There are those who have commented extensively on the military advantages, when considering the rise of the Empire, of highly disciplined legionaries able to cast obstacles aside or strike down enemies with lightning, all through force of will.“From the Mud to the Stars: An Agricultural History”, Ailil Ophris-ith-Ophris
Far fewer have considered the greater advantage, in economic terms, of the humble farmer who, from his hilltop, may plough and seed a hundred furrows with a gesture.
Cilmínár is perhaps, despite all the others’ uniquities, the one with the best claim to be the odd one out of of Thirteen Colonies; while the others all had their own distinctions based on their worlds, societies, technologies, or other evolved characteristics, Cilmínár was the first and only eldraeic colonial venture intended to leave the Empire.
At the time of the Deep Star program, and in particular in the years leading up to 3038, the time at which IS Potentiality Golden left the Lumenna-Súnáris System, the Empire was caught up in the final century of the Consolidation Wars. In the Senate, the Above All, One Imperium Movement was dominant, and the Imperium Bellipotent was prominent within that coalition.
These conditions gave rise to some concern in dedicated libertist circles that the Empire might be heading down the wrong path, and could possibly end up recreating the governance-by-force methods of the kórasan. A number of these groups responded by setting up the Free Colony Foundation, a private colonization venture intended to build a colony around newly prospected Cilminé faithful to the Contract but eschewing the Charter – i.e., a recreation of the Ungoverned Era. Prospective colonists agreed only to participation in the early steps of ensuring colony viability, thereafter being governed solely by the Contract.
This venture proved controversial, to say the least, in the somewhat heated atmosphere of patriotism which characterized the late Consolidation, and arguments over the ethics and legalities of the matter – lawful secession being guaranteed by the Charter even as military annexation was the practice of the day – grew in volume and vigor until they eventually reached the Court of Courts, silenced only by the Imperial Proclamation of Alphas III Amanyr after meeting with the leaders of the Foundation:
“Go in peace, cousins. Your principles are ours, and in their name, we would not hold you. Know that you will always be welcomed here.”
Unsubstantiated Court gossip of the era attributed a simpler statement to Elyse II Cyprium.
“You’ll be back.”
As history would have it, IS Potentiality Golden arrived at Cilmínár in 3136, six years after the final act of the Consolidation and the opening of the Aeon-Long Peace, and this news – along with the recession of the Bellipotency into deep eclipse in the Senate – was among the first news the colony received when laser communication with the homeworld was established in 3160.
Nonetheless, the establishment of the colony went ahead as planned, with the Free Colony Foundation wrapping itself up and spinning off necessary functions into the private sector as the colony was established, dwindling into a registry and contract-notarization organization. As in the Ungoverned Era, PPLs, community militias, and deemsters emerged or were established to serve as guardians of citizens’ rights.
However, over the centuries between the colony’s establishment and its participation in the Reunification, the population of Cilmínár found itself having to address and solve many modern recensions of the same or similar issues that ancient Eliéra had been required to deal with during the lengthy transition between Ungoverned Era and Empire, and had developed its own institutions to do so, while observing over the course of its communications with the homeworld both that their fears for the future had not come true – with the Empire’s post-Consolidation turn away from annexationism – and its eager adoption of various Cilmínárian institutional innovations which promised greater flexibility and were more in accordance with libertist principles.
As such, when the Reunification came calling in 4003, the Free Colony of Cilmínár needed surprisingly little persuasion to return to the Imperial fold with the Deal of 4014, while retaining its own local customs. (Conveniently, legal ground for this had already been laid by private edict of Alphas III and Elyse II back in the 3030s, placing the citizen-shareholderships of the colonists in temporary abeyance, rather than cancelling them, permitting a retroactive reinstantiation.)
The Deal, as it is known locally, uses as the colony’s charter a detailed and frequently amended contract between the Imperial governance and the assortment of Cilmínárian institutions responsible for various local functions, and the Free Colony is acknowledged as a single constituent nation of individual sovereigns. Internal legal matters continue to be handled by PPLs and deemsters, although appeal is available as it would be from the Courts of the Districts, and in other matters, the planet is indeed a technologically-updated microcosm of that legendary era of pre-Imperial history.
As Elyse II predicted so long ago: they were back.
– Octavia Dalastel, The First Constellation
I’ve recently been asked elsewhere, “how far into the future is your setting?”
Well, since it’s not connected causally to Earth, even fictional Earths, and technological development in the ‘verse didn’t necessarily take place in the same order or at the same rate as it did here, that’s a mite hard to say.
Let’s have a go, though. As a start, I’ll reprint the foreword I wrote for The Core War and Other Stories, explaining the eras of Imperial history as the local historians would divide them up:
Era of Hand and Fire (prehistory – 0)
Defining technologies: none.
To a certain extent, designating everything before the year 0 part of the Era of Hand and Fire, that period without particularly notable defining technologies, is misleading. On Eliéra, the term refers to everything pre-Imperial, from the Empire’s own precursor nations back through the Ungoverned Era and the Drowning of the People, through the time of the korásan, and extending into what little is known of the mythical era before the Winter of Nightmares (~ -14,500); however, there obviously exist elder races and Precursors in the galaxy with far older histories than this. (The historical specialists who study such things usually consider them separate subjects entirely from conventional history.)
Era of Brass and Chymistry (0 – ~720)
Defining technologies: clockwork automata (clanks); early chemistry.
The historical convention is to date the Era of Brass and Chymistry from the Empire’s founding year. Its seeds can be found earlier in various locations, especially in the smiths of Telírvess, the alchemists of Eume and Baryvekar, and the artisans of southern Selenaria. However, it is generally acknowledged that the opening and encouragement of free trade and transit by the Empire, as well as its encouragement of scholarship and progress, helped those seeds find fertile ground and grow.
Of particular note is the personal patronage and entrée to the Court of Courts given to a hitherto obscure Inisvaen natural philosopher, Sung Iliastren, later known as the Father of Science, by Empress Seledíë III Selequelios.
Era of Steel and Steam (~720 – ~1400)
Defining technologies: steam power; advanced metallurgy; Stannic cogitator.
The transition to the Era of Steel and Steam is dated at approximately 720, a compromise date between various competing inventors of different types of steam engine, and also notable for the recent publication of Ianthe Claves-ith-Claves’s Technepraxic, beginning a still influential philosophical movement espousing technology as an integral tool of sophont aspiration.
Electricity was known through much of the later part of this era, but received only intermittent attention; the Empire at the time was in the throes of the Middle Consolidation, and between this and industrial megaprojects such as the World Shafts, development concentrated on refining existing steam technology to its peak.
(Advancement to and through this era and the next may seem relatively slow; the reader should bear in mind the effect of the low and slow-growing eldraeic population on the overall rate of progress. In later eras, forward progress appears to slow once more, but this reflects rather the sheer breadth of research possible in the modern era, vis-à-vis the number of minds available to do it.)
Era of Captive Lightning (~1400 – 2050)
Defining technologies: electricity; electronic computers; robotics; industrial automation.
The approximate start of the Era of Captive Lightning begins with the breakout of electrical technology into common usage, starting with simple motors and illumination devices but developing relatively rapidly. Relay-driven computers, mere electrical imitations of the existing Stannic cogitators, soon were replaced by “electron plumbing” valve-based computers, replaced in turn by semiconductor electronics and then spintronic devices. Electrically-driven, electronically-controlled robots soon took over from the steam-driven, mechanical “clank” automata, and found new roles that the old machines were incapable of filling, permitting full industrial automation at last.
Era of Bit and Light (2050 – 2287)
Defining technologies: mature information technology; optronics; ubiquitous computing; intrasystem space travel.
While the defining technologies of the Era of Bit and Light were optronics, enabling hyper-fast photon-based computing devices, quantum computing, and a mature information technology, the era itself is dated from the flight of Phoenix Zero, the Spaceflight Initiative’s first manned orbital craft. Intrasystem space travel blossomed during this era, with the establishment of a first orbital space station followed quickly by more, colonies on Eliéra’s moons, and expansion into the rest of the system, including the first steps towards the ecopoesis of Talentar.
Era of the Genome (2287 – 2594)
Defining technologies: genetic engineering; wet nanotechnology; uplift.
Genetic engineering had been known for a long time prior to this era, but the application of optronics and quantum computing to genomics and proteomics permitted a rapid expansion of its capabilities. The genetic blossoming of the 2300s began with the first true neogenic organism – based entirely on novel genetic material – in 2287, and continued to produce advances in biological modifications, new species and adaptations, and wet nanotechnology based on biomimetic structures and systems throughout this era, up until the creation of the dar-bandal, the first true uplifts, just in time to be met by the first digisapiences.
Era of Mind and ‘Weave (2594 – 3016)
Defining technologies: artificial intelligence; mind-machine interfacing; noetics.
Artificial intelligence, again, had been applied as a discipline for centuries before the era defined by it. The Era of Mind and ‘Weave, rather, is defined specifically by the awakening of the first truly sophont artificial intelligence in 2594, an intelligence demonstrably possessing the same self-awareness, consciousness, and volition found in other sophonts. The same studies of sophotechnology, the technologies of the mind, produced revolutionary developments in mind-machine interfacing, in the ability to modify the sophont mind in various ways, and the ability to translate organic minds into digital form and transfer them easily between bodies and substrates.
Era of Diamond and Ice (3016 – 3922)
Defining technologies: dry nanotechnology; subluminal interstellar travel.
The Era of Diamond and Ice takes its name from two events: First, the Diamond Crash of 3016 that heralded the start of the era of dry nanotechnology, as carbon-organizers proved capable of manufacturing diamond in arbitrarily large quantities at almost no cost. Further developments in dry nanotechnology permitted the creation of various forms of makers and eventually the first true cornucopia machines, ushering in the start of the Prosperity.
Second, early in the era, Kasjan Lyris and his colleagues initiated the Deep Star program, sending subluminal colony ships (capable of only around one-third of the speed of light) to stars near the eldrae home system packed with equipment and colonists in cryonic freeze; a program which would lead to the foundation of the Thirteen Colonies and the first contact of the eldrae with an exotic species, the galari of Galáré.
Era of Starfall (3922 – 5014)
Defining technologies: stargates.
In 3922, the Era of Starfall began with Imogen Andracanth-ith-Andracanth’s invention of the stargate, permitting faster-than-light transit between the two halves of a stargate pair once they had been positioned. The first stargate pair developed was used to connect Eliéra with the nearest colony world, Víëlle, beginning the Reunification.
Shortly after the Reunification, and the introduction of the galari to the home Empire, Empress Eledíë II charted the Imperial Exploratory Service and awarded a generous charter to Ring Dynamics, ICC, with which the expansion process of the stargate plexus that has continued to the present day began.
Era of Bright Shadows (5014 – 5599)
Defining technologies: seed AI; the Transcend.
In 5014, the first crude seed AI, a digisapience capable of autoscience and autopotence, and thus recursively modifying itself to attain postsophont levels of intelligence, was demonstrated under laboratory conditions by an independent research group on Wynérias.
After various experiments and incidents demonstrated both the potential and the dangers of this technology, a plan was proposed and approved by general plebiscite for the layered, progressive implementation of the Eldraeic Transcend, which was implemented progressively over the next one hundred and fifty years, until the Transcend reached its full flowering on Calencail 12, 5175, ushering in the collective consciousness that would remain coextensive with the Empire from then on.
Current Era (5600 -)
Defining technologies: emergent ontotechnology.
Dated somewhat arbitrarily, for the moment, from 5600 – the year in which the Transcend moved its core operations into the specially-constructed Cirys swarm of Corícal Ailék – the current era is most marked by ongoing, seemingly never-ending efforts to maintain peace and nurture Order, Progress, and Liberty in the meta-civilization of the Associated Worlds, and the slow emergence of ontotechnological miracles from the loreworks of Transcend-aided philosophers, scientists, and engineers.
The Core War itself, at the time of writing the most recent event in – and therefore the present time of – the Worlds begins in the year 7122.
So, if we approximate it – well, leaving aside for a moment technological paths we never went down (clank automata, for example, or Stannic cogitators, which we most closely approximated with Babbage’s engines but never implemented at scale) we’re probably parallel to the mid-to-late Era of Captive Lightning; we have semiconductor electronics, but not spintronics, our information technology is growing up, and we might be in the early stages of ubiquitous computing. We have, of course, already been to the moon, but space travel in the ‘verse came late because of the quirky local gravity, so that alone isn’t enough to move us into the Era of Bit and Light. Meanwhile, we definitely don’t have the technologies or developments associated with the later part of that Era, or with the following Eras.
So that dates us sometime around their 1900-2000. Since at the latest date of writing it was roughly 7100, that’s 5100-5200 years ahead by their calendar; adjusting for year length, call it 4,700 T-years ahead, or so.
But there’s about eight kinds of handwave in that, so slap some very generous error bars on that figure.
Future Imperfect: Generally averted, due to the historical greater continuity of civilization (“It has been 7,921 years since the last interregnum.”), general better record-keeping (thanks to the Repository of All Knowledge, et. al., and a religious climate that favors the burning of book-burners, and so forth), and, of course, people who live a long, long time and don’t forget much.
Something that came up over on G+ – in the course of discussing how many pre-spaceflight eldrae are still around (answer: lots, even if you discount the deep-submergence infomorphs and Transcendent afterlife, and even if some of them spent a while as frozen heads) – which I repeat here for general edification:
Namely, the oldest eldrae currently extant would be Esitaria Cyprium-ith-Avalae Linlethar was born in -284, which makes them 7,406 at the time of the Core War. (Imperial years – call it 7,322 T-years, once you correct for different orbital parameters.)
For scaling purposes, that’s like having someone born, let’s see, post-Alexander and pre-Rome. Or, since they never had a set of Dark Ages there, approximately 1,000 years before the fully-functional steam engine.
(Non-exo) archaeology and history are a very different disciplines, at least until you get well into the pre-Imperial period.
So, here’s something a bit special for you today. I have a long work in mind and butcher-paper progress right now, and by that I don’t just mean on the scale of The Core War, I mean an actual novel, belike. Covering one of those interesting historical periods in the development of the ‘verse that we see “today”.
What I have for you is a prologue I may or may not consider including at the start of the book, depending on how well I think dropping in in media res works without any of this background – but for y’all seeing it now, consider it an interest-building preview, m’kay?
It is the year 2361 from the founding of the Empire, 311 years after Phoenix Zero first rose to space. Since that time, the eldrae have moved into the Spacefaring Age with enthusiasm. Orbital habitats have blossomed in the space around Eliéra, and colonies founded upon both its moons. More habitats have sprung up in the bustling e’Luminiarien Belt, supporting mining and homesteading operations. Science missions and small outposts have pushed beyond the Belt into the outer system, reaching the moons of Melíeré, Inlétanós, and Iälessá, and even to the nearer bodies of Senna’s Belt. In the inner system, solar power facilities flourish in the space around tide-locked Eurymir, and mining outposts upon Toramir. Seething, acid-washed Sialhaith remains the domain of science for now, but speculation as to its future is common.
And then there is Talentar.
114 years ago, in 2247, Copperfall Two established the first orbital base for eldrae expeditions to Talentar on its middle moon, Víërtal, and shortly thereafter established the first planetary landing site, Orbitfall, near the equator in the Ashen Planitia region.
At first, the Orbitfall colony – although intended to be permanent – was only a base for scientific research. Expeditions investigated many of the sites previously explored by robotic probes, going north into the Five Valles and Xanpén Altiplanum, south and west to the Kirinal Planum, and even east to the summit of Talarí Mons. Reports of these expeditions set off “Talentar fever” home on Eliéra, and Orbitfall quickly found itself building infrastructure for additional colonists, soon to arrive from Eliéra. Townships and outposts soon spread across the region of the Ashen Planitia south of the Five Valles and Quinjano Tablelands. By no means all of these were Imperial – other polities on Eliéra found themselves stirred into action by the popular enthusiasm for colonization, and secondary colonies of several powers soon joined the Empire’s domes.
Meanwhile, the confirmation that Talentar was currently empty of any life, and the increasing numbers of permanent colonists brought the question of ecopoesis to the forefront of everyone’s mind as colonial expansion moved on.
Project Redblossom, begun in 2272, was the result. A compromise between “fast-burn” ecotects, pantropists, and preservationists – although one reached with very little consultation of the non-Imperial powers or their Talentarian colonies – Redblossom was a long-term ecopoesis program intended to run for over a millennium, creating open-air territories in the Talentarian bottomlands, while leaving much of the primordial terrain at high altitudes, especially in the mountainous north, untouched. Construction of orbital mirrors and planning for the import of ice asteroids began almost immediately, along with the first releases of tailored microorganisms.
Most notably, as the temperature rose, a cooperative effort between the Empire’s colonies and other colonists of the southern lowlands arose to create Talentar’s first body of open water – albeit open and iceberg-ridden water – along a natural depression running east-to-west south of Orbitfall. While it took years to relocate all of the potentially affected habitats, the project was completed successfully in 2296, with local habitats constructing dams and locks at narrow points of the depression, and the Imperial ecotects in Estaroë Tal contributing the orbital mirrors under their control to, first, open a number of buried aquifers to create the sea, and to then keep its overall temperature steady. Lyricen Lacus was born.
(Sadly, this was one of the last major cooperative projects for some time, since with changing geopolitical conditions on Eliéra, including the formation of the Cerenaith Alliance to oppose the Empire’s imperial ambitions and consolidation, tensions – although matters remained relatively quiet on Talentar, where colonies had too much work to do and fundamental interdependency to indulge in infighting – throughout the System remained high through the early 2300s.)
In the last two decades, the pace of change has only increased. With the population in planet climbing through the millions, the towns of the northern lowlands of the Five Valles, sprawling Quinjano on its mesa where the valley mouths converge, the informal planetary capital – for the Empire – of Estaroë Tal in the central Estaravé Vallis, and others, have grown into true cities. An orbital elevator now descends from Talentar’s repositioned outer moon, Avétal, to the new city of Talarí High Dome in the caldera atop Talarí Mons, linking the planet to the few orbital habitats using its well as their anchor, and to the busy habitats of the e’Luminiarien Belt. And most recently of all, the new interplanetary cyclers, full stations built to the scale of orbital habitats in themselves, Wanderer Station and Meanderer Station, now traverse the space between Talentar and Eliéra, bringing goods and hundreds of thousands of new colonists with each orbital pass. All observers recognize that the System’s fifth planet is on the verge of a phase-change, from dusty experimental colony to something else entirely.
And as is so often the case, not everyone is happy about that.
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.”
The Empire has its monuments to its battles and retreats, to its victories and losses, but more curious perhaps to many are those monuments it has to those who fought against it.
On my way into the system, the liner on which I was travelling passed the moon Hyníne, where a beacon sponsored by the Office of Imperial Veterans marks the defeat of pirates who fought for the Cerenaith Alliance-in-Exile, but the pattern is repeated in many places elsewhere across the Empire. A monument-complex in Indimór honors the Indimóri who fell against the Empire’s legions as much as it does the legions who died there. The ash gardens in Lorai Vallis house the sophs of the 30th, 33rd, and 55th legions scattered among the forces of the Talentar Commonwealth that they battled, the Commonwealth from which the modern governance of the planet is descended. And even those legions descended from forces which once fought, and fought hard, against the Empire still carry and revere their ancient battle-honors from those days: the Winter Wolves of Telírvess, the Swordbreakers of Ancyr, the Swift Searing Flame.
I asked one of my hosts about this tradition: why permit, and exert such efforts, even, to honor old enemies?
“We deprived them of victory,” she said. “We deprived many of them of their lives. Those who fought for the wrong cause, we took that from them, too, but those who fought instead for their country, or duty, or family, they bled and died and lost everything just the same, and left the new day to us.
“Should we now deny the brave dead a patch of ground to sleep in, or the memory of valor, even ill-spent? We are neither so small, nor so righteous.”
– Travels in the Empire, Sev Tel Beran
A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Well, a spiral arm far, far away, anyway, inasmuch as I’m writing about places that aren’t Earth and species that aren’t human.
(And as such, strictly speaking, relative time periods are all unestablished.)
(To illustrate some of the issues.)
As the classic example of the effects of physics upon interstellar relations, consider the short and inconclusive conflict known as the Odeln Extrality Incident (from the Imperial perspective), or the First Border War (from the Republican perspective). It is generally agreed that the cause and first engagement of the conflict was the mutual destruction, a short distance outside the Odeln system volume, of the Imperial destroyer CS Joyful Dirge, and the Voniensan battlecruiser VNS Deliberative.
The causes of the incident remain obscure, beyond the rising post-contact tensions in the Seam, and even the details of it are disputed. Many of the ensuing skirmishes and inconclusive negotiations can be attributed to the relativistic nature of the engagement; the consensus of the Imperial observers, computed according to the empire time reference frame, was universally that Deliberative fired first upon Joyful Dirge, while the consensus of Voniensan observers in-system, operating in reference frames tied to Republic Universal, was that Joyful Dirge fired first upon Deliberative. It is the unfortunate nature of relativistic space-time that all of these observations can be simultaneously truthful and true.
Such are the difficulties of the strategos, the diplomat, and the historian in a non-Callaneth-compliant universe.