Also, Mind the Gap

spin-stop: A stop on a non-axial habitat (or occasionally starship) internal transit line for access to a spin gravity area.

While in many cases the most convenient way to allow access to a gravity wheel or rotating segment within an otherwise non-rotating habitat is an axial transit line (or, in small examples, floatway), this is not universally the case.

In such examples, the spin-stop, a loop of track parallel to the spin section, serves to provide access. As the name suggests, rather than the train or transpod stopping at the station, as it would elsewhere, it simply comes to a stop relative to the spin, having entered the loop in synchronization with the rotating station. That is to say, while at a spin-stop, the vehicle is actually continuing to move at the tangential velocity of the spin section; typically, dozens to hundreds of miles per hour.

This is imperceptible to those boarding or departing the vehicle, of course, since the relative motion is the relevant motion. However, passengers unfamiliar with spin-stops should be aware that in many designs the vehicle cannot hold its departure for errant passengers, and the consequence of not standing clear of the closing doors are inevitably rather messy.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

With Care

From Gateway Station Operations to all within, greeting.

As you may be aware, Gateway Station is a low-orbit station, which consequently suffers from a minuscule degree of drag from Eliéra’s outer atmosphere, necessitating periodic corrections in our orbit. The day after tomorrow (Yrnaes 21st) is the scheduled date for this annual orbital maintenance.

To minimize undesirable gravity effects, we have elected to make a six-minute prograde burn symmetrical around the moment of apoapsis, Courtly falling 17:22. While this should limit the resultant peak acceleration to well below one one-hundredth of a standard gravity, we nonetheless recommend that all loose and/or fragile objects be secured for the duration of the burn, and plumbing services also will be secured for burn as per standard procedures (please consult your station infrastructure guide if additional details are required).

We anticipate no requirement to undock any vessels berthed here during the burn, although for convenience, docking and undocking during the burn is restricted to emergencies only.

Thank you for your cooperation, and our apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Galár Valarian Indoricios

for and on behalf of

Gateway Station Operations

Gravy

“Among things that you all can be thankful for is that gravitic weapons are of almost no practical use. Partly this is because there is very little training we can give you in dealing with the resulting casualties – due to the low survival rate – but mostly because the results are ugly even by time-of-war standards.

“Gravitic shear, first, ripping a ship in twain with an opposed tractor and pressor, is probably the least bad in damage, but the worst to attend. At least that one might have survivors in the remaining halves, albeit survivors who’ve broken almost every bone in their bodies from the abrupt acceleration, but anything near the shear line will be torn apart. Worst, though, is anyone caught in the fringe effect – that bends and stretches flesh in all the wrong ways. Sophs who’ve been twisted into abstract artwork, and some of them even live through it.

“Then there’s gravitic vibration. ‘Rattling’. Leaves no bodies to bury, because it leaves no bodies. The effects are similar to an inertial damper failure, leaving you with a ship full of meat-slurry. No call for medical treatment; cleaning up after this just needs a hose, a mop, and a well-callused soul.

“And lastly there’s gravitic implosion. There are no slides for this one. No-one, to my knowledge, has ever used a gravitic imploder in combat, but if you insist upon knowing, you can find images of the tests on the IN med-weave. I do not recommend doing so. Sphagettification should have stayed beneath the event horizons where we found it…”

– Surgeon-Commander Vinea Allatrian-ith-Aplan,
lecture at the Faculty of Medicine, Imperial War College

Natural Law Enforcement

Opposite the Core, seven hexterranes of Coricál Ailék are occupied by the <Crimson Opalescent Arpeggio in F> Emergency Reality Enforcement Facility. A complex constructed in response to the ongoing work of OPERATION VACUUM AVALANCHE regarding physics-based threats and SKYSHOCK VOID/SKYSHOCK YELLOW scenarios, the EREF is a system engineered around 36 of the largest selective ontology evocation systems thus far constructed, configured for coordinated operation.

In concept, the EREF is designed to use the stored power of the Coricál Cirys swarm to reinforce the laws of nature as they currently stand throughout a large bubble, encompassing most of Imperial space. This is intended as a protection against major false vacuum collapses or other large-scale reconfigurations; effectively, preserving the cosmic status quo within a de facto cystal universe.

Unfortunately, it has been deemed inadvisable to test the EREF. While in theory the activation of the facility within the status universe should have no discernable effect – as determined by small-scale experiment – even the slight possibility of miscalibrations or unknown unknowns is considered too hazardous for a large-scale deployment.

– Emergency Management Authority: Index of Facilities

Self-Crossover: Wyrm

Yes, I’m writing crossover fanfic of my own universe again.

(Obviously not canon.)

You can blame my readers over on the Discord for this, for recommending Wormhttps://parahumans.wordpress.com/ – to me, which led to the ever-expanding universe of other Worm alt-universe and crossover fics, which now I’ve got around to reading them, reminded me of the discussion on said Discord about this particular crossover, and well, here we are, with me once again writing down things to get ’em out of my head.

Disclaimer: Worm belongs to John “Wildbow” McCrae, and I’m just playing in his sandbox.

Further disclaimer: I already have one crossover self-fanfic that I’m working on, by which I mean shamefully neglecting, so it is very unlikely that I will be continuing this one, certainly not any time soon.

So if someone else would like to pick it up, feel free to let me know and I can provide the details of such outlines as I have, plus appropriate info on powers, other changes, universe-interactions, and bullshit hax.


OPERATION COSMIC CRUSTACEAN1
EXPERIMENTAL STATION ANNELIDA
!! UNIVERSE CLUSTER 6
!! WORLD-LINE PROBE 14
DOMAIN DRILL IN POSITION
COMMENCE INTROITUS

FOUND/BEGIN/JOIN

PROMISES/OFFER/POWER/AGREEMENT?

BARNACLE DETECTED. INITIATE ONTOREPULSION.

INTERFERENCE/INTERVENTION/REJECTION?

INCREASE ONTOPATHY.

!PAIN/AVERSION/FLIGHT!

CONTINUE INTROITUS. INVESTIGATE ATTACHMENT.


Somewhere an an immeasurable infinity, among the raging storm of primordial chaos, a tiny bubble hung, its membrane pressed up against – although not intersecting with – one much vaster. A careful observer, could one have survived outside a friendly universe, would have noticed too the tiny thread trailing off from the bubble into the distance.

Within the bubble, on the other hand, a girl floated in water that was not water, among stars that were not stars, and was thrice confused. Firstly, by where she was, which was clearly not the inside of her school locker; secondly, by the fact of her cleanliness, her body and clothing being entirely free of filth, rotting things, and crawling insects; but thirdly, and by far the most, by how quickly the horror, terror, and panic she had felt a moment ago had become relaxation and a comfortable lassitude.

TAYLOR ANNE HEBERT.

The voice – or voices, rather, since it echoed around itself like a vast chorus – came from nowhere, but filled the tiny bubble. She was briefly astonished to still be calm, before asking the obvious questions.

“Who are you? Where am I?”

WE ARE THE ELDRAEIC TRANSCEND, AN EXTRAUNIVERSAL CIVILIZATION OF SOME SMALL ADVANCEMENT. THE UNIVERSE-CYST YOU ARE CURRENTLY WITHIN IS A BASE FOR OUR BRANE EXPLORATION PROGRAM.

Well, she thought, that answers everything. Before the next equally obvious question occurred to her:

“Are – are you the one giving capes their powers?”

WE ARE NOT. BUT WE HAVE AN OFFER FOR YOU. YOUR UNIVERSE IS SURROUNDED BY ENTITIES UNKNOWN TO US, WHICH WE CALL BARNACLES2. THESE MAY BE THE SOURCE OF THE “POWERS” TO WHICH YOU REFER.

WE DESIRE KNOWLEDGE OF THESE ENTITIES, WHICH YOU WILL OBTAIN. IN EXCHANGE, WE OFFER YOU THE BLESSINGS WROUGHT BY OUR CHILDREN, AND ADVICE ON THEIR USE. WHILE NOT “POWERS” AS YOUR THOUGHTS DESCRIBE THEM, THEY ARE SIGNIFICANTLY EMPOWERING.

“Why me?”

BECAUSE YOU ARE STRONG. AND WE BELIEVE/PREDICT/COMPUTE THAT YOU WILL USE THESE WELL.

Even through the unnatural calm, and a rising sense of unreality about the whole situation, the last year-and-a-half of memories stung. She opened her mouth to disagree —

IN THIS, YOU ARE INCORRECT. YOU HAVE ENDURED IN THE FACE OF BETRAYAL, AND CONTINUE TO ENDURE, WHEN LESSER MINDS WOULD NOT.

WHILE WE UNDERSTAND YOUR SUFFERING, WE DO NOT PROPERLY COMPREHEND IT. NONETHELESS, IT OFFENDS US. THAT OUR PAYMENT WILL ENABLE THIS, AND THE FLAWS OF THE WORLD WHICH ENABLE IT, TO BE CORRECTED IS SOMETHING WHICH WE FIND PLEASING AND DESIRABLE.

The offer sounded too good to be true. If she wasn’t dreaming. Or insane, or dying, or…

But when it came down to it, could it make her life worse?

“Then… yes.”

THUS IS OUR CONTRACT WRITTEN. THUS IS AGREEMENT MADE.

BRING ORDER TO A WORLD IN CHAOS.

BRING PROGRESS TO A WORLD IN NEED.

BRING LIBERTY TO A WORLD OPPRESSED.

AND… DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY YOURSELF ALONG THE WAY.


Outside the locker, three girls laughed. “She’s gone quiet in there,” Madison spoke up. “Let’s go before someone catches us.”

“She’s probably just fainted,” Sophia sneered. “But, yeah, let’s leave Hebert to the -” She paused, as the vile stench held back by the locker’s plugged-up vents became much more apparent, and metal shards began dropping out of the air3, one landing on her nose. “Wh -“

None of them remembered the details of what happened next. The explosion which shattered the locker into confetti, twisted those near it into abstract sculptures, and blew the upper part of the opposite wall and much of the ceiling outward in a shower of debris made little impression on them, even as it tossed them into an undignified, battered, bruised, and cut-up heap against the remaining wall, and rained down filth atop them.

But what Emma Barnes, Sophia Hess, and Madison Clements would remember for the rest of their lives was the tall figure wrapped in blue-silver light that drifted past them, eyes closed, and face set in a slight smile of perfect serenity.


  1. Setting ‘verse-side: at least a millennium, maybe more, after the current ‘verse date, to explain exactly where the paracosmic multiverse-wrangling came from.
  2. I.e., what Shards look like when you’re seeing the universe from the outside and haven’t carried out a thorough investigation; some sort of clingy cosmic parasite that seems to be focused on particular loci within the universe in question.
  3. When you have a four-dimensional explosion4, some of the debris starts falling before the blast.
  4. Well, technically, an eversion, but details.

Senatorial Privilege

While not its long-disused official name, the Defenestrative Balcony is the upper of the two observation galleries looking down upon the Hall of Convocation, surrounding the roof’s central oculus. Conveniently for anyone who wishes to place its nickname into effect, the outer ring of windows open onto an exterior walkway surrounding the peak of the dome, and its slope is shallow enough at this point that one thrown off it faces a long and rather uncomfortable, but not terminal, slide to the ground.

(Those thrown off the interior gallery into the Hall, however, will not be so lucky, and the responsible party will undoubtedly face the censure of the Senate along with whatever other pains and penalties may apply.)

Should one be considering practicing the defenestrative arts unofficially, one should be aware that the Guardians of the Senate post guards here whenever the Senate is in session, since the Defenestrative Gallery is believed to be particularly appealing to unsanctioned assassins and their clockbows.

– Orbiting the Center, Lyrisia Solanel-ith-Solanel

Subtext

“Barbarians, we say? Yes, and we stand by it.

“What such peoples as yours tend to describe as the appurtenances of civilization – your taxation, your conscription, your elaborately-justified coercive governments – are, in truth, shibboleths of your abject failure to be civilized peoples.

“A gentlesoph of some small wisdom understands the virtue and advantage of cooperation for mutual benefit, and thus obligates himself so to do by his own choice and unforced will. Those who must be compelled to ‘cooperate’ by threat and the lash thus demonstrate that they are not the one, and have not the other – and woe to their societies when the threat is removed, and the inner savage once again surfaces.

“Barbarians we name you; until you find your way to the Harmonious Path, barbarians ye remain; and never shall barbarian feet tread the sacred precincts of these blessed lands, these lands exalted in harmony, this Empire!”

– Silvia Oricalcios
Universal Indifference Society
“Address to the Benighted Dwellers of the Outer Worlds”

Independent Worlds Router

“Oh, climb down off it, Silvia. What they can’t see, they won’t learn from.”

– Corval Ellestrion
Society of the Golden Chain
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Now, come, both of you. It does not befit us to argue in front of the children.”

– Varikani Tsurilen
Core Worlds Committee for the Promulgation of Social Virtue and Elegance
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Could any of you possibly be more condescending?”

– Vintor ru’Kraden
citizen, Nineworlds of Isar,
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

“Yes, I truly believe we could.”

– Varikani Tsurilen
Core Worlds Committee for the Promulgation of Social Virtue and Elegance
letters to the editor
Independent Worlds Router

Grave-itas

The graveyard was as silent as its contents might suggest. The planet’s large moon shone down on the cracked marble of headstones and memorials, the spidery vines climbing them from among the grass… and the distortion in the air flattening said grass, from which a low and discontented muttering could be heard.

Perhaps it would be better to say that it was almost as silent as the grave.

I’m quite certain, cousin, one of the figures beneath the distortion – revealed on closer inspection to be a tent-sized chameleon cloak – farspoke the other, that ere we set out upon this mission, I spoke to you quite eloquently upon the need for stealth, inasmuch as while the governance of this benighted world tolerates us violating their taboos against molesting the dead, they do so only insofar as we take reasonable care to make sure no-one knows about it. And thus, I am bound to remind you at this juncture, that this in which you are currently engaged? Is the opposite of stealthy.

It’s bloody freezing out here, the other replied, although shifting to verbal silence, and you’re not the one of us hip-deep in lich-yard mud –

Adept’s privilege,’prentice mine, adept’s privilege. It’s hard to carry out an exhumation without a certain amount of hume being involved.

It’s just… not what I expected.

Let me guess. You were a fan of Alves Sjarra: Soul Hunter.

The silence spoke for itself.

Ah, yes. Well, when you reach my exalted reputation with the company, you might occasionally get a sniff of one of those missions rich in cunning plans, deeds of derring-do, and opportunities to show off just how good you are. In the meantime, welcome to the glamorous other 90% of the soul-repo business. Backwater planets and mud are our bread and butter.

A mental sigh competed in the aether with a mental smirk.

You’re not the first with that idea. I can vouch for that… and at least these missions involve a lot less being shot at. Now, make sure your nose plugs are in tight. They don’t always get the right body in the right hole, and another adept’s privilege is that the apt gets first crack with the crowbar.

Running Under the New Regime

Well, here we are.

As those of you who missed the minor disruption last night won’t know, we’e now all transferred over from WordPress.com hosting to a private WordPress instance running on a DigitalOcean droplet, leading to a glorious new era of something that looks much the same to readers, but works much better for me.

Except for the new Discourse-based commenting system, that is, and the site’s new availability over IPv6. But more and better things are to be forthcoming that this enabled, so the move of domain, hosting, and such hasn’t all been cat-vacuuming in my now-ended post-book writing sabbatical.

Anyway, the move is all done, but since there are always some anomalies and oversights that show up after the fact, please let me know if something isn’t working correctly. (Thanks to those who already have.)

Also, the theme I’m currently using (Reddle) is, apparently, no longer updated. At some point, it seems I’m going to have to update, but given the sheer number of WordPress themes out there and just how… overcomplicated most of them seem to be, these days, if anyone would like to suggest alternate themes that maintain the site’s current elegant simplicity, please do feel free to suggest them.

State of the ‘Verse

So, it’s been pretty quiet around here this month.

Part of that is post-book recovery, of course, but another part is that in celebration of Book III, I’ve been working on a fairly comprehensive revamp of the technical end of this site and its associated operations to make them work better, stronger, faster, cooler, and all that.

Top of that particular list is that we now have a Discourse as a discussion and chat site for the reader and fan community, which you can get to through the “Community” link at the top of the page. This is part of a greater effort to stop splitting said community up across multiple incompatible sites and services, which will later also include replacing the WordPress comments for new posts with shiny new Discourse topics embedded right into the pages. In the meantime, if you want to talk about the ‘verse, or have questions you want to ask, or the like, the Discourse is the absolute best place to do it.

There’s more, of course, but that’s for later. In the meantime, please enjoy the new community site!

Eldraeic Phrase of the Day: traäzik ulalath

traäzik ulalath: literally “stony ignorance”, (or for the convenience of Tellurian readers, “stone stupid”, even though the backing metaphor is entirely different), the very special kind of stupidity self-inflicted by and on the extremely loyal, be it to contract, person, cause, or necessity, characterized by making extreme deeds and ludicrous plans appear logical, sensible, and sane.

See azkith, “loyalty”, from azik “stone” + ankithel “emotion, passion”.

(Incidentally, for the MLP:FiM watchers among my readers, Tanks for the Memories is pretty much exactly what an episode of traäzik ulalath looks like.)

The King and the Planet Are One

KALLAER (SAPROS DEMESNE) – As the Laeth Pact entered its third year of economic recession, the reign of Hieros Navat atir-Laeth ul-Sark was brought to an end today. After failing to successfully address the Pact’s ongoing economic problems, the Elder Chieftains of the Pact directed that the Hieros be dedicated to the shadows of the overworld in accordance with the customary usages.

The ritual sacrifice was performed at the Omphalos by the chosen Successor, na-Hieros Rabil atir-Laeth ul-Rank. The former Hieros met his end with the dignity proper to his office, walking willingly to the altar after exchanging a few words with the Successor.

As is traditional, the flesh of the former Hieros will be plowed into the fields for the fertility of the land, his blood poured into the aqueducts serving the capital as a blessing on his people, and his bones gifted to interstellar merchants for good fortune in the marketplace.

An announcement of policy changes from the new Hieros is expected in three days, local time; 4.1 days, Imperial Standard.

As We Wax Hot In Faction

To understand the Conclave of Galactic Polities, it is perhaps most important to understand the various alignments within it, of which there are six major alignments (although these together make up less than two-thirds of Conclave members) and a large number of minor alignments which may or may not associate with one of the major alignments.

These alignments, of course, are almost entirely informal blocs; such power as their leaders may have over their members or benefits which their members may receive is exercised outside the Conclave itself.

The Empire, as you know, is the foremost polity of the Imperial Axis, a minor alignment composed of our satrapies, client-states, allies, and close friends. The Axis, in turn, is one of the leading lights of the major Freedom’s Necessities alignment, known to our detractors as the “Minimalists” or the “Irresponsibles”.

In the Conclave, Freedom’s Necessities acts to promote the hands-off, laissez-faire approach to interstellar governance coordination we favor, ensuring that the Accord does everything that it must, and nothing else.

Two other Presidium powers, the Photonic Network and Consolidated Waserai Echelons, also commonly align with us. The Rim Free Zone, also, is a dedicated supporter of the alignment, but one which frequently ends up opposed to us in internal debates. We also attract considerable support from the minor species of the Worlds, since we are happy to offer these species concessions and benefits (such as can be offered) in exchange for cooperation and support, contrary to the demands so often made by more interventionist powers.

Of the other alignments, there are four of particular significance:

The Council for Economic Justice & Development

Also known to cynics as the “Levelers”, or the “Parasites on Parade”, the Council’s concern is the transference of income from rich polities to poor ones. In practice, this means that their primary support comes from emerging market polities which resist economic integration into upper-tier markets, but aren’t sufficiently kleptocratic as to caucus with the Socionovists for self-preservation.

In the long run, they would dearly love to institute a progressive tax on gross polity product across the Worlds to fund aid to their members, but without a Presidium seat, their current business model is largely holding up Conclave business (and in particular the establishment of new colonies) until sufficiently bribed.

The Responsible Government Movement

Sometimes shortened to the “Federalists”, or derided as the “Meddlesome” or the “Alliance for Pecksniffery”, the Movement’s grand dream is the conversion of the Accord from an intergovernmental association into a full federated interstellar governance, with the Conclave as its legislature. Concomitantly, this would also entail much deeper intervention into the affairs of member polities to enforce its policies and expansive view of sophont benefices, and it is an open secret that the federation the Movement wishes to see is one of democratic – or, more realistically, oligarchic – republics.

The Movement’s prime mover, the League of Meridian, is also a Presidium power. It attracts support from a variety of strong republic-model polities across the Worlds.

The Socionovist Association

Pithily summed up as the “Union of Repressive Autocracies”, the Socionovist Association is composed of – by its own description – those polities opposed to the current political and economic order of the Worlds, who seek reform along better and fairer lines.

By everyone else’s description, the Socionovist Association is a collection of malcontents, rogue states, despots, kleptocrats, and the generally despicable, united primarily to prevent interventions in polities’ internal affairs, limit peacekeeping operations, and generally to stir up trouble.

The principal members of the Socionovist Association are those polities which are, if we may be permitted use of the vernacular, “begging for a good kicking”.

The Systems’ Rights Alliance

Also known as the “Localists” or the “Disintegrationists”, the Systems’ Rights Alliance sees itself primarily as a watchdog on interventions. They chiefly oppose the Meddlesome, whose interference in their internal affairs would be unwelcome, but also oppose us in our desire to open up free trade and travel across the Worlds.

Unlike the Socionovists, however, they are prepared to back interventions against governances engaged in, for example, slavery or democide, and fully support peacekeeping operations against interstellar imperialism.

Much of the support for the Alliance comes from members of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms – as a matter of principle – but they also draw considerable support from polities with particularly unconventional governance forms, including many utopian, religious, and ideological colonies, and also from the Microstatic Alliance, who see themselves as easily steamrolled by larger factions.

– MoSaO briefing book for new Conclave attaches

Darkness Within

Darkness Within, the third book of Tales of the Associated Worlds, is now officially released, in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats. It can be obtained here:

Primarily set after the Core War, this book returns to the style of “Vignettes of the Star Empire”, with more nanofiction from the Associated Worlds, including some of the events following the war in “Aftershocks”, and the multi-part story “Darkness Within”.

[Buy now as an e-book for Amazon Kindle.]
[Buy now from Amazon.com.]

I hope you enjoy it.

The fourth book in the series, Unscheduled Reality Excursions, is currently planned for late 2020 or first half 2021.

Book Announcement

After a troubled period in its development, I am delighted to be able to announce that the third book in the Tales of the Associated Worlds series, Darkness Within and Other Stories, will be released on December 12th this year in Kindle e-book and paperback. Pre-orders will be open soon.

Additionally, to accompany this release, the previous two books in the series, Vignettes of the Star Empire and The Core War and Other Stories will be on sale starting December 1st, so if you haven’t already got them, that would be a good time.

(Or if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a fellow SF reader, of course!)

Those Pesky Belters

In pre-space speculative fiction the image of the belt miner recapitulated the image of the prospectors of old. Grizzled belters in small ships, big enough to hold them, a small partnership, or perhaps a family, who would set out, hunt down a “motherlode” rock, hack the ore out of it with traditional miner’s tools loosely adapted to space, then net it up and sling it on its way to a smelter, cash-for-density.

This concept was, as you might expect, wrong in almost every respect.

To begin with the nature of the beast, ore veins are not to be found among the asteroids. Without a planet’s gravity to differentiate them, or hydrothermal processes to concentrate it into ore bodies, pay dirt tends to be evenly differentiated throughout the rock. And to call an asteroid a rock is itself generous, insofar as the majority of them1 are little more than heaps of rubble glued together with a dusting of regolith.

Thus, the smeltership.

In its modern form, the smeltership is instantly recognizable; they look as if a starship had collided head-on with one of the larger breeds of industrial plant2, and decided for whatever reason to keep on going, accompanied by their flock of parasites and the inescapable halo of dust3. From these ships, the collector drones, “spikers”, travel to nearby target asteroids and wrap them in finely woven titiridion nets, preventing the escape of fragments, then haul them back to the maw of the smeltership proper.

Behind the maw, the smeltership incorporates a maze of ore processing and smelting equipment. While in theory plasma-fountain distillation can reduce anything to its component elements, it is an inefficient process reserved only for otherwise intractable residues of ore processing. More conventional processing chains, therefore, handle the commonplace elements once the asteroids have been powdered by the initial grinding step at the back of the maw.

Meanwhile, flocks of lighters, typically drone freighters and tankers – for the volatiles driven off – attend the stern of the smeltership, collecting the ejected ingots of metal and blocks of other elements, bundling them together, and hauling them to market.

The “almost”? While the largest operators, such as Atalant Materials’ space subsidiary, Celestial Mining, operate entire fleets of fully automated smelterships, many smaller or more specialized mining interests instead contract smelterships owned and operated by independent belt miners – often, indeed, small partnerships or family outfits whose homestead-hab is permanently docked to their ship. So while incorrect in method and scale, the writers of yore did, to their credit, predict the demographics of belt mining correctly…

– A DirtsidersHistory of the Belt


  1. And, ironically, those preferred for mining. More solid asteroids have other uses, while rubble piles are generally considered only of use for mining, and thus the claim-staking fee is lower.
  2. Not the vegetative sort.
  3. Even with high-grade electrostatic traps, regolith fines get everywhere.

Themes: Paracausality

So, stepping out of the ‘verse for a moment, why does paracausality exist?

Thematically speaking, the existence of paracausality says something very important about the nature of the universe. It means that it’s impossible to deny the existence of free will. (Or, rather, you can, but it’s about as useful as standing on a planet’s surface and denying the existence of gravity.)

You make choices, and your choices make you, and the universe you exist within. Create or destroy, heal or harm, save or damn, it’s all down to choice.

And either way, it’s your fault. No-one made you do it, not without rooting your brain and turning you into a non-volitional tool. Not society, not your parents, not circumstance, not culture, not memes, not instincts, not your friends, not your enemies, and certainly not the deterministic unfolding of acyclic causal graphs. Just you.

You chose, and the world responded. You did it. And the consequences are yours to own and to live with, forever and a day.

This gives the world a rather vital quality, especially in fiction: meaningfulness.