onsdag 4 november 2015

Books are dangerous

Books are dangerous.

Words have the power to shape reality, this is known. The whole point of words is to provide things with meaning, and therefore with causality. The act of telling a story differs from the act of casting a spell only insofar as the effects of the act can be observed. A low-level wizard's cantrips can turn snakes into sticks and call forth creatures from far-off worlds, but the words of a long dead author can change history and summon lands and people that never were into existence.

Books, then, as the physical manifestation of words and stories, are immensely powerful and potentially dangerous. Words and stories themselves dissipate the moment they are uttered and remain only as imperfectly remembered traces in the minds of the listener, but when inscribed into books they stay behind, unchangeable, potentially for ever. Even worse, if books are duplicated, the words and stories they contain can spread uncontrollably, from library to library, from mind to mind.

If it's true that snakes are books, as some claim, then it is also true that books are snakes, forever slithering between the shelves, coiling themselves around the world.

It is therefore sensible that all lords and princes who desire the strength and stability of their state and the safety and prosperity of their subjects should seek to control the spread and ownership of books. Only those of sound mind and noble character should be allowed to own libraries. Even among such people, there may be those who cannot resist and succumb to the terrible reality-warping power of books; one need only look to the story of the Knight of la Mancha or the unfortunate scholar Casaubon for two such examples. In the past, books were rare enough that for the most part only persons of wealth and discernment might possess them, but with the recent arrival of the so called Printing Press (no doubt a hellish invention by the denizens of the Underworld intended to bring ruin to the inhabitants of the Surface) even the meanest and most degenerate sections of humanity, who are by far the most susceptible to their power, may obtain them for a small price.