Question: Plea Bargains

Y’all get May’s first question the day it arrived, ’cause it’s an easy one:

So what would Imperial jurisprudence make of the notion of the plea bargain?

Sarcasm, mostly.

The way the more dyspeptic members of the College of Judicature would put it, there are two possible outcomes from a plea bargain as various polities practice it:

The one is that a guilty soph gets away with the due consequents of a lesser charge instead of the appropriate one, which is obviously contrary to all principles of justice and balance.

The other is that an innocent soph is railroaded into compensation, weregeld, and so forth for fear of the consequences of a greater charge if mistakenly found guilty, or by the cost of mounting a defense. Which is even more contrary to all principles of justice and balance, even if they were to accept the notion that this isn’t the actual intent of the system – namely, to provide cheap and quick “justice theater” in lieu of the more challenging task of providing actual justice – which proposal they find risible on its face.

And to sum up, any “justice system” that incorporates the notion has lost all right to be called such without, at the very least, emphatic sneer quotes, and any misbegotten wight proposing such an abomination in their justice system should rightly call down the wrath of Saravoné Herself, descending from the Twilight City in fire and fury to beat aforesaid wight soundly upside the head with Her scales until all the stupid has left the building.

Cough. Readjust monocle.

…so, um, they don’t care for it much?


Worldbuilding: It’s Always The Twentieth Century In Space

Customs. Customs never change. Even when there is basically no in-universe connection to the customs with which we must comply.

This meta-post is inspired by the current flap (and lies, damned lies, and open letters from activists) about Rebecca Tuvel’s transracialism article and the ensuring prompt outrage excursion from the usual suspects, with particular regard to one piece of the response to the response, which I quote here:

As for the accusation that Tuvel “deadnam[ed] a trans woman,” meaning that she used a pre-transition name that was subsequently changed, the authors conveniently leave out the identity of the trans woman in question: Caitlyn Jenner. Now, deadnaming trans people is, as a default rule every cisgender person should know, rude and offensive, and in extreme cases it can actually be dangerous or deadly (if someone isn’t out as trans in their community). But Jenner herself has not been shy about using her old name or talking about her life as Bruce. It’s nonsensical to claim that once a very famous trans person has exhibited comfort using their old name and talking about their pre-transition life, any reference to that name or life is still verboten. It seriously misses the point of why deadnaming is frowned upon.

It’s also inspired by the foofaraw over one particular character in Mass Effect: Andromeda, Hainly Adams, who in a conversation about why she came to the Andromeda Galaxy and left her old life behind, mentions her trans-ness and her old name from said old life, something that has been widely decried as the most terrible and horrible of bad writing and offense-giving.

Now we get to the worldbuilding part:

In the Eldraeverse, one relevant issue here is the Central Office of Records and Archives, whose Universal Registry of Citizens and Subjects is very keen on nymity, on the grounds that without authentication and identification, it’s really hard to have trust, accountability, and the obligation of contracts. You are uniquely identified by your UCID, to which is linked every name you have ever identified yourself by, along with dates, types, and whether or not it should still be considered current. This is part of the core data in everyone’s Personal File, and as such, a matter of public record, trivial to look up. Trivial in the “you can walk down the street and see everyone’s names in convenient entoptic AR floaters” sense.

Should this be something people *there* have a problem with?

Bear in mind, when you answer, that should you meet three women at the bar, that one of them used to be a man is probably the least surprising metamorphosis to you, inasmuch as the second grew up as a hermaphrodite, corona-dwelling space whale and the third is a cephalopoid battle robot in her day job, who’s only biologically female or for that matter biological while on leave – and neither of the latter is what you might call unusual.

(The bartender is a fragment of a mixed-sex/mixed-gender group mind and the house band is an octopus.)

I submit that it’s a real stretch to imagine that anyone from that cultural background – in which what we would call trans-ness is not in the least dangerous, socially taboo, or even curious in the backwateriest of backwaters – would even invent the concept they’re supposed to be upset by.

(This, incidentally, also probably applies to the Mass Effect: Andromeda case. ME:A takes place in the year 2785, and even if we discount the 600 years it took to reach Andromeda, departed the Milky Way in the year 2185, approximately 265 years downtime from now. Leaving, moreover, a universe in which same-sex relationships are ubiquitous and open xenophilia both passes without comment and forms the basis of award-winning movies.

Now, granted, there’s no actual in-game canon to indicate that anti-transgender prejudice has also died off in the meantime, but given what’s apparently happened to other popular twencen prejudices, assuming it hasn’t in the absence of clear evidence seems to demand a higher burden of proof. It is more consistent with the background, I further submit, to assume that – much like “once the races were much more distinct and people felt that was important” and “once gay people weren’t allowed to marry” – it’s something that college students studying “pre-space Earth history” find weird and kinda incomprehensible.)

All of which is to say, this is projecting the mores and bigotries of now onto the fictional future, and there are two reasons why you should stop it:

One, it’s bad worldbuilding. It’s behavior inconsistent with the setting because its precursors are inconsistent with the setting, and that makes it stand out like a sour note in a flute solo.

And two, it’s bad messaging. Do you really want to send the message that humanity, or sophontkind in general, can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t grow the fuck up and overcome its stupid-ass prejudices? Because by insisting that those prejudices (worst) or the responses to those prejudices (better, but still bad) are faithfully shoehorned into every extrapolated future or conculture, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

In our fictional futures, things are permitted to get better.

No, really.


Trope-a-Day: Humans Are Smelly

Humans Are Smelly: If there were any around, they would be.

But it’s hardly unique to them. All primitive species are: because it’s a consequence of advanced species (and especially those who take their cue from our friendly local aesthetes) investing in both much improved senses of smell plus excellent personal hygiene via biotechnology and nanotechnology. By the time you have skin that dirt literally won’t stick to, sweat that smells of roses and avoids supporting bacterial growth, and even shit that literally doesn’t stink… well, everyone not comparably enhanced is a stinky ape.

Or stinky lizard, stinky slime mold, stinky bunch of tentacles, whatever.

It is, however, considered polite not to point this out. It’s no sin to be primitive. Now, if it’s by choice, on the other hand…

Portal-class Mobile Highport

“Expecting guests with nowhere for them to park? Embarrassing when you’re a host. Expensive when you’re a business. Excruciating when you’re a planet.

“Fortunately, as long as you’ve got a scrap of bare rock to set a shuttle down upon, we have the answer. Hire one of our Portal-class mobile highports today, offering luxurious docking, interface, transshipment, space-traffic control and chandlery services, and see your problem solved… instantly1!

“1. Transit time constraints notwithstanding. Extra fees may apply for emerging markets or regions currently engaged in conflict or piracy.”

– from an Ellore Modular Industries, ICC, interactive advertisement

The Portal-class mobile highport is exactly what its name implies: a complete orbital starport, custom-designed to operate efficiently in conjunction with only very limited downport facilities (or even nothing but airports available), designed to be movable between planets and systems as demand requires.

The Portal is built on a conventional frame: a cylindrical hull with rounded ends, sporting a pair of counter-rotating gravity wheels near its midsection. As can be expected from an Ellore product, it is largely modular: its permanent features are limited to the gravity wheels (containing parks, hydroponics, and living quarters), an axial utility core containing engineering and command elements, a large toroidal fuel tank assembly wrapped around the core, and small craft docking facilities at each end of the cylinder, one dedicated to interface vehicles and the other to orbital traffic. Working squadrons of Nelyn-class cutters, Lowari-class shuttles and Maw-class fuel skimmers accompany the highport.

The remainder of its volume is devoted to the modular segments, six of which connect in each section, terminating at the transpod shafts running along the outside of the fuel tank assembly. Various different combinations of modules, along with appropriate operating crew, can be installed as part of the lease to meet individual customer requirements: cageworks, cargo storage space, chandleries, internal berthing volume, large-vessel docking arms, passenger services – including concessions, hotels, lounges, and other amenities – and even defensive systems.

The Portal itself has no integral drive systems; it relies on an accompanying Hane-class superlifter (whose docking clamps surround the interface vehicle bay) for propulsion.

Ellore maintains a small fleet of Portals for lease, chiefly by worlds expecting a short-term increase in traffic (whether one-off, or regular, but insufficient to justify maintaining a largely idle permanent port) due to social events, harvest times or other seasonal traffic bursts, new discoveries susceptible to exploitation, disaster relief (for which the Imperial Emergency Management Authority and a number of eleemosynary organizations keep Portals on retainer), nth-wave colonization, and so forth. A few are also kept under contract to the Imperial Exploratory Service, which may be offered on long-term lease to particularly promising newly contacted worlds likely to generate substantial interstellar traffic over relatively short periods of time.


chrune (n.): A type of galactic politician named after Sen Melk Chrune (6012-6319), the League of Meridian Senate’s unsurpassed master of peculation and bribery. Often accused but never indicted despite the sheer flagrancy of his behavior, Chrune died in office1 at the age of 307.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

1. And in his office. Malicious gossip – which is naturally widely believed despite the lack of substantiation – holds that he suffocated when his life-support equipment was damaged during a campaign orgy.

Valid For Life, Not For Living

WANTED: Bids for mercenary contract: stealth raid on fortified drift, extraction of corpsicle or verifiable proof-of-death, transport provided from Mersenta (Cherith Beacons). Will pay five points over top exval, plus expenses. Details on request. Contact <nym>.

“Hey, how about this –”


“But — why not? A sneak-and-snatch on an ice-house should be easy money.”

“Raid a drift for a corpsicle, close to Mersenta? That’s Tis!ngey Station, and that ain’t easy money. The whole place is locked up tighter than a deshniki matron’s cloaca, out to a light-minute, and not just with private security but regular fleet. Even at five over, it’s sucker bait – the desperate and the stupid only.”

“That hardened? Who are they keeping there, the Lost Kings?’



“Yeah. Tis!ngey belongs to a cartel of datacorps from polities recusant on the Accord on Intellectual Property. Their home-office version supports life-plus term copyrights, so when one of their authors gets old and sick enough, they freeze him down and ship him off to Tis!ngey. Sometimes they make him scribble out a bushel of part-works first, just enough to make a claim on the whole valid, for them to farm out later, but either way, as long as he stays frozen and their chrunes are on the ball, he ain’t dead in what you might call the technical sense. Anyone proves otherwise, that’s billions, maybe trillions of exval floatin’ free. More’n enough to pay for a guard fleet that’s high above our paygrade, you copy?”