2024 Writing Calendar - June

April was horribly frantic. My final exams, the end of my undergraduate program, then immediately moving and splitting up from my roommates of two/three years. My frame of reference for life has expired, and I'm working on building a new one. This will be my summer of art (and unfortunately job applications). This month, I'm going to post some writing every single day. Not a century, not even a full entry. I’ve been writing longer pieces, and I’ll allow myself to enter a few paragraphs, even without context, of something longer if I don’t have a complete thought to add. The calendar keeps me accountable. I’d also like to write more inspired from my fellow writchal members; I haven’t been reading enough this last month. There’s much to catch up on.

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  • 4
  • 11
    Data Crystals
  • 18
  • 25
  • 6
  • 13
  • 20
  • 27
  • 7
  • 14
  • 21
  • 28

  • Entry 151 - Sightlines

    Cities need their sightlines. Overlapping towers and interwoven roadways, the barrage of detail fading into abstract patterns against the horizon. Scale must be felt, kept in plain view as a reminder of the vastness of the cement and asphalt organism beneath your feet. The fire escapes and power cables and old chipped front doors busy the blocks around you. Tall bridges, hills, lookouts, and most of all rivers. In the downtown core the streets crossed in front of you extend like two perpendicular valleys, but on a river’s edge the entire skyline, and the jagged outlines of neighbourhoods stretch out to all sides.

    Entry 152 - Heavenly Pillars

    Not quite a clearing, not quite a forest, but a green space with trees and grass, bushes and small hills and a pond somewhere in the middle. It’s quiet, but the wind is strong. The not-quite-a-clearing takes only ten minutes to walk across at its widest point, before the dirt and moss turns to smooth crystalline stone steps. The steps are long, easily a few dozen meters across, and might not even resemble steps at first, and more like a gentle stone slope leading up away from the not-a-forest.

    The first steps are almost unnoticeable changes in elevation, but with each one you pass the height of the next grows. Soon the steps are uncomfortably high, then fences to clamber on top of, and soon towering stone walls many storeys high, and it’s not a staircase anymore. Soon the stone structure gives way to a towering pillar, round and easily two hundred meters in diameter, reaching far into the heavens, almost out of sight. The stone steps radiate out in regular circles from the centre of the pillar, an exponential step-gradient sloping down towards the now small patch of greenery below.

    Across the stone valley, on the other side of the not-clearing, you can see an identical set of steps sloping up towards an identical pillar, just as perspective-shatteringly vast as the first. In the distance, you can see the pattern repeat on into the faded distance, a grid of columns holding up the sky. Between them, in the lowest gaps where their radial stone steps meet, lies those small, sweet packets of green, the towering oaks and firs insignificant against the holy superstructure that surrounds them.

    The pillars stretch up, far above the clouds. The weather system moves on as one would expect, as the clouds slowly drift around the colossal stone columns, occasionally dropping a torrential downpour onto the valley below, turning the steps slick with fresh running water. The solemn grey stone shows no sign of erosion, the water flowing in shallow waves across the uniform angles of the valley’s walls. The wind is unceasing, bending trees and giving direction to the repetition of the pillars.

    Squint your eyes, peering through the clouds and the mist, and you can make out a glass roof, far far above the tallest rain-clouds. Grand arches of stone connect the pillars in their heights, impossibly high above the ground, and smaller arches connect those in irregular fractal patterns. The roof, if it is indeed that, is formed of interlocking glass disks, arranged erratically, each perfectly translucent and barely noticeable if not for the slight glint of their edges. These disks range from larger than the clouds below them, to others far too small to see. They cast no shadow on the ground far beneath.

    Entry 153 - The Professor's Staircase

    My first short story! The entire entry came to me suddenly on a day I had a lot of free time. Inspired by 50's-70's science fiction horror.

    Entry 154 - Car Wash

    You pull your parents’ old Toyota into the drive-through car wash late at night. The mechanisms whir and the windows darken with large globs of foam. A deep red light shines through all four windows, fully obscured by the soap. The water wash never comes. Slowly, suds run down the windows, letting blinding rays of light seep in. You catch flashes of green. You step out the door into a brilliant landscape: a fjord above the ocean, with rolling hills behind you and mountains in the distance. You turn back, and you car has rusted away to an old wreck.

    Entry 155 - Blinkspace I

    The issue with travelling through Blinkspace is that Blinkspace doesn’t actually exist. Upon its non-discovery by so-called researchers, the general attitude of the wider scientific community was: “what? how is that useful? what are you talking about?”. The theory, if you’d humour it enough to call it such, was that you could create an arbitrarily wide zero-dimensional opening, which, in theory, could transport matter arbitrarily large distances in a way that completely violated causality, described using mathematics so ludicrously complex that only four individuals in the inner disk had the credentials to call it “utter horseshit”.

    A few radical material scientists and philosophers with no respect for the accepted nature of reality would say something like “well, doorways don’t really exist either, do they?”. The established scientists would retort with “what? yes they do?”. Unfortunately for those well-versed in the thousands of years of established intuition about the nature of spacetime, a unified coalition of scientists bickering about why Blinkspace was impossible failed to prevent it from being invented just six years after the initial theory’s broadcasts.

    The implications of a speed-of-light violating method of transportation could not be understated to a humanity in the midst of a colonization frenzy. Physicists were horrified, and tore up their textbooks, economists jumped with joy, and tore up their textbooks, and sociologists shrugged their shoulders, and tore up their textbooks. Thus marked the new “year zero” of the post-collapse calendar, which lasted a few centuries until an even bigger calamity caused those calendars to be tossed aside yet again.

    Entry 156 - Blinkspace II

    A few fundamental rules on blinkgates and blinkspace jumping

    - The mechanism that instigates a blinkspace jump required an inordinate amount of energy delivered in a split second of time.

    The energy required is dependant on the mass of the ship in transport: ship masses are usually standardized for this reason. For many blinkgates, the maximum t-naught wattage is the limiting factor (and therefore the maximum size of jumping vessels) compared to in-system travel. Larger blinkgates typically increase trade throughput by reducing gate cool-down time rather than maximum vessel size.

    - Multiple blinkgates cannot co-exist in the same system due to destabilizing interference effects.

    The political and economic ramifications of this fact are huge, essentially turning each star system into its own moated castle with a single gate. It is possible to “jam” a system’s blinkgate using a smaller oppositional gate from inside the system, but the more powerful gate usually quickly wins out in such a struggle. Note that the one-blinkgate-per-system is not necessarily true: the Cradle system famously has a system of eight exo-gates at a distance of 0.86LY to allow for larger volumes of traffic.

    Typically, a system’s blinkgate is controlled through treaties between a system’s powers. Upgrades to a system’s blinkgate (usually far cheaper than building a more advanced structure from scratch) can leave a system without outside communications and trade for months at a time, and are considerable logistical challenges. Trade goods are usually subject to tariffs by both sides of the jump, which along with the high cost of blinkgate operation creates a strong economic pressure to produce in-system, with blinkgate trade only being economical for processed materials and finished goods.

    - A pair of blinkgates must by synchronized in order to coordinate a jump.

    Practically, this requires two things: a standard atomic clock that every single blinkgate across human space must adhere to, and an agreed-upon schedule between linked systems of when each gate will be synchronized with each other gate. This is the most important principle of blinkspace economics: There are only 256 days in a solar year, each system can only be linked to one other system at a time, and trade is only possible during that time.

    Smaller systems negotiating a few extra hours of blinkgate access to wealthy systems and trade hubs can have huge ramifications to their economy. However, since blinkgate throughput is limited by the slowest and smallest of the two gates, powerful systems rarely deal directly with smaller systems, typically doing business through a few levels of intermediate systems in order to maximize their own gates’ productivity.

    Additionally, since any blinkgate can link up with any other blinkgate in human space, having a wide array of relationships with other systems is vital to a system’s economy. Gate time is also spent for political reasons: giving close allies a few dedicated jumps per day to ensure stable communication.

    - All blinkspace travel must be manned.

    It is not known exactly what mechanism causes unmanned blinkspace jumps to disappear, but an element of self-awareness, that of a conscious causal actor, is required for a jump to be successful. Contrary to common tales, there are no exceptions to this rule. If you appear to have witnessed an unmanned blinkspace jump, contact your local authorities immediately.

    Entry 157 - BLAME! ('93-'03)

    The City is an inverted solar system: vast leagues of machinery and tightly packed bulkheads of pipes and electronics, rarely broken up by chasms of astronomic proportions and vast oceans of empty space. An immense, layered megastructure, infinitely varied and intricately detailed, painfully three-dimensional. The City is not a city. It pays lip service to human architecture, but denounces human intuition of space and scale. The City does not want you here. Life only exists beneath its notice. Somewhere in the endless labyrinth there must exist a human who can save everyone. You have eternity to find them.

    Entry 158 - Data Crystals

    For the last few hundred years, the main method of data storage and transportation has been in the form of carbon-antimony crystals. Data can be encoded directly into the structure of the crystal itself, where each set of eight atoms can be configured one of three ways. The conversion of commonly-used binary data to the trinary storage mechanisms, built within a 3-dimensional structure which allows for data to be recorded in multiple directions, results in a truly staggering information capacity. A 1cm cube of data crystal could, if left unencrypted and filled to capacity, hold approximately 20 zettabytes of data. Leaving so much information unprotected would be a foolish move in any corner of the galaxy, however.

    The true strength of data crystals is the “needle in a haystack” approach to encryption, where a small amount of important data is hidden within many zettabytes of junk scrambled to an identical level of entropy. Without knowing any details of the encoding process, de-encryption is essentially impossible for even arbitrarily powerful computational cores. Due to their negligible mass, data crystals became the gold standard for information transfer through blinkgates.

    Entry 159 - Casadastraphobia

    Don’t you think minecraft under-uses its third dimension? Hundreds of millions of blocks down the X and Y axes, but only a few hundred blocks up to the build limit? I think the sky is a mercy. I think the hills should grow steeper and steeper until they double back and cover the sky. I think mountains should grow down from the clouds. Do you take comfort in sitting on the top of an infinite plane? What if there was no empty space waiting above you? What if the earth just kept going, up and up and up, and down too, a world pocketed with chasms kilometers deep and pillars stretching farther than the eye can see and vast spaces that were painfully finite. This is a world completely unlike any humans have experienced before. This is not a conception of space you were meant to understand. Here’s your pickaxe. Here’s your wooden planks. Go have fun, and don’t let it drive you mad.