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ASOIAF/GoT Tech Upgrade Stories - Can they be good?

Discussion in 'Other Fandoms Discussion' started by Andrela, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

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    I'm sure you've seen at least one of those stories.

    They either are self-inserts where a person from our world finds themselves in Westeros and starts introducing things like gunpowder and other inventions.

    This either takes form of a possession (for example someone waking up as Joffrey) or a new person appearing from thin air.

    They are also stories where characters from other fandoms appear in Westeros and do the same.

    Most of these stories are pretty similar. The new character starts uplifting Westeros, adding gunpowder, better agricultural tech, steam engines and eventually even electricity.

    Of course, most of these stories, especially the self-inserts, are basically fix-it fics with barely any conflict.

    But can a story with such a premise be good?

    I'm not even talking about self-inserts, but simply an ASOIAF fic where someone begins introducing better technology. Perhaps an inventor who wasn't born in canon.

    I have yet to see such a story which doesn't make me quit after the first chapter.
     
  2. Hachi

    Hachi Death Eater

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    Of course it can. Remember that you're introducing stuff in a setting that hasn't changed much for thousands of years. It can be done interestingly, as there are loads of political, social, and military ramifications.

    In fact, introducing new technologies doesn't always reduce conflict, it can in fact increase it.

    For instance, the locals and the Faith would probably be somewhat resistant to change. And I doubt the Maesters would be completely alright with it if this new tech wasn't invented by a Maester as well.

    It's just that no author has had the skill to pull it off yet. :sherlock:
     
  3. Aekiel

    Aekiel Angle of Mispeling Prestige DLP Supporter

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    By all rights, the SI would be murdered by rivals of whatever faction currently controls him. Also, the major problem with these stories is that they constantly underplay how difficult it is to get these changes off the ground.

    Take cannons, for example. They're fairly simple to construct with modern technology, but they require a forge capable of making bronze, a large quantity of said metal, and a design that has as few weak points as possible otherwise it'll explode in your face. It also needs dry black powder in large quantities and a cannonball, likely made of lead. Nowadays it wouldn't be difficult to get those things, but in a medieval society? You'd need to be part of a major House to even consider it. This assuming you have someone with the skills to make all of these parts and an alchemist who hasn't blown himself up experimenting with gunpowder.

    That's arguably the simplest advance you could introduce to Westeros, never mind what you'd need to design steam engines and electrical motors. The biggest problem with those is that you just don't have the industry to make more than one or two of these. Medieval society simply didn't have the capacity to mass produce anything.
     
  4. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

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    Aekiel

    I discovered a story the other day about the SI introducing purely agricultural advances. In fact the author has declared that gunpowder will not be introduced in any way.

    He did so by having the SI be a High Steward in the Reach.

    These are the things he introduced:

    Do you think such advances are reasonable and would be easier to implement?
     
  5. Aekiel

    Aekiel Angle of Mispeling Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Again, the problem is mass production. It's fine and dandy setting these up on farms owned and operated by the Martells, with the wealth of a major House funding them. It's a bit more difficult to have that extend to the entire country. It takes time for these inventions to take hold. Not just years, either. Decades, at the least. Then you've got the people who will react angrily to any new technology, simply because it's new and it takes away the jobs of a couple dozen people in villages with populations near 100.

    That's one of the other things that these stories tend to miss. People don't like change. It's scary, it means unemployment, which in those days didn't mean heading down to the local job office and claiming welfare. It meant starvation for you and your family.

    So, even if the SI had managed to introduce all three of those inventions to the Reach and spread them out to the entire farming population, it wouldn't be all sunshine and daisies. It'd mean mass unemployment, rioting in the streets, rebellion. A generally, very, not good time.
     
  6. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

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    Here's the story in question on AlternateHistory.com (so registration required): Reach Agricultural Revolution by MasterOledom.

    The way he "dealt" with unemployment is to have the Tyrells give them jobs by building roads. After reading your post, I find it hard to believe that simply roadbuilding would solve the issue.
     
  7. Heosphoros

    Heosphoros Third Year

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    Unless there is a shortage in manpower, I don't think those sort of inventions would catch up. Likely, it would be cheaper to throw peasants at the problem than teach and pay a large quantity of craftsman to create and maintain that sort of (relatively) complex machinery. After the canon events, or even in the sparsely populated North, such inventions might be more cost beneficial.

    Stuff based purely on theory, like crop rotation, would be cheaper, but probably harder to convince other people to follow your lead as the benefits aren't immediate. Though I don't think we have much information on the agricultural technology of Westeros, with the Maesters and the seasons the way they are, it's not unreasonable to think they possess greater tech/knowledge than real world Middle Ages.
     
  8. Spanks

    Spanks Minister of Magic

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    For some reason I like self inserts in Ice and Fire, but as soon as I see the author mention gunpowder I am immediately turned off. I can live with technological upgrades like a printing press, agricultural innovation and medications, but I draw the line at fire arms. I just find it hard to believe that if a person found themselves in that kind of situation one of the first thing they would think to themselves is "You know what this world needs? Fucking gunpowder!"

    Not to mention how annoying it is when it's obvious the author is using Wikipedia while writing the story for ideas. This of course creates a character with 100% total recall on all scientific research from our world.

    So, as the original question, yeah I think it can work if it's handled with restraint and the social consequences are thought out.
     
  9. Anarchy

    Anarchy Prisoner DLP Supporter

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    It can work, but mostly it's just extraneous nonsense that is borderline character wank. The only story that I've read with this sort of thing that is tolerable is "A song of ice and fires that weren't all my fault). It uses a mix of magical and old tech (like steam engines) to increase sailing and exploration capabilities.
     
  10. Agayek

    Agayek Dark Lord

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    You can absolutely write a story and introduce new technologies and all sorts of the various bootstrapping that so many SI fics are so fond of.

    The problem is, all that isn't going to really be anything more than a footnote in the story. Ignoring for a moment the standard resistance to change inherent to all human endeavors, the facts of the situation alone means it would be several decades, possibly centuries, before any great new innovation became anything even vaguely resembling widespread. Even if there was literally no downside, and all the new technology does is improve everyone's life immediately and measurably (sterilization techniques is the one that immediately comes to mind, it's simple, easy as hell, and increased the survival rate of extremely serious injuries by about 1000%), it still wouldn't be widely adopted for generations.

    It would have to spread through word of mouth, and then fight through the general resistance to being an early adopter. Further, it would have to have a clear, obvious use to the people adopting it that they wouldn't get with the status quo.

    So yeah, you can write a story and have tech introduced to Westeros, but a story of people going "Yeah, that's neat. So what?" isn't terribly engaging.
     
  11. Phantom of the Library

    Phantom of the Library Unspeakable

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    I think that it's entirely possible to write a story based on this premise as long as it is actually the focus and source of conflict for it. Most stories that I've seen have the protag making great sweeping societal changes, only to have a plot entirely unrelated.

    I'd love to see a story where the SI gets dropped in Westeroes, immediately tries to make gunpowder, blows himself up because he doesn't have the proper technique to make a reliable, safe product. Then he spends months recovering from burn scars with literally medieval surgery practices and barely survives the ordeal.

    Shocked by this initial catastrophe, SI decides to become a maester and bring about real change. But the Citadel is months of travel away, and he's weak and penniless from his injury. Takes months of living like a vagrant to get there. Possibly forced to take up banditry to survive.

    But finally, the Citadel! He arrives and applies, but there's a sort of basic aptitude test which he fails horribly. What does he know of leeching? What the hell are the four humours? These aren't real medicine. They mock his ideas on germs and not shitting in the streets and instead blame nonsense like miasma.

    Sent away until he can acquire 'the most basic of information and common sense,' he's forced to barbaric criminal activity to raise the funds to get access to books and education, things entirely out of reach for the average bastard peasant.

    Finally, years after being dropped in this world, years of hard lessons and assaults on every modern sensibility he possesses, months upon months of scraping by to learn from books on subjects he knows are completely wrong, he's accepted to train as a maester, only he's a penniless bastard in an institution that cares far more about birth and family connections than they claim, with a grotesque, burned appearance and now an evil reputation as a loan shark to boot.

    End of book one.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
  12. Aekiel

    Aekiel Angle of Mispeling Prestige DLP Supporter

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    That is a story I would read. It's everything most SI stories are not; it has a plot that doesn't hand the SI everything on a plate, moral inconsistency and enough action to keep things interesting.

    EDIT: I suppose since I've shat all over the ideas in this thread I should mention the one invention that I think would actually work and spread rapidly. The Printing Press. It's a complex piece of equipment, given the moveable type and expensive inks that need to be used, but if there's ever an invention that could revolutionise Westeros, it's that. Of course the inventor has a 50/50 chance of being murdered before he has a chance to disseminate the blueprints for making them, but if you're in Westeros you shouldn't expect to have a life expectancy beyond your thirties anyway.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
  13. Longsword

    Longsword Third Year

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    Westeros is quite backwards in various aspects as compared to medieval earth (setting aside great feats of architecture and engineering such as just about every castle).
    The problem is that the authors do not understand that an idea is not the same as the finished,production-worthy thing. Guns are made, that took an industrialised society centuries to perfect, in a decade or less by people that have no experience or industries to make them happen.

    Where to get the funds to build things from?(Banks won't give a random schmuck money to build far fetched things).
    How to set up the backbone to build better things?
    How does your invention become influential by spreading in a land that is so large and has very limited connectivity in roads and communication?
    These are just a few problems that the author has to think about. There a several others but they can be ignored without getting into the details (and won't break the plot completely at a glance).
    The above is after ignoring the social and economic constraints that a lone man in a feudal society will face.
    The author must have quite a long timeline set to show realistic development. The problem remains that most tech up fics are done by people who do not want to focus on plot and characterisation. People who are interested in " tech solves everything" will not think about conflict and characters other than the author doing anything but what the SI wants them to.
     
  14. Puzzled

    Puzzled Professor

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    Well as the author I've tried to keep the uplifting realistic and thus fairly minor. My general thoughts on writing it were that if you drop someone into Westeros with resources and a bit of modern knowledge it was basically immoral not to do anything.

    Sure there'll be change and problems, there's actually a nice example in the story Xandrel recommended. The latest chapter had Lords forcing their smallfolk off their lands so that they could make larger fields to use the new expensive farming equipment more efficiently. Despite that though, if your character is basically decent and narratively able an uplift makes sense. It might not be in his or her lifetime, but kicking Westeros out of it medieval stasis is to me a good move. Arguments can be made about that, and the actual story should be the first concern, but I have no problems with a few mentions of the SI or crossover character doing their best to make the world a little bit better.

    It would be hard though, even simple things have hidden depths. A lot of Earth developments are interlinked and dependent. It's not like you can just assign three maesters to research down the gunpowder tree and have Gatling guns in three weeks. Most authors don't really seem to get that.

    Edit: Looking at Longsword's post I have a slight disagreement. Knowing how things are supposed to turn out and work is a tremendous advantage. I think relatively modern guns in a decade is very reasonable given sufficient, Lord Paramount style, resources.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  15. Longsword

    Longsword Third Year

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    Scientific know how is good; it will give you points on a path but not the entire roadmap. If Westeros had an enlightened society with some engineering base and empirical tradition then I would consider crude guns possible, but not models that had been perfected by the 18th century.The perfect model is what most authors go for.
    The development expected by authors can only happen over decades with the caveat of having enough money and influence (so that you are not ignored in the society).
    Science is not the same as effective engineering.
     
  16. Agayek

    Agayek Dark Lord

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    To a certain extent. However, scientific know-how is one hell of a step up for finding/re-discovering the effective engineering. All you really need is an understanding of the fundamental principles and the desired end result. With that, you're about most of the way there. The rest, assuming no other knowledge, is simply trial and error until you find the right materials, design, and architecture.

    It's not a short or cheap process, especially in an early-medieval society like Westeros, but it's not the work of generations or anything either.

    With the example of guns in particular, you're not going to see anything even vaguely like modern guns for several decades at least, just because Westeros doesn't have the materials science or metallurgy to support them, but wheellocks and cannons are all well within reach within 10 years. Flintlocks and other, more complicated firing mechanisms would probably be achievable not too much after, but I don't know enough about their forging capabilities to make a good estimate there.
     
  17. ray243

    ray243 Seventh Year

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    Too many authors are trying to pretend their fics are semi-realistic. Those fics are probably enjoyable if you can really suspend your disbelief and read this as an outrageous, crack!fic.

    The introduction of modern ideas is probably semi-realistic if there's a few thousand of modern day experts being dropped in Westeros together. The idea that one person can memorise everything about modern technology, chemistry, medicine and etc is laughable.

    There's a lot of arrogance on the author's part, in believing that modern sciences and technology are something that people would easily accept. Anyone who have studied the history of science and technology would tell you how difficult it was to implement new ideas and technology.

    How many people have even looked at some of the problems in introducing modern technology in developing country? Have they even considered the challenges involved for modern day international organisations to introduce better medicine and technology in large parts of the world with a massive team of experts and funding?

    It the idea that one random person on some internet board could memorise stuff that Engineering/Medicine/Science professional took years to learn is a little ridiculous. Do you even remember the exact formula for gunpowder? Do you even know how do you obtain saltpeter in a medieval setting? Can you do the manual calculations to design a bridge/building?

    The annoying thing about those self-insert fics is the protagonist often tends to have the exact kind of personality. An arrogant, charismatic genius that had girls throwing themselves at him because he's less sexist and more democratic than most people in a feudal society.

    Tech upgrade stories would probably be more realistic if you send an entire modern-day self-sufficient province to Westeros. Even then it is extremely difficult to "tech upgrade" an entire continent. Dropping modern day Germany into the middle of Africa is not going to make the entire continent as technologically advanced as Germany itself.

    Hell, look at how difficult it was for West Germany to bring East German onto the same level after unification. That's with a very wealthy country pumping billions of dollars every year into one-half of the country.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Heir

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    Its not. It took Europe 500 years of continuous use of gunpowder weapons and genius like Francis Bacon snd literally dozens of wars for gunpowder weaponsm pre efficient than bows be invented.

    5 centuries of an entire continent going through triala nd error and who knows how many deaths. Unless the SI is a super specialised gunmaker with a vast knowledge of early guns I have to call bullshit. He will literally have to do the entire process, everything including making each tiny bolt, by himself with knowledge from his head. He will also attract the ire of the other Houses as soon as he starts making them en masse. Also, guess what is massively expensive? Industrial scale production in a age where everything was artesanal, and where few Lords had actual capital to invest, their power being derived from the earth.

    Knowing how things are supposed to work out is useless if you are trying to build something.
     
  19. Puzzled

    Puzzled Professor

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    I completely disagree with that statement. I don't dispute there would be immense challenges, but I think you're underestimating the value of certainty that a design could work.

    All of the geniuses you speak of, they were searching in the dark. Once a solution is outlined advances go from requiring genius to just intelligence. It would be slow and hard work, but I stand by my statement that given a lord paramount's resources relatively modern guns could be made in a decade. By that I mean 1780s muskets or rifles, roughly the entirety of four centuries of development.
     
  20. Agayek

    Agayek Dark Lord

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    This is true, but only to a certain extent. It greatly simplifies the production of the item itself, eliminating a great deal of trial and error in the process in figuring out what works "best". Assuming all other concerns were handled, it would easily lead to a functional firearm within a few years.

    However, it doesn't address the severe logistical issues inherent in such an undertaking. As an example off the top of my head, one of the major issues with early guns wasn't the design of the thing, but that the materials they had available simply weren't good enough. The metal had impurities in it and forging techniques of the time weren't advanced enough to compensate. This led to many instances where guns would simply explode in their wielders' hands rather than kill the target, and it's one of several reasons it took so long for guns to really take over for bows. In this case, you'd have to introduce not only gunpowder, but also relatively advanced metallurgy and materials science.

    One of the things a lot of people don't really seem to get is that technological progress isn't a linear path from A to B, it's a long series of interwoven steps, leaps, stumbles, and trips forward that are each dependent on dozens of previous such advances. And to make it all worse, no two cultures have ever made the same advances in the same way. There's some broad similarities in places, but largely, technological advancement in independent cultures took wildly varying paths, its focus shaped by the environment and culture. You can't walk in and assume that the recipient society has discovered, for example, aqueducts (if they lived next to a large, clean river, why would they have?), and so by extension you can't teach them irrigation technology.

    To make a very long story short, in order to introduce advanced technology to a culture, you also need to introduce to them the tools used to build it, and the tools used to build those tools, and the tools used to build those tools, and the tools used to build those tools, and so on and so forth. This isn't a simple process, and it's not one most any modern person would even consider when introducing technologies, because so much of it is so basic we take it completely for granted.