By Pete Overton (email@example.com)
Sons of Ether: The canon Tradition as presented in Mage 2nd Edition.
Technocracy: Any of the five conventions for practical purposes.
Technomagick: Magick that involves the use of technology. All of the Technocracy as well as the Adepts and Sons of Ether use this paradigm of magick.
Virtual Adepts: The other Tradition-allied technomagickal group
However, I am probably one of the few people on Earth who is not a fan of Pulp. I don't know why. I like Buckeroo Banzai. I like Indiana Jones. But the genre of Pulp I just generally dislike, especially pulp science fiction. Yes, I know, pure heathenism. Just give me Ellison and Heinlein anyday, thank you kindly. I'm even sure there are redeeming features to it, but it's not my primary area of interest.
So rigidly defining a the Tradition by pulp straightjackets it into a rather unyielding mode. Much as the Akashic Brotherhood will never escape their Kung Fu: The Legend Continues stereotypes, so too will the Sons of Ether as published never escape their Victorian/Mad Scientist personas. And that's good for some people, and good for them, I'm really happy for them.
I however dislike it, and have changed the Tradition to reflect a more serious, sincere approach.
In actuality, I think I originally had them stay as Sons of Ether until just after World War II when both genders proved themselves equally adept (no pun intended). To signify the ruling relationship of Ether to them while maintaining their underling status, Children of Ether was selected to reflect a more broad-based Tradition. This is explained more below.
Fundamentally, the major reason the Children of Ether split from the Technocracy was because of their disagreement over the medium/substance of ether. Specifically, the Children believed it to exist and the Technocracy found it hampered their "light is a particle and wave" theory. The two clashed over it and in the end the Technocracy pushed their particlewave idea and the Children left the Technocracy in disgust.
Even from the start, the Children attracted the alternate thinkers, the ones whose ideas didn't necessarily fit into the Technocracy's well-thought out and thoroughly proportioned universe. While many worked within the Technocracy or went out on their own as independents, many turned to the Children of Ether.
The important thing here, however, is that fundamentally what they clashed over was the continued existence of ether. However, they continued to use the same method of objective science. This was a very important point, because in modern times this is what makes them a serious force that the Technocracy has to manage gently. The Children of Ether never gave up the objective principles of Technocratic science -- hypothesize, test, revise, etc. (I'm not a big science guy leave me alone). Where they diverge is the results they get from that science.
Where the Technocracy may have physics, chemistry, and biology, the Children of Ether have mechanics, thermodynamics, and organics. This is just an example, but you get the idea. The major difference between the two is ether, of course. The Children of Ether incorporate ether into their sciences, whereas the Technocracy does not. What you get is two different angles of science with the same basic methodologies.
Let me give you an example. Let's say a Child of Ether named Max and a Technocratic scientist named Albert are standing under a tower. For some strange reason, the inhabitants of the tower decides to drop a cannon ball on the two dolts standing at the base of their tower. Both measure the drop of the ball as scientific curiosity. However, where Albert sees the pull of gravity on the ball and therefore sees physics at work, Max sees etheric pull at work and it falls into mechanics (for instance). Both get the same measurements for falling time and such, but both believe the theory behind it is different.
The key here is that the same methodology is used. I cannot restate this enough, because it has profound effects. In essence they take the Technocratic science but through observation explain the same experiments in a different way, one frequently including Ether.
Ether is still a primary force in their explanations. They are more obsessively attached to it now than ever, with their incursions into objective Technocratic science. While many scientists come to them disillusioned and broken, they often are rejuvenated when the presence of ether in the world is revealed (possibly an Awakening in the process).
The token Star Trek example. Please note I'm not getting into a debate over whether Star Trek is Technocratic or Traditional. :P
Taking a ship and moving it from one point to another faster than light is the problem. Good old Albert decides to subvert the ships through a different "shortcut" realm, leading to the creation/discovery of hyperspace. Max on the other hand comes up with an interesting theory of using the etherrealm as a different frame of reference, and creates an engine that makes an ether field around the ship allowing it to travel FTL. You see? Same basic solution, two different approaches.
Most importantly, no damn balloons flying around space, no sump-pump space suits, no nothing like that. The Technocracy and Children of Ether are about on par (as far as released technology goes), but their theoretical justifications are the primary differences.
The key here is alternate science. Reexplaining Technocratic inventions and theories and creating new ones that don't mesh with the Technocratic model and then proving them accurate (not necessarily right, but accurate -- there is a difference).
One last example. Max and Albert, after building their FTL ships, meet at a Star Trek convention by accident. Albert pulls out his XM-900 pulse laser pistol in surprise, while Max gets his handy-dandy Type-9 Phaser (phased laser, for instance). Aside from being a colorful scene, both weapons operate on the same Effect (Forces 3 or whatever it is), but Albert's gun uses focused light for a laser effect while Max's phaser weaves a tight energy beam through etheric substance, making is essentially phased. Yes, technobabble away, kids. The point is that both emit a beam of energy that causes damage from the same basic Effect, but their justifications and theories are different. It's not the best example but it gets the point across handily.
They are not wacky scientists with fleets of balloons with lightning guns on them, but rather serious scientists who pursue radical and alternate theories. The car that runs on water has of course been highly covered up by the Technocracy because its primary component is an etheric chamber. But that's a good example. The science of the Children of Ether is neither particularly wacky or pulp, but rather just as grimly serious as anything you'd read in Scientific American or Time, but taken on from a different angle. This explains why Quantum Mechanics is so screwed up from a Technocratic point of view (i.e., the cat is both alive and dead) but thoroughly explainable from an Etheric point of view.
Needless to say the Children of Ether are considered a serious threat from the Technocracy, and their inventions still tend to attract crazy amounts of Paradox, especially in front of Sleepers ("Hey, a phaser, cool!" is the last thing most Children of Ether hear unless they are at a Star Trek convention). They are also equally hated as much as the Virtual Adepts for their betrayal and refusal to fall in line (the official Technocratic line being something to the effect of pride goeth before the fall or such).
However, the Children of Ether are out there on the front lines and in the labs, a microcosm of the Technocracy itself except taking science from a different angle. The key here to remember is that they both observe the same thing objectively, but explain it away differently. Stress the alternate nature of their science, but remember that they all use the same basic set of data too. Ether is still very important to them, as you might guess.
The Virtual Adepts are taken rather seriously, but somehow the Sons of Ether are left behind in the wacky category. Not so with the Children of Ether.
Incidentally, I have a faction within the Children of Ether as Victorian throwbacks, but they are very, very small and quiet as a rule, just so all your favorite current characters can still fit in. ::smirk::
An interesting note is that many Tradition mages feel that the Children of Ether aren't really on their side per se, but rather work against the Technocracy out of pure spite. This is an interesting theory, because if they indeed work with the Traditions out of hate for the Technocracy, it stands to reason that if the Technocracy was ever defeated, the Children of Ether might be ready to replace them. This is never explicitly discussed with them, of course, but there is a degree of suspicion involved even to this day.
A fundamental part of a technomagickal paradigm is one of adaption. Technology doesn't stand still, and nor should the users of it stand still. You don't see the Virtual Adepts still using vacuum tubes and gears, do you? No. Why? Because they adapt to better and better computers as they emerge. So should it be with the Sons of Ether, and so it is with the Children of Ether.
Now think about it. The other Traditions adapt, but they adapt very slowly and are extremely slow to adapt to their fundamental paradigms. This isn't the case in a technomagickal paradigm, which is arguably why the Technocracy is winning. The idea that the Sons of Ether don't adapt and retain their genre-ways while the Virtual Adepts happily grab any and all new computer technology is inherently silly. The Children of Ether represent a technomagickal Tradition, and as such they should be adaptable as part of their fundamental paradigm. How many scientists, alternate or not, do you know that work only with the tools of when they first organized into a group? Goodness, lord help us. The Adepts don't rest on their laurels, and neither do the Children of Ether (unlike the Sons of Ether, needless to say).
This is important, because traditional Sons of Ether seem to be lumped in with the classic Traditions (i.e., non-Virtual Adepts). However, like the Virtual Adepts, they share parts of both Technocracy and Tradition. The Children of Ether use objective scientific methodology (invent, adapt, invent, adapt) like the Technocracy, but have the righteousness of their paradigm like the other Traditions. ::smile::
Children of Ether are regular folks, every day scientists who just happen to believe that canned science isn't telling them everything. They are not wacky mad scientists, but rather serious individuals in pursuit of scientific ideals. They are more broad-based, encompassing a wide variety of "rejected" scientists by Technocratic standards, and can sometimes be downright spooky in between conspiracy theories and brilliant discoveries. And most importantly, they are adaptive and follow a very Technocratic paradigm, but still include the ever important Ether.