Heaven Upbears

The skimmer sang with many voices.

The high stress tremolo of the variform hull, shifting through a thousand combinations a second to stabilize the skimmer’s flight path as it spiked the atmosphere; the low bass throb of the ram drive, pulsed magnetohydrodynamic vortices that could be felt in the skimmer’s structural bones; and mid-range, the pervasive thrum of laboring machinery, turbopumps and heat exchangers striving to keep mollysieves clear and gas flowing, punctuated by the periodic rattle of black diamond crystals being dumped from the bypasses.

And Inlétanós itself provided the accompaniment, percussion felt more than heard, as miles-long lightning bolts flashed cloud-to-cloud, sparks against the murk.

Marise 0x43B2AAC9 grinned to herself. For once, the chorus had an audience capable of appreciating it. While tiresome haggling over incarnation coverage kept most of her skimmer fleet in the hands of dumb automation, even those tight-wires couldn’t keep her off the survey flights.

And so here she was, a firefly flitting in between the pillars of the darkling sky, city-sized towers of cooling hydrogen among the bluish methane haze passing in an instant; wisps of cloud rising from the yellowish-orange whorls below, here ammonia, there longer-chain hydrocarbons, churned by the boiling gas-ocean below; here and there, even, broad dark flakes of dense, tarry organics, born aloft by chance, floated in the wind.

She side-slipped the skimmer to avoid one such, dipping one swept-forward wing into humped cumuli streaked with organic compounds that sent data crackling from the wing-tip sensors, feeling drag and gravity clutching at her frail ship. The hull keened in compensation. Pressure differential warnings flashed from that wing’s throat as changing gas composition threw off the processors. Then she was through, flashing wing-over-wing past and over, into the lazy updraft of a dying boil – enough to bear the skimmer, tanks and recorders filled, upwards in lazy spirals to the waiting tender.

Our codeline was made
To dance with clouds; gravity
Our fickle lover.

Theremin

2016_T(Alternate words: Tear, terms, thinking, tutorial. Actually, I have a pretty good idea for tutorial, but the darn thing just won’t gel. So you get this bit of silliness instead.)

The music was pounding again – not that it ever stopped – on the main floor of Polythalience, enough so that to be heard, it was safest to bellow directly into the ear of whoever you were attempting to speak with. On the hanging stage above, a dar-cúlnó musician balanced in his water column, flickering his skin color in antiphase with the stage lights and waving tentacles with casual speed above the theremins surrounding him.

“Is he –”

“Yes!”

“All four?”

“Yes!”

“Why can I only hear two?”

“That’s octorock, soph! The third one’s the altissimo track for the high-hearers. Our melody’s their bass line.”

“And the fourth?”

“You feeling your bones hum?”

“Yeah!”

“Then you’re hearing it! Fourth one powers the wubs!”

Filk: “Space Uranium Fever”

Ttto and blatantly imitating: “Uranium Fever”, by Elton Britt [1955].

Verse 1

Well I don’t know but I’ve been told
Reactor fuel’s worth more than gold
I sold my hab, bought an OTV
With a smeltin’ stack and refineree-

Chorus

Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.

Verse 2

Well, I had a talk with the I.G.S.
Bought some charts to the stars they thought were best
Picked out a belt ’round a star of class B
So I laid out my course; loaded up delta-v.
A hundred lights I surely burned
Chasin’ that metal for which I yearned
When three weeks later I braked to meet
That shiny rock that I aimed to deplete.

Chorus

Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.

Verse 3

Well, I took my Geiger and I opened the lock
Got on my candle and headed to the rock
Set up my bore and started to drill
(As all the space-burned rock-rats will)
I drilled that ‘roid from crust to core
But of ion clicks there were no more
And for all the gas that I spent that day
Not a single core would earn my pay.

Chorus

Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.

Verse 4

Well, you pack up your kit and you burn again
For another lonesome rock where nobody’s been
You find a spot where there’s clickin’ ore –
And that spot’s been staked seven times before…
Well, I ain’t kiddin’, I ain’t gonna quit
That bug’s done caught me and I’ve been bit
So with a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’ll keep right on stakin’ them orbitin’ rocks.

Chorus

Uranium fever has done and got me down
Uranium fever – it’s spreadin’ all around
With a Geiger counter for spacewalks
I’m a-goin’ out to stake me some orbitin’ rocks
Uranium fever has done and got me down.

 

It’s a Shanty!

Reminded of it by seeing it posted on Google+ today, here’s something I’d been meaning to post to the “relevant-to-our-interests” section for a while: the nearest Earth equivalent to one of the old space shanties enjoyed, no doubt, by old spacers and spacehands of the Imperial Merchant Navy everywhere…

(We recommend that only trained professionals should attempt to sip their sippin’ whiskey from mid-air blobs.)

Trope-a-Day: Loud of War

Loud of War: What the war pipes were originally invented for, and never mind their usage to rally and direct the troops.  Also, if you recall the lampshading of the lack of battlefield stealth under Bling of War, what the speakers on the Powered Armor and Awesome Personnel Carrier are often abused to do.

(It is actually not military policy to advance to a rousing chorus of “Behold, The Gods of Thunder Advance”… merely military practice.)

Trope-a-Day: Future Music

Future Music: While the Empire has been around for a very, very long time and as such has accumulated far more musical genres that I can reasonably describe, here are some notable ones – with staying power – in Imperial space:

Digital: This isn’t a parallel to our electronic music; it’s the native music of AIs and other digital sapiences.  To most biosapient ears it sounds like a hideously cacophonic mixture of modem noise with a bank of packet sniffers all set for audio output, but that’s just because we don’t have the right ears to hear it properly.

There’s also a biosapient offshoot using theremin-like instruments which pull their input data from sampling the player’s neural activity, which makes it vitally important to pick your musicians’ emotional-conceptual phase spaces (“we need an ecstatic, a melancholic, and two tranquillaries to play this quarto”) to match the pieces you intend to perform.

Drinkin’ Music: (Yes, the actual word translates literally as “drinkin’ music”.)  While this particular subgenre probably sounds most like Irish pub songs, from an Earth perspective, some of its best-known works are virtually impossible to perform when sober.

Emergent: A heavily improvisational musical school, and also the most danceable of the notable genres, “emergent” would sound to the Terran ear as something like a jazz-swing hybrid.  It occupies the Empire’s “mainstream popular music” niche.

Fightin’ Music: (Yes, this one does too.) Heavy on the trumpets, bagpipes, percussion, and bombast.  Really serious works in the genre include unconventional percussion instruments like spears-on-shields (after all, much of it was written to be performed on the battlefield), and modern examples may add firearms and small artillery pieces, and in one memorable example, the main armament of a Bellicose-class assault cruiser.  (The Ethring Nautical Symphony actually owns one, surplussed out of the Capital Fleet; the piece in question is remarkably popular during the Armament Day celebrations.)

The combination of the drinkin’ and fightin’ music genres is… best left unmentioned.

Filk: Well, speculative fiction is one of their major literary genres, so what would you expect?  (An outgrowth of Traditional, which see.)

Metatonal: The music of the augmented, metatonal makes use of elements, in audible range, timing, and differentiation between notes, that are impossible for the unaugmented ear to hear.  Or music that is targeted at an audience of two species at three different pitch ranges, of which only the middle one is audible to both.  Or – well, the more complexity you can cram into the music, and the more people you can please with the result despite their different perceptions, the closer you come to the real spirit of metatonalism, so they say.

Opera: While stylistically and dramatically similar to opera as we know it, Eldraeic opera includes elements of ballet, and is – in its higher forms – notorious for particularly involuted plots and extraordinary numbers of layers of symbolism.  It’s also often performed in archaic languages, or archaic dialects, at least.  In short: while still widely enjoyed, this is where Imperial high culture reaches its apotheosis.

Traditional: An outgrowth of the historical bardic tradition, this occupies what is effectively the “classical” music niche.  While there is considerable variety within the genre, the typical examples are relatively lengthy ballads or similar works, with relatively subtle instrumental accompaniment.  While not always presented, most also come with some form of visual accompaniment.