October News

Hi everyone

The site has had a few days hiatus, but is now largely back online with a new provider Style:Cymru.  I must declare an interest here as they’re providing this space for free, but I’m also working with Style:Cymru to provide website design and hosting to small and medium enterprises.  If you’re looking for a hands on approach and 20 years experience of web technologies you could benefit from Style:Cymru’s approach to Web Design.

Most of the site is up and running again, I’m still looking around in case I missed anything, but my principle work lately is at dailywords.co.uk and my OU work has been sucking me in during that last month too.  There are big changes at the OU, many of them about being more student centered, and unlike most large organizations, they seem to really have something going for them in this sphere.

I’ll be returning to the books again soon.  I am preparing a print anthology of works from DailyWords, because I have enough material already, and for here I am going to be pushing out some shorts about the Mission universe as well.

In case I haven’t said before, the current run of the Mission universe as a Roleplaying game has come to an end, I don’t anticipate any more of that for another four and a half years.  I need to let it have time to settle and to push out the books that cover the roleplaying that’s happened.

My current vision is:-

  • True Daughter – A fuller mid-time history of the Mission Universe interwoven with the story of a Human-Mandorn hybrid.  (About 16,000 words into it)
  • Strange Girl – Jemima’s story.  School lasts until age 26, humans live until they are about 400.  Jemima is the survivor of a kidnap/murder attempt, using rule of The Garden to do away with her and her cohort.  Granted almost unlimited life in a universe of the long lived, she gains a unique perspective on the development of civilizations and the cold death of the universe.  If you live a million years, could you connect?  (About 5000 words into it)
  • The Crow Directive – The story of the first intergalactic war, with Captain Crow and the crew, including Alice, (see the short story about her her already on site).  (About 30,000 words into it)
  • Second Wave – Working title, Wrench, Avery and Bill work to undo the damage from the first intergalactic war as chaos rage around them, venturing into the Second Galaxy once more to broker peace, and make some very strange discoveries.
  • Aw, look!  So cute!” – Working title.  A new space-faring species makes itself known during the second intergalactic war, with devastating consequences.  Probably also source material for when we resume roleplaying Mission if I don’t drop dead first.

And lastly in this post I want to remember Albert A. Temple, writer and cartoonist of Gene Catlow.  I followed Gene Catlow for ten years, but Mr Temple had been writing it since 2000, before I ever came up with Mission, and that feels like a long time.  I never wrote to Mr Temple and I hadn’t logged on to Gene Catlow for most of this year, so I only learned just now that he died in March 2017 and that the story remains unfinished.  There were many people that knew him, and I link here to one of the forums with people in it that did, and the Gene Catlow site.


RIP Albert Temple

May News

Because life has been, um, up and down, I haven’t written anything substantive for months.
One of the things about writing for is that my head must be clear somewhat, and that isn’t going to happen so I’m trying new approaches. I thought a status update would be a good idea.
The Mission universe basically has two versions of what is canon, the books draw on what happens in the games, but the book canon is sometimes different as I redraw detail in the light of writing. The game canon tries to remain consistent, but I take very few notes during the game as I don’t “see” things until asked about them or reminded of them, I store a great deal of information in the heads of players where their actions are important to them, and as such the consequences of their actions too if they are to make it into prose.
Currently I have in process three books:-
Strange Girl – Jemima’s Story
If you have played i the games and met Jemima you will have heard all sorts of rumors about her, in the game universe the sort of thing that floats around is that she is a million years old, she can absorb planets, she’s a super being, that sort of thing. Most of this is true.
The other super being in the universe is Layla, (Eleanor, who will not get a Supergirl costume now under any circumstances, [You’d make a kickass Supergirl cosplayer]), who has true superpowers, flight and Psionics, which weren’t around in the Mission universe before the Crow Directive.
Oh, each Galaxy is effectively a universe to itself in Mission. It’s not so much that the physical laws are different, which they are not, it’s more that they are so distant. I also try to keep up with the latest thinking in cosmology, but I’m not a cosmologist so please forgive my mistakes and inventions.
I’m working on True Daughter, this is the story of the war in the second timeline, (there are three, see later post), in which the Squalia and the Humans of the second Galaxy (Andromeda) invade as a consequence of the interference of the Crow Directive, and Alice’s interference in it. (See http://www.missionthegalaxy.com/alice, but please bear in mind that this short tale now diverges from the Game Canon).
The True Daughter in this case is the hybrid child of The mandorn, (See http://www.missionthegalaxy.com/mission-species-the-mandorn, a very short treatment from the sourcebook for Mission), involved in the War of Second Timeline.
The other book currently in production, slowly, is The Crow Directive. This is the story of the original campaign that started the five year thread of Mission beyond the original one-off role-plays, the one where Crow and her crew went and played. It turned into a deeply moral play and there were many threads left unexplored as well as the main story being, well, an epic galaxy spanning roller coaster.
For anyone new, the two books already written are Hal: A Diaspora, the story of how humans left Earth and its destruction; Sadness is Conductive, a dark exploration of a Mind gone wrong. That came out of my head, no-one asked me to write it, unlike Hal, which came out of the desire of players to know about the history of Mission.
This entry is cross posted with small edits to https://www.facebook.com/missionthegalaxy

True Daughter Excerpt

Dark times have been around for me personally, so I haven’t posted for a while.

This is an excerpt from the beginning of what is technically novel 4,


I have seen nebulae rise as if a great cloud in planet-rise. I have seen the globes of dust left by supernovae. I have seen the surface of stars raging their hydrogen song up close, and the beginning of life in ponds of nutrient rich methane on gas giants.

For all this, for all this wonder and glory, I am grateful to our age and the powers granted it. I know of our history and how lucky we are that the singularity event that created our civilisation didn’t swallow us whole.

And yet, there is nothing quite like getting up late to a hot cup of tea and a bacon sandwich.


I’m a half-breed, earns you a little high five from The Mandorn. Means your mommy or daddy was a human open enough to partner with a being that, while individually having its own existence, is also one great big gestalt of about eighty million component parts all talking to each other.

The Mandorn. Blue human beings, and this is an important distinction from merely human. Being human is something that all sentients share; being human is the base condition, some ineffable consciousness that all sentients have, and in the languages spoken or grunted, their name for their species is translated, essentially, as “human” because human really means “people wot grew up on a given planet,” when you get down to brass tacks.

Human Beings are those people whose ancestors, a distant hundred thousand years ago, grew up on old, lost and destroyed Earth. Or those people who can breed with them without intervention. There are two classes of those people. One of them doesn’t concern us. You and I will never meet them. They are referred to in an obscure, and frankly probably fictional account of the adventures of one Captain Crow and her jolly crew. The other is immediate and very real, and that is The Mandorn. They’re blue.

It is blue.

Oh, no, they said, write the account they said, as if no-one knows what you’re talking about, they said. How am I supposed to explain the inexplicable? What are the odds that a singular, telepathic creature evolves on a planet that looks and behaves exactly like eighty million blue human beings?

In an infinite universe, yes, mathematically speaking, one in one. That’s a lot of old tot though. Mathematically speaking there could be a Boltzmann Brain out there in the cosmos, some free floating, space going human brain perfectly able to perceive and move about in the universe, formed by the random accretion of matter into a fully functioning being.

Have we found one? No. Are we likely to? No. Is it an impossibility? No. Merely extremely unlikely.

We still haven’t seen a proton spontaneously decay. We, The Conglomerate, have seen just about everything else, thanks to the Minds.

So, I’m a half-breed. My mother is a human being, and my father is The Mandorn, though somewhat apart from the great hive of the gestalt because it used to drive my mother crazy when he ignored the simple protocol of bringing home the same body if he’d been off wandering about and socialising.

The Mandorn has this gestalt personality, but each component also has a personality, largely to facilitate some sort of thinking process between the components, but also having the side effect that individuals can have lives that are quite far away from whatever goals the main, um well The Mandorn has a phrase for this, “The main body of work” which implies that The Mandorn is doing something, but asked outright it will say that it is beyond human understanding.

What this gives me, by some quirk of genetics and mutation, is green skin, in this respect I am unique, apparently; some degree of telepathy with The Mandorn, it just a sounds like a lot of old noise to me, mostly; and a free tour of whatever is fascinating and cosmic from The Mandorn anytime I go make puppy eyes at it.

What I actually do, as a true daughter of The Mandorn, is persuade a few hundred of them to be my non-player characters in a “medieval” live roleplaying game, which I run on the home planet so I can take advantage of the telepathy.


Historians and contemporary sociologists will say that The Conglomerate has no money and has not had any since human beings went into space. Historians will stick with that view. This is because, in my view, historians need to remove the stick and see that society changes.

Contemporary sociologists will say that there is a complex and ever changing system of favour, gratitude and beneficence that produces a complex byplay of social obligation and debt that is mediated only by the moral and ethical consideration of the relevant parties and local interaction.

In my view contemporary sociologists say this sort of thing because they have inserted a similar looking stick to the one the historians need to remove; main difference being that the contemporary sociologists have used some sort of glue to keep it there and tend to smoke pipes and wear berets while they pontificate. It wouldn’t surprise me if the chief sociologist, if there is one, wears a pointy hat and carries a crook and a chalice.

The Minds have a much clearer idea of what is going on in the universe. In their view, as they tell it, we do what we want as long as our neighbours let us get away with it.

That is why the most interfering people in the galaxy are human beings; apparently they don’t feel that people should be allowed to get away with it. Whatever “it” is.

I take the view that if people are going to do things because I asked them, then good, thanks, that’s great. If I do things because they asked me, then good too, super, I was interested enough to get involved. It’s not a favour, I don’t need any sort of social currency in return.

Actually, I guess there is a social currency, probably around who we enjoyed working/playing with and whether we want to repeat the experience. To state the obvious, if I’m an asshole then people aren’t going to want to play with me.

So anyhow, I run games with a few hundred of The Mandorn’s components acting as pretty clearly signalled non-player characters. With the help of Cedric, a friendly Mind I co-opted into helping coordinate things I can run some good stuff. Cedric’s manufactory is mostly devoted to making things for the game, so we end up with some good gear.

One of the nice aspects is that we can have some pretty lethal looking gear around, and the players, if they are in some sort of battle, can hit The Mandorn, and each other, as hard as they like; Cedric keeps a field around each player that ameliorates the effect of any possible harm.

Yeah, I run games.

And ladies can run about in next to no armour and still have a decent armour class.


Men can do this too, but there is an old school penchant for big, meaty armour going around. A lot of it has cooling gear in it. And powered joints. My rule is that you can’t have a sword that is bigger than you.

This is my principle activity.

I like games.

Then the war came.

I have a large army of trained fighters that are pretty fit and used to a lot of activity. Alright, they use swords and weak laser pistols, but it’s easy to upgrade a laser pistol. Very easy.

1. Unhappy landing

Ship wide.

“I have to shut down my higher functions. If you are not actively engaged in combat, please remain in your cabins. I have initiated lifeboat protocol. Autonomous systems will remain online. Caution. Caution.”

This calm message repeats throughout the ship several times; the people moving around the ship are the people preparing to do battle, and thousands of ship’s avatars, now all in linear processor mode, waiting for the engagement. The only other person in any position to influence things resides in chair in the main interface terminal.

“Now, we’ve got about fifteen minutes, and then I’m gone. We can do this autonomously but I bet you’d rather I was here.” The woman looks up, at the ‘helmet’ hovering above her head.

“I wish you’d get on with it.”

“Your inherent reluctance is a block.”

“You’re about to use my brain as the central processor for the ship, I’m nervous.”

“Yes, but you have to be willing.”

“I am.”

“Yes, but frankly Yolanda, not totally willing, and I’m about to give up my sentience, so I really need to be sure.”

“The enemy are coming, let’s do something about that?”

“They’re not really the enemy you know, they’re misguided.”

“Misguided or not, they’re going to destroy our way of life. You said that in many of your projections it’s already too late.”

“It was too late when Crow let them live.”

“You can’t commit genocide.”

“I know, so it was always too late. Things are going to change. But we won’t survive if we don’t do something about it.”

“Won’t we be just different?”

“We’ll be subsumed.”

“Then let’s get on with it.”

Yolanda the Sacrifice.

She’s been called that a year now; since the ceremony in the game. The game posited that someone would have to give their life for the rest for the rest of the players, i.e. give up their hobby with this group. It’s a big deal, doing that. You might have been running with the same crew for a hundred years, you know them. They know you. They are your friends, you confidants, your family. You have to give that up.

It’s not a thing that happens often in games, maybe once in a lifetime, which means four or five hundred years; given how long human beings and other humans live, this is about right.

The Had I Only Known’s avatar approached the games master one day, with news.

“Real War?” Lisa, green skinned, partly human, partly of The Mandorn, had looked disturbed.

“You’ve heard of the Andromeda Affair?”

“Yes, of course I have, it’s been all over the nets for years now. Crow and her crew saved a bunch of, er, silicon? Anyhow some other kind of life-form in the other galaxy. I thought it was a load of baloney. You’d need lifetimes to reach Andromeda, even with you guys.”

“Normally true. We made them a new ship.” Lisa’s eyes went flat.

“We’re going to talk about that later. At length.” The avatar, Ephraim, had sighed, somewhat theatrically, at that point.

“Yes, I imagine we are.”

So Lisa has been training her troops since then.

Yolanda and the others have been put through fire and ice, through high-g and zero-g training. The fields have been less effective. Lisa managed to get the women into heavier armour and the men into lighter armour. Then she proposed a low tech space game while putting the fantasy, so carefully designed to allow daft armour, on hiatus. So she got them into spacesuits. Then space armour.

“What are really doing Yolanda?” One of them had asked one day on a private channel. “The suits are reporting weeks of power now, not days; and at high activity too. They can sustain us for months if we’re lost. What’s going on?”

Yolanda explained it. Explained the war front encroaching upon their game. Explained how the Minds were closing down, and how there would have to be human intervention.

There was shock. A real war. With real fighting.

Some people panicked. Some people, the really dangerous ones, got pumped about it. The rationals wondered what it would mean and what they could do to help.

She picked groups. The rationals and the panickers she put together, and people stopped panicking. The pumped people she made into marines.

They held a lottery to see who would become the ship’s Mind. Yolanda won.

By chance.

The odds were about seven thousand to one.

Or if you were the ship and in Yolanda’s thrall, about one in one. So she was chosen.

“I’m nervous. Who wouldn’t be nervous?” She says.

“You’ve died once, I’ve sustained you, you’re used to being in a virtual environment. This isn’t that different.”

“Isn’t it? Lives are going to depend on me.” Ephraim looks her in the eye.

“Yes, and soon. So can you just give yourself a moment to adjust?”

“I think I’ve done all the adjustment I’m doing. Let’s just do it.” Yolanda rolls her eyes. She can see advice coming.

“Ok. Just pace yourself, despite what I just said, this isn’t like playing in a simulation.”

“Alright.” And despite Ephraim’s doubts, she tries to calm her mind, knowing that her green friend and so many others depend on it.

Yolanda’s head has already been swept clean and smooth and there is nothing to interrupt the passage of the superfine needles into her head as the helmet lowers. The sensation is odd for Yolanda, she feels the needles at the surface, but there is no pain, just a coldness, and then her eyes go wide open as the needles penetrate her brain, becoming feathers that bifurcate as if they are tiny trees growing in her physical mind. Every connection is used, every neuron fires, every synapse is connected, hardwired to the ship. For Yolanda it is the biggest sensation she has ever had. It is complete and utter bliss, she feels that she knows all, sees all, and then her mind explodes in true understanding.

2. Expansion

Minds have a size and the human mind is no different. This size is to do with the physical size that is mapped in the brain to allow body and mind to be coordinated. It can be tricked and is a subject to a certain distortion when needed. This distortion is resisted in extreme circumstances, there needs to be a period of training, of adaption and habituation.

Yolanda is experiencing this now. Precisely because it is such a trope in movies, she is standing on a white plain, no shadows, no features, no furniture. Just Ephraim standing opposite her in his most usual avatar form. A slim frame wearing a sort of beige dress that is a vogue right now, slit up both sides to allow freedom of movement, and some loose shorts beneath. Yolanda is dressed in some loose slacks and a polo shirt. The shirt is yellow and has the logo of the ship on it.

“Starting from scratch huh?” Says Ephraim, “That is sage, but we’re short on time.”

“So we’re not doing some sort of training montage where I do incredible things in a short amount of time because it’s not real?” Ephraim gives her an old fashioned look.

“It’s all too real and the training is more about becoming more than you are.” He raises his hand and the white featureless plain changes. It is a control room. There are consoles and displays everywhere and people moving around purposefully. “Crikey is this how you see me inside?” His voice has some degree of incredulity about it.

“More or less.”

“Hopeless.” He waves his hand again. The people moving around slow to a crawl of barely perceptible movement. “This is more like it, look more closely.”

Yolanda leans in to one of the consoles and sees that the display initially looks like static has taken over, but, as she concentrates, the static becomes coherent and she can zoom in on a section of it. As she does so she seems to enter a dual state, as if she is concentrating very hard, and at the same time, paying little attention to anything.

She looks at Ephraim.

“I’m still looking at the detail, how is that happening?”

“That’s lesson one. You’re going to divide your attention, you have to. The ship is big and you have to pay attention to many things at once.”

“But you have loads of autonomous systems.”

“I do, but you can’t rely on those. And you can’t, still, do everything at once.” Ephraim looks about, clearly focussed elsewhere for a second. “They’re coming. Fifteen minutes. Look over here, don’t lose what you’re looking at.” They walk over to another console, Yolanda looking somewhat distracted. “These are all the conversations I’m having right now.” Down the screen there are millions of microscopic threads containing the dialogue of each conversation going on right now.

Simultaneity 2

Continuing on.

We’ve established that things don’t happen at the same time. This is true in almost all circumstances.  Indeed, it has been shown that since we, humans, are in a gravity field, even our head and our feet don’t experience the same time frame.

How do we even function, you ask? That’s not too hard, everything moves slower than this tiny time difference, so we don’t notice it.

Last time, we looked at the speed limit of the universe and the top speed.  By relating it to the human experience you will hopefully have got an idea of what it means when we say that nothing happens at the same time.

In your head, because we used, implicitly, this model, we had two people separated who had synchronised clocks.  That implication is faulty, but it is fixable.

Let’s explore why it is faulty.

My clock says 10am. We’re going to assume it’s accurate to within some arbitrary limit.  What do I mean.  I mean that if you argue that the clock is a bit “out” I’m going to say that we can make it more accurate.  Is this valid? Well, yes and no.  It is certainly valid enough of our purposes, we have already made locks that are accurate enough to only lose or gain a second in a few billion years. That’s pretty accurate, specifically we can measure the difference in time passing between our head and our feet on Earth.  It’s not absolutely true though, because there are fundamental uncertainties built in the universe.  If you can accept that the clock is accurate enough that you will never see a deviation that is not caused by some other effect, then we’re good.

My clock says 10am.

Juno is 48 light minutes away.  Remember that light travels at the speed limit of the universe, so we can make statements like this, it takes any signal at least 48 minutes to travel from Juno to Earth.  Light does top speed, so it’s 48 minutes.

What time is it on the spacecraft?

At MY 10am Juno send a signal to Earth, a clock synchronising signal.

That “beep” is going to arrive at 10.48am my time.

Right well, let’s discount a few things.  Acceleration and gravity will change things, let’s leave them out for simplicity, we can factor them back in after.

So what time did Juno send the signal.


Juno’s 10am is our 10.48am, because we don’t get the signal for 48 minutes, therefore, Juno’s 10am arrives with us those 48 minutes later.

I know I’m labouring this, but I’m going to mess with it down the road, partly due to sound physics, partly due to my fictional universe.

Now, we know that Juno sent a signal a while ago, but Juno’s now is synchronised with our now at 10.48.

That’s the closest we can be.

For the same reason, we can only be as near as 4 years away from Proxima.  Note carefully what I said.

Now, you and I know that is the same as 4 light years away, that 4 year gap is how simultaneous we can be, at most.  (I should probably say “least”)

So anything that happens at that star cannot affect us for 4 years, and we cannot affect that star for that same 4 years.

Good so far?

If you think you’ve understood this, you probably have, it’s not quantum physics.  (Don’t get me started).

Alright, now we’re going to lay a little non-linearity on you.  If you want to know about the weird stuff that comes with a universal speed limit, then you should look at this https://youtu.be/msVuCEs8Ydo.  (It’s a really good intro, don’t be scared)  There are a lot of people who explain it a lot better than me, but I am also arrogant enough to believe that there are still holes, gaps in the knowledge that have been “hand waved” over.  (Bear in mind thought that I’ve been doing cosmic/quantum physics for 45 years as a hobby and I still learn things daily).

Not the point here though.

Here, in this article, I’m going to go for the fiction.

Specifically, I’m going to break the light speed rule and have a think about the consequences.  It doesn’t matter HOW we break light speed, but again, in the interests of our heads not exploding, we’re going to ignore most of relativity, (as we have so far) exactly as I have been explaining some parts of it.

So, no time dilation, nothing like that, just classical travel as though we’re doing low speed and we cannot generally see the results of relativity without really accurate clocks.

What happens if one of the Mind Ships breaks the speed limit?

Let’s take a simple scenario. Let’s say that our spaceship, The RuleBreaker can travel, um at 4 times the speed of light. Remember, there is nothing special about light, but it does provide a convenient measure of the speed limit of the universe, precisely because light travels at top speed.

Let’s further assume that we can’t intercept any signals between the Earth and The RuleBreaker while in transit.  (Because being able to do so has consequences that we’re not ready to discuss).

So, we send a signal to Proxima at 10am 4th July 2016.  It is the “beep’ of our now.

It will arrive no earlier than (taking it to be exactly 4 years), 10am 4th July 2020.  That is when our now will be at Proxima.

Our star ship takes off at the same time, 10am, 4th July 2016.

It arrives at Proxima on 4th July 2017.  The RuleBreaker takes up an orbit and now awaits the signal that we sent at light speed from Earth, it won’t arrive for another 3 years.

Now, here’s the question, has The RuleBreaker travelled to the future or the past?

Earth’s now signal won’t arrive at Proxima until well into the future of The RuleBreaker.

The consequence of this is that we must say that The RuleBreaker has travel into the past.

How can we show this?

The RuleBreaker sends a signal to Earth immediately upon arrival at Proxima.  That signal will arrive at Earth on 4th July 2021, a year after the original signal from Proxima.  This means that The RuleBreaker has sent a signal from the past, (remember Proxima always lies 4 years into our past) to the future, to us, 4 years later.

So have we broken causality?

Any signals arrive at Proxima from Earth could now be intercepted by The RuleBreaker, but that signal would have to be sent after 4th July 2013, because those signals are the earliest that The RuleBreaker can capture, because before then it is not at Proxima to capture anything.

Let’s say that The RuleBreaker stays at Proxima for a year, until 4th July 2018.  In that year it can capture signals from Earth that are sent up until date 4th July 2014.

So far we’re not in too much trouble, but we have clearly broken causality.

You’ll remember that in the first article I laboured the speed limit of the universe at length, and that was because I want to be able to make it clear, um, now, (I’m hilarious), that this idea, causality is directly influenced by the speed limit.

We should be clear now that the universal speed limit means that the consequence of any action doesn’t happen, (or for a certain point of view, even exist) until the effects have travelled to the place it is observed from.

That was a bit obscure.  What I’m saying is that events at Proxima don’t happen as far as Earth is concerned for 4 years.  By the same logic, events at Earth don’t influence Proxima for 4 years.

Until, that is, The RuleBreaker arrives at Proxima.  Now, as far as the ship is concerned, the closest simultaneity is now 1 year apart, not 4, but the rest of the universe still uses that 4 year gap.

This means that a signal from Earth, sent at the same time as the star ship set off to Proxima still has 3 years before it, the signal, will arrive at Proxima.

We have broken causality.  I’m going to call this the Minor Break in Causality.  From a certain point of view we must have travelled back in time, because we can interfere with the natural and normal course of events.  But, note, effect cannot come before cause here, there is still a linear time in everything that we have discussed so far.

Let’s make things a bit more desperate.

The Sun goes nova.  (Um, I’m not sure it can, but for the sake of argument, that’s our scenario).

We’ve got a little colony on a planet of Proxima, and Earth has built another ship.

The sun goes Nova 10am 25th December 2020.  We know it’s going to do this; it’s been showing signs.  But let’s say we only knew yesterday, 24th December.

We know the destruction of Earth is coming, but, and you might not know this, Novas are so powerful that anything “only” 4 light years away will be affected too, rendered inhabitable.  (So yeah, Proxima, don’t go Nova).

Yesterday we launched The Rulebreaker II, which also takes a year to reach Proxima, as with the original ship.  It will get there 24th December 2021, which is three years before the destructive radiation of the Novas will get there, more than enough time to evacuate.

So, yes, we’ve broken causality, but so far only in a “we sped up simultaneity to a year instead of four years”, kind of way.  Note, we’ve IGNORED relativity more or less.  Deal with that after.  This whole section is about going from the non-fiction to the fiction, and what that means.

I’m going to stop there and let that all sink in.  Someone might pick holes in it, and I need a chance to revisit it as well.

It would be nice to have some non-spam comments that think about this idea.


There is nothing in the universe that is human scaled.  Expansion is so fast at the edges that light cannot return from the far reaches of the universe.  Life has taken on different and truly extraordinary forms out there at the edge.

We are surrounded by paradox, move just a little and your time is not the same as someone else’s time, your centre of the universe is different, your signals will differ, your edge of the universe is different.

We don’t see civilisation when we look through telescopes because light is hopelessly slow, the extraordinary proliferation of life happens in recognisable forms, human sized forms later than we can see, because we can penetrate back to the beginning of the universe but we cannot see what is happening now.

Einstein showed us that the very concept of now is slippery.  And it’s slippery in so many ways.

By the time we have talked about now it is the past and yet for someone it is still the future.

Look at closest star, nothing that happens there will reach us for 4 years, (thereabouts).

This is profound, the universe has a speed limit, to understand it we need to scale it down.

When driving long distance, (I live in the UK), it doesn’t really matter how fast I drive the highest average speed I can achieve is about 60mph.  (It’s actually close to 50, but I want to make the sums easier later on and I can do better at night).  It’s as if the motorways were empty and I could still only do 60mph.  I can’t get anywhere faster than that.  It’s what I have to plan for.

The universe is like that, at 60mph I can’t anything about things until I get where I’m going.

If I have no remote communications; phones, telegraph, light signals, then I can literally do nothing until I get there.  (We’re leaving aside the minor difficulty that people might see me coming in the last few hundred yards).

That means that I can’t influence anything until I have arrived.

This is hard to wrap your head around, it seems simple, but it has consequences.

We talk about being a certain amount of time away from places, that’s familiar.  In our 60mph scenario if I’m two hours away then if I always travel at 60mph, (which for our scenario, I do), then I must be 100 miles away.

If something happens at your location and I’m two hours away then I can’t influence it for two hours, at all.

It’s worse than that though.  You’re thinking, “I can phone Friday and tell her that I’m in trouble.”  No, you can’t.  no phones, no light, no nothing.  You have to send someone.  They can travel at 60mph.  Your messenger takes two hours to reach me.  Until then I don’t even know you’re in trouble.  (In my scenario, you’re in trouble, because well, something happened).

Your messenger and I come back.  That takes another two hours.  Your messenger can’t communicate with you, so they and I only know what happened initially, that’s two hours ago when they reach me, and four hours ago by the time we reach you.

I hope you weren’t drowning.

The universe is exactly like that, (there is one exception, but it’s complicated and not really relevant here.  And Einstein didn’t like it.)

At 60mph top speed anything that happens 60 miles away cannot affect me for an hour.

We say that the maximum simultaneity between things happening “here” and things happening 60 miles away is an hour.  In our world, blow up a huge (atomic) bomb, and 60 miles from that event no effects will be felt at all, for an hour.  It’s as if, for that hour, that bomb hasn’t happened.

Actually, from the point of view of someone 60 miles away, it has not happened for an hour.

Nonsense, you’re saying, things that have happened stay happened.  True.  But let me demonstrate what I mean, and remember, if you’re at all knowledgeable about this stuff, I’m dealing with one tiny aspect of the real world because this part seems simple and people get to the weird stuff just too damn fast.

Anyhow I was saying that if we know what time that bomb is going off. (again, ignoring a lot of consequences about time and stuff that happen in the real world), and it’s more than an hour away, i.e. 60 miles, it hasn’t happened for us, and never needs to happen for us.

You should have a good idea by now that we can drive away from the centre of the blast.  Supposing that we start driving the instant the bomb goes off, because we “know”, (we have a clock with an alarm).  We drive away from the centre of the blast at 60 mph.

Now, the bomb’s blast is coming to us at 60mph and we’re driving away at 60mph.  When will the blast reach us?  Never.  That’s common sense.  No problem there.

Let’s say that the bomb has no real effect 240 miles away from the centre of the explosion.  That’s a four-hour radius.  We’re driving away from the bomb, so we drive for four hours.  That places us still an hour away from the bomb’s furthest reach, and since signals need an hour to reach us from that radius, and the bomb stopped having an effect, it never affected us.  We can’t see the result, or be affected by it, unless of course we drive back and see the devastation.  I’m not doing that.

For our scenario, this speed limit is a trick, we’ve slowed down the speed of any signal to human relatable speeds.  We couldn’t function if this was the case because, well for a start we couldn’t see.

If we cover ten times the distance, 600mph, it’s the same.  If we could drive that fast and scaled everything up to that speed, it’s exactly the same.

So, are you still with me at 6000mph?  That’s more than fast enough to reach New York from London in an hour, it should be clearer though that we don’t immediately know what is going on in New York if we live in London.  Still human scaled?

You should, hopefully be still with me at 6000mph, but what about 60,000 mph.  It’s no different, but are the scales getting large?

If we could travel at 60,000mph we could get to the moon in about four hours.  If that’s the speed-limit, then when we look at the moon we’re seeing it as it was four hours ago.  No problem there, because if the speed limit was 60mph it would be like looking at the moon from days ago.

Remember, there are a lot of things I’m ignoring because I want to focus of simultaneity; but there is no loss of accuracy in what I’m saying here, other effects are simply not part of the model and that actually doesn’t matter right now, it doesn’t make any difference.

So, our current speed limit is 60,000mph.  Signals from the moon take four hours, which means that anything that happens there hasn’t happened here for four hours.  For those four hours it cannot affect us.

Be aware, I’m leading you on in baby steps, but not down any garden path, this is real stuff, actually how the universe works.

The difference between our scenarios and the real world is only speed, light, which is the ultimate signal carrier, (because screw you quantum entanglement are you carrying a signal or not?), travels a lot faster than our slow speed limits.  A ridiculous amount faster.

This is how fast it goes, and it can’t go any faster because the universe has a speed limit.



Yes, somewhat over 6½ hundred million miles an hour.

Let’s do some simple sums.

Juno got into orbit around Jupiter the other day.  (Hurrah!  NASA).

The radio signal, (same speed as light) took 48 minutes to get back to Earth and tell us all that it had succeeded.  This means that until that signal came, that event, as far as we’re concerned, hadn’t happened.

(OK, I’m simplifying, Juno got into orbit and then confirmed it using on-board systems and then sent a signal back, but for our purposes we could have been looking through a high powered telescope and spent a little time observing and it would have been the same thing).

That lag, that seems so familiar, because it’s covered in the media all the time with little thought, is deeply profound, we cannot know what is happening “now” to Juno, we can only ever know what happened 48 minutes ago.  That is the closest that it is.  It is literally, universally 48 minutes away.  It now cannot be closer than that without journeying back to Earth.

So, sums.

48 minutes is 4/5th of an hour. (Look at a clock).

4/5th of 670,616,629, well, let’s not do that.  4/5th of something is the same as saying 0.8.

So 0.8 × 670,616,629 is about 536,493,303 miles

So, Jupiter about 536,493,303 miles away by our calculation.

Let’s see what NASA says.  Huh, NASA’s Jupiter page is down right now, so here’s a quote from Space.com instead.

How far is Jupiter from Earth?

Because both planets travel in an elliptical path around the sun, Jupiter‘s distance from Earth is constantly changing. When the two planets are at their closest point, the distance to Jupiter is only 365 million miles (588 million kilometres). From its closest point, Jupiter shines so brightly that even Venus dims in comparison. At its farthest, the gas giant lies 601 million miles (968 million km) away.”

(Space.com, http://www.space.com/18383-how-far-away-is-jupiter.html; retrieved 8 July 2016)

Alright!  It seems that we have a clue.  It’s a bit further away, at the closest distance than our calculation, but certainly with some decent margin of error.  (I never expected to be spot on).

So yes, Jupiter is 48 minutes away, (did I get the 48 minutes right, you find out), and nothing there can affect us for at least that amount of time.

It should be clear now that simultaneity is a tricky thing, I’ve said more than once that “things can only be so simultaneous” and I hope it’s a bit clearer what that means.

We’ll cover what it means for something to be in your future, but my past, next time.


You can find many interesting things and follow the Juno mission at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/main/index.html. NASA has a vast array of public domain images and information about their missions and you can spend many happy hours finding out about the science they do.  (This isn’t an ad, I’m just saying, go there).

The Mandorn


This page, The Mandorn, has some (now historical), material about The Mandorn, a species/being in the original game.

I’ve included this because all the material is there an available but needs updating, in light of the new stories being generated by players.

So far, I haven’t mentioned The Mandorn in any writing, Hal or the forthcoming book, Sadness is Conductive.

In progress report

Excerpt from Sadness is Conductive, the current work in progress in The Mission Universe…

Second Overture

Pauses – 1134 AE

The Sadness is Conductive

Estema Dilys Portillo, descendent of that original reporter, is looking over her father’s files. Her father, Erman Portillo, kept meticulous records, but was not a great investigative journalist, so his records were thorough, but not necessarily complete.

The Sadness has an avatar in the room, because it spends a lot of time with Estema. This avatar is male, bearded with light brown hair, affecting a black beret and polo neck jumper with slacks and a small bag with items for taking notes and sketches. She knows this is unnecessary, but The Sadness seems to enjoy the tactile nature of the activities, so the matter is not raised between them.

‘Bill, what’s this file?’ She asks looking vaguely in the avatar’s direction. It’s not marked up apart from the discovery of remains in your accessible substrate.’

‘Some sort of sabotage I think.’


‘That’s the most likely cause. I don’t have data on the remains.’

‘I’m sorry, you said what now?’

‘There is a data error in this matter. You know such things can happen, due to the quantum nature of memory.’

‘Yes, I do, but I thought such things were rare.’

‘Coincidences happen.’ The avatar shifts around and takes a pipe out of the little bag.

‘I’d rather you didn’t do that in here.’ There is a pause, and the pipe is put away again.

‘Anyway, I think the whole thing was dismissed as a one-time sabotage event, so I put the matter into long term storage.’


‘It didn’t seem significant.’

‘Alright. It just seems strange that no further investigation was carried out.’

‘You know what your dad was like.’

‘Yes, but still…’

‘Fairs and birthdays were his sort of thing.’

‘Yes, even so it seems…’

‘Small town newspaper type really, much happier covering the human interest stories.’


‘Pictures of family groups and that.’


‘Babies and such.’

‘Why, Bill, are you avoiding?’

‘Am I?’

‘Yes, Bill, you’re wittering.’


‘What about this file?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Then could you have a look please?’


‘What’s that smell?’

It is a few days before she is missed, and The Sadness maintains that she has gone on sabbatical.