[LMB] TSK - Going Home, postal service

Damien Sullivan phoenix at mindstalk.net
Fri Jul 26 14:13:14 BST 2019

On Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 08:04:00PM +0000, pouncer at aol.com wrote:
> wynne Powell >In this [WGW] world, there's a desperate need for a 
> >reliable postal service.
> Or (obDiscworld) clacks.  
> Heliographs. Semaphore. Drums. 

Optical telegraph (heliograph and semaphore) are pretty expensive, you
need a lot of line of sight towers, even more if you don't have
telescopes, and people crewing them full-time.  And for that effort you
get fast but rather low-bandwidth communication. Farmers don't seem to
have the military need for it, and I don't get an impression of trade
advanced enough to justify it either.

I don't know much about 'talking drums' or 'jungle drums', but they seem
to use a non-obvious 'language'.

There's also the beacon relay system, a la the Byzantines and Gondor,
but that just sends one message.  "Fear, fire, foes!"

> Fife AND drums.  Bugles. 

Those are battlefield communication, not something like a postal

> Our literate culture is so accustomed to messaging media that
> we can hardly imagine NOT having some sort of means to send
> word that doesn't depend on a horse.  But most cultures in
> most places didn't find it necessary -- or at least, not

Actually, based on recent reading, I get the impression that messenger
pigeons were quite common in Eurasian cultures.  _The Crusades Through
Arab Eyes_ says the Arabs/Muslims used them extensively -- but the
Crusaders didn't know about them, and a besieged Crusader town had no
way of learning if help was on the way.  And long before then, Olympic
athletes brought pigeons with them, to send news of their victories

Having also read that folding umbrellas are more than 2000 years old, in
Greece as well as in China, I now have two new ways in which medievla
Europe was backwards: pigeons and umbrellas.

And unlike semaphore towers or horse relay stations, which are
infrastructure heavy, pigeon post between two points is something
private entities can set up relatively easily: you just need to raise
some pigeons and then send some away.  Lakewalker patrols could carry
camp pigeons with them, to quickly report on large malices or report
disasters.  (This is obviously one way only, unless you can magic up
pigeons who home in on a Lakewalker's ground. Field forces can pigeon
back to a permanent base, but messages to the field need to go by foot
or hoof.) Merchants who did need quick long distance information could
bring pigeons or send agents with them.

I'm kind of ruined now, looking at fantasy and thinking "how would
pigeons change this world and plot?"  Theoden could have told Denethor
that he was coming, Pelargir could have told him that the Corsair ships
had been taken by friendly forces.

> Does anybody remember and if so can you remind me of a
> society that developed messaging technology that was NOT
> primarily a device for the military? 

I assume you mean primarily developed by the military; once implemented,
communication technology quickly gets used heavily by civilians.

The electric telegraph seems to have been mostly developed by individual
inventors, and deployed commercially faster than militarily.  Ditto
radio, with Marconi going straight to market.

The Pony Express was a re-invention of Persian and Mongol systems, but
I think was primarily commercial rather than an extension of the
government and military.

> With THAT out of my system for a little while,  why does the horse and
> pedestrian courier opportunity fall mainly to Lakewalkers? The
> rider with groundsense seems to be more valuable to the overall 
> society on malice hunts than in courier duty.  A flatboat, a
> tea caravan, or just a manure wagon that -- as Gwynne says, --

Were there actually no mail boats mentioned on the river?

Partly depends on how much people want to talk to each other, whether
there's enough demand to pay for more service than "hand it off to
someone going in the right direction".  There's also the last mile
problem: you can get a letter from town A to town B, but how will it get
from B to the intended person?

-xx- Damien X-)

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list