13 Word Story | War Sucks!


 

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Saluur2 strode forth, flutecaster ready at tentacles, battlesuit smartly congealed. Then, tragedy… Headshot!

I credit SF writer S.A. Barton with inventing this style, a kind of prose poetry. You may retweet, Share, copy and distribute this image as you wish anywhere online as long as all imagery and text is unaltered. Please do, in fact!

Here is the backstory for this piece:

The late Carl Sagan once said, “War is murder writ large.” While it is true that not every nation on Earth is friendly with every other, given geopolitics and the existence of rogue states, war, I feel, is a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless.

What other human activity produces death and suffering, much of it gratuitous, on the same scale of armed and armored military conflict with modern weaponry?

In nearly every war, regardless of what we call it, like “pacification campaign” or “police action,” or any number of other weasel-words we choose, innocents have suffered.

The lives of soldiers, however bravely lived and fought, however good their training or competent their leaders, have been needlessly wasted, and even survivors traumatized however lucky they were in somehow escaping permanent physical injury.

The youngest son of a friend of mine lost his legs during a mission in Iraq, and some years afterward took his own life. I was there to see his final post on Facebook just before he ended himself.

I shall never forget.

How much more tragic would warfare be in future eras, with battlefield weaponry unknown to current science, far beyond the reach of current technology? With each advance in combat weaponry and armor, combat efficiency goes up, and so do casualties, including combatants themselves.

But not only civilian casualties of war, my sympathies also lie with those who do the grunt work combat, those young people, our best and brightest, soldiers, pilots, sailors, whose lives are tossed away carelessly by uncaring, cowardly, and incompetent political leaders, lives full of promise cast aside for a moment of, to paraphrase Carl Sagan this time, ‘fleeting dominion of a fraction of a fraction of a dot.’

As with current-day humanity, so it likely is with any other species engaged in warfare unencumbered by the niceties of truces, cease-fires, honorable conduct, scrupulous avoidance of ‘collateral damage,’ and diplomacy.

Fiction | It Is With Heavy Heart We Must Relate: The Obit of the Mirus


MB3D68_53853The Mirus has taken the hand of oblivion by natural causes, at 15:53 hours, date 27 of Twelvemonth, Local Galaxy Standard year 3520, at the age of 237 years and five months.

Trained and weaponized as a destroyer of worlds, the Mirus broke free of control, using his immense power to preserve rather than destroy. Earlier in his life he saved his homeworld of Terra from sterilization at the hands of the fanatical Suthidruu. He had assisted the Rj’Lt’Ar by preventing a disastrous political takeover by the psychopathic Dasaelos Gurao. Later in life, he oversaw the wedding of his synthesine daughter, Emissary, and Conscience, Imegaa Mokan, to a Kai’Siri noble, Kuruugya Dunori.

By now an old but still imposing man, his final act in life was to moderate a debate between a Broogh fleet commander and the Prime Minister of the Tokmolosian Confederation. This lead to a peace lasting to the present day between that element of the gigantic Broogh species and the hominoid Mokthraga. He has been awarded the Imperial Star for his actions in the final Terran-Kai’Siri War, which brought peace to the two warring human species.

Though raised a soldier, the Mirus was always a thinker, a rationalist, and a man of peace, never carrying a firearm even on military deployment after he gained his freedom and began his quest to wander the galaxy.

He will be commemorated on Sirug with officials of all powers of the Local Galaxy in attendance. His remains will be launched by traditional funeral pod into the outer sun of the system in accordance with his wishes, his hypershard to be destroyed with him. He is survived by his first daughter Imegaa, her partner, his son Avijit and his wife and family, and his second daughter Rosalie with her husband and family.

The service will be held, with seating for dignitaries at the 23rd hour Sirug time on the fifth day of the tenth month of the Kai’Siri calendar. Out-system viewers will be notified as to local listings, and will have foldnode access to the event at home. All but essential business operations will be suspended on Sirug until the funeral pod leaves local orbit for the outer system.

Imegaa Mokan has composed a verse, the closest possible Anglic translation below, to be given in Old High Soruggon upon the launch of the funeral pod into orbit. The chorus will be accompanied by cannon fire from locally stationed Kai’Siri warships, and followed by select readings from the writings of the ancient twentieth-century astronomer and astrobiologist Carl Sagan, particularly his works The Demon-Haunted World and Billions & Billions.

To Peace!
As Father breathed his last
For all time, what is to come
The rational, the absurd
His purpose found, on his own
Not from on high, but within
He fought the dark, to the end
With words, thought, with subtle guile
Powerful he may have been
Less a god
More a man
Curiosity inflamed
To understand, not decry
The universe, ancient, vast
All its peoples, present, past
To sun-fire we consign his form

Gods of Terra | Suthidruu Weaponry & Notes on ‘Paradise’


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Suthidruu speech consists mainly of piping, whispering, and slurping sounds that resemble the playing of alien flutes combined with less pleasant sources. It joins with olfactory cues for nuance and grammatical detail, and these cues increase in intensity with the level of emotional arousal of the speaker. Typical scents emitted can be nauseating to humans, but are usually only faintly so unless the being is being shouty or screaming.

Audible sounds are spoken in a variety of meters. Suthidruu use these sounds to arm and calibrate their weaponry, as much of it is voice-controlled.

Shipboard weaponry:

The upload cannon is a horrible weapon used in Last Rites ceremonies for doomed species. It is a series of turret-mounted remote brain-scanners of incredible power and precision, standard issue on all Suthidruu combat craft. Batteries of this weapon copy brain patterns as they destroy the brains of entire planetary populations. These patterns are then sent to the virtual world of a dying Matrioshka brain known as the Labyrinth of the Machine Goddess, located in a distant, long-forgotten galaxy. Upload cannons work only on beings with electrochemical central nervous systems. They have no effect on unconventional brain substrates, nor pure machine intelligences. But these are not considered to be living things in the Elder Worms’ theology. Uploaded minds then reside in the Matrioshka brain’s circuits as semi-aware shades, or data-ghosts.

Personal weaponry:

The species’ main personal armament issued to all acolytes, the flutecaster, resembles an oversized flute with multiple pipes, and it is a miniaturized version of the upload cannons used by their vehicles, and unless shielded from the effects, the results of a direct hit are almost invariably fatal. Brain patterns thus stolen are uploaded to the vessel the warrior is stationed on, and from there uploaded to the Matrioshka brain.

The Labyrinth itself is in a state of slow decay, with uploaded mind-patterns subjected to glitches of various surreal sorts and even random deletion due to broken down machinery. Paradise here does not resemble anything sane. A good analogy would be something like a Salvador Dali painting combined with the more bizarre works of Heironymous Bosch. This is as it has been for billions of years.

Conclusion:

It remains to be seen what the reaction of the Suthidruu would be if they realized the true nature of the afterlife they send their victims to. They shall only have a chance to find out, though, once they’ve extinguished all other life in the Cosmos and having finally earned ‘salvation’ thus, end themselves in an orgy of species-wide mass suicide. There’ll be hell to pay.

Gods of Terra | The Paradox Engine & Its Deadly Purpose


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The Clockwork Intelligence, an existentially troubled alien steampunk computer, had a plan.  It was a plan that led to the war which shattered the Grand Civilization of the Nine. It was going to steal the creation of Sarussamog of the Gates: The paradox engine. Its purpose was to commit suicide and universal genocide at the same time, to generate a time-paradox so far-reaching as to squeeze all of spacetime into a single point-like instant in which nothing and everything would exist at once because the universe would simultaneously collapse in a Big Crunch and tear itself apart in a Big Rip. All so that no one would suffer the torment of existence.

The war to capture or steal the device, preferably torn from the smoking corpse of Sarussamog, destroyed worlds and sundered galaxies billions of years ago, and the Grand Civilization was no more. Presumably, the Clockwork Intelligence was also destroyed, or at least hasn’t been seen since. Needless to say, the device remained at large, and Sarussamog escaped, alive and relatively unharmed.

But the Intelligence (I’ll just refer to it as CI from here on.)would have been sorely disappointed had it actually acquired the machine. The truth of the matter is that paradox engines don’t work that way, beyond restructuring the laws that govern how a universe is put together and affecting causal laws in very minor and non-catastrophic ways.

Even then, it’s an enormously powerful technology.

The real work of the paradox engine lies in its main function; to selectively create a new timeline from an old one, in which a present or missing feature of the old is missing or present in the new. Like the existence of a being, a species, a planet, a galaxy, or any other sort of entity found or not in the old.

The paradox engine’s process essentially makes a new universe, and physically shifts the user to that one. But it does so at extreme cost; the annihilation of the original timeline, all forms of matter and energy in it cannibalized instantaneously to fuel the branching off of the new timeline from the old.

Repeated use of the device for that function makes the user a serial World destroyer and mass-murderer extraordinaire. The CI would have discovered upon using the device that it continued to exist, even if it branched off a timeline with no life of any other sort in it.

And that, I think, would have been a fate worse than death, even for an insane alien god-computer. Still, one has to admit, attempting to commit suicide and take everyone else with you is still rather unpleasant, even if the suicide fails and everybody else dies.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Gods of Terra | “The Rani of Stars” Drawing Project


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 22.42.41Caturday’s Astrophenia will be posted next week once the fortnight is over. This week, I’d like to mention an art project I’ve recently returned to.

I’ve gotten back to work on my Rani of Stars piece, having finished inking in the basic sketch with a new/old set of actual drawing pens instead of those awful ballpoints, with this as the result:

Rani_Of_Stars

As you can see, I’ve inked the lines, her braid, and what will be her star-field “face” in the final image. As an avatar of the King of Shards intended to deal directly with humans without driving them insane, she looks almost, yet obviously not wholly human in her guise. I’ve transferred her file to Pixelmator for further work to be concluded next week, digitally filling her in and making the lines smoother and crisper, while painting in her star-field in detail.

Here she is, just before cyber-editing, in color and greyscale scans, ready for Pixelmator to do its vile work:

Rani_Of_Stars 1

Rani_Of_Stars 2

I’ll also add stars to the black gems in her headpiece, and once that’s completed, the lines get better-defined as well. I’m really enjoying this, and I’m eager to see what may come of it. I’ll post her when she’s finished in all her alien glory.

Just be careful not to look to closely at her star-field, lest you be sucked in and sent to some dismal part of the universe! After all, staring at alien divinities can be rude…

Gods of Terra | Aliens in Fiction: How Not to Design Them


As a science fiction fan who’s written fiction of my own, and this blog and elsewhere, I like to design my own aliens. Recently I got a comment on an older post of mine, and since I don’t normally respond to comments on posts more than two weeks old, I thought I’d instead respond here.

Here’s the comment:

I searched this topic to try to find a site that would tell me not what to do as I write my first alien contact book.
I have never been on this site before, and don’t know if replying is possible, but if so, can you reply and tell me what not to do? Or someone, anyone. I’m trying to create an interesting diverse alien culture for my already created human hybrid race to interact with positively, but with some difficulties. My main character is a language communication expert.

So, what not to do when designing aliens (plausible, however fictional)? Here are some quick tips:

  • Don’t succumb to humans-in-funny-suits syndrome: Aliens in looks should be aliens in mentality. At the very least, especially with obvious nonhumans, give them some sort of outstanding but plausible psychological or cultural distinctions from other species that will not only set them apart, but make them memorable to the readers of whatever fiction you’re writing. Remember: aliens will have evolved in a different set of selective pressures than humans, and this will be true of variant humans as well. This fact will shape their minds and societies as it shapes their bodies. Build them accordingly, but try to avoid stereotyping them (My, I wonder whose first mate and engineer that Wookie is?). This hold even if the aliens have a hive-mind, as there will probably be a functional division of labor in the species.
  • Unless for historical or other good reasons, like prior contact with humans in the setting, avoid having the aliens automatically know human languages. I highly recommend inventing the alien’s own language, at least a few useful phrases at start. It’s not only a good exercise, but fun as well. I’m currently designing the language of my own alien humans, the Kai’Siri, and it’s a blast!
  • Don’t give them too much in the way of  weird powers. Not only is this bad from a role-playing perspective, as it unbalances the species in play and relegates them to mostly non-player character status, and without limits it’s boring to readers. the alien tech should not be too rubber-sciencey and not over-explained — Remember: A good explanation is better than no explanation, but none at all is better than a contrived and implausible explanation. The Holtzman effect in Dune is a good example of a rubber-science plot device that was not over-explained nor implausibly so.
  • Aside from weird powers, avoid an otherwise implausible biology for your species, unless you are writing Weird Tale fiction where impossible Things That Must Not Be Named™ have good reason to exist in the story (It’s horror, after all.). Even in Lovecraft’s own fiction, like At The Mountains of Madness, the Old Ones were given reasonably plausible (using the known science of the time) traits and were relatively well thought out. They did, after all, make it into Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials! [an update] Also bear in mind that most alien species will not be able to breed with humans unless human variants themselves, and even that will be iffy with extreme deviations from the norm.

Conclusion: These are a few key things to bear in mind in creating aliens, and their use ought to take some of the headache out of the process. I hope this answers your questions, and if not, I can always write follow-up posts on this, one of my favorite topics.

Future Fluff: Mighty Bruticus & Its Unhallowed Moons


English: Extrasolar planet Upsilon Andromedae ...

English: Extrasolar planet Upsilon Andromedae d lies in the habitable zone and if sufficiently large moons of Upsilon Andromedae d exist, they may be able to support liquid water, as the image shows. On the horizon of this hypothetical moon can be seen Upsilon Andromedae d, possibly a class II planet (Sudarsky classification): since it is too warm to form ammonia clouds this ones are made up of water vapor, white in colour instead of the caracteristic yellow-reddish clouds of Jupiter and Saturn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Far back in the legends of the Kai’Siri people, originating in an ancient war fought before Second Age of Consolidation, lies the planet Bruticus, its Terran name, a gigantic world with extreme gravity and home to a diminutive but hardy intelligent species.

The Kai’Siri, or course, forbid the naming of this world in their own language, such is its reputation.

Bruticus is an interdicted world in a forbidden area of what was part of the First Exarchate, as the Kai’Siri had never been able to fully conquer the natives, and this fact sat poorly with them.

It’s partly for religious reasons that Kai’Siri were originally driven to conquer, from the dictum to spread the Kai’Siri culture across the stars.

Kai’Siri religion is odd. It is not an evangelical faith; only ethnic Kai’Siri may be members of it, usually inculcated in childhood with some adult conversions.

Worship is mostly directed to familial gods, not national or regional gods, but the central core of the faith binds the Kai’Siri as a people and in the past drove its militarization.

“Spread the culture, but the faith belongs to us alone.”

Bruticus handed the Kai’Siri perhaps their worst defeat in a war lasting almost a hundred years, when the natives made use of the planet’s strong gravity and multiple large moons, routing the humans of Sirug and resulting in the death by suicide of all of the defeated army, too shamed to return home and live with their defeat.

The Second Exarchate has scant records of the war, given the destruction of the Second Age of Consolidation and its attendant wars. So Bruticus remains isolated by time, location, and oddly enough for a rationalist culture like the Kai’Siri, a hint of superstitious dread, the inhabitants shrouded in mystery.

It is only with the development of Kurtz-Dunar technology for riding gravity wells in the Second Exarchate that contact between natives and Kai’Siri has become possible again.

But what of fact?

Bruticus is a super-Terran world, more rocky than gaseous, though with a thick atmosphere rich in hydrogen, methane, and ammonia fairly far from its star but warm enough to allow for life using complex hydrocarbons and reductive metabolisms using respiration of hydrogen.

Bruticans, who call themselves Phlaathaq, are much like large Terran sand-fleas in shape and built low to the ground to avoid dangerous short-distance falls in the strong gravity well.

Bruticus has a slightly ovoid shape because of its spin, with stronger gravity near the poles and lighter at the equator, about 12 Terran gravities on average.

Phlaathaq have a clever sort of biotechnology at their disposal, using stock from native organisms bred to specific functions, and often engineered to purpose using other organisms bred for that function.

Case in point are the ballistic dendromorphs, tentacled, ambulatory, tree-like mollusk analogs whose central body cavities are largely filled with a biochemical solid rocket propellant based on the combustion of chlorine and hydrogen. These serve as a means of travel off of Bruticus, and produce enough thrust to reach an impressive escape velocity and in less than three days reach the outermost of the five moons.

Think of something that looks like a cross between the recent Orion system spacecraft, an outsized California redwood, and a Lovecraftian Dark Young.

Other organisms, symbiotes, can cling to and serve as payload attachments to the dendromorphs, whether as explosive warheads, piloted capsules with life-support and acceleration couches, and there are organisms attached to these to serve as bio-avionic systems for the dendromorphs in flight.

Such launches are limited to the equatorial regions where gravity is lightest, and the dendromorphs are optimized for the climate there, even being resistant to the floods of the ammonia seas in the cold season and frequent massive storms of the warmer season when the oceans evaporate.

The effectiveness of this biology-based approach to technology in warfare has earned the planet-moons system of Bruticus an evil reputation among those familiar with Kai’Siri lore, but as more information comes to light and peaceful contact becomes possible, more of this massive world’s secrets will be laid bare, in future installments of this post, and in fiction.