A nondescript-looking young woman made her way down the poorly lit street. It was quiet, too quiet this night, and her senses were alert to the slightest disturbance to her peace of mind at this late hour. She was in no mood for threats, so she smiled when she saw the ludicrous — ahem — gentleman — step out of a side alley with shiv in hand, evidently eager to try his hand at gutting her and taking her stuff. Never mind that the only apparent goods on her person were her mirror-shades and her scavenged work uniform. She saw the idiot in augmented reality overlay in her field of vision, thinking he was hiding before he even stepped out into the street. This would be quick.
“All dressed for Halloween, are we, girly? Why the shades at this hour of night? They look good enough to take! Hand ‘em over, and your money, too, or I slit your mongrel face!” She quickly downgraded her estimation of his intelligence by several standard deviations below the mean. He waved his blade “menacingly” just half a meter in front of her, trying pathetically to look impressive and scary. Scary? To a girl who’s killed planets all by herself?
The farce was quickly ended when she casually grabbed him at the waist by his belt, and with a strength and ease seemingly impossible for someone of her size and build, lifted him over her head and tossed him headfirst into a nearby waste bin with a muted “thud,” and what sounded like the “crunch” of a likely skull fracture. Oops.
Hmm. Moron dropped his knife when he took a dive, she thought. She picked up the blade, balancing the tip on her finger. It’s dull. Badly balanced. Crappy workmanship. Meh.
She tossed it aside, and silently giggled inside at the thought of anyone trying to threaten her with such a shoddy excuse for a weapon.
Not worth the effort of writing, “I got punked by a girl,” on his face with his own blade, she thought.
Fictitious gods. You’ve one hell of a mean streak, said the silent voice within, heard only in her mind’s ear, the constant companion riding around in her skull. She knew who it once was. A digital consciousness deep in her hypershard’s fractal-like q-bits had kept her company since she first regained control of her own mind on a dead planet. A planet that she had just killed as the resurrected Magna.
I make my own rules, Mirus. She responded. Understood. Still, you’re a wanted woman, and you don’t want to draw attention to
yourself. Even during my life, I had to travel with an assumed name and identity to avoid bringing the local military down on my
head. Thinking with your powers will only get you killed. Really? She asked. You had an assumed name? What was it? That was
Murugan Sanchez. My real parents were of Tamil and Filipino descent, and it showed in me, so the name worked. You’ll need one
too, at least for the mundane things like forging documents and such. I can teach you how to do that, and to do it well. So, what’ll
The girl thought for a moment. Murugan. That was the name of an old god of war wasn’t it. So I’ll go as Korravi – and I’m stealing your surname, Mirus – Korravi Sanchez, it’ll be. There are few ethnicities I can’t easily pass as with a little touching up, and several hundred years after your time no one will notice.
For those who find out the hard way, my life as the second Magna is officially over, she thought to herself.
I’m the Meera, once the destroyer of worlds. But one day, I’ll be able to walk in the open without terrifying every planet I set foot on.
Vanakkam. As the founders of the early SETI program (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) have pointed out, there are certain basic prerequisites for interstellar communication, the first and most obvious being high powered radio technology.
So too, in Gods of Terra, are there certain basic technologies needed to permit interstellar travel on ordinary human timescales, and those would be:
Helium-3 fusion power:
For power generation of the minimum level and most economically viable reactor size needed to power a useful stardrive, thermonuclear power generation by fusing heavy helium nuclei has both a reasonable level of safety. On many gas giant planets, there’s a plentiful supply of fuel for visiting starships with good aerodynamics, fuel scoops, and purifiers. It’s safer, more efficient, and generates more power and fewer fast neutrons than deuterium-tritium fusion, but requires higher starting energies to achieve.
That’s the bare minimum, and for large spacecraft it’s a prerequisite for the next item, which would be…
The Kurtz-Dunar Effect:
Most famously co-discovered by Ouilette Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, this is a means of generating and manipulating dark energy to expand, twist, fold, contract, and warp the fabric of space-time in useful ways. It allows at the basic level such things as riding a planet’s gravity-well like a bird riding updrafts, or achieving orbit for spacecraft without using large amounts of reaction mass as fuel. This applies for the gravity-well of a stellar system as well, allowing rapid, low reaction-mass interplanetary travel. Carried to the next level in advancement, it also leads to…
Starfold-M and Starfold-S drives:
With these two methods of interstellar flight, the first pre-Shutter, the second post-Shutter, the way to the stars is open to beings with ordinary lifespans who can now settle worlds across the galaxy on reasonable and economically feasible timescales. Both drives use the same principle, the Kurtz-Dunar Effect, but in slightly differing applications during their respective eras of use. It was the cosmological event known as the Shutter that caused the need for Starfold-M to evolve into the more efficient and powerful Starfold-S once the former was rendered ineffective.
Interstellar travel without these technologies is possible, but restricted to sublight-velocity craft, and not the sort allowing human timescale economic or military activity. Some species, like the Broogh, to be dealt with later in this series, are limited to sublight craft, but most of these are sleeper, or in the case of Broogh, generation ships or entire fleets of them.
Rapidly traversing the Local Galaxy requires a very specific set of technologies, those listed above. So for those with short lifespans, or little patience, there’s really no other option.
What shapes our perceptions (and misperceptions) about science? In an eye-opening talk, meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd explains how confirmation bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect and cognitive dissonance impact what we think we know — and shares ideas for how we can replace them with something much more powerful: knowledge.
Greetings, humans! It’s been long, long while since I’ve done a decent end-of-year piece on this site, so now that this blog has been around for some 10 years and two days, here it is. It’s been a busy year, with a lot going on. It’s the start in many ways of a new era. I’ve had to let go of things, and embraced both new insights and learned some amazing things along the way. I’ve met new people and parted ways with others. Best of all, my mental health over the past year has vastly improved as I’ve freed myself of what doesn’t work and kept at what does. This is the last post on this blog for 2018. I wish a happy and prosperous New Year for you and yours!
Blogs and Other Social Media:
I’ve left Twitter, with both of the @Troythulu and @Mister_Eccles accounts deleted. I’ll not be returning in the foreseeable future.
I’ve deleted all but four of my blogs, leaving only two WordPress sites, my Blogger site, and my Tumblr site remaining.
I’ve deleted two old and moribund FB pages: Mr Riccles and The Collect Call of Troythulu, the former for my cats, the latter for my blogs.
Later in the year, I restored older blog pages on this site.
Earlier in April, I began the first major cleanup of posts on my blogs in nine years, deleting low-impact posts and unused tags, setting up others as drafts for rewriting, updating, and reposting for better traction.
Lifelong learning and Study:
I’ve finished and reviewed remedial lessons in both of Algebras I & II
I’ve completed part 1, Units 1-13 of Complete Bengali, began intermediate – level study in Part 2, units 14-26 with some interruptions. Not as much progress as I’d have liked, but no biggie.
After a hiatus and reorganizing of my study schedule, I’ve resumed learning of Tamil and Hindi, and vastly expanded my subscription to podcasts in both of those languages and in Bengali.
I began course in graphic design fundamentals. This will prove most useful.
Got a standing desk attachment for my workspace.
Assisted with home renovations at my family’s place in the 2nd half of 2018,
Writing and Publishing Goals Met:
Self-published my fourth book, The Giant who Fell from the Dark beyond the Sky: And Other Collected Works.
Throughout the year, made regular contributions to Miss Sharmishtha Basu’s PDF eZine, Agnishatdal (the lotus of fire).
Started my own email PDF newsletter, The Pikatron Monthly, in June. If you’re interested in subscribing, email me at email@example.com and I’ll add you to the list.
Began research on Tamil slang, history, and culture for an upcoming book to be self-published sometime in late 2019, early 2020.
Vanakkam. Gods of Terra is science fiction, more akin to space opera than hard SF, and includes a few elements borrowed from the super-heroics of comic books as well as the nameless horrors of weird tale fiction. There are some elements that seem supernatural, like beings such as the Nine Who are One, and I’ll distinguish that from rubber science paranormal elements like psionic powers and abilities.
Major assumption: Conventional and cutting edge real-world physics and biology generally apply to but do not dictate the possibilities of the setting. There is no supernatural world as anything existing outside, apart from, or above the natural world, beyond simply more nature to be found “out there” beyond the boundaries of the observable universe.
There are a couple of plot devices that make use of this: namely the Kurtz-Dunar effect, and the bizarre science of Axiomatic physics, which studies the meta-laws underlying all of the physical laws of the universe, both known and currently unknown, the “whys” as well as the “hows” of the rules of reality.
Psionics is a biological, brain-based means of exploiting Axiomatic tweaks in local physical laws, altering, bending them, yet without violating or suspending them outright. It is possible to exploit such abilities by chemical means, like psi-drugs, as well as mental practices and techniques.
Psionics is generally limited to certain effects, primarily in that the mind is what the brain does. As a family of non-dualistic capacities, there are no astral travel abilities, nor anything involving spiritual or extra-physical travel. There are beings that might appear to be made of stabilized energy, or seemingly incorporeal, but they are still purely physical as physicists understand the term, even if not tangible.
Another major exception is the existence of hyperdimensional beings, those physical entities whose existence extends into higher dimensions of space-time, as suggested in certain versions of superstring theory or concepts of possible multiverses involving many dimensions orthogonal to each other. Such beings can seem to those existing only in conventional four-dimensional space-time to be akin to gods. Gods of Terra postulates that our four-dimensional universe is embedded in a vast multiverse of eleven space-time dimensions and infinite universes.
Major assumption: Supernormal powers exist, and can be quite formidable, but have their limits. It is possible to weaponize humans and other beings to possess the powers of demigods, and some have inborn powers.
But even superhumans have the limits of mortal beings in their biological needs and the fact that anything, and I mean anything, can be killed, even hyperdimensional beings and so-called space-gods.
I limit supernormal abilities to the following:
Biological psionics (Bio-Psi): this includes such powers as teleportation, telepathy, biokinesis, quantakinesis, psychokinesis, and clairsapience
Hypershards (Techno-Psi) (self-replicating alien relics that can make stronger or more varied use of Axiomatic physics than Bio-Psi)
Conventional technology: This includes robotics, cybernetic implants, nanotech, femto-tech, genetic engineering, and biotech organ grafts, and may involve some overlap between any of these. It is possible to use nanotech or femto-tech to alter a being biologically, or to build bionic implants or organ grafts into the body that will not be rejected by the body or require immunosuppressant drugs.
Major assumption: Humanity in all its forms is special.
Humanity is the main thread binding everything together, and the driving force behind most of what goes on in the Local Galaxy of it and its neighbors. Though not individually powerful, or even the most advanced species, humans are many, and spread across the stars, virtually extinction-proof by any one event save something like the death of the universe itself. Humans are nearly ubiquitous.
Humans, with the drive to explore and the curiosity to question, drive the politics and economies of the Local Galaxy. Humans in this setting are, at least in this part of the universe, perhaps the greatest force for both good and evil, for both justice and injustice, for both astonishing kindness and terrible cruelty.
These humans of the future are not us, not exactly, but have more of our strengths and fewer of the weaknesses of present-day humans. Humanity by this time, even without utopian aspirations, has grown up. Humanity exists in many species and hails from equally many adopted homeworlds. Humans are the driving force for change in the universe, anticipated even billions of years before multicellular life evolved on Terra, the home of the Tellusine, our own far future descendants.
Minor assumption: aliens and alien worlds must make logical, physical, cultural, and biological sense, or at least must be given a nod to these.
Alien species exist, and simply put, biological evolution on physically possible worlds in a universe dominated by natural laws applies. Alien species are what they are, and evolve as they do, on worlds that they are uniquely adapted to survive and propagate on.
While not holding to any naive hyper-adaptationist view of evolution, any biological, psychological, cultural, and chemical makeup of an alien must at least be plausible on first face if not strictly realistic, and aliens, unless given good reasons otherwise, must be the products of their worlds in both their world’s chemical composition and environments.
Gods of Terra got its start as a role-playing universe, so some sensibility in the creatures within it was necessary for use in any reasonably well-designed set of tabletop RPG rules, at least to make the numbers and game-mechanics mesh with some play-balance.
Minor assumption: Time-travel is possible, but generally limited by predestination paradoxes. Not recommended for most RPG use.
This is a minor assumption because it’s so rare and limited in its role in the setting. It requires superscience technology, usually Relic-level artifacts like one of the original four Prime hypershards, which I’ll post on later in this series. It’s also a minor assumption because it’s mostly useful in the context of written fiction where compatibilist notions of free will square well with a deterministic universe and doesn’t conflict with the writer’s narrative.
Time travel here uses the block-universe model of General Relativity, in which all of space-time, past, present, and future, and all spatial points of the universe from the Big Bang to the ultimate end of the universe exist simultaneously, with the flow of time from past to future being mainly an illusion perceived by three-dimensional entities embedded within space-time.
All of it is predestined, with the past and future being fixed, with journeys to the past and future, and any events resulting being already embedded within the fabric of history. Its implied set history makes inconsistency paradoxes impossible, thus preserving the past and future.
The only possible exception to this is something I’ll write more on at some point in this series, the Paradox engine, an alien relic that can alter the logical structure of reality, scramble the rules of cause and effect, and rewrite the fabric of history.
So it’s not so useful in the context of a role-playing game where events unforeseen by the participants and game master are not only possible but typical. For role-playing purposes, I recommend disallowing time travel as an element of the setting altogether.
These are the setting’s fundamental assumptions. In future installments, I’ll write on the technologies of Gods of Terra, the species, particular worlds, empires, and many other aspects of the setting. Next up, I’ll write on the prerequisites of any starfaring civilization, the minimal technology needed by any species to get out into the Local Galaxy and make its mark.
Vanakkam. After recently rebooting the setting, I’m beginning a new series of primers on my Gods of Terra SF universe, mostly but not entirely focused on a small region of space known as the Local Galaxy.
The universe is vast, both wondrous and dangerous, and filled with alien beings and forces ranging from benign to dangerously indifferent to the human condition. Here, great interstellar empires vie for power and the wavetouched, Children of the Shard, struggle for survival and acceptance, while forces beyond human sanity gnaw at reality in the dark between the stars. Here there are worlds with cities made of scents, people with the powers of demigods, and ancient, monstrous beings with hearts of gold. Yet here, even those with mundane limits, skills, and talents can make their mark and change the universe forever. Here, even gods can die.
In this series as a whole, I’ll offer a detailed picture of what GoT is all about, and in future, posts detailing the basic precepts on which everything runs, aliens and space-gods, creatures, superhuman abilities, exotic locations, and others.
A list of topics includes:
Setting precepts; what assumptions, laws, and logics operate, and what do they entail?
Supernormal abilities and powers, and the limits therein.
Aliens and other species, such as wavetouched, the Kai’Siri, the Rj’lt’ar, and their effect on everyone else.
Empires, worlds, and the cultures that dwell within and on them.
History and momentous events, including the Galactic Ripple, the Great Fear, and the Shutter, and these as influences on the setting.
Iconic characters and monstrous beings, including the Nine Who are One, the four Gods of Terra, their foes, and those who followed after them in the wake of the Shutter.
This post is a reminder for me to blog more often, and I’m asking you all for a favor: to hold my Troythuluness to his frickin’ word, to labor in the word mines more than I have! That, I think, will be a good thing.