All My Base Are Belong To You

Numeric base, that is.

So far, for the most part, I have been handling this via Translation Convention, since exactitude has not been of crucial importance, and expecting people who care about such things to pick up that for a people who use duodecimal (base-12) notation, a century is naturally 144 years, a millennium 1,728, etc., etc.

This has been seeming to me increasingly inadequate, given potential and real confusion when I talk about lengths of time, etc., using my authorial voice rather than in-character, as well as differences between metaphorical and literal usages, and so on and so forth.

Where it has now broken down completely is in writing a piece involving people using two different number bases, in which an duodecimal millennium (1,728 years) and an octal millennium (512 years) aren’t even close to the same thing, and neither, for that matter, is particularly close to a decimal millennium. That’s stretching it even for metaphorical purposes.

And I would prefer not to just start dropping numbers in untranslated Eldraeic, etc., into the text, because that’s something that has no correspondence or roots at all for the English-speaking reader to figure out.

So I’m thinking of coining some new English words for use in an updated Translation Convention, such that things can be made clear. Or at least consistent.

Power Decimal Duodecimal Octal
x1 ten dodectave (12) octave (8)
x2 hundred dodecen (144) octcen (64)
x3 thousand dodeciad (1,728) octiad (512)
x6 million grand dodeciad (2,985,984) grand octiad (262,144)

(I’m not using “dozen” for 12 in duodecimal because I suspect that that would lead people to believe that they’re counting by twelves in base ten, which is misleading. Much the same reasoning applies to “gross” for 144, and also that “grossury” as a period of time sounds like a place you buy unpleasant food.

Instead, for time, we have the “dodecentury” and the “dodecennium”, which should parse better and are at least reasonably euphonious.)

Naturally, there’ll be footnotes and a numeric appendix in published works for those encountering these coinages for the first time.

Comments and thoughts, anyone?

 

Fleet Communications

A commenter raises an interesting point with regard to fleet communications, which as we have seen in various places, tend to look like this:

FROM: CS GRITFIST (FIELD FLEET RIMWARD)
TO: FIELD FLEET RIMWARD COMMAND (CS ARMIGEROUS PROPERTARIAN)

*** ROUTINE
*** FLEET CONFIDENTIAL E256
*** OVERDUE FOLLOWUP

REF: TASK GROUP R-4-118
REF: OVERDUE STATUS, CS GUTPUNCH

  1. AS PER TASK GROUP ORDERS ORIGINATING CS UNDERBELT, HAVE PROCEEDED WITH COHORT, CS GOUGER, TO LAST KNOWN POSITION CS GUTPUNCH, MALTEVIC SYSTEM.
  2. NO TRACES OF CS GUTPUNCH OR RECENT SIGNS OF COMBAT APPARENT OR RECORDED IN SYSTEM LONGSCAN BUOYS. TRANSPONDER LOGS CONFIRM OUTBOUND GATING TO NARIJIC SYSTEM IN ACCORDANCE WITH PATROL ROUTING.
  3. RESPONSE TO FORWARDED QUERIES TO SYSTEM ENTRY BUOYS IN NARIJIC AND KERJEJIC SYSTEMS INCLUDES NO HIGH-ENERGY EVENTS.
  4. CS GOUGER WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO NARIJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  5. SELF WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO KERJEJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  6. MORE FOLLOWS.
  7. AUTHENTICATION MORAINE HAMMOCK VAULT SIMMER GOLDEN PAWL / 0x9981ABD43E3ECC22

ENDS.

…to wit:

One thing about these: while I understand the stylistic motivation of using all-caps (reminiscing to WW2-era (and later) communiqués, in Isif’s world, that makes no real sense. In WW2, the all-caps was a result of having no distinct-case (and some bright chap thinking it was better to have all-caps, even if they are a lot harder to read).

I do not have a ready solution to carry the “fleet communiqué” vibe easily, but I think just the rest of the format (headers, enumeration, the “Ends.” trailer) would be good enough™.

Well, here’s the reasoning behind it. But first, I will note that not all communication to and from fleet vessels looks like this. We also see some that comes over more normal channels, which looks like this:

From: Executor Major Garren Melithos, Uulder Shore Constellation Adhoc, Imperial Exploratory Service
To: Cmdr. Leda Estenv, Flight Administrator, CS Iron Dragon
Subject: Checking up

Your Mr. Sarathos is shaping up as well as can be expected here after his transfer. Per his request, we put him to work on the hush-hush clean-up of Ekritat’s atmosphere after his oops, and he’s doing a good job there so far. Chastened, but competent.

My colleagues have some similar projects lined up for him after this. If all goes well, we might just manage to salvage him and his career.

-gm

…so what’s the difference and why the stylistic change?

Protocol.

The latter is just plain old extranet e-mail, sent out over SCP (Secure Courier Protocol), and which works the same way as any other e-mail, which is to say while rather more complicated than ours (involving the use of presence servers to first link name to location, and then routing protocols to link location-of-mobile-subnet – which is to say, starship – to current-network-location), is nothing special and can transmit arbitrary formatted data. It’s routed at standard-traffic priority, being routed over light-speed links between stargates until it gets to its destination system, then over laser tightbeam between relay stations and finally to the starship’s own receiver. Since it’s going to a military destination address, the protocol probably coerces the notrace, noloc, and deepcrypto bits on, but yet.

The former, on the other hand, is an action message, being sent over the Navy’s own GLASS PICCOLO system, which piggybacks on the extranet for some routing purposes but doesn’t use standard protocols. That’s because it’s optimized for speed, security, distribution without presence servers if need be (for starships running in communications silence), etc., but most of all minimal size, because the GLASS PICCOLO system uses the IN’s private tangle channel backbone wherever it can appropriately do so for speed, but once a tanglebit has been used in communications, that tanglebit is gone forever. It can’t be reused, only replaced. And if you’re coordinating a war, you don’t want to find yourself running out of tanglebits to do it with.

So it does have some relevant constraints. Not so much lack of distinct case – think of it more like the ELF communications the US Navy used to use, except the constraint is not speed of transmission, it’s the potential permanent consumption of the transmission medium.

GLASS PICCOLO messages are converted into five-letteral code-groups – which is why the language in them tends to be stilted, because you aren’t reading what anyone actually wrote, you’re reading the computer transliteration of the code-groups – signed, compressed, encrypted to the recipient key, and squirted out on the GP network as a single-packet datablip. The recipient’s communication computers reverse the process.

All of which is to say: it’s a deliberate stylistic choice, yes, but the reason I’m invoking those very different-looking historical communication formats is to suggest to the reader that these messages indeed ain’t like those messages.

(One side note: it’s not a matter of lacking distinct case, I append for those who aren’t keen minutiae-watchers, because none of the three major Eldraeic alphabets – runic, pen, or brush-optimized – actually have a concept of letter case. Which of the alphabets either of the above would be displayed in depends on the personal UI customization of the comms officer reading them.

There might be a tendency for slight runic to predominate, since as its hexagon-based letterals and numerals are all identical in size, it was the alphabet used by the people who designed the original fixed-width computer terminals and predecessor devices, but everyone *there* has had a WYSIWYG system for more years than humanity’s had writing, these days…

But from a Doylist perspective, all-caps makes a convenient Translation Convention.)

 

Questions: Lords of Admiralty

Specialist290 asks:

In addition to my previous queries, an additional historical / etymological one:  Does the presence of “Lords of the Admiralty” in the Empire’s military hierarchy imply, like their *our*-world British counterparts, that their duties were once concentrated in a singular office of “Lord High Admiral” whose role eventually evolved into an office held in commission?

Well spotted, but alas, no. It’s just the best close approximation I could find to the actual title, noting specifically that in the Eldraeverse it is not short for “Lords Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral”.

As for why that is the title… well, it works like this.

In Imperial practice, there are three kinds of what for want of a better word we shall call “nobility”: the runér, the praetorate, and the exultancy. The first, the runér, are the executive branch – your lairds, barons, counts, dukes, kings, etc., or for that matter your city managers, county commissioners, and state governors. The third, the exultancy, are titles of prestige awarded for loyal service, superior achievement, or otherwise great merit. Those don’t come with hard power, merely precedence, prestige, honors, letterheads, entrées, and the ability to get good tables in nice restaurants at short notice.

The second, the praetorate, includes titles like these – it being the general case that people who routinely interact at the highest levels with the highly-titled runér need equivalent honors, dignities, and precedence to support their offices. At lower levels of the table of ranks, usually it doesn’t apply, but at the uppermost levels – what I might call the Mandarinate if I needed a translation for that term, yet – most offices have some unique praetorate title with its own place in the big list of official precedence.

So in this case –

Well. The top of the Table of Ranks for the Imperial Military Service is grade O-14, which the Imperial Navy calls Admiral of the Fleet, the Imperial Legions call Captain-General of the Legions, the Home Guard calls Commandant of the Guard, and the stratarchies call Lord High Stratarch. Traditionally, that rank is reserved for Lords of Admiralty, so each service only has one of them except for the one that furnishes the First Lord of Admiralty, which gets two.

But that’s a military rank. It empowers them to head up their particular military service, but doesn’t mean anything outside that. (Those who remember The Core War will recall orders sent out from someone using the rank ADM/FLT, rather than from the First Lord of the Admiralty, for example…)

All of those people also sit on the Board of Admiralty, which actually runs the Imperial Military Service as a whole. Their military ranks serve for that portion of the job. For interfacing with the civilian government, however, each of them holds a unique title as one of the Lords of Admiralty, which is equivalent to grade XIII on the Table of Ranks for the Imperial Service (“Minister of State” or “Logarch”), except for the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is ranked as grade XIV (“Minister of the Throne” and/or other Great Officer of State).

Which in turn is because the other Lords of Admiralty sit only on the Board of Admiralty and in meetings of the Council of Ministers (the larger of the two bodies which includes the heads of all the ministries beneath the seven large ones as well as the seven, presided over by the Lord Coordinator of the Chancelry acting as the Minister President of the Council) whereas the First Lord sits on the Council of the Star (the top-level executive body which includes only the seven top-level ministries – of which the Admiralty counts as one – presided over by the Imperial Couple personally).

(If I were to make an analogy to US government here, I’d say that one could analogize the Board of Admiralty in Imperial practice to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the First Lord to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, except that the First Lord’s job is also that of the Secretary of Defense, which is why it’s also the functional equivalent of a Cabinet-level post.)

All of which is very involved, but then, I am attempting to simulate a somewhat evolved structure, here, not an unnaturally clean one…

So, to sum up, basically, they’re called that because it’s Translation Convention for the noble-equivalent title that comes with the job.

 

Trope-a-Day: Mithril

Mithril: The Empire’s so awash in exotic materials of the future (see: Unobtainium) that there’s almost certain to be one that matches mithril’s hypothetical properties pretty much one for one.

I mean, sure, it’s some hideously complicated nanoformed metallic-glass composite, but “does the same, is the same”, right?  Right?  (Or at least close enough that that’s how the first-contact team’d program the translator when they got around to pillaging our fantasy and SF for linguistic close-fits.)

Makes a damn fine mail shirt, too.

Naming Things: A Slice of My Process

So.

I am, as you know (Bob), a big user of Translation Convention, both within and without universe. (Within, in the sense that when it comes time for the linguists of the Imperial Exploratory Service to build a new translation database when they’re about to contact someone new, they do the equivalent of buying copies of the entire speculative fiction section of Amazon.com, on the grounds that that’s the easiest and most practical way to find reasonable cognates  for technologies they have and the worldbound civilization about to meet them doesn’t. Without, in that I am obvs. doing essentially this considering I’m writing in English, belike.)

And among my assorted varieties of phlebotinium, I have this metal, see. It’s a synthetic element, kind of reddish in color, and remarkably useful in a variety of ways, starting with being a high-temperature superconductor and moving on from there. Now, I don’t think it would be long before the translator-writing chappies would be able to dig “orichalcum” out of the old database for a reddish metal of outre properties.

But, y’know, I like to think about things a bit, put my own stamp on them, that sort of thing, and for that matter, comply with the general convention that except for those grandfathered in, back in the day, element names generally end in -ium. As would, say, any new ones developed *here* .

Hmm. Do we think orichalcium would be a reasonable coinage for this stuff?

Trope-a-Day: Translation Convention

Translation Convention: Applied – with a degree of selectivity, in which I translate names that are meaningful based on roots in modern Eldraeic (i.e. “Mosstone”, “Stonesmight”, “House Silverfall”, “House Steamweaver”, etc.), but leave untouched those derived from older languages.  Occasional pieces of the actual Eldraeic are left in for effect, where useful, or where words have no adequately exact analog.

Gendered Pronouns

As you may have noticed from here, here, and here, I appear to have settled on using the ve/vis pronouns to represent the eldraeic neuter (but animate) gender, and the hse/hsis set to represent the hermaphrodite gender.

(Still no sign of what I may or may not use to represent “prenuptial catalyst” or “postnuptial catalyst”, though…)