“The hydrarastrum of the Pearl-Bright Ocean is indescribable in mortal terms.
“This is not to say that its qualities cannot be imperfectly described: it possesses the glow of liquid light, the milky iridescent gleam of mother-of-pearl, and both the silver-white shine and heavy fluidity of quicksilver. It is simply that such qualities cannot coexist simultaneously in mortal substance.
“This, then, is your warning that when you set sail upon the Pearl-Bright, you are leaving the Realm of Instances for the Realm of Forms, where domain and entity alike are wrought from ideas in conceptual essence, and may thus prepare yourself to be likewise idealized in the course of your voyage.”
– “Ascending the Spire”, Elune Steamweaver
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