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.

Rolk On!

Precursor artifact Spirel-1,147: “The Rolkifier”

Recovered from a vault in the Spirel Precursor site (located on Spiridon (Dexlilal Convergence)), the Rolkifier is a 3″ x 3″ x 5″ teardrop-shaped artifact constructed from an unidentified green-bronze substance. Attempts to examine the interior reveal it to be solid and apparently homogeneous to currently available scanning technology1.

All solid objects touched with the operant end of the artifact acquire (or lose, should they already have it), the property of “rolky-ness”.

This seems to be an ontic, rather than cognitive effect: while various different species and linguistic clades may construct their own names for the property (rolky being the identifier used among cosmopolitan Imperials), nonetheless, all are able to identify which objects in a random set are rolky, and which are not, with complete agreement across groups. None, however, are able to provide any explanation of what it means to be rolky, which perceptions allow it to be identified as rolky, nor does the possession of rolky-ness appear to affect any of the other properties or behaviors of any object in any way.

Thus, artifact Spirel-1,147 has been tentatively classified as an cosmontological semantic pointer editor capable of assigning and altering arbitrary universal conceptual tags tied, in an unknown way, to conceptual objects.

That this effect is not explained in any way by any of the three major ontophysical theories understood at this present time, and may imply contrary to all current scientific understanding that the universe has a notion of “conceptual object”, make this among the most puzzling artifacts presently undergoing research.

Footnotes

  1. The Rolkifier does not appear to be in and of itself rolky.

“I’m done, or at least taking a lengthy sabbatical. We all find our outweirding limit eventually, and this is mine. I’m going to the High Cysperia Luxurium and not dealing with anything more outré than a green-fuming finelle and a high-class honey-dream for the next decade.”

– Academician Excellence Alleyne Celdinar, chief researcher

The Extranet Is For Porn

From: Anethil 0x98AA45B2 (COO)
To: Ganly min Retholl (VPO, Calianus Passage)
Subject: Data filtering – need official refusal?

Ha! I almost admire their jír. Not often someone comes to us and requests help in censorship.

Anyway, obviously, we’re not doing that. Tell them that it is against Bright Shadow corporate policy to interfere with data in transit in any way, even so far as to inspect packet contents – and that even if it wasn’t against our policy to do that, the structure of IIP-based networks requires end-to-end encryption which makes it impossible for us to do so. By design. If they want to impose traffic filtering, they’re going to have to do it at destination, on their side of the border routers.

Then tell them that even if all of that could be overcome, it would require a steep increase in connection charges, because while, certainly, it may not be the most ‘enlightened’ use of our data transmission capacity, its packet fees nonetheless subsidize extranet traffic rates for – essentially – everything else, pay for network expansion and relay maintenance across the outer regions, and bought the last round of stock options and my third vacation moon.

Maybe don’t tell them that last bit.

Updated Definition

necromancer:

  1. (archaic) In legend and story, an evil figure who makes pacts with various personifications of entropy, offering service in exchange for power. In these stories, the fundamental error of the necromancer is their belief that they hold the advantage in such dealings – perhaps not the most wise belief where beings which crave destruction without qualification are concerned.
     
  2. In modern eschatology, people, organizations, or even polities that trade with unknown information entities across the extranet, or which they have discovered in some lost but functional archive. Such entities normally offer valuable information or computation in exchange for services in the physical world, typically intended to provide them with computational power, assembler resources, or access.

    As with their legendary counterparts, the modern necromancer is prone to believe that they hold the advantage in their dealings (or can if sufficient precautions are taken), and are aware that their patron will attempt to exploit them. Likewise, they are incorrect in this belief, and the consequences from a necromancer who succumbs to the wrong patron can include finding himself the first, and by no means only, victim of a blooming perversion.

    Thus, Imperial State Security and its counterpart organizations in other polities enforce the Archive Safety Code on dealing with such entities with great vigor, deploying both regular agents and combat eschatologists accordingly.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

skitter skitter skitter

From: Tiryns Anandonos (AIB)
To: Academician Iliys Roquentius; Academician Meris Tarisia
Subject: Incident 7922/0011867

Gentlesophs,

It is certainly the case that research into self-concealing patterns of information (so-called cryptomemes) is important, as is research into their applicability to and existence in the living world. This is only the more true since field teams from your laboratory have already discovered a hitherto-unknown genus of commonplace cryptid (Cryptomustelidae spp.).

It is also the case that it is necessary to perform experimental and evolutionary studies upon these, and as such my branch takes no issue with the experiment series in which you proposed to splice the Out-of-Mind visual textures and elements from the Citizen Nondescript bioshell design into laboratory mice to create a convenient pseudocryptid for study, and observe the development of ongoing generations.

We of the Board, further, acknowledge that neither of you can be held personally accountable for the incident of two days since, in which a laboratory technician left the habitat containing your Mus crypteia open during cleaning, in the mistaken belief that it was empty.

We must, however, insist that you devote a substantial proportion of your research time, in the immediate future, to determining exactly how we can effectively clean up an infestation of mice which can only be perceived as zero-volume mouse-shaped holes in the world.

Respectfully submitted,

Tiryns Anandonos,
Accident Investigation Board

for and on behalf of

Agathis Túkunra
the Sane Man

Bring Me The Head Of… (2)

ALL SECURITY SITES // ORANGE SENSITIVE
NOCONTRACT // NOFORN
ROUTINE
RED LIST // SPECIAL // UPDATE 7129/08/09

CANCEL REQ: Istar Oricalcios Veneri a.k.a. “the Mechanic”

REASON: Subject acquired internally (7129/07/24).

NOTES:

Subject recovered from debris created in an attempt to access Secure Storage Facility CINDER NOISETTE. While subject possessed partial knowledge of CINDER NOISETTE defenses, subject was intercepted and destroyed by defenses operating under threefold ignorance protocol.


ALL SECURITY SITES // GREEN SECRET
NOCONTRACT // NOFORN
IMMEDIATE
SECURITY ACTION MESSAGE

FOR IMMEDIATE EXECUTION

Place into immediate effect all security procedures required by CASE HONEY LAUREL.

Investigation of remains recovered of the renegade fork of Istar Oricalcios Veneri (per Red List updates 7912/06/01, 7912/08/09) were limited due to destruction of over 80% of vector stack and execution of ISS mind-state security self-erasure program. However, traces were found of a contaminated metagrammar of weakly angelic complexity, sufficient to compromise the self-integrity of a disconnected fork (i.e., in the absence of coadjutor-provided Transcendent security). Such linguistic-memetic infoweapon systems are not currently documented as being within the capacity of any non-Power agency within the Worlds.

Based on these established facts and analyses current within the All-Seeing Eye, the Executive additionally requests and requires all security and counterintelligence instrumentalities to be alert for potential necromancer activity and to immediately perform comprehensive security reviews of all archives and Precursor sites within their operational areas.

Deliver confirmation and full documentation within 72 hours.

BY ORDER OF

Anming Tsurilen,
Director of Operations, Third Directorate