Trope-a-Day: Mechanical Monster

Mechanical Monster: Ooh, fun-sized mobile agony and death dispensers?

Well, of course. Given the eldraeic low population growth rate and taste for automation, the mechanical monster has been a staple of, ah, “military and security applications” ever since they could build a decent steam engine to power them and a tiny Stannic cogitator brain to run them.

Trope-a-Day: Mechanical Lifeforms

Mechanical Lifeforms: Arguably, digisapiences, although if we’re being picky, they’re information lifeforms that, from time to time, may choose to inhabit mechanical bodies.  Also certain worlds which have been given over to experiments in mechanical ecology, with basic mechanical elements handed a number of simple forms, limited intelligence, and the power to redesign (and randomly “mutate”, within parameters) themselves.  Also also, most classes of von Neumann probe, not least the linelayers that expand the wormhole network.

And if we’re allowing nanocyborgs like Alternity’s mechalus into this category, having merged with machines – heritable nanotechnology – at one point in their history, then by the same criterion, we need to include essentially every Imperial citizen-shareholder.

Crass Commercialism

As it’s nearing the end of the month, that time at which Patreon charges people’s cards, today I deem an excellent day to thank my Patreon patrons for their contributions to my writing time and funds. Thank you, gentlesophs, most kindly; your generosity is most appreciated.

Of course, while I’m doing that, it’s also a good time for me to suggest to everyone else that if you enjoyed it, tip the writer! Apart from ensuring a continuing flow of writings around here and letting you feel good about yourself, it also comes with perks, including but not limited to complimentary copies of e-book collections (one of which is upcoming), and the ability to ask background questions to be answered in the monthly FAQ!

(Speaking of which, eligible folks, if you haven’t got your question(s) in yet for January, now would be a good time!)

Master of the House

She slipped quietly into the busy room through the servitor passage, anonymous in the grey and dark crimson livery of the House staff, and placed the goblet of wine on the arm of the throne at the speaker’s right hand. Not waiting for acknowledgement, she turned to leave, and had made it halfway back to the door before realizing that the court had fallen silent – and that her feet no longer touched the ground.

“My lord genarch? Have –”

“A moment, if you will.” He raised the goblet to his lips, and sipped delicately at the contents.

“Bloodroot… and salts of viridine,” he said, amused. “Quite delightful.”

With a casual twist of the fingers, he spun her in the air to face him.

“Surprised? I am a Sargas, my dear. And I suppose as a guildswoman in good standing, you won’t be inclined to tell me who paid for this attempt?”

The mask of the servitor fell away, and the assassin, resigned, looked out of her eyes. “No, my lord genarch. We kill for the contract; we die for the contract.”

“No matter. Tell my cousin that next time he wishes to attempt a bid for the genarchy, he should not suggest using the 548. I forgive and applaud ambition in the family. I am somewhat less tolerant of wasting fine wine in the process.” Another idle gesture lowered her once more to the floor. “And now you may go. Depart in peace, Uldar of the Lakhasskúël.”

Epistolary Experiment (19/30)



VNS Social Harmony destroyed in antimatter explosion, cause unknown. Admiral Tarqar and his command staff lost. All Guardian Fleet units go to Case Black. Message repeats. VNS Social Harmony destroyed in antimatter explosion, cause unknown. Admiral Tarqar and his command staff lost. All Guardian Fleet units go to Case Black.

– Republic broadcast, received at Tarqil (Crimson Expanse)







“An announcement from the Admiralty today confirmed that the Republic fleet operating in the spinward regions of the Associated Worlds has been successfully pushed back behind the Borderline, with the exception of a small number of reinforced logistics bases in the territorial space of the People’s State of Bantral, currently under investment and reduction by League of Meridian, Nal Kalak, and Santry Technate forces.

“In light of this and the recent destruction by person or persons unknown of the Republic command base, VNS Social Harmony, this state of affairs is expected to continue for some time, and civilian affairs should soon return to status quo ante bellum in the affected areas. Discussions have already begun in the Conclave with regard to reconstruction and future security measures to be taken to prevent any recurrence of this invasion.

“However, all is not yet peaceful in the Worlds. The Nsang First Interactivity and the Quave Republic remain at heightened states of alert, the Qiraf Assembly Navy has been left in disarray, and the Imperial Capital Fleet is moving to address opportunistic Iltine aggression in the Saragós System. Further questions are being raised in the Conclave with regard to the gunnery accident that caused severe damage to the protected planet Ekritat (Uulder Shore).”

“And what of the Republic task force that has, for the moment, disappeared to coreward, accompanied by the Republic’s contribution to the Leviathan Consciousness picket fleet? While their intentions are as yet unknown, they seem unlikely to preserve the peace of the coreward quadrant. The Coreward Fleet has pickets and patrols out searching for them, but so far, with no success.”

“This is Wynerva Peressin, Telememe News, reporting from CS Unconquerable Self.”

FILISSIN, ÓDELN – A cease-fire and staged withdrawal of Republic forces from the system was announced early this morning in Filissin, provisional capital of the Ódeln Temporary Tyrancy. The announcement was received quietly by the local populace, wearied by the ongoing conflict between the forces occupying their world, and even by those making up the Temporary Tyrancy resistance forces. A more enthusiastic reception was given by the local Interstellar Interceders FK cadre, which has been allied with the resistance forces since the aftermath of the invasion.

Sources close to the Tyrancy leadership expressed wary relief at the news, while expressing concern over the fragility of the agreement and the damage done to their world. A particular cause of concern is the as-yet unresolved status of Republic sympathizers and kalatri native to Ódeln, who have been interned by the Tyrancy for their own protection. There is a great deal of anger on Ódeln today, and the future stability of the world will be a difficult balancing act to sustain.”

– the Accord Journal










Trope-a-Day: Mechanical Horse

Mechanical Horse: While recognizing the general principle of the occasional usefulness of walkers, the Imperials generally prefer mechanical spiders, or at least hexapods.  Extra stability is always nice.

(They’re also not generally used for military applications [but see also Spider Tank].  The legs, and the joints in particular, are just too vulnerable.)

Trope-a-Day: Spider Tank

Spider Tank: The classic eight-legged war walker is mostly averted these days, thanks to vector control and modern power reactors letting you build hovering tanks, with rather lower maintenance requirements and fewer vulnerable joints, but it was quite the staple back in the day.  (Not to replace regular tanks, which had large maintenance and vulnerability advantages where the terrain suited them, I hasten to add, but to operate in places where regular tanks couldn’t go.)

And their smaller cousins are still around, as fighting drones, which usually come in swarms of little spidery drones, all fully equipped for wall-climbing, cable-spinning, and duct-navigating.

Technepraxic #2

“Only the smallest, least enlightened minds accept the limits of the currently possible. Indeed, only small minds accept the limits of the possible, where greater minds strive to expand its reach. Some apologist philosophers would advance the claim that a finite mind is inherently limited in its ability to comprehend greater possibilities; to them, I say that only small minds indeed choose to remain bound by their own limitations. The strength of flesh is limited in itself, but the strengths of tools, wealth, and contracts unbind it. How, then, should we accept that the wisdom of flesh is limited?”

– ch. 2, Eternal Progress, Ianthe Claves-ith-Claves Elinaeth

Trope-a-Day: Meat Moss

Meat Moss: A characteristic of the esseli homeworld, and more specifically their cities, starships, and other facilities.

Kind of similar to the way Star Control portrays it, actually.

Kind of similar to the way Star Control portrays it, actually.

See, the esseli are biotech wizards and use it for just about everything they can – although there are many things for which it doesn’t work so well, which is why their ships are cyborgs – a rich, meaty center inside a nice, solid neosteel hull and regular mechanical fusion torch. As such, most of their machinery, their buildings, etc., are essentially organs of one kind or another. (Or several kinds. Check out the heart-valve door in the pic, for example.)

The meat moss, unlike the trope suggests for most of it, does have a purpose, though. It’s the large-scale biotech equivalent of utility tunnels, taking care of distributing raw and processed materials to organs that need them, removing waste, and passing command-and-control signals around – which is to say, it’s a giant plug-in circulatory system and nervous system – complete with interface nodes both sensory and plug-your-exposed-nerve-organ-in-here – laid out on the ground and wrapped in skin.

(As for how it sustains itself? The volatile-digestion organs for ice asteroids and the odd carbonaceous chondrite are over there , the photosynthetic layers are over here, and that odd-looking wind tower yonder is a lung the size of the Empire State building.)

Trope-a-Day: Mechanical Evolution

Mechanical Evolution: True for digital sapiences, with the proviso they note that ‘It is seldom shown as the equivalent of the biological process; rather, the mechanical species will be shown to actively design their own successors, or even “evolve” within their current generation through self-modification. This is similar to real-life design, which is in a sense an evolutionary process; success is defined by market factors, testing and other pressures; successive designs build on those before them and attempt to improve or refine them to better fit the given application.’

The kicker, of course, is that this also how biological evolution works these days: autoevolution by design has essentially replaced natural selection for any species developed enough to manage the trick and not in the grip of a neo-Luddite or naturalistic-fallacy meme complex.

I Now Pronounce You Trust And Trust

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators, to Sens Dal Shen, Kar Riette, and Tir Ledeen, greetings.

With regard to your communication of the 20th inst., we have undertaken a preliminary legal investigation into the commercial contractual arrangements between the specified parties, Sentir Industrial Products and Nen-Palan Environmental Atmospherics.

As you may be aware, within the Imperial jurisdiction, the institution of marriage is for the most part legally undefined and constitutes a subset of contract law, operating within the same boundaries as other contract law. As such, a marriage may be contracted between an arbitrary number of contracting parties, provided that each of those parties is both legally competent, and a legal person. While not a common practice, it should be noted specifically that neither statute nor case law confines marriage contracts or the creation of coadunations marital to natural persons, rather than legal persons. As such, the marriage between the Imperial subsidiaries of the specified corporate parties possesses full legal standing under Imperial law, although the precise interpretation of the marital contract has not yet been tested sub judice.

However, inasmuch as any judicial interpretation of this contract will take place under the general principle el ulé an-úvaer an-jílquelár, what is not prohibited is permitted, and inasmuch as the Curial courts have, as a rule, decided in favor of independent legal innovations that do not contradict standing law, we would expect any such interpretation to uphold the fundamental validity of the contract and its distinction in law from a merger of coadunations.

As such, and in the light of a general climate that has proved highly unsympathetic to attempted extra-antitrust actions of this kind in the past, we would not recommend that you or your clients proceed with litigation to such effect at this time.

Lorcis Quintus Vianath-ith-Vianne, obl.

for and on behalf of

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators

Things That Make Things

Since we’ve just passed the Matter Replicator trope, and since it may be relevant to an upcoming FAQ question, I thought I’d throw out some definitions relating to such things that may make things clear. Well, clearer.

nanofac is the basis of nanofacturing technology. Think of it as essentially a 3D printer which can handle arbitrary molecular components with single-atom resolution. (It doesn’t have to: a lot of the time it can simply place pre-assembled multi-atom components picked out of its feed, but the point is that it can.) While it can use free-floating assembler nanites as part of its operation, the vast majority of the work is done in a supercooled vacuum chamber by an array of distant descendants of the atomic force microscope. The materials supply it needs is fed to it as a suspension of molecular components called nanoslurry available in a variety of forms, supplied as a utility from a central nanosource that makes the stuff from raw materials and recycles the return feed of all the stuff that the nanofacs don’t use.

Most important to note is that a nanofac is not a discrete thing you can buy itself – it’s just the term for the central construction array as a module.

What you can buy, on the other hand, is a cornucopia, which is a general-purpose construction device that comes in sizes ranging from desktop-printer-sized (the ubiquitous nanoforge) to dishwasher/fridge size. These are common household, etc., appliances, packaged as vending machines by companies like Valuematic Vending, and are basically a user interface/power supply/etc. wrapped around an appropriate nanofac. They can make pretty much anything you can describe in a recipe, or conceptual seed, to give it its formal name, although if it’s something too big to fit into its vacuum chamber what you’ll get is a heap of parts over several runs which you have to assemble manually following the v-tags after you get them out. (They may or may not bond permanently once you do this.)

specialized cornucopia, on the other hand, is a fabber. These exist because in nanofacturing, there’s essentially a scale with versatility at one end and efficiency at the other. A cornucopia is a magical device that can make everything, but isn’t the fastest or most efficient way to make anything in particular.

So there are fabbers, which trade off that ability for greater speed and efficiency and customized user-friendliness in doing one particular thing. So while you want a cornucopia available to you, certainly, what you want in your wardrobe is a clothing fabber, in your kitchen is a food fabber, in your sickbay is a pharmafabber, in your wet bar is a cocktail fabber, etc., etc.

And finally, it’s worth noting that assembling things atom by atom, or molecule by molecule, is not actually a terribly efficient way to do things in the first place. It works fine for small objects, sure, where the convenience outweighs the inefficiency, and especially for those made out of lots of tiny components with fine detail to assemble. But large things, especially large things with large areas of relatively homogeneous structure, you really don’t want to make that way.

Which is where autofacs come in. An autofac is a automated assembly system that contains an array of nanofacs for making individual detailed components, but which also contains lathes and drills and presses and kilns and extruders and all manner of other macroscale manufacturing-process equipment, along with plenty of motile robots whose job is to do the assembly of all the different outputs of these processes into the end product. (So they take in nanoslurry for the ‘facs, but also metal ingots, ceramic powder, plastic granules, etc., etc., as their raw materials.)

These vary in size from the relatively modest autofacs you’ll find in most neighborhoods, belonging to companies like Ubiquifac, whose job is to construct large goods people have ordered on-line at a point relatively local to them for immediate delivery, up through larger factories – such as the ones that take nanoslurry and sheet metal in at one end and have finished vehicles drive out the other – all the way to truly giant many-square-miles really-can-build-anything complexes like the Hive.

Trope-a-Day: Mayfly December Romance

Mayfly December Romance: Mostly averted; in two different ways.  The happy one is that immortagens are now available for just about every species, thus avoiding the tragedy of death.  The less happy one is that… well, while one may well be able to love someone who is doomed to die, inevitably, it’s much harder to go on loving someone who is determined to mortal themselves to death when the price of immortality is a couple of thousand local currency units and a month or so of post-injection fever and chills.

People who prefer suicide to such a relatively low cost of staying with you are not, I submit, very lovable.


Additionally, based on expressions of interest I’ve received, I’m going to open up the floor for questions from my Patreon patrons – one per $ per month – as suggested here, and now added to the Patreon rewards list.

So! Let’s start while the iron is hot. It’s January, and that means y’all who have pledged $1/mo. or more have a week to get your January questions in, if you have ’em, and the answers will be FAQed come February 1.

(And if you have questions and aren’t currently a patron, why not become one?)

Trope-a-Day: Matter Replicator

Matter Replicator: The cornucopia machine or autofac, which can build matter into pretty much any object that you want and have – or can write – a recipe for.

Sadly, they are required to obey the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of mass-energy.  They also tend to incorporate – especially in larger models designed to build larger objects – arrays of specialized nanofactories and macro-scale tools, and require plenty of energy and specialized appropriate feedstocks for whatever it is you want them to build (so mining, refining, recycling, bactries, and the rest of the industrial supply chain haven’t gone away quite yet).  You can make them increasingly general-purpose in these areas at the cost of greater inefficiency – field autofacs are a lot less elegant and more energy-hungry and expensive to run than standard household models.

Living things generally have to be grown in a medical vat instead; simply because most of them tend to die when only half-printed.  Yes, this is exactly as gross as it sounds.  (Also, some dead organic matter – well, let me put it this way.  While you can print up a steak in an autofac, steak is still made in carniculture vats, because first, self-replicating steak is cheaper, and second, it gets boring eating the exact same steak hundreds or thousands of times.  Similar although aesthetic considerations are why vatwood is generally preferred to directly replicated wood – although vatwood planks are seen as input to larger autofacs.)

Nonetheless, they’re more than good enough for post-material scarcity purposes.

Trope Me Definitely

So, uh, despite what I said the other day, I went ahead and set a TV Tropes page up for the Eldraeverse.

Y’see, what I figure is that the hardest part in creating such a thing is actually creating the page. That’s a fair bit of work, so it has a high bar to getting started. Actually putting tropes on it once it exists, now that’s much easier. So by doing the initial setup and giving it a decent set of starting tropes, I can catalyze things.

I still don’t intend to trope everything myself, though, or even anything close to it. That way lies madness and site abuse.

But if it’s made it easier for y’all in the fan community to collect these things, jolly good.

Trope-a-Day: Matriarchy

Matriarchy: There are several of these in the Associated Worlds in general (although, note, that polities ruled by the female sex in general don’t necessarily carry the implications that they do for Terrans.  Some species, for example, have only one sex being sophont, rendering them all patriarchies or matriarchies or neutrarchies, etc., as applicable).  Even some Imperial constituent nations are; Veranthyr, for example, has a ruling Queen and requires that all her cabinet positions are also filled by women, although the country as a whole is hardly a with-a-capital-M matriarchy in the archy-perjorative sense.

On the whole, they turn out to be no better or worse than most other governance forms, or at least, that’s not the aspect of the governance form to look at to predict how good or how awful it’s going to be.

Epistolary Experiment (18/20)








<Calis Corith> We’re getting a lot of pressure in the Conclave to divert forces to kick the Republican remnants out of the Bantine systems. Opinions?

<Releq Claves-ith-Lelad> We could do it with a pair of task forces. Easy enough.

<Calis Corith> Do we want to?

<Istry 0x9987DCBD> For goodwill, perhaps?

<Athenril Vianath> From the Bants!?

<Istry 0x9987DCBD> I was thinking more of the rest of the Accord.

<Athenril Vianath> Calis, most of this pressure is coming from the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms and the Socionovists, right?

<Calis Corith> Most. Not all, but most.

<Athenril Vianath> So they’re going to find reasons to oppose whatever we do. I propose we avoid getting stuck in that tar-pit and ask some of our lesser allies with smaller logistic spheres to tackle the job, through back-channels. What’s left of the Bantine authorities won’t throw a fit, it’ll disarm the Socionovists’ main reason for getting in the way, and the job will still get done.

<Istry 0x9987DCDB> And the credit goes elsewhere.

<Athenril Vianath> How much do we care?

<Istry 0x9987DCDB> It’s convenient when people owe us favors. But it does seem the best option on the table right now. Affirm.

<Releq Claves-ith-Lelad> Affirm.

<Calis Corith> Affirm, but get your meme-wranglers figuring out the best way I can sell this.

– from the Ministry of State and Outlands internal policy memeweave

From: Adm. [blank], Imperial Naval Intelligence
To: Imogen Andracanth, VP Research, Ring Dynamics
Subject: UNSEEN KEY; info req.

Nothing in current records.

We have some partial matches in found londian historical records that would correspond to a system perhaps eighty-four light-orbits from Vonis Prime, plus or minus twenty for parallax, but they’re pre-nomadic period, from around minus 100,000 – pre-Imperial, pre-Worlds, pre-Republic. It doesn’t seem relevant.

“…we’ve lost most of the outlying towns on Ódeln at this point to guerillas and local militia forces, backed up by the local mercenary cadre. We’re still holding the capital and the starport at this time, but we’re bottled up there by entrenched forces, and our network support is dubious at best. I repeat: I need clearance to use my orbital fire support, and I need reinforcements. Without them, I won’t be able to hold the planet. This is…”

– Republic communications intercept, received (and subsequently jammed)
by Interstellar Interceders forces in Ódeln System

“Admiral, along the rimward routes out of Uinul System, in the last month alone I’ve lost half a dozen fuel tankers, eight other freighters, three personnel transports, and their crews, and that’s just those specifically assigned to your logistics! I am losing ships, I am losing men, and the Fleet isn’t doing a damned thing about it.

Find these commerce-raiding brigands and stop them. My people are being slaughtered trying to keep up your optempo, and we cannot sustain these losses, not for nothing. If we don’t get some Fleet support, I’m taking this to Admiral Sijntar and shutting down these branch routes.”

“Commodore Lath Iqevar, Logistics Command”

– Republic communications intercept, received at Tarqil (Crimson Expanse)

From: Lt. Halet Makeer, VNS Social Harmony
To: Simichie Anant
Subject: Re: Homemade cookies!

The cookies were delicious. I’ll have finished them all soon.

Trope Me Maybe?

A commenter over on Google+ suggests that the issues mentioned in my last post could also be satisfied by an Eldraeverse TV Tropes page.

And, well, I certainly can’t argue against that. But while technically creators are allowed to trope their own works, I’m not terribly comfortable with doing that, myself. I am, after all, a great sea of pro-me bias… and also, in all probability, unduly influenced by my trope-a-day series, which while it uses TV Tropes as a worldbuilding tool, does not on the whole do so in TV Tropes compatible format.

Or, to put it another way, I can’t help but think such a page should be for the tropes y’all find in my works, not for the tropes I try to design in.

But, hey, consider this an open invitation for any tropers among my readers to set to and create such a thing! I have faith that such an effort would be appreciated greatly by both me and the general community.

Future Directions

I recently received an e-mail from a reader making the very good point that this ‘verse is getting somewhat impenetrable for the newcomer – at least, without going on an absolutely huge archive binge. (And, let’s face it, so long as I’m primarily sticking here to the nanofic format, it’s not really all that compatible with filling in all the useful background that one might want to have for each piece in, well, a fairly small piece.)

A suggestion for dealing with that was an “Eldraewiki”, as it were, with the background information that readers may need.

Now, I’m not opposed to such a thing in principle, but, well, background-information-wise, I have something like a 10,000 page internal reference wiki here, but it’s not what you might call suitable for publication, being absolutely chock-full of spoilers, things that would be spoilers if I knew what I was going to do with them in the future yet, semi-canonical information, etc., etc., and other things that would be, well, problematic. And, frankly, while it might be possible to sort through it to devise an appropriate subset to release, it’s a huge enough job that I wouldn’t have any writing time for the foreseeable future.

And the fiction has to come first, and all that.

But enough of what I can’t do. Let’s talk about what I can do.

First, I can create a Wikia wiki for the Eldraeverse, sure enough, but while I’ll certainly post stuff there from time to time, if I do set one up, most of the actual work of filling it out is going to be left up to you, the readers, much like the Wikias for pretty much every other book/series/game/movie out there. A fan wikia, if you will.

Second, I have no objection to answering questions on background – the only problem, of course, being that I can’t answer an unlimited number of questions on background. What I’m thinking of here is essentially adding to the other things my Patreon subscribers (a writer having to eat, after all) get the right and privilege of asking those questions, say one per $ per month, whose answers are posted monthly and collected on a FAQ page on this blog. (So even if you can’t patronize me, you still get to read the answers; you just don’t get to steer the questioning. 🙂 )

At the moment, of course, this is all speculative, but I thought I’d throw these notions out there to try and gauge interest and see if there are any other ideas out there that I should maybe be considering. If you have any, or would be interested in either of the above, please leave me a comment or fill in my contact form, and let me know.