Trope-a-Day: God Test

God Test: Have gone rather out of fashion since most examples of a miracle became something people could purchase at their local hardware store, leaving things people could ask to be done as proof of divine bona fides too academic (“Violate conservation of energy!”), too insane (“So make a rock too heavy for you to lift, then lift it anyway!”), or impractically large (“Go ahead then, CREATE A UNIVERSE.”).

Trope-a-Day: A Glitch in the Matrix

A Glitch in the Matrix: Avoiding this sort of thing, when it comes to virtual reality, is one of the few legitimate uses for the Out-of-Mind visual textures. (Others mostly including hiding gifts and playing really terrible practical jokes.)

A more commonly seen variant are “weavespiders”, small metallic fractal spiders (which everyone knows to ignore) used in virtual realms to collect trash, reassemble broken scenery, and otherwise do maintenance. While, obviously enough, this can simply be done programmatically without requiring any visual metaphor, reifying them like this is a simple way of avoiding the uncanny valley effect of changes “just happening” with no apparent in-world cause.

Worldbuilding: Those Wacky Galians

A somewhat snarksome summary written for use elsewhere, which I repost here for general interest:

Theomachy of Galia

A polity controlled by and largely made up of religious fanatics, well-known for despising unbelievers, anyone they perceive as weak, the female of the species, any species1, and for some incomprehensible reason, “all that walks on six legs,” despite their homeworld being void of any hexapedes larger than insect-sized. Unpleasantly militant, ephemeralist, baseline-supremacist, slaveholders, possessors of not-at-all-secret plans to conquer the galaxy for their insufficiently-grovelled-before deity, etc., etc.

Also, in blissful and complete denial of the inability of fanaticism to compensate for technological inferiority, and of the way in which even fellow members of the Socionovist Association consider their outright fondling of the Villain Ball to be slightly less subtle than Snidely Whiplash2.


1. Even in cases such as the qucequql, which considering the qucequql male is little more than a non-sapient wrapper around a gamete packet, makes even less sense than the rest of their doctrine. Also, makes conversations at diplomatic dinner parties downright tedious.

2. Only without the sense of style or the awesome mustache.

Trope-a-Day: Giving Radio to the Romans

Giving Radio to the Romans: Tends to happen quite a bit, given the lack of any Prime Directive-equivalent and the large number of free traders around who are more than happy to sell anything to anyone who can pay – and that’s not even counting the “fell off the back of a starship, guv, ten bob to you for cash” crowd – and the desires of most people on most worlds for shiny toys.

Some of the real life consequences mentioned are prevented by the Empire’s also having a bunch of private organizations of various kinds, including professional civilization-uplift consultants, who go around helping people not to be total screwups under these sorts of circumstances… but not all of them. But, y’know, free will and all, and it’s not as if they made you invest in technologies granting you the capacity to be total dicks and then use it in that exact manner, belike. That’s on you.

Trope-a-Day: Geometric Magic

Geometric Magic: Well, not magic, no. But a lot of the Flamic rites and rituals make use of sacred geometry, as reflecting the perfect order of the conceptual universe. Elmiríën, in particular, as eikone of order, structure, stability, perfection, and proper functioning is very fond of these, to the point of self-representing as a perfect orrery of Platonic solids.

Also, there’s a lot of geometric engineering.

Trope-a-Day: Genius Breeding Act

Genius Breeding Act: Averted, despite the tremendous respect for intelligence – as you might expect from the civilization that considers Arranged Marriages an unpleasant subclass of slavery.  (Which, as I said back then, doesn’t mean that friends and relatives aren’t happy to engage in generous quantities of Shipper on Deck…)

…actually, more inverted, in a sense. The Reproductive Statutes do do the opposite, since while fully recognizing the rights, etc., of those with hereditary disabilities, since ethics is time-directional, that does not extend to deliberately or negligently creating more of them, respecting the right of the potential sophont to be well-created. And for a sufficiently advanced society, “hereditary disabilities” includes “functional amentia” to a degree that goes a long way farther than anything anyone in our history would have classed as even mild intellectual disability or other related conditions.

So if your genes aren’t up to scratch in this area, no reproduction for you! That’d be felony dysgenesis.

February’s Patreon Questions

Without further ado:

If you should encounter a situation where you have, in good faith, undertaken an obligation that is not itself particularly onerous or ethically objectionable, yet you find yourself in a situation where you must either violate some third party’s rights or default on said obligation, what is your best course of action?

(Let’s say, for instance, you’ve taken on an obligation to deliver a particular package to a particular place at a particular time, but in order to do so, you have to pass through a Gate of some sort — and the Gatekeeper is not willing to negotiate passage or pass along the message.)

Well, then you’re screwed, aren’t you?

Your best and indeed only course of action is to suck it up, pay the compensation, and take the rep hit assessed for an involuntary default. (After all, at least it is an involuntary default, so while you’re screwed, you’re not totally screwed.)

That’ll hurt, but that’s what one might call a teachable moment in Why We Don’t make Unqualified Promises Of Things We Might Not Be Able To Deliver, savvy? Did y’all sleep through the day they taught impracticability clauses in contracts class?

I was recently reading an article on the Forbes website about self-driving cars and accident liability ( http://www.forbes.com/sites/omribenshahar/2016/09/22/should-carmakers-be-liable-when-a-self-driving-car-crashes/#7be8eec81f40 ) when a thought hit me that similar matters must come up all the time in the eldraeverse, given the ubiquity of nigh-seamless artificial intelligence .

Which leads me to ask: In an incident where a device that has enough self-agency to make decisions in a “live” environment but not the requisite self-awareness to qualify as a sophont ends up acting in a way that causes injury to person or property, what sort of standards and procedures do the courts of the Empire use to determine who bears the liability?

That depends entirely on who bears the fault, and to what proportionate degree, as is normal in liability cases that end up in front of the Curial courts.

Which, once all the logs from various systems and other applicable data have been collated, is something to be sorted out in court between – to stick with the self-driving car example – the odocorp (as the road and road-grid provider), the car manufacturer (and its software developers and/or wakeners), the car owner (and possibly their maintenance and/or customization provider), anyone else involved (since in the Empire road designs that mingle pedestrians and vehicles are considered Not Done, if you wander into the road and get hit by a car, it’s almost certainly on you), all of the above’s tort insurers, etc., etc.

This can occasionally be complicated, but fortunately the courts have lots of forensic failure engineers on hand for situations just like this.