Solar eclipses are a relatively frequent phenomenon within the Worlds, occurring on any planet which possesses a moon large enough to elevate its occasional traversal of the primary from a mere transit. The majority of these are annular eclipses, although – even if we discount those habitable gas giant and superlithic moons whose parent planet hides the sun for days, weeks, or months at a time – full occultations are hardly rare.

The perfect solar eclipse, however – that moment of impossible beauty when the lunar disk precisely covers the primary’s photosphere at syzygy, allowing the corona to shine forth as a ring of jewels – requires such a serendipitous coincidence of lunar diameters and orbital elements as to be virtually unknown even across ten-thousand systems, rendering minor wonders such as double planets and circumbinary sunrises commonplace by comparison.

While a handful of systems experience them occasionally, and a few have attempted to recreate the phenomenon artificially, the true natural perfect solar eclipse is best witnessed on Mezimiali (Qulomna Maze), the only known system to be blessed with a solar and lunar configuration capable of giving rise to totality somewhere on the planetary surface approximately every 1.5 local years.

Would-be eclipse viewers should be warned, though: plan ahead! The autochthonous moig have taken enthusiastically to their world’s primary source of tourism, relocating an extensive complex of motile resorts to fully cover the predicted path of totality of each and every eclipse to allow as many visitors as possible to enjoy the experience, but even allowing for this, bookings must be made years – even decades – in advance, and travel comply strictly with published schedules to handle the logistics of moving so many sophonts onto and off planet in good order.

Such is the price of observing one of the rarest of all astrophysical phenomena.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol


Imperial Fringe, or, Map Time

Today’s gift for y’all is… a new map! A bigger map! A better map!

This map:


Which basically quintuples the amount of the Worlds that has been mapped on a system-by-system basis by extending that from the Imperial Core to the entire Imperial Fringe. Enjoy! (Although it’s big, so be aware when you click through.)

Key and notes:

  • As is usual, it’s a link-graph map, i.e., like a metro map, and a projection of 3D space onto 2D space besides. Neither stellar distances nor relative positions are in the least accurate except in the most general possible sense.
  • Each of the constellations (the Imperial Core plus the five constellations of the Imperial Fringe) represented is represented as a box containing the associated star systems. At the edges, the little orange boxes with CAPITAL LETTERS inside them represent links out to the other constellations of the Worlds.
  • The majority of Imperial star systems are represented as GOLD nodes. The exceptions to this are:
    • Certain important systems highlighted in RED (the throneworld, the IN Prime Base, the Cirys sphere and Cirys swarm); and
    • The system dedicated to the Conclave of Galactic Polities, indicated in BLUE; and
    • Imperial conlegial systems, indicated in GREEN; and
    • The original Thirteen Colonies (reached subluminally) represented in PALE GOLD.
  • Non-Imperial star systems are represented as PURPLE nodes.
  • Stargate pairs connecting systems are represented as SOLID lines. Stargate pairs connecting entire constellations are represented as DASHED lines. Crossing lines, as per the symbology, don’t actually intersect.
  • Arterial routes, i.e., extra-high-capacity stargate pairs, are represented as THICK lines.
  • The ORANGE line represents one major interstellar trade route passing through the Empire, the Mercantile Corridor. The GREEN line represents the other, the Lethiaza Trade Spine.
  • GOLD systems with a RED border are Imperial systems that connect directly to non-Imperial systems and as such form part of the Interface Defense Matrix. Also, when you get there, you have to clear immigration.


Special extra challenges for the detail-oriented reader with some time to kill:

…how many different ante-Eldraeic roots for “world, place, land, planet, etc.” can you identify from the names of the various Imperial worlds seen on this map? And how many of those are actually exotic-species routes?

…how many and which extra-Imperial polities can you draw lines around based on commonalities of name scheme among the non-Imperial worlds?

Answers and questions in comments, please!

(P.S. Yes, that’s “Kerbol System” down there in the High Verge; having thrown that reference in as an homage, I’m hardly going to reverse myself now. Any assumptions one might make, however, about its planets, inhabitants, space program, or other details, however, are distinctly non-canonical.)

Author’s Note: Astrography

So let’s talk a little about the setting of our ongoing fiction, the Associated Worlds.

First: they’re big. Really, really frakkin’ big. Sci-fi writers with a sense of scale big. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemists’, but…

Ahem. Enough of that.

So, let me draw you a picture. The free-space volume of the Associated Worlds is an irregular mostly-oblate spheroid. Along its major axes, it’s about 3,300 light years from core to rim, 4,100 light years from spinward to trailing, and 2,000 light years from acme to nadir. To put some perspective on those numbers, that means that at its tallest part, much of the center, it completely fills the galactic disk top to bottom. Meanwhile, the Lethíäza arm of the galaxy in which it is located is approximately 3,500 light years across, and since one slightly-flattened end of the spheroid – expansion having slowed, although not stopped, to coreward on encountering the inter-arm gap – is pressed up against its coreward side, it lacks only about 200 light years of running into the rimward side of the arm, too.

As those of you with calculators will already know, that’s approximately 27 billion cubic light years of volume, which contains approximately 100 million stellar bodies of various kinds. Like I said, big.

Of course, on the cosmic scale, or even the galactic scale, it’s still a barely significant mote. Space is like that.

The kicker, of course, is that most of that is unused and only explored astronomically. The expansion pattern of the Worlds has been, essentially, to look for interesting things, and then fire off a long-range stargate to a system near them and weave a constellation from there. The one black hole in our neighborhood? That counts. The blue-white supergiant? That counts, too. Any system which appears to have signs of intelligent and usually technological life? That definitely counts, as maybe we can sell ’em something. That sort of thing.

That process has resulted in maybe 10,000 star systems over that whole enormous volume being actually connected to the stargate plexus and thus readily visitable. That would be roughly 0.01% of the stellar bodies in that volume. The rest would be the “Inner Periphery” of systems that didn’t seem so interesting at the time but which are likely to be hooked up if and when they become interesting, or if and when polities in inner constellations feel like expanding locally, rather than out in the ecumene, and also feel like paying for it.

So when you think of the Associated Worlds, think of a cobweb. The strands are long-distance wormholes. The dewdrops clinging to the points where they intersect are local constellations, where constellation in this case is defined as maybe fifty systems linked together with short-range stargates with three or four long-range gates connecting to it at various points. And the empty spaces are not-quite-empty space.

To hang some numbers on that, the Empire has all of one constellation (the Imperial Core), and about half each of five more (the Imperial Fringe), close to 250 worlds in total if you include its colonies out in the ecumene. Which is to say, it’s the tiny kernel at the heart of the big nut – although that said, it’s nearest competitors, the Photonic Network and the League of Meridian, are only 120-150 world polities. To divide up the rest, in the divisions Where’s Where in the Galaxy would offer you, these six constellations and 73 more make up the “true” Associated Worlds, the well-developed, comfortable, and stable metropolitan regions.

109 more constellations surrounding those make up the Expansion Regions, which are a bit less developed but not actually frontier. They tend to be the places where most of the action is, when there’s astropolitical action.

And the 23 constellations of the Periphery, found all around except to acme, nadir, and along the border with the Republic, are the wild and wooly frontier.

Leaving the Worlds proper for a moment, the Voniensa Republic, featuring rather heavily at the moment, is located spinward and slightly to rimward. It has about 8,000 worlds in its volume, although by no means all of those are politically part of the Republic. (More than a few of them belong to people who are currently being Prime Directed, for a start.) It’s also substantially smaller than the Worlds in free-space volume, because while they’re not quite as bad at insisting territorial volumes make sense in space as the members of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms, they do pursue a much more consolidate-y expansionary policy.

And finally to note, cutting through the rimward systems of Lethíäza, and thus both the rimward side of the Republic and the fringe Periphery – only a few stargates at the far edge of the rimward Periphery breach it – is the Shadow Veil, which is a vast dark nebula of opaque gas and dust that does a fine job of obscuring both the view further rimward from most of the Worlds, and vice versa.

(So even if its still flexible galactic location turns out to be directly coreward of us, there’s still a reason why our astronomers *there* aren’t getting all excited about those distinct signs of someone building megastructures and operating pion drives. Heh.)

For Those Following Along At Home: Map!

For those following along with these stories at home (or on holiday, or during your commute, or at work – why not?), I just found some time to clean up one of my rough sketch-maps of what the universe looks like, so thought I’d share it with you.  This is a relatively small part of the whole Associated Worlds (just one of the many linked constellations, which as you may recall in galactographic parlance means “cluster of stars linked with short-range wormholes, linked to other constellations by long-range wormholes), but it is one of the oldest and most important regions: namely, the Imperial Core itself, the 57 stars right at the heart of the web that includes the Empire’s throneworld, the Conclave Drift, and other such significant worlds, trade routes, etc., many of which have been mentioned in one context or another:

Imperial Core

(It’s quite a big image; click to enlarge.)  You’ll also notice that it’s what they call a “link-graph map”, meaning that it’s like a metro map – the links between stars are correct, but their actual relative physical positions are, ah, not necessarily so.  The more so because this is, of course, a 2D projection of 3D space.  This is exactly what you want for most interstellar travel, which is done purely by ‘gate – those who are flying around in relativistic clippers, on the other hand, will need to go buy a real-space starmap instead.  (Available from your local Grand Survey franchise!)