Why Heaven Doesn’t Have Printing Presses

One of the things that’s been raised around printing presses in the past is the Aesthetic of Cool – “it’s cooler to have your characters fight while dancing through a hall full of industriously working scribes bent over their desks, using them as footing without disturbing a single one of them, than it is to have them fight over a room full of printing presses”. You can agree or disagree with that, incidentally, it’s just to demonstrate a point about how the printing press – and technology in general – changes the environments you’re going to encounter. One thing I did realise recently though is that it doesn’t change them entirely. You’re still going to have those rooms full of people bent over desks (no not like that get your mind out of the gutter) in cities with industrial printing presses. They’re just going to be accountants working on finance for the local bank instead of scribes copying down books for the local Immaculate Cult. They may even still be scribes! Just because you have preprinted forms doesn’t mean you don’t still have to spend all day filling in records of trade in the market and noting down who sold what where to who for how much and when they did it (which is, incidentally, the sort of archive that Investigation-heavy characters are going to love using ANALYSIS-FU on, and which is made much more possible with standardised forms). So in some ways you can get the best of both worlds, if you want it. – Aleph

This is a good way of doing it.

Also keep in mind that a lot of the paperwork isn’t being done by mortals, it’s being done by gods. Entire bureaus in Yu Shan are filled with gods whose sole function is to transcribe reports submitted by gods who have received reports from gods who have submitted reports and on and on.

For those gods, printing presses would not be helpful. Because they aren’t really engaged in writing reports: they are engaged in a Creation-wide ritual, a magical working of tremendous scope which ties all of Known Things together.

Mortals often find themselves looking for excuses to make certain there are plenty of scribes and scrolls and people writing out things with exquisite calligraphy. This isn’t just fashion, this is practical. A contract written by hand with unique calligraphy isn’t just worth more because it’s artistic, it’s worth more because by writing it out the long way it becomes part of the All Creation Recording Pattern. It gets copied and filed in the vaults of heaven itself. If the original is damaged or destroyed one may, with the proper rituals, summon the law clerks of heaven who will provide an annotated copy of the document on demand.

Of course, the current backlog is five hundred years and one must know to submit their request in triplicate via the Office of Divine Intervention in the Bureau of Humanity, open Venusday to Marsday sun’s crown to mid-crown-fall, please do not taunt the cat.

But, in theory, you could do it. So humans still try to balance out mass production and art because magic is art and art is magic and all humans know that as above, so below.

All content unless stated otherwise is ©2021 Chris McNeil. He can be contacted here. The banner picture is courtesy of Jason Heavensrun. You can find more of his stuff at Checkmate Studios.