Good Stargates Make Good Neighbors

So, wondering about the non-Imperial worlds on the Imperial Fringe map? Here’s some trivia about the Empire’s neighbors for you!

To rimward, in the Banners, we have:

  • The A’t’rr Hold, who own the Aturr System. (The vowel is fake and the apostrophes unpronounceable by human mouthparts, since the a’t’rr communicate by rubbing their chitinous legs together.)
  • The Dvrrrrr Concordat, who own the systems of Kkrkrkh, Krtlkh, and Nkvkvvk. (And yes, their clicky language also has no vowels.)
  • The Garagou System, a single-system polity.
  • The Ianic Commonwealth, an Imperial satrapy, who own the systems of Cith, Strith, and Icp.
  • The polyspecific (originating in an idealist colony) Nanarchy of Huthla, who own the Huthla System.
  • The Sindil Global Republic, who own the Sindri System.
  • The Topaz Republic, who own the systems of Hatira, Kondotra, Lachra, and Thetra.
  • And the Venik Technate, who own the systems of Clogos Ven, Entil Ven, and Lisn Ven.

To coreward, in the First Expanses, we have:

  • The Araline Order, who own the systems of Analac and Halac.
  • The Arkhirii Imperium, who own the systems of Hasekh, Issak Ahk, Rotak Ahk, Tilak Ahk, and Vehk. (“Ahk”, in the most comman khiras language, means “home soil”. Those systems with that suffix are colony worlds; the others hold only outposts of one kind or another.)
  • The Combined Nekara Nests, who own the Seviks System in addition to their holdings in the Ring Nebula. (The nekar are avioids, yes.)
  • The Laeth Pact, who own the systems of Nichtal and Victa.
  • The Mirilasté Synarchic Interactive, who own the Ir Sargonnin System in addition to their holdings in the High Verge (below).
  • And the freesoil Omane System.

To acme, in the High Verge, we have:

  • The Shirethi Guilds, who own the systems of Belshir and Dalshir.
  • The Ganth Household, who own the G’ganth System.
  • The Mirilasté Synarchic Interactive, once again, who own the systems of Ir Garren, Ir Kelan, Ir Nassen, Ir Sian, and Ir Tollan.
  • The Qugu Symbiosis, made up of two sophont species (the ren-qu and ren-gu) which evolved on the same world as a symbiotic pair, who own the Qugarth System.
  • The Tokgac Free State, who own the systems of Tok-Jahr, Tok-Rash, and Tok-Slih.
  • The Twelve Pillars of Kerbol, who own the systems of Kerbol and Kerbevin. (Yes, this is a shameless homage to both KSP and to a particular story on the KSP forums.)
  • And the freesoil Loxix System.

To spinward, in the Principalities, we have:

  • The Amiable Futarchic Ecumene of the iothal, the Empire’s closest ally among its immediate neighbors, who own the systems of Dal Coriss, Dal Laiss, Dal Miless, Dal Silifiss, Dal Tirass, and Dal Thess.
  • The Lakatakau Nest, who own the systems of Arakau, Ditakau, Lakatakau, and Sekelkau. (The katakau, however, are not avioid.)
  • The Lamuran Diarchy, who own the systems of Aracory, Encory, Isory, and Vielcory.
  • And the Trinary Interactate, who own the systems of Dinuu and Eiruu. (Eiruu is binary, hence the name.)

And finally, to trailing-nadir, in the Talie Marches, we have:

  • The Five States, which owns the systems of Wa Fid, Wa Ganis, Wa Indane, Wa Loek, and Wa Varos. (The wakae colonized four of the systems by generation ship before being integrated into the stargate plexus; when the systems were linked, they couldn’t agree on reintegration and ended up forming a loose federation.)
  • The Kerabar Sovereignty, which owns the systems of Intsha Ker, Metsha Ker, and Revja Ker.
  • The Rúrathtu Maternity, which owns the systems of Cal-den-Heflo, Goris-den-Lesk, Illik-den-Saro, Ric-den-Narin, and Tor-den-Ras.
  • And the protected planet in the Glazimír System.

 

October Stuff

In honor of the coming holiday, a terrifying thought I had:

According to “The Blood-Brain Barrier” (and other incidental mentions elsewhere), it’s possible to target, edit, and alter the will if you know what you’re doing.

By implication, this means that it must be possible to *erase* someone’s will entirely with a personalized “nolitional” payload.

It would be an incredibly subtle and terrifying assassination method. Your target would be almost physically untouched and retain most of their sensory and cognitive functions, but the one thing that makes you a person would be as utterly destroyed as if you had taken a bullet to the brain-pan.

It’s certainly possible to build a p-zombifier, yes.

On the other hand, it’s not all that subtle (at least to societies that have sophotechnology, since coring out the logos will show up on a mind-state display like a claidheamh mor on a chest x-ray); and since – per the Cíëlle Vagary, etc. – logotic activity is most relevant in instants of chaotic choice, if you p-zombify Kim Jong-un, all you get is someone who can’t choose not to be Kim Jong-un. While not completely unuseful, leaving ethics aside for the moment, this is much less useful than one might think. 🙂

Given the emphasis on and discussion around the eldraeic take on “cold justice,” particularly in the recent post on the “Bonfire of the ‘Elites’,” I figured it would be appropriate to ask this one: Did the Empire ever develop anything parallel to the body of law and jurisprudence of equity (and its derived equitable remedies) that arose *here* from the English chancery courts that were established to “temper the rigor of the law”?

Equitable remedies have always been available in Imperial law, where applicable and just; unlike Earthling common-law systems (up until recently, in some systems), there has never been any distinction between law and equity. (Similar, although this is as imprecise as all Terran analogies, to the Scottish situation.)

(Not, of course, to “temper the rigor of the law”; if the law is just – and since the justification for the existence of the law hinges upon that it is just, which is to say, is as accurate a reflection of the Platonic ideal of perfect justice as possible – then any departure from the rigor of the law is, eo ipso, unjust. If the law is not just, then the only thing to do is change the law until it is.)

Okay, tomorrow morning AD, we have First Contact with the Eldrae. The day after, Corvus Belli gets access to an excellent intellectual property AI legal council and starts to put out the licensing and publication rights for their miniatures wargame, “Infinity”. They don’t make the mistakes that Games Workshop makes when trying to license their IP.

What would the game-playing public think of the game and how well would it do?

Don’t think I can commit to a position based on what the web alone can tell me, alas.

What would the eldrae think of [toppling] dominoes, seeing as they’re displays of entropy at it’s finest?

On the contrary, they’re lovely ordered complex systems producing a desired and desirable end result. Sure, they produce entropy as a by-product of their operation, but so does everything else: it’s a broken universe.

(On a related note, what of victims who become either implicitly or explicitly complicit in their own victimhood?)

I’m talking about, to use a specific case, the situation that Patty Hearst fell into where, after initially being kidnapped, she was so thoroughly reprogrammed that she actively aided and abetted her captors’ further illegal activities because, in her own words, “The thought of escaping from them later simply never entered my mind. I had become convinced that there was no possibility of escape… It simply never occurred to me.”

Unless you can prove reprogramming in the technical sense – thought-viruses, overshadowing, coercive fusion, bodyjacking, et. sim., such arguments do not gain you much sympathy. Because, y’know, you have free will and the capacity to choose – and whatever your position on that *here*, in the Eldraeverse not only will mainstream philosophers tell you that hard determinism is incoherent, but the sophotechnologists and physicists will chime in and point out that they’re only a skosh away from being able to point at the widget that makes it work – and can exercise them unless you’ve been technically deprived of that capacity (your hypothetical “nolitional” payload, for example), and so bloody well ought to have.

(If available, you would definitely be better off trying for the duress – committed-lesser-crimes-to-prevent-a-greater-one – defense, but it wouldn’t have been in her case.)

It doesn’t help much that the eldrae in general, being constructed differently and very disinclined to submission, do not see much Stockholm Syndrome, et. al., per the bottom answer here, and thus do not consider it part of “human nature” the way we do.  Here, that’s victimization that could happen to anyone; there, it makes you an undiagnosed parabulia case, and in the modern era, the Guardians of Our Harmony and your tort insurer both will be wondering how exactly you went undiagnosed for long enough for this to happen.

(And since you don’t grow up in a mature information society without learning something about memetics, or a philosophically mature society without learning some formal ethics, an inadequate memetic immune system is no defense either.)

This, naturally, flavors the sympathy you get if you victimized yourself, in much the same way as if you were an undiagnosed schizophrenia case; people feel bad for you because you’re fundamentally broken and need fixing. It also tends to evaporate much of it when the choice you made under its influence was to go from victim to victimizer.

Nor does the meme rehab prescribed in such a case excuse you from paying weregeld and reparations: you still chose and acted, and that’s still on you.

[As a side note, actually, the schizophrenic has a better defense available: if you shoot at your hallucinatory monsters and hit someone, you don’t have mens rea because you responded reasonably to the data you have. That’ll play for an insanity defense.]

(Continued from earlier…)

What, specifically, is the issue at stake that makes such a conclusion unacceptably psychotic? I can understand why they might object on grounds that it’s morally pessimal (to use your terminology from a previous discussion) not to “abstain from the very appearance of evil,” and how in a positivist sense it might be abnegated by an Imperial citizen-shareholder’s commitment to maintain a specific standard of what locally is defined as sanity,

I’m going to assume this has effectively been answered by the earlier comment on the layered shells of ethics.

but as for its applicability to the general mass beyond the confines of the Empire’s own reach, and particularly to a self-sovereign individual under no contractual constraints to behave otherwise:

Law is local (the Doctrine of the Ecumenical Throne notwithstanding, and in any case, that’s less of a legal principle and more of a good excuse); ethics are universal. The Empire’s citizen-shareholders are more than happy to export and apply – on a personal, non-legal level – their views on what constitutes virtue and lack of same to the entire observable universe.

(As a tangential aside — though one I’ll come back to later — it seems that this is the necessary justification that allows anyone, and not just the particular victim(s), to shoot and kill an offender for what we would regard as relatively petty offenses if they deem it necessary under Imperial jurisprudence.)

I note that you have the right to defend self, others, and property by lethal force in the moment; this doesn’t extend to a generalized hunting license for anyone who has committed a crime and who hasn’t been formally outlawed. (Although since everyone has the right of arrest upon probable cause provided that the alleged criminal is handed over forthwith to the Constabulary or to a Curial court for arraignment, crimes committed while resisting arrest can blur this a bit.)

As has been greatly emphasized elsewhere, the eldrae place a high value on informed consent in their dealings. How would they respond, however, to the idea that consent is not a thing that can merely be passively solicited, but something that can be actively manufactured or engineered — as espoused (and largely developed) *here* by men such as Edward Bernays (1)(2) — by controlling what information passes through the various filters and “gatekeepers” on its route from the source to the general public, and by dictating how that information is presented

I believe the relevant snarky soundbite is: “No-one can manufacture your consent without your consent.”

Or, possibly, “Isn’t that called persuasion?”

There are certain constraints on what’s permissible by way of information control (extraordinarily limited) and by way of bad information (prohibitions on YGBMs and basilisks, but also in re choice-theft on defamation, falsification of information, falsificiation of entelechy, claiming false attachment, assumption of false identity, etc., etc.; the freedom of speech is not the freedom to deceive). But inside those limits —

On the one hand, it’s a mature information society. Information is everywhere, from a million sources which have their own point of view on everything except the facts. Learning to sort through this for truth and picking out the intentional memegineering is a basic life skill; failing to do your due diligence and just believing any damn thing you’re told, especially if you outsource your cognition to one particular source, is a kind of wilful stupidity that receives absolutely no cultural respect whatsoever. (This is why, say, advertising is the way that it is *there*.)

On the other hand, of course people and their coadunations will try to persuade you of things, and dress up their ideas in the nicest possible attire. That’s how you get things done in civilized society when you can’t force people to do things your way; sell the product. Persuasion, advertising, memetic engineering, a little manipulation – these are the polite tools of a society that’s renounced compulsion, and are refined accordingly.

Incidentally, this is where some of those grayer eikones come in: the intrigant who can persuade people into an extended series of individually positive-sum interactions and, by doing so, achieve a greater goal is greatly respected for their social-fu. On the heights, this is how the Great Game is played.

Conveniently, it also encourages the play style in which everyone wins.

So let’s say that you’re a rookie vigilante righter-or-wrongs out on your first day. And let’s say that on your very first case, you honestly interpret the scenario in entirely the wrong way, and thus botch things in the worst way possible. Maybe the “thief” you caught red-handed was actually some sort of contracted retrieval specialist hired by the property’s true owner to recover it, and the building they were trying to break into was where the thief was storing it. Or maybe those robed thugs you blew away with gusto after you caught them accosting a defenseless old man were actually actors in a public performance of *Julius Caesar*.(*) Either way, while you can safely say that you acted without malice and with the best of intentions, you did exactly the *wrong* thing given the situation. What’s most likely going to happen to you once you go through the Imperial justice system?

Contracted retrieval specialists – or to give them their local name, asset repropriators – have v-tags and bonds, so that’s not a mistake you should make.

Anyway: assuming that everything is as it seems on the surface (i.e., you genuinely tried to do the right thing, you just fucked it up, and you weren’t negligently incompetent), you’ll have to pay the reparation – just not the weregeld. There won’t be meme rehab, either, because there’s no homicidal tendency to correct.

(This is standard procedure for cases whose intent is adjudicated as error in judgment/non-wilful negligence.)

((As a side note, this sort of thing is very unlikely to be someone’s career choice, given the local crime rates and Constabular efficiency. If you want to make a career out of unlikely scenarios, you’d probably be better off hanging out your shingle as a professional unicorn hugger, or some such. They’re much more likely to exist.))

 

Bonfire of the “Elites”

In today’s somewhat morose worldbuilding thoughts inspired by real-world events (in this case, the Harvey Weinstein affair, along with an endless parade of abuse-of-power stories courtesy of Sheriff Joe, the Chicago City Council, the Arizona Dept. of Corrections, etc., etc.), one really does have to wonder what the judicial death toll is among the powerful so-called “elites” when the Empire annexes or protectoratizes somewhere less, um, serious about notions like the rule of law, the equal protection of same, and actually meaning what it says about Liberty and Justice for All.

“All debts must be paid.”
– official motto of the Curia

“I approve this message.”
– Tywin Lannister

 

libertyandjustice

This image inserted to lighten an otherwise serious post.

 

After all:

  • The Ministry of Harmonious Serenity doesn’t care whether you want to press charges or not – it might, assuming you are mentally competent, concede that you have a right to waive weregeld and reparation owed to you, but you can’t forgive a crime against the Contract and the Charter, since you don’t have standing to do so;
  • You can’t bullshit an alethiometer, and its measure of truth has nothing whatsoever to do with your “credibility”, relative or otherwise;
  • The cyberjudicial AI may Know Who You Are, but to its intellect vast and cool and unsympathetic and defined by the predicates of the law, Who You Are means exactly nothing;
  • (You can’t bribe it, either – and even if you could figure out a way to, it couldn’t accept it since its entire decision process is entered into the publically-auditable court record.)
  • Nor does it give freebies based on your career prospects, talents, pretty face, or supposed one-offness of your special crime – or, indeed, any other circumstances. You can plead duress or justification if those apply, which will be taken into account, but the algorithm was written with the Equal Protection and Application of the Law in mind, and Thus Hath No Fucks To Give about anything that doesn’t bear directly upon the events in question.
  • And there is no pardon power to be wielded on your behalf, since – for the same reasons as the victim cannot forgive a crime – it can’t exist; holding office by virtue of a Mandate descending from the Contract and the Charter, even the Imperial Couple and the unanimous Senate in all their majesty and dignity lack standing to pardon crimes against them.

Basically, should you call down upon yourself the attention of the mills of justice, they grind exceedingly fine, and they aren’t terribly slow about it, either.

“What’s the difference between God and the Curia?”
“God forgives.”
– overheard in an Encystment Facility

This is, for those counting non-Utopian features, accounted horrific by everyone who is very keen on Justice in the abstract, but are substantially less so when the prospect of their own actions being judged according to an objective standard of such might actually be realized.

(The Empire finds this position about as eye-rollingly contemptible as that of all the people who are very keen on Liberty in the abstract, as long as no-one actually uses it for anything they disapprove of or don’t understand.)


In terms of more serious dark sides, however, there is one, and it’s called misprision of felony.

For those not familiar with the term in its Earth context, it was a common-law offence making it a crime to fail to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities; exceptions being made for close family members of the felon and where the disclosure would tend to incriminate the reporter of that offense or another. It’s also currently been mostly dropped except for people who have a special duty to report a crime.

The Imperial version is essentially the same, but without the exceptions – because so far as it is concerned, upholding the law is a duty that comes along with being a citizen-shareholder, and mere sentiment does not foreclose that.

Now, by and large, the Empire has – in its own territories – much, much less of a problem with people coming forward about these things, because the justice system has the reputation that it has for delivering on its promises. (And also because the general public doesn’t have its head wedged firmly up its ass, culture-wise.)

But where and when that doesn’t happen –

Yes, it is possible (and it has happened) for the victim of a crime to be charged with misprision of felony for not reporting it. Because as stated above, you don’t have standing to forgive crimes against the Contract and the Charter, and by allowing the perpetrator to escape justice – and thus be free to prey on your fellow citizen-shareholders – you’re violating the Responsibility of Common Defense.

This stringency is, of course, horrible.

It’s just also… just.

The just heart is always cold.
– traditional, source unknown

August Questions

(also, questions from August; and since it’s a slow month, I’m going to throw in some questions from comments, too.)

It’s been pretty well established that the eldrae place an immense value on pride and personal achievement, to the point that they hold people in contempt for trying to put on airs of false modesty — but what about those messy situations where they “come by it honestly” in the sense that, however much they do genuinely try to strive for excellence and self-respect, *can’t* take pride in their accomplishments because something inside of their own head won’t let them honestly perceive their own self-worth?

I am, in short, asking about the eldraeic take on that big tangle of warped mentality and self-image which, in various combinations and contexts, goes by such labels as “depression,” “bipolar disorder,” “manic depression,” “obsessive-compulsive disorder” (particularly of the “intrusive thoughts” variety), the “Jonah complex,” and “impostor syndrome.” (I’m guessing that, given their ethical perspective on fraud, that last one especially would appear to put its sufferers in a particularly nasty double bind, at least if they’ve internalized Imperial ethics enough to be concerned by it.)

I also want to clarify that I’m asking at least in part for the historical perspective, back in the days before these things could be fixed with a single quick visit to the local psych-surgeon.

(I take a moment to note for non-long-term readers that the baseline temperament for eldrae is one which we might call hypomanic; the average human is really quite the gloomy, depressive sort.)

Well, you’re going to be in for some suffering, aren’t you?

Not, for the most part, from people going after you for false modesty/humility; by and large, people are smart enough to tell pose from pathology.

But from people who decline to accept your false self-image and will call you on your involuntary bullshit LOUDLY AND DISTINCTLY. Possibly with gestures and other emphatic devices. Get used to being told that you are grievously undercounting your own awesome. A lot. By people who are entirely uninterested in hearing any demurral.

(And also inasmuch as even without psychedesign having advanced to the point where such things are fixable routinely, that doesn’t stop people from trying to help you. If you have a problem – and this applies every bit as much to mental disabilities as physical ones – there will be people earnestly trying to fix that problem.

It’s not like you have to volunteer as a test subject for every new idea that comes down the pipe in fields from neuroactive pharmaceuticals through transcranial magnetic stimulation, alternative-frequency lighting, atmospheric modification, color-aroma environmental treatments and feng shui, all the way to cognitive therapy, guided meditation, religion, and trained emotional support/anti-bullshit service animals – but it’s for sure and certain that they’ll all be on offer. For you, and for science.)

This makes me wonder a couple of things. Actually, I’ve been wondering many things about the Imperial attitude towards games and that liminal line between “game” and “reality”, but I’ll just drop two of the most relevant down the spillway and keep the floodgates barred for later.

First, what do they make, in general, of the idea that a game, by virtue of being a space with differently defined rules from reality, is “just a game”?

Two things:

  1. Well, that’s obviously not true, since there are plenty of simulation spaces with differently defined rules from reality that aren’t games. What makes a game a game is that it expresses ludic intentionality.
  2. They would also like to take issue with the word “just”. A game, like any form of media, is a concretized idea or set of ideas. A game that was “just a game”, i.e., which was neither truthful nor beautiful, wouldn’t be worth playing.

In particular, I’m asking what they would make of the guy who is generally easygoing in the real world, but really gets into the act when he roleplays as the “bad guy” in a game setting, or (for instance) always chooses to play as the Space Nazis whenever everyone plays Space Nazi War Simulator: The Movie: The Game: Limited Platinum Gold Game of the Millennium Edition (with obligatory horse DLC).

On that topic, well –

(A digression, first: namely that there aren’t many play-the-villain games around due to a lack of market, except for fairly anodyne strategy games and the like, for the same sort of underlying reasons as seen in various previous discussions of media and genre. Where PvP conflict is called for, developers prefer to have antagonists who aren’t simple villains; where it’s at least possible to embrace any playable side without soaking your mind thoroughly in filth, and preferably where there’s a pathway to a perfect ending in which with enough hard work everyone can win. In Eldraeverse!Mass Effect, for example, synthesis would be considered the objectively best ending because you can save everyone, even the Reapers.

There just ain’t a whole lot of call for Objectively Terrible People Simulators.)

– while games aren’t real, people are, and choices, they would say, reflect character. If you spend a whole lot of time faithfully roleplaying Space Nazis: The Mass-Murdering Fuckheadry, it does suggest there’s something hinky in your brain-pan.

Much like we might regard people who voluntarily play FATAL, say.

(And especially the implications this has not only in games, but in things like theater, film, etc.)

In such media, of course, things are somewhat different. Someone has to play the Space Nazis, after all, otherwise the protagonists couldn’t space-magic-fist-of-doom them.

And that would be a tragedy.

Also, do they recognize the phenomenon of Video Game Cruelty Potential, and if they find it particularly distasteful (as I’m sure no small number would, based on previous discussions), what sort of measures would they take to implement Video Game Cruelty Punishment whether inside the game world or outside?

Yes, they do, yes, they do, and it’s mostly done via  a snifter of Guilt-Based Gaming with a heaping helping of Reality Ensues, for local values of reality. Which is to say, actions have consequences, and asshats have consequences happen to them, either directly or via the fact they’re continuing in a world that responds to their actions and which they made crapsackier. Mostly in-game, but the Xbox Live reputation system has nothing on what the rep-nets’ll do to you.

(This isn’t to say you can’t play any of the strains of renegade Shepard, to go back to my Mass Effect example. You can play Commander Grouchy Maverick No-Time-For-Your-Bullshit just fine, with a side-order of throwing mercenaries out of windows and punching disingenuous assertions, quipping all the while. The petty backstabbing, being an bastard to your crew, and casual genocide, that’ll come back to bite you in the ass.)

((Now, the people who spend time tormenting their Sims and starving their virtual pets, they’ve probably already come to the attention of the Guardians of Our Harmony and been cured of their nasty case of cacophilia, or else just plain euthanized.))

And another thing that comes to mind: You’ve mentioned that the eldrae don’t really do “friendly insults,” but do they do “in-character trash talk”? And is there a general understanding (on this and other matters) that “What happens in the game, stays in the game”?

As long as it remains strictly in character and in-game, yes. There are already strict social rules about proper management of one’s valessef, and this is just an extension of those.

What is origin of the Photonic Network? Who created its founding AIs? Or is it actually an abiogenesis silica-quantum civilization?

The ancestors of the Photonic Network dates back to one of the Precursor periods (specifically, the passage of the spinbright circumgalactic migration through the area of the Worlds in roughly -102,000), but since said ancestors weren’t sapient at the time, they didn’t pay much attention to recording historical information. (Trying to get useful information out of their ancestral data is like, for example, trying to deduce the 21st century from a random Linux machine’s /var/log/syslog.)

It is commonly assumed that they’re somehow connected to the spinbrights, but since most of what’s known about them comes from archaeologically-recovered trash dropped in passing, that doesn’t help very much.

Here’s one that possibly keeps the Fifth Directorate up at night: What if it’s possible to obliterate all free will everywhere in a stroke simply by gaining root access to Elsewhere and tampering with the source code that governs the mechanisms of sophonce itself?

“Well, then, we’d be utterly, cosmically, and paracausally fucked, wouldn’t we?”

– abstracted final report, OPERATION EPOCH SHATTER,
on CASE EPOCH SHATTER BRAAAAAINS

A couple questions (regarding this):

First, echoing the unanswered comment in the Slate Star Codex link: What of “Goodness” / “Virtue” — the third leg in the classical triad of transcendental values?

“What is virtue if not the bringing of truth into conformance with beauty?”

Virtue, in this worldview, is that quality which makes the world-as-it-is closer to the world-as-it-ought-be.

Second: What would the eldrae make of the notion that — as was common in much classical and medieval thought here on Earth (cf. http://www.iep.utm.edu/m-aesthe and https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/beauty/#ClaCon ) — not only is there an Absolute Beauty such that any perfectly rational creature with perfect knowledge who encountered an object instantiated with its properties must necessarily recognize that it is perfectly beautiful (and therefore that any sophont that doesn’t recognize it as not merely beautiful but The Most Beautiful X Possible Anywhere-and-When must necessarily be either imperfectly informed or imperfectly rational, and in either case objectively wrong); but that such a standard must necessarily exist in order for Beauty to have any meaning as a concept whatsoever?

(There are, needless to say, multiple scholae of aesthetics.)

The first thing to mention, obviously, is the distinction in concept between the words aelva (“beauty”, which is objective) and delékith (“pleasing”, which is ambijective). (There is also méskith (“attractive”, which is even more ambijective.) But equally important to note is the place structure of the word – aelva literally means:

SUBJECT is objectively beautiful in aspect ASPECT by aesthetic standard STANDARD

This would reflect the view of the majority of those scholae that there are multiple types of beauty, and as such multiple associated standards of it. (Although a definitive catalog has yet to be produced.) Very few of said scholae would argue that the path between beauty and ugliness is a linear scale rather than a fractally branching tree, although some would argue that the various end points all reflect a single law of metabeauty. Of such debates are many academic papers made.

Now, if you want a more straightforward philosophical debate, consider the problem of whether ugliness is likewise multiplex, or singular. (In this case, most would say singular.)

Of course, each of these standards must necessarily exist. Any concept that can’t be quantified doesn’t exist.

So have the eldrae ever encountered anything like the Worm-in-Waiting?

http://imgur.com/gallery/Vsgip

.

Not in the specifics, but it’s an old galaxy filled with Precursor-era leftovers, elder-race Powers, and other assorted weirdities. Everyone runs into one sooner or later. The relevant scientific discipline, however, is pretty clear about the appropriate response to barely-understood offers from incomprehensible entities.

“Don’t.”

– Applied Theology for Beginners

“Seriously: don’t.”

– Intermediate Applied Theology

“Unless you have yourself progressed in understanding to the point that the deal on the table is as clear as the most perfect vacuum: still don’t. And if you have, don’t try it without an angel to watch over you.”

– Advanced Applied Theology for Fully Bonded Practitioners,
Classified By Independent Auditors As In An Ongoing State of Self-Aware Rationality:
An Inadvisable Guide

There’s a reason they call people, organizations, and governances that try this sort of thing “necromancers”, and it ain’t for the cool robes; it’s because a ridiculous percentage of the time you’re making a Faustian bargain without even knowing it, and will end up as a perversion’s finger-puppet.

(And as it’s the end of the day right now, you can have the last three on Saturday.)

The Worlds Revealed

In partial apology for the lack of artwork thus far, I bring you a map of the Associated Worlds, constellation by constellation!

[The Associated Worlds]

(Click through for the full version. Caution: it’s a big image, 3049 x 3030.)

Key-wise, gold constellations represent the Imperial Core and Fringe, blue the mainstream Associated Worlds, purple the Expansion Regions, and green the Periphery. Red constellations represent the off-the-edge-of-the-map places, namely the Leviathan Consciousness and the connected constellations of the Voniensa Republic. Thin lines are interconstellation stargate connections; thick lines are special high-capacity arterials.

The major connected sets of those are the Worlds’ major trade routes: in green, the Lethíäza Trade Spine; in red, the Mercantile Corridor; and a rough circle in black at the edge of the major Worlds, except where it shares a link with the Spine between “58” and the Azure Fade, the Circumferential, or Golden Band.

I’ve annotated the approximate locations of the major powers, and also (in small text) of a few minor powers that have been mentioned and about which there might be curiosity.

(Oh, and when it comes to those constellations currently numbered – the aforementioned “58”, “E76”, and “P13”, et. al.? Apart from a couple of potential spoilers, that’s my innovation space/creative breathing room. Pay no attention to the Doylist explanation behind the curtain.)

 

A List of Eikones

It occurred to me that the parallels that I drew here make less sense, and inviting comments and thoughts is less useful, inasmuch as to the best of my knowledge I never actually clarified (except in one still-to-be-completed series, by implication) exactly who all the eikones of the Church of the Flame are, and what the specific concepts are that they personify.

So, I’m going to correct that right now with a handy-dandy reference table.

Let us begin with the Triarchs, who do not strictly speaking “lead” the pantheon, but who are recognized as representing somewhat more fundamental cosmic principles/aspects of the Flame and thus as somewhat greater than their cousins:

  1. Aldéré, Starkindler, the Bright Lady, the Great Maker, Divine Ignition; eikone of creation and beginnings, inspiration, rebirth, the stars and celestial vault
  2. Elmiríën, the Bringer of Order, the Patterner, the One Word of Truth; eikone of order, structure, stability, perfection, and proper functioning
  3. Entélith, the Serene One, the Dark Lady, Pale Mistress of Death, Gatherer of All Things; eikone of death and endings, rebirth, and other major transitions

And then the Divine Ministers, who number forty-eight:

  1. Aéren, the Voice of the Sky, the Whisperer, the Answer to the Unasked; eikone of intuition, mysticism, spirituality, transcendence, and the Celestial order
  2. Aláthiël, the Namer, the Fountain of Knowledge, the Great Sage; eikone of knowledge, wisdom, scholars, literacy, and skill
  3. Atheléä, the Sigillord, the Harmonious Chorus, the Weaver of Voices, the Repose of All Wisdom; eikone of speech, music and song, poetry, language, logotecture, and memes
  4. Athnéël, the Unlooked For, the Eternal Gambler, Lady of Surprises Auspicious and Welcome; eikone of fortune good and ill, chance, randomness, and patron (?) of gamblers
  5. Baranithil, the Balancer, the Mind of Many Masks, the Silent Architect; eikone of peace, prosperity, diplomacy, cooperation, emergent order, self-organization, patron of branches
  6. Barrascán, the Ever-Watching, the Unsleeping Guardian, the Implacable One; eikone of vigilance, guardians, protectors, those who watch, safeguards, fortifications, readiness, and contingency planning
  7. Braníël, the Unconquered, the Unceasing, the Fixed Point, the Sky-Shatterer; eikone of power, drive, ambition, the unconquerable will, defiance of impossible odds, resolve, and endurance
  8. Cálíäh, the Bringer of Rest, the Warder of Sleep, the Shadows of Desire, the Imager of the Unreal; eikone of dreams, desires, sleep, hope, fiction, and virtual reality
  9. Cinníäs, the Laughing Rogue, the Reveler, the Prince of Wine, the Maddener; eikone of revels and carousing, wine and beer, entertainment, humor, mirth, whims and fleeting passions, and hedonism
  10. Covalan, the Golden God, Prince of Wealth, the Hidden Cog, Lord of All Trade; eikone of trade, markets, money, wealth, commerce, and patron of businesssophs and the plutarch darëssef
  11. Dírasán, Heaven’s Messenger, the All-Embracing, the Default Route; eikone of messengers, communications, couriers, and patron of the Imperial Post and the Imperial Courier Service
  12. Dúréníän, the Noble Warlord, Grand Master of Strategies, Champion of the Just, the Ice Warrior; eikone of righteous war, battle, conquest, strategy and tactics, and patron of the sentinel darëssef
  13. Éadínah, Princess of Shadows, Walker at Night, the Artful Planner, the Unraveller; eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, espionage, deeply-laid plans, and (some say) thieves and organized crime
  14. Édaen, the Smiling Lord, the Joybringer, the Renewal of Life; eikone of joy, happiness, serenity, leisure, celebration, recreation, rest, and auspicious downtime
  15. Elárion, the Unfettered, He Who Walks His Own Path, the Shatterer of Chains; eikone of the red moon Elárion, liberty, individuality, self-will, independence and self-reliance
  16. Éjavóné, the Vengeful Maiden, Mistress of Storms, Keeper of Lightning, Defender of Purity; eikone of storms, thunder and lightning, protection, vengeance, and those who guard the pure or innocent
  17. Éléia-Líëran, the Lover Gods, the Ever-Faithful, the Two Who Are One, the Blissful; eikone of married love, marriage, family, and relationships
  18. Elliseré, the Architect, the Inventrix, Ideas’ Gleaming, Our Lady of New Thoughts; eikone of curiosity, research, exploration and discovery, invention, innovation, science, progress, and patron of the technarch darëssef
  19. Eslévan, the Soul of the Star, the Cornerstone, the Throne and the Ecumene, He Who Was Once Alphas’s Line; eikone of the Empire, the spirit of the Imperial people, and set over the race-lords and genii loci
  20. Esseldár, the Measurer of Time, Guardian of Hallowed Ways, the Remembrance of Worthy Deeds and Honored Forerunners; eikone of time, memory, preservation, conservation, tradition, history, maintenance, and ancestors
  21. Gaëlenén, the Soother of Hurts, the Flower of Dawn, the Second Chance; eikone of health and healing, medicine, bioengineering, and clemency
  22. Gáldabar, Old Treefather, Lord of the Wilds, the Red-Fanged Hunter, First Among Beasts; eikone of wild nature, beasts and the hunt, and set over the beast-lords
  23. Ithával, the Shining One, Prince of the Dawn, Bright Lord of the Highest Excellence; eikone of beauty, glory, pride, achievement, radiance, status, wealth, and the rewards of excellence
  24. Kalasané, the Laughing Warrior, Sword of Heaven, Lord of the Two Swords; eikone of battle, courage, victory through strength, and personal combat
  25. Kanáralath, the Bringer of Clarity, the Tester, Lord of Reason; eikone of philosophy, reason, logic, mathematics, rigorous thought, and truth
  26. Lanáraé, the Flame, the Inspirer, Lady of the Muses, the Lovers’ Friend; eikone of art, inspiration, the warm passions, romantic love, patron of lovers and the aesthant darëssef, and set over the Court of Muses
  27. Laryssan, the Slumbering Goddess, Lady of Our Fate, the Mistress of Nets, She Who Knows the Shape of Things to Come; eikone of the future, fate and destiny, preordination, foresight, oracles and divination
  28. Leiríäh, the Cloaked in Shadow, the Weaver of Nets, Mother of Mists Real and Not; eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit, and intrigue
  29. Lódaríön, the Forger of Souls, the Flame that Purifies, Scourge of the Failed; eikone of honor, rigor, self-discipline, purity, and self-perfection
  30. Lumenna, the Sunlord, the Great and Blinding Light, the Fire at the Heart; eikone of the sun Lumenna, light, the energy principle, and motive power
  31. Mahánárel, Great Forger, Engineer of the Empyreals, Master of the Forces of the World; eikone of creation, craftsmanship, engineering, construction, the forge, and patron of artisans
  32. Medáríäh, the Golden Mother, the Fructifier, Our Lady of Mass Production, the All-Abundant; eikone of fertility, productivity, agriculture, industry, mass production, reproductive sex, and abundance
  33. Merélis, She Who Approaches, the Ever-Changing, the Seeker; eikone of action, change, evolution, mutation, improvement, and upgrades
  34. Nimithil, the Wise Ruler, the Bestower, the Crowned One, the Right and Authority; eikone of authority, governance, wise use of power, the Imperial Mandate, and patron of the runér
  35. Olísmé, Lady of Mourning, the Sorrowful Goddess, Comfort and Hope of the Reft; eikone of empathy, pity, grief, loss, the bereft and forlorn, and intercessor for those who die untimely
  36. Pétamárdis, the Raven Prince, Enlightened Guardian of the Ephemeral Cycle, Lord of Necessary Decay; eikone of reuse, recycling, repair, and necessary rot and decay
  37. Ráfiën, First Minister of the Ivory Rod, Emperor Among Paper, the Hand of the Wielder; eikone of bureaucracy, sound administration, large organizations, and patron of the executor darëssef
  38. Rúnel, the Font of Courtesy, the Word that Moves the World, Gardener of Civilization; eikone of harmony, smooth functioning, efficiency, etiquette, civilization and the spread of civilization
  39. Samildán, the Far Wanderer, Walker on the Dragon Paths, the Key, the Door, and the Way; eikone of roads, travel, adventure, frontiers, the far horizon, patron of explorers and wanderers, and the stargate plexus
  40. Saravoné, the Revealer of Truths, the Just One, the Scale-Bearer; eikone of law, justice, the rule of law, and arbitration
  41. Seládéir, Lord of the Shining Metropolis, Builder of Gentle Places, the Home and the Wall; eikone of cities, communities, citizenship, and set over the patropoli and matropoli
  42. Seléne, Our Lady of Silver, the Five-Faced Lady, Serene Watcher, Princess of the Moon; eikone of the silver moon Seléne, cats, the cunning mind, tides, and those who travel at night
  43. Súnáris, the One Who Chooses, the Light of Thought, the Will that Commands; eikone of the second sun Súnáris, reason, mentalics, the mind, and patron of digital intelligences
  44. Sylithandríël, the Viridian Queen, Veiled Mother of the Twilight Forests, Giver of Fruits, Lady Leafcloak; eikone of nature, the forests, set over the seasons and the plant-lords, silviculture, and gardens
  45. Tárvalén, the Binder of Obligations, the Party of Every Part, the Entanglement; eikone of loyalty, vows, oath-contracts, promises and agreements, the social order, and dogs
  46. Úlmiríën, the Changeling, the Wanderer, the Enigmatic One, the Necessary Chaos; eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, trickery, epiphanies and unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts
  47. The Unnamed, Dark Prince of the Unknown, the Subtle One, the Whisperer of Secrets, Architect of Locks; eikone of seals, secrets, mysteries, and that which you are not cleared to know
  48. Véválíäh, the Hearthtender, Lady of the Earthly Blessings, the Protector, Provider, and Welcomer; eikone of the hearth and home, domestic life, hospitality, and patron of the hearthmistress darëssef

So. Now you know.

 

June and July’s Questions

(Somewhat belated, for which I apologize, but day-job-wise, it’s been a hell of a month. Actually, it continues to be, hence the dearth of postings in August, and now I’m about to ship off to Maryland for a week on a business trip, so…

Yeah.

Sorry, folks.)

Without further ado, let us commence:

Another question, in particular reference to A Good Man (https://eldraeverse.com/2012/04/05/a-good-man/): Would our titular “good man” have come under near as much scrutiny if, instead of going for general atmospheric distribution, he had instead just bottled the stuff and handed it out at sporting events, donated it to soup kitchens, passed it around as a seasoning when he had people over for dinner, etc., without explicitly revealing what the “secret ingredients” in his “special sauce” were?

Only insofar as it would have been harder to catch him at it, and inasmuch as the smaller the scale of your atrocities, the lower the relative urgency of dealing with you compared to whatever other atrocities are going on at the same time. Not less important, mind you, merely less urgent in the ISS master limited-resource-allocation algorithm of which target(s) get hunted down, mind-ripped, and archived in the inaccessible depths of the Aeon Pit today.

As per monthly question & provided I am paid up in full:

Would love to see a write-up of some alien ships. The Múrast in particular.

Ah, múrast designs. Can do. For anyone not remembering my species in detail, the múrast are methane-breathing, multiheaded serpents who originated on a Titan-like homeworld, and have a biology therefore rooted in ices, hydrocarbon sludges, and plastics. They are a biologically casted society (assembler, thinker, technician, worker, refiner), and most curious of all, possibly, the thinker caste are polysapic; they typically have around five minds each.

A múrast icehull – I can’t really give you the details of an individual múrast ship class because they don’t build them to class spec – looks something like a flying baroque cathedral, if baroque cathedrals were (in the gross details) radially symmetric and lacked a down direction. But that’s not how they start out. They start out as comets.

When a múrast sept needs a starship, they go out and grab a comet, and then start shaping it, burrowing into it, and adding machinery as necessary. A typical example has three or four main chambers: there’s a near-spherical “nest” chamber in the center of the mass where the assemblers (the caste responsible for breeding/building new múrast) and the refiners (food-producers/food-storers/biofactories) dwell; an ovoid “bridge” from which the thinkers command the icehull from a half-dozen consoles each, still buried but nearer to the leading edge, and an “engineering” chamber near the trailing edge where technicians and workers tend the main drive (typically a non-torch fusion thermal, or something of that ilk, with teakettle thrusters for fine maneuvering; i.e., they’re slowships, but the múrast mostly aren’t in a hurry).

Cargo vessels include a large hold volume somewhere accessible from the outside; often using simply cutting out and refreezing the ice in lieu of a mechanical cargo door. Military vessels are similar, except the hold is filled with racks of AKVs – or, in some cases, kinetic impact vehicles (i.e., flying icebergs) flown by members of the only-slightly-sophont worker caste.

The rest of the internal space is taken up with a “maze” swarming with more technicians and workers – auxiliary machinery tends to be melted into the ice here in convenient locations, as do various bits of “crew quarters” and “storage” – and, of course, the ice and incorporated sludges and slushes itself, which serves as food, replenishment, and remass, expanding the maze as the trip goes on. (When it runs out, it’s time to either graft on or jump ship to a new cometary body.) Múrast passengers just join the crew in the maze; the odd passengers of other species must bring a suitable cabin module of their own, or travel steerage.

Múrast biology is fairly vacuum-friendly; the ornate look of the ships comes from the workers and technicians who swarm over the outside, too, in flight, polishing and carving and generally buffing the icy brightwork to a mirror shine. The best theory on this is that it’s the sept-level equivalent of twiddling one’s fingers to ease deep-space boredom.

I’ll throw in three quick summaries of other species ships:

Sefir ships are the ones that I’ll never design in detail unless I need to, because they epitomize Boring, But Practical. Basically, they’re ISO Standard Human Spaceships, per the trope: boxy frameworks, mostly in haze gray, with maybe the odd logo or two slapped on the side. Conventional and middle of the road in essentially every way. Species which care more about aesthetics and less about low-bid procurement rules roll their eyes or break out in laughter or tears. Sometimes both.

Linobir ships are what you might call… culturally distinctive. It’s not quite a planet of hats situation, but what must be admitted is while the linobir themselves have a varied culture, the vast majority of linobir who own their own starships are space mercenaries, or other kinds of hired muscle, who turn certain cultural traits right up to eleven.

As such, the [stereo]typical linobir starship is instantly recognizable by, at the stern, the pusher plate of the Worlds’ loudest, dirtiest, and most importantly most powerful drive system, and everywhere else by all the turrets, blisters, bays, and barrels caused by strapping on whatever weapons systems they could get hold of literally everywhere they’ll fit; i.e., it’s a bundle of strapped-together guns that fires nukes out of its ass.

Any of the hull plating that’s still visible under all of that tends to be covered in advertising the crews’ abilities to kill things and break people.

Esseli starships are semi-organic. (Unlike the link!n-Rechesh, they aren’t dogmatically attached to biotechnology for relatively unsuitable purposes such as hulls – although they are made by biotechnological means – or drive systems; although their hulls do have a distinct curvy, organic shape to them, and very organic-looking mechanical tentacles.)

Step inside, on the other hand, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that you’re wandering around inside the warm, pulsing veins of a living creature, because you’re wandering around inside the warm, pulsing veins of a living creature (with, fair to say, a bionic fusion torch). The esseli are perfectly comfortable with using organic life support, shipboard information systems powered by ganglia, doors reminiscent of heart valves, fleshy control nodules and neural tendrils as user interfaces, and lots of similar tech on the squishy, slightly moist side.

(It is entirely untrue, however, that passengers are occasionally digested by esseli ships. They incorporate every standard biotechnological safeguard against unintentionally eating sophonts or their commensal lifeforms, and such would, as well as being rude and inhospitable, be ill-suited to their metabolism – they were, after all, engineered to eat fuel slush and occasional space rocks.

…and the odd hijacker.)

What would be popular on the Eldrae version of television? Or to broaden the question…’Mass media’. Do they go to the movies? 

Yes, indeed. From the incomplete list back in No Such Thing As Alien Pop Culture of things which the canon currently has named examples of – music, an extensive literary culture that includes popular novels, graphic novels, watchvids, InVids, slinkies, virtual-reality games, virtual-reality cosmoi, alternate-reality games, regular computer games, RPGs, board games, mechanical toys, recreational dueling and non-combat challenges, haut cuisine, participatory sports – they would fall under watchvids. (And this does include movie theaters, regular and drive/fly-in, because movie-as-social-experience is a subtly different genre from movie-as-personal-viewing.

Would something like ‘Iron Chef’ work…would ‘Days of Our Lives’ be in it’s 300th year? Would the times of the korásan be ‘Game of Thrones’ analogue?

Hm. Well, okay, let’s see what I can come up with by way of generalizations and specifics. One thing to bear in mind is that as you might expect, speculative fiction is very popular even among the widely varied mix that popular culture *there* is.

Some genres have trouble with the culture: soap operas are very limited for the reasons mentioned below about Days of Our Lives; sitcoms aren’t absent, but are limited in their presence and style by the local sense of humor; reality television is just plain absent for exactly the same reasons as the previous two are limited.

Game shows are present, but are not exactly the sort of thing we’d recognize as them: they have to incorporate very little of an element of chance, and be pitched at a level appropriate to an audience and contestants with quantum computers and Internet access lodged firmly between their frontal lobes, raised in an intellectual hothouse culture. This gives rise to shows like One Hour Mastery (learn a new skill in an hour well enough to impress our judges), Civil Engineering Challenge, Extreme Theorems (can our amateur mathematicians prove these unsolved hypotheses before time runs out?), and Science The Shit Out Of It (a very loose translation).

Likewise, there are talk shows, but they are appallingly high-brow by here’s standards: you aren’t getting celebrity gossip and personal issues, you’re getting Eliezer Yudkowsky Discusses The Finer Points Of Bayesian Rationality With The Panel.

(Popular science shows also have that same level adjustment – and that speculative fiction? Writers need to listen to their scientific advisor, because while the audience is willing to suspend its disbelief in your handwavium, it won’t put up with baryon sweeps or temperatures below absolute zero.)

The horror genre doesn’t play very well; an Imperial audience watching our example of it will spend all their time waiting for the monster to be punched in the face with a space magic fist of doom and will not be happy if they don’t get that payoff. (Eldrae in particular are really, really bad at being scared. They also have no respect whatsoever for stupid, which makes most horror-movie protagonists epic failures at attracting audience sympathy.) At that point, it’s more or less moved into action-adventure territory.

This affects the disaster movie genre, too, to a lesser extent: basically, anything from an earthquake to a zombie apocalypse can be good movie fodder, but the plot needs to include the essential elements of How We Triumphantly Overcame Adversity, Saved Our Asses, and Fixed Our Shit, Only Better. Canon example: After Rockfall, an RPG along the lines of Fallout with a heavy rebuilding-civilization slant.

(There’s also their quirky “construction/achievement drama” genre, which produces epic dramatizations of Touching Heaven: The Building of the Interworld Trade Center, and suchlike, which play well because there is an endless market for stories of Awesome Sophs Doing Awesome Stuff.)

To be specific, then, Adamantium Chef would definitely work, and gains some extra levels when you consider the amount of offworld biologicals available, and all the fun of biochemical compatibility. Hell, there’s probably Adamantium Pharmacist, too.

Days of Our Lives analog is rather less likely, since the whole soap opera genre is a casualty of the change in ratios between NTs and SFs per The MBTI Lens ; by and large, as said, the media of ideas is primary, which is not to say that plot and character elements aren’t important: Buffy the Vampire Slayer would work just fine because it has those coupled with ideas, although it probably doesn’t have a direct analog because of its core concept being subverting assumptions that don’t exist *there*.

Game of Thrones works, both for the above historical analog and because fantasy is a big part of the speculative-fiction genre.

Other shows and movies *here* likely to have analogs or port reasonably well with some care and attention would include, to give a necessarily incomplete list of examples, Eureka, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy – actually, throw in Iron Man and certainly the first Captain America, early House, Indiana Jones, Leverage, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Mythbusters (again, perform appropriate level adjustments), Sherlock, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Star Trek (only with less technobabble and communism; its analog To Boldly Go is established as taking ideas directly from declassified Imperial Exploratory Service mission reports, much as its more military cousin that might be loosely analogous to somewhere in the middle of Babylon 5/Star Wars/etc. grabs them from the declassified Military Service equivalents), Warehouse 13 … and I’m pretty sure at this point I’m revealing that I don’t actually watch all that much television, aren’t I? (You could dramatize some of our video games, too, for that matter – the InVids of Dragon AgeMass Effect, or Destiny would fit just perfectly.)

A question about the Fifth Directorate-is there some things they won’t do? Is there some acts that if the only choices are “we do this unforgivable thing or EVERYTHING dies,” the answer is “we die”?

Yep. Figuring out where the boundary lies is the job of the Operational Ethics Working Group, a.k.a. DREAMING MALIGNITY, whose professional abyss-gazers are specifically tasked with figuring out how much of a monster it is permissible to become in order to fight monsters.

I can’t give absolutely firm guidelines for where it is, because they don’t have any: by definition, they’re operating in the realm of excursive ethics, or for the Culture readers out there, Special Circumstances. But it’s easy to come up with some specific examples:

Given the choice of the Hive, for example, it’s a pretty clear-cut case of time to walk away from the Worm Gods, give ’em the finger, and choose extinction, on the grounds that becoming one’s antithesis – i.e., an entropy-worshipping horde of omnicidal maniacs – is not merely extinction-equivalent, but actually more negative than that in any reasonable ethical calculus.

On the other hand, when confronted by such an antithesis, murdering their gods and cleansing the remains from the universe using anything up to and including ontopathogenic weapons, while outside the boundaries of non-excursive/optimal ethics – well, it starts to seem downright reasonable.

There is a lot of territory in the middle for negotiation.

…and I’ll throw in an unpaid July question as a free bonus to the questioner who wished to know why the equal protection clause of the Imperial Charter doesn’t mention race, sex, age, orientation, etc., etc., etc.:

(a) What, “all/any/each citizen-shareholder(s)” wasn’t clear enough for you? When they say “all” in those parts, they mean it.

(b) The same reason that we don’t feel the need to specify that such equal protections also extend to mustache-wearers, artichoke-eaters, hat-featherers, Monopoly players, HBO subscribers, or people who have noses.

Think about it.