461: Class Differences

on September 27, 2010 in Book 16

In Which Battlefields Real And Imaginary Are Discussed

It was odd, but I felt a surprising sense of connection, there in the hallway where everyone was hanging out. It was like I was part of… campus life, or the community of students, or something. It was a very different feeling for me… I felt out of place among crowds of human students, but it wasn’t like I felt like I belonged in Harlowe, either. I had my friends that I could be comfortable with, some of the time.

Maybe it was the fact that the nexus hallway was a narrower space than the lunchroom or the venues for the dances I’d been to, and less formal a gathering than the classes I attended… but then, I hadn’t felt this way when Hazel’d had her community potluck on Sunday. I’d been aware of a spirit of togetherness, but it had felt like something external to me… something I could see and maybe touch, but not something I could be included in.

Even when a good number of other students had come together in protest or whatever they’d been feeling when I got banished to the labyrinth, I’d felt more surprised and overwhelmed by the surge of support than I’d felt any real kind of connection to those who’d turned out.

Maybe that had been a mistake… maybe if I’d reached back out more, followed up on that a little bit, I might have been able to carve out more of a place for myself.

“You go to a human university, you can’t expect everything to be your size unless you’re a human,” Oru was saying as we approached.

“Actually…” Pala began, a little bit hesitantly. She seemed eager to speak up, but uncertain of her right to do so… it was easy to see how less invested she was in the topic than the two principal combatants.

“Is it a human university?” Shiel replied. “I mean, it’s definitely human-owned and human-ran, and naturally it’s very humanocentric…”

I could understand Pala’s hanging back from the conversation and her look of mild amusement. The problems of the shorter races might interest her in the abstract, as she had her own version of the same issues to deal with, but she’d have less reason to be emotionally involved than the goblin or kobold.

“Well, naturally. So what are you even arguing for?” Oru asked.

“I didn’t expect… hi, Two!” Pala said, seeing us.

“Hi, Pala. Hi, Hazel,” Two said.

“Hello, Two,” Hazel said. “Pull up a floor and join the, er, fun.”

“As I was…” Pala started to say as we sat down, but Oru and Shiel were too engrossed in their debate to notice.

“Well, the fact that it remains a de facto human institution doesn’t matter,” Shiel said. “The moment they started accepting enrollment from other races, they’ve defined themselves as a university for all of those races, but by not making their facilities and services equally accessible they’ve done so poorly.”

“To hear you speak, I’d think you don’t want them to let anyone in at all,” Oru said.

“No, explicitly excluding other races is its own failing,” Shiel said. “The most that could be said for it is that it’s honest. Here, they’re saying that all races are equal, but they’re rating our needs differently. Their actions have proven…”

“I didn’t expect things to be my size, is what I was saying,” Pala said. “I just said that I would like for them to be so.”

“Well, there you go,” Oru said.

“Wait a second,” I said, adjusting my position… sitting on the floor could be uncomfortable enough, but the sloped floor in the nexus made it even more awkward. “You’re all talking about how big Pala is?”

“I was talking about how small the buildings are,” Pala said.

“Not specifically about her, no,” Shiel said. “She’s merely serving as a convenient example of how humans have prized their own accessibility over others.”

“When I mentioned it, I thought I was talking specifically about me,” Pala said. “Did I say it wrongly?”

“You said it fine, love,” Hazel said. “Goblin-type ears just have a lot of room for words to echo around in.”

“Oh, don’t you start,” Shiel said.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Hazel said.

I know what you meant, Pala,” Oru said. “And I’ve been inconvenienced for my size, too. But like I said, there’s got to be a practical limit on the amount of special accommodations they can make.”

“I think it’s more of a special accommodation when everything around you,” Shiel said, “the buildings, the doorways, the furniture, the lifts, the bathroom facilities… literally everything is designed specifically to accommodate you and people like you.”

“Isn’t that what you’re asking for?” Oru asked.

“Not for buildings made for any one type of person, no,” Shiel said. “For everyone. If they made a building that was truly accessible to everyone, each accommodation that was made to achieve that goal would be less ‘special’ and more routine.”

“Wouldn’t that get really expensive really fast?” I said.

“Buildings are really expensive to make, I would imagine,” Shiel said. “But people come up with the funds for it if a building needs to be built. That kind of money on a building is considered reasonable, right? Normal. But who defines what’s normal?”

“The people who live there,” Oru said.

“Okay, so if any of you tall folk came back to my warren, or Oru’s village, or the shire of Logfallen, you wouldn’t be able to get around very well,” Shiel said. “You wouldn’t be able to walk through any of the portals, or fit in furniture… well, we don’t really use ‘furniture’… but you wouldn’t be able to stand up in our tunnels. And it wouldn’t be because we did anything to exclude you. We just constructed them the way we normally do. Our definition of normal excludes non-kobolds.”

“Well, again, there you go,” Oru said. “It’s not on purpose, it’s not to keep anyone out… it’s just doing what you’d do normally. Can we ask for more?”

“If we don’t, we deserve what we get,” Shiel said. “My point is that what’s ‘normal’ is entirely up to the people making the definition, so there’s no reason it can’t be defined more broadly.”

“So why not start at home?” Oru asked. “Why not start digging bigger warrens?”

“If I had any input on warren construction… or much of anything else… maybe I would. But our warrens are inaccessible for reasons of self-protection, and self-determination,” Shiel said.

“And humans don’t get to self-determine?” Oru asked.

“‘Human society’, by nature of their imperialistic impulses, is intrinsically pluralistic,” Shiel said. “Their culture touches and envelops a lot of other races. What we do in our mining communities by ourselves is different than what humans do. If we went so far as to put up a sign that said ‘No humans allowed!’, would it make a difference to anyone? Humans don’t have to pass through our tunnels to get anywhere. Humans aren’t surrounded by our warrens. And as a race they’ve shown a tendency to go into other peoples’ lands and do whatever they want anyway.”

“Well, if you’re talking about what’s fair, why does it matter how many humans need to pass through your mines?” Oru asked. “If it’s the principle of the thing you ought to make sure humans and giants and orcs and gelatinous thingies can fit comfortably in your tunnels anyway.”

“If we were inviting humans and ogres and ‘thingies’ into our warrens and these warrens were the only source of certain advantages they would need to get along in a kobold-dominated world, then yes, it would be horribly unfair of us not to accommodate them,” Shiel said.

“Aren’t you maybe overstating the case?” I said. “I mean, I think in general I’d agree with your side over Oru’s, but humans control something like less than twenty percent of the land on the surface of the world, and most of that’s split between two empires that haven’t exactly gotten along that well, historically.”

“Okay, a human-dominated continent,” Shiel said. “Or sphere of influence. The Imperium surrounds or borders every kobold warren known to us in this part of the world. It would take about ten percent of the Imperial military forces to wipe out every one of those communities in under a year.”

“Oh, you’re making that up,” Oru said.

“No… it is just an estimate, obviously, but it’s based on the actual strength of the imperial armed forces, the typical defenses of a kobold warren, and historical engagements between human and kobold forces on kobold turf,” Shiel said. “We don’t have the same capabilities as dwarves. We don’t have their same investment in and knowledge of shielding and secrecy runes, in traps, or fortifications. No matter how much we dig in, we could be dug out. All of which means that humans will never have to worry about us the way we have to worry about them.”

“Why would you ever sit down and figure out something like that in the first place?” Honey asked. “It’s so… morbid.”

“I think about it because they think about it,” Shiel said. “You don’t think the imperial government has done studies and war games and divinations to figure out how to permanently pacify or eliminate the other races that share its domain?”

“You’re looking well, Honey,” I interjected. Up closer, she was noticeably down a little weight and a little sleep, but she seemed relaxed, almost relieved. In fact, it was hard to say how exactly but now that she’d drawn attention to herself she was practically radiating an almost tangible sense of relief.

“Oh, I’m just glad the whole thing… well, it’s nice to know it was just a monster attack, you know?” Honey said. She hiccuped, or giggled. “Not a murder after all.”

Any guilt I might have felt from not immediately divulging the truth was wiped out by seeing how much calm the idea gave her. Perhaps that was a good sign for the campus mood. After contemplating the implications of a horrible murder, “just a monster attack” didn’t seem so bad.

“Look, the thing we’re overlooking is that this was an all-human university,” Oru said. “They made the choice to open it up to all races. Doesn’t that say something? About their willingness to accommodate? About their intentions?”

“I think inviting members of every race to come to your university but not making it fully accessible to them says something, alright,” Shiel said. “It says that it’s all still yours. I mean, apart from the university’s actual owners, who do you think has the greatest sense of ownership, of belonging: the human students, or the non-humans?”

“Is that a real question?” Oru asked. “This university was built and founded and run by humans, and it’s in the middle of a human empire. Obviously humans are going to feel more at home. Not that I feel particularly unwelcome… I mean, I can be made to feel unwelcome in a room with no humans in it as easily as one that’s full of humans. I just think it’s more a matter of… economics, I guess you’d say. I think a lot of it is.”

“A lot of what is?” Sheil asked.

“The stuff you talk about,” Oru said. “All the racism you think is everywhere. Doesn’t it really come down to money and power?”

“Well, yes… it comes down to power, and money is a form of that,” Shiel said. “Racism without power would just be prejudice. Ugly, but irrelevant.”

“Except I don’t think it’s about race,” Oru said. “I mean, okay, yes… some people don’t like goblins. I call that racism. You’d probably call it prejudice. But it’s not like I care what some hairy, round-faced breast ape thinks I look like, right?”

“But human attitudes matter because they’ve got the power,” Shiel said. “Including most of the money.”

“Okay, yeah, right now there’s a lot of money in human hands, but they’ve got a lot more hands than we do, and they’ve been collecting money for longer,” Oru said. “As a race, I mean. But a rich goblin who didn’t want to live in the lowlands could go and buy a house on a hilltop, or a townhouse in the city…”

“Or a cityhouse in the town,” Hazel added.

“…or whatever… and there are poor humans, who are way worse off than anyone in my village,” Oru said. “I mean, everybody there has a house. I doubt the humans treat them any better than they treat us.”

“So there’s classism and racism,” Shiel said. “I don’t know why you think this is better than just racism.”

“I don’t think it’s racism and… classism,” Oru said. “I don’t even think there’s that much classism, unless that’s a fancy word for ‘some people have more money than you do’. But I also just don’t think there’s as much racism as you think there is.”

“Um… didn’t you tell me that you didn’t like going out at night because you were afraid of being attacked by fighter students?” I asked her. I had to wonder how much her current stance was being informed by her desire to disagree with the extremity of Shiel’s position. I had a hunch that left to her own devices she’d be less sanguine about the general state of human race relations and on-campus equality… but when Shiel said something too extreme for her to support, she ended up arguing against the whole thing.

“Yes, but… that’s just people being stupid,” Oru said. “Thinking ‘goblin equals monster equals kill it!‘ But it’s not like I walk into a sweet shop and the shopkeeper says, ‘Oh, you’re a monster. I can’t take your coppers because monsters are for killing.'”

“So you’re fine with the idea that you might get randomly killed for your race as long as you can buy sweets?” Shiel said.

“I’m not ‘fine’ with being killed, but it’s dangerous outside for everyone,” Oru said. “More humans get killed by ghouls, so I suppose that ghouls are racist against humans?”

“Hold on, now,” Hazel said, in a surprisingly serious voice. I could almost feel something shifting inside her, like a card had been flipped over or a puzzle piece had locked into place. “I think you’ve got a point, Oru, but I don’t think it’s the one you mean to make.”

“What do you mean?” Oru asked.

“Oh, this should be good,” Shiel said.

“I mean, we’ve the same sorts of problems in my shire, only we’re sort of an insular lot, so it’s all one race, see? But there are definitely what you’d call ‘class divisions’, and you see the same sorts of things you’re talking about across the classes.”

“Not really,” Honey said. “I think our society’s really very… egalitarian. I mean, we did away with most noble titles before the Imperium did, and peasantry before that. I think it’s like Oru said: some people just have more money. You have to expect that, unless you do away with money entirely… but it’s not like money plays favorites.”

“Just because we stopped naming the classes doesn’t mean they went away, Honey,” Hazel said. “Or that people don’t know them. Look at your family. Look at mine.”

“We’re cousins, Hazel. We are family.”

“You know what I mean,” Hazel said. “Your folks. My folks. You could put them in a line, with you at the front, us at the back, and most any random folks from town falling somewhere in between us. That’s class.”

“If you think the folks in town looked down on you, Hazel, it might be because of the way you walked around like you had a chip on your shoulder all the time,” Honey said.

“Are you saying your folks didn’t look down on my dad and me?”

“Well, if you want to bring that up… but if that’s a matter of class, Hazel, it’s that your father didn’t have any class, of the other kind, and you didn’t have the chance to pick any up from him,” Honey said. “And that’s sad, but that sort of class is something a person of any station can acquire, not a… social… division… thingy.”

“Except…” Shiel said. “Except that it’s not really a different sort, is it? It still refers to social standing.”

“It is,” Honey said. “I meant class as in classy, as in… classiness.”

“Yes, but that means ‘having class’,” Shiel said. “You see, ‘classy manners’ are manners associated with people ‘of a certain class’. Anybody can learn them, but if your parents have them, you learn them growing up. If everybody else around you shows them, then that becomes like your idea of what normal default behavior is. The fact that it’s a special advantage you possess that others don’t doesn’t even occur to you.”

“Some advantage,” Honey said. “It’s just… one way of behaving. So what if Hazel learned other ways? Is she really worse off because she doesn’t know how to fold a napkin?”

“Hey now! I fold them better than you do,” Hazel said.

“She is pretty good at that,” Two added.

“Well, yeah, because you practiced it every day all summer long after my mum said something about it,” Honey said.

“After she snapped my head off, more like, ” Hazel said.

“The point is that you practiced it and you got better at it, and anybody could do that,” Honey said.

“The point is that your ‘classy’ behaviors act like a filter,” Shiel said. “Keeping the ‘right’ sort of people above the ‘wrong’ sorts… it can be used to sort out who gets dinner invitations, who’s allowed into the ‘respectable’ establishments… if the class stigma’s strong enough, that becomes self-policing as people who don’t know the etiquette end up staying away for fear of embarrassment…”

“Is it anybody else’s fault if they do?” Honey said.

“Yes. It’s the fault of people who would use social stigma as a weapon,” Shiel said. “These are just some examples of how people of a lower class end up with reduced opportunities.”

“Oh, yes, right,” Hazel said, nodding. “I could talk all day about ‘reduced opportunities’ compared to Honey.”

“That’s not ‘reduced opportunities’, that’s just being poor,” Honey said.

“Trust me, Honey, that reduces your opportunities,” Hazel said.

I found myself nodding along with Hazel. Growing up with less money than everyone else in your class was an almost daily lesson in “reduced opportunities”. I wasn’t sure how much of it came down to class… my grandmother was respected and “the right sort of people” in the eyes of most, and she owned her own home even if she’d never exactly rich, but her respectability hadn’t in any way been passed down onto her daughter the single mother.

“Alright, then, so it’s reduced opportunities to spend money,” Honey said. “If you’ve got one gold and I’ve got ten gold, then I can buy ten times as much. Stands to reason.”

“Yeah,” Oru said. “Stands to reason.”

“Yeah, only maybe there are more things in the world that will do you lasting good that and cost ten gold than cost one,” Hazel said. “Maybe we each need one gold for food to live on and here comes a thrilling investment opportunity that costs nine more. Or even one more. I couldn’t… if I couldn’t afford to come to university, you’d have an opportunity I don’t.”

“So? You can make a good living without a university education,” Honey said. “I was thinking about being a teacher, once. You just need to know your figures and your letters to teach the young ones.”

“You think anybody ‘proper’ would have let me teach their children?” Hazel said. “Assuming I could even live on what they give the schoolteachers.”

“Well, money’s not everything.”

“No, just food and shelter and decent clothing and anything else,” Hazel said.

“Miss Ruth told me the best things in life are free,” Two said.

“Yeah? Did she say that as she took money out of your pockets?” Hazel asked.

“No,” Two said. “She said ‘Best I hold onto that for you’ when she did that.”

“Is she keeping a lot of your money safe, then?” Hazel asked.

“Not anymore,” Two said. “I donated it to Hearts of Clay.”

“I’d ask another question but I don’t think I’d like the answer,” Hazel said. “Anyway… my point is that there’s class, and it’s real, and it doesn’t need race to make a mess of things. Though I’m pretty sure race is in there, too… tallfolk don’t even know about river people, and they still look at me like I’m not there.”

“It’s all real and it’s all related,” Shiel said. “Lower class correlates with less money, which is less power, and class tend to correlate strongly with races, even intraraces.”

“Whatra-races?” Oru said.

“Like hobgoblins and goblins,” Shiel said. “Or arguably, hobgoblins, kobolds, and goblins.”

“Oh, sub-races,” Oru said.

“I don’t like the connotations of that word,” Shiel said. “I am not sub-goblin.”

“I didn’t say you are,” Oru said. “It’s just a word… the proper one. Hobgoblins, kobolds, and goblins are all sub-races of the same race.”

“And what race is that?”

“Well… goblin, I guess,” Oru said. “That’s why we’re called ‘goblinoids’.”

“We’re called ‘goblinoids’ by humans because they met you first,” Shiel said.

“Yes, and so if they’d met you first we’d be koboldoids,” Oru said. “Do you think I’d be complaining?”

“Honestly? No.”

“Well, there you go!” Oru said. “And you don’t have anything to complain about. ‘Teeth and claws may rend my flesh’… is there a way to make that rhyme in Pax?”

A couple of human girls, one with sandy hair and freckled skin… and maybe just a trace of La Belle ancestry in her face, though that could have been my imagination… and the other with dark hair in long, tight braids… had wandered over and were standing a few feet away, listening to the conversation.

“Oh, hello, Irene,” Shiel said when she noticed them. She said the name with a long e audible on the end.

“Hello, Shiel,” the darker-toned girl said with a distinct Metropolitan accent. It was so weird hearing those vowels coming out of a person over three feet tall. “This is my friend I was telling you about, Jeanie?”

“Hi,” the other girl said.

“Oh, right, you wanted to trade soldiers,” Shiel said. It seemed like such a random thing to say, until I realized she was talking about her game.

“Well, yeah,” Jeanie said. She gave a nervous little laugh. “The only thing is, I don’t have any soldiers, yet…”

“Oh, well, I do sell them, but I’ve kind of got a backlog for that,” Shiel said. “I’ll do a trade if it gives me something I can use immediately, but otherwise I’d end up selling my way right out of the game, and I’m not prepared to do that for any price.”

“Oh, yeah, I can respect that. The thing is that I don’t have any soldiers,” Jeanie said, “but I’ve been making… landscapes, I guess… for Irene and she said you might like them?”

“What kind of landscapes? Do you mean battlefields?”

“They’re painted mats,” Jeanie said. “You can roll them up like a poster… I made the first one for a class. I use memory parchment, so you can switch it between two different pictures I made, one that’s more open and one that has a lot of trees, and if you touch two points with fingers on different hands it’ll show you the distance between them. The next one I got fancier… it does that, and you can also turn on a grid if you just want to be able to eyeball it.”

“Interesting,” Shiel said, and to my shame I almost agreed with her. Interactive maps were a lot more interesting than make-believe warfare. “Detailed maps are awesome, but the problem is that even if you can toggle between two of them, that’s two identical maps that you’re going to be fighting on again and again. It might be nice to be able to re-fight the same battle with different forces, but I like being able to change things up more.”

“Oh, well, that was just my first attempt,” Jeanie said. “My second one had three maps stored in it, and I copied the shape of a skirmish field for it… so you can rotate it and get six different starting positions. I had another brainwave while I was working on it… too late to work on it… but for my third map I cut the memory parchment into smaller sections and then attached them together, so you have a bunch of different sections that you can change independently of each other.”

“How long have you been working on these?” Shiel asked.

“Three days,” Jeanie said. “I get an idea in my head and it tends to take over, you know? I use the clone and stamp brushes a lot, but I have a good variety of trees and things because each one I have everything I’ve done before to draw on plus whatever new I make. Anyway, each section of my newest map has five different landscapes… I couldn’t make them too different because the edges have to match up or it looks all blocky.”

“Couldn’t you get around that by not permanently attaching the sections?” I asked. “Just leave the pieces separate and let people put them where they want. If you did it that way, you’d have an easier time trading, too… you wouldn’t have to finish a whole five-way map for each person you wanted to trade with.”

“I don’t know how thick this memory parchment is, but it seems like that might be messy,” Shiel said. “It seems like they’d be easy to move or scatter.”

“I guess I could attach them to cardstock or board or something,” Jeanie said. “I’m trying to find a way around the sectioning, though, because I’m looking at ways of putting more special effects in, like fires and poison clouds and things… that’s going to be hard enough if I’m not enchanting a hundred sheets individually for each map or whatever.”

“Well, then you either make a transparent overlay that you put over the whole map, or a baseboard enchanted to display the effects a short distance above it,” I said. “I don’t think I could do it, but I can see how it would be done. You’d just need a bunch of conditionals and tiny little illusions, or something. Illusions are generally pretty cheap. It would still be a lot more work than just storing paintings in memory parchment.”

“True,” she said. “And honestly, if I made all of them do that I’d never have any finished for trading. If I could figure out a way to copy them without losing the quality.”

“What about that clone brush you mentioned?” Shiel asked.

“Oh, it’s good for picking up a few inches from here and putting it there,” she said. “But I’d need something a lot more heavy-duty to retain a whole painting, even a square foot at a time, with the level of color and detail I use. The school’s autoscribes just aren’t set up for that kind of thing… I mean, nobody outside of publishing houses has that kind of equipment just lying around.”

“Or bored enchanters,” I said. “Hey, Two,” I said, right at the same time that Hazel did.

“I believe I could copy your paintings, Jeanie,” Two said.

“She wants twenty-five percent,” Hazel said. “Cash goes to her, any figures you get in trade you can give to me and I’ll pay her for them.”

“I’d have to see what you can do first,” Jeanie said.

“Yeah, that goes for me to you,” Shiel said. “But if they’re workable I think we could come to an arrangement.”

“They’re more than workable,” Irene said. “Believe me, she paints like you carve.”

“With a chisel?” Pala said.

“You two are in the apartments out on west campus?” Shiel asked, and they nodded.

“Yeah, in the senior housing. We’re crashing in Pelinor tonight, I think,” Irene said. “You could walk back with us with tomorrow morning if you want, or we could make a time to bring one of the maps over?”

“That’s a long walk for me, and I’ve got class in the morning,” Shiel said. “But I should be in my room from three on… it’s top floor, east side, last door on the right before the lounge.”

“Cool,” Irene said. “I also wanted to talk to you about this meeting that some of us are brewing up for a new campus group… we don’t have a faculty sponsor yet so it’s not official, but this is just kind of a planning thing…”

“Oh, there is Ian,” Pala said, pushing herself up and craning her neck uphill. I looked up and saw that Ian had indeed entered through the doors at the back of the hall. He was with Winnie, Puddy’s cousin with the annoying laugh. “Did I tell you he said he was coming?”

“No,” I said, trying not to scowl at his choice of company… or the fact that he had any. I wanted to talk to him about what had happened in the bathroom with Iona, which would necessitate going off alone with him. “It’s okay. Excuse me, I’ve got to go tell him… hi.”

I’d given up on trying to make up an excuse at the last moment, when it had occurred to me that I could just say I was going to say hi to him and it wouldn’t be suspicious at all. That information had arrived a few seconds too late to be useful, and I blushed at the awkward sentence that had fallen out of my mouth.

“Ah… young love,” Irene said, grinning. “Fresher, right? Were we ever that young?You go run and tell him ‘hi’, then.”

Apparently awkwardness was the perfect camouflage in some settings.

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49 Responses to “461: Class Differences”

  1. Brenda says:

    Heehee, that ending made me smile!

    Quite an intense discussion, with a little more worldbuilding snuck in. I liked when it switched over to gaming and Mackenzie actually got involved in the conversation.

    Also, thanks for reminding us why we *hate* Hearts of Clay…

    Current score: 7
  2. Dan says:

    aahhhhh you started out with an awesome GIS-precursor and then fell down photoshop hill.

    Current score: 0
  3. Kevin says:

    Typo report
    “Okay, so if any of you tall folk ame back to my warren…..
    should say “Okay, so if any of you tall folk came back to my warren….

    also during the money discussion about cost I thought I saw an out of place “and” but I couldn’t find it when I looked back

    Also the addition of battle maps was a great thing on the evolution of miniature wargaming… and I loved the line about the separate pieces for the maps being more trouble than its worth but that might be that I happen to think the D&D Dungeon Tiles were just a bad idea (scatter way to easily), and don’t even think about buying the Galaxy Tiles they scream cheap crap… though certain game companies have been doing that lately

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      I really liked the part about the wargaming, Warhammer Fantasy Battle is my poison and the Ogre Kingdoms my army πŸ™‚ To fit the battlemats together you could use some thick card and have the pieces hook into each other like upsized Dungeon Tiles from Descent. Or just use a sticky enchantment to temporarily stick the card to a flat surface.

      TYPO: “Yeah, only maybe there are more things in the world that will do you lasting good that and cost ten gold than cost one,”

      There is something wrong with that sentence, starting with …good that and…. doesn’t scan right.

      Current score: 1
      • Marx says:

        Err… yes. Doesn’t scan right, indeed.

        I’d go with…
        Version A) “[…]will do you lasting good and cost ten gold instead of one”
        or Version B) “[…]will do you lasting good and cost ten gold than do so and cost only one”

        At first glance only the “that” seemed superfluous, but after a closer look I noticed how the “than” seemed to put “lasting good” and “ten gold” in comparison to “one gold”, instead of to “lasting good” and “one gold”. I hope you understand what I want to say there.

        Current score: 0
      • Kevin says:

        Well you found the typo that I saw and couldn’t find again… and playing DnD is what got me into minis so it’s nice to see something in the wargaming world that catches Mack’s interest.

        Also thinking about getting into the paint your own style of miniatures rather than the already painted ones, I like Iron Kingdoms which makes me think about WARMACHINE but 30mm scale would be hard to use in rpg gaming since the base of the miniature is bigger than the square on the map (or hex if you use hexes) also with no local hobby shop anymore no real way to get into contact with someone that would help me find what I need to get started (though I dunno if having the hobby shop would have helped the owner much preferred cards, trains, and star trek stuff) I dunno what I’m gonna do for it but at the very least I would have unpainted miniatures to start.

        Current score: 0
  4. Fairyblue says:

    Ah, what a lovely thing to find as I refresh the page, only to whittle away a few more minutes on this sleepless night. Thank you.

    Current score: 0
  5. Don’t know if anyone else has said it yet but Kudos! The ‘watching you write’ experiment seems to have definitely increased the frequency of updates. I’m certain I’m not alone in saying that I’m very glad you decided to try it.

    Current score: 0
  6. GlassGEO says:

    First time posting, I also found myself picturing this Universities version of GIS student. I actually found myself thinking of more implimentations using GIS concepts. Heh.

    Current score: 0
  7. erratio says:

    “She paints like you carve”
    “With a chisel?”

    Pala is awesome πŸ™‚

    And nice to see Honey and Hazel around some more, even if Honey is completely naive wrt the concept of ‘privilege’

    Current score: 2
  8. tgr says:

    typo: “and she owned her own home even if she’d never exactly rich”

    Current score: 1
  9. tgr says:

    more typo: missing space in “Were we ever that young?You go run and tell him” after the question mark

    Current score: 0
  10. Tomo says:

    ow, trying to follow this hurt my head a bit….

    still, they both brought up good points, and it was fun to read this debate.

    the bit at the end was just adorable, as well.

    Current score: 0
  11. ayla says:

    Ah, college. Nothing reminds me more of my college years than reading any conversation with Shiel. I knew so many of her…

    Current score: 2
    • ayla says:

      Edit: I hit post before I could add– I also knew plenty of Honeys. Still do, to be honest. Some people just don’t understand the concept of “privilege.” I remember the trouble I had trying to explain to a white heterosexual upper-middle-class Christian male friend of mine why his idea for having a “human pride party,” celebrating how we’re all just people and our differences don’t matter, wasn’t a good one.

      Current score: 1
      • Mike says:

        Speaking of Shiel, and I know I’ve mentioned this before, sorry if it bugs anyone, but I’m kind of surprised she hasn’t mentioned how the freshmen get treated, or at least talked. That girl called Mackenzie a fresher, which is just like frosh and fish and all the other demeaning nicknames people use. It just go right up my nose when I see that, even if it isn’t being used maliciously. There’s just no reason. Sure, you’ve been here longer than me. Dosen’t make you any better or me any worse.

        Current score: 0
  12. Lee says:

    I also liked it better when they switched over to talking about the game/map making. The whole conversation on classism and racism… well, if you’ve read one social justice blog and all the arguments, you’ve read them all, and this was kinda like a 101 discussion but a lot politer than most. The points may be valid, but it seemed to run long and I got bored and a little irritated by the end of it.

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      Which means that Alexandra got the characterisation of that discussion spot on.
      It is long run with people repeating and reiterating their own arguments. It gets boring after a while to hear the same things said over and over again in slightly different words. And it gets irritating if listening to it for too long.
      Personally, I did not care as much for the painting and miniature discussion, but then wargaming was never anything I cared about so that is hardly anybody’s fault but my own.

      Current score: 0
    • blue_x says:

      I have to admit, I sat down three times before I could force myself through this particular chapter. Yes, the conversation was accurately written… but there are times when I think fiction should be good enjoyable, rather than 100% accurate.

      I did like the map-making discussion. I’m not a huge gamer- I know most of the language, and tend to get the jokes, but I’ve never played except with computer games using similar engines- but I like seeing all the entrepreneurial schemes these characters come up with. Some of them get forgotten quickly or just fizzle out because one or more people flake (like Sooni’s idea), but some turn into Facebook.

      Current score: 0
      • Drudge says:

        I concur on the enjoyability vs accuracy thing. So many people these days spend so much time working to be either accurate or consistant it often winds up being boring because they forget they’re writing in a genre where crazy and awesome things are supposed to happen.

        ToMU suffers mainly because the pace means we have to slog through every single conversation to get to the ones that actually have a meaningful effect. AE said she dislikes that the Harry Potter books only had Draco badmouth Harry once or twice per novel because of time constraints. She doesn’t seem to realise that when you’re writing on a deadline and trying to keep everyone interested things assumed and seen before are the first things to go, followed quickly by lengths of time in which nothing meaningful happens.

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          Oh I’m sorry you want to read a novel? Well I would have to recommend Janny Wurts’s Empire trilogy, its a goodly length. Or if your in the mood for some Sci-Fi perhaps Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga or Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity series.
          But please, please stop comparing Tales of MU to a novel, its not, its a web serial and its like comparing apples and oranges.

          Current score: 0
          • Drudge says:

            Thanks for the reccomendations, I’ll look them up.

            Really though while the comparisons aren’t exact they aren’t completly seperated from one another. They’re still divided into Books and Chapters, it’s just we get them chapter by chapter instead of all at once.

            Current score: 1
            • Zergonapal says:

              Heh, they are good, they are a part of my permanent collection.
              Yes there are “chapters” and “books”, but because its a web serial AE does not need to be constrained by word count and book length. I’m sure if a publisher was to come along and offer AE a bucket load of cash she could turn around and edit Tales of MU into a more manageable epic saga, but for now what we have is the complete and unabridged edition bound in megabytes with an electron finish. That this epic tale is at odds with AEs state of being is a source of frustration we all share.
              But we must be patient, hey at least she isn’t pulling a Robert Jordan on us.

              Current score: 1
            • Drudge says:

              The fact that she isn’t pulling a Jordan is the reason I’m reading every word still. I’ve skipped whole Wheel of Time novels and missed not a damn thing. The fact that the story is three times it’s original length after condensation says something.

              Of course with Web Novels and books you have more freedom but at the end of the day that freedom ends with what the casual reader is willing to put up with. To use another webnovel, one that got picked up for print recently, lets look at the salvation war. It’s got an interesting premise, nice characters, and enough twists I still can’t predict who’s planning to mess with who in what way. However it often bogs itself down in talks about whats going to go down before and after they actually do something, and making the occasional anticlimax much worse. It does a decent job with those words but they often clock up at ToMU length without a set of characters doing much more than talking.

              Current score: 1
          • Kalamorda says:

            Ones reddish yellow and the other is sort-of apple colored?

            Current score: 0
  13. potatohead says:

    Hehe. Geeky Mac is almost as good as badass fighting Mac…though come to think of it, they’re pretty inter-related, she geeks out even when fighting. Still, definitely an awesome update.

    Current score: 1
  14. Zathras IX says:

    No matter what they
    May say about one’s size it
    Really does matter

    Current score: 0
    • Kevin says:

      Is that a haiku?

      Current score: 0
      • Noelle says:

        Zathras writes a haiku for every chapter, and they are awesome πŸ™‚

        Current score: 1
      • Drudge says:

        You’re new here, aren’t you?

        Current score: 0
        • Kevin says:

          Been here for quite a while actually, I just only now noticed that the post was in haiku… then again I’m not always the most observant person.

          Current score: 1
      • Silver says:

        Yeah. It’s kind of Zathras IX’s thing… been coming up with them for years.

        Re: the rest of story – miniature geekery = awesome.

        Current score: 0
      • Greenwood Goat says:

        A pseudo-haiku,
        Zathras Nine does them often,
        Quality varies.

        I call them pseudo-haiku, ’cause English has a different meter to Japanese, and there are all sorts of traditional refinements in a haiku that we would find difficult to include, even if we had them explained to us. Not that I’ve ever heard of a Japanese poet objecting to their traditional art being taken and played with, though. >:=)>

        Current score: 1
        • JS says:

          +1 I keep telling myself I won’t read the next one, and then the page doesn’t scroll fast enough and I’ve read it. And occasionally they are quite witty.

          Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          You can say a lot
          More in seventeen sylla-
          Bles in Japanese.

          Current score: 1
    • Sindyr says:

      Love your haikus and look for them every update. πŸ˜€

      Current score: 0
  15. rien says:

    Stuff like the descriptions of the maps are pretty much my favorite part of ToMU πŸ™‚

    Current score: 0
    • Drudge says:

      Indeed. They are fairly nice and go well with an increased update speed. Watching them mess around with tabletop variables reminds me of all the crazy gaming schemes I’ve attempted past and present.

      Current score: 0
  16. lolCat says:

    Round-faced breast ape? Verbal hairball, eh?

    Current score: 0
  17. Krey says:

    Oh wow… I’d honestly forgotten there used to be sex in this story…

    Current score: 1
  18. Chips says:


    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      I read this comment, mystified, several different times before finally noticing the preview blurb!

      Current score: 0
  19. themann1086 says:

    Mack involved in a debate without flying off the handle while being polite and respectful? Progress!

    “You go run and tell him ‘hi’ then”. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

    Current score: 2
  20. Dani says:

    > “Tallfolk don’t even know about river people, and they still look at me like I’m not there.”

    That’s not classism; that’s a Gnomish racial defense mechanism.

    Current score: 1
    • Arakano says:

      One of which Hazel may not be aware, though. πŸ˜‰

      It’s like “They look at me as if I am running around naked!” said by someone who failed to notice he/she didn’t put on any clothes that day… πŸ˜€

      Current score: 1
  21. CaveTrollWithABeard says:

    Oh god, is Shiel ever a true-to-life university student. She’s the kind I really have problems with, who A: Loves to argue and hates to lose and so will drag even the smallest point out FOR! FUCKING! EVER! and B: Is ready to take offense to any and everything you say because of A. I think Mack handles her a lot better than I would *Laughs* And Pala is absolutely made of win. I must have more of her.

    Current score: 1
  22. red says:

    Well, I for one appreciate that you’re bringing discussions of power, privilege and difference to areas that might not have a lot of them.
    I recall one D&D group in which I had to request that folks wouldn’t use “gay” when they meant “stupid.” It was cute later when they tried and would say “that’s so g-, I mean, stupid.” Too bad I was actually bored by the lack of roleplay.

    There’s certainly an art in making such discussions approachable. Thanks.

    Current score: 3
  23. Sindyr says:

    I love the chapters like these, because they are so important–both in our world and in the underpinnings of ToMU. These are the things that get glossed over in much printed fiction–and while that’s understandable for the sake of publishing and trees, it’s refreshing to see these issues addressed so well here. Thanks, AE!

    Current score: 0
  24. Rognik says:

    “any of you tall folk ame back to my warren” is missing a letter. Should be came back. No one’s pointed it out yet, so I thought it should be cleared up.

    Man, it has been a while since there was sex in the story. I’m not complaining, but I’m surprised it’s gone on so long.

    Current score: 0