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What would make human skin the preferred method for containing magic?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Erebus, Sep 4, 2021.

  1. Erebus

    Erebus Troubadour

    The Sarkic empire was the superpower of the ancient world, spanning the globe across multiple continents and subjecting their people to their benevolent rule. Although they were an authoritarian nation that is involved in the slave trade, they also embraced the free market principles of capitalism and private enterprise. Their influence extends from technological advances combined with magic to create arcano-tech. This technology is infused with mana, a form of energy used to perform rituals. This combination gives technology their magical properties and attributes, increasing its power and dexterity. This forms the base of their power and has made them the most dominant empire in the world. The creation of magical texts is a different matter. The Sarkics use a process called Anthropodermic bibliopegy, the practice of binding books with human skin. This rather macabre practice is used to make parchment to store rituals and instructions for spells, such as the Necronomicon. When a book or scroll is needed, a slave, often a prisoner of war, is killed and their remains are used as material to create the parchment. These are then sold to mages for their personal and private use.

    The most important aspect of a free market system is maximizing efficiency. Increasing output while reducing costs is the goal of any corporation, as it helps them to remain competitive with other businesses. The advent of arcano-tech has led to many advances in knowledge, new kinds of products, such as E-books. Information can be downloaded or uploaded with a click, increasing access to information. The amount of money and power that stems from this to the wealthy is usually enough to override foolish traditions and excuses such as " We have always done it this way ". However, the process of bibliopegy is very inefficient, as it wastes valuable resources and is time consuming. Maintaining a slave population is also expensive, especially when the benefits of arcano-tech is on display to all, and would make a suitable replacement as opposed to this ancient practice.

    What would make this form of storing texts more preferable to more efficient methods?
  2. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    Information isn't enough. Magical knowledge needs magic built in. Their magic is necromancy based so parchment made from dead animals holds it better than paper made from dead plants and human skin works even better.
  3. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Inkling

    It demonstrates their power, over their slaves, over other nations and other peoples. It demonstrates their ability to be cruel and ruthless when required - a form of coercion. In short, they do because they can and because no-one can stop them. Some might even enjoy doing it to others.
  4. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester


    If they have a worldview that holds that something of a person's spirit remains with their remains, the skin could contain spirit, and spirit could be an essential ingredient in the magic. Technology wouldn't be able to replicate that. The information, yes, but the spirit, no.

    Unless the technology itself ran on the spirits of slaughtered slaves. Or perhaps on living slaves kept hooked up to it so it could run on their life force. That would be a whole other dystopian angle. If the slaves are kept alive, it might be a replacement for making books out of their skin, and it might even be considered the more humane way... but is it really?
  5. Malise

    Malise Scribe

    In Sarkic, are there machines that can mass-produce most goods, magical or mundane?

    If mass production does exist, then it's hard to justify slavery as an efficient economic apparatus capable of maintaining an empire. Why? Mass production creates a vast working-class population from the "yeoman" (impoverished free farmer) who would really hate to compete against slave labor in a capitalistic job market. Marx, himself, acknowledged that industrial market capitalists were actually the people responsible for ending serf and slave economies in Europe and the Americas by rendering them inefficient and obsolete. In this case, it would be more logical for Sarkic to make their computers from common criminals, who have no value to an industrial society that doesn't tolerate free labor.

    However, as long as Sarkic lacks mass production, they can theoretically maintain a capitalistic slave-based empire that makes naturally-sourced human products if...

    a. They take slaves that don't look like the general population. Part of the reason why the Roman empire fell, was because it decided to still continue the institution of slavery after their empire conquered subjects started seeing themselves as equally Roman as the Latins over centuries of continuous rule. It takes a lot of cognitive dissonances to justify turning people of the same-ish culture and genetic make-up...into literal literature, because well you kinda see yourself in the book you're reading. Empathy is one hell of a drug and good old skin or bone structure-based racism makes this practice a lot easier to justify.

    b. It takes years to make a bibliopegy. If it takes them only one year to make one, then the rules of real supply and demand ruin your worldbuilding. With easily accessible bibliopegy, a random mage might be able to reverse engineer a flesh computer to create...a normal computer. A mage Jeff Bezos might create a "Necrozon" if every other mage had access to a bibliopegy, and uhh...explaining that would be a macabre logistical nightmare. There's also a good chance that easily made bibliopegy might turn Sarkic into a Shang dynasty or Aztec Empire, wherein the demand for human flesh exceeded the supply they could get, causing the fall of their empire via hordes of angry people that don't want to be turned into meat.

    c. The country is secular to the point that the average person doesn't believe in ghosts. The reason for this is threefold. One, it prevents the creation of religious cults that ban the usage of bibliopegy because "Sky man told me so" despite you know...bibliopegy being the important backbone of the national economy. Two, if people don't believe in ghosts, then the ghosts of their computers won't haunt them in their sleep. Three, the general population can rationalize human skin as just being a conduit for magic, instead of something pseudoscientifically "sacred".

    d. Sarkic doesn't stay authoritarian for long. Companies becoming more powerful than aristocrats, monarchs, and the state is exactly how renaissance-styled republics develop. If you bribe the government enough, you can become a policymaker on merit and money alone, instead of so-called "bloodline" and "experience". Big Biblopegy has no reason, not to manipulate the government to be more "democratic" on its behalf if the noble bloodlines are not demi-gods in terms of strength or wisdom compared to other mages.
  6. Solusandra

    Solusandra Minstrel

    So less slaving and more "sell yourself to pay off a debt" sort of thing? What sort of rights do slaves have? Greek/roman style? Chinese style? Or colonial England/American style?
    The threads title-question suggests a more Mayan/Etheopian style of general butchery, which is pretty much antithetical to a society run on the free market.
    ..........Two things.

    First, what is magic? Is it bio-energy? Spiritual energy? Pieces of the soul? or a natural phenomena that intelligent beings can tap into?

    Second, if you're looking for free market efficiency, why are you killing the slave. If healing magic exists at all even in the slightest capacity in your world, this makes literally no sense, as its incredibly inefficient. Flaying the slaves back is sufficient to cover even very large books and could easily be healed to repeat the process. Even if magically healed skin is unsuitable either for a period of time or just plain period, you still have your slave to do work for you afterward.

    As is, you just look to be wanting to make capitalism evil for the sake of lols.

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