Domestic Animals

So, regarding those “Ethnographical Questionnaire” chunks I have posted occasionally – I conclude that I’m going to start posting smaller chunks, on the grounds that (a) it takes me so damn long to finish a section, and (b) smaller and more often is better than giant and occasional.  So, that said, here’s a new piece:

What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?

This, of course, varies quite radically by planet – so here’s the original most common domesticated animals of Eliéra, the eldraeic homeworld:

  • The adhaïc [honeybee] – hive insects, greenlife, kept for their honey, wax, and pollination services.
  • The bandal – a canid greenlife species, or more accurately, another subspecies of Canis lupus, differentiated from the Earth dog by virtue of having spent its domestication mostly being bred for smart, rather than obedient, being expected to operate more as junior partners in civilization than tools (including, say, the ability to operate clockwork automata in at least a limited fashion) in many and varied roles; distinguished by a higher forehead and more manipulative forepaws. Also associated with Tárvalén, the Binder, Eikone of Loyalty (see myth).
  • The cerrúr – a four-horned hexapedal browsing bluelife animal, used for riding.
  • The certárúr – a four-horned (with stunted horns) hexapedal browsing bluelife animal, used for riding and as a draft animal; also for leather.
  • The chiashaïc [silk-spider] – a bluelife pseudo-arachnid, used for fiber.
  • The ékaláman – a hexapedal flying carnivorous bluelife reptile with a mid-wing, used for hunting, as we do raptors.
  • The élirúr [dormouse] – a greenlife rodent, used for meat.
  • The fírastal – a slightly larger greenlife relative of the Earth cat, kept for pest control and occasional hunting.
  • The hasérúr – a hexapedal browsing bluelife animal used for meat and milk.
  • The kuléra – a four-winged bluelife bird, used as a scout and messenger.
  • The líhasúr – a quadrupedal rooting greenlife animal, used for meat; a close relative of the Earth pig.
  • The nekhalyef – a quadrupedal grazing greenlife animal, used for meat, milk, and fiber; a close relative of the Earth sheep.
  • The pengál – a bluelife pseudoserpent, kept for pest control.
  • The reshkef – a hexapedal browsing bluelife animal, used for meat, milk, and fiber.
  • The quebérúr – a quadrupedal grazing greenlife animal, used for meat and milk; a close relative of the Earth bison.
  • The sevesúr – a two-winged greenlife game bird, used for meat and eggs.
  • The tiryef – a large flightless bluelife bird, used for meat.
  • Underwater, the ííche [dolphins – well, technically, it means “cetaceans”, but in this specific case; greenlife] and cúlnó [octopodes; greenlife], which occupy a similar niche Below as the bandal do on the surface.  Also, various farmed fish.

Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won’t be?

The most commonly kept as pets – but for values of pets which usually involves working (which, in their terms, includes “for companionship”), rather than simple ornamentation, since the eldrae have ideas about dignity and what they shouldn’t expect any animal smart enough to be a pet to do – would be the bandal, the firastal, and the kuléra; underwater, and to a lesser degree in space, some species of cúlnó are also popular.

As for which won’t – anything that’s too dangerous or insanitary, as usual, plus anything not smart enough to hold the interest of their keepers.  With the possible exceptions of aviary birds, aquarium fish, and butterflies – but then, they are ornamental.


“Smuggling is a prestigious career with a long and honorable tradition – being invented something like seven minutes after trade itself.  Ideologically speaking, the smuggler and the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate are identical in theory, only differing in application.  Markets, like information, want to be free.  Demand leads to supply, which leads to trade, which leads to mutual profit, which leads to prosperity – and rot any corporation, government, or bunch of prodnosed kveth-lickers who say it ain’t so!  Folks have a right to trade, and to buy what they want, and for me to sell it to ‘em, and damned if that changes just ‘cause some jackass tells us elsewise.”

“Of course, there are those who disagree.  That’s what makes it fun.”

– Líse Varavélen, master of IS Favorable Supply Curve


The distinction between the three generally accepted primary Eldraeic dialects is both informal and quite simple:

“Low Eldraeic” is the language as it is actually spoken day to day, using the common-sense medium of language features and vocabulary that are of use to most of the people most of the time.  (It’s still complex and formal by most language’s standards, but it has had most of the rough edges and unnecessary complexity in its native speakers’ eyes rubbed off it.)

“High Eldraeic”, on the other hand, is the language with every idiosyncracy, grammatical feature, additional functionality, and pedantic technical distinction put together by the Conclave of Linguistics and Ontology over generations, for reasons technical, philosophical and political, in play.  It is used lightly in scientific and technical documentation where it aids in clarity, brevity and accuracy, more heavily in formal ritual, high-falutin’ rhetoric, and particularly grand opera, and most heavily when one speaker in a conversation wishes to browbeat another about just exactly how much better educated, more intelligent, and generally superior they happen to be.

“Trade”, the third dialect, is the worn-down and bastardized form of the language used widely by non-native speakers who learned it from other non-native speakers, or who found themselves reduced to stammering confusion after taking a mnemonetic course and wondering just how the heck they use all these registers and modes and affixes and non-temporal tenses in practice, and just what is an evidential anyway?

Why I Worldbuild Feverishly

A random thought I posted elsewhere, on the importance of worldbuilding to (my) writing:

I know writers differ on this point, but for myself, I can’t have Líse Varavélen walk down the street without knowing what the street looks like – is it gravel, or concrete, or slabs of black diamondoid treated to be non-slick with a rainbow-striped flowstone slidewalk running down the middle?  (In town, it’s the last one.)  Is she walking, standing on the flowstone strip and gliding along with the traffic, or psychokinetically hovering a foot or so above the ground?  (Depends on her mood and the weather.)  If her dog needs to go, does she leave it, does she clean it up, or does a tiny robot dash out of the nearest robot hotel, clean it up for her, polish the street to its customary perfection, and bill her three millis for the privilege?  (Again, it’s the last one, and three millis is a good price for municipal poop-robo service.)  I must know these things, or my scene-setting imagination just sits there and goes poit!

Posted also, I am not ashamed to admit, because I am rather pleased by the phrase “municipal poop-robo service”.

Trope-a-Day: Energy Weapons

Energy Weapons: Present, even if by and large Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better and therefore much more used.  Lasers and grasers exist, despite their limitations, primarily as heat-pumping weapons, knife-fight range point defense, and as blinding lasers, as do electrolaser stunners/anti-machine weapons, with all their limitations of atmospheric composition and humidity.  Plasma lances exist too, although they only work at point-blank range, even in space, due to dissipation.  (And regular flamethrowers, of course.)  There are microwave heaters and other kinds of algetics.  And there are limited-use, short-range, vector-control based gravitic weapons (based off the tractor-pressor principle, either to yank, slam, or vibrate).

But for all that existing, it’s still the slugthrowers that see the most use.

Trope-a-Day: Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better

Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: For most things, yes.  It’s not that they don’t have perfectly functional energy weapons, or power cells which can manage the job – if you can run a mass driver that can get a flechette or slug up to a respectable fraction of the speed of light, yep, you can power a laser with it too, just fine.  Nor do energy weapons lack their place – lasers are a damn fine way of pumping heat into things, which is very handy in starship combat, for example, and electrolasers (fire the laser to ionize a path through the air to your target, then dump a lot of voltage down it) make excellent stunners and anti-machine weapons, and EMP weapons are also handy for the latter, if really hard on the infrastructure.  Blinding lasers are effective on at least many species and relatively humane.

But in practice, it’s a lot easier to solve the problems of making really awesome kinetic weapons than of dealing with beam dispersion (while you can do some cool blasting-shit-apart – not slicing it up – with a big laser or graser, you would generally prefer not to have to let it get that close), atmospheric humidity (a big problem for electrolasers), and other such things, and in some cases vulnerability that varies sharply by the precise way the energy is delivered, and suchlike.  So while energy weapons of various types are part of the arsenal, in the special uses for which they excel, the jack-of-all-trades weapons still Throw Stuff At You Really Damn Fast.

Trope-a-Day: Energy Economy

Energy Economy: While the esteyn is not a pure energy currency (it remains, in our terms, a fiat currency using indices to carefully balance the money supply against the productivity of the economy), in the modern era, given the ready availability of nanofacs, energy forms a major part of these indices (the major indices used are the prices of energy, computational cycles, volume, and standardized feedstock mass; the former two usually predominate).

See here for more.

Trope-a-Day: Enemy Civil War

Enemy Civil War: Given the Empire’s preference for deviousness and indirection, not to mention preemption, by way of military policy, this happens surprisingly often.  Well, okay, still not all that often, but if a society has a crack in it that a skillful warrior-philosopher/memeticist can use to get them fighting each other rather than running around fighting other people, the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety considers that a net win.

Technically, That Last Was ‘Might’


As master of an Empire-registered tramp trader, when may sophonts appear on the cargo manifest of your vessel?


Under four circumstances:

1. When you are transporting steerage-class passengers under contract to a passenger line, and such passengers are both onloaded from and offloaded to port-side passenger processing as freight, and will remain in cryostasis or nanostasis during the entirety of their voyage within rated stasis-rack freight containers (4×80-series);

2. When your vessel is a registered Naval auxiliary, and is transporting personnel of the Imperial Military Service in cryostasis or nanostasis under the same conditions as above, when an officer of flag rank has approved such operations;

3. When your vessel is operating as a colonization transport under contract to a colonial corporation or the Ministry of Colonization, and is transporting colonists in cryostasis or nanostasis under the same conditions as above;

4. When you’re fixin’ to die.

– from an examination for shipmaster’s license, second class

Trope-a-Day: Empathic Environment

Empathic Environment: Much of the Empire has one of these, one way or another.  On a  small scale, this is because of the assorted Genii Locorum around the place, the house brains and city manager AIs and planai and other assorted minds at least one of whose functions is to make sure that things are arranged to their people’s liking before their people consciously realize that they want things that way.  (And since they can usually do so in cooperation with their people’s muses, which live inside their heads, they’re very good at it.)

On a larger scale, this is because to some extent people believe that the pathetic fallacy, if not how the world does work, is certainly how the world ought to work.  It would be appropriate.  And so the Transcend, constructed as it is from the trillions of minds of its constitutionals, and intertwined with, as it is, the weather-control systems and other infrastructure of every developed world, makes sure that it jolly well does work that way.

Trope-a-Day: Genius Loci

(‘Bout time I got back to these, I think.)

Genius Loci: Quite a lot of them, from the simple usually-non-sophont AIs that run people’s houses and apartments (the “house brains”) to the increasingly sophisticated “city managers” and other AIs that run cities, provinces, transport networks, ports, and so forth, up to the planai and other archai that are responsible for the infrastructure of entire planets and star systems.  And, of course, to a large extent the Transcend can be interpreted as a Genius Loci for the Empire as a whole.

(This, of course, from the local perspective, is merely the realization of ancient thoughts on animism.)

Ads in the Paper (in the Starport)

For sale, any offers: 24 crates, half-container, assorted xenowidgets, function and identity unknown. Take ’em, they’re yours. No manifest, no guarantees, no liability. Contact free trader Mostly Spaceworthy Parts, dock 21-1645, Vervian Orbital.

Wanted: passage off this bloody planet, out-system, out-constellation. Can work passage. S-license only. Drop 4147.

Fuel tech for indefinite hitch. S-license and deuterium handling cert. required. Guild plus four, will issue or continue reflux bond. Apply Flight Admin, free trader Lithium Rendezvous.

WTB: Case/s of Poratzo racemic brandy. Will pay top market. Polarimetry required.

The cheese is coming. Don’t make it wait for you.

Wanted urgently: food supplements for biocode O-LDL-X41A. Contact: I. vilt-rant-sark, cube 5-111, Silver Circle Hostel, Vervian Down.

Currently-female complexity engineer, fourth century, enjoys microgravity ballet, ice geysers, oil surfing. Looking for professional soph, first millennium, similar interests, sense of humor. No ammonia-breathers – sorry, psychoallergy. Drop 1138.

WTB: Authentic stellar noise, uncontaminated. Primary source required; no commercial providers. Es. 1 per kiloblock, subject to certified shielding and statistical analysis.

I need to charter a small courier-class for the Meryn run, one-way, in three months time. Looking for up to five passengers to split the charter fee. Contact nym {0x1024}.

For sale: five 4B08 containers Nineworlds spices, abandoned consignment. Available FAS Vervian Down as of 17th, dockside bidding. 180,000 exval reserve.

Household ecology specialists required, six-month contracts, near orbit. Contact Stationary Station hydroponics department for details.

LOST: Mecharachnid, gold with red stripes, answers to whistle. Phototropic, seeks 6-pole HT outlets when hungry. Last seen near the low-grav methane docks. Leave card with port concierge.

Missed connection: You – an executive being escorted out of the lost sophont office by two engineers from Metaconnectix. Me – the AI running the port memory archives. A virtual lunch sometime?

For Those Following Along At Home: Map!

For those following along with these stories at home (or on holiday, or during your commute, or at work – why not?), I just found some time to clean up one of my rough sketch-maps of what the universe looks like, so thought I’d share it with you.  This is a relatively small part of the whole Associated Worlds (just one of the many linked constellations, which as you may recall in galactographic parlance means “cluster of stars linked with short-range wormholes, linked to other constellations by long-range wormholes), but it is one of the oldest and most important regions: namely, the Imperial Core itself, the 57 stars right at the heart of the web that includes the Empire’s throneworld, the Conclave Drift, and other such significant worlds, trade routes, etc., many of which have been mentioned in one context or another:

Imperial Core

(It’s quite a big image; click to enlarge.)  You’ll also notice that it’s what they call a “link-graph map”, meaning that it’s like a metro map – the links between stars are correct, but their actual relative physical positions are, ah, not necessarily so.  The more so because this is, of course, a 2D projection of 3D space.  This is exactly what you want for most interstellar travel, which is done purely by ‘gate – those who are flying around in relativistic clippers, on the other hand, will need to go buy a real-space starmap instead.  (Available from your local Grand Survey franchise!)