The Small Rot

The small rot (also known as: miner’s carbuncle; brass-hand’s growth; smelterman’s tumor; spacer’s neoplasm; cancer): The small rot, by any of its various names, is a dysfunction of normal cell growth processes in which genetic and/or epigenetic mutations imbue cells with the ability to replicate indefinitely, ignoring cell control signalling and programmed cell death. The term, “small rot” is derived both from an early analogy between fungal bodies found growing in timber and the masses (neoplasms) formed in the body by these dysfunctional cells, and from the tendency of larger neoplasms to develop necrotic regions as they continue to grow.

Identified causes of the small rot vary, but the primary causative factors are industrial, followed by a smaller number of factors traced to identified oncoviruses and hereditary genetic factors. Indeed, it is considered a primarily industrial disease, hence some of its names, due to the dominance of exposure to ionizing radiation as a causative factor; the small rot is strongly correlated with current or previous cases of blue-blotch fever, with long-term exposure to inadequately shielded nucleonic technology, and exposure to various industrial chemicals known to disrupt proper cellular function or cause genomic damage. In the pre-industrial era, cases of the small rot were most commonly found among miners or inhabitants of regions where uranium or thorium ores are found near or at the surface.

The small rot is considered difficult to diagnose accurately: while the dysfunctional cells form neoplasms – and as such unusual masses, when detected, should be subject to medical analysis – these rarely produce local or systemic symptoms in the early stages of development, and such symptoms are highly variable depending upon the location of the neoplasm. Such symptoms typically occur when the growing mass interferes with other bodily functions. Presently, periodic full-body scans are recommended for those at risk of industrial exposure.

The small rot is usually a minor health concern unless left untreated for an extended period. Small masses are typically self-limiting, as the immune system attacks and destroys the neoplasm. Historically, the treatment for larger masses has been surgical removal of the mass, permitting the body to heal itself in its absence.

In the current era, cells are substantially less likely to suffer from dysfunction leading to the small rot due to genetic upgrades, such as the removal of protooncogenes, and the self-limiting aspect of the small rot is enhanced by the common use of artificial immune systems, which include carcinophage nanites targeting neoplasms. Should these fail and further treatment is required, a course of immunoboosters and oncocidals is prescribed, followed by a carcinophage flush targeted at the specific neoplasm; surgical intervention may still be called for if the mass is particularly large.

In rare cases the neoplasms characteristic to the small rot may metastasize, a process in which neoplastic cells break off from the original mass and are carried by the circulatory or lymphatic system to other sites, most commonly lymph nodes, where they come to rest and continue to multiply, forming multiple secondary neoplasms. This wandering rot (q.v.) is a much more serious condition requiring a full cellular scrub in a healing vat, with a high mortality rate if left untreated. Fortunately, it occurs only with chronic exposure to causative factors or lengthy non-treatment of the small rot, typically in otherwise immunodepressed hosts.

– Oriane’s Home Medical Glossary

Plague and Quarantines

First, on a personal note, an apology to regular readers that things have been a little slow and irregular around here recently; for the last week or so I’ve been fighting off a dose of some inconsiderate virus whose symptoms appear to include bitter sinus headaches and sleeping eighteen-plus hours a day, neither of which is exactly conducive to getting much in the way of writing done…

Hopefully I’m on the mend now. And today, my plan is to hand out some chunks of worldbuilding that I have been able to work on while plague-ridden, by way of sharing what I have got. So, to begin with the thematically appropriate…

Coincidentally, thinking of plague, I happened this morning across a Seanan McGuire interview, and specifically, this section of it:

You’ve said that the modern lack of respect for basic health and quarantine procedures makes you want to scream.

No one respects quarantine anymore! Nobody comprehends quarantine, and absolutely nobody comprehends the fact that sometimes your “rights” and “liberties” do not have any place in this conversation. We have totally drug-resistant tuberculosis! And what do people with totally drug-resistant tuberculosis do? Do they lock themselves in their houses for the rest of their lives? Do they eat a bullet? No! They get on airplanes. And then they get pissed off when the CDC yells at them. Quarantine exists so that we can continue as a species to exist. And yes, it sucks if I say to you, “Dude, really sorry, had to shoot your wife. Had the totally drug-resistant tuberculosis, yo.” But you know what sucks more? Killing an elementary school because you went outside with your totally drug-resistant tuberculosis.

And, well, that’s obviously a question they’ve had to resolve in the Eldraeverse, which equally obviously is somewhere where your rights and liberties absolutely definitely have a place in the conversation, and woe betide anyone who might suggest otherwise…

But, that being said, it’s not something they find particularly hard to reconcile. After all, it says it pretty clearly in the Fundamental Contract:

“A person’s property and domicile may not be moved, destroyed, occupied, damaged, altered, or made use of without his informed consent. A person’s body is considered his own property, and so are his work and his services.”

…which is already the basis for why assaulting someone with, say, your fist, is considered unethical and unlawful. As is using a weapon of conventional construction. As is doing so negligently, so you can’t simply shoot randomly and assign the responsibility to whoever happens to walk in front of your bullet.

So, therefore, is negligently assaulting someone with your parasite, bacterium, virus, prion, etc. The difference here is quantitative, not qualitative.

Application, of course, varies. If you’re just that jackass who insists on going to work, or out to shop, say, with your streaming cold, or whatever, then your tort insurer is not going to be very happy with you at all, because your litigation losses in the microtort system are going to add up pretty damn fast.

Go walking around the town with a more serious but still not uncommon and treatable disease, the sort of thing we used to think of as common childhood ailments – well, then, someone’s getting sued, and someone’s going to court, and someone’s getting smacked down very thoroughly (heavy restitutive and punitive fines, meme rehab, etc.) for negligent battery of some class or another if they managed to actually infect anyone, because that shit? That shit is not acceptable.

Now, when it comes to the really serious things, the things the CDC *here* does not hesitate to impose quarantines for, like the local equivalent of said utterly drug-resistant tuberculosis, or ebola, and other such things of that class…

Well, technically

Technically, in theory, the Office of Disease and Toxin Control, Prevention, and Elimination can only post “quarantine advisories”.

But in practice, anyone who goes around breathing utterly drug-resistant tuberculosis over people is committing acts negligently equivalent to biological warfare with every glob of sputum they cough up, and that, right there, invokes that other fundamental sophont right, the Right of Defense and Common Defense.

So they can’t force you to stay either inside your home or, should you need to travel outside it, inside an IOSS 21347-compliant bionano containment suit.

They can, however, shoot you in the head, incinerate your corpse, and apologize afterwards if you don’t. (As can anyone else, of course, but the professionals like to get there first.)

This Is Your Brain On Data


A mental condition caused by intelligence enhancement, infostarvation is the result of the capacity of the mind to process information exceeding the bandwidth available to it to access information, leading to, in effect, intense boredom – if not of the whole mind, at least of part of it.

While this was not unknown in the early days of intelligence enhancement, it is rarer in modern times which permit additional I/O bandwidth to be added to the brain, often in the form of dataweave connectivity; and which permit parallel metacortical threads and exoself agents to be spun-down as needed. However, it remains possible for infostarvation to be triggered by travel to areas either of constrained bandwidth or lacking in network connectivity, since it is easily possible for modern core intellects to exceed the capacity of natural sensoria.


A morbid or pathological fear of not knowing things, commonly experienced by members of cultures in which use of group shared-memories, mnemonic interfaces (permitting one to remember reference material as if it was part of one’s own memory), neural interfaces, or even wearables is widespread upon visiting less developed cultures where compatible V-tags and reference databases for everyday objects and individuals are not available; the phobia itself is triggered upon encountering unknown individuals and non-described objects. Specific symptoms include compulsive memorization of any available reference material, undue social and technical awkwardness, denial, and flight response.

– Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st ed.

Not So Common

Andreth Prime Allatrian-ith-Ancalyx Vallasélan, currently of Suite 141, Gildedrest, Starbridge City, Gáling (Ring Nebula), to Technical Services, Artificial Immunity Division, Riverside Eubiosis Foundation, greetings and many thanks for your prior assistance.

I have never been so sick in my life.  Well, obviously.  I’ve never been sick in my life.

And I do appreciate the difficulty of keeping up with every single type of bacterium and virus across hundreds of different garden worlds; please do not infer an opprobrious implication.  But this really is becoming absolutely the outside of enough.

It’s not the pain.  I’m a gamer.  I play war games with the algetics turned on.  This doesn’t bother me.  Except that it’s not proper pain, of course, it’s a stupid little nagging ache that doesn’t go away, even if it is easily quenched.  It’s just annoying, but it’s not the problem.  It’s the fluids.

Yes, fluids!  I have the most vile substance oozing out of my nose, of all places.  The nose which is, not to put too fine a point on it, not a fluid orifice.  It is very much a non-fluid orifice, and one not generally given to oozing anything.  I’m quite willing to admit the risk of pain and inconvenience and maybe even reinstantiation from some blasted alien disease, but this is just too disgusting to be borne.

Anyway, to cut right to the meat of the message, if I may, I sent you chaps the immunity-data dump yesterday morning, Empire time – could you give me some idea when you’ll have the service pack ready?

Thanks to Kaitlin of The Athele Series for the prompt that inspired this one.