Immortality Blues

“Every year, since I was old enough to read them, more books have been published than I can read in a year. My reading speed has increased many orders of magnitude in the millennia since then – I have a submind which does nothing but read, continuously – and yet the authors continue to not only outmatch my ability to read, but also my ability to keep the gap from opening still wider.

And yet there are people in the universe who claim that they would find immortality boring.

I do not think the problem lies where they think it lies.”

– Esitariel Cyprium-ith-Avalae, unpublished interview


“The associated Sunfire Club is an exclusive society and social club for those who have either triggered in person, or at least endured up-close, the detonation of a nucleonic weapon. While its numbers – still very few – did grow somewhat after the invention of the Greater Immortality, club rules adopted at that time require that the detonation remain within one’s personal continuity; that is to say, that members cannot have been restored afterwards from off-site backup. Only those whose vector stacks survived in readable form and were picked out of the smoldering crater afterwards are eligible for Club membership.”

– Veryn’s Guide to the High Branches, Cant & Sinistra, 6990

Trope-a-Day: Immortality Inducer

Immortality Inducer: It doesn’t look like much, an immortagen.

Most of the time, it looks like a pint of grayish fluid in a bag, a little saline, with a faint rainbow sheen. Intravenous tubing included. Responsible medical supervision not included.

But inject it into your veins – ah, then the magic happens. It splices, it lyses. It unwraps storage plasmids and writes then into your chromosomes, injects nanocytes into your cells, builds nanogenic artificial lymph glands to keep your system stocked with roaming nanocytes, and even tidies up your gross morphology a bit, especially if you were already old. (While you develop a high fever and a really nasty set of aches and pains for a week or two – the more so the more gross work it has to do. Don’t even ask what your excreta look like.)

And then you live forever.


Trope-a-Day: Time Abyss

Time Abyss: The members of the assorted naturally or artificially immortal species of the modern day still haven’t been around long enough for this – although the Empire contains plenty of people who are older than all Earth’s modern nations, and at least a few who are older than human civilization period.  With time, they’ll get there.

A few Living Relics dug out of the archives play it straight, but generally lack continuity.

Trope-a-Day: Scale of Scientific Sins

Scale of Scientific Sins: All of them.  Absolutely all of them.

Automation: Of just about everything, as exemplified by the sheer number of cornucopia machines, AI managers and scurrying utility spiders.  Unlike most of the people who got this one very badly wrong, however, in this Galaxy, almost no-one is stupid or malicious enough to make the automation sophont or volitional.

Potential Applications: Feh.  Anything worth doing is worth doing FOR SCIENCE!  (Also, with respect to 2.2 in particular, Mundane Utility is often at least half of that point.)

GE and Transhumanism: Transsophontism Is Compulsory; those who fall behind, get left behind.  Or so say all we – carefully engineered – impossibly beautiful genius-level nanocyborg demigods.  (Needless to say, Cybernetics Do Not Eat Your Soul.)

Immortality: Possibly cheating, since the basic immortality of the eldrae and galari is innate – well, now it is, anyway – rather than engineered.  Probably played straight with their idealistic crusade to bring the benefits of Avoiding That Stupid Habit You Have Of Dying to the rest of the Galaxy, though.

Creating Life: Digital sapience, neogens (creatures genetically engineered from scratch, rather than modified from an original), and heck, even arguably uplifts, too.

Cheating Death: The routine use of vector stacks and reinstantiation is exactly this.  Previously, cryostasis, and the entire vaults full of generations of frozen people awaiting reinstantiation such that death would bloody well be not proud.  And no, people don’t Come Back Wrong; they come back pretty much exactly the same way they left.

Usurping God: This one is a little debatable, inasmuch as the Eldraeverse does not include supernatural deities in the first place.  On the other hand, if building your own complete pantheon of machine gods out of a seed AI and your own collective consciousness doesn’t count towards this, what the heck does?

Trope-a-Day: Resurrection Sickness

Resurrection Sickness: For the most part averted; being reinstantiated from a pre-mortem backup (or the use of a bug-out transmitter before actually becoming dead) leaves you with no memories of dying, since that never happened in your continuous timeline, and so it’s not there in your incrementing memory string to cause your PTSD, flashbacks, etc.

It’s even often averted in cases of actual post-mortem reinstantiations, whether from backup or from a read dead brain, because it’s possible to edit these things, and while remembering your death is occasionally useful (say, for the military purpose of remembering not to do whatever dumb thing you just did again), it’s more usually not the case, and why suffer through the consequences if you don’t have to?

Trope-a-Day: Mayfly December Romance

Mayfly December Romance: Mostly averted; in two different ways.  The happy one is that immortagens are now available for just about every species, thus avoiding the tragedy of death.  The less happy one is that… well, while one may well be able to love someone who is doomed to die, inevitably, it’s much harder to go on loving someone who is determined to mortal themselves to death when the price of immortality is a couple of thousand local currency units and a month or so of post-injection fever and chills.

People who prefer suicide to such a relatively low cost of staying with you are not, I submit, very lovable.

Trope-a-Day: Longevity Treatment / Immortality Inducer

Longevity Treatment / Immortality Inducer: Immortagens, which are Exactly What It Says On The Tin, along with mind-state backups. (Previously anagathics, too, but technology marches on, etc., and why settle for a few extra centuries when you can aim for eternity?)

The Empire, or groups within it rather, works hard on selling these to absolutely everyone, on the entirely reasonable grounds that anyone who wants to die and/or doesn’t want to not die is obviously nuts, and anyone who advocates for death in general is even crazier than that. (See also: Immortality Immorality.)

Trope-a-Day: Improbable Age

Improbable Age: Happens both ways, in the Empire.  On the one hand, you sometimes get improbably young people doing various jobs, partly because of those very population dynamics we mentioned back under Immortal Procreation Clause making it very useful to get new brains into the useful-production fields as soon as they were competent to do so (and, note, the Imperial concept of “majority” is based entirely on demonstrated competence, not age, so prodigies really can leap ahead); usually in ‘prentice-level positions along with continued education (because those same demographic factors and the production models they favor make grunt labor very much less than useful), and quite possibly still with limitations on their tort-insurance-covered-rights-of-contract, it is true, but nonetheless, out there doing stuff.

Happens at the other end, too, though – given the social requirements of mobility and the personal requirements to keep fresh, there is a longstanding tradition of recurving; namely, for people who’ve stayed for a long time in a single career to retire, take a sabbatical, and then start afresh in some different field (often a very different field) that might interest them.  So finding old and highly experienced people doing relatively low-level jobs way outside their field is also hardly unusual, although the generalizable part of their experience does mean they tend to advance relatively fast.  (Also, the benefits of intentional or serendipitous cross-pollination between different fields don’t hurt, either.)

And, of course, the immortals do tend to look quite young… so long as you don’t look them in the eyes.  Or watch them in action.

Trope-a-Day: Immortal Procreation Clause

Immortal Procreation Clause: Somewhat played straight, but only somewhat.  Eldraeic native fertility is considerably, about an order of magnitude, lower than human as a baseline, yes, but that’s not so much lower that they weren’t running a nice healthy population growth curve before discovering technology, space, etc. (and started on a large and very sparsely populated world), and even post-that with the normally-ensuing technical-society decline, the trend is still upwards on net.  Fortunately, there’s any amount of space in space, and simply oodles of unused resources, too.

(Demographically, it’s low enough to make non-adults very much the minority in the population – certainly enough that an attempt at, say, mass schooling on our model, were that particular form of collective madness to set in, would require very large catchment areas indeed – and to, economically, put a healthy premium on the cost of labor and encourage capital-intensive models right from the start, but certainly not low enough to produce dwindling-elvish-dying-race effects, even with non-natural deaths included, or anything like that.)

In a more general case, immortagens typically do not affect fertility one way or the other.  Sensible species are expected to learn how to manage their own birthrate.  Insensible species needn’t come complaining when they have an overpopulation crash because this bit of data is right there on the tin, look.  (Insensible and warlike species may discover that having your population managed for you is also an option.  If not a good one.)

Trope-a-Day: Immortality Immorality

Immortality Immorality: Averted, inverted, mocked, beaten soundly, and left to expire if it wants to so damned much, in much of the Galaxy.  The Imperials (and many other transsophont civilizations) are of the opinion that anyone who can’t tell that death is an eo ipso Bad Thing, meaningless, pointless, useless, unjust, unforgivably wasteful, personally destructive, and so on and so forth is an idiot, and the ephemeralist factions that propose that it is good for society and even the individual are substantially worse than that.

Of course, said ephemeralists play it entirely straight, but, well, the trouble with being ideologically committed to death is that given enough time, you will lose the greater argument with people who trend the other way.  Demographics are a bitch. Such is… life.

Trope-a-Day: Immortality Bisexuality

Immortality Bisexuality: Might look that way (well, not for the galari, who have no concept of sex, or sex, or gender), but it’s actually the result of desire control, etc., as listed under Bi The Way and Everyone Is Bi.  The rest of the immortals weren’t inclined this way until the tech came along to make it so.

(And, to be clear, in many civilized areas such outcomes are desirable. Preferences are one thing, but instincts that contradict your conscious desires on this point are inhibiting your freedom of choice, and as such are instincts that need to be told to shut up and sit down.)

Trope-a-Day: Immortality Begins at Twenty

Immortality Begins At Twenty: Played mostly straight with the eldrae and eldrae-designed immortagens.  Well, late twenties, dignified early thirties, anyway, and it doesn’t take all that much longer after that before the combination of bodily reflections of the experience of age and biological youth to make it very, very hard to pin an actual age on them, anyway.

Trope-a-Day: The Fog of Ages

The Fog of Ages: This didn’t so much happen to the natural immortals of the setting, but then, the natural immortals weren’t all that natural, having been designed into immortality by one particular group of Precursors, and it is generally believed that a few memory upgrades came with the deal.  While it probably would have eventually – well, these days, they’re using offloading extra memory and cognitive processing to the cloud and its ultratech nanocomputronium cores, so it’s unlikely to ever come up in the future.

It can, which is relevant where immortalist proselytizing comes into play, affect people who’ve just taken an immortagen and nothing else, but, well, if it bothers you, they also have this nice catalog full of brain upgrades, memory-management techniques and advertisements for memory-redaction and psychedesign services right here, and they’d be happy to sell you some.