Weighed in the Balance Sheet

“There is one thing that comes before the Fundamental Contract. That thing is the Fundamental Ledger. Before your first breath, before your first thought – even as your mind coalesces out of chaos, long before you can know your own nature as a sophont, its bindings are sewn and its pages cut, their pages empty, snow-white and pristine.

“As it must be, for without choice, there can be no obligation, and without existence, there can be no choice. New-made and yet unchoosing, free of all ties that bind, you owe the world nothing, as it owes nothing to you.

“But all through your life, your every action fills it. Black, and red. Credit, and debit. Profit, and loss. Every deed is recorded in full measure: no trick of manipulation, nor guised externality, nor immaterial value, escapes the view of the Hidden Cog or His Market’s Eyes.

“And at the end of infinite time, when all books are tallied and the accounts finally closed out, this is how you will be judged:

“Have you created value, or merely consumed it?

“In the universal accounting, were you an asset… or a liability?”

the Book of Covalan, Commentaries & Sermons


Trope-a-Day: Kill It With Water

Kill It With Water: Leaving aside such not-really-the-water examples as water knives, pressure effects, and drowning, this is rather rare, inasmuch as the universe is full of the bloody stuff and as such having much of a vulnerability to water is unlikely to let you live long enough for anyone to actually try to kill you. (And any species having one would be unlikely to be so freakin’ stupid as to invade a small sylithotectonic world whose surface is something like three-quarters covered in the stuff. Yes, I’m looking at you.)

Perhaps the best known related, not-really-the-water-but-more-so-than-some, example exists mostly because of those species whose native temperature range is such that water’s natural state, as ice, is a kind of rock. And being hit by a stream of liquid water, therefore, is much like immersion in lava.

How Much Future?

I’ve recently been asked elsewhere, “how far into the future is your setting?”

Well, since it’s not connected causally to Earth, even fictional Earths, and technological development in the ‘verse didn’t necessarily take place in the same order or at the same rate as it did here, that’s a mite hard to say.

Let’s have a go, though. As a start, I’ll reprint the foreword I wrote for The Core War and Other Stories, explaining the eras of Imperial history as the local historians would divide them up:

Era of Hand and Fire (prehistory – 0)
Defining technologies: none.

To a certain extent, designating everything before the year 0 part of the Era of Hand and Fire, that period without particularly notable defining technologies, is misleading. On Eliéra, the term refers to everything pre-Imperial, from the Empire’s own precursor nations back through the Ungoverned Era and the Drowning of the People, through the time of the korásan, and extending into what little is known of the mythical era before the Winter of Nightmares (~ -14,500); however, there obviously exist elder races and Precursors in the galaxy with far older histories than this. (The historical specialists who study such things usually consider them separate subjects entirely from conventional history.)

Era of Brass and Chymistry (0 – ~720)
Defining technologies: clockwork automata (clanks); early chemistry.

The historical convention is to date the Era of Brass and Chymistry from the Empire’s founding year. Its seeds can be found earlier in various locations, especially in the smiths of Telírvess, the alchemists of Eume and Baryvekar, and the artisans of southern Selenaria. However, it is generally acknowledged that the opening and encouragement of free trade and transit by the Empire, as well as its encouragement of scholarship and progress, helped those seeds find fertile ground and grow.

Of particular note is the personal patronage and entrée to the Court of Courts given to a hitherto obscure Inisvaen natural philosopher, Sung Iliastren, later known as the Father of Science, by Empress Seledíë III Selequelios.

Era of Steel and Steam (~720 – ~1400)
Defining technologies: steam power; advanced metallurgy; Stannic cogitator.

The transition to the Era of Steel and Steam is dated at approximately 720, a compromise date between various competing inventors of different types of steam engine, and also notable for the recent publication of Ianthe Claves-ith-Claves’s Technepraxic, beginning a still influential philosophical movement espousing technology as an integral tool of sophont aspiration.

Electricity was known through much of the later part of this era, but received only intermittent attention; the Empire at the time was in the throes of the Middle Consolidation, and between this and industrial megaprojects such as the World Shafts, development concentrated on refining existing steam technology to its peak.

(Advancement to and through this era and the next may seem relatively slow; the reader should bear in mind the effect of the low and slow-growing eldraeic population on the overall rate of progress. In later eras, forward progress appears to slow once more, but this reflects rather the sheer breadth of research possible in the modern era, vis-à-vis the number of minds available to do it.)

Era of Captive Lightning (~1400 – 2050)
Defining technologies: electricity; electronic computers; robotics; industrial automation.

The approximate start of the Era of Captive Lightning begins with the breakout of electrical technology into common usage, starting with simple motors and illumination devices but developing relatively rapidly. Relay-driven computers, mere electrical imitations of the existing Stannic cogitators, soon were replaced by “electron plumbing” valve-based computers, replaced in turn by semiconductor electronics and then spintronic devices. Electrically-driven, electronically-controlled robots soon took over from the steam-driven, mechanical “clank” automata, and found new roles that the old machines were incapable of filling, permitting full industrial automation at last.

Era of Bit and Light (2050 – 2287)
Defining technologies: mature information technology; optronics; ubiquitous computing; intrasystem space travel.

While the defining technologies of the Era of Bit and Light were optronics, enabling hyper-fast photon-based computing devices, quantum computing, and a mature information technology, the era itself is dated from the flight of Phoenix Zero, the Spaceflight Initiative’s first manned orbital craft. Intrasystem space travel blossomed during this era, with the establishment of a first orbital space station followed quickly by more, colonies on Eliéra’s moons, and expansion into the rest of the system, including the first steps towards the ecopoesis of Talentar.

Era of the Genome (2287 – 2594)
Defining technologies: genetic engineering; wet nanotechnology; uplift.

Genetic engineering had been known for a long time prior to this era, but the application of optronics and quantum computing to genomics and proteomics permitted a rapid expansion of its capabilities. The genetic blossoming of the 2300s began with the first true neogenic organism – based entirely on novel genetic material – in 2287, and continued to produce advances in biological modifications, new species and adaptations, and wet nanotechnology based on biomimetic structures and systems throughout this era, up until the creation of the dar-bandal, the first true uplifts, just in time to be met by the first digisapiences.

Era of Mind and ‘Weave (2594 – 3016)
Defining technologies: artificial intelligence; mind-machine interfacing; noetics.

Artificial intelligence, again, had been applied as a discipline for centuries before the era defined by it. The Era of Mind and ‘Weave, rather, is defined specifically by the awakening of the first truly sophont artificial intelligence in 2594, an intelligence demonstrably possessing the same self-awareness, consciousness, and volition found in other sophonts. The same studies of sophotechnology, the technologies of the mind, produced revolutionary developments in mind-machine interfacing, in the ability to modify the sophont mind in various ways, and the ability to translate organic minds into digital form and transfer them easily between bodies and substrates.

Era of Diamond and Ice (3016 – 3922)
Defining technologies: dry nanotechnology; subluminal interstellar travel.

The Era of Diamond and Ice takes its name from two events: First, the Diamond Crash of 3016 that heralded the start of the era of dry nanotechnology, as carbon-organizers proved capable of manufacturing diamond in arbitrarily large quantities at almost no cost. Further developments in dry nanotechnology permitted the creation of various forms of makers and eventually the first true cornucopia machines, ushering in the start of the Prosperity.

Second, early in the era, Kasjan Lyris and his colleagues initiated the Deep Star program, sending subluminal colony ships (capable of only around one-third of the speed of light) to stars near the eldrae home system packed with equipment and colonists in cryonic freeze; a program which would lead to the foundation of the Thirteen Colonies and the first contact of the eldrae with an exotic species, the galari of Galáré.

Era of Starfall (3922 – 5014)
Defining technologies: stargates.

In 3922, the Era of Starfall began with Imogen Andracanth-ith-Andracanth’s invention of the stargate, permitting faster-than-light transit between the two halves of a stargate pair once they had been positioned. The first stargate pair developed was used to connect Eliéra with the nearest colony world, Víëlle, beginning the Reunification.

Shortly after the Reunification, and the introduction of the galari to the home Empire, Empress Eledíë II charted the Imperial Exploratory Service and awarded a generous charter to Ring Dynamics, ICC, with which the expansion process of the stargate plexus that has continued to the present day began.

Era of Bright Shadows (5014 – 5599)
Defining technologies: seed AI; the Transcend.

In 5014, the first crude seed AI, a digisapience capable of autoscience and autopotence, and thus recursively modifying itself to attain postsophont levels of intelligence, was demonstrated under laboratory conditions by an independent research group on Wynérias.

After various experiments and incidents demonstrated both the potential and the dangers of this technology, a plan was proposed and approved by general plebiscite for the layered, progressive implementation of the Eldraeic Transcend, which was implemented progressively over the next one hundred and fifty years, until the Transcend reached its full flowering on Calencail 12, 5175, ushering in the collective consciousness that would remain coextensive with the Empire from then on.

Current Era (5600 -)
Defining technologies: emergent ontotechnology.

Dated somewhat arbitrarily, for the moment, from 5600 – the year in which the Transcend moved its core operations into the specially-constructed Cirys swarm of Corícal Ailék – the current era is most marked by ongoing, seemingly never-ending efforts to maintain peace and nurture Order, Progress, and Liberty in the meta-civilization of the Associated Worlds, and the slow emergence of ontotechnological miracles from the loreworks of Transcend-aided philosophers, scientists, and engineers.

The Core War itself, at the time of writing the most recent event in – and therefore the present time of – the Worlds begins in the year 7122.

So, if we approximate it – well, leaving aside for a moment technological paths we never went down (clank automata, for example, or Stannic cogitators, which we most closely approximated with Babbage’s engines but never implemented at scale) we’re probably parallel to the mid-to-late Era of Captive Lightning; we have semiconductor electronics, but not spintronics, our information technology is growing up, and we might be in the early stages of ubiquitous computing. We have, of course, already been to the moon, but space travel in the ‘verse came late because of the quirky local gravity, so that alone isn’t enough to move us into the Era of Bit and Light. Meanwhile, we definitely don’t have the technologies or developments associated with the later part of that Era, or with the following Eras.

So that dates us sometime around their 1900-2000. Since at the latest date of writing it was roughly 7100, that’s 5100-5200 years ahead by their calendar; adjusting for year length, call it 4,700 T-years ahead, or so.

But there’s about eight kinds of handwave in that, so slap some very generous error bars on that figure.


Book #3!

It’s coming!

(I was initially planning to wait until I had a novel-length piece to publish, but a lot of nanofic has passed under the bridge since then, so a third collection it is. At least once the editing work is done – so you can consider this a pre-announcement, which should give anyone who isn’t a current patron but would like to take advantage of the free e-book-for-patrons offer time to subscribe appropriately.)

No title as yet: that will come out in the editing. Cover art, on the other hand, that is on its way, so there’s absolutely that to look forward to!


Trope-a-Day: Kill and Replace

Kill and Replace: A tactic – and with modern sophotechnology, a lamentably obvious tactic – used by lower-tech and lower-ethics intelligence agencies, for whom fast-growth cloning (or even radical plastic surgery) and programming is the best they can manage – rather than the implantation of overshadowing gnostic overlays used by the technological sophisticates among shady organizations.

So you’ve been attacked in the Rim Free Zone…

“So you’ve been attacked in the Free Zone…

“…you had a security provider, right? At least I hope you had a security provider, given the giant ‘THE RIM FREE ZONE TRAVEL FACILITATORS’ ASSOCIATION RECOMMENDS THAT YOU GET A SECURITY PROVIDER’ banner hanging in the starport with maybe a thousand different security provider advertisements stacked fog-thick around it in the augmentality.

“But maybe you didn’t take that advice. Or wanted to save money. Or plain didn’t have the money, or the rep, or anything else worth exchange-value.

“And no-one was around at the time? ‘Cause, I mean, not having a security provider doesn’t mean that no-one’s watching your back – it just means that no-one’s being paid to officially watch your back for you, and what you mostly have to watch out for are con artists and other relatively subtle kinds of fraud. (Well, maybe not that subtle, if you played the shell game with that dude who hangs around by the startown maglev.) But we all believe in non-aggression here on Hopamar, and if someone tried to attack you on the main drag, half the people around’d shoot him on general principles, and the other half’d shoot him for what the judge’d award them once she got done stripping the assets off his bones.

“But maybe some kveth-licker fresh off a ship from the Yaffish Marches got to you in an alley when no-one was around, took your terminal and foldcase away from you, and stabbed you cleanly in the left kidney.

“That’s when you call us.

Triple-G Eleemosynary Redistributionists, Inc.

“We make crime not pay.”

“For now, though… do you consent to emergency medical treatment and agree that payment for it can be added to your legal claim against your assailant?”

– a Triple-G advertisement-drone, to a prospective customer