1. notleia says:

    Zettai ryouiki! I feel obligated to post the Evangelion opening. The show’s now on Netflix, but I don’t recommend it to noobs, partially because it helps to have context for the mecha-genre tropes they’re deconstructing, but mostly because it’s super WEIRD. Maybe bring a senpai with you.

  2. Part of it is developing discretion over time. With social status for example, it is often a bad thing to chase, especially when people seek it in the form of fame and whatnot. But social status is also linked to reputation. Basically, what other people think and even feel about a person. When someone’s reputation, social status, etc is bad, it’s actually threatening because people will get treated poorly according to what everyone thinks of them. So if someone cares about social status, it isn’t necessarily about self importance, fame or riches. It can be because they innately sense the dangers of having a bad social status.

    But exactly how to handle that is a skill developed over time. Instead of solely guarding one’s reputation, people also need to explore ways to survive and be happy even without that good reputation. A person could also over react whenever they feel their reputation is in danger, inadvertently ruining their reputation in the process.

    Kinda agree with the idea of things happening because people are people, rather than ‘people are innately good or bad’. And ‘people do things because they are people’ does tend to be the perspective I write from. Even the chars most might point to as mainly good or evil at least have a semblance of cause and effect to them. But even though I don’t mind stories that represent the fight between good and evil, that seems way less actionable than stories that show people and situations for what they are. If a story shows people for what they are, then it can give people ideas for how to navigate difficult situations, or even invite the reader to put themselves in that situation and figure out better ways to handle it.

    But a simple ‘we must fight the darkness’ story is not always going to be as useful. Most people will agree that we ‘must fight the evil!’ The more complicated part are the hows and whys and to a degree what people even consider evil in the first place. Like, one person reading a ‘fight the darkness!’ story could be motivated to get out there and fight on the pro choice battlefront, while another person would be psyched up to argue the pro life perspective. And many from both sides really think lowly of each other and consider each other ‘the darkness’…

  3. Travis Perry says:

    The article you wrote draws some general life lessons from shields–though you wind up transitioning from shields into barriers. Is that appropriate? In part, sure, but a real shield of the sort used by the Vikings (let’s say), while it’s bulky and could maybe get in the way a little, it literally moves out of the way as soon as its owner drops his or her arm.

    Likewise science fiction shields a-la Star Trek. Sure, “shields up” comes with disadvantages (no transporter use) but you can drop them in a second if you need to. Not raising shields in moments of doubt is considerably worse, if any strategic lessons at all can be drawn from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

    I haven’t read Shard and Shield, but I presume that in your story, the magical shields can be dropped as easily as the science fiction shields in Star Trek. So they don’t form permanent barriers.

    A barrier is a different kind of thing. A barrier, like a shield, can be intended for protection (like a medieval city wall) but barriers aren’t always as clearly for protection as a shield…well, at least not in the same way when talk about traffic barriers, etc. And barriers are ALWAYS up, with no easy way to bring them down. They’re quite different from shields in that respect.

    In an analogy, having barriers up clearly can be destructive…but shields up isn’t quite the same thing as barriers up. The biggest difference of course, as already said, is one drops instantly and the other doesn’t.

    This topic reminds me of something that doesn’t use the analogy of shields, but isn’t as far removed as you might think: Seat belts.

    The lowly seat belt you strap across your body is there for those “just in case” moments when something goes wrong. A person hardly ever needs a seat belt, but if you do, you’ll be glad you took the precaution of putting it on. (Maybe like how the USS Enterprise would have felt if they had raised shields when the USS Reliant approached… 🙂 )

    In Medieval times people rarely carried a full-size shield for “just in case” moments, but they might carry a small shield (a.k.a. a buckler) along with a sword. Which would a bit like a Middle Ages version of a seat belt–you don’t want to get ambushed along the road, but if you do, having your sword and buckler is much, much better than being totally unprepared.

    It’s odd but true that some people used to argue in the days before seat belt laws became mandatory that having a seat belt is bad, that it can trap you inside a burning vehicle, or that being thrown from a vehicle might save your life. Well, actually, yes, it is possible for a seat belt to trap someone in a burning vehicle (which is why seat belt cutters were part of the Army-issued equipment I carried in Iraq and Afghanistan) and it is possible that not wearing a seat belt can throw you out of a vehicle in a way that saves your life (the latter happened to my mother, who rolled a Jeep with a fiberglass top–which became deadly shards that would have killed her–but she wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car, so that didn’t happen). But in fact, that’s exceedingly rare. Most of the time, the protective measure is far, far safer than not having it.

    So really we go through a kind of calculus–is the protective measure worth having or not? In the case of seat belts, the answer is clearly “yes.” In the case of shields, ones that can be instantly dropped, the answer would mostly be “yes,” too. With barriers, when we realize we are talking about permanently changing something, we should be more cautious…and barriers not serving a positive purpose clearly should be removed. But even certain barriers are good…

What do you think?