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On Technology, a connection between Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Historian Paul Herrmann

February 22, 2010

I’m thoroughly enjoying my own dives into both The Spires of Denon (novella) and Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch as I juggle audio books between Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris and more than a few treatises on the Ancient Near East on my commute to work each day. With that in mind, I wanted to comment briefly on a connection I noticed late last week between Ms. Rusch’s work and some of the Near Eastern studies I’ve been enjoying. That connection resting with the characters of “Meklos” and “Boss” in each of the respective novels, wherein both characters subscribe to the idea that technology can be forgotten, and much more, that the ancients knew far more than we give them credit for:

“He couldn’t imagine that sort of painstaking work. He wasn’t even sure how the creators made it…The technology needed to do this seemed beyond the ancients. But the ancients had build and forgotten more technology than we would ever know…civilizations rose and fell, knowledge was lost, knowledge was gained, and wars were fought, then forgotten.” – Maklos, p. 10

Kristine Kathryn Rusch contextualizes the principle in the form of fictitious ancient civilization’s, sure, but it has a very real parallel with real world ancients as well and what some historians are coming to believe about their mental and technological capabilities. For example, just last week I was made aware of studies by Paul Herrmann in which one of the primary aim’s of his scholarship (found in the book Conquest by Man) is to “weaken the very widespread conviction that our progress in the technological aspects of civilization represents, in any real sense, a greater achievement than those of our forebears.” This being one of several treatments on the subject.

I find it refreshing that a modern science fiction author, in a couple of great books, was able to touch upon a similar notion, and one that plays such a central theme to the works themselves. I know that adds a layer of interest for me as I read and that as a result I’ll probably be tearing through them all the quicker. It’s not all sci-fi folks.

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