When did you decide to really commit to Mitch not being the aggressor?

I was thinking about this all the way through the first half of Fine Structure (because it seemed like a pretty obvious twist) and then someone actually suggested the possibility in the comments some time after Sundown, which was when I dropped the idea entirely.

Maybe I just have to read it again a bit more carefully, but what, exactly was Mitch? Was he Xio, but just not as... benevolent as Ching and co. first believed?

Mitch Calrus, originally a mathematics teacher, becomes Xio's host body in Sundown, in the same way that Mikhail Zykov became Oul's host body in the events described in The Chaotician. The concept that information and thought are separate from matter means that the mind is distinct from the body. Note that the original Mitch Calrus dies, presumably of old age, some time in the 21st Century, while backed-up copies of his mind (well, Xio's mind) are resurrected in clone bodies or donor bodies many more times between then and 22985. However, mainly due to habit, Xio never really drops the "Mitch Calrus" name. Note that the Calrus seen in Crushed Underground will have a different physical appearance from the original, and the Calrus seen waking up in the second half of Postmortal is a soldier (whose name I never got around to inserting anywhere) who volunteered to have his mind overwritten with Calrus'.

You've explicitly stated that Xio was the "underdog" in the war, and we generally root for the weaker guy because it's a lot more interesting when he wins (even when he's not as heroic and noble as we'd like). Besides the obvious fact that Oul can "earth" power in people and smash stars and planets, what other traits did you end up giving Oul to make him more powerful than Xio? More simply put, what differences are there between Oul and Xio, and more importantly, what similarities are there?

As cosmic entities, the major difference between Oul and Xio - other than Oul being vastly more powerful - is that Oul is mindless. It is just a weapon or monster which has been let off its chain. Something that both individuals have in common, though, is that they show equal disregard for tiny, bacterial-level human beings. Oul because it is incapable of caring, Xio because he honestly doesn't believe that they exist.

When earthed in the human bodies of Zykov and Calrus respectively, these things change a little. Oul gains a great deal of intelligence, deviousness, tactical ability and so on, though he remains utterly indifferent to the fate of humanity. Xio, however, graduates beyond this. Though it's not clear whether he actually comes to respect or identify with humans, he does at least recognise that his goals and humanity's coincide.

Why did you decide to let a human win the war when you had given Mitch so many human qualities?

The lesson of the story is that both Xio and Oul are the aggressors from humanity's point of view - they brought the war to humanity's doorstep. So, it is humanity that drives them both away again.

The only plot element that bugs me right now is how could Ching stop exactly at the the critical moment when fast-forwarding in time? Was the destruction of the new cosmology that had such a huge effect on spacetime so that either Ching or the Imprisoning God detected it and stopped the process, or was it just sheer coincidence?

It is not a coincidence that Ching landed in 22985 at about the same time as the Sun falls into Umbra. In fact, it is a kind of causal loop. Oul's death has to occur at some point between when Ching lands and when the "solid moment in time"/"temporal wall" arrives and sieves Oul out of the universe entirely. So, by definition, Ching has to land at the moment when Oul is, by whatever means, killed. As luck would have it, Ching is able to save the universe and kill Oul manually instead of having to wait for him to die of "natural causes".

If that makes no sense, then yes, it's a coincidence.

If Mitch wasn't Xio until the events of Sundown, then why was he the Four Dimensional Man? / If Sundown is when Mitch became Xio, then where did the phasing ability come from?

Calrus was always Xio, he just didn't know it yet. Or possibly he did.

How and when did Ching get Power powers?

Ching is by far the most gifted student of the Script out of anybody in this story. Originally he is working on the Medium Preonic Receiver, which is (coincidentally) an application of Script technology. This project lasts years. Once he finds the Script, however, he builds his little device which is capable of detecting Powers by himself in a relatively short space of time and with relatively little equipment. By the end of the story he is at about the same level of knowledge as Jim Akker, and he has figured out how to take apart the mental blocks put into his head by Mitch. In order to do this he had to develop significant mental powers. He has also built his own Klick device - which, remember, is a metal box with nothing in it, which serves as the focal point for a machine which its user builds entirely in his or her head. Duplicating and cancelling out Mitch's 4D powers is relatively trivial for him.

Of course, once Ching reaches 22985, he travels to Antarctica, retrieves the Solution from the big dome, and thereby summons all of Xio's remaining power, becoming basically omnipotent.

At the end of the last story, is there some reason the probes knew to come download everyone off Alef Earth or are we just trusting that superadvanced technology let them detect a catastrophe many universes away? If that's so, do probes scan everyone that dies in every universe, or what's the cutoff to make them react?

As established in Last Ergs (sub-chapter "Escape From Planet Earth"), Alef is a discontinuity in an otherwise unbroken circle of universes making up the multiverse. The universes on both sides (+1 and -1) have now spent tens of thousands of years studying, analysing and failing to penetrate this barrier. In addition, it's been determined that Alef is the source of the reason why several critically important technologies, most notably afterlives (Jacob's Ladders), are blocked off from the multiverse at large. Alef is a massive enigma and solving it is massively important to them. They have been waiting for a long time, poised. Also, they have MITT-like technology, ramped up by a factor of a million, by now.

Was the limit of the multiverse because of the Imprisoning God or does the line of universes naturally have endpoints?

The multiverse is a closed loop. Alef is a point on this loop which can't be passed in either direction, so the multiverse is effectively a line with endpoints. That changes at the end of Science Fiction Future.

Was it ever really said why Anne is all invincible? I never understood that, personally.

Anne Poole's role as an agent of the Imprisoning God isn't really important to the story, which is why I pretty much ended up omitting it. You can come up with any explanation you like. I did, however, have to put together a pretty monstrous piece of internal justification just to convince myself that doing this was legitimate, and in the explanation I came up with, Anne wasn't actually an agent of the Imprisoning God. In fact, she is a stupendously intelligent physicist who happens by chance to stumble upon the Imprisoning God's power and earth some of it in herself, much like the Powers' energy comes from Oul and the United States Special Air Corps uses superhumans who tap into Xio. She manages to keep this a secret - or at least, cannot decide how to break the news to others - up until the teleportation accident, when her past life is pretty much nixed.

What did Thomas Muoka do to make Xio remove him?

These events were removed from the story by the same means that Muoka himself was. You will never know.

Why did Oul/Zykov simply kill himself in "this is not over and I am not dead"? Seems like he took an unnecessarily big gamble on the hope that Xio would be unable to avert the Oul-projectile which wasn't going to hit the earth in another eight years. I mean, when he was going to dispose of the Zykov container anyway, why not try to take Mitch with him?

Just to be clear: at this point in the story, Mikhail Zykov is the shell of an insane convicted murderer who was sentenced to execution, containing Oul's raw lust for the destruction of all intelligent life on Earth. But he is not Oul. He is under Oul's control, which basically makes him a pawn. Zykov is nuts, psychotic, and he is playing mind games with Calrus. Zykov's plan is infallible. Remember, to come up with a plan to defeat Oul was going to take twenty thousand years of supercomputation. Zykov was going to blow up an entire solar system in order to kill one guy. How could that fail? Even if this doesn't convince you, it convinced Zykov.

Are you planning on writing more with these characters?

No, although I may subject Fine Structure to a very substantial rewrite once I can summon the energy to return to it. Right now I am on a break.

What was the fate of Calrus?

He made it home.

If the uber-beings' power has to be "earthed" inside a body in order to fully manifest in our universe, where or how did Oul get a body?

Contrary to what is stated in Too Much Information, humanity is not the first and only sentient species in the universe, but the second. Oul was inadvertently summoned by an alien species on the other side of the universe, and Oul instantly destroyed that entire civilisation. Then a great deal of time passed before he was called by Zykov, who is a relatively tiny fragment which crystallised out on Earth much later.

How come Oul is humanoid?

This is one of those things which I should have left out because I didn't manage to explain it in any way and it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Oul is humanoid because the Power is shaped by local ambient intelligence. If he went to Mars, Oul would look like a Martian.

Who survives the final battle?

The clue is in the title of that sub-chapter. Only two people are killed in the final battle, namely Ching and Oul.

Was it necessary for both Xio and Oul to die for the Imprisoning God to release its grip on the universe?

No, just Oul.

I had been wondering why the Calculation was necessary when earthing Power was "frighteningly simple" and Oul solved it in a matter of decades. If the whole thing was a ploy to prolong Xio's life by a few millennia, it reveals a whole new level of cowardice.

The "low-level" superhumans - the annual Powers and the ones created by the US Air Force - have a pitifully tiny quantity of power compared to Xio or Oul. Earthing the entire whack of power is massively computationally complex in either case.

Did the people who took Klick's exit go to heaven? Did this escape route actually work unlike the others?

Right up until the moment that you asked that question, I actually honestly believed that yes, Klick had been correct and all of his victims had in fact been jettisoned safely into higher dimensions ("heaven"). Certainly, this is what Klick and also Mike Murphy believed. However, you've correctly pointed out that that would mean that this escape route, unlike all the others, actually worked. This is not a reconcilable contradiction so I'm forced to conclude that no, it did not work. Klick was sadly mistaken (though there is no way that he could have known that he was mistaken). So was I.

How come you're having to explain so much of this after the fact?

Because I'm evidently very bad at "dropping just enough hints to allow people to figure things out". Sometimes really minor stuff got picked up on, but I guess a lot of the clues I put in there were far too subtle and there is plenty which I just didn't bother to hint at at all, either because I forgot or because I decided it wasn't important enough.

So how did the seventh Power die?

I don't know.

How does one go about constructing a 4D parabolic dish?

You would have to ask Mike Murphy about that.

What was Davies doing in this is not over and I am not dead?

I don't know.

What would Mitch have done if he'd gotten to the Calculation first? Was Mitch getting much more flak than he deserved?

Fought Oul, killed Oul and died himself.

In a similar vein, what would Ching have done about the Hot Wars, and whatever other problems Mitch and Anne had to deal with over the millenia?

Ching would probably have been killed, along with almost every other ordinary human being in the world, if he hadn't died of old age before they began.

Did Mitch/Xio honestly care about Seph Baird as a person, or was he just upset about the loss of a valuable piece on the board?

Yes, he did. In the moment after Arika catches him in 'Verse Chorus, he actually changes his mind about trying to find his way home, and decides to stay with Seph.

So Ching was appealing to parallel universes, and not Jason? Was he aware that Earth Zero was sealed off? Did he ever get back on speaking terms with Susie again?

Yes, yes, and maybe.

In the events of "Verse Chorus", did the countless parallel Mitches and Arikas get melded into their counterparts from Earth Zero, or did they all plummet to their deaths (ParallelArikas being cut off from Oul)?

The former.

Did the closing of Klick's Exit interfere in any way with the decay of infoelectrical hypersystems?

No, people continued to die like they always have.

Should we, as the readers, consider the recently-released extra stories part of the Fine Structure "canon," or just take them as a part of the same universe but not adding to the story?

What is the difference between Oul's egg and Xia's egg? You say that Zykov wasn't directly a host to Oul's personality (as much as that word can be applied to Oul) but it seems fairly obvious that Mitch was a host to Xia's personality. Or am I just not understanding the relationship between the higher-dimensional beings and their host's personalities? If that is the case, could you clarify what your intention was there?

The egg is what happens when a cosmic being's consciousness "condenses out" in real space. In the same way that matter gathered together under gravity can ignite to form a star, Oul and Xio's cosmic intelligences gathered together - pulled by the intelligent thought of all living humans on Earth - and formed an egg. Each. This is why Xio's egg in particular was found in the place where human intelligence first occurred.

Yes, this does contradict the fact the Oul has no intelligence. Sorry.

Will these plot details be more apparent in a future "re-write" since you don't have to worry about crazed readers dissecting a chapter for years before the story is done?

Good heavens, yes. This is the only reason for there to be a re-write at all.

Can you tell us what it is Calrus/Xio saw, that is "Something small, and distant, and silvery in the all-penetrating superlight."? Was it going to be Oul or something? What?

That was Xio's egg. You know Oul had an egg? That was Xio's.

What happened to Twelve?

She and Jason Chilton killed one another.

What of the theory from "Chaotician", that the ignobomb caused Oul's egg to appear?

All three theories are equally plausible. Those events were antimemeticised so you'll never know which explanation is accurate. Maybe a fourth theory could be the actual case. You don't know.

And why is it that for Oul the victim had to be touching the egg, while apparently for Xio it was enough to be dead in the vicinity?

This isn't the case, Oul's victim just needed to be nearby.

Who were the voices speaking to Calrus at the end of Last Ergs?

That was Ching.

Why was Ching appealing to parallel universes that couldn't possibly have been able to detect (let alone help) him? Was he grasping at straws?

The multiverse arose because of the events of 'Verse Chorus. Ching knew exactly what happened and he was able to prove mathematically that a multiverse had arisen. In There Was No Leak when Ching says "I know you're watching. Help us!" he is actually speaking to observers in other universes, because those other universes have already begun to diverge slightly from his own and he suspects that there may be an alternate Ching there watching him. After twenty thousand years he knew that people would be watching and waiting to rescue everybody from Earth as soon as the walls came down. I hoped to make this fact more explicit but I didn't.

What is the "Zeroth Law or Golden Rule"? Was this explained in some story?

The Zeroth Law is from Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. The Golden Rule is a real ethical concept. Both of these refer to the idea that Calrus and Poole are acting for the greater good of humanity, and in order to do this humanity still has to remain recognisable.

What happened in Zanjero? It was the creation of yet another superhuman, but I don't quite get what happened beyond that, or the significance. Did the sedative not work? Was the other person killed?

No, the sedative did not work. Yes, the other person was killed. Notice how the narrator wakes up "clotted" to the ground.

How did Ching get inside the dome to access the Solution?

Ching has 4D powers by that point.

I guess the big question for me is: are there any plans to publish, at least through a self-publisher like CreateSpace? If so, would you publish the "old" (current) version, the "new" (rewrite) version, or both, separately or together? (And if there are no plans, in a perfect world which would you do anyways?)

No, I'm not going to self-publish. Whatever the case, I would never publish a version of the story which was broken.

Was Xio/Mitch planning to sacrifice Anne all along, or was there another possibility to destroy the New Cosmology, so that the Solution could be used and Oul defeated? Or could even that group of terrorists aiming for launching her into the black hole have been orchestrated by Xio itself?

John Zhang created the Umbra as a permanent solution. He had no clear plan as to how to destroy it later, because he didn't assume that this would even be necessary. Of course, for the long-term survival of the human species, interstellar travel to other planets is needed, and for Xio to defeat Oul and for FTL to become possible again, Umbra needed to be destroyed. So it was only later that Calrus and Anne started working on an ultimate plan for destroying Umbra at the appropriate time.

By the time of Too Much Information this plan is pretty much final, but there is a lot of time remaining until it can be used. Umbra is an irresistible force and Poole is an immovable rock. Umbra and Anne were both created by the Imprisoning God. This means that if Anne is thrown into Umbra, the laws of physics will break down to such an extent that an intelligent consciousness (Anne) will be able to reset them to her advantage. This is the plan all along. The final years of the plan are a difficult mess (because Mitch is lost and Anne is forced to pull a spacefaring civilisation up by its bootstraps in order to recover him) but as luck would have it this is exactly what happens. The prophecies about Anne needing to be thrown into Umbra, for example, were set by Anne ahead of time. Unfortunately they got "activated" much earlier than planned.

Yes, this was the plan all along. Why? Well, by the time of 1970- Anne Poole has lived for ten thousand years and she has survived for that time - and dragged humanity along with her - mainly by killing a whole lot of people, not just in Crashes but in wars and plagues and so on. Spending twenty thousand years solving Mitch's problem gives her a reason to continue to live, and the human race is basically there to keep them both sane. But she is remorseful about this. It has been necessary to go to great lengths to "keep the human race alive and breeding in its burrow" and she regrets her part in this. She would atone, but unfortunately she is 1) immortal and 2) the undisputed ruler of humanity and guardian of human history. As Calrus notes in Too Much Information, there is nobody to hold her accountable. So, throwing her into Umbra once everything is resolved was Calrus' promise to Anne.

Why would anyone that high up in the Structure create an information-destroying weapon like Oul?

For the same reason that humans build nukes.

For that matter, are there more like him? What was their original target? Who lost control of Oul in the first place? (Assuming he's a weapon, someone had to make him and point him at something, right?) Do you see any point in writing out the remainder of "the war in heaven", as you called it?

In answer to the last question, no, I don't. Firstly because it's just a catalyst for the story, not actually part of the story, and secondly because events in 80+6-dimensional spacetime are way, way beyond anything that I can describe or that you can understand.

Where does the Structure end? Does it go on into infinity? If it's finite, is there anything outside of it? How did the Structure emerge into being? Is there a final God of the Structure?

As alluded to in least significant bits, for every universe there's a bigger super-universe. So, yes, it goes on to infinity. There would be a final infinite God over all of those finite universes, but just like in ordinal arithmetic, there would then be a God+1, God+2 and so on. It doesn't end.

If Klick's exit did not work as intended (i.e. sending every intelligence within it's radius outside of Alef) what *did* it do?

Exactly what you see in the story, it killed 899,000 people.

So were antimemetics used twice then? Once when Oul condensed, and once to remove Muoka? Was the Imprisoning God still being lax at the time, or was it two separate technologies? I did notice that the Imprisoning God got stricter as time went on (teleportation worked three times before it was taken out of the Script, so it's possible that something similar worked for antimemetics, but I just want to check).

This is correct. The Imprisoning God's behaviour is not totally consistent - the precise "punishment" for the various "escape attempts" varies a great deal, as does the amount of abuse that is necessary in order for a technology to be locked out (which decreases over time). However, it does follow predictable laws - this is what is alluded to in Ashmore's final message in Failure Mode and this is how the war is ultimately ended.

Is Mitch being truthful when he says that he doesn't know who Thomas Muoka is?

Yes. By erasing Muoka, he also erased all of his own memories of anything relating to Muoka.

What happened to Anoo Nkube?

The main point of this was supposed to be a parable about the power of the imagination is Nkube's final choice. She has just seen her entire life's work destroyed and she now has to decide between dying along with her dreams or carrying on in a life with no remaining purpose. I left her fate ambiguous, because the choice was more important to the story than her decision.

Nkube decided to stay. (And, in case you're wondering how Zykov escaped, he was airlifted out by Yefremova.)

Was Mitch truly trying to unperson Muoka?

You don't know! YOU DON'T KNOW. THERE IS NO INFORMATION.

Does Ching know anything more than that Muoka existed and Mitch had something to do with his dropping out of existence?

No.

You described the 3+1D multiverse to be a ring of universes which are all ana/kata to one another. So in effect as I understand this would make the multiverse into a 3-toroid and therefore each of the universes are 'flat' 2-spheres as opposed to closed 3-spheres? (In which all you would need to do to move ana or kata is move around the surface of the hypersphere.)

Each universe is 3+1D. The multiverse is a stack of 3+1D universes, with ana/kata as an additional direction of travel, making it 4+1D.

Locally, the multiverse looks flat, in the same way that the surface of the Earth looks flat (2D) from up close. But because it actually curves around to meet itself, the space that the multiverse is embedded in is 5+1D, in the same way that the Earth's surface is embedded in 3D.

In this was supposed to be a parable about the power of the imagination, did the events described by Zykov (replicators and the Arkhangelsk explosion) actually happen, or was he speaking hypothetically?

Yes, they happened. The Arkhangelsk disaster is mentioned in The Chaotician.

Was replicator technology ever produced or was it killed before they were even made?

Yes, and it briefly worked, exactly as stated in the story.

How many Powers past 12 was the military able to dispose of?

Most, but not all of them. Zanjero establishes that Sixteen could not be disposed of, and Crisis on Earth shows that Nineteen is still alive.

Was there ever a way found to circumvent or mitigate the Birth rage?

Evidently not.

Are "ergs" and Power the same thing?

An "erg" is an old-fashioned unit of energy, which was replaced by the modern "joule".

What's the superscientific explanation for it, why does it make you stronger and faster?

See Paper universe.

Why did Oul's power being already in the universe cause wackiness in the earthing process? I.e., what's the difference between earthing Power located in-universe and located out-of-universe?

The location of the Power you're trying to earth.

Did Mitch ever consider earthing the small amount of Power that could be provided through the method the military used?

Maybe. I sure didn't.

Post-'Verse Chorus, did the Imprisoning God concern itself with the multiverse outside Alef? I.e. would a supertech used in a parallel universe be shut down?

No. All technologies which were locked out before "'Verse Chorus" stayed locked out for the entire multiverse. All technologies which were locked out after that were only locked out for Alef. Other universes were free to discover and exploit.

Which of the locked-down techs could be plausibly used for escape from Alef?

All of them.

Given that Anne had some of the Imprisoning God's Power, why was she apparently incapable of flying, super strength and super speed? Is there some fundamental difference between that and Xio/Oul's Power?

Yes.

Why didn't the Imprisoning God lock out power-earthing (presumably a Script technology) once Zykov and the military started using it?

I never really thought to address that one. You can make up your own explanation for this if you want, but mine would be: "earthing Power" isn't a Script technology any more than "draining lakes" is a Script technology. It's just a thing you can do if you find a big pool of Power.

You describe each universe as 3+1D (or, if not each universe, then replace "universe" with whatever it is that is 3+1D). So then how is Mitch able to move four-dimensionally?

The 3+1D universe is actually 4+1D in the same way that a 2D piece of paper is actually 3D - because it has a very small amount of thickness in one additional dimension. But you can't move in that direction very far before you have to stop.

Zykov speaks in the future tense about the Arkhangelsk disaster, but he is speaking after Anoo notices that the technology has been shut down, saying "No, this is not right anymore." What's the explanation for this contradiction?

There are several, pick one. The laws of physics are in flux at this point. It could be that the Imprisoning God is rolling up his sleeves and about to smite Nkube and her colleagues. It could be that replication really has been locked out... for everybody except the Imprisoning God, who is of course omnipotent. It could even be that when Nkube says "This is not right", she means "this is no longer an acceptable piece of science; it has become abhorrent to the universe".

Questions like this can usually be resolved by allowing the universe to become a little fuzzier.

Does the increasing power of the Line have anything to do with Oul getting closer and closer to Earth?

Yes.

Where did you get the name Alef for our 3+1d universe?

From "aleph"(א), which is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

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Discussion (106)

2010-01-27 23:17:00 by goffrie:

FYI: The ampersand in 'Q&A' is killing your RSS feed.

2010-01-27 23:19:00 by qntm:

Fixed. Thank you for that.

2010-01-28 02:44:15 by EdwardKmett:

When did you decide to really commit to Mitch not being the aggressor?

2010-01-28 05:54:08 by kabu:

Maybe I just have to read it again a bit more carefully, but what, exactly was Mitch? Was he Xio, but just not as... benevolent as Ching and co. first believed?

2010-01-28 08:26:48 by eneekmot:

You've explicitly stated that Xio was the "underdog" in the war, and we generally root for the weaker guy because it's a lot more interesting when he wins (even when he's not as heroic and noble as we'd like). Besides the obvious fact that Oul can "earth" power in people and smash stars and planets, what other traits did you end up giving Oul to make him more powerful than Xio?

More simply put, what differences are there between Oul and Xio, and more importantly, what similarities are there?

Also, why did you decide to let a human win the war when you had given Mitch so many human qualities?

2010-01-28 10:38:54 by Val:

The only plot element that bugs me right now is how could Ching stop exactly at the the critical moment when fast-forwarding in time? Was the destruction of the new cosmology that had such a huge effect on spacetime so that either Ching or the Imprisoning God detected it and stopped the process, or was it just sheer coincidence?

2010-01-28 11:46:10 by Morgan:

If Mitch wasn't Xio until the events of Sundown, then why was he the Four Dimensional Man?

2010-01-28 12:09:33 by TimMcCormack:

If Sundown is when Mitch became Xio, then where did the phasing ability come from?

2010-01-28 14:39:21 by LoZfan:

How and when did Ching get Power powers?

At the end of the last story, is there some reason the probes knew to come download everyone off Alef Earth or are we just trusting that superadvanced technology let them detect a catastrophe many universes away? If that's so, do probes scan everyone that dies in every universe, or what's the cutoff to make them react?

Was the limit of the multiverse because of the Imprisoning God or does the line of universes naturally have endpoints?

Finally (for now), was it ever really said why Anne is all invincible? I never understood that, personally.

2010-01-28 14:41:19 by LoZfan:

To the people above me, I'm pretty sure that Sundown was a prequel story. At least, it happened a ways farther back in the timeline, before we met Mitch as the four dimension man.

2010-01-28 15:18:34 by BenFriesen:

To LoZfan:

Reread the "Escape from Planet Earth" portion of Last Ergs. They describe the technology levels available to those ana and kata on the ring of alternate universes. It's also pointed out there that most of the highest of high-tech ends up at +1 or -1 (0 being the world where everything after 'Verse Chorus takes place), and that this anomaly is being heavily studied. So it's not unthinkable that with their level of tech and how interested everyone seems to be in 'verse 0 that they would react almost instantly to the walls coming down.

2010-01-28 16:19:11 by Knut:

What *did* Thomas Muoka do to make Xio remove him?

Why did Oul/Zykov simply kill himself in "this is not over and I am not dead"? Seems like he took an unnecessarily big gamble on the hope that Xio would be unable to avert the Oul-projectile which wasn't going to hit the earth in another eight years. I mean, when he was going to dispose of the Zykov container anyway, why not try to take Mitch with him?

2010-01-28 16:29:06 by Brian:

LoZFan: Sundown is not a prequel. Seph says it was "months ago" that Mitch came to her and showed his phasing ability. (That would be the events of Indistinguishable From Magic.)

I assumed that Mitch got his phasing ability, and some portion of Xio's power, long before he actually got Xio's mind That's why he bothered doing stuff like a bank robbery (the events of The Four-Dimensional Man) rather than immediately starting to plan his return home.

2010-01-28 17:56:18 by kabu:

@Sam

Oh, I got the whole Mitch/Xio mind-overwrite thing, I was more questioning the character's motivations.

Another question, though: Are you planning on writing more with these characters?

2010-01-28 18:00:25 by kabu:

@TimMcCormack, Morgan

Sam is the final arbiter on this one but as I understand it Mitch was secretly Xio all along, though this isn't obvious unless you take "Marooned" as canon.

2010-01-28 18:44:16 by scratskinner:

I took the liberty of going through the comments of Fine Structure to find unanswered questions:
2008-05-02 01:36:10 by scratskinner (Crushed Underground)
2009-04-09 02:20:19 by scratskinner (Exponents)
2008-07-30 11:00:24 by Jake (Crash Zero)
2008-05-02 05:38:35 by Mike (Too Much Information)
2009-03-07 07:34:31 by Bombardier (Too Much Information)
2008-05-02 22:20:26 by atomicthumbs (The Story So Far)[last line missing "?"]
2008-09-09 08:33:33 by Sam (Die)[activation logs? what are those?]
2008-12-07 08:02:54 by Slagathor (Verse Chorus)
2009-04-29 02:41:26 by scratskinner (There Was No Leak)
2009-06-09 22:35:12 by scratskinner (?over)[Q1 is moot, other two not answered]
2010-01-01 04:01:27 by scratskinner (Last Ergs)[Q1/Q2 are moot, but curious about the last one]
2010-01-27 20:02:50 by scratskinner (Science Fiction Future)
Omitted are questions that were answered by the story itself, or that were deemed unimportant to it. Hopefully I didn't miss anything.

I also went and found (hopefully) all the relevant responses by Sam, which could probably be moved to this FAQ:
(The Big Idea)
Q:2009-08-11 12:11:43 by Imbenarion
A:2009-08-11 12:26:42 by Sam
(Too Much Information)
Q:2008-04-25 06:37:09 by Mike
A:2008-04-25 11:10:45 by Sam
(?inpenetrable)
A:2008-07-16 14:45:15 by Sam
(?halfway)
Q:2009-04-08 06:15:31 by MJ
A:2009-04-08 09:47:30 by Sam
(Die)
Q:2008-10-02 19:08:32 by scratskinner
A:2008-10-02 19:30:12 by Sam
(Capekiller)
A:2008-10-25 11:43:06 by Sam
A:2008-11-01 00:55:26 by Sam
(least significant bits)
A:2008-11-09 15:45:15 by Sam
A:2008-11-09 15:49:10 by Sam
A:2008-11-10 07:17:59 by Sam
(Verse Chorus)
A:2008-12-01 22:36:57 by Sam
A:2008-12-02 21:56:20 by Sam
(There Was No Leak)
A:2009-04-08 10:07:52 by Sam
Q:2009-04-08 19:37:19 by Mick
A:2009-04-08 20:12:05 by Sam
(?over)
A:2009-06-09 18:53:08 by Sam
A:2009-06-11 15:16:32 by Sam
(Crisis On Earth)
A:2009-10-26 22:30:19 by Sam
(The Last Copy Of You)
A:2009-10-01 18:58:36 by Sam
(?future)
Q:2009-10-30 16:20:07 by scratskinner
A:2009-10-30 19:06:43 by Sam
Q;2009-10-31 21:39:44 by Fjord
A:2009-11-01 11:06:07 by Sam
(Last Ergs)
A:2009-12-31 15:52:25 by Sam
(Science Fiction Future)
A:2010-01-27 12:31:54 by Sam
Q:2010-01-27 13:45:18 by skztr
A:2010-01-27 14:26:42 by Sam
Q:2010-01-27 18:24:05 by skztr
A:2010-01-27 18:59:20 by Sam
Q:2010-01-27 21:40:33 by Vitronus
A:2010-01-27 22:21:31 by Sam

I deemed some of the titles too long so I used their URL instead.

Hope this helps.

2010-01-28 18:56:44 by isaac:

so what was the fate of carlus?

2010-01-28 19:03:04 by Fred:

OK, here's a question. If the uber-beings' power has to be "earthed" inside a body in order to fully manifest in our universe, where or how did Oul get a body? Especially a humanoid body?

Here's my understanding. I gather that Oul was at first located in some random part of space, very far from Earth. A part of him overwrote Zykov's brain during the experiment with Oul's Egg. Zykov later found out about Mitch and sent an FTL message alerting Oul to Xio's presence on Earth. This caused the lockout of FTL comms, and also started Oul's movement toward Earth (which would later be noticed as the supernova stack anomaly).

I don't get where Oul's Egg came from, but there's some explanation in its story so maybe I just do not understand.

But back to my real question. By the time of Science Fiction Future, Zykov and all the other Powers were long dead, and had been cut off by the barrier anyway. Where did the sun-destroying outer space Oul get a body from? It wasn't aliens, because humans are the only intelligent life in universe-zero. I don't think it can be teleportation, because that was locked out once Anne was oublietted (and not before). What have I missed?

2010-01-28 19:21:53 by qntm:

scratskinner, that wasn't very helpful at all. If you have questions, just put them here. That way I actually get notified about them.

2010-01-28 19:49:45 by Thrack:

The answer to "What did Thomas Muoka do to make Xio remove him?" is clever but if you are going with that explanation shouldn't all traces of Thomas Muoka be removed from the story? He is, after all, still seen talking to Adrian Ashmore in "Two killed in 'transporter accident'" and other installments. Of course, if you did remove Muoka you would either have to remove that installment entirely or completely rewrite it.

2010-01-28 19:50:29 by romangoro:

Could you clarify your answer about Zykov killing himself in "This is not over..."? Whose plan was infallible? Zykov's? It's that the same "He" who "was going to blow up an entire solar system in order to kill one guy"? What should convince me?

Sorry, I'm not a native english speaker and the ambiguities in that answer confuse me.

2010-01-28 19:52:36 by Marakesh:

Who survives the final battle? Was it necessary for both Xio and Oul to die for the Imprisoning God to release its grip on the universe?
I had been wondering why the Calculation was necessary when earthing Power was "frighteningly simple" and Oul solved it in a matter of decades. If the whole thing was a ploy to prolong Xio's life by a few millennia, it reveals a whole new level of cowardice.

2010-01-28 19:57:59 by LoZfan:

Oh! That makes so much sense now, I didn't realize that Alef was the blocked off universe.

2010-01-28 20:16:11 by Vladimir:

Did the people who took Klick's exit go to heaven? Did this escape route actually work unlike the others?

2010-01-28 20:35:16 by scratskinner:

@Sam: Sorry. The vague spectre of needless repetition was worrying me, which is why I listed the citations rather than posting them whole.
____
---- 2008-05-02 01:36:10 by scratskinner (Crushed Underground)

Hmm..
"Nohta Brown" "not a brown"
Anyone see a reference to the Powers there?
[!--Any truth to this notion of mine?]

---- 2009-04-09 02:20:19 by scratskinner (Exponents)

So how did the seventh Power die?
[!--You replied with: "As yet unrevealed." Hopefully I can expect a revelation soon.]

---- 2008-07-30 11:00:24 by Jake (Crash Zero)

This part of Cahagan was originally built as a suburb, with leisurely winding roads and large forested gardens separating semi-detached houses. Then it was enclosed by a minor ARCOLOGY

Is this the same arcology from Crushed Underground?

---- 2008-05-02 05:38:35 by Mike (Too Much Information)

Here's another question: how will humanity really act when every bit of technology is either just sitting around or dug up and reverse engineered? A lot of this will be relatively simple, cars and the like, but how easy is it to figure out a nuclear reactor you've just stumbled upon? Without prior research into the *theory*, not very. Could post Crash technological development actually *discourage* research into things like higher level physics?

---- 2009-03-07 07:34:31 by Bombardier (Too Much Information)

A consistent theme seems to be the desire of the two protagonists to Crash civilizations immediately prior to gaining the knowledge of nuclear power and weaponry. But going back to the first Crash you'd have to expect that even if the iteration zero (our current reality) atomic weapons wouldn't work properly, the residue of many thousands of unattended nuclear power stations, naval vessels and waste sites would have been most hazardous. Should we presume that after the very first Crash the protagonists had a very long and involved scavenger hunt?

---- 2008-05-02 22:20:26 by atomicthumbs (The Story So Far)
Also how does one go about constructing a 4D parabolic dish?

[!--Added "?"]

---- 2008-09-09 08:33:33 by Sam (Die)

...Do I just provide a series of activation logs from the machine?...
[!--This particular bit has me curious, as the Klick device is an empty box, right? So where would the logs come from?]

---- 2008-12-07 08:02:54 by Slagathor (Verse Chorus)

What would happen if you, say, tunnelled into the mountain beside the plane, then turned around and tunnelled into the nose cone? Say you were halfway out of the mountain, then realised what could happen and tried to go back into the mountain? Would you be cut in half?
Heh, it wouldn't look too pretty to anyone behind you (in the passenger cabin) if they saw you coming out of the mountain.

The same thing applies if you're inside the plane, somehow puncture the hull and tunnel into the mountain. Actually, thinking about it now, it'd probably be impossible to tunnel _out_ of the plane, because the only place you could put the dirt/rock is in the plane, which becomes inaccessible as soon as you try to get outside it.

Have I got any of this right?

---- 2009-04-29 02:41:26 by scratskinner (There Was No Leak)

So who tells Jason's wife and kids? Or do they get told?

---- 2009-06-09 22:35:12 by scratskinner (?over)
<snip>
What routes of escape remain for Xio (and Oul)? And what was Davies doing?

---- 2010-01-01 04:01:27 by scratskinner (Last Ergs)
<snip>

... I wonder, is it possible for Xio to earth Oul in himself?

---- 2010-01-27 20:02:50 by scratskinner (Science Fiction Future)

Small wall of questions for you, Sam:

What would Mitch have done if he'd gotten to the Calculation first? Was Mitch getting much more flak than he deserved?

In a similar vein, what would Ching have done about the Hot Wars, and whatever other problems Mitch and Anne had to deal with over the millenia?

Did Mitch/Xio honestly care about Seph Baird as a person, or was he just upset about the loss of a valuable piece on the board?

So Ching was appealing to parallel universes, and not Jason? Was he aware that Earth Zero was sealed off? Did he ever get back on speaking terms with Susie again?

In the events of "Verse Chorus", did the countless parallel Mitches and Arikas get melded into their counterparts from Earth Zero, or did they all plummet to their deaths (ParallelArikas being cut off from Oul)?

Did the closing of Klick's Exit interfere in any way with the decay of infoelectrical hypersystems?

_____
Is this better?

2010-01-28 20:53:56 by Lucas:

Should we, as the readers, consider the recently-released extra stories part of the Fine Structure "canon," or just take them as a part of the same universe but not adding to the story? [Door number three- we're just thinking too hard, and really shouldn't worry about it.]

2010-01-28 20:59:38 by Fjord:

@Marakesh: Earthing power is "frighteningly simple" if you only want to Earth a tiny fraction of the power available and don't really care who gets to have that power. Xia, however, wanted to Earth all of his power at once, into himself. The complexities behind doing that would certainly take the 20k years described. Plus, the data would have to be preserved through the crashes and re-installed into the supercomputer after each one, which would add a certain amount of time as well.

@Sam: What is the difference between Oul's egg and Xia's egg? You say that Zykov wasn't directly a host to Oul's personality (as much as that word can be applied to Oul) but it seems fairly obvious that Mitch *was* a host to Xia's personality. Or am I just not understanding the relationship between the higher-dimensional beings and their host's personalities? If that is the case, could you clarify what your intention was there?

2010-01-28 21:00:31 by qntm:

That's better, although many of those questions have been answered or are pretty much nonsensical so I'll answer them here:

> Hmm.. "Nohta Brown" "not a brown" Anyone see a reference to the Powers there?

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean but nobody in "Crushed Underground" is a Power.

> Is the arcology in Cahagan in "Crash Zero" the same arcology from Crushed Underground?

Of course it isn't, Cahagan is a coastal city with a major bay bridge, Talmansk Arcology is in a mountain range in central Russia.

> How will humanity really act when every bit of technology is either just sitting around or dug up and reverse engineered? A lot of this will be relatively simple, cars and the like, but how easy is it to figure out a nuclear reactor you've just stumbled upon? Without prior research into the *theory*, not very. Could post Crash technological development actually *discourage* research into things like higher level physics?

My answer to this is right there in the story. I think science would advance incredibly fast. It is much easier to reverse-engineer a machine than to engineer it.

> A consistent theme seems to be the desire of the two protagonists to Crash civilizations immediately prior to gaining the knowledge of nuclear power and weaponry. But going back to the first Crash you'd have to expect that even if the iteration zero (our current reality) atomic weapons wouldn't work properly, the residue of many thousands of unattended nuclear power stations, naval vessels and waste sites would have been most hazardous. Should we presume that after the very first Crash the protagonists had a very long and involved scavenger hunt?

After 2000 years in the arcology I highly doubt there would be significant radioactive material still around.

> The Klick device is an empty box, right? So where would [a series of activation logs] come from?

How should I know? I didn't actually write that happening.

> What would happen if you, say, tunnelled into the mountain beside the plane, then turned around and tunnelled into the nose cone? Say you were halfway out of the mountain, then realised what could happen and tried to go back into the mountain? Would you be cut in half? Heh, it wouldn't look too pretty to anyone behind you (in the passenger cabin) if they saw you coming out of the mountain. The same thing applies if you're inside the plane, somehow puncture the hull and tunnel into the mountain. Actually, thinking about it now, it'd probably be impossible to tunnel _out_ of the plane, because the only place you could put the dirt/rock is in the plane, which becomes inaccessible as soon as you try to get outside it. Have I got any of this right?

I have absolutely no idea.

> So who tells Jason's wife and kids? Or do they get told?

This is of no relevance to the story, which is why it doesn't appear.

> What routes of escape remain for Xio (and Oul) [after the events of "this is not over and I am not dead"]?

Perhaps you should read the rest of the story?

> ... I wonder, is it possible for Xio to earth Oul in himself?

Obviously not, because Oul is already incarnate.

2010-01-28 21:08:27 by LabrynianRebel:

Hmmmmmmmmmm

So there was an intelligent species before us who earthed Oul and that destroyed their civilization...

That and a lot of other plot points not made explicit in the actual story makes me think that this story is still "uncomplete"
Will these plot details be more apparant in a future "re-write" since you don't have to worry about crazed readers dissecting a chapter for years before the story is done?

2010-01-28 21:22:32 by AndrewFL:

I realize that Marooned was cut, but, can you tell us what it is Calrus/Xio saw, that is "Something small, and distant, and silvery in the all-penetrating superlight."? Was it going to be Oul or something? What?

2010-01-28 21:26:42 by LabrynianRebel:

^it was suppose to be Xio's Egg

2010-01-28 21:42:54 by AgentYellow:

How did Carlus return home? He's just a human avatar, and like we see with Zykov, quite mortal. And in Science Fiction Future he's is on Antartica when Ching explodes it, so I'd think that would be sufficient to kill him. And even if he survives that (by phasing?) Ching stole the rest of him, so the small bit of Xio that is in Carlus is the only thing that returns to the higher structure. So either Ching killed Carlus or he extremly weakened and disabled Carlus for the rest of his existence.

2010-01-28 22:05:44 by Fjord:

@Sam: Just because Oul is nothing more than a killing machine doesn't mean that (by 3+1D standards) he's not an *intelligent* killing machine. I see no contradiction.

So, if that's what the eggs are, how much of Xio's and Oul's personalities (again for lack of a better word) got dumped into Calrus and Zykov? And how much of an effect did Calrus' and Zykov's preexisting personalities have on the actions of Xio and Oul?

(I'm probably being too nitpicky here, but to me this interaction between host and guest personalities seems like a significant insight into the characters of Mitch/Xio and Zykov/Oul.)

Assuming for a moment that "Marooned" is canon, might there a possibility that Xio was "asleep" and Mitch was in control prior to the events of "Sundown?" That Xio (or, at least, the portion of Xio that was downloaded into Mitch) couldn't handle the transition to a 3+1D perspective and blacked out long enough for Mitch to reassert control? And that "Sundown" then sort of merged the two personalities (instead of placing one squarely in control)? If so, could such a thing have also happened to Zykov?

2010-01-28 22:17:55 by Val:

"Yes, this does contradict the fact the Oul has no intelligence."
I still think of it like Oul is intelligent, but not self-conscious. This, depends, on how we define "intelligence".

2010-01-29 00:19:17 by scratskinner:

@Sam: I associated Nohta Brown with the Powers due to the mentions of eye color in Powers of Two("his regular eye colour, deep brown, returns") and Zanjero ("His eyes are brown, like mine"). At the time, I thought maybe the name was associated with some primal fear of the Line.

On the Klick Device, you might not have written it happening, but the fact that you listed activation logs as a possible other way that story might have been told indicates that you had something in mind. Was it discarded right off as implausible for the story? or did you explore it more?

Jason's death isn't relevant... So would the mourning of Ten, Eleven, and Twelve fall into the same category? what DID happen to Twelve?
Also, what was the purpose of the company Jason worked for? is there some sort of joke there that I'm missing?

On that last one,I suppose what I meant to ask was more like: Could Xio's host also earth Oul's power into himself? What sort of horrible things would result from this?

2010-01-29 00:22:06 by Bauglir:

Hm, as far as Xio was concerned, I liked the idea that he didn't so much "go home" as was treated like a normal human for all purposes after Ching took his Power. Having to work his own way toward Upsilon layer, as mentioned in the last paragraph of Science Fiction Future. That's probably a bit sophomoric, though.

2010-01-29 00:23:20 by kabu:

Who were the voices speaking to Calrus at the end of Last Ergs? That's the only bit still confusing me.

2010-01-29 02:49:28 by scratskinner:

So Ching would have died of old age, then? I think I need to revise my questions...

What sort of different approach would Mitch have taken to killing Oul? What alternatives were there to the Crashes? Did Mitch do anything to help or hinder the Hot Wars?

Why was Ching appealing to parallel universes that couldn't possibly have been able to detect (let alone help) him? Was he grasping at straws?

What interferes with the decay of infoelectrical hypersystems?

What would have happened if Ching had succeeded in dragging Mitch along with him?

What of the theory from "Chaotician", that the ignobomb caused Oul's egg to appear? And why is it that for Oul the victim had to be touching the egg, while apparently for Xio it was enough to be dead in the vicinity? What happened to the eggs when Fine Structure ended?

How much more powerful than Oul were the beings that made it?

2010-01-29 03:04:59 by Nick:

From "Too Much Information":

> "We can't stop them learning. By force, by persuasion, by breeding... It cannot be done without permanently perverting humanity as a species, and then the Zeroth Law or Golden Rule or whatever you call it goes, and the plan goes, and then - what, sixty thousand million deaths, cumulatively? - are for nothing.

What is the "Zeroth Law or Golden Rule"? Was this explained in some story?

2010-01-29 04:05:43 by LabrynianRebel:

^I think it's a reference to the Three Laws of Robotics in Isaac Asimov's Science-Fiction Books

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

In the novels a robot reasons that there is a "zeroeth law" enabling robots to harm people:

0.A robot may not harm humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
1.A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, unless it would violate the Zeroeth Law
2.A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the Zeroeth or First Law.
3.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the Zeroteth, First or Second Law.

2010-01-29 09:38:25 by qntm:

> Was [the idea of Klick device activation logs] discarded right off as implausible for the story? or did you explore it more?

I dropped the idea because I decided to go in a different direction. For example, I made the device into a simple metal cube instead of having any working parts, and make Klick's use of it a one-time operation. If I'd decided to go in the "logs" direction, I'd have come up with something else, but I didn't, so the point is moot.

> Jason's death isn't relevant... So would the mourning of Ten, Eleven, and Twelve fall into the same category?

None of these characters received anything that I would consider to be "mourning". The point of Ten's death is to show that the Powers are not as unpredictable as previously believed. The point of Eleven's death is to demonstrate that the Department for Special Flight Research is much more sinister than previously expected. The point of Twelve's death is to demonstrate what Arika really needed to do to be a superhero and to cause Ching to abandon the whole project.

> What was the purpose of the company Jason worked for? is there some sort of joke there that I'm missing?

Jason works for a financial corporation whose operations and functions are highly complex and difficult to explain to the layman.

> Could Xio's host also earth Oul's power into himself? What sort of horrible things would result from this?

Who cares?

> What sort of different approach would Mitch have taken to killing Oul?

I don't know. I don't care. You're basically asking me to write the final fight a second time with a different combatant.

> What alternatives were there to the Crashes?

None. If there had been alternatives Mitch and Anne would have taken them, wouldn't they?

> Did Mitch do anything to help or hinder the Hot Wars?

I don't know.

> What interferes with the decay of infoelectrical hypersystems?

I have no idea what you're talking about. An infolectrical hypersystem is just a human mind. In 3+1 dimensions, human thought needs human biology to back it up. Kill the body and you kill the mind. There's no "decay".

> What would have happened if Ching had succeeded in dragging Mitch along with him?

Exactly what it says in the story.

> What happened to the eggs when Fine Structure ended?

I don't know.

> How much more powerful than Oul were the beings that made it?

About as powerful as you are compared to, say, a rifle.

2010-01-29 15:30:48 by TimMcCormack:

What happened in Zanjero? It was the creation of yet another superhuman, but I don't quite get what happened beyond that, or the significance. Did the sedative not work? Was the other person killed?

2010-01-29 17:06:20 by Knut:

I'm reposting this in the Q&A from "Science Fiction Future"

If the Solution (or easy access to it anyway) was lost when the computation dome was smashed, that means that Ching must have gotten to it before this happened. My problem is that as far as I can remember, the dome was made out of a meters-thick shell of solid concrete, which would have been troublesome for Ching to get through if he didn't have some superpowers of his own even before Understanding the Script, which brings me to my second question:

Why can Ching suddenly read minds? Even he seems surprised at this (or the ease of it at least): "Collecting information, by comparison, is easy; disturbingly so. [...] Just asking "Why?" is enough to cause the true answer to condense out in the mind of the person he's asking". Is this a result of something not-so-nice-after-all Xio did to make people easier to control, some time while waiting for the brute-forcing to finish?

2010-01-29 17:21:44 by Ian:

@Knut:

From the question regarding how Ching got his Power powers:

"By the end of the story he is at about the same level of knowledge as Jim Akker, and he has figured out how to take apart the mental blocks put into his head by Mitch. In order to do this he had to develop significant mental powers."

Supposedly, this includes the ability to read minds. He merely hadn't tried out the power before he had a reason to.

2010-01-29 17:38:27 by scratskinner:

Was there anything keeping Oul from being imprisoned in 2D or 1D rather than 3+1D?

What is the criteria for being sucked from a parallel universe into Alef/Earth Zero? being a Power? a Script savant? being excessively mind-controlled by Oul or Xio?

Did Muoka's being "relatively close"(Paper Universe) to Anne Poole have anything to do with his unpersoning?

What Ching was doing at the last, was that the "turn a continent inside out" thing that Zhang was trying to do? Did Ching die by being struck down by the Imprisoning God?

2010-01-29 19:05:56 by Boter:

I guess the big question for me is: are there any plans to publish, at least through a self-publisher like CreateSpace? If so, would you publish the "old" (current) version, the "new" (rewrite) version, or both, separately or together? (And if there are no plans, in a perfect world which would you do anyways?)

2010-01-29 19:43:27 by qntm:

> Was there anything keeping Oul from being imprisoned in 2D or 1D rather than 3+1D?

What do you think?

> What is the criteria for being sucked from a parallel universe into Alef/Earth Zero? being a Power? a Script savant? being excessively mind-controlled by Oul or Xio?

Being a Power.

> Did Muoka's being "relatively close"(Paper Universe) to Anne Poole have anything to do with his unpersoning?

I've already told you, there is no information about what happened to Muoka or why.

> Did Ching die by being struck down by the Imprisoning God?

What do you think?

2010-01-30 00:23:00 by LabrynianRebel:

Muoka and Anne were close, therefore Muoka would still want to know what happened to her. So after he found out that Carlus was a "god" he probably accused Carlus of having something to do with it. Then Carlus freaks out, erases all information on Muoka. That's what I think anyways.

2010-01-30 06:51:33 by Bubbaruba:

Aha! I wondered most how Xio ended up in Mitch's brain. I hadn't noticed anything about Xio's Egg before.

What you're saying is that Mitch was born and lived as a normal guy, right up until he fell off a cliff and died. He was just lucky that he was within transmission range of Xio's Egg. The consciousness of Xio arced into the empty vessel of his brain, which was a one-time shot of enough power to make his body alive again (like Oul did to Zykov's dead body). That makes SO MUCH sense now! Brilliant!

So if eggs condense where there is intelligence, were there also a pair of eggs on the alien planet, which would be how Oul got summoned there? And Xio's egg on that world was probably destroyed, along with the bit of power in it, which is too small to make a real difference in the final battle anyway. Neat.

2010-01-30 11:06:09 by Val:

Was Xio/Mitch planning to sacrifice Anne all along, or was there another possibility to destroy the New Cosmology, so that the Solution could be used and Oul defeated? Or could even that group of terrorists aiming for launching her into the black hole have been orchestrated by Xio itself?

2010-01-30 11:15:13 by Val:

LabrynianRebel: In that case I think erasing that specific memory or even just killing him would have been much more simple, besides more merciful.

2010-01-30 20:29:20 by Thrack:

So during Verse Chorus not only was Xio and Oul and their power pushed into a single universe but everything they were directly connected to (the Powers, Mitch, and Zykov) was as well? That is interesting.

2010-01-30 23:27:36 by Boter:

RE: Publishing. Thanks for the feedback :) I'd love to get this in print, and am willing to wait as long as it takes to get it. Hopefully a publisher will pick it up! It's rather non-conventional, so I was worried that it might not get picked up. *crosses fingers*

2010-01-31 00:47:24 by Ryu:

I don't know if anyone has already asked these questions, and there are too many posts for me to look through. But I hope these are answered somehow...

Why would anyone that high up in the Structure create an information-destroying weapon like Oul?

For that matter, are there more like him? What was their original target? Who lost control of Oul in the first place? (Assuming he's a weapon, someone had to make him and point him at something, right?)

Where does the Structure end? Does it go on into infinity? If it's finite, is there anything outside of it? How did the Structure emerge into being? Is there a final God of the Structure?

Do you see any point in writing out the remainder of "the war in heaven", as you called it?

2010-01-31 01:17:52 by Thrack:

If Klick's exit did not work as intended (i.e. sending every intelligence within it's radius outside of Alef) what *did* it do?

2010-01-31 02:52:03 by Knut:

@Sam: I think you might have made a slip in your answer to why Ching appeals to the alternate universes in "There Was No Leak", even though they couldn't possibly help him. In your answer you say that "After twenty thousand years he knew that people would be watching", but as far as I can see "There Was No Leak" occurs at the most a few years after "'Verse Chorus".



Man, I have never read a story remotely as closely as I have this one.

2010-01-31 02:59:38 by Bauglir:

So were antimemetics used twice then? Once when Oul condensed, and once to remove Muoka? Was the Imprisoning God still being lax at the time, or was it two separate technologies? I did notice that the Imprisoning God got stricter as time went on (teleportation worked three times before it was taken out of the Script, so it's possible that something similar worked for antimemetics, but I just want to check).

2010-01-31 20:16:58 by Bubbaruba:

And when Xio used antimimetics on Muoka, was he affected himself? So he was telling the truth when he said to Ching, "I don't know who that is" ?

2010-01-31 20:53:56 by qntm:

The antimeme would have affected Muoka and everybody who knew anything about Muoka. So, yes.

2010-01-31 23:00:34 by Bauglir:

One other question: What happened to Anoo Nkube? Deliberately ambiguous, or did I miss something? I'm not sure if she went with Zykov at the end of "this was supposed to be a parable about the power of imagination", but since I don't recall her ever coming up again it seems like the likeliest outcome is that she stayed. Any clarification, or is it an irrelevant question?

2010-02-01 04:45:34 by Prospero:

I'm sorry, new reader, but what would be the best place to start in the Fine Structure story? I just can seem to find the 'first/beginning' story and I'd rather not ruin the build up of something by clicking the wrong link.

2010-02-01 07:59:27 by Fjord:

@Prospero: Go to http://qntm.org/?structure and start at the top. Work your way down the list. They're already in the order in which they should be read.

2010-02-01 15:37:19 by scratskinner:

Was Mitch truly trying to unperson Muoka? I mean, has the Imprisoning God messed with antimemetization attempts like it has with teleportation attempts?

Does Ching know anything more than that Muoka existed and Mitch had something to do with his dropping out of existence?

2010-02-02 01:13:14 by Alexandstein:

 You described the (3 + 1) multiverse to be a ring of universes which are all ana/kata to one another. So in effect as I understand this would make the multiverse into a 3-toroid and therefore each of the universes are 'flat' 2-spheres as opposed to closed 3-spheres? (In which all you would need to do to move ana or kata is move around the surface of the hypersphere.) Just interested in the topology of your universes.
I think it's really awesome by the way that this story is one of the few pieces of fiction out there that actually correctly depicts higher dimensions, etc.

2010-02-02 11:11:12 by Edawan:

In Parable, did the events described by Zykov (replicators and the Arkhangelsk explosion) actually happen, or was he speaking hypothetically ?
Was replicator technology ever produced or was it killed before they were even made ?

2010-02-02 16:49:51 by scratskinner:

How many Powers past 12 was the military able to dispose of? Was there ever a way found to circumvent or mitigate the Birth rage?

Are "ergs" and Power the same thing? What's the superscientific explanation for it, why does it make you stronger and faster?

Why did Oul's power being already in the universe cause wackiness in the earthing process? ie what's the difference between earthing Power located in-universe and located out-of-universe?

Did Mitch ever consider earthing the small amount of Power that could be provided through the method the military used?

2010-02-02 17:50:31 by scratskinner:

Post-"Verse Chorus", did the Imprisoning God (Hereafter called Iggy, is that okay?) concern itself with the multiverse outside Alef? ie would a supertech used in a parallel universe be shut down by Iggy?

Which of the locked-down techs could be plausibly used for escape from Alef? like teleportation, FTL, matter replicators, antimemetics...

Given that Anne had some of Iggy's Power, why was she apparently incapabale of flying/superstrength/superspeed? Is there some fundamental difference between XioPower/OulPower and IGPower?

2010-02-02 18:58:06 by Azrael:

Re: Bauglir,scratskinner

Since the (presumably) only goal of the imprisoner is to prevent Oul's escape, and antimemetics don't directly provide an exit from the prison, does it have to be consistent in it's response to them?

2010-02-02 21:22:44 by Andrew:

Considering every other 3+1 universe but ours had interuniversal travel, I don't think so.

2010-02-02 21:33:53 by Andrew:

that was directed to scratskinner's first question, sorry.

2010-02-02 22:37:09 by skztr:

Antimemetics could presumably be used to escape by (presumably) using a strong enough application of it to make the Imprisoning God forget about Oul itself. Presumably.

So I'd say locking it out was just good sense.

2010-02-03 17:16:25 by Paul:

> Are "ergs" and Power the same thing?

Ergs are an actual unit of energy. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erg>

Question: Why didn't the Imprisoning God lock out power-earthing (presumably a Script technology) once Zykov and the military started using it?

2010-02-03 18:49:17 by Fjord:

@Paul: The Warden existed solely to prevent anything from *escaping* from Alef. There was likely little restriction on things *entering* Alef. Certainly multiversal travel was restricted, but that was a result of an escape attempt ('Verse Chorus). Had something been brought into Alef capable of aiding in escape from Alef, the Warden would likely have locked everything down in both directions.

2010-02-03 20:28:58 by Fred:

"Earthing" did not bring anything new into Alef. Xio and Oul and all their power were already locked completely inside the cell. We know (from the POV of humans outside Alef) that nothing can pass the barrier in either direction.

The Warden didn't care about splitting the power up or moving it around or attaching it to the puny humans, because that's not relevant to an escape attempt. It only cared when that power was used in particular ways, like during the final battle, at which time it locked out the manner of power use. If someone had ever weaponized power-transfer itself in such a way as to threaten the cell, only then would the Warden have shut it down. Fortunately that never happened, because Xio would have been irrevocably screwed.

2010-02-04 06:44:03 by Sgeo:

You describe each universe as 3+1D (or, if not each universe, then replace "universe" with whatever it is that is 3+1D). So then how is Mitch able to move 4 dimensionally?

2010-02-04 17:31:09 by Edawan:

Re: Parable

> "Yes, they happened. The Arkhangelsk disaster is mentioned in [[The Chaotician]]."

What confused me is that Zykov speaks in the future tense : "Here's what's going to happen. Your hydrogen femtoassemblers are going to run out of control. [...]" and immediately after that Anoo notices that the technology has been shut down. "No, this is not right anymore." so for me the accident was something Zykov said would happen IF the replicators had kept working. Hence the confusion when it was mentioned as an actual event.

2010-02-04 19:04:03 by scratskinner:

So, Anne does _not_ have super strength or flight? Or could she have beat up the guys that had her sealed in cement?

Also, I'm not sure I got an answer to that part about the Zykov earthing wackiness... So, given that the Power to be earthed apparently wasn't up there anymore, why didn't the earthing attempt do absolutely nothing?

Does the increasing power of the Line have anything to do with Oul getting closer and closer to Earth?

Suppose Oul had never been contacted, and humanity managed to survive all the birthings. Could Oul conceivably be drained of enough Power to make it relatively harmless?

Can antimemetized persons circumvent their antimemetization by altering their person? change of name, dyed hair, plastic surgery, self-induced amnesia....

How many questions is too many questions?

2010-02-04 21:20:52 by scratskinner:

Do you have any problem with me copy/pasting in full the comments cited in the second half of my 2010-01-28 18:44:16 post?

Either way, is it too much to ask that that comment (the 2010-01-28 18:44:16) be removed for reasons of inadequate composition?

2010-02-05 22:36:18 by Fred:

Sam, does it bug you when we go and answer each other's questions instead of waiting for you to come in and respond officially?

2010-02-06 21:29:34 by Yes:

You've stated that Xio is of 75+5 dimensions, but mitch states in "Sundown":
"Where I come from we have six dimensions of time. It's complicated."
Is this just a mistake of memory is is there something is the numbering system I'm not getting?

2010-02-08 23:30:52 by qntm:

> So, Anne does *not* have super strength or flight? Or could she have beat up the guys that had her sealed in cement?

No, it is extremely obvious from the story that she does not have these abilities.

> Given that Oul's Power to be earthed apparently wasn't up there anymore, why didn't the earthing attempt do absolutely nothing?

Because Oul wasn't absolutely nowhere i.e. inaccessible i.e. dead. He was just elsewhere.

> Suppose Oul had never been contacted, and humanity managed to survive all the birthings. Could Oul conceivably be drained of enough Power to make it relatively harmless?

No. Oul has enough Power to *destroy the entire Structure up to 75+5D*.

> Can antimemetized persons circumvent their antimemetization by altering their person? Change of name, dyed hair, plastic surgery, self-induced amnesia...

I don't know. Possibly.

> How many questions is too many questions?

You've hit your limit.

2010-02-08 23:33:00 by qntm:

> You've stated that Xio is of 75+5 dimensions, but mitch states in "Sundown": "Where I come from we have six dimensions of time. It's complicated." Is this just a mistake of memory is is there something is the numbering system I'm not getting?

This was supposed to be an early hint that Calrus/Xio was the antagonist in "Unbelievable Scenes", not the protagonist, but I guess I forgot to excise it until now. Thanks for the catch.

2010-02-15 00:09:35 by Allan:

I've been curious about Zhang's actions in 'destroy the future'. He plugs the Script into his information-energy exchanger. What, if any, was the effect of this on, well, the Structure itself?

2010-02-15 05:43:12 by none:

Thomas Muoka does get mentioned in paper universe. I thought he was erased?

2010-02-20 23:47:32 by qntm:

> I've been curious about Zhang's actions in 'destroy the future'. He plugs the Script into his information-energy exchanger. What, if any, was the effect of this on, well, the Structure itself?

There was none.

> Thomas Muoka does get mentioned in paper universe. I thought he was erased?

Paper Universe happened before he was erased.

2010-03-08 17:05:36 by SomeOtherGuy:

What happens if Mr Muoka contacts people anonymously by email?

He can walk into any city coffee shop, and use their free wifi to sign up for a free account with Gmail or Yahoo or whatever. The servers don't get any information about his identity, and neither do email recipients. Even if people are stopped from perceiving information about the man himself, there's nothing to stop them reading mail or blog posts from "tallguy79759".

If the meme were smart enough to handle that without Xio's active oversight, would have to be a sentient being in it's own right.

2010-03-10 10:06:41 by Fjord:

> "What happens if Mr Muoka contacts people anonymously by email?"

In the world of Fine Structure, everything is made of information, if you break it down into small enough bits. In real-world quantum physics, it has been postulated that something which remains unobserved does not exist.

Xio antimemeticized Muoka. Muoka is ignored by everyone. Cameras can't see him. Mics can't hear him. He might not have a visible reflection. He went unobserved from the moment that Xio antimemeticized him until the moment that Ching remembered him. That's more than enough time for him to disappear entirely without hope of returning. Or, alternatively, more than enough time for him to go nuts.

Or perhaps it's even worse than either of those. His personality has been antimemeticized. Perhaps at the moment that occurred, *Muoka himself was affected as well.* He essentially became a vegetable. A vegetable that everyone was compelled to ignore.

I am reminded of Douglas Adams' "Somebody Else's Problem Field."

2010-03-13 16:41:11 by Val:

The mechanisms for the antimeme applied to Muoka discussed above seem to have some problems: it needs an active agent constantly sustaining the effect. It can raise other problems as well: What if he stands between a viewer and a television screen, covering half of it? what if he walks down the street, bumping into people? Or killing them? Or starts building a brick wall in the middle of the street? Maybe people won't notice it because they just don't observe him, but what happens when tha wall becomes big enough to obstruct traffic? Or will people observ a wall being built by a ghost?
The only source about this is what Ching said. He might exaggerate or not know how it fully works. Isn't the situation more plausible, if it's just a one-time effect (not some agent actively maintaining the status quo, dismantling the brick wall and brainwashing everyone who has seen it), for example everyone forgets everything about him (and every record is deleted, his ID card becomes blank etc.), and if he visited his wife, she would be like "who the hell are you, I've never seen you". And maybe Muoka himself wakes up amnesiac, not remembering anything about himself and his occupation.
Even this might cause problems: there can be a lot of confusion for people affected secondarily by this antimeme: someone having a special meeting with Muoka before his antimemetization, and after this remembering only that he was at an important meeting but not knowing with who. Or, if he had children, who would they think they father was? Still, I think it's much more plausible than the "active agent" explanation.

Similar antimemes were used in The Master and Margarita, where Woland could make people sometimes disappear, sometimes be completely forgotten by others, written documents about them disappearing or becoming blank, and they quickly ended up in mental asylums. Even so, it caused some confusion when people encountered some traces of memories or physical objects left behind those who disappeared, some of them getting severe psychological trauma because of this.

2010-03-15 08:38:09 by Fjord:

I think the effects *are* ongoing. The Warden prevented future use of antimemetization, but didn't restrict the one already in place - everyone still forgot about Muoka. Even Mitch, when pressed in the airport by Ching, was affected. Recalling Muoka must have been a conscious effort on Ching's part, if even Xio was affected.

Anyway, I think that the antimeme is self-perpetuating. Everyone who was alive at the time of Muoka's antimemetization will continue to forget him if presented with evidence of his existence. (If you've read Orson Scott Card's *Enchantment*, I'm thinking kind of like the behavior of the flight crew on the 747 that the main characters disembarked from before it took off.) I also think that Muoka himself was permanently affected. Perhaps that means that he became a vegetable; perhaps that means that he developed a new personality and lived his life out as John Q. Public, I don't know. Whichever occurred, whenever anyone is presented with something inextricably linked with Muoka's personality (though not necessarily the personality of anyone he may have become), it falls out of their memory like water through a sieve. And people born after the antimeme will never have known him as Muoka in the first place, regardless of his status.

2010-04-12 05:34:52 by Yes:

Where did you get the name Alef for our 3+1d universe?

2010-06-07 16:25:32 by Pavitra:

It occurs to me there is a way Klick might not have killed everyone. Klick's basic idea was to separate the mind (read: infolectric hypersystem) from the body and let it "float free", as it were. He intended that they would ascend to higher numbers of dimensions -- higher up in the Structure -- but of course they couldn't leave the cell.

However, we do know that there's a little more room in the cell than 3+1D: Mitch Calrus can move a short distance through a fourth spatial dimension. So the people who took Klick's Exit could have been floating around a short distance ±4thward, immortal (per Klick's theory that the only reason we're mortal is because we're stuck in mortal bodies), until the Cell was opened, at which time they would have become free to start climbing the Structure like the rest of us.

Q: Is this, in fact, a plausible interpretation of canon evidence?

2010-09-13 18:48:56 by LabrynianRebel:

Didn't the Berliners escape the cell and that's why the Imprisoning God closed it?

2011-05-18 15:45:47 by Snowyowl:

@LabrynianRebel: No. Look in the main Q&A ("Did the people who took Klick's exit go to heaven? Did this escape route actually work unlike the others?"). Sam says that nothing and nobody gets past the Imprisoning God until Oul is destroyed in Science Fiction Future. Pavitra hypothesises that the Berliners could have survived until then.

2011-07-14 21:51:53 by StClair:

Should you still be reading (and responding):

Found this 'verse through TV Tropes. Quite the interesting read. Upon consideration, I do have one question:
Although "Marooned" is now officially Optional Canon, I would assume that the experience of being "squashed down" into 3+1 dimensions and losing most of his senses (save for Mitch's meager five, six if one counts seeing by superlight) carries over and is still true of Mitch/Xio. So why isn't it/he hopelessly insane, his mind destroyed by this near-complete sensory deprivation, as characters repeatedly state that the analogous experience of Anne Poole should have left her (and, in some interpretations, did)? Was it, in fact, your intent to make the comparison between being trapped, insensate and immobile, in a coal seam and in our spacetime? And if so, why were the outcomes different?

2011-07-14 23:38:10 by qntm:

While Mitch/Xio is a normal human being from our perspective, he is, by the standards of 75+5D beings, a gibbering, insensate vegetable. He has had a vast percentage of his natural cognitive capability stripped away from him in order to think at our level.

The real question is what Mitch/Xio becomes *after* being set free. You never see it in the story (that's my fault) but I actually always intended him to be fine, and when I rewrite Fine Structure one day the final scene will be Xio - totally recovered - rising out of the lower layers towards him, like a lightning bolt.

As for why *that* would be the case, instead of what you suggested... I never actually spotted that connection, and I should have. Whoops! Best explanation (I *have* had this in mind for a great deal of time but I don't recall if it ever made it into the story) is that the total amount of 5D "time" Xio spends trapped in Alef amounts to the equivalent of a few nanoseconds, which is not long enough to affect him.

2011-10-17 22:13:07 by Jim:

What do you mean by "The multiverse AROSE because of the events of 'Verse Chorus"? It seems like the parallel universes already had to exist, because Mitch was travelling kata-wards through them. Or is it just that the Warden's symmetry-breaking intervention (viz. sealing off Universe Zero) is the reason that events in the other universes were able to diverge rather than remaining identical copies?

2013-05-20 20:27:33 by TheOne:

I have an image in my mind of Muoka burning down trees and no one's noticing, killing people and everyone imagines them still to be there. I imagine Muoka could be right here, beating me up, but I don't feel pain, I don't see any bruises and neither does anyone else. I thought, perhaps Muoka could not notice himself, and would just fall on the ground and not move until he died of thirst, but assuming that is not true, this is what I imagine. I imagine, if Muoka is burning down trees, everyone will still see them, what they see is what they thought they would have looked like if they hadn't been burned. The reason I think this is because it's an anti-meme. Memes are in our minds, so should be anti-memes. That is, a meme is something you want to be in your mind and in the minds of others. An anti-meme is something you do not want in your mind. So therefore, you just ignore it. Well, you just cannot see it at all. So, what I think is we're going to see things that have been destroyed by Muoka as we would believe that they would be. Eventually we would see the trees fall over and decompose. But, let's say I'm insane and I believe that all trees will disappear if you touch them. Everyone calls me insane, and I keep touching trees but they keep not disappearing, but I'm still not unconvinced. Then Muoka burns down the trees. Everyone else sees trees as normal, and then I touch them, and I see them disappear!

That was a stupid example, but there is the potential for people to notice the difference! If Muoka does things to make our realities different enough, we will all be so confused, we will all see things completely differently.

2013-10-16 21:17:13 by PenguinSmall:

Amazing series, and website generally!

I couldn't find this answered anywhere else, so: Why didn't the Imprisoning God just kill Oul? Or delete him or whatever...

2014-01-15 02:42:15 by Tuukka:

What happens to US supermen?
Shouldn't they keep working since Xia is in the same bubble-universette?

2014-02-24 03:54:07 by Greg.B:

You wrote a compelling story, but I have one question. Why was FTL communication already banned by the Imprisioning God?

2014-02-28 23:18:33 by Greg.B:

@PenguinSmall Maybe it's because the Imprisoning God was created by a 75+5 dimensional being (Xio/Mitch), and Oul was created by an 80+6 dimensional being.

2014-02-28 23:20:02 by Greg.B:

Where did you get the term "Eka" for the Script?

2014-04-12 20:52:07 by Greg.B:

What happened to the multiverse equivilents of the Powers created in Verse Chorus?


2014-12-10 18:52:54 by ScrpDrgn:

Was FTL Communication knocked out by Zykov summoning Oul to Earth?

2014-12-10 18:53:47 by ScrpDrgn:

Do we have any indication of where the Script comes from?

2015-03-21 07:05:33 by Ken:

Why does the imprisoning god wait for humans to try a technology, then ban it? Why not ban them all from the start? Why does it act in such simple ways when it ought to be essentially omniscient by 3+1 standards.