations by a continual influx from the countryside -- 10% of every generation in Britain moved to London throughout the 1600's and 1700's, for instance. As late as the 1860's, many soldiers off to the American Civil War died of 'childhood' diseases like measles because their native rural neighborhoods didn't have the population density to make measles or whatever endemic.)

In a place with no big cities, abundant food and a good overall disease environment, average ages could be quite high -- most adults in colonial New England lived into their 70's, for instance, and infant mortality was less than a quarter the rate in England.

The civilized parts of the post-Change world once the terrible years are past aren't the pre-modern era come again; they know about bacteria, antisepsis, clean water and so forth.

Their demographic profile is more like the mid-20th century First World than the Middle Ages. Few people die of infections; few people die young -- more than in our era, but nowhere near as bad as, say, England in 1900 when 150 in 1000 children still died in their first few years.

Apart from war and the like, typically people live into their 70's and 80's and 90's aren't uncommon.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Oh, I agree, the world entered a period of renewed myths and legends after the Change. While I agree that before the 19th century and the rise of scientific historical research and writing, history was treated like a branch of literature, that did not necessarily mean all works of history were unworthy of trust. A favorite example of mine being St. Gregory of Tours HISTORY OF THE FRANKS (which he called TEN BOOKS OF HISTORY). As far as it was possible for him, St. Gregory strove to be as accurate as possible and treated his sources with care.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Many thanks for your explanation for what seemed an implausible situation in your Emberverse books. Yes, the civilized survivors would know of such things as bacteria, antisepsis, clean water, etc.

I still have some doubts, however. Your comments above don't seem to take into account things like cancers, heart disease, things like thyroid deficiency disorders, etc. To say nothing of how things like cataract surgery would seem now to be impossible, post-Change. And other surgeries like appendectomies and gall bladder removal would again seem to become difficult and life threatening. If such things as appendicitis and gall bladder disease can even be diagnosed accurately and in time for major surgeries to be attempted.

And nothing, of course, could be done about things like hearing loss and deafness. No hearing aids, no cochlear implants, etc.