[LMB] The Assassins of Thasalon - Chapter 9

Lois Bujold lbujold at myinfmail.com
Wed Jul 28 21:24:46 BST 2021

[LMB] The Assassins of Thasalon - Chapter 9
WalterStuartBushell proto at panix.com
Wed Jul 28 20:01:06 BST 2021

 > On Jul 28, 2021, at 2:22 PM, Matija Grabnar via Lois-Bujold 
<lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk> wrote:
MG: Here is a bit I don't understand: Killing flies/vermin sheds chaos 
(because it is downhill?), but lighting candles/small fires/throwing off 
sparks doesn't shed chaos, even though it's also downhill magic? Why? 
Does it take a death of a non-human to shed chaos? But no, the untrained 
shed chaos by rusting things, and rotting things.

WSB:  AFAIK, lighting a candle does shed chaos, but only so little as 
not to be useful as a chaos sink.

LMB:  More or less, yes.  Think of exothermic versus endothermic 
chemical reactions.   Even the most exothermic needs some starter-energy 
to get going.  So even downhill magic takes some initial oomph, but you 
get a lot of (generally destructive) result for the effort.  Uphill 
magic needs a more continuous push, rather like Sisyphus, an ongoing 
application of magical energy to make whatever creative thing it is 
happen.  (With its cost shed as heat or some larger diffuse 
destruction.  If you want a real-world example, consider the digestion 
of food to support your body, greater order cascading down to less, the 
difference used to create/sustain order in one's own body.  Plus heat.)

The "chaos versus order" is a more magical-metaphorical-moral aspect, 
balancing the scales in terms of a more holistic overall result (always 
with an overage, slight or larger, required for entropy -- the chaos Des 
must shed is in that sense the cost of any initial downhill OR 
creative/restoring uphill magic), so don't get too carried away with the 
over-exact physical comparisons.

Something that creates a whole lot of destruction at low initial cost 
gives, as it were, some chaos-credit in the sorcerer's personal 
balance.  The other limiting factor is that only so much of this 
swapping around can be done by one person in any given short time frame, 
due to overheating, demonic frenzy, etc.   (This bank has a daily 
transaction limit.)  So when Pen has worked some particularly exacting 
uphill magic, he needs a bigger chaos sink in a hurry.  Slower sinks, 
though they might work eventually, are too inadequate, not so much in 
amount as speed.

The difference in the "change" the sorcerer receives from burning a 
candle compared to killing a fly, or any other living thing, takes place 
on that magical-metaphorical-moral level.  (Well, and living things do 
have a much higher level of internal organization in an 
emergent-property sense than non-living ones.  The loss of that whole 
level of emergent property is the main source of the extra boost.)

I'm reminded of that lovely description of life's local anti-entropic 
aspects as created by "climbing up the mast of a sinking ship".  5GU 
magic works like that.  (So do you.)

Ta, L.

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