I like galactic empires. I like to talk about them, write about them, and read about them. Do you?
There was no morning on Namurai Sun Jewel I, but in the hours of waking, a mist passed over the trench and coated all in a glimmering sheen. The silver buildings gleamed and the black sky seemed to soften and relent its crushing presence. The Admiral woke in his quarters covered in moisture. It was not like the delicate and fragrant dew of Lumina, rather it clung like honey and disturbed his skin. He rolled out of bed and ran to the dry-shower, where he scrubbed furiously with noxious chemicals. As he stepped out, a hard knock came at the door. Opening it, he saw a familiar face.
“And I suppose you want me to lead the charge?” The Admiral said.
His face flushed red and he brought his palms down hard on the oval platform. “Of course that’s what I want! I want you to scream into battle aboard the Jade Javelin! Break the will of the Alliance of Free Worlds and send them back screaming to their primitive hovels. Generate enough glory so sate the bards for a thousand years!”
“Has your memory returned yet my liege?” asked Jole.
The Admiral was silent for a time. This place was familiar, and he had certainly crossed paths with whatever or whoever was inside.
“Faintly. Somehow I feel it is the end of my journey.”
“Perhaps. This is the Patriarch’s Palace.”
Jole placed his hand in the center of the two doors, and whispered, “Ultos Huros Exedi Nom.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Millennia ago when this planet was warm and full of life, the first humans were molded from the primal sludge and set free by the Maker. This is the last city built before the pan-exodus.“
He motioned broadly at the nothingness surrounding the ancient buildings. “During the aeon between our estrangement and reunion, Namurai Sun Jewel wasted away into this scoured, shriveled husk. But the ancient city was preserved with the best technologies of that primitive age, and so it remains, the last relic of our youth.”
The ship traversed the void between the gas giant's shell and the small white sphere. It docked with a spaceport that had seen better days, or perhaps better millennia.
Jole led the Admiral out of the Jade Javelin and into the spaceport. They walked in silence down a series of long empty corridors. At last they came to the space elevator, a sphere of crystal that would spirit them safely to the surface.
As they neared the solar system, the planets gained distinct shape and color. One in particular stood out, it was the fourth from the sun and shone by far the brightest. From outward appearances it was a gas giant, with a shell of copper-colored clouds and many red and purple spots. The Admiral noticed dozens of space-stations orbiting it slowly, skimming the atmosphere like dead whales drifting through an ocean of rust. As the ship neared the largest of the stations, a computerized voice filled the bridge,
“Travelers, beam your codec-packet immediately.”
The first man went over and undid the straps.
A rush of memories returned at the mention of the ship. His mind played back scenes of mammoth trees, ghostly colors, and birds with long, muscled wings gnawing away at a ceiling of interwoven branches. Lurking at the edge of every image was a dark skinned figure clad in gray with a face sometimes sympathetic and sometimes hostile, but always heavy with guilt. Words came back to him as well. ‘Lumina.’ ‘Lantern Hawk.’ ‘Toruln.’
A formless glow born of a billion distant light-sources shone on the other side of a clear partition. It held no warmth and no chill, and it might have been a painting or an illusion freed from the sleeve of a conjurer. A man was seated before it. He had been gazing into it since its birth, and with each rise and fall of a celestial empire, he had become aware of another aspect of his being.
Half of the Blæc Guard split off and cornered the villagers. The rest lined up before the Admiral and raised their rifles. Their black armor bristled like quills, red lights blinked in place of eyes on their visors, and fearsome plastiform trunks hung from their mouthpieces. A voice lacking any resonance or warmth came from their ranks, seeming to belong to all of them at once.
In a single breath all fell silent. Like fog shredded by the wind, the cacophony dissolved into silence. Grefa slowly opened his eyes and peered out between his knees. His entire body trembled as the last vestiges of sound dissolved; it felt as if several Gs of pressure had been banished in the blink of an eye. He exhaled a great breath and struggled to his feet. All around him others rose and swayed back and forth in half-lit night. They murmured garbled words and looked about with wandering eyes.
The autolutes began to play. Their notes rippled through the viscous floral air and soon became an indiscernible warbling drone. The canopy began to shake as if a strong wind was pushing on it and there were several sharp cracks above. Shards of wood rained down, followed immediately by the shadowy forms of six Lantern Hawks. The creatures clove the stagnant air and glided about the village with wings outspread and locked in place. One by one, they swung towards the suspended Lampflower and fell into a circular pattern around it.
“Those lights— what are they?” Grefa asked.
“Lampflowers of course, didn’t your briefing cover them?”
“No, it didn’t...”
He went to one of the orbs and inspected it. It was in fact the bulb in the toroid of a massive flower. Except for the one suspended above the clearing, each grew naturally on the perimeter of the village.
He turned and saw the Admiral sitting with the others. He held an odd instrument and plucked at it experimentally.
“Is that an autolute?” Grefa asked, returning to the Admiral's side.
Well, as they say, turnabout is fair play, so, since Teramis has recently been inspired by me, then it's my turn to be inspired by her post:
I love galactic empires. Adore them. I think they're great settings for conflict and character driven stories, and give us the space to explore things at a remove from the cultural here/now of our own time and space and 21st century society.
Forrest J Ackerman, who influenced a generation of young horror movie fans with Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and spent a lifetime amassing what has been called the world's largest personal collection of science fiction and fantasy memorabilia, has died. He was 92.
Ackerman, a writer, editor and literary agent who has been credited with coining the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s, died Thursday of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles, said John Sasser, a friend who is making a documentary on Ackerman.
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Steven Brust has posted the full text of a Firefly fan-fic novel he wrote.
(via Boing Boing)
Eric Cook let me know about this.
It's so interesting I think I am going to actually go back to the beginning of its lifetime and go through all of the posts....
In Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster looks at peer-reviewed research on deep space exploration, with an eye toward interstellar possibilities.
In his book Is There Life on Other Worlds, Poul Anderson makes a point about how long it would take to explore the galaxy. The "isolation" argument is usually used to explain why we have not been visited by extra-terrestrial life, i.e. it would take so long that this can be taken as a reason that we have not encountered any aliens so far (to our knowledge). However, the argument contains a flaw, which is that the exploration, or the growth of knowledge about explored systems, is linear.
I recently got my hands on the rare but classic
Is There Life on Other Worlds
by Poul Anderson
(with an introduction by Isaac Asimov)
Crowell-Collier Press, 1963
I highly recommend it.
Fred Saberhagen has died. :-(
I really like almost all of his work: the "Swords" books, the "Empire" books, the "Berserker" books, etc.
Is it possible to hold a galactic empire together without faster-than-light travel (including portals, teleportation, etc.)?