After a long string of character profiles, I thought I’d better post another essay on more general background of the world of the Shine Cycle. This time, I’ll explain a bit about the technological level, in particular as it relates to warfare (which is one major focus of the series).
At its beginning, the entire area of the world that my stories are concerned with is at a roughly medieval level of technology, supplemented by mages. Technology advances somewhat over the first hundred years or so, but not much. The arrival of the Chosen in the year 110 speeds that pace up considerably, so that within sixty years the Empire sends an ambassador to an independent space station above a somewhat distant, and shortly afterward its enemy the Dragon Empire begins a war by invading two allied planets many light-years away.
The technological revolutions implied by this summary, however, have little effect on the battlefield. Military concerns drive metaphysical as well as technical innovations, and the Empire’s mages can devise counter-measures to most modern military technology. For instance, a working to shield an army from arrows is non-trivial and expensive but possible and even common, but a working to reflect bullets is much simpler and cheaper. Similarly, siege engines like trebuchets, ballistae, and mangonels can bypass the less robust classes of shield workings by firing more massive projectiles, but cannon, and anything else using an explosive for propulsion or effect, are highly vulnerable to remote detonation. Machines like tanks eventually become commonplace only after a method of imbuing their structure with permanent, strong, robust shielding workings to protect their engines is developed.
As an aside, the pace of military technology outside conventional land battlefields advances at a much faster pace. Because a small but significant fraction of mages can’t function at all at sea, and ship-to-ship targeting is difficult even under the best conditions, naval technology improves at unexpected rates. Similarly, once space travel is developed by both sides, space warfare is nearly unhindered by metaphysical concerns; ship-to-ship targeting in space is thought impossible until it is first achieved by Scarlet of Elvida in 179.
But on land, this retardant effect of applied metaphysics on military technology means that heavily armored (and, ideally, highly trained) cavalry is usually nearly the strongest force that either side in a conflict can bring to bear. And while metaphysics can be applied to make equipment lighter, stronger, and more effective without affecting its mass, and even to provide a first level of protection to horses and riders without involving equipment at all, the usual principle that comparable mundane solutions are in at least some sense more effective and cost less still applies.
Next time in this space, I’ll write about the framework of “applied metaphysics” that undergirds much of the series.