An excerpt from Second Act:
Twilight stared. “The Princess said she thought she’d detected a measure of fear.”
“A measure?” Brush replied. “With all due respect to Her Royalness, it was perfectly obvious. I was shaking like a leaf, all the way down to the ground. Even I would have noticed something like that, and I normally have the intuition of a slab of drywall.”
“Drywall?” she repeated.
“Sort of prefabricated plaster. Makes for a good, inexpensive wall. Not at all good at psychoanalysis.”
Twilight beamed. “Now, you see? This is what you’re good at. Concepts that you know, but that are new to us. You should have a cutie mark to reflect that skill.”
“Come on. Drywall? Lowest of the low-tech. If you’re going to promote my technological brilliance, such as it is, you might as well stencil a hammer on me. Or an abacus. Something at the bottom of the list.” He laughed. “Won’t that look sweet? The most advanced practitioner of magic from sea to shining sea, walking with a big, goofy-looking oaf with a row of beads on his butt.”
Meanwhile, among the humans, drywall is not so highly regarded:
Drywall was invented in 1916. The United States Gypsum Corporation, a company that vertically integrated 30 different gypsum and plaster manufacturing companies 14 years prior, created it to protect homes from urban fires, and marketed it as the poor man’s answer to plaster walls. A 1921 USG ad billed drywall as a fireproof wall that went up with “no time [lost] in preparing materials, changing types of labor, or waiting for the building to dry.”
Though ideal for construction, gypsum is not known for its environmental friendliness. Workers in gypsum mines — either above-ground quarries or pasty-white caverns — inhale a lot of gypsum dust, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends must be limited to 15 milligrams per cubic meter during a typical workday. And areas with disused mines are prone to ground collapse when surface developments disturb the cavities below. (The upside? Gypsum mines bring jobs to communities in states that produce the most gypsum, like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Nevada, and California.)
If only the stuff weren’t so damned adaptable.