Longform for the fediverse

This is a character I made for a play-by-post game of Troika! that just started, and who I am excited to play.

 Amanda Poffo Savage is a journeyman apprentice to Key Master Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya Garcia. She’s in the middle of the journey part of her journeyman program, out traveling the spheres in her master’s name in search of arcane locks, challenging chests, devious doors, enigmatic entryways, and profound portals to study and contemplate.

She can’t return home until she has crossed a barrier that has never been breached before.

She wears the traditional claviger raiment, a heavy mantel of keys of all shapes and sizes that nearly fully envelopes her. And she carries a distinguished sledgehammer that she walks with like a staff and which is mostly ceremonial. Mostly.

Under the mantel of keys she wears a long tasseled cloak of flamboyant pink, purple, yellow, and teal. On her face she wears oversized wraparound rimless sunglasses. On her head a large gaudy cowboy hat.

Her muscles bulge under the weight of the keys, and she often wears a wide lipless grin void of mirth and full of teeth.

“Nacho’s man” Mandy Savage (as all Ignacio’s apprentices are known) doesn’t think long at all before accepting the Plumber’s summons. She isn’t so much motivated by the return of her artifact—a trifling bauble—but by the potential to work on yet another portal.

She shrugs into her mantle of keys and grabs her hammer, and lumbers out into the night, clinking and clanking all the way, muttering a brief prayer to each doorway through which she passes.

Note: this post started its life as a thread on mastodon which you can find here.

I was working at the public library when the final Wheel Of Time book came out. And when the book hit the shelves, the people who were first in the holds queue were feverish for this book in a way I had never seen anybody be for any book.

I vividly remember this one guy who was waiting, his nose practically pressed against the door, for us to open on the morning of the first day we got the book.

I think about him all the time.

He walks up to the circulation desk, hands over his library card, and asks for his book.

Thing is, we're still processing delivery, holds, and bookdrop throughout most of the morning, well after opening. Things are a mess and are in disarray. I go and check the holds shelf, and I go check in the back. But, as often happens at this time of day, just after opening, I have no idea where this guy's book is. Could be in a pile waiting to be scanned in at somebody's computer. Could be on somebody's cart waiting to be placed on the holds shelf. Could even be lost in transit! No idea.

So I tell him what I tell everybody in this case. I've delivered this line plenty of times before. It's not unusual.

“Super sorry, but I'm not sure where your book is right now. We're still processing lots of stuff. If you give us a couple hours, or even better, check back tomorrow, I'm sure it will turn up.”

I remember the look on his face because it, unlike the situation, was unusual. I'm used to seeing somebody be crestfallen or annoyed in this particular scenario. What this guy did was somehow allow my words to pass over and around him without penetrating whatsoever. This was a total dismissal and rejection of the entire premise. An absolute, no-room-for-negotiation, refusal to accept the answer. But not in an aggressive or argumentative way. There simply was no room in his universe for such an answer. It did not compute. It was an invalid state. I had attempted to divide by zero.

What I didn't know about then was the legacy of The Wheel of Time and that this guy had probably been reading it his entire life, and had been waiting for this book to be delivered into his hands for just as long. Now that it was finally here, he was not going to “check back tomorrow.”

Out of compassion, I tried again. I scoured every surface, looked at every cart, checked every pile of books, processed or not. Called in help.

Found his book.

Triumphantly returned to him back at the circulation desk.

He locks eyes with the book and never looks up again as I scan it, slip the receipt inside, and finally place it in his hands. Still without looking up, he turns and walks out of the library.

I had worked at the library for years at that point and had never seen such single minded devotion to a title, author, or series.

Later I learned what the Wheel of Time actually is.

Lauded by some as the best fantasy series of all time.

Learned about how Sanderson saved the series and completed it after Jordan died.

I was intrigued and curious.

Later still, I finally decided to do it. I was going to jump in and probably dedicate the next 18 months or so to reading the series.

I struggled through the first three books waiting for it to get good. Or even tolerable. But it never did.

These books were bad. The characters were bad, the writing was bad, the plot was bad. It was all bad, and laborious and tedious to read.

Which means it was a “place and time” series, boosted by its longevity.

The series spanned 23 years of real life. If you started reading the first novel, when it came out, at 12 years old, you would have been 35 by the time the final novel was published.

There is serious power in that. I get it. Few things are as compelling as the comfort and familiarity of something you have loved for a long time.

And those things are more often than not best left in that place and time. It's painful to go back and revisit them and discover they don't hold up.

So yeah, I always think of that one guy. And I continue to feel happy that he had the experience he had. That he got to grow up with this series over the years, and that I found his damn book, which I'm sure he read several times in the two weeks you're allowed to have it.

I'm sure I could have been him if I had started the series when he did.

I kind of regret that I didn't, and I kind of mourn the version of me that could have been as enraptured as he was by this book.

This is a response to What Doesn't Work Yet:

When I worked at the technology center of the public library, my job was providing access and various kinds of support to people who frequently confessed to “not get technology.”

In What Doesn't Work Yet Linus articulates a gripe with this way of self-identifying. I always bristled at the deliberate inaccuracy of this way of self-identifying. (And especially at the defeatism that often accompanies it.)

You can't “not get” technology unless you are ready to claim that you also don't “get” plows, flash photography, and penicillin.

Technology is a tool, nothing more.

So Linus's distinction between background technology (tested, tried, true, boring, and mundane tools like fire, steel, and roads) and foreground technology (the internet, smart phones and tablets) is spot on.

And so my luddites from the library don't mean that they “don't get technology.” They mean that they would prefer not to engage with that which is unreliable, unobvious, and new.

Which is a fine thing to choose.

A second framework for thinking and talking about technology that may complement the background / foreground distinction is one that I read somewhere that creates two different groups that I don't have great words for, so I'll call them Type 1 and Type 2 technology.

Type 1 technology is foundational. It's a platform. While Type 2 technology builds layers on that platform. Type 2 are the apps.

Type 1 Type 2
Telecommunications Television, radio, phones
Roads bicycles, cars
Internet ecommerce, social media

Wherever it was I first encountered this particular framework, the premise of the argument was that most foreground technology today is unsatisfying (particularly to builders of technology) because it is Type 2 technology. That as a world society, most of the Type 1 technology has been established. The foundations are laid, the platforms are established. And the Type 1 technology that hasn't already been established is the domain and purview of researchers and scientists. Not us, the common folk.

What is left to us is to develop Type 2 technology by toiling in somebody else's garden.