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?”


A question I did not answer at the time, regarding this:

One wonders, when she was revived, did she reinherit back any of her titles or property?

Well, now.

Titles are the easiest one to answer, *there*, and the short answer is “some of them, according to their nature”.

To answer in a rather longer manner: if we for the moment discount titles of privilege (i.e., those titles which exist simply to be purchased by/to recognize the contribution of personal resources to the public good) and assume that private titles more or less follow the same rules as public ones (an essentially accurate assumption), it looks something like this:

In Imperial praxis, as defined by the Imperial Charter, there are three classes of titles: runér, praetorate, and exultant. The former two are both functional – by definition, the holder of a runér title has the Imperial Mandate over some demesne somewhere, physical, virtual, or abstract, and explicitly executes all the duties attached thereto. Likewise, a praetor holds some office somewhere in the Imperial Service, and the title comes with the job, to provide the precedence and dignities appropriate to the job.

Exultant titles, contrariwise, are not-implying-you’re-done-but-still-post hoc rewards for merit, accomplishment, and excellence, and as such are not explicitly tied to executing any particular duties except for the rather generalized one of continuing to be the awesome soph you were formally recognized as being.

So, the rules for these were set a long time before it ever came up in this particular case. Exultant titles, you keep and can reclaim; they have no dependencies on anything unless you go so far outside the pale that the people authorized to initiate such a case can persuade the Curia to impeach you. Runér and praetorate titles, on the other hand, are strongly linked to doing the job, and as such the condition there is and has always been incapacity. Suffering from “not-dead-in-the-most-technical-sense, long-term, whole-body frostbite” adequately qualifies as incapacity, so those titles do pass – but, then, unlike most Earth cases, they would also pass if you were merely comatose, or suffering from other lengthy medical conditions that meant that you couldn’t perform the duties of the office, because none of those titles are ornamental and someone’s got to.

You do, however, automatically receive the corresponding courtesy exultant title for ex-runér/ex-praetors, because that’s part of normal succession procedure. Which is to say you keep the honors of the position, after all, you earned them; it’s just that you aren’t the person people should be taking their petitions and paperwork to any more.

(As for the possibility of reclaiming those titles: in most cases, that wouldn’t be automatic, although your successor may choose to hand it right back to you. There are a few exceptions due to their own special rules: most House charters reserve the position of “genarch”, for example, to the oldest living family member with descendants, and if the person fitting that description happens to do so because they just came back from the dead, well – ain’t no rule against that, and they’re still the oldest living family member with descendants, so.)

Property-wise: That’s somewhat more complicated, and I don’t want to go into too much detail because that time period is exactly the time at which the legal rules on that sort of thing were in flux, and I have not yet nailed down the exact dates of what fluxed when.

In the modern era, of course, it’s not even a question. You aten’t dead until there’s no information-theoretically recoverable mind-state recognizable as you available anywhere, or alternatively, have personally merged with the Transcendent god-mind, so no-one’d even think about running probate just because you happen to be chillin’ right now.

Back in the day, of course, this was more complicated when you could be dead without being dead-dead, but Imperial law has always been much more generous than ours when it comes to ensuring that the dead can still get their will done, not like mere animacy should be able to impair the sacred obligation of contracts, after all. So it would not be at all hard for her, or anyone else trying this, to set up the appropriate instruments to hold her stuff in trust and then give it back to herself. (That would be necessary because it’s not like they could unprobate, as that would inevitably be ex post facto.)

(And she probably didn’t do that for all of it, either – this being, after all, still very experimental. And, well, one can always get more money.)

Moments in History (1)

The greatest period of growth of cryonics came about in 1793, with the tragic death of Empress Emeritus Octavia I Cyprium (reigned 1425-1644) in a laboratory accident. In accordance with her previously stated wishes, her body was preserved in liquid nitrogen and immured in a specially constructed capsule in the vaults beneath the Garden Tower of the Imperial Palace.

The publicity surrounding these events served to bring cryonics into the public eye across the Empire. Many pro-cryopreservation branches and cryoinvestment corporations formed in the following decade, and the first Vaults of the Dead Awaiting – facilities for mass cryopreservation of all the deceased – were under construction near prominent Ledges of the Dead in the early 1800s.

Octavia I was revived from cryostasis and treated for her injuries successfully in 2581. Her cryocapsule is currently on display at the Imperial Museum of Curiosities, along with its plaque, wryly reading, “In event of Empire-threatening emergency, break glass.”

Trope-a-Day: Human Popsicle

Human Popsicle: Cryostasis used to be a standard way of storing people, and was taken advantage of for a variety of purposes, specifically including the Deep Star projects (subluminal interstellar colonization of the Thirteen Colonies, with ships full of frozen people), and, in the time after the prospect of fixing the dead was mooted but before the technology to do so was available, freezing something very close to everybody who died accidentally “for later”, in the Vaults of the Dead Awaiting.  Hates the permadeath, they does.  Some people, chrononauts, even used it electively for, to be closest to the spirit of the trope, deliberate one-way time travel into the future.  See history while skipping the boring parts!

In the modern era, cryostasis is an archaic technology, mostly replaced with digital archiving for minds and the rather more high-tech and less damaging/risky nanostasis for organic bodies, but the effects and the purposes for doing it remain much the same.

Physics and Death

I saw this the other day, quoted on Diane Duane’s tumblr:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

– Aaron Freeman, “You Want A Physicist To Speak At Your Funeral”

Unfortunately (and admitting that from certain nonphysically spiritual points of view, it is a lovely sentiment) you do rather have to hope that there’s not a physicist listening at your funeral, who knows full well that it’s the orderliness that’s the point, belike, inasmuch as while yes, all energy is conserved, all meaning and purpose and love and warmth and memory and other patterns in the energy will have vanished even before the time when the universe is reduced to a flat, cold, soup of unbonded particles in the inexorable grip of energy-conserved heat death.

And more to the personal point, physics – with a little help from information theory – is quite able (in theory; the practical side isn’t quite there yet) to compute the point in the hours after – or even potentially before, with some medical conditions – your corporal death at which all of the youness of you has been lost from the cooling meat that used to be your brain.

Anyway, to bring this back to in-universe relevance, not only did this realization synergize well with existing eldraeic spiritual beliefs (which had long held that the soul stayed attached to the body until it was destroyed; which is why they were cremators, it being impolite to keep your deceased family and friends glued into a decaying corpse, belike), but also provided the catalyst for that Middle Information Age pre-funerary custom of whacking the heads off the deceased without delay and immuring them in colossal underground shrine-vaults filled with Dewar flasks of liquid nitrogen…

(It had some interesting effects when they were finally able to recover all of that mind-state data, too, but that’s another tale…)