2016_X(Alternate words: none. Also, for the avoidance of doubt, I’m assuming you submitted it in the spirit of my single usage of it in this trope-a-day back in 2014, rather than as the more-commonly-seen abbreviation of “Christianity”, because it’s not like there is any of the latter *there* to write about.)

“What is X-anity, you ask?

“(Apart, that is, from a rather ugly portmanteau in Eldraeic that I strongly suspect will not be improved by translation into any of the other languages of the Accord.)

“It’s a general term referring to a different quality for each species: kar mkaeth for the kaeth, lishólen for the ciseflish, ësseldrae for my own species, except that we use that term to refer to an ideal, not a current state, and so forth. As for what those mean, well, it’s six things, and therefore none at all.

“First, and most usefully, in biological terms, it would mean the psychological characteristics that members of that species have in common. So for us that would be things like mélith as a sense and instinct, or for the kaeth, trasered vandthel, or for the dar-e’sevdra, estrus, or for the tennoa, utilitarianism, and so forth. That each species has its own unique essence in this way is undeniable; promoting these unique points of view is much of the motivation behind uplift, for example.

“That being said, most academicians and professionals who might need to reference it go out of their way to find some other term, because secondly, it’s an example of the applied naturalistic fallacy, in which people declare such psychological characteristics terminal rather than instrumental values and insist that they cannot possibly be modified lest they change the X-ane experience and thus destroy X-anity from within. Something that has been invoked to justify the retention of everything from hyperbolic discounting through envy and xenophobia to morbidity and mortality –

(Many loud interruptions from audience.)

“The bioconservatives are out in force tonight, I see.

“Thirdly, in an extension to the first definition, people have used it to define a larger number of common characteristics, which are typically cultural norms – meaning modal averages – for a given species, by reference claiming them as innate to some degree or another. Apart from the inaccuracy of this – any functioning sophont brain is necessarily remarkably plastic, as manifested by the high levels of cultural interchange in polyspecific societies –

(Heckler makes reference to interspecies mating.)

“That wasn’t actually the kind of ‘cultural interchange’ I had in mind, but it does make a good example. As it happens, the Empire does have a high xenophilia rate, as do most polyspecific societies, although I am rather pleased to be able to say that ours is one of the highest. Which is exactly what you would expect, since the way that instincts manifest is shaped by cultural imprinting in all sophonts and even many prosophonts, including what and who they find attractive.

“And biological cultural determinism, therefore, is so much arrant balderdash, despite which evidence, fourthly, this definition is so often misused by authoritarian culture-groups, either as a means to deny another culture-group membership in X-anity, at which point they no longer merit consideration as fellow sophonts, or to equate their culture or their preferences with the optimally X-ane, and use X-anity as a hammer to enforce cultural conformity.

“These multiple definitions, in any case, render X-anity as a concept both controversial,. fifthly, in any context in which it might be even slightly ambiguous, and sixthly, therefore useless in any serious debate.”

– Academician Vallis Archíël, sophontologist,
student’s transcript from a guest speaker session, Academy of Loryet


Question: Frequency of Life

And one more:

How about approx. population density/sapient life occurrence frequency/percentage of races successfully achieved spaceflight without rendering themselves extinct etc. of Associated Worlds?

Well, now. If you were to compare the number of species around the place in the Worlds to the total number of star systems connected, what you would get is something on the order of one sophont species per 40 to 60 star systems. Once you eliminated all the digisapiences, neogens, post-technological speciation, polytaxic species, nomads, and suchlike that complexify the issue, anyway. (95% to 98% of those haven’t rendered themselves extinct; it’s rare that people manage to screw up that completely, especially once starflight is available, but the ones that have are rather prominent in the news and history books for obvious reasons. Maybe 25% of them had interplanetary flight/in-system development when contacted.)

Of course, that’s completely non-representative.

The Far Horizon Probes that Ring Dynamics and the Exploratory Service use to decide where and when to expand the stargate plexus are programmed with certain biases, mostly towards interesting things. Like, say, the blue-white giant star Leytra in the middle of the Ringstars constellation, or the Eye-of-Night black hole, both unique features. But also, always, the signs of intelligent life (which, of course, further biases it towards species advanced enough to produce radio signals or other features observable across the light-years).

So that’s not the number of species spread over 10,000 systems, because the 10,000 systems connected to the Worlds are spread across a volume of space – an oblate spheroid with axes roughly 3,300 ly by 4,100 ly by 2,000 ly – that contains maybe 100,000,000 star systems. So, the prevalence of sophont life is more like 1 per 400,000 star systems in the aggregate. (I’m erring to the high end, here, since pre-technological star systems are effectively invisible except at close range.)

Local population density varies widely throughout the Worlds, of course, just like it does in the greater Galaxy. (Some bubbles are life-rich, some are less so, some have been scoured entirely clean of life by, say, supernovae and gamma-ray bursters. Plus, of course, the inner and outer thirds of the galaxy tend to be life-poor compared to the central band: the former because of the high radiation levels near the galactic core, and the latter because of the lack of necessary elements.) But that’s the average, and the Worlds bubble is… average, maybe a little on the high side, by galactic standards.

Appearances Matter

Gabriel Fonseca asks if there’s anywhere that contains detailed physical descriptions of the various species of the Eldraeverse. Well, sadly, there isn’t right now, but for your visualizing pleasure, here’s some descriptions of most of the ones I’ve mentioned recently, anyway:


In their home environment, the ciseflish superficially resemble the Terran mole in shape (approximately), specifically the star-nosed mole; that said, they’re six-limbed amphibians, who switch between hexapedal and bipedal locomotion at will (the former for speed, the latter for sociability), with breathing vents/gills (they work either way) located at the base of the throat, large sensitive eyes to handle low light levels, auditory tympana rather than ears, and tentacle-like chemosensory “nasal” protrusions that also serve as tasting organs. They’re about 4′ tall, and covered in short, downy fur, ranging in color from pale cream to dark, earthy brown. Oh, and they’re trisexual; the dominant ‘matriarch’ sex is somewhat larger than the other two.

But none of this is visible for the majority of people who meet them elsewhere, because the ciseflish are from Ólish (High Verge), a cold world with more in common with our outer-system moons than with Earth. They’re amphibians in oceans of liquid propane and other hydrocarbons, breathe a thick, cold, high-pressure atmosphere that’s heavy in ammonia – and as such that fur has a lot more in common with hydrocarbon polymer plastics than keratin – find free oxygen acutely toxic, oxygen-breather temperatures furnace-like, and as such are generally only seen off Ólish or their colonies through heavy, pressurized, refrigerated environment suits.

Despite the inconvenience, though, there’re quite a lot of them offworld, because they really, really love money and trade.


The codramaju are weird as hell.

The closest thing we have for comparison is the slime mold. Only a codramaju is a 6′ long (typical adult not multitasking right now), bright ocher, motile slime mold with various pseudopodia and temporary organelles attached. And the best part is, that’s not even the weirdest thing about them: that would be that personal identity is extremely fluid among the codramaju, who happily divide and recombine (including with bits of other codramaju), changing identity along the way. They can form temporary group minds by joining together, which they use for high-grade computation. That’s also how codramaju reproduction works; the combining of lots of bits contributed by many codramaju. And their speech is entirely chemical – either by direct merging close up, or by releasing spores at a distance (hope you bought that option for your translator).

They make a great example of exactly how little “warm-‘blooded’ oxygen-breather” means in practice, in terms of commonality.


The d!grith, by contrast, are relatively conventional warm-blooded oxygen-breathers: they look something like small tailless apes with canine muzzles and cat ears, with all four arms having essentially identical “hands”. Dark-skinned, they have fur in winter or perpetually cold environments, but not the rest of the time. Natural brachiators, they found the microgravity environment quite congenial, which contributed to their painless interstellar expansion and large merchant marine.


Uplifted bandal, which is to say dogs. Bearing in mind that the bandal is already larger (due to some dire wolf ancestry as well as regular canis lupus) and higher-foreheaded (due to consistent breeding for smart) than the Earth dog, their uplifted cousins are even more so: imagine a human-sized Aussie, and you’re in the ballpark. Their forepaws are modified for greater manipulatory ability, but unlike, say, Traveller’s Vargr, they’re still quadrupeds. The uplift engineers at Family of Species, ICC, have no interest in turning every species they get their hands on into imitation monkeys.

(Not that they’d put it that way, since there aren’t actually any members of the ecology Terrageneae, order Primates anywhere in the Associated Worlds, with one heavily-engineered exception, but it comes to the same thing.)


The dar-célmek are uplifted rats, descended at a few removes from the local cousins of the brown rat (rattus norvegicus) – or, to be more precise, they’re rat kings, because rats are already remarkably smart for their size, and while they were able to engineer them to be partially-uplifted smart rats, there just wasn’t enough mass/volume available to push them all the way to sophoncy.

Not to be thwarted, then, the uplift engineers cyborged them using nanocyte technology (i.e., grows naturally, and is hereditary); a dar-célmek is a gestalt sophont composed of one mind spread across 12 to 48 rats. The individual members look like thin rats with opposable thumbs on their paws, metallic threads running along their tails (the antenna for their wireless gestalt link), and infrared lenses next to their eyes. They can’t speak naturally, but can communicate over the network, and in any case, most of them have a few members wearing a modified ring imager as a collar of sorts to let them project sound and image when they need to.


The eldrae, being that aforementioned heavily-engineered exception (and that’s the baseline species, I mean, not counting any of the engineering they’ve done to themselves since), are hominins. Or to put it the other way around, humans to such extent as they are known (from a few very old fragmented fossils recovered from Precursor uplift facility waste dumps) are Pseudoeldrae archaea on their taxonomic charts.

Granted, they’re hominins engineered to the point where they use amino acids we don’t and bleed indigo, but the gross physical morphology is close. They’re just very tall (6′ 8″ to 7′ 8″ average, both sexes), thin (160-240 lbs., with narrow hips, long limbs, and long fingers and toes), pale (copper to pale blue due to an immune system that basically obviates eumelanin), with pointy ears, angular facial features, a selection of psychological differences, and, oh yes, a remarkable tendency not to age and die.

Of course, the big problem for us is that they’ve been optimizing themselves for literally millennia at this point, so from a human point of view, its only those eldritch differences that stand between us and being punched hard in the superstimulus. Which would be problematic.


No-one remembers what natural esseli used to look like, or at least if the esseli genetic memory still has it stored somewhere, no-one’s talking.

What they look like now, on the other hand…

Well, nominally, they look like big fleshy blobs with eyes and tentacles, which is the brain, a protective wrapping around the brain, and its sensors/manipulators. But, you see, they got that way by being master biotechnologists, and over the course of centuries have both stripped their physical form down to a minimum, and also then built it back up again by inventing whole suites of modular plug-in organs and symbiotic bodies they can put on and take off like other people change their pants. An esseli can look like anything, depending on what it’s doing at the time and how its personal taste runs – even more so than the people who have to rely on mere mindcasting to swap bodies.

The esseli are also notable in that the form of genetic storage and the form of memetic storage they use are identical: it’s all DNA. Thus, while esseli are entirely capable of conventional speech (in any number of modes, depending on which organs they have installed right now), when they want to convey lots of information, they just pass appropriate plasmids around.

In the esseli educational system, you literally drink knowledge.


It came as something as a surprise to (exo-)biologists that the first species they met was about as silicon-based as it could be, being a race of living crystals.

It turns out, of course, that that’s not exactly true. They’re carbon-silicon hybrids: the galari crystals live in symbiosis with wet carbon-based pseudonanoviruses which reshape the crystals. Over time, this mutually evolved to the point where the crystals, with their silicon-based intelligence, directed the viruses and the viruses reshaped the crystals.

So, the actual sophont galari are, at least the ones who travel, rounded roughly-tetrahedral crystal spindles, somewhere between 2′ and 6′ along their long axis, and come in a variety of gem-like colors; looking carefully at them, one can often see faint pulses of light as a byproduct of their cognitive processes. They don’t require much in the way of nutrition for material replenishment, as a rule; rather, they’re ergovores, soaking up and storing charge derived from the light of their homeworld’s hot, bright sun, or from a convenient broad-spectrum EM lamp. They communicate using bioradio.

In their natural state, they were sessile, leading to their immensely patient, philosophical, contemplative culture. The technological galari, however, invented vector control-based “effector belts”, enabling the smaller members of the species to move around and participate in galactic culture.


The kaeth are draconiform, or pseudosaurian if you prefer, 6-7′ tall bipeds. You could think of them as looking something like 4th ed. AD&D’s dragonborn, except the back is more humped, the eyes more widely set, and the legs digitigrade. Kaeth blood gleams like mercury, and their skin, or rather scale, tones are dietary-dependent variants on a dark gray-silver, both of which have to do with just how rich Paltraeth (their homeworld) is in various heavy metals, which their biology makes good use of – kaeth bones are strong as girders, and kaeth skin is basically naturally-grown double-lapped composite scale mail. (A typical kaeth masses something upwards of 400 lbs.) On top of all of that, kaeth evolution has provided them with natural weapons in the form of fang and claw, redundant, highly distributed organ systems, fast healing, and strong immunities, which should tell you something about just what a happy fun place Paltraeth was to evolve.

At least before the asteroid strike.


See previous post.


The lanect are a warm-blooded, fleshy (i.e., so not classically insectoid) race whose bodies are nonetheless contained within a bony (not chitinous) segmented exoskeleton; they’re bilaterally symmetrical bipeds with four manipulating arms, with four-clawed hands, and recessed multifaceted eyes. The exoskeleton of worker-caste lanect is smooth, scars aside; those who claim the status of a Warmark in lanect society carve designs into their skull to signify this.

Of course, that’s the baseline lanect – given the vicious meritocracy that comprises lanect society, they do not hesitate to apply genetic, surgical, and (especially) cybernetic modifications to themselves using any technology they can buy or steal in the interest of greater personal success.


Imagine a bear.

Now imagine it hexapedal, hermaphroditic, furless – with grayish, leathery skin – and bulging with the kind of muscles befitting a species that evolved on a planet with three times Earth’s gravity.

Now imagine it being possessed of a baseline temperament that makes an actual grizzly bear seem the sweetest, politest, calmest, most peaceful person you know.

That’s a linobir.

(There’s a reason their racial stereotype is “brute squad”. This hurtful stereotyping is often protested, exclusively by people who’ve never actually met one.)


The mezuar are purplish-blue trees, wood and leaf, and entirely sessile. Specifically, an individual mezuar is a grove of said trees, due to the requirements of sophoncy on a relatively low-energy plant metabolism (their roots grow together and intermesh their “nervous systems”). They thrive very well on their homeworld, the mezuar forests having successfully domesticated virtually the entire animal ecology of the planet to attend to their requirements.


The myneni are a blob of nanomachines in a bag.

Well, yes, so is just about everything living. Unlike most species, however, the myneni are a blob of undifferentiated, general purpose nanomachines inside their integument, with no dedicated organs (if they need some sort of specialized organ or sensor, they whip one up on demand and dissolve it when they’re done). Not having any skeleton, their natural shape is a spheroidal blob with a slightly flattened base, but they can manipulate their internal plasm to take on any variant shape from a puddle to a tree, and generate limbs at will. They come in a wide variety of colors, but these don’t appear to have any particular significance, biological or cultural.


The nsang are bullet-bodied and headless (their “eyes”, actually light-sensitive skin cells, cover all sides of their upper body), trilaterally symmetrical with long, folding arms and legs, the former tipped with three-fingered hands. A beak-like mouth is to be found between each arm-leg pair.

…this actually makes them pretty average by warm-blooded oxygen-breather standards.


The seforn are quadrupeds, with gleaming, jewel-like skin (contains no actual jewels, much to the disappointment of people who have obtained seforn moltings), who possess a mouth and trinocular eyes in a partially-merged head at one body terminus, while.respiring through slit-like openings along the sides of their body. A ridge crest runs down the seforn back, thought to be an evolutionary leftover originally intended for thermoregulation. Monosexual and parthenogenic, they depend on an in-built process of gene-shuffling to produce genetic variation.

Even the poorest seforn will always be well-dressed. Denying a seforn access to the seforn equivalent of a quality business suit invariably causes them intense psychological distress, much to the puzzlement of sophontologists everywhere.


Well, no-one’s exactly sure quite what the skrandar looked like, since they weren’t exactly communicative even before they blew up their sun, and there wasn’t a whole lot of evidence left afterwards. From what there is, it is generally believed that they looked something like a cross between an alligator and a migraine.

Trope-a-Day: Named After Their Planet

Named After Their Planet: Mostly averted.  While the galari are from Galáré, those names were created by the explorers who met them, since the galari themselves don’t use spoken language in any sort of phonemic sense.  Similar considerations explain the myneni from Mynár, inasmuch as mynenio is an almost pure-tonal language entirely without standard phonemes.  Meanwhile, the eldrae are from Eliéra, the esseli from Mmrdene, the kaeth from Paltraeth, the d!grith from Prrshurru, the kalatri from Vonikar (although they call it Vonis Prime these days), the ciseflish from Ólish, the linobir from Bir-Liahs, the skrandar from Kr!ngath, the celsesh from Eö, and so on and so forth…

(And all-yall Earthicans can be assured that they won’t call you that.)


Biocode: O-LDL-D11

The kalatri, best known as the dominant sophont species of the Voniensa Republic, are a warm-blooded oxygen-breathing species, originating from a protein-lipid biochemistry with nucleic-acid based genetic information storage. In terms of standard interspecies morphology, they are upright bipedal lacertians, possessing a squamous integument in shades of blue or green, with a crest of short, stiff white pseudo-fur along the line of the spine from skull to mid-back; this actually serves as a chemosensor. Having evolved from hexapedal ancestors on their homeworld of Vonis Prime, they possess a double pair of arms, the mid-arm of which has migrated towards the head creating a complex double-shoulder joint; the outer arms, referred to as the major arms, possess three-fingered hands and are used for tasks requiring strength and grip; they are also used as secondary transportation limbs for brachiation. The inner arms, the minor arms, have developed six-fingered hands used for fine manipulation. The tail common in lacertomorphs is largely vestigial in kalatri, and when occasionally present is considered a genetic atavism and typically removed surgically shortly after birth. Nutrition, originally biochemically compatible post-mortem plant and animal matter, but in the modern era more commonly corresponding synthetics, is ingested through a single multi-toothed mouth located on the anterior surface of the inferior portion of the head. Excretion, copulation, and parturition take place through a single combined cloaca located upon the ventral surface of the inferior terminus of the torso.

The kalatri head (containing the brain and primary sense organs) is also lacertian in form, although relatively platyopic. It bears no respiratory orifices; kalatri respiration makes use of neck vents. The kalatri possess dual, stereoptic eyes on the anterior surface of the superior portion of the head. Immediately lateral to these are a pair of large auditory tympana. Kalatri visual range covers from galle to mid-blue, and aural range from 45 Hz to 29 kHz.

Kalatri are a bisexed, usually pair-bonding, dianisogamic, and ovoviviparous species, K-strategy, typically producing a single offspring at a time, which requires fourteen to sixteen years to reach physical maturity. Offspring are functionally helpless and require parental care for the first several years of their lives. Unmodified kalatri lifespan extends to between 90 and 130 years, with gross physiological deterioration setting in the last 20 years.

Psychologically1, against baseline average, kalatri can be considered moderately ludic, mildly xenophobic/chauvinist (although commonly-seen kalatri cultural elements decry this), moralist, moderately precautionary and uninnovative, low-trust, and susceptible to an unusually high degree to conscious and subconscious peer norming, with consequent prosocial/counteregoic tendencies.

By the standards of the Associated Worlds, Republican kalatri are a near-baseline species: While their technological base in other areas remains relatively well-developed, Republic law prohibits a variety of technologies, including but not limited to volitional machine intelligence (or, rather, the development of volitional machine intelligence, and the full recognition of the personhood of machine sophonts is dubious), seed AI, the uploading of organic sophonts into algorithmic form (such uploaded sophonts are denied personhood within Republic space, except by special treaty arrangement) and its concomitants, synnoetic integration of organic and machine intelligence, bionic enhancement, the majority of non-industrial-grade nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetic enhancement of sophonts and most other forms of genetic manipulation except under strict controls, immortagens and other high-grade anagathics, and intelligence enhancement by technological means. Those kalatri who have abandoned the Republic for one of the few independent kalatri colonies in Worlds space are not externally prohibited from using these technologies, but usually find it hard to shake off their cultural conditioning.

– A Comprehensive Index of Sophonts, ed. Trestat hr-Mirek, Third Order Publishing

1: Authorial aside: Given that the kalatri are also about as close to psychologically human as anyone in-setting can be, interested readers can occupy themselves reverse-engineering what the Worlds’ modal sophont species is like from this…

Trope-a-Day: Taxonomic Term Confusion

Taxonomic Term Confusion: Taxonomy is even more of a mess than it used to be, having to deal with life originating separately (it is usually thought; see Panspermia) in a multitude of different ecologies, which then got intermingled by ancient and modern terraforming and accidents of star travel to produce the situation as we know it today.

Imperial taxonomy uses something that resembles our current system, but with an additional parameter right at the top of the tree to indicate the ecology which this particular species originated within (wherever it may be found now); i.e., adding to the classification of humans as kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominidae, tribe Hominini, genus Homo, species H. sapiens an initial level of classification along the lines of “ecology Terragenea“.

(Of course, not that this works perfectly even then: humanity – albeit not quite modern man – by virtue of ancient fossils turning up on Eliera with greenlife similarities, exists in the Imperial taxonomy as Pseudoeldrae archaea, ecology Cálenlethis; and in the event that they should discover us, I suspect we would take about as well to being reclassified as Pseudoeldrae novis about as well as they would take being shoved into genus Homo; which is to say, not at all well.  This is the sort of thing over which wars, or at least vicious academic infighting and people being cut – as in “cut direct”, not as in “I CUT YOU”… well, at least most of the time – at professional conferences, start.

It also doesn’t help that the eldrae, E. alathis, E. anthalis, or E. kirsunar, are already a taxonomic mess by virtue of having at least as much claim to being in ecology Fidúrlethis [bluelife] as ecology Cálenlethis; hybrid engineered lifeforms are like that.  And the continued production of neogens makes this problem worse by the day – while, yes, the Applied Biotics, ICC Bactry Template Organism EC-7 is descended from organisms in kingdom Bacteria, it’s descended from about a dozen of them, taken apart and the best bits kept.  This is hard to classify in anything resembling the normal manner.)

There are also at least two alternative partial taxonomies in use simply because they’re useful: one, a classification of species by their biochemical features, simply because it’s useful for some purposes to have all the methane-breathers or all the silicon-based life, and so forth, classified together regardless of origin; and another more approximate classification by homology alone, because for non-biologists travelling between planets, it’s useful to have relatively simple terms to call all the avioids, the ichthyoids, the arboroids, and so forth even if they’re not related by anything but general similarity.  (Which terms I still, despite this fine feature of the “original language”, I still “translate” as “bird”, “fish”, “tree”, etc. when writing just like the first set, because the clarity in the original language is the bloody-minded wordiness in English.)

On the use of “race” to mean “species” in particular: In formal speech they’re usually good at maintaining the race/species distinction, but then, the whole race concept is also a mess – inasmuch as it used to be that the former was used in much the same loose sense as we use it for natural phenotypic distinctions within a species, and then clade came to be used for artificial ones (as people started producing aquatic people, photosynthetic people, space-adapted people, etc., etc.), which are messy categories, because they overlap quite a lot (one clade can include all races; one race can include all clades), but some clades rewrite for perfectly good reasons the same phenotypic elements that were used to define races (for practical reasons: all naked-to-space-adapted-clades have high-melanin [etc.] skin for radiation protection, but all photosynthetic clades have to have low-melanin skin to avoid conflicting with the chloroplasts [etc.], for example), and some clades exist to be cosmetic phenotypes that are essentially new races in the casual sense, and aaarrrgh.

(It’s clade that’s used for classification, when relevant, because it’s the one that tends to be medically relevant, environmentally important, and so forth, on a regular basis.)