Trope-a-Day: Intangibility

Intangibility: Has yet to be successfully developed, for most of the reasons given in the trope page (although I disagree on one major point: intangible objects can and probably should have mass; it’s the electromagnetic interaction they need to be lack in order to properly interpenetrate).

There is one prominent failure mode, however: muon metals, thanks to the Pauli Exclusion Principle, can pass through normal (electron-ic) matter as if it wasn’t even there, since electrons and muons do not mutually exclude. This makes life interesting if the magnetic couple necessary to hold the (muonic, due to the spectacular refractory properties of muon matter) magnetic nozzle of your torch drive in place fails, since you may well see said nozzle fly right through the rest of your ship and indeed you, impelled by the remaining coupled thrust. People tend to find this disturbing.

(Well, briefly, since a mere moment thereafter they tend to be preoccupied with the stern of their starship melting, vaporizing, and exploding, due to the ensuing catastrophic drive containment failure. And yet.)

Darkness Within (26)

Sometimes Athnéël’s random factors are kind.

I grin like an idiot, staring into the hole my obliging drones have cut into the engineering bulkhead. Although, to be fair, that might be the oxy-tox.

It’s there.

It’s intact.

A geodesic sphere wrapped in golden foil, glittering in the weak starlight and its own sputtering photon-discharge glow. No signs of damage, leakage, or short-circuits. It’s a factory-spec, fully-operational, command-ready vector-control core.

And right now, I decide – as I order the drones to execute the clean shutdown-and-remove-for-maintenance procedure, then bring it out to me – it’s the most beautiful, unlikely, ridiculously perfect thing in the whole damned galaxy.

Hells, if I weren’t in this suit and it weren’t dangerous to touch, I’d kiss it. If it gets me out of this, I might anyway.






Oh, you lovely, lovely thing.

All tucked in nicely into the thrust frame, right between the motors. I can’t see you, but I can feel the edge-effect take hold. The drain on the accumulators is more than I’d like, but low enough I can live with it. Heh, for long enough, anyway.

Right then, you drones! Enough gazing! I have Spark One and Spark Another clamp themselves onto the girders that brace my remass tank. I’m not going to get much more thrust out of them, but every little helps. Besides, can’t leave them behind after they might just have saved my ass. That’d be rude.

Checklist. What’s left on the checklist?

Course? The gyros screech again as I fire up the navigation program, spinning slowly to put the Kerjejic stargate prograde. Looks right, close as eyeball can tell, which isn’t very much, but it’s a bit late to start rechecking your numbers now, Isif. Time to see if that cross-training paid off.

Ackles. Ackles? Ackles! Remote access enabled. A fine lot of good it would do, running into some rescuers if they have to shoot the drives off this thing to stop me.

Anything else?

Not that I can think of. Just one last thing to do.

Node<-# lastchance exec.

The acceleration hits at the same time as the drugs, the pain of thrust on bruised bones mingling with the cold numbness of nepenthol. Nothing worth being aware for now – if anything breaks, I’m dead, and with nothing to fix. Or no-one’s searching in the right place and I’m about to turn into a one-woman expedition into the deep black. Either way, I’ll pass on the experience, especially as that’ll save battery and oxygen both.

– Good luck – , my muse whispers in the back of my mind.

I have just enough time to think that she needs it every bit as much as I do before –

Personality execution suspended.


Trope-a-Day: Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering

Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: Literally every vaguely physically plausible version of this has been tried over the eldrae’s history in space. Actually, so have most of the physically implausible ones, but they didn’t work out so well.

Yes, even the ones that sound like the punchlines to off-color jokes.

(As a rule, don’t do this. At worst, your lack of thrust vector control and eyeball navigation will get you very dead. At best, people will point, laugh, and send someone to get the catchpole for the humiliating pulled-back-to-the-wall experience. Either way, it’s not going to be fun.)



PALAXIAS (IMPERIAL CORE) – In the weeks following the suicidal asymmetrist attack on the Numeropolis Drift mathematics research station in the Athra (Ringstars) System – which punctured the habitat hull causing thirty-seven temporary deaths and the permanent deaths of two visiting fellows from the Sseydri Gerontocracy – denials of responsibility have continued to pour in from rogue groups and even a few polities across the Associated Worlds.

These denials have garnered little attention from either the Ministry of State and Outlands or the Admiralty. However, action has been taken on the matter, as a cruiser task group of the Sixth Capital Flotilla, assigned to respond, set sail today from Prime Base, Palaxias. When asked if any details would be made available at this time, the commander of task group GRUMPY TIERCEL, Vice Admiral Nimil Sargas, stated “I’m afraid that our destination and mission orders must remain confidential for the moment. We wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.”


Trope-a-Day: Immortality Inducer

Immortality Inducer: It doesn’t look like much, an immortagen.

Most of the time, it looks like a pint of grayish fluid in a bag, a little saline, with a faint rainbow sheen. Intravenous tubing included. Responsible medical supervision not included.

But inject it into your veins – ah, then the magic happens. It splices, it lyses. It unwraps storage plasmids and writes then into your chromosomes, injects nanocytes into your cells, builds nanogenic artificial lymph glands to keep your system stocked with roaming nanocytes, and even tidies up your gross morphology a bit, especially if you were already old. (While you develop a high fever and a really nasty set of aches and pains for a week or two – the more so the more gross work it has to do. Don’t even ask what your excreta look like.)

And then you live forever.



GLASSY DRIFT, ONDRAMEIR (BANNERS) – Responding to condemnations from the government of the United Viridian States and the Worlds United on Matters of Scientific Concern regarding their publication to the open extranet of nearly one petabyte of confidential scientific data originating within the States’ Secretariat for Military Affairs, the Council for the Promotion of Scientific Irresponsibility today issued a statement reading, in its entirety, as follows:


On being pressed for further comment on the leak itself, Grand Provocateur Iroth Paluna said, “I cannot possibly comment on anything which – while we obviously encourage similar activities, and consider it very well done – no-one to whose local instance I have posed the question has any current knowledge of.”

The Grand Provocateur refrained from giving any further details of her inquiry.


Trope-a-Day: Illegal Religion

Illegal Religion: Well, now. While neither the Fundamental Contract nor the Imperial Charter considers freedom of religion a fundamental right (those would all be much more, um, fundamental), it is, in most ways, a strict subset of those which it does recognize. The latter does, however, mention freedom of philosophy in the clause which establishes the state religion:

The above notwithstanding, the freedom of philosophy for the individual shall not be abridged, save when required for the public safety; and the rights of the citizen-shareholder shall not be diminished or enlarged on any philosophical criterion; save that the doctrines of a philosophy may act as an impairment to citizenship when they are considered antithetical to true allegiance or the principles upon which the Empire is founded, and the Senate and Curia have made such determination.

– the Imperial Charter, Section II, Article VIII

Thus, no religion is illegal in the Empire per se.

That said, the Empire is very keen on certain principles, like the ethical equality of all sophonts, their endowment with certain absolute, inalienable, non-derogable rights, that these rights are to life and property, liberty, and the pursuit of eudaimonia, the obligation of contracts, and so on and so forth, and if your religion, philosophy, or culture differs significantly on that point – especially but not necessarily in praxis1that’s what’ll get it on the list of Proscribed Promulgators of Pernicious Irrationality.

But, y’know, it’s not a per se ban, it’s a because you are by your own choice and statement incapable of undertaking the obligations inherent in Imperial citizen-shareholdership ban, which the Senate and Curia will be kind enough to explain the details of to you in the Take Your Religion/Culture/Philosophy and Shove It Act (As Applicable).

(Life is, by and large, a little more pleasant for those civilized henotheists who have no problem coming to a polite and respectful accommodation between their private beliefs and the public – primarily Flamic – ones. Dogmatic monotheism isn’t illegal, mind – its practice just makes you look like a right dick.)


  1. With regard to the “The religion requires or encourages behavior that is unacceptable to the ruling culture. In this case, the rulers may tolerate abstract belief in the religion as long as the objectionable elements are not practiced.” policy mentioned on the trope page, the Empire has thought about it for all of a second and then dismissed it. Remember that old Minbari saying, “Understanding is not required, only obedience”2? The Imperials prefer to espouse the opposite – especially the acquiescents. All deeds grow from thoughts, after all.
  2. Having that in the doctrines of your religion isn’t banworthy, but it’s certainly a bad sign.

While TV Tropes only asks for Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement where Real Life examples are concerned, I’m going to ask that if anyone has the urge to discuss in the comments, we keep it in the hypothetical mode. I’m sure we can all think of such examples one way or t’other, but I do not want Earthling religious flamewars here, and will be striking down on any that do appear with great vengeance and furious anger, m’kay?

Trope-a-Day: Hyperspeed Ambush

Hyperspeed Ambush: Hard to arrange, given the nature of FTL in the ‘verse; it generally requires that the ambushees be approaching or otherwise close to a stargate while your fleet remains at the other side of the pair, and yet and at the same time has access to real-time information about what the ambushees are doing. And then pull off a perfectly-timed low-drift jump.

It’s been done, but opportunities don’t come up all that often.


“The only well-known foodstuff to come out of the Hope Hegemony is a salty but otherwise tasteless algal nutrient sludge grown in massive, floating offshore farms.

“That citizens of the Hegemony at home universally praise the efficiency and nutritive value of this sludge – while former citizens of the Hegemony abroad tend to rapidly double their mass from eating literally every other available foodstuff to excess – is a one-act summation, dissection, and condemnation of Hegemonic cultural values.

“And a warning that you, if you are unlucky enough to have business there, should always be the one to buy lunch.”

– Vhúfkarr Rúägh, Around the Worlds in Dodeciad Dinners


Trope-a-Day: Hyperspace Is a Scary Place

Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: It’s not so much hyperspace in the SFnal sense as the Void Between the Worlds, but the primordial chaos/cacoastrum of the bulk/plenum is, by and large, not a very scary place, because it invariably kills you before you have the opportunity to be scared. Its adjacentia, however, if anyone ever should manage to punch a hole in the universe, would almost certainly be utterly terrifying – the more so the more you understand about them.

(Well, okay, technically it doesn’t, but that’s because there’s no time outside the universe for there to be any instants of. But the effects of cacoastric exposure – to wit,   dissolution/transformation into slightly less primordial chaos, with cake – amount to much the same thing, even if they happen at sausage squared over blue hadron teapot.)


Trope-a-Day: Human Weapon

Human Weapon: In some ways (and inserting obligatory not-human disclaimer), many members of the sentinel daressef would count, what with the various military-basic upgrades and then the possibility of various special upgrades on top of those. On the other hand, strongly averted because the Imperials are smart enough to treat weapons that are people as people first, in much the same way as they manage to avoid the AI revolution.


TURECH (CYAN STARFIRES) – Panic, uncertainty, and rioting gripped the capital of the Ossoric Nomarchy today after the announcement from the Extranet Security department of Bright Shadow, ICC, that it intended to revoke the certificate authority status of, and thereby all user and device certificates issued by, the Ossoric Data Vizjery. This action comes in response to the reports, issued five hours ago, that the Data Vizjery had retained private-key information for the certificates it issued for monitoring and “national security” purposes.

Rosith 0xEED4221A, Chief Security Officer at Bright Shadow, stated “We regret the necessity of this action, but we have a duty to consider the integrity of the overall extranet security infrastructure. An ISOP certificate is a promise of security, issued over our word. By violating their contractual obligations as a certificate authority, the Data Vizjery has broken that promise to all their customers and those who interacted with them across the extranet – and so has broken our word. And no-one can be permitted to do that without consequence.”

In response to further questioning, ve added that the absolute guarantees expected of a certificate authority were long-standing corporate policy and spelled out explicitly in the CA contract, and further cited the 58th century case of the Isliar Primacy as evidence that the Vizjery could not avoid being aware of the nature of their actions and the consequences of their revelation.

A subsequent announcement from Bright Shadow informing those domiciled in the Nomarchy that the constellation CA would be permitting individual user and device recertification at cost-of-supply, as a temporary emergency measure, and advising the Nomarchy not to interfere with residents seeking such certificates, did little to stem the uncertainty following this decision. Ossoric indices fell an average of 12,432 points on local markets before trading was suspended.

Healthy Exercise

“It’s absolutely true that among certain rock-rat tribes in the outer regions, getting blind drunk and running stark naked through hard vacuum in honor of their culture-hero is a prominent local sport, wager, and test of endurance.

“Of course, it’s also true that isolation-madness, poorly-tuned life support neural syndrome, and taking all the drugs when stationside are the most prominent local medical conditions…”

Question: Plea Bargains

Y’all get May’s first question the day it arrived, ’cause it’s an easy one:

So what would Imperial jurisprudence make of the notion of the plea bargain?

Sarcasm, mostly.

The way the more dyspeptic members of the College of Judicature would put it, there are two possible outcomes from a plea bargain as various polities practice it:

The one is that a guilty soph gets away with the due consequents of a lesser charge instead of the appropriate one, which is obviously contrary to all principles of justice and balance.

The other is that an innocent soph is railroaded into compensation, weregeld, and so forth for fear of the consequences of a greater charge if mistakenly found guilty, or by the cost of mounting a defense. Which is even more contrary to all principles of justice and balance, even if they were to accept the notion that this isn’t the actual intent of the system – namely, to provide cheap and quick “justice theater” in lieu of the more challenging task of providing actual justice – which proposal they find risible on its face.

And to sum up, any “justice system” that incorporates the notion has lost all right to be called such without, at the very least, emphatic sneer quotes, and any misbegotten wight proposing such an abomination in their justice system should rightly call down the wrath of Saravoné Herself, descending from the Twilight City in fire and fury to beat aforesaid wight soundly upside the head with Her scales until all the stupid has left the building.

Cough. Readjust monocle.

…so, um, they don’t care for it much?


Worldbuilding: It’s Always The Twentieth Century In Space

Customs. Customs never change. Even when there is basically no in-universe connection to the customs with which we must comply.

This meta-post is inspired by the current flap (and lies, damned lies, and open letters from activists) about Rebecca Tuvel’s transracialism article and the ensuring prompt outrage excursion from the usual suspects, with particular regard to one piece of the response to the response, which I quote here:

As for the accusation that Tuvel “deadnam[ed] a trans woman,” meaning that she used a pre-transition name that was subsequently changed, the authors conveniently leave out the identity of the trans woman in question: Caitlyn Jenner. Now, deadnaming trans people is, as a default rule every cisgender person should know, rude and offensive, and in extreme cases it can actually be dangerous or deadly (if someone isn’t out as trans in their community). But Jenner herself has not been shy about using her old name or talking about her life as Bruce. It’s nonsensical to claim that once a very famous trans person has exhibited comfort using their old name and talking about their pre-transition life, any reference to that name or life is still verboten. It seriously misses the point of why deadnaming is frowned upon.

It’s also inspired by the foofaraw over one particular character in Mass Effect: Andromeda, Hainly Adams, who in a conversation about why she came to the Andromeda Galaxy and left her old life behind, mentions her trans-ness and her old name from said old life, something that has been widely decried as the most terrible and horrible of bad writing and offense-giving.

Now we get to the worldbuilding part:

In the Eldraeverse, one relevant issue here is the Central Office of Records and Archives, whose Universal Registry of Citizens and Subjects is very keen on nymity, on the grounds that without authentication and identification, it’s really hard to have trust, accountability, and the obligation of contracts. You are uniquely identified by your UCID, to which is linked every name you have ever identified yourself by, along with dates, types, and whether or not it should still be considered current. This is part of the core data in everyone’s Personal File, and as such, a matter of public record, trivial to look up. Trivial in the “you can walk down the street and see everyone’s names in convenient entoptic AR floaters” sense.

Should this be something people *there* have a problem with?

Bear in mind, when you answer, that should you meet three women at the bar, that one of them used to be a man is probably the least surprising metamorphosis to you, inasmuch as the second grew up as a hermaphrodite, corona-dwelling space whale and the third is a cephalopoid battle robot in her day job, who’s only biologically female or for that matter biological while on leave – and neither of the latter is what you might call unusual.

(The bartender is a fragment of a mixed-sex/mixed-gender group mind and the house band is an octopus.)

I submit that it’s a real stretch to imagine that anyone from that cultural background – in which what we would call trans-ness is not in the least dangerous, socially taboo, or even curious in the backwateriest of backwaters – would even invent the concept they’re supposed to be upset by.

(This, incidentally, also probably applies to the Mass Effect: Andromeda case. ME:A takes place in the year 2785, and even if we discount the 600 years it took to reach Andromeda, departed the Milky Way in the year 2185, approximately 265 years downtime from now. Leaving, moreover, a universe in which same-sex relationships are ubiquitous and open xenophilia both passes without comment and forms the basis of award-winning movies.

Now, granted, there’s no actual in-game canon to indicate that anti-transgender prejudice has also died off in the meantime, but given what’s apparently happened to other popular twencen prejudices, assuming it hasn’t in the absence of clear evidence seems to demand a higher burden of proof. It is more consistent with the background, I further submit, to assume that – much like “once the races were much more distinct and people felt that was important” and “once gay people weren’t allowed to marry” – it’s something that college students studying “pre-space Earth history” find weird and kinda incomprehensible.)

All of which is to say, this is projecting the mores and bigotries of now onto the fictional future, and there are two reasons why you should stop it:

One, it’s bad worldbuilding. It’s behavior inconsistent with the setting because its precursors are inconsistent with the setting, and that makes it stand out like a sour note in a flute solo.

And two, it’s bad messaging. Do you really want to send the message that humanity, or sophontkind in general, can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t grow the fuck up and overcome its stupid-ass prejudices? Because by insisting that those prejudices (worst) or the responses to those prejudices (better, but still bad) are faithfully shoehorned into every extrapolated future or conculture, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

In our fictional futures, things are permitted to get better.

No, really.