Trope-a-Day: Romanticism Versus Enlightenment

Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Go, Team Enlightenment!

(Were you expecting something else?)

Of course, just phrasing it that way is to greatly understate the influence, even dominance, of technepraxic philosophy in the Worlds in general and the Empire in particular, which riffs on the general theme of science and reason and progress with fluency, fervor, and zeal, with other social forces including – which would be unlikely in an Earth context – religion happily backing it up.

(And which, concomitantly, tends to look at *there’s* approaches to romanticism as a dubious cult of naturalistic fallaciousness and unthought, nihilism as a straight-up Entropy cult, and existentialism and postmodernism as Eupraxic-Collegium-certified examples of good ways to go non-metaphorically insane by the book, and should probably have a “Warning: Contains Toxic Memes” sticker slapped on them.)

To link to and brief comment on various other relevant tropes mentioned on the R v E trope page, starting with the Enlightenment-flavored ones:

  • Art Deco, Crystal Spires and Togas, Raygun Gothic: Ah, yes, the architecture of civilization!
  • Black and White Insanity: Averted, despite being generally considered an Enlightenment trope; the Imperials are pretty damn certain that reason draws some pretty indisputable ethical bright-lines.
  • Creating Life Is Awesome: If we weren’t supposed to play God, why did he leave his toolbox lying around?
  • Doing In the Wizard: Ineffable just means we haven’t effed hard enough yet.
  • Emotions Versus Stoicism
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: Makes the universe go round.
  • Evil Luddite: A stock villain, a stereotypical sinner…
  • For Happiness: In a sense… although technepraxic isn’t particular fond of utilitarianism, either. Slaver philosophy, that, at least once you start applying it non-locally.
  • For Science!
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Averted, obviously.
  • Hard on Soft Science: In a manner of speaking. Specifically, the manner in which the soft sciences tend to use hard methods.
  • Hanlon’s Razor: Any well-studied technepract or Flamic theologian will cut right through the argument and tell you that stupidity, incompetence and ignorance actually are evil, Entropy manifest. Granted, certain kinds of stupidity aren’t strictly speaking your fault, and yet…
  • Harmony Versus Discipline
  • Living Forever is Awesome
  • Order Versus Chaos
  • Nature is Not Nice: Indeed. So we’re gonna fix that.
  • The Needs of the Many: See above comments on utilitarianism. It’s only acceptable to believe this if you are the Few. And in any case, always inferior to Take a Third Option.
  • Science Fiction Versus Fantasy: Well, yes…
  • Science Hero: Hell, yes!
  • Shining City: They compete for the title. And given the aesthetic standards listed up above, it’s literal as well as metaphorical.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: By intent, swings very hard to the idealistic end in a more cynical universe. Then punches grimdark in the face with a space-magic fist of doom. As is right and proper.
  • The Future Will Be Better: Said in future simple certain tense and incorporated right into the Imperial anthem in the segment that sounds like this.

And then the Romantic-flavored ones:

  • Black and White MoralityAs opposed to Black and White Insanity, above. Also note reference to fist of doom.
  • Democracy Is Bad: This one is also played straight, especially by the potential voters. (Who wouldn’t be impressed by the notion of putting a committee of untrained amateurs busy with other things in charge in their own fields, and aren’t impressed with it in this one, either. And that’s even before you get to their opinions on the -cracy bit.)
  • Don’t Think, Feel
  • Honor Before Reason: Fools! Honor is Reason! (It’s what puts the enlightened in enlightened self-interest.)
  • Mad Scientist: One man’s mad scientist is another’s Science Hero.
  • Measuring the Marigolds: Lots of people assume/accuse this with regards to the Imperial/technepractic approach to life. The Imperials, however, have great difficulty understanding how anyone can possibly think that way. How can understanding, seeing more of, the beauties of the universe possibly diminish your sense of wonder?
  • Noble Savage: Ain’t no such thing.

Truth In Nomenclature

damnfool switch (n.): Engineering / aerospace jargon. Damnfool switch is an alternate term for the Master Envelope Interlock Disable switch; i.e., that switch which disables the hardwired safety features preventing the pilot, sailing master, or other operators from commanding maneuvers or equipment operations known to cause damage to, or the potential destruction of, the vehicle. (See also: redlining.)

The damnfool switch acquired its sobriquet due to the near-universal consensus that not only would only a damn fool disable said interlocks in anything other than a dire and imminent emergency, but that most of the people who have disabled them under such circumstances were also damn fools at the time.

idiot light (n.): The warning light, usually located next to the Master Alarm indicator, that indicates that the damnfool switch has been engaged; so named because the illumination of the idiot light indicates that an idiot surely must be in command of the vehicle.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


Been a bit quiet around here for the last few days, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.

That would be the running a big ol’ literary yard sale which I’ve been doing, keeping me away from my writing room all day and leaving me too exhausted to set finger to keyboard in the evening, alas, even just to post a daily trope.

But that’s all over as of twenty minutes from now, and normal service should be resumed as of tomorrow.

Trope-a-Day: Rock Beats Laser

Rock Beats Laser: No, no it doesn’t.  The history of galactic warfare is the history of superior technology consistently crushing inferior technology in Curb-Stomp Battle after Curb-Stomp Battle.  Most of the time, it’s not even sporting.

There are a very few counterexamples brought up, but when examined, those actually have to do with the superior technology being in the hands of absolute idiots, who don’t understand how to use it properly, or the inferior side (not being Medieval Morons, after all), going out and making or acquiring some superior technology and the knowledge to use it – or at least some high-tech mercenaries – of their own their first priority.

But where there’s not some sort of sideways dodge like that involved, Laser always beats Rock.

Gettin’ Clean

The primary hygiene component of a standard shipboard ‘fresher is a cylindrical translucent compartment, resembling a drug capsule set on its end, with a watertight sealing door. At top and bottom, gratings conceal powerful counter-rotating fan/turbine units.

In dynamic mode, these fan/turbines are engaged to blow (at the nominal “top”) and suck (at the nominal “bottom”) a water/air colloid past and over the bather at configurable velocities ranging from strong breeze to hurricane-strength wind, providing the water with a functional simulation of gravitic flow – a “shower”. To conserve water where necessary, many ‘freshers recirculate filtered water while in operation, requiring fresh water input only for the initial fill and the final rinse cycle.

In static mode, the gratings close and the capsule itself fills entirely with water – a microgravity “bath”.

In the former mode, breathing while bathing is, at best, difficult; in the latter, it is downright impossible. Early-model ‘freshers included a built-in breathing mask connected to ship’s life support to ameliorate this problem; in these days of respiratory hemocules which enable the modal transsoph to hold their breath for over an hour, ‘fresher designers tend to assume that this will not be a problem. Those without such hemocules must, therefore, remember to take a portable breather with them when bathing.

– The Starship Handbook, 155th ed.

Trope-a-Day: Robots Enslaving Robots

Robots Enslaving Robots: Rare, but not unknown, especially when the AI code used to build them is based off insufficiently processed sophont brainscans.  Without the same careful design effort that goes into transsophonts being put into making them so, artificial minds are no more immune from irrationality, hypocrisy, and unenlightened self-interest than the natural kind.


The current standard for docking adapters in Imperial space, suitable for both docking and berthing, is defined by IOSS 52114, the Imperial Universal Starship Interface (IUSI).

The standard defines androgynous docking adapters in three standard sizes (IUSI-C/crawlspace, IUSI-P/gangway, and IUSI-F/freight container), in both standard (containing a transfer passage and data interface capability) and extended (containing additionally power and utility transfer connections) formats. These adapters are specifically designed to operate with Imperial-standard airlocks (per IOSS 51008) but can be fitted over any of a wide variety of airlock and/or spacetight door standards.

Standard and extended adapters are mutually compatible, with the redundant connections on the extended adapter fitting into sealing caps on the standard adapter. While adapters of differing sizes cannot directly connect, collapsible connection modules for this purpose are available at many starports or compilable from freely-available recipes.

While IOSS 52114-compliant docking adapters are commonly used in most polities throughout the Worlds, in selected regions and on the fringes non-compliant docking adapters are found in use. For this situation, IOSS 52114 also defines the IUSI-NC universal adapter, consisting of an inflatable tunnel with an IUSI-compatible adapter at one end, and an open end coated with a nanotechnological bonding compound capable of adhering to all commonly used hull materials, releasing upon mesh command without altering the attachment surface. The IUSI-NC can be installed during an extravehicular activity when pressurized transfers are required.

– The Starship Handbook, 155th ed.