Trope-a-Day: Year Outside, Hour Inside

Year Outside, Hour Inside: Thanks to relativity, truth in television for lighthugger crews, who slowly build up a hefty time differential (and cultural delta) with the parts of the universe operating on the empire-time frame.

(Hint: if there’s a family member or social grouping you just can’t live without, make sure you all sign up together.

…also, give up on playing MMOs or multiplayer games with anyone off the ship, no matter how much tangle you brought. Timeslip is much worse than netlag.)

Trope-a-Day: You Can’t Go Home Again

You Cant Go Home Again: A consequence of lighthugger travel and the ensuing time dilation for ephemerals; or people from ephemeral societies, rather, since its the high cultural delta of the society you left that causes the problem.

Also, more rarely, what happens to people left off-world at the time of an Apocalypse How or Gone Horribly Right.

Trope-a-Day: Subspace Ansible

Subspace Ansible: The tangle channel, which involves manufactured entangled (not in the standard quantum sense, note, because we know that doesn’t work; these are ontotechnological devices using the “privileged channels” a long way behind those) particle-pairs.  This makes them quite expensive (since they are a consumable resource, one particle per bit transmitted, and have to be shipped there the long way once you separate the ends; if you don’t have one or a stargate, your best option is a lighthugging communications torpedo) at least relative to using light-speed EM communications and relaying them through the stargates, the way most of the non-priority extranet works, but they’re invaluable for priority communications and beyond the reach of the stargate plexus.  (They are, for example, the only means of ready communication available to lighthuggers.)  And yes, they do work for mindcasting.

(And, yes, they can also let you play interesting games with causality. Just as expected.)

That said, extensive use of caching, prefetching, and AI traffic prognostication makes the extranet delays mostly invisible in practice, as does the ability to engage in pseudo-real-time communication by sending a partial copy of you along with, or as, your message to be able to have a real discussion with the recipient, then reabsorb it when it returns.

Trope-a-Day: Streaming Stars

Streaming Stars: Averted.  However incomprehensible the speeds lighthuggers move at, they’re not nearly fast enough – and can’t be, courtesy of the luminal limit – to create noticeable motion parallax.  Some blue- and red-shifting and relativistic distortion, yes, once they’re cruising along at the full 0.9c; but no motion parallax.


Xxenognosis (n.): (also “the Big Hello”) The knowledge that sophont species other than one’s own exist; also, the discovery by an individual or species that they exist.

In popular mythology, this is usually conflated with first contact, or at least with the establishment of genuine communications between the species in question – which portrayal, unfortunately, is almost pure nonsense.

Interstellar civilization just isn’t that subtle.

Space is cold and dark. Interstellar life is the exact opposite. Between the EM penumbra, starship drive flares, the gravity-wave ripples of stargates in operation, and even some few modified stellar spectra, anyone within a couple of thousand light-orbits of the Periphery with any astronomical competence at all can have no doubt that there’s exotic life out there – with the only possible exception being those on the wrong side of the Shadow Veil.

If you’re actually trying to make contact, you can’t avoid giving advance notice. In the first first contact on record, the galari identified Extropy Rising – a slowship, not even a lighthugger – light-months out of their system, even before the inbound ship spotted the radio emissions of galari civilization. The deceleration burn of a modern lighthugger is easily visible from the next star over, and highly distinctive to boot; an optimized fusion torch or the double-peaked signature of a pion drive look like nothing else in space. As for starwisps – how many stars do you think there are that shine monochromatic green?

(And if the lighthugger in question is a linelayer, it’s going to leave a stargate megastructure orbiting in their outer system for them to look at for months, maybe even years, before a scoutship gets there. Conveniently engraved with instructions for use, even.)

This does have its disadvantages, triggering social unrest, cultural shifts, bursts of technological development, and the like, or on less developed worlds – the kind whose occupants may go unnoticed until your arrival – sometimes even religious movements. In the case of psychotics-in-waiting like the skrandar, it may well have converted them into the berserkers they ended as.

But if you want to explore the galaxy at all – well, what can you do? Even the Voniensa Republic, who are remarkably prissy about this sort of thing, have had to reconcile themselves to that.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


ODeepHab Eleven
Eastern Abyssal
Gulf of Antareä

The incoming voice rattled scratchily from the speaker. “Benthic Needle, we have you on our magnetograph now. Confirm your position.”

“Inertial guidance shows us eight-eleven porisedt from sonar target, relative bearing zero-eight-five, station-keeping against current. Request calibration reading on relative depth, DeepHab.”

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

“Benthic Needle, we show your relative depth as two porisedt above our datum, with a three degree for’ard pitch.”

“Thanks, DeepHab. Retrimming.”

Water gurgled into the trim tanks as the pilot adjusted the controls.

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

“We’re ready for terminal guidance, DeepHab. Advisory: we have negative, repeat negative, visual capability.”

“Proceed on heading zero-six-zero for eleven-one porisedt to intercept final vector, Benthic Needle, activate high-resolution targeting sonar, and hold; descend six porisedt to four below datum relative for moon pool access. Map follows.”

A burst of data-noise later, the proposed course mapped itself out in blue-green trigraphics on the inside of the minisub’s blank steel cupola.

“Executing, DeepHab.”

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

“Say, Benthic Needle, out of curiosity, why does the Spaceflight Initiative want you guys to practice blind docking anyway?”

“No mystery, DeepHab. The Needle’s shipping out to Isimír next year. There’s no light down in its subcrustal ocean, so we’re learning to operate without it.”

“There’s no light down here, either, Needle, but we do have lights.”

“Yeah, but there’s never been any light down in Isimír’s ocean. If there’s any life down there, it’d be rude to go lightin’ the place up before we find out if it’ll poison the locals.”

Trope-a-Day: Mile-Long Starship

Mile-Long Starship: Some bigger classes easily fall into this category or above: dreadnoughts and superdreadnoughts, grapeship megafreighters, the top end of highliners, colony seedships, mobile factories, that sort of thing, and – of course – city-ships.

Special note here to most lighthuggers, which have to accommodate vast quantities of deuterium and antideuterium and whose antimatter-pion-torch engines are so ridiculously lethal to be near that you want them on the end of a very long spine indeed.