They Fear Neither Death Nor Pain

It has been asked in various places what scares Imperial sophonts the most. Herewith is the answer:

As a side-note, you will observed that the answers here are mostly existential, not physical. Physical fear never had much hold on the eldraeic psyche in the first place (none at all, for those with access to battletrance or other high-order counterphobotics), so it doesn’t rank high enough to make it onto the list.

In roughly ascending order, then:

  • Ignorance
  • Loss of control (minor)
  • Permadeath
  • Wilful ignorance (i.e., becoming the sort of person who would indulge that)
  • Loss of control (major); submission
  • An end to ambition
  • Loss or corruption of identity, or of will

Of course, in a very real sense, and speaking for the culture as a whole, the correct answer is not a damn thing. It’s year N of a long, long Golden Age for the Empire, great and glorious beyond all greatness and glory, the future is brighter still, and nothing seems beyond their grasp.

(This is not a culture, shall we say, lacking in self-confidence.)

Cultural Crossovers #16: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Does whatever a spider can…

  • Guess we’re going to have to assume some sort of introductory foo, here. Otherwise no-one’ll know who Spider-Man is, in medias res and all. Apart from what we saw in Civil War.
  • Well, lady, you just lost all our sympathy. You don’t stiff someone on a contract.
  • Yeah, those are some pretty nice things.
  • Ah, quick recap.
  • Nice self-awareness there, Tony.
  • Yeah, waiting on the call sure does suck.
  • Seriously, a dick pun is the best you can do?
  • You need some sort of changing room. Really.
  • Also, more work, maybe.
  • Nice toys, boys. We can’t exactly approve of what y’all opening guys are doing, but still, you don’t stiff people on contracts.
  • Man, you broke the Death Star.
  • LARB.
  • Free pudding, yay! Hopefully not made from larb.
  • Although those would all be really cool powers. And they’re good questions. Should work on those.
  • Okay, how did they get Cap to make those videos?
  • Ah, the perks of Avenger-hood.
  • Okay, score one for the stunner-fist.
  • Oh, your boss is not going to be happy you lost that.
  • Your power-set is really very poorly adapted to suburbia.
  • Nice parachute feature. Needs some beta-testing.
  • Ooh, remote-control suits. Nice.
  • Also nice reference. Shame no-one has the background knowledge to get it.
  • “The Shocker”? Well, I suppose it’s slightly better than Taserface…
  • Seriously, you’ve got to remember which gun is which.
  • I applaud your lair-logic.
  • So, what do strontium, barium, and vibranium have in common?
  • “Training Wheels Protocol”? Seriously, Tony, that’s a name that almost demands that someone turn it off, and you had to know that Peter’d go looking. Maybe “Prevent Your Head From Exploding Protocol; Do Not Disable”? At least then he’d have to read the code first.
  • Really, ammo selection should be her job, or what’s a suit AI for?
  • I’ll take one of those portable doors.
  • At least it’s not a radioactive energy core.
  • Dear lift-lady: Less reassurance, more action.
  • Now that’s an awesome drone.
  • Someone throw that guy out of the elevator and let the reasonable people be rescued.
  • Well, that kinda-sorta worked.
  • “Man-Spider”? Come on, guys, get it together.
  • Seriously, WHO GOT CAP TO MAKE THESE VIDEOS?
  • …these protocol names really aren’t getting any better.
  • And seriously, Peter, get Karen to read you the instructions first.
  • Okay, someone needs to have a word or two with you about collateral budgets.
  • And, oh yeah, how even not fancy space guns can fire through wrapping.
  • …so close.
  • Ooh, a swarm of shovebots. We like.
  • Desperation. It’s a hell of a drug.
  • Man, harsh. Although it’s not like Tony doesn’t have a good point. Several of them. From experience.
  • Ah, young love. At least you’re getting good advice on this one.
  • …oh, my. This will work out badly.
  • Although credit to him, offering a life for a life.
  • At least he didn’t ask for your pants, dude.
  • Glad someone’s having a good time. In the chair.
  • Although Peter is definitely right that y’all should do more listening.
  • Is that self-repairing? I don’t think that’s self-repairing.
  • Good strategy. Much overkill. Smart. Not good enough, certainly, but still smart.
  • And there it is. (We were noticing your heroic quality all along. Glad you caught up with us.)
  • Pretty sure ‘retroreflector’ is not the term, there.
  • Is that really a case of arc reactors?
  • You can’t believe that worked?
  • …now that. Damn. That was an awesome landing.
  • It’s over. You know it, you know there’s nothing to be gained, and you’ve been an honorable enemy thus far. Don’t —
  • — do that.
  • Nice note.
  • Yeah, you’ve got to secure the bathroom first.
  • No, that may be your worst analogy ever, and it’s up against some damn stiff competition.
  • ..we hope you’re going to give him Karen back. They were really bonding.
  • Awwww. We’re all so happy for you crazy kids.
  • Ah, you did! Excellent.
  • Oops. (And, man, are we going to be disappointed not to see how that conversation ended before we see Spider-Man again in Infinity War.)
  • Well done, sir.
  • …you’re just trolling us now, aren’t you?

Uplifting Thoughts

In this course, we cover one of the most interesting branches of exosophontology, the exosophontology of uplifted species.

While we will touch upon the minority uplift cultural movements (the integrationists, who attempt to become indistinguishable from their creators; the separatists, who would divorce themselves from civilization to find their own way; the worshipful, who cast themselves as eternal servants; and the devolvers, who seek to cast off mentality and regain a state of presophonce), these will not be our focus. That remains the majority cultures practiced by uplifts.

These majority cultures are evolutions of a fascinating pastiche, composed originally of elements drawn from three primary sources. First, there is the culture of the uplifting species, which – being omnipresent from the uplifts’ first days, and practiced by their species-parents – inevitably makes a considerable impression upon them.

Second, there is their indigenous culture. In some senses, this is a vacuum waiting to be filled, since even the most developed of prosophonts remains prosophont, and lacks history, heritage, and traditional praxis. However, with sophoncy, the process of cultural development begins, based on instincts and merkwelt, along with their existing social structures, and protolanguages, rudimentary as they might be. Responsible uplifters, such as our own Family of Species, promote this process as a means of preserving the unique cognitive and social qualities that made the species worthy of uplift in the first place.

Third, and finally, a newly uplifted species naturally studies what has been said about it by others: not merely scientific information, although this is a natural place to start for those whose genesis came about through science, but also legend, story, fable, and folklore. Originally, uplifters made efforts to discourage this, to avoid contaminating emerging uplift cultures from the outset, but swiftly learned that such curiosity could not, and should not, be denied. While not encouraging it and offering appropriate cautions regarding the possibility of fitting themselves to a mold not theirs, such other-discovery is now accepted in the later stages of uplift and the new sophonts’ search for authenticity.

The cultures resulting from the intertwining and mingling of these three strands are complex, nuanced, often initially-contradictory creations, both simple in the fashion of young species cultures everywhere – even after centuries, in the presence of much older cultures, many uplifts still feel as if they are extemporizing much of the time – and at the same time filled with a surprising richness, with a great deal to contribute to the wider Imperial and galactic cultures.

This course, however, can offer only the most shallow examination of any individual uplift culture in the time available, as it must necessarily concentrate on describing the common features, principles, formation, and evolution of uplift culture. However, graduates of this course will find themselves well-positioned to undertake the study of specific uplift cultures or cultural features as their studies continue.

– from a course description at the
Imperial University of Almea

Cultural Crossovers #15: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Yay, it’s these guys again!

  • Quill’s parents, we presume. Along with a very large violation of ecological safety practices.
  • Well, that’s a weird way of assembling planets into a megastructure. Wonder what the point is, apart from saying “we can make gravity our bitch?” Although that kind of is a point.
  • Ah, Rocket. Your adventurer-fu is strong. And, hey, you never know when another dance-off might be needed.
  • Well, that’s a whole pile of ugly.
  • Groot: Still adorable. Still trolling Drax. We approve. The space-rat riding is new, but we agree with that too.
  • Drax: still insane.
  • You guys sure love gold, huh?
  • Well, hello, Nebula.
  • Rocket, while we agree with your assessment, you’ve got to have a —
  • Okay, I’m pretty sure doing a “bit of both” wasn’t supposed to be at the same time.
  • Wow, you’re not just understanding but actually constructing metaphors now?
  • Well, that’s an interesting way to control your space fleet. Do they keep the high scores somewhere?
  • Quantum asteroids? Unlikely, but cool concept.
  • Drax: even insaner.
  • You have interesting-looking jump points.
  • $10 says Drax wants another go.
  • …called it.
  • At least it waited until you were done crashing to fall off.
  • Well, that’s a remarkably nondescriptive name.
  • Hey, it’s Yondu!
  • Hm. Ravagers have a code, mythos, a notion of exile. Hmm. Tell us more, plz.
  • Oooh. Nice nano-make-shit spray. Or nano-make-ship spray, in this case.
  • Cool-lookin’ egg-ship.
  • Drax, I don’t think that was a secret to anyone.
  • Oh, this ambush will not go well, if I know Rocket.
  • Yeah, I know Rocket. And the soundtrack makes it.
  • …but then there’s Yondu and his knife missile.
  • Wow, some of these guys came out of the shallow end of the gene pool.
  • Oh, Kraglin. Bad call.
  • Nice-looking planet, Ego. Presumably very much a product of ecopoesis, gravity being what it is.
  • Well, small g, maybe, but you’ve built a hell of a temple-museum to yourself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Yeah, that does look like mutiny. Traditional spacings and all.
  • Isn’t ‘metaphorical’ a bit too large a word for you, Taserface?
  • Taserface.
  • Quite the sense of revenge you’ve got there, huh, Nebula.
  • Sniff. Playing catch with the light-ball is all kinds of touching. But the other shoe has to be dropping any moment.
  • And that seems likely to be it.
  • “Too adorable to kill”, really?
  • Shit, he’s a champion asshole.
  • Not very clear on this, Groot – which is odd considering your language skills elsewhere. But evidently he picked up on Rocket’s love of body parts.
  • Now that’s a much better call.
  • Damn, but Yondu’s good with that thing. That’s friggin’ war-poetry, right there.
  • Oh, now that’s just showing off.
  • Love the incendiary mode. And that’s an impressive – if an expensive – use of a modular ship.
  • Y’know, it generally helps to speak of unspoken things. We find. As a rule.
  • And Gamora, as expected, cuts the matter to the heart.
  • Man, that ship gets crashed a lot.
  • Okay, how the hell is she even holding that gun? Damn thing must be made of spinmetal and aerogel.
  • Thanos has a lot to answer for.
  • Hey, making weird shit sounds good. Actually, it seems like a much better use of divinity than Ego’s starting to preach.
  • (Also, Mantis and Drax are adorable and bizarre.)
  • …that is a lot of corpses. And seeing as Ego is the entire damn planet and is keeping them inside him, dear gods, is that creepifying.
  • Now that was a heart-to-heart.
  • Oh, holy crapballs, you’re a class II hegemonizing swarm.
  • Beyond such things as friends? Killing the woman you loved so you wouldn’t be distracted by her? You are the worst god ever. And considering the competition for that slot…
  • Well, given that you want to turn everything in the universe into you, it’s not like he’d have been spending the next thousand years as anything else anyway.
  • Any chance you assembled a planet-killer bomb from that guy’s eye, Rocket? Would be handy about now.
  • Yeah, it’s actually quite surprising that you don’t have a lot more issues.
  • Hell, if you need that thing to get in, I’m impressed with the security of the Bank of A’askavaria. Beautifully flexible, though.
  • It’s cute that the Sovereign go to the trouble of projecting their faces on the AKVs they’re piloting just so you can see who’s killing you.
  • Or, y’know, you could just improvise a planet-cracker on the spot. That’s cool. Hey, can we hire you?
  • Oh, god, everyone’s going to die.
  • Drax: still a troll.
  • Good gods, what was powering that arm? Was it designed so you could tear it off and throw it as a grenade? (I mean, knowing Thanos, yes, but still.)
  • Also, that entire planet has a terrible case of resting bitch face.
  • Um, a sane, decent, loving one?
  • If you two are all there is, what else is he going to do for fun?
  • Pretty sure he can. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s obligatory. Bugger destiny anyway.
  • Just about any of the infinity of possible meanings. You’re a heggie swarm. Boring and meaningless are among the top concepts associated with heggie swarms.
  • And by some miracle, Groot doesn’t kill everyone.
  • (I wish the people in this hypothetical theater would get all the nuances of the Pac-Man joke.)
  • Not sure Star-Lord is ever going to be just like everybody else. He’s got you out-awesomed for a start, Mister Celestial.
  • The audience rises and salutes Yondu’s final sacrifice. If they could, they’d vote him into Valhalla unanimously.
  • And are delighted that the Ravagers agree.
  • Oops.
  • Okay, are those guys getting a spin-off of their own in which they steal some shit? Please?
  • More rigidity of the stick up his butt, too?
  • (Probably lacking most of the context for teenage Groot too, alas.)

Eldraeic Words of the Day: New Places

A couple of words that are likely to be relevant in explaining many of the complexities of explaining to the audience the background needed to understand Black Panther, when we get there:

mahamoníë: Colony; literally “made-polity”. Applies specifically to polities created ex nihilo on terra nullius; there are variants of the mahamoníë, such as the semahamoníë, the reciprocal colony exchanged by allies, or the covíënqármoníë, the “wealth-price colony”, founded on a free sale and a fair purchase, but neither nations admitted by mutual agreement (and thus peer constituent nations) nor acquisitions by force (see below), formal or informal, can be referred to as mahamoníë.

rianqármoníë: Conquest; literally “sword-price polity”. Applies to any polity annexed by force. Any territory previously occupied by a population and not admitted by mutual agreement is necessarily a rianqármoníë, whether the force is formal or informal, exercised in fact or in duress, etc., etc.

And thus the necessity to translate “colonizer”, as an epithet, into traän-rianqármoníë daráv for anyone to understand it properly.


Cultural Crossovers #10: Guardians of the Galaxy

Oh, this should be fun —

  • As we’ve said before, mortality sucks. And being the grandfather who loses his daughter and grandson in the same moment sucks unimaginably.
  • Those who remember the very first trope-a-day will know why one might have to explain the whole alien abduction thing to this audience.
  • Well, look who’s rockin’ the adventurer archetype, complete with hint of xia. (Imperial culture loves this archetype so hard, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the audience will be rooting for Star-Lord from now on.)
  • We have artifact sign!
  • Oh, yeah. Nice ship, nice gadgetry, this is how this shit is done!
  • …oops.
  • Well, aren’t you an interesting lot.
  • So, looks like the Kree go heavily in for the big, dark, and gloomy architecture.
  • …also for the unnecessarily repulsive bathing habits.
  • Well, hello. You seem more interesting than the average bounty hunter.
  • (Also, is everyone else a hominin in this universe? Wut.)
  • Even the one from a completely different tree, heh, of life. At least in body plan.
  • Yeah, it’s amazing how many adventurer circles meet that way.
  • Prick, indeed.
  • And are described that way.
  • Xandarian prisons would appear to be about as bad as the audience expects. And have no respect for private property! Bastards.
  • Let’s see: a wanderer, the hand-crafted pawn of an insane Power, a prototype uplift, and a tree. Oh, and Broody McEngravedPants. Yeah, sounds about right.
  • Looks like he earned that name honestly, judging by the reactions.
  • Nice even-with-translation difficulties, there.
  • Someone wants to speak to the organ-grinder. I don’t think he’ll enjoy it.
  • Ah, it’s going to be one of those plans.
  • I love an enthusiast with a gun taller than they are.
  • The things that make up a chap’s reputation. My, oh my.
  • Okay, even by the audience’s local standards, this is a brilliant escape plan. Although it raises some questions about the maximum-security prison’s security.
  • Yeah, some things are important.
  • …or an enthusiast for blowing up moons. Love those too.
  • And eww. Even without black light. Especially since the audience can see in UV.
  • Is that arrow a knife missile? Shiny.
  • Well, that’s novel. And creepy. And faintly disgusting. Squishier than we would usually expect ancient Powers to be.
  • Aww, Groot.
  • Okay, someone’s going to have to explain that reference.
  • All the love for the phrase “pelvic sorcery”. Three logotects submit a new word to the Conclave by morning.
  • We might like you if you weren’t such an asshole to your staff, or perhaps we should say slaves.
  • Well, that’s some suitably terrifying ultimately-paleo paleotechnology.
  • And this is the pragmatic reason that you shouldn’t have slaves.
  • (Also, what the heck did that do to the other Infinity Stone you have lying around there?)
  • That’s a good reason.
  • Drax, never get drunk again, ‘kay?
  • And for him, it was Tuesday.
  • You like that plan, huh? RAMMING FTW.
  • Well, that’s definitely a basis for a relationship…
  • Hell of a play, Quill. The audience applauds, anticipating the follow-up gambit.
  • Groot, thoracic surgeon?
  • Oooh, someone’s caught ambition.
  • Oh, gods, this meeting. Just… this meeting. But especially the moment that it ends with.
  • …and then Rocket.
  • Wait, wasn’t that a metaphor?
  • What is it with you and other people’s body parts? On second thoughts, don’t answer that.
  • Hell, “Not 100% a dick” is a pretty apt description of the entire adventuring profession. Certainly as viewed from the outside.
  • (Sadly, the dick message will require cultural translation. As will Kevin Bacon.)
  • Now, that’s a neat trick, but I think the audience might question the practicality of turning your mobile defense into an immobile shield, especially when the enemy has mobile units of their own,
  • Ah, Drax. Tact is something else that your culture missed out on, isn’t it?
  • …you do grok friendship, though.
  • Oh, yeah, that’s a knife missile!
  • Urgh. Macrotech cybernetics are ugly when self-repairing.
  • Evidently, he has reserves. And Saal, you’re kinda racist towards the one saving your city’s ass right now. Well, okay, part of it.
  • Keep working on it, Drax, you’ll get there.
  • And that’s why you don’t bring Sakaarans to a Groot fight.
  • Well, damn.
  • Aww, Groot. Is this theater dusty? I’ll call someone to clean the filters… in a minute…
  • And Star-Lord wins the furthest-beyond-left-field improvised plan award, this and possibly all years.
  • Yes, that you most certainly are.
  • Well, now, isn’t that interesting?
  • Looks like Drax has also caught some ambition. I hope it ends better.
  • Also, good for the Nova Corps in actually, unlike maybe 99% of similar organizations, having some gratitude.
  • Oh, don’t troll the poor man. Well, too much.
  • Grootling!

Oh, yeah. Despite the pop-cultural references – spoken and visual – needing a gnostic overlay or two to make sense, this one fills theaters for months, easy. The audience loves it. The fan community starts building stuff from it. The soundtrack inspires musicians to the sincerest form of flattery. Just about perfect, in fact.

So that went well.

Cultural Crossovers #9: Captain America – The Winter Soldier

Once more into the cinema, dear friends, once more:

  • Captain America continues to be awesome.
  • He don’t need no steenkin’ parachute, although why the vibranium ain’t glowing is a mystery.
  • Ah, multitasking. Always room for a banter thread.
  • And this is why concealed mission objectives are a bad idea unless you’re concealing them from yourself with a conditional-release trigger. Even for compartmentalization purposes.
  • Heli-cruisers, is it?
  • Ah, the idealist versus the pragmatist. The audience sides with the idealist. (The sentinels in the audience sigh softly.)
  • Oh, that reunion. It could make a stone weep, and we all still hate mortality.
  • Hiding things from yourself, Fury, or something sinister going on?
  • Nice car. Smart. Just the thing for a nice day out in hostile territory.
  • …not quite good enough, but damn close.
  • The Winter Soldier, I presume?
  • Well, that’s a nice trick, Mister Cyborg.
  • Oh, he is so not dead.
  • And, Pierce, this is possibly the most obvious frame job since they hung the Mona Lisa.
  • Son, you don’t have enough STRIKE units. The whole of SHIELD doesn’t have enough STRIKE units.
  • And, as usual, the Council of Holographic People is being played like an organ-grinder’s… organ. The Imperial Security Executive is deeply unimpressed.
  • Nice moves – and you schmucks call yourselves a tac team?
  • YOU UPLOADED A MIND-STATE WITH THAT!? (in a bunker? with a box of scraps?)
  • Oh, you cunning bastards. When working with a population of kneelers, anyway.
  • (And how the hell was Fury blind to this all these years? This is why the Imperial Service has three, count ’em, three, Departments of Impropriety.)
  • “I shoot my housekeeper to demonstrate how unnecessarily evil I am!”
  • Oh, it’s Senator Asshat being… well, yeah, exactly what we’d expect.
  • And that’s how one conducts an interrogation. Also, really nice jetpackoskeleton.
  • Ah, proleptic algorithms. Nice tech, lots of useful applications, shame about the grotesque abuse of it here.
  • Well, shit. How did you end up there? And then?
  • Excellent timing, Agent Hill.
  • Oh, Rumlow, don’t you know that the traditional cliché is to make the prisoners dig their own graves?
  • Called it.
  • Ah, more freezing, after a run through the brain laundry. That makes sense.
  • Please note: the tech in your laundry also sucks.
  • …and yeah, seriously, when you’re this compromised, you BURN IT TO THE GROUND. And then shoot the ashes into the sun. And then blow up the sun.
  • Good impromptu speech, that.
  • And glorious moment-stepping!
  • And then, sudden transparency. Everyone in the audience who doesn’t secretly work for the Fifth Directorate applauds. So does everyone who does, because, y’know, secrecy.
  • “Order only comes through pain”? Man, HYDRA are all about the fucked-up mottos.
  • Well, this is a spectacular mess.
  • Nice catch!
  • And after their respective multiple high-risk plays, the entire audience would be more than delighted to go into battle alongside either Cap or Black Widow. Any day of the week.
  • Well, that’s a hell of a loose end to tie up.
  • …and there are some idiots playing with the scepter of mindfucking. That’s going to work out well.

Also doesn’t take much cultural explanation, same as the last one in this sub-series, except for two really big details:

One, how did you get a supposedly non-evil organization to think that Project Insight doing preemptive executions was a good idea (don’t tell us, pragmatism – which is why we don’t like pragmatists around here); and

Two, how in all the blazes of nucleonic eggbeating fornication did, I repeat myself, Fury let SHIELD get that compromised? I mean, there’s suspension of disbelief, but based on previous films and characterization, we’re not supposed to think of him as hilariously incompetent, so…

Wut?