February’s Randoming

Here as a partial apology for a slow COVID-caused month is a collection of random things of a snippet-like nature I have said over the past couple of months in places other than this blog. Enjoy them, such as they are!

On attempting a rapid “unsafe start” of a fusion torch drive:

The result of most attempts at an unsafe start is melting assorted things in the engine room and/or the containment vessel, and having to pay very large fines and the costs of having a HAZMAT team get your wreck into a safe condition to drag to the wreckyard. It’s sort of like putting a bunch of monkeys in charge of starting up one of our CVNs; they can very easily wreck a very expensive boat, but you’re not going to need to replace Norfolk any time soon.

So, for example, you accidentally screw up by bypassing the proper automatic sequencing and collapse the mag-bottle for the nozzle. The energy that was in the mag-bottle gets fed back into the containment power circuit. Alarms sound, breakers trip – the really big ones that use explosive charges to separate the closers – and a whole bunch of machinery in Drive Power One through Three, including the buffering accumulators, turns into molten slag as there’s a real intense local thunderstorm. The spikes that make it through the breakers, because you’re a civilian ship, cause some random electrical failures and trip the main bus off the line in self-protection.

You, sitting in the maneuvering room, get to watch your console light up and then black out as the corresponding machinery stops existing, the emergency fire procedures dump liquid nitrogen into, then vent, the Drive Power spaces, and the master alarm signal adopts a particularly dramatic tone. Then the lights go out, and you’re left sitting there in the bloody glow of catastrophe from your console and emergency bug-lights.

You have a few seconds to contemplate your poor life choices before the Flight Commander comes down there and introduces your brains to a BIG GODDAMN WRENCH.

“All I’m saying is that pansexuality is a very large claim to make in a universe with as many sophont species as this one.”

“We’re shipping forty million tons of individually-packaged spider-silk personal refreshment wipes twelve-hundred light years?”

“Do you want the detailed answer, or just a comment on the absurdity of the universe?”

“The details, please.”

“It’s hard to keep them wiping their asses with sand when they’re sitting on a fortune in spice.”

For reference, my notes on the Transcend’s position at any given time read as follows:

“[continuing to win its game of full-contact solitaire Calvinball with the universe]

insert ‘all according to keikaku’ meme here.”

When complaining about the “you must be smarter than this stick to ride the Empire” immigration rule:

“We have empirical evidence that those who do not pass these specific tests are dangerous to themselves and others in our environment.”

“Yeah? Show us this evidence!”

passes over data rod full of watchvid

“This… this is the last three seasons of Too Dumb To Live, Too Unlucky To Die!?”

“Empirical. Evidence.”

I’m sorry, but around here we only do consensualist agoric-annealing group-mind transghiblian art-deco ecotopic benevolently-hegemonic technothearchy with elvish characteristics.

“Where the fuck did all these dragons come from!?”

“As per chapter nine of the manual, dragons are a normal side-effect of a kami-based ecopoesis system.”

“She’s a bit of an alkahestic.”

“You mean an alcoholic?”

“Not unless alcoholics like dissolving things more than anyone ever should, no.”

“We do not negotiate with terrorists.”

“And yet you are here talking to us.”

“Did I mention that I am officially classified as an Ambassador of Mass Destruction?”

From an extranet compilation of Calíëne Sargas Facts:

“Calíëne Sargas does NOT possess the Eye of Balor, and as such is unable to vaporize enemy vessels simply by glaring at them. This ability has only been confirmed to affect officers ranked lower than Commander (O-6) or equivalent grade.”

Also, in defined terminology, once naval types produce something larger than a superdreadnought (bearing in mind that a hyperdreadnought is fundamentally based on a superdreadnought hull profile), they are formally typed as BM (“warmoon”) and BP (“dirigible battle planet”).

(The latter is currently a hypothetical category. Should it stop being, or a stage be skipped – well, no-one actually knows what the next type up would be, but it probably won’t be “Death Star”.

And for those curious as to Imperial titles of nobility – more specifically, runér titles – the planetary ones are rather too long a list to get into for the moment, insofar as they’re a tangled mass drawn from a large number of cultures maintaining their own systems welded into a single Table of Ranks.

On the other hand, the interstellar titles are nice and simple, being a creation postdating the Consolidation and thus a simple hierarchy. So, from the bottom up, we have:

  • Ecumenarchs, holders of the Imperial Mandate over a given planet, dwarf planet, or large moon, of constituent world membership class, including its associated local orbital habitats. Captain-governors of relativistic city-ships are also ranked as ecumenarchs.
  • Starkeepers, holders of the Mandate over a given star system, along with all its inhabited planets, other bodies, and drift-habitats.
  • Sectarchs, holders of the Mandate over groups of high-population or otherwise important worlds, requiring more attention than would be practical for the attached constellarch, such as the Galari Trinary. Note that there is no regionality named a “sector”; the title comes directly from the root.
  • Constellarchs, holders of the Mandate over all Imperial worlds within a particular constellation.
  • Great Lords of the Sextants (after the Spice Way Program is placed into effect), holders of the Mandate over all constellations attached to a particular Far Star Station. There are not necessarily six of them; the title is a recreated historical holdover.

Other interstellar runér titles include Marchwarden, a title used for the holder of the mandate for a remote ecumenical colony or Imperial Exclave, not yet suited for full constituent status, but which for whatever reason requires a full runér rather than a Ministry of Colonization-assigned rector; and Castellan, assigned to the attached civilian governance of a military or scientific outpost beyond the borders of the Empire.


KFirst among the mechal elementals emanating from Syjéral, the Wood Dragon, are the kami, the embodiments of natural objects, and their specialized subtypes, such as the dryads of the forests, the naiads of the waters, and the oreads of the mountains, the overseers of tectonic pressures.

The kami are unique in two respects: first, that while their animating intelligences, too, are self-evolving software agents, the constraints within which their learning systems operate depend on the physicality to which the nanites on which they execute are attached, uncertain boundaries in fractal recursion. Without definitive core programming or concept-bound learning, the kami take their understanding of treeness, or rockness, or oceanness, from the thing itself – the Transcendent thought-forms of nature defining their own world-model and therefore also their own identity and place within the whole.

Secondly, that while the majority of the lesser mechal elementals are functional, the kami serve as an interface between these physically-focused elementals – the soil churners, silt spawn, and stone mothers that serve under the kami’s command, in accordance with their self-defined selfness – and the daughters of Sylithandríël, the planetary archai which embody and oversee the planetary ecology as a whole.

Thus, the kami are, and so the nanoecology as a whole is, reflected in the Shadow Realm’s outermost layer, the Realm of Instances; the endless whisper of their data-exchanges as they negotiate their ever-changing boundaries and the steps of their endless ecological dance makes up the majority of the transactions in this layer, and their collective representation makes up much of the base of the Celestial Spire.

– Concordance of Robotic Systems and Animating Intelligences, Vol. 6, 221st ed.

Shadows Are Shadows

The most important thing to remember about the Shadow Realm is that it does not exist. “Cyberspace” is a null concept.

The selfness of the Transcend is a distributed, heavily parallel, sophic process-set. It runs on the fractal chandeliers of Corícal Ailék, as close to a central node as the Transcend has. It runs on AI machines scattered across the Empire, buried under unity spires and in contemplationaries and as free-floating moon-brains. It runs on vast forests of cyborg-fungiplant organic computers. It runs on the pervasive nanites of every Imperial world’s nanoecology. It runs on spare computer time and data space purchased upon the cycle spot market. And, of course, it runs within the soul-shard-implanted mind-states of each and every one of its constitutionals.

But none of this is a world. Random access memory has no volume metric. Information has no inherent representation. Processes do not have intrinsic personality.

The faces in the storm are weather-control automation. The islands of the quicksilver sea are representations of process groupings. The data-spirits, from the least elemental to the greatest archai, are masks worn by ineffable Transcendent cognition, not independent entities.

While it is easy to forget when confronted by the timelessness of the kami, the vastness of the Pearl-Bright Ocean, or the majesty of the Twilight City, the Shadow Realm is merely a virtual user interface built for our convenience, shaped according to our mythopoeic semiotics, without “real” existence – a mask, computed only when we wish to observe it.

(Of course, if the information physicists are correct, you could say the same thing about the universe.)

– introduction to The Realm of Shadows and Fire: Inside the Hyperconsciousness