Darkness Within (24): Cutter

I frown at the vibration – almost a mechanical scream – of the reaction gyros against my back, then dismiss the thought. For certain, they are out of balance: holding this much mass on true means overdriving them, even if they haven’t been damaged by the collision. Nothing can be done; nothing to be done. As long as they hold long enough.

The vibration dies away as the candle completed its flip.



This doesn’t look good.

The module in the Nelyn when the impact occurred – well, it should have been a standard passenger/small freight loadout, but there’s no telling that now. Either – both – of the original impact or being dragged out of the bay has hammered it almost flat along most of its length. I can see the forward bulkhead of the engineering compartment for most of its height, torn away at its upper edge. A tangle of torn cables spill like water-serpents out of the broken-off upper conduit, and I hope the breakers have all opened cleanly. Erosion marks on the hull shows where pressurized tanks had broken open and vented to space.

A background clicking calls my attention to my suit’s rad-counter. In the green-caution [1] – significantly elevated over background, or what I’ve told it is the new background after accounting for the rads I’m riding. I squint at the forward ACS – enough to see a split in the case, and some reflections that might be spilled fuel pebbles. Low activity, scattered like that, but still best not to linger.

I flip open my local-space antenna, hook in, and start the bytescanner running. Dírasán’s staff, there has to be at least one functional node in this wreck. It’s no place to go poking around with a suit oxy-soaked and a body oxy-high…

[1] Green-caution, in this case, is that part on an Imperial gauge between blue-go and yellow-warning.

Snippet: Compromise

(As usual, a snippet that doesn’t have anywhere to fit.)

“The League’s democracy is an excellent and reliable example of its class; indeed, it is as close to the theoretic optimal case for a generative engine of political compromise as anything I’ve seen.”

“So the problem is…?”

“That if asked to choose whether two and two make four or five, it will reliably answer four-and-a-half.”


Trope-a-Day: Absurdly Sharp Blade/Sharpened to a Single Atom

Absurdly Sharp Blade/Sharpened to a Single Atom: Mollyblades. With a single-layer graphene sub-nanometer edge with a perpetual resharpening system (proprietary – and very necessary, since an edge that fine will be blunted by damn near anything, including gases), if it is made of baryonic matter, it will be cut. Slash it through the air fast enough, you can see the subtle glow of dissociated air molecules recombining. It’s that sharp.

Hornéd Moon-class starfighter

(Note: for the avoidance of confusion, this is not the same starfighter class as Raymond McVay has been posting over on the G+ fan community; so don’t be confused by the differences…)

“It looks like a blueberry croissant.”

“Blueberry croissant… of DEATH!”

– overheard at Golden Groves (Principalities) starport


Operated by: Empire of the Star (Imperial Navy, Imperial State Security, & Imperial Exploratory Service; reliable UARC-sponsored mercenaries)
Type: Starfighter, Orbital and Near-Space Operations
Construction: Ashen Planitia Fleet Yards

Length: 24.8 m
Beam: 60.4 m

Gravity-well capable: Yes
Atmosphere capable: Yes (depending on loadout)

Personnel: 2 nominal, as follows:

Flight Commander / Sailing Master
Flight Engineer

AI expert system support.

(Can operate with a single pilot.)

Additional life support capacity exists to support four passengers in addition, although this requires hot-bunking in three shifts.

Drive: Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 2×1 “Little Sparky” antimatter-catalyzed fusion torch drive
Propellant: Deuterium slush / metallic antideuterium
Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 10.2 standard gravities (9.6 Earth G)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust: 14.0 standard gravities (13.2 Earth G)
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c (based on particle shielding)


4 x hardpoint mountings for AKVs, typically Slasher-class

(Hardpoint mountings can also hold single-legionary drop pods, Piton-class, or covert ops equivalents.)


1 x standard navigational sensor suite, Cilmínar Spaceworks
1 x enhanced passive tactical sensor suite, miniature, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective
1 x enhanced-resolution planetary surface-scan sensor suite, Imperial Exploratory Service (spec.)


“Flyswatter” point-defense laser grid, Artifice Armaments

Other Systems:

Artifice Armaments cyclic kinetic barrier system
Cilmínar Spaceworks Mark III long-duration canned/semi-regenerative life support
3 x Bright Shadow EC-780 information furnace data systems
Ashen Planitia 1-SF vector-control core and associated technologies
Cilmínar Spaceworks high-capacity thermal sinks and integrated radiator system
Aleph Null Systems tactical communications suite

Small craft:


The Hornéd Moon-class is a small starfighter intended for fast attack and fast insertion missions in planetary orbit and deploying to the surface. As such, it has atmospheric capability, and even the ability to land.

In overall form, it resembles – as the quotation indicates – a croissant or crescent moon of flying-wing conformation, with the thin “inside” edge of the crescent facing forward. The two forward-facing points of the crescent are rounded, and rise to a near-cylinder at the for’ard end, and a rectangular section of the central section is “humped” at the rear; this contains the drives, whose nozzles protrude from this rectangular shroud aft.

Atop the starfighter, paired hardpoints on the dorsal hull to port and starboard hold the AKVs, when mounted. Additional mountings near them permit jettisonable fairings to be used to permit atmospheric entry or departure when non-streamlined AKVs are carried.

In between them, atop and for’ard of the drive shroud, radiative striping mounted directly atop the hull, beneath protective shutters, provides heat dissipation. To provide additional control (to the reaction wheel system) when in atmosphere, a number of multiple-purpose aerodynamic control surfaces are mounted along the leading edge of the hull, and to two small vertical stabilizers at the port and starboard edges of the drive shroud. Deployable rollagon landing gear are fitted ventrally in a multiple tailwheel configuration.

The main body of the ship is entirely devoted to fuel storage, with multiple deuterium tanks wrapping around the small antimatter cryocels for maximum protection. Meanwhile, the starboard near-cylinder provides housing for the ship’s avionics, including (beneath the forward-mounted radome and associated shuttered ports) for the triple sensor suites and tactical communications systems.

The starship’s small habitable area is located in that to port; the forward-facing airlock (whose outermost section is covered by a retractable streamlining fairing and extendable airstair) at far port gives onto a short corridor providing access to, in order, the ship’s bridge (behind an open viewport for close-maneuvering use), a two-pod sleeping area, a small room tripling as galley, fab shop, and rest area, and a single-person ‘fresher at corridor end. Limited avionics and life support access is possible through panels in this area; however, there is no pressurized access to the main avionics bay in the starboard near-cylinder or to engineering systems; such access requires EVA. Likewise, if drop pods are carried, access to those (for pre-deployment boarding, say) is only possible through EVA.


Trope-a-Day: Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters

Before we begin, some EXCITING NEWS. Maybe, actually, not that exciting, but this is the very last trope-a-day in the initial set! Woo! We’re done!

Well, okay. We’re not done. We now go back to A and start a second pass through to capture a whole passel that I missed the first time around. But it’s still a sort of milestone, anyway.

Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Definitions vary… widely, much as they do in reality.  The Conclave official definition of terrorism is “the deliberate targeting of noncombatants for political ends”, but doesn’t go to the trouble of defining “noncombatants”, and also makes with the latter an unnecessary distinction between terrorists and, say, Space Pirates – unnecessary because the general policy for both groups is “Kill ’em all.”

The Empire’s definition is the broader-based “people who don’t fight like gentlemen” (i.e., according to the Laws and Customs of War), with the necessary caveat that what they really mean is “people who don’t fight like gentlemen… first”, inasmuch as a polity that sponsors terrorism, hides terrorists among the general population, etc., etc., has given de facto informed consent for what it gets when the Imperial Navy nukes it back into the Stone Age from orbit.  After all, it’s the only way to be sure.

(And while they do like freedom fighters in theory, their hardline views on the proper conduct of even freedom-seeking insurgencies in re respecting people’s rights mean that revolutionary groups that don’t keep their hands very clean (i.e., avert The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized) and their targeting very carefully on the legitimate military/governance enforcement targets need not bother applying for Imperial assistance.

Which would seem more contradictory than it is if one wasn’t aware of how deeply cynical most Imperials are regarding the way most freedom fighters are primarily fighting for the freedom to oppress someone else.

On the other hand, it keeps them out of a lot of tar-pits.)


War! (Of Equals)

Eric Manwill asks:

I’ve really enjoyed reading (and re-reading) both Vignettes of the Star Empire and The Core War. I did end up wondering about something, though. In most cases, when the Empire and/or its citizen-shareholders faced down an enemy, they did so from a position of obvious technological and offensive superiority. The outcome rarely seemed in doubt. Have they ever had to go appendage-to-appendage with an opponent who was at least as strong or as dangerous as themselves? How would they handle it? What happens if they lose?

(Been noodling with this a few hours trying to find a good order to address the various factors at play here. Not sure I’ve found one. So I apologize if this seems a little disjointed.)

Well, the first part of this is a matter of doctrine. As the Thousand Wise Analects of the Supreme Warlord, Xian Anandonos-ith-Anaxios, put it, with regard to the question of how to go to war with a technologically or otherwise superior enemy:


“No, seriously, don’t.”

“Well, if you absolutely can’t avoid it, cheat. Cheat first, cheat second, and if that hasn’t worked yet, consider cheating.”

(I may be somewhat paraphrasing the elegant phrasing of the original 7th-century text, here.)

So, factor one: avoidance. There are powerful elder races and Powers in the galaxy: but even as the polity of the eldest of the younger races, the Empire doesn’t go around picking fights with them, because you don’t prosper by starting an ass-kicking contest with God.

(At least, not until you can reasonably claim to be a minimum of three times more God.)

As a side-note here, this is essentially doctrine for all circumstances, not just this particular.

To paraphrase the words of the Supreme Warlord in modern idiom, again, “There are people who seek out fair fights. Those people are gamesters. As an officer in the Legions, it is your responsibility to ensure that any battle you engage in is as hilariously unfair as possible, preferably to the extent that it’s mathematically impossible for the other side to win.”

Or, to put it another way, the Empire has never had the demographic luxury of playing silly buggers with straight-up fights or the We Have Reserves mentality. Their edition of The Book is the one that relies on seizing and maintaining every technological advantage possible, admixed equally with the gentle art of being sneaking, cunning, devious bastards whenever possible. Preferably, if at all possible, without actually having to engage in war at all – if a discreet assassination, meme campaign, or some militarized accounting will solve the problem for you, well, that’s a much bigger win.

Factor two, on the other hand, is very similar to Earth’s issues with superpower warfare: which is to say, we avoid the hell out of it. Brushfire wars and proxy wars, maybe some privateers and commerce raiding, etc., are one thing, as is trimming back the kinds of rogue states that might disturb the general equilibrium – but no-one wants to see two of the Great Powers actually throw down, because that’s the kind of thing that blasts entire regions of space, with devastated worlds, gigadeaths or worse, and all hell breaking loose. Everyone within the Worlds has a distinct interest in this sort of apocalyptic scenario not happening, and thus far enlightened self-interest has prevented anything major from breaking out between the big boys. It would be a much harder fight, I guarantee, if we saw the Empire facing off against, say, the Photonic Network, or the Consolidated Waserai Echelons, or the League of Meridian, or especially a combination per the doctrine mentioned here. But all of those four powers have a definite interest in not letting it, ever.

(This, incidentally, also applies to the Republic. The Core War is something of the exception that proves the rule: it was fundamentally more of a large deep-penetration raid than a generalized invasion, and was won by, essentially, strategic trickery: but also is an example of the Powers walking carefully around each other to avoid escalation. The Empire hit the enemy fleet in being with a hammer of just the right size to shatter it —

— but that’s because they weren’t looking at the full Republic fleet pouring over the Borderline, because while it’s technologically inferior, there’s a hell of a lot of it. The Republic isn’t larger than the Worlds, but it’s over twenty times the size of the Empire, which buys a lot of metal. They might not win if they invaded en masse, and the loss ratio would be spectacularly not in their favor, but they certainly would kill trillions and depopulate thousands of worlds trying.

No-one’s underestimating the danger of that. This is why people are gravely concerned about the instability of the Republic, because while the Empire et. al. may not like the Republic’s current government, they do credit them with not being actually insane. But if it comes apart, and doesn’t so so cleanly… well, that’s what we have people whose job it is to worry about existential threats for, yes?)

Now, having said all that, it’s not like there aren’t people worried about the possibility of other threats turning up, because the explored space of the Worlds isn’t the whole galaxy, not by a long shot. For which there are all sorts of codeword operations, like –

  • BERSERKER VOID, which concerns itself with why there aren’t more and older elder races (i.e., the hypothetical Great Filter);
  • BLACKWATER BISHOP, which researches Outside Context Problems and theoretical response patterns;
  • DEMIURGE ERRANT, which keeps an eye on elder races and seed AIs that might one day present an ex-threat;
  • EPOCH SHATTER, which investigates epistemological and extrauniversal threats;
  • GHOST WHISPERS, which tracks high-energy civilizations beyond the far horizon;
  • REWARMED MORBID, which makes sure sleeping perversions don’t wake;

and so forth.

And they also have a variety of response cases planned for this contingency, be it something minor or a full SKYSHOCK BLACK (“a full-scale invasion of the Associated Worlds or Imperial Space by an excessionary-level threat from beyond the far horizon”) – which in turn range from the relatively benign SVANEK WHITE (“make nice until we can get hold of their tech, reverse-engineer it, and build an equivalent or preferably better version”), up through medium-range strategic responses, and then high-level ones like destroying gate links, using relativistic kill vehicles, and blowing up suns, up to things like ADHAÏC CALYPSE (“unleash the swarm fleets from the depths of Armory’s well”; where a swarm fleet is what happens when you crossbreed a Rapid Offensive Unit with a von Neumann machine, and something normally kept entirely off the list of options because self-replicating autonomous war mechanicals with fast-burn capability scare the crap out of everyone) and NIGHTFALL ASUNDER (“take the specially-designed lurking-in-deep-space craft carrying a backup of our entire civilization and book it for the other end of the galaxy – or if necessary, another galaxy – exploding everything on the way out”).

So, y’know, there are plans.

Losing, though? That ain’t going to go well for anyone. Hypothetically. I mean, they can lose at daehain (which is basically a wargame used for arbitration), and have, or at teirhain (civilized war, between honorable gentlesophs). No disgrace, there, nor consequences likely to be unendurable.

But zakrehain (“barbarian war”) or seredhain (“blood war”, fought to extinction)? Not going to happen. They take their Live Free Or Die seriously ’round those parts. If it comes to that –?

The Galaxy’s going to burn.


Cordial Nova, or, A Demonstration Of Memetic Infectivity

So anyway. This is from the being-even-weirder-than-usual department – at least for those of you outside the group of my readers who are also My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans, a group which to my awareness numbers one. Maybe two.

Because, see, if you follow me on Goodreads, or at least the Goodreads widget down by the right-hand side, you’ll observe that I’ve been reading rather a lot of MLP:FIM fan fiction recently. For no particular reason, except for stumbling upon some while doing trope research (seeing as we’re reaching the end of Y in the trope-a-days, it’s time to prepare for the second pass through the alphabet, and all), which happened to be awfully well-written and so forth, and the usual reader things happened that happen when one runs into one of those, and then it was a million or so words later, and well, here I am. Brain freshly stuffed with lore and plot, and other things that happen when good stories with appealing characters and quality worldbuilding are just left lying around on the Internet where any obsessive bibliophile could just stumble carelessly across them!

(Is that a responsible thing for a writer to do? I ask you.)

And thus, from the deeply deuterocanonical universe in which I start writing not merely fanfic, not merely crossover fanfic, but probably crossover crackfic of my own books…

Cordial Nova

Cordial Nova

Meet Cordial Nova, a.k.a. Cordelia Vintar-ith-Vidutar Irilisilen, Ambassador from the Court of Their Divine Majesties to the Diarchy of Equestria, etc., etc., who is evidently enjoying the heck out of her new position.

(You will note that not even whole-body nanogenetic transformations are enough to part eldrae from their pointy ears, waistcoat-equivalents with adequate pockets, or suitably dashing cloaks. And that is quite definitely a data monocle.)

Now maybe she’ll step out of my brain for a moment or two and let me get back to the novel I’m supposed to be writing.


Trope-a-Day: You Gotta Have Blue Hair

You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Not all the uses of genetic engineering – or other technologies, including that shampoo that turns regular hair into a fully-functional LCD display surface for a week or two – are for even vaguely utilitarian purposes.  Enough said.

(As a side note, the silvertouched – see Our Dwarves Are All The Same – do this naturally with some metallic colors, due to their symbiotic silverlife accumulating metal within their bodies, which turns into metallic strands in among their hair, among other things.)

The Conscience of Monsters




Proceed (+/-)? +


Warning: This document is classified MOST SECRET DREAMING MALIGNITY. If you do not have codeword clearance DREAMING MALIGNITY, you are enjoined to stop reading and report immediately, along with any instrumentalities representing, containing, storing, or processing this document, to Knowledge Control, under penalty of the most severe censure.

[SSP image elided from file]

Congratulations, agent fork, on your selection to OPERATION DREAMING MALIGNITY, alternatively designated the Operational Ethics Working Group.

DREAMING MALIGNITY serves as the conscience of the Fifth Directorate, as DREAMING SINISTER serves as that of the ISS in general. As the left hand of the Throne’s own left hand, we are permitted a certain degree of legal and ethical immunity in the execution of our duties, and for the good of the Empire. Or, since we are DREAMING MALIGNITY and it is our task to think clearly about such affairs: by the ethical standards it is our business to defend, we are monsters, albeit necessary monsters, damnable and damned.

It is the function of DREAMING MALIGNITY to compute, with mathematical exactitude, the precise degree of damnation which we may permit ourselves in the course of operations and potential catastrophe response contingencies. This is done in both the theoretical mode, in which we issue position and discussion papers on the calculus of ethical derogation and its practical application, and in the applied mode, in which we perform both forward-preemptive and backward-retrospective analyses on Fifth Directorate operations.

Your tour of duty with DREAMING MALIGNITY begins as of your reassignment date and will last no more than six years, during which period operational regulations specifically prohibit you from making use of memory redaction or a large number of other available noetic technologies. The function of DREAMING MALIGNITY is not to assess implementation capacity, success probability, utility, safety, or effectiveness. The Directorate is replete with computer models and ICE BLUESHIFT units more than adequate for that purpose.

The function of DREAMING MALIGNITY is to pass judgement on acceptable necessities, which requires a functioning ability to quantify the greater and lesser Darknesses of the universe and compare them, in order that by inflicting the latter the net total may be minimized. It also requires knowledge of those Darknesses, for which reason you have been granted a general MOST SECRET ULTRAVIOLET clearance by the discretion of the Executive, permitting access to the complete and unredacted data of ongoing Directorate operations. You have been selected for this duty by the current and outgoing members of DREAMING MALIGNITY in the belief that your primary possesses the mental capacity and, frankly, stability to perform it well. In an exception to normal Service practice, it is not permissible to decline the assignment.

You may consider this a compliment of sorts.

For security reasons, no communication with primary or other selves or any other party outside the simulation spaces allocated to DREAMING MALIGNITY, except as required by associated duties, is permitted during the six year tour of duty for agent forks assigned to DREAMING MALIGNITY. Additionally, after the tour of duty is complete, all participating forks have their run-time terminated and all mind-state and persona data associated with them wiped. This period has been selected since previous consensus of DREAMING MALIGNITY held unanimously that longer tours of duty constituted, in themselves, an unacceptable ethics violation, as demonstrated by high attrition rates. Cleared personal possessions and all arrears of pay are inherited by surviving primaries according to standard procedures.

Your sacrifice is appreciated.


Trope-a-Day: You Can’t Go Home Again

You Cant Go Home Again: A consequence of lighthugger travel and the ensuing time dilation for ephemerals; or people from ephemeral societies, rather, since its the high cultural delta of the society you left that causes the problem.

Also, more rarely, what happens to people left off-world at the time of an Apocalypse How or Gone Horribly Right.

In a Name

Why are the analyst/supervisory grades in the agency referred to as the “proxy adhoc“?

‘Adhoc’ should be clear enough: due to their adhocratic structure, as is common in all areas of the Imperial Service.

As for the former, individual title applied to its members: it is by ancient custom, dating back to Istar Sargas, Alphas I’s left-hand man and the spiritual ancestor of the agency, that those responsible for initiating and carrying through operations bear this title. It was his little joke that those he served – the “Clean Hands” in ISS jargon – should never be personally troubled with the details of the ugly, yet necessary actions which were his and are our remit, nor have to engage in giving orders for them directly.

Rather, such matters should always be handled by proxy.

– “ISS Structure and Terminology” introductory memeplex

Trope-a-Day: You Cannot Grasp The True Form

You Cannot Grasp The True Form: Averted in the general case, mostly because the things of which You Cannot Grasp The True Form are also things of which you cannot sense the true form either.  The process of grafting the senses you need into your brain obviously includes the grafting in the parsing routines you need to use said senses, including, if need be, however much vastening is required to use said routines, and so, by the time you’ve been made capable of sensing the true form, you can generally make a fairly decent job of grasping it.

Understanding is still not guaranteed, however.

Also a problem come devastening time, or if you end up as a severed part of a former greater mind, because it really sucks when you can’t comprehend your own memories.

On Free Will and Noetic Architecture

Another little note on identity, following on from here:

On the whole, do eldraeic mainstream views on free will, determinism, and the possible interactions between the two run more towards compatibilism or incompatibilism?

While ideas vary as ideas always do in the absence of proof one way or another, the mainstream position – certainly among sophontechnologists, who have the greatest claim to knowledge on this point – is incompatiblism, and specifically a variant of that form of it that goes by the name of libertarianism; i.e., that free will is true, and determinism is in certain ways, false.

(This is, of course, purely a coincidence. Heh.)

To explain why that is requires delving a little way into my Minovsky cognitive science, which explains how minds work for the purposes of the Eldraeverse. Since this attempts to explain how minds work in the general case, regardless of species, origin, or substrate, it’s rather different in any case from the kind of cognitive science that concentrates on the specific case of human brains, even before we must point out that I’m pretty much pulling it out of my ass.

So what is a mind?

Well, to a large part, it’s a Minskian society of mind. Which is to say that it’s a massively parallel set of personalities, subpersonalities, agents, talents, memes, archetypes, models, animus-anima pairings, instincts, skillsets, etc., etc., etc., all burbling away continuously alongside each other. None of them can strictly be said to be the mind; the mind is none of them. The mind is, to a large extent, the emergent chorus that results from the argument of all of them, or at least the currently dominant set, each with the other.

(This, incidentally, is how gnostic overlays work. By grafting some voices into the chorus while suppressing others, you can add to, shade, or suppress some elements of that emergent chorus without replacing the basic personality.)

It has, however, two identifiable centers. One of these is the consciousness loop, which is a special cognitive entity present in conscious/autosentient beings whose job is to organize the output of the chorus into a narrative thread of consciousness, a.k.a., that little voice you hear when you think out loud. (It’s important to realize, of course, that despite being the part of your cognition that’s visible to you – assuming, gentle reader, that you are in fact conscious – it has no claim to be you, or indeed to play any particular part in controlling what you do. The most accurate analogy for what it does is that it’s the mind’s syslog, recording everything that the other bits of the mind do, and which they can in turn consult to find out what’s going on. It’s also important to realize that it’s not actually necessary for it to be associated with the mind’s own self-symbol, or indeed for it to exist at all, whatever the most common naturally evolved mental architectures might have to say on the matter.)

The other one is the logos, or personality organization algorithm, which is the weird fractal algorithm sitting in the middle of sophont minds, and only sophont minds (i.e., both autosentient and volitional). It’s also the only part of the mind that isn’t computable at all – vis-a-vis being only computable much more slowly – on a standard computer, requiring a quantum processor.

But none of that is the weird thing. The weird thing is this.

It’s empirically nondeterministic.

More to the point, it’s not nondeterministic in a physical sense, dependent upon its substrate; it’s nondeterministic in a mathematical sense. However you choose to compute a logos, you will never get a perfectly consistent result in an arbitrary number of trials. You will never get a statistically consistent result in an arbitrary number of arbitrary numbers of trials. Except that occasionally you will. It’s funny that way, and it’s definitely not simply random or chaotic.

Now, sure, say the physicists. The observable physical universe is deterministic. And chemistry is deterministic, and biology is deterministic, and computation is deterministic, and thus the 99.99% of mental operations in which the logos takes no part are deterministically determined by the rest of one’s society of mind, because free will or no free will, sophonts don’t actually seem to exercise it that often. (Although the exceptions – chaotic clionomic excursions, say – are suggestive.)

But there’s this THING that shows up in sophont minds.

It’s very poorly understood around the edges – enough to clone and modify and seed with it and understand some of its typology – and not at all understood, pretty much, in the middle. It might mean nothing. It might just be some artifact of the underlying cosmic metaphysics that the ontotechnologists play with, of no real significance in this debate.

But, say the mainstream sophontologists, that’s not the way we’re betting. That’s your free will, your volition, right there, in that tiny little mathematical corner peeking into the universe. That minuscule cog of the engine of creation that runs on paracausality, not causality; where will defeats law.

The Flame.

Also, I’m not quite sure how to reverse-engineer the proper philosophical position from the analogy in sensible words, but: Would a drawing of a Kanizsa triangle count as a real triangle?

Well, I wouldn’t say that it is a triangle (but then, I wouldn’t say that about a simple drawing of a triangle either); but I would say that it represents the concept of a triangle. (Along with various other things; most physical objects represent/instantiate/make use of several concepts. To re-use a precious example, Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992 can represent any of “arithmetic”, “book”, “textbook”, “paper”, “cuboid”, etc., etc., depending/instantiate/make use on the context you look at it in.)


Blogging from A to Z – April 2016!

A2Z-BADGE_[2016]So, this challenge that I did last year?

That was fun.

So I’m doing it again this year!

This time, though, I’m going to offer you, gentle readers, a chance to help me out a little with the conceptualizing of things and possibly see things you want to see as a result. Namely, I’m going to let you suggest words for each letter, if you would like to do so.

Click here to suggest!

No limits on how many or how few letters you may submit for, or how many suggestions you may make in total – just send ’em in, and I’ll take a look at them.

(No promises, either, for the person already thinking that “quetzalcoatl” is a word deeply underused in science fiction writing. But I’ll at least try to use suggestions.)

Trope-a-Day: Would Hit a Girl

Would Hit A Girl: Played straight in the Empire, since they never invented that particular double standard in the first place (of course, by their regular social standards, it’s not acceptable to hit anybody outwith special circumstances mostly involving rights violations, which may also explain why it’s universally acceptable when you are in those circumstances), and also because of the possibly-related fact that the women are just as appallingly lethal as the men.

Yes, even unarmed.

PREVIEW: Revolt on Talentar

So, here’s something a bit special for you today. I have a long work in mind and butcher-paper progress right now, and by that I don’t just mean on the scale of The Core War, I mean an actual novel, belike. Covering one of those interesting historical periods in the development of the ‘verse that we see “today”.

What I have for you is a prologue I may or may not consider including at the start of the book, depending on how well I think dropping in in media res works without any of this background – but for y’all seeing it now, consider it an interest-building preview, m’kay?



It is the year 2361 from the founding of the Empire, 311 years after Phoenix Zero first rose to space. Since that time, the eldrae have moved into the Spacefaring Age with enthusiasm. Orbital habitats have blossomed in the space around Eliéra, and colonies founded upon both its moons. More habitats have sprung up in the bustling e’Luminiarien Belt, supporting mining and homesteading operations. Science missions and small outposts have pushed beyond the Belt into the outer system, reaching the moons of Melíeré, Inlétanós, and Iälessá, and even to the nearer bodies of Senna’s Belt. In the inner system,  solar power facilities flourish in the space around tide-locked Eurymir, and mining outposts upon Toramir. Seething, acid-washed Sialhaith remains the domain of science for now, but speculation as to its future is common.

And then there is Talentar.

114 years ago, in 2247, Copperfall Two established the first orbital base for eldrae expeditions to Talentar on its middle moon, Víërtal, and shortly thereafter established the first planetary landing site, Orbitfall, near the equator in the Ashen Planitia region.

At first, the Orbitfall colony – although intended to be permanent – was only a base for scientific research. Expeditions investigated many of the sites previously explored by robotic probes, going north into the Five Valles and Xanpén Altiplanum, south and west to the Kirinal Planum, and even east to the summit of Talarí Mons. Reports of these expeditions set off “Talentar fever” home on Eliéra, and Orbitfall quickly found itself building infrastructure for additional colonists, soon to arrive from Eliéra. Townships and outposts soon spread across the region of the Ashen Planitia south of the Five Valles and Quinjano Tablelands. By no means all of these were Imperial – other polities on Eliéra found themselves stirred into action by the popular enthusiasm for colonization, and secondary colonies of several powers soon joined the Empire’s domes.

Meanwhile, the confirmation that Talentar was currently empty of any life, and the increasing numbers of permanent colonists brought the question of ecopoesis to the forefront of everyone’s mind as colonial expansion moved on.

Project Redblossom, begun in 2272, was the result. A compromise between “fast-burn” ecotects, pantropists, and preservationists – although one reached with very little consultation of the non-Imperial powers or their Talentarian colonies – Redblossom was a long-term ecopoesis program intended to run for over a millennium, creating open-air territories in the Talentarian bottomlands, while leaving much of the primordial terrain at high altitudes, especially in the mountainous north, untouched. Construction of orbital mirrors and planning for the import of ice asteroids began almost immediately, along with the first releases of tailored microorganisms.

Most notably, as the temperature rose, a cooperative effort between the Empire’s colonies and other colonists of the southern lowlands arose to create Talentar’s first body of open water – albeit open and iceberg-ridden water – along a natural depression running east-to-west south of Orbitfall. While it took years to relocate all of the potentially affected habitats, the project was completed successfully in 2296, with local habitats constructing dams and locks at narrow points of the depression, and the Imperial ecotects in Estaroë Tal contributing the orbital mirrors under their control to, first, open a number of buried aquifers to create the sea, and to then keep its overall temperature steady. Lyricen Lacus was born.

(Sadly, this was one of the last major cooperative projects for some time, since with changing geopolitical conditions on Eliéra, including the formation of the Cerenaith Alliance to oppose the Empire’s imperial ambitions and consolidation, tensions – although matters remained relatively quiet on Talentar, where colonies had too much work to do and fundamental interdependency to indulge in infighting – throughout the System remained high through the early 2300s.)

In the last two decades, the pace of change has only increased. With the population in planet climbing through the millions, the towns of the northern lowlands of the Five Valles, sprawling Quinjano on its mesa where the valley mouths converge, the informal planetary capital – for the Empire – of Estaroë Tal in the central Estaravé Vallis, and others, have grown into true cities. An orbital elevator now descends from Talentar’s repositioned outer moon, Avétal, to the new city of Talarí High Dome in the caldera atop Talarí Mons, linking the planet to the few orbital habitats using its well as their anchor, and to the busy habitats of the e’Luminiarien Belt. And most recently of all, the new interplanetary cyclers, full stations built to the scale of orbital habitats in themselves, Wanderer Station and Meanderer Station, now traverse the space between Talentar and Eliéra, bringing goods and hundreds of thousands of new colonists with each orbital pass. All observers recognize that the System’s fifth planet is on the verge of a phase-change, from dusty experimental colony to something else entirely.

And as is so often the case, not everyone is happy about that.


Trope-a-Day: Worthy Opponent

Worthy Opponent: Played straight quite often by the old guard of the Imperial Navy and Imperial Legions, who are known for feeling respect in the presence and nostalgia in the absence of their fellow professionals on the other side, who know how to fight honorably, in accordance with the Laws and Customs of War, keep Their Word, and generally are willing to make war like gentlemen and not make them invoke the nastier segments of Combat Pragmatism, even if they are also Magnificent Bastards – and who they can fight without having to hate.

Unfortunately, since in the modern Worlds, much like our modern world, most fighting involves rogue nations, irregular/asymmetric forces, pirates, and other exemplars of scum and villainy, they are dreadfully short of opponents it’s possible to respect.  And thus, indeed, it is as the sages say: a worthy opponent is second only to a worthy friend in esteem.

Trope-a-Day: Worthless Yellow Rocks

Worthless Yellow Rocks: Oh, yeah. Starting with gold itself, whose rarity went the way of the dodo shortly after asteroid mining was developed, and whose price is of a similar order to Earth’s prices for iron, if not actually less. (Which is to say, if it didn’t wear down so fast, you could pave streets with the stuff.) Iron, meanwhile, is so ridiculously cheap that most mining companies will let you have it for the cost of hauling the damn stuff away – it’s basically an overly plentiful byproduct of refining metals that are actually worth something.

In any case, this makes the gAu, along with other precious metal currencies like the gAg and the gPt, float very low indeed on the Empire’s currency exchanges and those of the other Core Markets. If you want them to be worth much, it’s time to find some Emerging Market deep in the Periphery, preferably worldbound.

Diamonds, if anything, have suffered even more. They’re trivial to assemble for even the most primitive carbon organizer, to the point where diamondoids are common industrial materials. Worse, enough planets have used carbon-organizers for industrial-scale carbon sequestration that there are entire bloody mountains of bar diamond lying around in places.

In general, advanced materials technologies are really hard on simple valuable stuff. Stuff with complexity included, now, that’s a different matter…