Gods of Terra Primer | Basic Assumptions


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: 

  1. Biological psionics (Bio-Psi): this includes such powers as teleportation, telepathy, biokinesis, quantakinesis, psychokinesis, and clairsapience
  2. Hypershards (Techno-Psi) (self-replicating alien relics that can make stronger or more varied use of Axiomatic physics than Bio-Psi)
  3. 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.

I’ll see you then!

And in abbreviated Soruggon…

…Tf. Tk. Tts.

MetaCognitions | Fictional Plot Devices


I’ve noticed something worth avoiding in writing anything approaching good speculative fiction: never explain too much, be economic with any explanation you do, and only explain, by showing, not telling, what actually needs explaining.

I notice a failure to do that in some of my earlier fiction of even a few months ago, much less from years back, not consistently, but often enough to cause concern. Mostly it happens with a piece that I spend only a couple of hours on, in total writing, editing, and proofreading time; almost always a hastily written piece or two when a deadline looms. That’s bad form when it occurs.

But what sort of things ought not to be explained?

For example, there are the Heisenberg compensators of Star Trek used by transporter technology, that offer a nod to the quantum mechanical problems of teleportation without being explained as to how they work, which is good use of rubber science technobabble that adds to, not subtracts from, the feel of the story.

It’s good to acknowledge real science even when not strictly conforming to it. It’s one of the hallmarks of any good SF franchise.

Another would be the Holzmann effect of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, using variations of that phenomenon’s name in different books of the series. It’s cleverly never explained in any detail, but serves the background and feel of realism of the setting very well. Again, a nod to science without spoiling the fun with an explanation which would likely backfire as seeming contrived and even less consistent with real-world science. As a plot device permitting rapid space travel and personal force-screens, enabling the plot by fostering willing suspension of disbelief, it works well for that reason.

From my own writing, like my Gods of Terra setting, both old timeline and the current reboot, there’s the Kurtz-Dunar effect, named for scientists Raoul Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, permitting cheap, safe, and efficient surface-to-orbit and interstellar travel, and personal teleportation via short-range warps in space-time, among other things.

It’s annoying when I see something over-explained elsewhere and annoying when I do it myself as well, especially the latter.

After all, if I really knew how the Kurtz-Dunar effect, or ancient relic technology like hypershards, actually worked, I wouldn’t be using them as plot devices in my fiction, but instead building and testing working prototypes under contract from DARPA! and I am quite obviously not doing that . . .

So, the more shone, not told, and the more economic that is, only what furthers the story, the better.

That’ll do for me, one story at a time, no matter what region of space-time, and which space-time continuum, is involved.