Trope-a-Day: Life Drinker

Life Drinker (Although Not Really): Not in any literal sense, obviously, this being firm SF and thus vitalism very much not in vogue. But consider the case of the experience addict, who eats forcibly taken memories, or those who take an individualist approach to group-mind transcendence by attacking others to forcibly merge their victims mind-states (pithed or complete, although the latter is a swift path to crazy) into their own. (And, hey, you might as well end up in the younger body while you’re at it, right?)

It ain’t the same thing, but it’s close enough for metaphor.

(And if you were wondering, yes, soul-eaters – which consume your mind and memories and individuality and capacity for choice – are what Eldraeic vampire myths look like.)


Once, For a Bet

There is, technically, a less expensive way to reach orbit than an elevator ride, and it has the additional advantage of being the fastest way to reach orbit. However, I cannot recommend it to you for one simple reason: I’ve “ridden freight“, and it’s an experience best saved for when you have no alternative.

It’s inexpensive, in a nutshell, because you’re being squeezed into a gap in the freight schedule. And as you’re riding freight, the accommodations are very much suited for freight: you get a comfortable acceleration seat, certainly, but one fixed inside what remains unmistakably an intermodal freight container fitted with an aeroshell.

Most providers do, as a courtesy to keep their passengers entertained, equip the nose of such capsules with a sapphireglass window. This is less helpful than it might be.

After boarding, it provides you with a fine bullet’s-eye view – for the seconds of your loading slot – of what it’s like to be shoved into the breech of the Worlds’ largest gun. Then the gravomagnetics catch you up and hurl you forward. The featureless sides of the tube rush by, but you won’t be paying attention to them: being on the freight schedule means fitting in the fewest freight slots possible. Eyeballs in, folks, feel the elephant on your chest and watch your vision blue-shade out – it’s six standard gravities from here all the way up the gunspire.

(Unless you’re riding freight on Paltraeth. Then they fire you at the full twelve local gravities and take bets on whether you’ll be conscious at the top. There’s a barrel of the local booze in it for anyone who can climb out of the capsule on their own, starport legend says, just in case the trip upwell didn’t impair you enough.)

Then comes the fun part. In the old days, the brief glimpse you’d get out of the window would have been of the exceptionally solid iris holding out the attenuated atmosphere at the gunspire’s tip, opening for you with such fine calibration that it’s impossible to see. Now, there’s just a brief flash of blue as you pass the kinetic barrier, the sickening lurch – and eyeballs snapping back out – as you pass beyond the magnetics, and the end of the world coming to call.

You see, everything up until this point has been quiet as a moth’s whisper. A mass driver in an evacuated tube makes no noise – the switchgear and the pumps might, but they’re on the outside.

Once you hit the end, though – the air might be attenuated, but there’s still enough of it to hit like a granite cliff. One moment, silence. The next moment, the storm gods of every pantheon you’ve heard of and a few more besides have come to call, with a real urgent need to come in there.

And they brought some friends, it looks like, ’cause that convenient window is making it very clear that everything outside is on fire.

This, you might think, would be a good time to panic.

Well, you’ve got something under of a second before they start hitting you with the lasers, and it’s back to elephants, blue-outs, and now an angry giant whaling on the back of the capsule with a to-scale warhammer to add to the rest of the noise – with your eyeballs vibrating in time.

That’s the worst of it. It only gets quieter from there to orbit, and after the hammering you’ve taken on the way up, the eyeballs-out dangling-in-your-straps deceleration to match velocity with the highport comes as something of a relief.

But I trust you understand, gentle reader, why it is that I cannot recommend this mode of transport.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol


Trope-a-Day: Legendary Weapon

Legendary Weapon: In the Empire, the thing about most legendary weapons is that they tend to stay legendary… due to not staying the same weapon, or rather, the same embodiment of the weapon.

Aorillia, the Sword of Illimitable Light, for example, the legendary weapon of the champions of the Solar Empire, has over the course of its history been three swords, two sniper rifles, a man-portable laser, three different battleships (one wet, two space) and a dreadnought. (Many of the earlier examples of which are, indeed in display cases in museums.) But they share the name of the legendary weapon, and theologically speaking, they share the essential spirit of the weapon – and so for all mythographic intents and purposes are fundamentally the same weapon even if their materials forms and capacities are obviously not.

And since the mythographic truth is the important thing when it comes to a legend, thus it is.


The MBTI Lens

It occurred to me that I hadn’t posted on this specifically before, and it might be interesting to those of you who might be interested in the construction equipment behind the curtain.

Are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types? Well, if not, you might want to become familiar with them before you continue with this post, ’cause otherwise it will make no sense.

Take a look at this table which shows the frequencies with which the various personality types appear in the (human, Earthling, American) population:

mbtiNow, consider that we live in a world built by the standards of and for, to a large extent, the majorities of Sensing types (73%) and Feeling types (60%). And specifically that the rarest group, the iNtuitive Thinking (“Rationals”) make up no more than 10% of the population.

Now invert it, and consider what a world would be like in which it’s the NT Rationals whose corner dominates the chart, and where the Intuitives and Thinkers are the more common functions seen in the other types, too1.

If it seems familiar to you after spending time reading here, that’s because this exercise was part of my original worldbuilding process.

(Disclaimer: the author is an INT[J|p].)

1. The world also caters more to Is than our very much built-for-Es in many ways, *there*, although that’s a subtler effect and one less reflected in the raw numbers.

Potayto, Potahto

“While the Imperial University of Calmiríë does have an academically excellent and thorough program in political science (or, as its introductory course is listed in the 7930 catalog, EX0487: Introduction to the Exosophontology of Mass Coercion), prospective students should be aware that it is taught very much from the perspective of ‘the history, sophontology, and praxis of rationalizing ethical exemptionalism’. Those students from abroad who do not already have that particular smirk will assuredly either acquire it or grow very tired of it over their course of study, and as such, we cannot recommend it to those preferring a more conventional approach, especially since those considering their qualifications in the future are likely to be aware of the nature of the course.”

– Student’s Helper: Considering Studying Abroad?,
pub. 7932, League of Meridian


Mo’ Money, Mo’ Troubles

So I just scribbled down some notes on the physical representation of the exval, the Accord on Trade’s exchange currency:

Exval notes are denominated in powers of two, from 20 through 27. Of these, the 1 exval and 2 exval notes bear a line-work drawing of the seal of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, and a stylization of the opening paragraphs of the Accords, respectively, while the 128 exval note bears a similar line-work drawing of the Conclave Drift itself.

The five middle notes, however, the 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 exval notes bear designs representing and selected by the five Presidium powers, although in the same line-work style; and to avoid giving any sense of precedence or priority, which design is applied to which note is rotated for each printing, although the dominant background color is not. (The confusion this causes among visually-oriented users of the exval’s physical currency is widely considered an example, among libertists, of how politics prevents us from having nice things.)

…you can pretty much blame the Leagues for that, incidentally. (The Empire taking the position of “oh, ffs, give us the one, we know that we’re awesome and that this argument is petty”, the Photonic Network having no use at all for physical currency, and the Echelons, while not immune to the lure of this sort of thing, being quite prepared to chill at least to the point of abstaining.)

But the really big political argument at the time was in the League of Meridian, over whether they wanted the sixtyfour (the highest denomination, value- and hence status-wise) or the four (of which there are the most around and thus get your design seen, whereas the sixtyfour is about as rare in use as the $50, or maybe even the $100).

…at least it kept the Senate and Congress of the League Assembled out of trouble for a couple of weeks.


Lose the Loosers

“There was a pond below the window! We’re not monsters, after all.”

– First Quill Seïn Ejava, Scrupulous Company of Learned Scriveners,
at the Defenestration of the Descriptivists

“If we’re being scrupulous, it was a settling pond. For night soil.”

– Sorel Haranye, former Learned Scrivener, two hours later,
at the “Deodorizing of the Descriptivists”