Where Everything Knows Your Name

Nobody overslept this morning.

That’s because my bed didn’t wake me up.

Of course, then the lights were painfully bright when I did wake up, my kitchen served my morning esklav weak as dishwater, and the morning newspaper, when I picked it up, was showing nothing but a few priority headlines and the configuration interface.

Indeed, it is a tribute to the weakness of the esklav that I didn’t quite realize what was going on until I slipped my wearable on, only to be confronted with the default glasstop and a blinking warning message; authentication claim not found.



How does this go?

Infrastructure. Utilities. Cypherclerk diagnostics.

Null response.

So that was that. Universal definitely not working, then. Pain in the – well, someone’s got to be the one-in-five-hundred-thousand failure, but…

Search query: where did I put my backup identity documents?

Xinalath: You do not have permission to query this volume for objects owned by this person.

Oh, shit and corruption!

So. About two hours of searching later, I finally found them. In a crate. In the back storage room in the sub-basement. Underneath half a dozen scarves and my grandfather’s fueling tongs.

Then it was time to go and get the replacement installed. Which is easy enough – it can be done at any Imperial Services office. If you can get there.

You do not have the owner’s authorization to operate this automobile.

Oh, shit, corruption, and entropy!

Agent query: summon a chartercar. Payment at destination.

At least from then it was smooth sailing. Apart from trying to get the seat position and the microclimate comfortable manually. And the advertising blathering on about things I already owned or had no interest in. And the stares from passers-by seeing authentication errors when they looked at me.

And the process of removing the old Universal isn’t nearly as comfortable as they advertise.

But it is very good to be somebody again.

In Starfoam Threshold, Mall Goes To You

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Trope-a-Day: Artificial Gravity

Artificial Gravity: The piece of Applied Phlebotinium they call vector control does provide something which is functionally equivalent to artificial gravity, yes.  On the other hand, (a) a good plurality of cylinder habitats still prefer to use spin gravity, because it’s much easier on the energy budget; and (b) the vast majority of spacecraft and starships, modulo those passenger liners catering to planet-dwellers, don’t use it, because the 3/5ths of the population that are spacers got used to microgravity, both socially and through pantropic adaptation, a long time before vector control was invented.  Microgravity is their native gravity, essentially, so why change it?

They do use vector control quite often to make sure their nice microgravity environment isn’t messed up by thrust gravity, though.


“Honor to Véválíäh, Hearthtender, Provider, Lady of Earthly Blessings…”

A little water for cleansing the hands, emptied into the gutter.

“…who keeps us, warms us, and blesses us with this miracle.”

Uncovering the bowl, inhaling the clean-sour-beer scent of the élirvével.

“Honor to you, child of Véválíäh…”

Passing the water over the warming brazier, once, twice, thrice.

“…born of grain and water, by the Lady’s favor…”

Mixing in the water and the flour.

“…maker of bread, ender of hunger.”

Scooping up one half, and placing it in my bag.

“Our thanks and praise, little flame…”

Covering the bowl again, and topping up the brazier’s oil.

“…on this day and those to come.”

And now, the baking. Until tomorrow.

Trope-a-Day: Arranged Marriage

Arranged Marriage: Despite the plethora of old families, noble houses, and other outbreaks of hereditarianism, strongly averted in the Empire.  Partly because at least these strong individualist-propertarians can understand each other well enough to grasp the ethical problems here (see Blue and Orange Morality), and partly because they definitely understand each other well enough to realize that Nothing But Stabbings Ensues.

Doesn’t stop the matchmakers from throwing people at each other and seeing if they stick, often for similar purposes, but they know perfectly well that they can’t even hope to require.

Valuematic Vending

“Valuematic Vending Technical Services. Could I have your name, service contract reference, and planet of installation, please?”

“Certainly, I can answer a few general questions, yes.”

“Yes, our system is designed to be programmable by the customer.”

“The model 4400v nanofac is capable of assembling essentially any carbon compound, yes. Within the bounds of the usual run of carbon chemistry, anyway, as certain exotic bond types are only available in more advanced models, but I can assure you that the 4400v is fully capable of producing all commonly used plastics, fabrics, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals –”

“You want it not to be able to produce pharmaceuticals? Sir, have you considered not entering requests for –”

“If you could supply us with a list of all the chemical structures you wish to lock out –”

“I’m afraid we don’t maintain a list of which chemical structures are psychoactive in your species, sir, but as I said, if you could provide us with such a list, I can supply you with a routine to lock out those structures through your policy server.”

“Well, if you have them configured stand-alone, you can apply the routine individually to each 4400v. Do you have physical access to each machine?”

“Ah, that may be a problem. Could I ask again who you represent, sir?”

“I’m afraid we don’t actually support that level of hierarchical control on our JITPOS systems, sir, and I regret to say that corporate policy is not to provide superuser ackles on any system to anyone other than the registered owner.”

“Sir, before I answer that, you are aware that a 4400v-series is capable of manufacturing carbon-compound synthesizers, as well as the carbon compounds themselves?”

“Oh, any source of CHON atoms should do. Most oxygen-breather – you are oxygen-breathers? – planetary atmospheres would contain everything it needed.”

“Sir? Are you still there?”

“Valuematic Vending Technical Services. Could I have your name, service contract reference, and planet of installation, please?”

“Yes, our model 4400v nanofac is capable of manufacturing a wide range of organic explosives and other accelerants…”

Eldraeic: Degree Quantifiers and Antonyms

As was mentioned before, the use of degree quantifiers in Eldraeic in some cases makes unnecessary, or redundant, the use of antonyms.  One example which was given, and in which there really aren’t directly cognate words in the language, are “full” and “empty”, expressed as:

quor olmanár


ulquor olmanár

respectively.  Another is the question of moral goodness and evil, in which the latter concept – in accord with its philosophical status as a defect or absence rather than a force in its own right – has no corresponding symbol of its own (although its aspects do), being expressed as

ulquor teirquelár

which one could reasonably gloss as a Newspeak-style “ungood”.

But Eldraeic not being a Newspeak-style restrictive language, it’s worth pointing out that there are plenty of cases, unlike these, in which both halves of an antonym pair persist in the language by inheritance from its predecessor languages, and both remain in use.  The nuances of such usages vary, of course, and to illustrate this, I’ll give you three examples: big/small (zahúën calma), true/false (talis urlis) and light/dark (aril dúran).

In the case of the first, either may be used without distinction.  There’s no real difference in sense between saying for something small

calmavár / ulquor zahúënár

(small/unbig), or for something big

zahúënár / ulquor calmavár

(big/unsmall).  The difference is merely one of emphasis, and you can choose whichever suits for taste and meter, etc.

The second pair is a little more interesting; while technically there is no difference in meaning when the same transformation is done, the subtextual implications are rather different.  To claim that something one is told is an

ulquor talisár

an untruth, has the implication that the speaker believes the teller to be incorrect, misinformed, miscalculating, or is otherwise acceptably wrong.  To claim, on the other hand, that what they have told you is an


a falsehood, is to implictly accuse them of deliberate deceit, falsification or wilful miscalculation; in short, a lie.

The last pair is perhaps the most interesting.  In all cases, light is simply


but the common usage for darkness, in the sense of the mere absence of light, is exactly that – “absence of light”:

ulquor arilár

To say


Is to imply not merely the absence of light, but darkness with a sense of presence, or malice; it might well be used for such things as the Shadow of Sauron, the environmental conditions of Z’ha’dum, the palpable darkness of a thick forest at midnight in deep winter with the howling of unfriendly wolves all around, the lights going out in Rome, or the long cold darkness preceding the death of the universe; very much not a word used for simple low lighting conditions.

Likewise, its ulquor-converse very much implies Light with a capital L, in an almost religious sense; that light which burns away the darkness in the dúran sense.  Also not a word for common, turn-on-the-lights usage.


“Ladies and gentlemen, here to discuss the Ikarakakt Forknapping is ConSec Network Operations’ incident commander, Soléän Muetry-ith-Merete.  Take us through what happened.”

“Very well. This message – the original variant of this message – was injected onto the extranet at the Tanel open-service relay in the Cordai Gap.  Ah – open-service relays are frequently used outside the Core, especially in the Expansion Regions, and unlike the dataweaves most of us are used to, they don’t require a full set of authentication certificates to accept traffic.”

“The message was piggybacked on a spam-virus using some new techniques that let it escape the security checks; we’re working with Bright Shadow and other providers as we speak to produce and distribute patches to eliminate the loopholes it used.  In any case, the spam-virus was able to redefine itself as an inoffensive weavelife agent and transmit itself to a more central relay, at Selvis.  From there, it was able to insert the message -”

“Aren’t the logophages supposed to stop unsolicited agent message transmission?”

“Yes, and the logophages did kill the spam-virus once they had a corpus large enough to identify it as a spammer.  However, before that point was reached, it had inserted various self-replicating/self-mutating messages into the local data systems of 37 middle-technology worlds in the Ring Nebula.  While the logophages pursued, local system incompatibilities slowed the response, and the selfreps weren’t terminated until the message had reached 13,329 data service subscribers spread across those worlds.”

“I see.  And then?”

“And then… fourteen people responded to it.”

“It’s hard to believe that people today -?”

“…still fall for this sort of crude, implausible, leftover-from-the-dawn-of-time scam?  Believe me, Cíëlle, we’ve seen a lot of variants on this in ConSec NetOps, and we have trouble believing it ourselves.  But nonetheless, fourteen people responded.  That might sound encouraging – fourteen is only just over a 0.1% response rate – but we have reason to believe that more people responded to the initial approach, but were either not targeted by the forknappers or were put off by later parts of the approach.”

“What happened after they responded?”

“Well, the message itself is almost completely false, of course.  While there have been some recent border incidents between the Tree and the Technate, no volume has changed hands, and there are certainly no caches to be had.  And, while admittedly it’s hard to find your way through the maze of Accord commissions the way the Conclave makes and unmakes them, there is no Secondary Security Services Commission, although there are some with similar-enough sounding names to be plausible.  The promise of cryp is the usual nice touch – everyone loves anonymous, concealable, network-usable currency if they think they can get away with something that way.”

“Anyway, these fourteen were very well stroked with the ‘such security assurances’ they offered.  I’ve seen some of them.  They are really very impressive – cosmetically – with seals and signatures and countersignatures from plenty of reputable-sounding institutions and plausible-looking multistep chains.  None of them led back to a reputable authentication authority, of course, but then, they’d provided an explanation for that, and they looked impressive enough, and providing them was co-operation enough, that these people just assumed that they must be valid.  And they couldn’t do a deep inspection, of course, to find the missing ends of the chains because ‘starcorporate interests are already in negotiation’.  Delay means losing the deal.”

“And so they all made, or took, a noetic backup copy of themselves and transmitted it off to the forknappers’ darknet, thinking they were going to be reinstantiated for the negotiations.”

“How did ConSec get involved?”

“A couple of the victims reported the scam to their local authorities after they never heard back from their copy and the darknet vanished on them, and it was passed up to us as an extranet-security matter.  We managed to trace the original agent back to the Tanel injection point, and from there traced the signal to a local asteroid outpost.  With the cooperation of a local nsang anti-piracy patrol, we raided the outpost and managed to recover some of the tools the forknappers had used, and eighteen stolen mind-states, in various degrees of editing.  We’ve returned those to their originals.”

“What are the chances of finding the forknappers?”

“Well, that’s something for the local authorities, not in our jurisdiction; we were just called in to investigate the breaches of extranet security.  But in any case, chances of catching them are negligible; the forknappers must have known we were coming.  They were long gone when we got there, and the outpost was scrubbed clean.  We only found what they left for us to find.”

“And in any case, the damage was done.  We recorded several large encrypted transmissions, both on-net and off-net, from the outpost on the way in, and more data could easily have been carried out on-media.  There’s no way to tell how many thousands or millions of slaved copies or derivatives of those mind-states could be out there by now, and without some new leads, there’s not a thing we can do about it.  Or that anyone can do about it.”

“Thank you for your candor on that point.  Do you have any advice for our viewers?”

“Only the usual; don’t be a damned idiot on the extranet.  If it seems to be too good to be true, it is.  If it originates from a darknet or from an open-service relay – the messages were stamped with the unverifiable-origin flag – ask yourself why.”

“And above all, learn the authentication infrastructure.  If it comes from a non-reputable or anonymous source, don’t trust it.  Bad fiction aside, there simply aren’t the kinds of local outages that could make an honest agent unable to identify himself.  Anyone who can’t present you with a verified key, for an identity or a nym, is up to no good.  It’s as simple as that.”

“Thank you again.  That was Commander Soléän of ConSec Network Operations, bringing us the latest on the Ikarakakt Forknapping.  We’ll be going live to the Seranth Exchange for the financial reports; for now, this is Cíëlle Peressin for Telememe.”

SOPA/PIPA Blog Blackout

While WordPress.com have made it possible for us to participate in this event, tomorrow (the 18th), I regret to say that I won’t be joining those of y’all who choose to participate.  For two reasons:

One, as a rule, I abhor gesture politics, and especially the kind of gesture politics that relies on annoying the crap out of innocent third parties as a means to get its point across.  This is just a personal quirk of mine, and one which I don’t intend to argue here.

Two, I have made promises to my readers of two daily items, the Fic-a-Day and Trope-a-Day on this blog, upon each and every day in 2012 in the first case, and until I run out in the second case.  And it is not for me to unilaterally void those promissory statements.

Having said this, however, let me also take a moment to say that while I will not be participating in this particular spectacle, and while I am fully in support of intellectual property (after all, I produce intellectual property), I nevertheless firmly believe that both SOPA and PIPA are atrociously bad proposals legally, ethically, morally, technically, and grammatically, and everyone involved with lobbying for, promoting, writing, arguing, or otherwise with either of them should be taken and hanged by the funes until they’ve jolly well had enough.

That is all.

Trope-a-Day: Arbitrary Maximum Range

Arbitrary Maximum Range: Well, hardly arbitrary.  Very carefully programmed maximum range, in fact, since missiles are not jolly things to have ploughing on and on into space without a self-destruct mechanism, or more precisely, for acknowledgement-of-the-kinetic-kill-factor, a deceleration-before-exploding and/or deceleration-and-call-someone-for-pickup mechanism.  And then there are the fluffships, giant self-propelled balls of kinetic foam and kinetic barriers whose job – one of the acknowledged worst in the fleet – is to police the debris, railgun ricochets, etc., left behind after a battle in order not to FOD someone’s day.

But in the general case, yes, kinetic weaponry has no particular maximum range, or to put it the now-standard way, Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space.  (Even when he’s another civilization’s version and named Siao Callaneth.)

Energy weapon range is essentially determined by beam dispersion, and so is long.  Very long.  A convenient saying for Sir Isaac’s photonic equivalent has, alas, not yet been found.

Die Standing, If You Please

“It should understand,” I spoke as if to the air, “that its cause will not be served by genuflection, or by prostration, or by obsequity, or by such other obeisance as it has been in the habit of demanding.”

“We are defeated, broken,” the chained lanect hissed back.  “The Stanturak worlds burn.  The Sargas left us with nothing that could achieve space, and the other Raidermarchers hang over us like carrion rats.  This surrender is meaningless.  What is there for us but to cry your mercy?”

“It should be aware,” I spoke again, “that to our kind, a favored enemy – unbowed or at the least unbroken – is much to be preferred over any groveler, however adept their subjection.”

The lanect made no reply.

– Crystal Spire Conversations, by Lyrisia Solanel, former Spire page

Eldraeic: Degree Quantifiers

To expand a little on the degree quantifiers mentioned in the previous post, these are a set of words which permit the Eldraeic speaker to quantify the degree to which a particular predicate applies with reference to its subject argument.  There are six of these in common use:

nonexistent, absolute absence, zero


to a small degree

to an average/usual degree

to a large degree

absolute presence, completely, extremely

The definition of qaneth is, of course, somewhat subjective; a coffee cup or drinking glass which is qaneth olmanár is rather more than 50% full!  One can also use qan as a prefix with the syllabic numerals 1-11 to specify a particular degree, by twelfths, of a predicate’s applicability before having to resort to the more precise quantification systems in the language.

This also reduces linguistic redundancy in some ways.  As seen in the previous post, something which is full is quor olmanár (“containing as much as is possible”), and something which is empty is simply ulquor olmanár (“containing absolutely nothing”), and that’s all the linguistic expression those concepts need.

This applies equally well to most other concepts.  Good, in the moral sense, for example, is expressed by the predicate teirquelár (“be ethical, be honorable”); a good man in the common sense is simply described by teirquelár, or qaneth teirquelár; the uncommonly virtuous by qanlin teirquelár; and a saint by quor teirquelár; but equally, a common villain may be described as qané teirquelár, the uncommonly bad as anqan teirquelár, and cosmic evil as ulquor teirquelár.

There are, of course, an adequate quantity of specialized terms to properly taxonomize evil in both terms of practical result and in terms of motive, but I take a moment here to consider and note the way in which the language reflects the eldraic conception of evil as flaw, defect, or absence (evil as entropy, or miscreation) rather than as an entity due consideration in its own right.

(Even if some of we earthlings might find it a little creepy to discover that their word for evil is, quite literally, ungood.)

My Hovercraft Is Full Of Eels

El val telalélharn quor olmanár elén alírvelv.

No, I have no idea why I translated that.  Just had a moment, I suppose.

Word-by-word breakdown:

Simple descriptor; essentially an article.

“I”; or in this case “my”, because it follows the simple descriptor.

hovercraft – literally “wind-vehicle” from telalél (“wind”) + harnis (“vehicle”);
wind is itself derived from telir (“sky”) + aléla (“motion”)

degree quantifier; extremely, absolutely, the highest possible degree

predicate, meaning “to contain”; in combination with quor, therefore means “to be full of”

Mass descriptor; again, essentially an article, but talking about a mass of whatever rather than a countable number of it.

Eel.  Well, technically, an Elieran eel-analog in the sense of being slimy, serpentine, and water-dwelling, but close enough; from, obviously enough alír (“water”) + velv (“serpent”)


From Merak Ikarakakt, greetings.

My dear friend, having consulted with galactic rep networks and meta-networks, I believe you to be a sophont of the highest integrity and excellent reputation in the interstellar business community.  I have the privilege therefore to request your assistance in a matter of the greatest confidentiality and urgency.

I am an operative with the Accord Secondary Security Services Commission.  After the recent Silicate Tree incursions into the Santry Technate, my associates and I were able to identify several caches of experimental technology and bearer-denominated cryp located in secure vaults within the incursion zone.

These caches have been impounded by the Commission pending salvage clearance.  While I and my associates are unable to obtain this clearance, as we are known to the Commission, a respected soph of business such as yourself would easily be able to do so.  As our interest is primarily in the technology, we would be delighted to offer you the cryp within those caches, which we believe to have a value not less than forty million Accord exvals, enabling us both to profit from this discovery.

We are prepared to offer you such security assurances before departure as we are able within the incursion zone, despite the disruption of the identity and authenticity infrastructure by the Tree incursions; nevertheless, if you are willing to help us in this matter, we must request that you mindcast to our location with a minimum of delay since starcorporate interests are already in negotiation for access to these technology caches.

Please reply with your secure contact information to our darknet address urgently.

Your friend,

Merak Ikarakakt

Trope-a-Day: Applied Phlebotinum

yeah, no.

Seriously, I’m imagining thousands of years of technological development, here, and the parts which correspond to the technological development of Terrans is rather, ah, variant – starting with the early use of nuclear energy in place of fossil fuels, the substitution of ceramics and composites for plastics, and so forth, and ending with the way in which the Babbage-equivalent actually got to build his engine, which then became a ubiquitous mechanical computing device under the name of the Stannic cogitator.  And that’s before we get into any of the variant physics.

A list of applied phlebotinium would be very long and shorn of context, and therefore about as dull to read about as to write about.

Let’s just let it come up naturally in the other tropes and the actual writing.

Trope-a-Day: Apocalypse How

Apocalypse How: Several worlds have been apocalypsed in the ongoing course of galactic events.  Perhaps most notable are Laris (Tanion Wilds), whose former civilization wiped itself out with really dirty nuclear bombs; Ulijen (Cordai Gap), a planet that now has a distinct-looking bite in it where the power plant that worked by tapping solar heat using a wormhole to the sun’s interior demonstrated why it was a really bad idea to build one of those planetside; an unnamed peripheral world which suffered the bioweapon equivalent of a nuclear apocalypse; the Charnel Cluster, whose seed AI fail (see AI Is A Crapshoot, above) produced an Omnicidal Maniac that sterilized their entire multi-system polity; and most recently Litash (Dark Sea), which the Empire fed a strangelet bomb after being unimpressed by their continued Tortuga-like support for piracy In Space, thus blowing a continent-sized crater in the planet and setting the atmosphere on fire.

Which is not to count any of the many reasons why various and such Precursors and elder races aren’t around any more, but these are the main documented apocalypses.

As a general rule, though, in the modern Associated Worlds, the Ley Accords promise very bad things to anyone tossing around star-killing, planet-killing, or ecocidal weapons, because those things – stars, planets, and ecologies – are expensive.

Do Not Ask About The Dactyls

“Was that trochaic heptameter?  It sounded like heptameter…”

“I think so, yes.”

“I don’t believe – what difference does it make what -?”

“When you’ve known the Admiral for as long as we have, Excellency, you can predict her state of, ah, irritation quite well from her speech habits.  When she starts speaking in iambic pentameter, for example, you can be pretty sure that someone’s going to die today.”

“And what would this trochaic heptameter be supposed to mean?”

Everyone’s going to die today.”

Why the Dar-Bandal?

We are asked, quite regularly, why the bandal was chosen as the first candidate for uplift.

The simple answer, of course, is that as a domesticated animal that had, unlike every other, been bred selectively for millennia for higher intelligence and more, which is profoundly social, the bandal was one of the easiest candidates available for uplift.

But that, while true, is not the whole story.

The bandal is also the avatar of Tárvalén, eikone of loyalty, promises, contracts, and agreements, and part of His protectorate; this for their nature, for a bandal is loyalty made flesh. More even than ourselves, we trusted them to guard us while we slept.

They have long been partners in our civilization – from the years when their wild ancestors and ours helped each other survive, hunting together in the Winter of Nightmares, to the modern day when their work in our homes and offices is all but indispensable. And this work they chose to do; when offered a life of indolence, as some have come to know, they look for ways to do their part.

Loyalty, labor, and an unfailing comfort in times of trouble; our helpers, friends, and exemplars of virtue for as long as civilization has existed.  If we hope to find minds compatible, yet different, through uplift – where else should we look?

And if we seek to give the gift of sophonce, the greatest gift we have to offer – why, to whom could we owe it more?

– A History of Uplift, Chapter One