The Autocrator Likes His Quiet

“The Venerable and Veritable Autocrator of Chengál Rock, may his reign last forever, will be accepting petitions from all within the Rock during the first shift for the megapulse following the Rock’s apoapsis, as custom dictates. Please note that immediately following shift-end, all vacuum-qualified citizens of the Rock are required to report to Docks and Locks for mandatory civil labor. All non-vacuum-qualified citizens are required to report to Central Recycling, likewise.”

– system announcement on Chengál Rock public notifications channel

“For new citizens and visitors to the Rock, the ‘mandatory civil labor’ is required because the V. and V. Autocrator has a policy of throwing anyone who demands that he have a policy out of his personal airlock, and traffic control start complaining if no-one cleans up after Petition Fortnight. Be advised.

“And may his reign last forever.”

– anonymous classified advertisement immediately following the above


Trope-a-Day: Fictional Color

Fictional Color: Proliferate, since it is the nature of exotic species in general that not all of them will use the same chunk of the electromagnetic spectrum for seeing with. Most obviously, if you have typical eldrae eyeballs, before red in your spectrum comes calescent gallé, which we can only feel as infrared, and beyond violet are whiter-than-white iven and naught-but-bright séris, extending into our ultraviolet and making many colorless liquids anything but. But perhaps they do not count, since we could theoretically create them – just not perceive them directly.

But then there are those species with different sensory organs. The retina has many fascinating quirks, but one of them is that it can’t tell the difference (for reasons explained here) between monochromatic yellow light, and yellow light that’s actually red light and green light mixed.

Not all photoreceptors share this particular property. So if a species you’ve never met before asks you to push the green button, you’d better be sure to check that you aren’t accidentally going to push the blue-and-yellow one, which is obviously completely different, dammit, Earthling!

And that, of course, is before you even get to the wonders virtuality programmers can create with the ability to stimulate the visual cortex and its subcarriers in ways that physical light cannot, letting one actually perceive wild and painful ulfire, dreamlike, voluptuous jale, and other such colors whose qualities aren’t found in electromagnetism. Irrigo, violant, apocyan, cosmogone, viric, and pelegin may also be on the menu of options. Even octarine is not beyond the bounds of possibility…


Worldbuilding: Intellectual Integrity and Non-Utopia

So, in things to think about, let’s talk about intellectual integrity. Or, more specifically, let’s talk about a citation I’m taking from Paean to SMAC (Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri)’s discussion of the Intellectual Integrity technology, and specifically this:

That this is tied to a technology called Intellectual Integrity is quite intriguing, if one is willing to entertain the idea for a moment.  What would it mean for a society to have real intellectual integrity?  For one, people would be expected to follow their stated beliefs to wherever they led.  Unprincipled exceptions and an inability or unwillingness to correlate beliefs among different domains would be subject to social sanction.  Valid attempts to persuade would be expected to be based on solid argumentation, meaning that what passes for typical salesmanship nowadays would be considered a grave affront.  Probably something along the lines of punching someone in the face and stealing their money.

This is essentially the way Imperial society works, thanks to talcoríëf and the efforts of socio-intellectual movements past; there’s a very good reason why teir, typically glossed “honor”, has a lot more to say about self-integrity and intellectual integrity than a human take on its gloss would normally imply.

(Take advertising, for example: it has substantially less glitz – not zero, because you can make a valid and sound argument to someone that this product is awfully shiny and will be found pleasing by them, or that it concretely reflects their abstract values, but simply shrieking SEX! STATUS! MOOOORE SEEEEEX! at maximum volume fails utterly – avoids glossing over details, and in general is much more in-depth – for a product launch, you can pretty much expect interviews and Q&A with the design team regardless of what the product is – and personalized.

Meanwhile, the ongoing parade of SALE! SALE! SALE! tends not to happen, mostly because it’s not terribly effective on people who are (a) aware of hyperbolic discounting, and (b) cured hyperbolic discounting. And in general, if you’re in the Imperial market and trying to compete on price,  you’re doomed. Such price-based advertising as there is tends to consist of automated feeds to AI procurement agents.)

All of which is to say, in non-utopian terms, if you aren’t accustomed to maintaining a certain luminous clarity and consistency of thought, and you move there, you are going to be on the receiving end of certain social consequences. At best, that means spending a lot of time having all the cracks in your Weltanschauung poked into and levered apart by people first trying to understand, and then earnestly trying to help you with your philosophical problem.

At worst… well, self-inconsistent is no more a complement than unprincipled, which amounts to wilful self-inconsistency – or attempting to defend self-inconsistency – which latter has cast a black stain of ickiness over concepts like pragmatism or compromise, due to their frequent invocation to defend self-inconsistency. And let’s not even start on “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion!”, the responses to which are starkly unprintable1.

So, basically, if you don’t enjoy the cut and thrust of debate and/or staring unflinchingly at the consequences of your beliefs… don’t go, ’cause you won’t like it there.


1. These responses will, eventually, concede that you do technically have, freedom of thought and all, the right to your own opinion however ludicrous and inconsistent it might be. However, they will go on to state, that does not include the right to be taken seriously, the right not to be mocked and shunned by all cognitively capable people, or the right not to be labeled the dumbest piece of crap that ever crawled out of Waste Reprocessing and evolved the power of speech all across the public reputation networks. Which is not defamatory, because it’s obviously true if you believe that.

Best. King. Ever.

“Another of these accidental creations is the governance of the Thanedom of Darazik, a minor azikeldrae city-state in southern Alténíä. Its story begins when the initial charter of the thanedom was drafted, in which the overthane was appointed to his office ‘in perpetuity’ rather than the more conventional ‘as willed’, or even ‘for life’.

“In the ordinary course of events, such a minor drafting error would have been corrected, whether by amendment or by judicial decision. However, after the tragic death of the first overthane, Agaion I, in the earthquake and ensuing tunnel collapse of 971, the Council of Thanes – acting as regent pro tempore – found itself facing an uninspiring successor with no particular desire for the position, and lacking any desire to elevate one of its own members to overthane, being occupied at that time with the problems facing their own caverns. As such, they decided simply to run with the charter as worded.

“Thus, even to the present day, the titular head of the Thanedom is the vitrified and exquisitely sculpted and adorned corpse of Agaion the Undying, Heart of the Pillar, Lord of the Undernight, Overthane of Darazik and Her Vales Beyond the Dark Sky, who continues to preside over his court, attend ceremonial occasions, and receive – although not pass judgement upon – petitions, all with his customary silent élan. The actual Mandate rests in the hands of the Council of Thanes, whose decrees, et. al., are issued in the voice and by the consent of their glassy monarch, who to this day has not seen fit to veto any of his Council’s actions.”

– The Six-Fingered Hand: Unconventional Governance Among the Empire’s Nations


Trope-a-Day: Force-Field Door

Force-Field Door: Not generally used, since sensible engineers and architects by and large put doors there for a reason, and prefer it when the doors do not vanish as soon as the power goes out. Even less used as airlocks or spacetight doors, since it’s even more embarrassing when you lose your entire starship’s air supply when the power goes out…

…well, okay. Some ships and stations do use kinetic barriers across bay entrances to make it easier to maneuver things in and out without having to (expensively/slowly) depressurize the entire bay, or leave it depressurized all the time and thus require everyone working in the bay to wear vacuum suits all the time. However:

  1. They are not used as a substitute for regular bay doors, which exist because while you can set the barrier strength such that the modal molecule will lack the KE to penetrate, the statistical distribution of molecular KE still means a kinetic barrier any less solid than actual matter is effectively a continuous slow leak. Caveat life support engineer, and hence you fit actual bay doors to close when you aren’t needing to get stuff in and out through the barrier; and
  2. Said bay doors are fitted with fail-safe automatic high-speed closers, because when the power goes out, you don’t want to lose any more than you have to, especially since the escaping air may take other things with it; and
  3. The doors between the rest of the starship and the bay are airlocks, because a kinetic barrier or anything else power-dependent should not be considered a reliable pressure boundary; and
  4. Anyone working in the bay will keep their emergency breathers close to hand.

…With Justice For All


From: Supervisor of Police, Behibehin Rock

Subject: Assent-Panopticon Ubiquitous Law Enforcement Instrumentality (all components)
Issue: Stupidity (was: System imprisoned entire population in error)
Priority: Urgent



Does no-one read the gorramn manual?

The Behibehinti have become another entry in our list of customers who failed to read the warnings in sections 3.7, 3.8, and 3.9 concerning the need to lint your legislation before activating it, because the Assent-Panopticon ULEI has no way of knowing when you intended parts of it to be obsolete, symbolic, or selectively enforced. That said, managing to get the entire population, including the governance – although that latter is surprisingly common – jailed and awaiting trial before the now-inelegible-to-serve judiciary when the system was enabled is perhaps a new low in this particular failure mode.

Although this is closed WONTFIX, as per company policy we have dispatched a service engineer with the override code and a customer service lawyer with copies of sections 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, and the service agreement to free the customer and otherwise clean up the mess.

On the bright side, I won a week at the High Cysperia Luxurium in the departmental betting pool.