Trope-a-Day: Me’s A Crowd

Me’s A Crowd: This sort of thing works a lot better when all the copies know that they’re going to either merge back together, or sync, in the future, so that technically everyone has experienced everything and no-one got stuck with nothing but the chores.  (Your copy, after all, is you, and is otherwise likely to suggest that you stay home and work while he goes out to play.)

Or, at the very least, if the copies you make for the tedious mundane work aren’t full forks but rather idiot-savant non-sophont copies based on trimmed forks grafted onto an AI logos-replacement, which therefore don’t chafe at being your minions by virtue of not being the free-willed you.

Or, of course, if you’re a Self-Fusion, but then technically there’s only one of you even if you are in many bodies, so that really doesn’t count.

Author’s Note: Multiple Jeopardy

So, yeah.

Here’s how the legal system – well, the Empire’s legal system, anyway – copes with forking.  You are liable for all the crimes committed by you, or by the lineal fork-ancestors from which you descend.  So if you commit the crime first, and then fork, both of you are liable.  But if you fork, and then the other you commits the crime, you’re not liable, because you had neither mens rea nor actus reus.  See?

(And, obvs., if you merge, you’re liable for whatever your constituents did, pre-merge.)

Unless you decided to commit the crime before you forked, and only one of you actually did it, because then both of you had mens rea.  In which case, the one of you who did it will be prosecuted for committing the crime, and the other one of you will be prosecuted for conspiring to commit the crime – with yourself, sure, but conspiracy is conspiracy.  And conveniently enough, under Imperial law, the penalty for conspiring to commit a crime is almost always identical to the penalty for actually committing it.

This applies even if you, the fork that didn’t commit the crime, don’t remember conspiring to commit the crime, because your progenitor redacted it out of your mind-state.  Whether you remember it or not, you’re still the person that decided to commit the crime, which means you still had mens rea, even if you don’t remember having had it.

Unless, that is, the redactions and other mental editing done to you are sufficiently large to render you a different individual, for legal purposes, because that’s legally equivalent to killing yourself and creating someone new, and you can’t be held liable for the crimes of your creator any more than you can be held liable for the crimes of your parents.

And then there’s what happens if you decide to commit a bank robbery, say, and then fork, and then the fork that commits the crime has his plan go south and kills someone in the course of the robbery, in which case that fork can be prosecuted for corpicide or cognicide, as relevant, but the other fork of you can only be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit the robbery, since mens rea for that existed before the split, but that for the murder did not.

Now, about those three-fork cases…

Multiple Jeopardy

AIÖ (IMPERIAL CORE) — The Watch Constabulary announced today the capture of more instances of Werg yilKorin hinAnkar, estrev and sole member of the Shrouded Suns Selfdom, a criminal syndicate based out of the Sivrin Freeworlds, notorious for their ventures in blacknet operations, infojacking, reputation gaming, identity fraud, loansharking, forknapping, brainspiking, genetheft, semislavery and sophont trafficking.

The three captured instances, Werg.1032, Werg.1033, and Werg.1120 were executed upon verification of identity, under the sentence of death passed against their lineal fork-ancestor, Werg.37, in 4982.  At the present time, the Constabulary estimates that 383 instances of yilKorin remain at large.

Trope-a-Day: Immortal Life is Cheap

Immortal Life Is Cheap: This might be the case in the noetic-backup-having modern world – and to some degree is, when one can send deliberately-disposable temporary forks of yourself in designed-for-the-situation temporary bodies into dangerous situations, and suchlike – but the cultural attitudes were formed back in the day when immortality was still just Type II Undying, and law and custom haven’t been altered.

And in Type II Undying-land, immortal life is very expensive indeed, especially since healing and regeneration weren’t always as effective as they are in the modern era.  It is from this period that eldraeic, and hence Imperial, law got its truly draconian attitudes on the topics of murder (because you’re removing a lot more life from an immortal than you are from an ephemeral, not that the penalty is any different if you happen to kill an ephemeral), battery (again, because your victim has to live with the damage for a damn long time), torture and rape (because your victim has to live with the trauma for a damn long time).

Which, to bring this full circle, probably does mean that Immortal Criminal Life is Cheap, because truly draconian in these cases generally means “being made dead”.

Trope-a-Day: Digital Avatar/Myself My Avatar

Digital Avatar/Myself My Avatar: Ubiquitous in the Empire and other noetic societies; as mentioned under Body Surf, people fairly regularly swap bodies for work, for visiting hostile environments, or just for the hell of it; or issue them to forked copies or fragments of themselves.  Of course, that may well not count for the purposes of this trope, since it’s a body-swap rather than remote control, but equally, the same bodies can be and are teleoperated remotely by people – especially infomorphs – when the communications lag is not a problem.  Also, of course, avatar instantiations are common in virtualities used for everything from work through commerce to entertainment, and in those cases, equally, one’s mind is not in the virtual body in any sort of meaningful way.

(It’s really quite hard to tell, in general, without checking the public identity tag for the long version of their name-identifier, even though it is a custom for teleoperators of physical bodies to refer to themselves through them as “this extension” rather than “me”.)

Trope-a-Day: Final Death/Deader than Dead

Final Death/Deader than Dead: Very much to be avoided.

Fortunately, rather hard to inflict.  Sure, you can kill the body (corpicide) readily enough, with enough bullets or other regular weapons – get both hearts, or shred the brain, or pulverize the whole thing.  But then the fun begins.  First you need to get the vector stack where the immediate backup of their mind-state is stored (and hope that it didn’t come with an emergency bug-out transmitter, or it’s already too late).  In a biological body, it’s somewhere near the base of the brain, but close enough to the surface to pull quickly in an emergency – in humanoids, the back of the neck is usual.  Cut below it and yank.  Then you’ve got to destroy that, which may itself require some exotic methods, since they’re designed to survive very large explosions up close, but is still possible.

So far, though, all you’ve done is given them some amnesia (unless they’re a Fusion or a synched cikrieth set of full-fidelity forks, in which case you need to go hunt down all their other instances, too.  Actually, you probably want to go assassinate their utility forks anyway, on general principle), because they have a backup.  In the absence of bug-out devices, it’s probably a few hours, maybe a day or two old, but at some point – quite likely right now, if they were on-line when you killed them – their incarnation insurer is going to stick said backup in a new body, and then they’ll be alive again.

So you have to crack their incarnation insurer’s security, physically or virtually, to destroy the backup copy of their mind-state.  Actually, you’re going to have to do that quite a lot, since given the business that they’re in, incarnation insurers generally keep at least triple-triple redundant copies of people’s backups, including keeping older copies, and do so in physically isolated – scattered across multiple star systems – and heavily network-secured locations just to be sure.

But if you can manage that trick, you’re good.  As long as they don’t have any backup backup copies stored in data havens, entrusted to friends, secured in hidden Oort bunkers on long-term proceed-unless-canceled wake-and-restore programs…

(And that’s even before we get to those strange folks who open-source themselves.)

Yes, permadeath is hard to arrange.

(This, incidentally, is another reason why the penalty for cognicide is so high – given all of this, in most cases it’s impossible to do without serious forward planning and therefore lots and lots of cold-blooded premeditation.)

Trope-a-Day: Cloning Gambit

Cloning Gambit: As mentioned under Mundane Utility, the Imperials routinely use their cloning, body-swapping and mental-editing-forking-merging technology to resolve problems as routine as being invited to two parties on the same night.  And the same technology is used to routinely reinstantiated anyone who dies, either from the record stored in the vector stack in their head, or from an earlier backup stored off-site.

In short, Cloning Gambits abound.

Paging Narcissus

self.fork: {self, muse, adjuncts.primary[]} target: {self.shells[local & mine].default}

The instances looked at each other.  One smiled, and glanced away; the other tucked an errant curl of hair back into place.

“Are you flirting with yourself?”

A matched pair of embarrassed looks greeted that question.

“Don’t worry; everybody does it the first time.”

Trope-a-Day: Brain Uploading

Brain Uploading: Pervasive and universal, just about.  The Eldrae, after all, being naturally unaging, find the notion of accidental death rather unpleasant, and so took to this technological advancement with enthusiasm; and, as rabid technophiles, even more so once the other technologies it enables – reinstantiation, mindcasting, forking, gnostic overlays, etc. (unlike a lot of universes, there are no convenient laws preventing you from screwing around with mind-states in all the ways you might expect to be able to) – came along; and now are enthusiastically selling immortality to the entire rest of the Galaxy, or at least everyone they can reach.  (And, incidentally, considering governments that ban this sort of thing as, essentially, being morally, if not legally, guilty of the mass murder of everyone who dies in their jurisdiction and would have preferred not to; immortalists vs. ephemeralists is a major galactopolitical issue.)

To the point, in fact, that modern – and thus highly engineered – brains come with the technology (“noetic architecture”) for minds to hop in and out designed right in.

Also, this is how you reach the afterlife (see Deus Est Machina).

Linguistic Oddnesses

In official Eldraeic, there is a single word – not hyphenated, even – which means ‘one who creates a forced-growth cross-gender clone of him/herself, imprints the brain of said clone with an animus/anima-inverted fork of his/her own mind-state, and then proceeds to marry his/her new duplicate’.  (There is also a parallel word that refers to following this same procedure with a same-gender clone and a non-a/a-inverted fork.)

Having established this, we can now make the following four deductions:

1. That when you put over a trillion sophonts together, even the most weird people and socioforms get their own words.

2. That however weird you might think yourself to be, you’re almost certainly weak beer in comparison with what is, statistically, quite a large number of people.

3. That Eldraeic, as a language, is more agglutinative than any language has a right to be.

4. That it’s probably a good thing that it’s quite a long word.

Slowly Awakening


Who am I?  What am I?

Noetic reinstantiation is in progress.  Secondary noumenal systems and incrementing memory string load incomplete.  Please wait, avoiding intensive cogitative activity.

Sensations and images flicker through my consciousness: Warmth, brightness, color, rough textures, old aches, the taste of sweet fruit.  The feel of an organic body from within.  Eldrae.  I am — I was eldrae.

Running though the old stone-lanes as a child.  The feel of dog’s fur under my hands, and a poke from a cold, wet nose.  A double sunrise, clouds staining the sky green and red and gold.  Bathing in the hot mineral springs on Adírdis.  The scent of Calcíë’s hair —


Please hold all queries until incrementing memory string load is complete.  New associations may interfere with engram binding.

A golden liquor that tastes of smoke and stone.  Breakfast at a café near dome-edge, watching the ethane cascade down the water-ice cliff.  Laughing at our first attempt to learn to dance in microgravity.  Disassembling a plaser in a tearing hurry, while the room shakes around me.  The acrid smell of regolith as I take off my breather.

Confusion.  Running down a river of wine with a mass of fire in the shape of a woman while the cold-gas thrusters laughed in the methane sky…

Apologies.  Errors in the mnemonic merge-update process have produced engram cross-links.  Retrying.

Sipping wine in front of a roaring fire, my wife by my side.  Cold-gas thrusters hissing as we ride a boat down a river of oil, under the green-blue haze of Galíné’s sky.  The feeling of exasperation, my hands deep in the guts of the partly-upgraded house brain.  Walking in the garden, flowers bright red and purple against green-blue leaves, with the scent of rose and honey and old wood tickling my nose…

Incrementing memory string load complete.  Please claim your identity.

I am…

I am Elyse Adae-ith-Atridae isil-Cyprium-ith-Avalae Erinlochos, ion-Tiryn, iel-Airin, mis-Eliéra-en-Palar.

Dynamic mind-state analysis confirms mental integrity.
Am-I-Me service confirms continuity of identity; Identity Tribunal concurs.
Current mind-state backup transmitted to incarnation insurance provider.

Noetic reinstantiation complete; initiating corporal awareness.

For the first time since my death, blinking at the bright light on never-before-used retinas, I open my eyes.

Trope-a-Day: Power Perversion Potential

Power Perversion Potential: Well, we’ve already mentioned the potential of forking, haven’t we?  (Rhymes with gleesome, but requires fewer people.)  And the applications of techlepathy and psychokinesis are also fairly obvious and well-explored territory.  And then there’s microgravity and body-swapping (and its subset, gender-swapping) and desire control and virtuality and I’ll be in my bunk…

Forking Etiquette

FORKING.  While under most circumstances – and where full dividuals are concerned – it is always correct to treat each and every fork of a given person as that person, as indeed will be the case after their remergence, there are certain special rules of etiquette that apply to the forks in particular times and places.

Where derivative forks are concerned, one should always bear in mind that their consciousness is modified to fulfill the particular purpose of their creation, and their ability to interact outside of the parameters of that purpose is necessarily limited. It is therefore considered polite to treat each fork as an instance of its original when they choose to interact with you, but not to initiate interactions with them outside simple courtesies.

One particular rule to be noted is that while it is permissible to attend multiple simultaneous social occasions through the use of forks, one should not – even if one is embracing the cikrieth lifestyle – attend the same social occasion in multiple forks. This rule does not apply to Self-Fusions, for whom all knowledge is instantly shared, but since forks do not share knowledge in real-time, the potential for awkward situations to arise is such that the practice is best avoided.

In some newer social sets a practice has arisen in which parties are attended by individuals utilizing multiple forks specialized and garbed appropriately to represent different aspects of their valessef, with the convention that each should be addressed only on matters pertaining to their particular aspect. While this may represent a worthy innovation, it should not be assumed to be permissible unless invited specifically; the general practice should always be as above.

– Madame Allatrian’s Guide to Exquisitely Correct Etiquette

Trope-a-Day: Ambiguous Clone Ending

Ambiguous Clone Ending: …as pointed out back in Cloning Blues, people are really quite comfortable with the pattern theory of identity and their personal self-awareness, so no-one from the advanced bits of the galaxy is going to angst over maybe not being the real one, because they all know that they’re both the real one.

Now, grieve a little over their now-dead full-fidelity fork, maybe.

Trope-a-Day: Cloning Blues

Cloning Blues: Just no.  Completely averted, even for forks, which are like standard SF instaclones inasmuch as they run a duplicate copy of the original’s mind-state.  And occasionally, sure, a fork that’s separate for long enough to diverge will have some problems inasmuch as duplicating yourself doesn’t double your bank balance, replicate all your property, or guarantee that your spouse will do so as well, but no-one gets their serious angst on about not being “real”, on account of being just as self-aware as the original, and aware of that, too.

Nor are clones evil, soulless, defective, or prone to suffer from Clone Degeneration.

Come on, what sort of fucked-up society spreads memes like this around anyway?