Trope-a-Day: Drop Ship

Drop Ship: The Sledgehammer-class drop shuttle and its cousins (such as the Piton-class single-legionary drop pod), as carried by a variety of assault cruisers.  Since when you’re actually attempting to get down to the surface of a hostile planet with still-active defenses speed is very much of the essence, the Sledgehammer-class, et. al., are designed for lithobrakingYes, that does mean exactly what you think it means.

And The White Walls Are Not White

A post I made elsewhere concerning colors according to alien eyes:

Indeed so, even if they happen to use the same chunk of the EM spectrum we do as “visible light”. There are, I suppose, some restrictions on what’s likely, since moving too far into the longer wavelengths starts to give you resolution problems and moving too far into the short wavelengths gives you issues once you start trying to come up with plausible eyes that run off ionizing radiation, but even so. The eldrae, for example, whose visual spectrum stretches a little down and a little further up from the human one, have three colors we don’t: gallé (infrared), ivén (low UV), and serís (high UV); the kaeth, by contrast, have two infrareds, no UVs, and can’t see the wavelengths we call “violet”, either. And that’s before we get into all the subjective issues of how the actual qualia differ, if that’s even a question that’s possible to answer.

The standard interlingua has a set of compromise color names defined by the frequency bands of the light in question, specifically to help sort out this whole sort of general mish-mash with which colors look like what to whom, once all the optical system differences get sorted out. (Consult your friendly translator’s test card for what each color looks like to you!)

Of course, where life gets really interesting is that the human visual system, due to its architecture, innately does some averaging inasmuch as it can’t tell the difference between red-and-green and yellow in light, or between blue-and-yellow and green in pigments; the brain never gets that data. But there’s no reason that a visual system has to work that way, although I assume in my universe for various implementation reasons most of them do – so, imagine how wildly different the world would look to someone who sees all the different mixed pigments/lights we use to produce that shade of green as entirely different colors, and the same for every other shade…

(And then try and imagine using one of their control panels – quick, is that the yellow alarm light flashing, or the red-and-green one?)

Trope-a-Day: Drinking on Duty

Drinking On Duty: Averted inasmuch as neither the Imperial Navy nor the Imperial Legions, nor indeed any other part of the Imperial Military Service is dry, even on duty.  Drinking enough to render yourself unfit for duty, on the other hand, and the punishment for same, is played very straight indeed.

On the third hand, between the biotech upgrades you start out with and the ones which you acquire mid-way through boot camp for your shiny new military-basic body, you would have to drink truly heroic quantities of booze – enough that you’re unlikely to be able to have it with you on post, unless your duty station is engineering and you’re slurping the reactor coolant directly – in order to render yourself unfit anyway.  (This does mean that you can’t drink to forget the horrors of war, but since you can visit a memory redactor for that, it’s probably not so bad a trade-off.)

Trope-a-Day: Drill Tank

The Empire does have some Drill Tanks (or subterrenes, rather – technical term), giant plasma-belching nuclear-powered monsters which carve their way through rock, cleaning up the waste as they go and leaving steaming glass-lined tunnels behind them, and keeping up a pretty decent clip while they’re doing it, too.

They’re not the most practical weapons ever, and spend much more of their time excavating civilian tunnels for Purely Peaceful Purposes than they ever do for military ones, but they have their uses, often when someone’s fortification needs to be reduced.

Now On Kindle

As another note, this blog is also now available through the Kindle, for those who would prefer to subscribe that way.  You can find it on Amazon, here.

Of course, it’s $0.99 per month rather than free if you subscribe there, but in exchange, you gain more convenient access if you’re a Kindle user, plus the satisfaction of knowing that you’re encouraging this starving writer with the percentage of your almost-a-dollar that comes through to him, so really, it’s a win on both ends.

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The Legions of Azikhan March

Iron gates clash, flung wide.
Horns ring with brassy blare.
The legions of Azikhan march.

Light gleams from fire-wrought blades.
Gray and gold the banners blaze.
The legions of Azikhan march.

The drums of war beat wildly.
Ten-thousand treads shake the earth.
The legions of Azikhan march.

The ice-wind’s bite is bitter.
Hot iron and blood foretold.
The legions of Azikhan march.

All choice but death and glory.
The Seat of Storms shall break.
The legions of Azikhan march.

– pre-Imperial Azikhanian inscription, author unknown

All Alone in the Dark

“If you’d ever been in a ship with no power, you wouldn’t ask that question. Reactor quenched, mains down, auxiliaries down, accumulator backups down. Out in the black without the life support systems running, it’s blacker in there than Lumenna’s own hell. No lights, no sun, no planetglow to keep you company, not below decks or in the deep. No sound. The murmur of the engines, gone. The whisper of the vents, gone. No mesh, all wireless whispers dead. And, of course, not even any gravity to give you a directional cue. Just floating there, in silence and darkness and creeping cold, isolation more complete than anything outside an AI with no sense-channels wired up.”

“And that’s when you start reaching for a mindcast transmitter – but the substrate can’t accept you without power, and communications died with the rest of the ship.”

“But you’ve got time to stop panicking. After all, no-one’s going anywhere. Nothing’s calling for your attention. And you’ve got air enough to last for a while – a little more if you’re drifting, a little less if you’re still.”

“Do you know how to find an emergency panel by touch? And keep something to throw always to hand?”

“Well, I always do. Now. Then –”

“Two days can be longer than all the rest of your life.”

The Problem of Evil

A question asked on the conculture mailing list:

How do our various cultures — especially the non-human ones, and also especially the non-terran ones — view this Problem of Evil? Or do they even recognise it as a principle? Or do they see Good as the Problem…? Also, is Evil a “real thing” or a by-product of cultural evolution in a people?

Well, now.

The eldrae don’t really think of Good and Evil as contending cosmic principles.  Those would more accurately be described as Light and Dark – on the one hand, the Flame, the cosmic positive principle of volition, creation, excellence, and energy, and the Darkness, the negative cosmic principle of chaos, destruction, and entropy.  But while Dark may be Evil, in many if not all of its aspects, Light is not exactly Good (and nor is it, well, terribly nice – at least by human moral standards).  Unless you happen to identify the good really strongly with beauty, excellence, negentropy, obligation, the inevitable march of progress, and remorselessly enforced free will, anyway.

Neither of them is personified, strictly speaking.  Light arguably is in the form of the eikones (personifications of concepts) as a whole, but none of them represents the Light itself; they’re shards of it seen through a prism, individual colors derived from the light of the Flame.  Meanwhile, Darkness —

Well, that gets into beginnings.  The fundamental tenet of eldraeic theology is that the universe is fundamentally broken.  It obviously shouldn’t be, but something went wrong at some point, and we’re stuck with it.  (Explanations vary; the Church of the Flame doesn’t really have a consistent creation myth.  One common postulate is that it’s down to Aldéré, Divine Ignition, creator goddess of the eikones, being mad as a hatful of badgers inasmuch as creation is the only thing that matters, and what happens afterwards is “not her department”, which is why she coos every bit as much over the creation of say, Ebola, as the creation of a magnificent work of art; but there are many alternative cosmogonies.)  The Darkness is this brokenness; it’s entropy and its consequences, the reason we live in an imperfect universe in which energy dissipates, destruction doesn’t always lead to new creation, information can be lost, people die, flaws go unamended, and assorted other offenses against The Way Things Ought To Be In A Proper, Perfect Universe persist in happening.

(And that, of course, is just physical entropy.  Mental-spiritual entropy is also responsible for choice-theft and parasitism and envy and sloth and cacophilia and destructionism and humility and most of the other sins in the book.)

It’s almost gnostic, in a way, except that while the gnostics would claim that matter and the material world are inherently evil, the Flamics would claim that matter itself strives, self-organizing into stars and worlds and galaxies, crystals and snowflakes, and life, life everywhere, in one great outcry against the deathward fall of the universe, until eventually it produced sophont life, whose purpose, such as it is, is to continue to strive to make the universe better, and eventually fix it completely, restoring it to the flawless state it always should have had.

“Anything that is broken can be repaired.”

So, to return to the original question, evil (or Darkness, rather) doesn’t have an independent existence per se; it’s merely inherent in the flawed nature of the universe and everything within it.  In sophont terms, it’s that little inner voice that encourages people to take short cuts, to be satisfied with less, to be less than they can be, to bring others down rather than raise themselves up (relative status systems are, they would say, very entropic), to not strive, not achieve, not improve, and to prevent others from doing so.  That’s the hole in the world trying to suck out your awesome; good, or Light rather, consists of not letting it.  But it is a distinctly identifiable concept you can point to, and say “that’s it”.

(More on some related concepts at Blue and Orange Morality and Little Darknesses.)


In other news, I’m spending some time this week polishing a manuscript containing close to 45,000 words of my short fictions and metafictions, mostly from here but also some other stuff, for actual e-book publication.


Trope-a-Day: Dream Weaver

Dream Weaver: Not actual dreams – well, not usually, although specially tuned slinky equipment can be used for lucid dreaming – but the title “dreamweaver” is used for composers of slinkies and virtual novels.

Also, the oneiri of the Transcend, which subroutines organize the dreamscapes where the collective hyperconsciousness dreams the dreams of its constituents.

Trope-a-Day: The Dreaded

The Dreaded: Various in history, but most prominent in recent years is Admiral Caliéne Sargas “the Worldburner, for actually pulling the trigger on the Worlds’ single use of a strangelet bomb in the Burning of Litash, and the ensuing multi-megadeaths.  (Somewhat unfairly, since the Stellar Council and the Lords of Admiralty actually made the call to proceed with the destruction of Litash, but…)  She dislikes her reputation with the same minor blind spot that most of the Sargas have, but acknowledges that it’s actually rather useful to have.

(Or, on occasion, rather annoying to have because no-one will bloody stay and fight any more.  Frustrating!)

They’ve Been Doing This Far Too Long

Galch (Vanguard Reaches) a.k.a. K-11/54 (Vonis 36) [DISPUTED]
Demilitarized Border Zone

“Unknown ship, we have you on our screens.  Identify.  Over.”

“Republic vessel at 220 asc 14, nineteen-point-three light-minutes, confirm identity.  Over.”

Imperial vessel, this is our space.  We say again, identify.  Over.”

“Republic vessel of approximate destroyer class, the hell it is, but as a courtesy, this is CMS Gold and Iron, armed merchant of the Centralia Line.  Over.”

Gold and Iron, this is VNS Solidarity.  We read you as a cruiser-class vessel.  You are in violation of treaty.  We order you to heave to and prepare to be boarded.  Over.”

Solidarity, Gold and Iron.  Whether we are or not is irrelevant, since we are a civilian vessel owned by a merchant concern which may legitimately go armed in unsafe border regions.  And in any case, if you check that treaty, we’re fully half a displacement-ton smaller than its definition of the cruiser class.  You, meanwhile, are quite definitely armed with energy weapons larger than the treaty permits.  You heave to and prepare to be boarded.  Over.”

Gold and Iron, Solidarity.  We most certainly are not.  This is an vessel of peaceful exploration.  We are merely equipped for remote geological surveying, including breaking up asteroids and drilling planetoids. All of which is permitted by the treaty.  Your request is denied.  Over.”

The channel is silent for a few seconds.

Solidarity actual, Gold and Iron.  Do you think that’s enough posturing for form’s sake, Holoth?  Over.”

Gold and Iron actual, Solidarity.  Yeah, Galen, I think that should do.  Do you have leave on Ódeln again next month?  Over.”

Solidarity actual, Gold and Iron.  As ever.  Bring some decent booze next time.  Gold and Iron, clear.”

Trope-a-Day: Dramatic Gun Cock

Dramatic Gun Cock: Modern personal weapons don’t actually need cocking (just flip the arming switch to Unsafe, and you’re done, to the accompaniment of no more than a little electrical hum or capacitor-charging whine).  On the other hand, since they fold up very nicely into a more convenient form-factor for storage and transportation, you can do all the dramatic unfoldings (push the button and let the springs, etc., do the rest) that you like.

Word of the Flame (4/9)

The following, as were the preceding three (1,2,3) and will be the other five entries in the series, are extracts from the Word of the Flame, the record of the seeress Merriéle’s visions that is also the primary text of the Church of the Flame, the mainstream eldraeic religion.

More specifically, this series will contain all 51 verses of the book of Principles, which enumerate the principles of each of the eikones in the form of each’s foremost principle as they would have it expressed under Heaven, although naturally each eikone’s own book examines the fullness of the principle they represent from many more angles and in much more detail.  Nonetheless, the three verses of the Triarchs and the 48 verses of their Divine Ministers are second only to the book of Truths in Flamic moral teaching.

In simplicity the mind sleeps still;
The mazy path leads many places.
Let wit and cunning shape your life’s creation.
This is the command of Leiríah
Who swathes all things in mist.

Flawed steel splinters at one blow;
Only the tempered withstands use.
Enter into the fire, and be purified!
This is the command of Lódaríön
Who burns away the dross.

The light that grows; the fire that transforms;
The heat that warms when darkness falls.
These are mine; use them well and in fullness.
This is the command of Lumenna
Whose radiance illuminates the world.

Against the Flame, do naught.
As qalasír demands, do as you must.
In all else, do as you will.
This is the command of Elárion
Whose choice knows no boundaries.

The secrets of the world are writ in its elements;
Stone and metal, wind and rain, wood and fire.
Ask them every question, and be answered.
This is the command of Elliseré
Whose mind mothers all new things.

You are the Chosen, keepers of our dream;
Heirs to our glory, shapers of greater still.
Stride on, undiminished, until eternity’s end.
This is the command of Eslévan
Who once was Alphas’s line.

Reshkef-Stuffed Ilist Leaves, with Fruit and Flower

Makes about 20 appetizers.


1 jar seawater-cured ilist leaves.
1 large onion
½ hand fresh sevet herb-mixture, adjusted seasonally
1 hand golden sun-dried Veilyns grapes
½ hand petals, flowers of pencail
1 hand mixed sweet nut paste
2 breasts of reshkef
reshkef broth
table spices and citrus juice to taste


Rinse mature ilist leaves in several changes of cold water, then blanch leaves in boiling water until their initial blue-black color has paled to mid-blue (around four minutes).  Note that undercooked ilist leaves contain toxic alkaloids; check carefully to ensure that the leaves have reached an internal temperature above 190 degrees and/or that all traces of class C27 toxins are eliminated with thermograph or chemsniffer, respectively.  Drain leaves well.

Chop separately onion, fresh sevet herbs, and Veilyns grapes.  Mix together with pencail and nut paste, moisten with reshkef broth and mix until a thick paste is formed.  Dice the reshkef breast, and sauté until lightly cooked.  Mix the sautéed reshkef into the paste until even.  Set aside.

Individually, separate layers of ilist leaves to form pockets.  Score the fleshy inside of the leaves in a cross-hatch pattern, taking care not to penetrate the outer layer of the leaves.  (Great care should be taken since the leaves are delicate.)  Having done this, pack the ilist leaves with the reshkef-paste mixture, squeezing the edges closed again.

Place the prepared leaves in a large saucepan, with the seams at the base, covering each layer with salt.  Add reshkef broth until the uppermost layer of leaves is just covered, cover pan, and simmer for two-thirds of an hour.  Drain the liquid and remove the stuffed leaves to another plate, then cover and chill.  Before serving, drizzle the leaves with table spices and citrus juice to taste, and as appropriate.

Serve with sweet wine, preferably unspiced.

– Epicurean Follies, pub. 3169, Cileädrin Domestic Press


The little sphere, whip antennae flying free, drifted slowly up from the nest of packaging it came in.

“Hello! I’m your new Xinalath Eye-on-Stuff model 2.7 searchbot! May I have access to your local dataweave, please?”

I gestured assent.

“Thank you! Based on your configuration, this appears to be a private home. By default, I’ll assume that you want me to index everything inside your property line that is also marked as property of one of the residents, and that you want every resident to be able to search for their own property and anything marked as shared. Is this acceptable?”

“Yes, that’s fine.”

“Before I get started, is there anything you’d like me not to index?”

“Just my diary, my work desk, and the chest containing my exotic Clajdíän sex toys.”

The sphere dipped once, a vector-control nod. “That’s all the information I need. My preliminary assessment of the volume indicated is that initial indexing should be complete in roughly seven hours. On behalf of Xinalath, thank you for using us!”