Science Fiction Future


Graveyard Universe

"There goes the Sun."

The swollen solar disc begins to dim, areas of its surface switching off in ugly black blotches as wide as worlds. Out of the sabotaged star shoots an actinic blue pinprick, arcing around to bear down on Earth, currently host to some one point zero five billion souls. Moving at a respectable and increasing fraction of the speed of light, he'll arrive in just minutes, hitting the Antarctic first, hard enough to punch a hole right from one side of the planet to the other. The shockwave from the supernova will follow a few minutes later. There'll be nothing left but ionised plasma.

Anne Poole is dead. There is no Calculation, no Script Solution, no Power. A war which spanned twenty millennia, and inexpressibly gigantic tracts of hyperspacetime besides, is accelerating to its conclusion. Humanity-Zero is over.

Mitch hits the catwalks feet-first, but it's icy and on an angle and he slides uncontrollably. Shards of exploded helicopter rain down around him. If it was ever time, it's time--


London St. Pancras International looks brand new, and compared to other London rail terminals it practically is. All tasteful modern concrete, interactive customer information screens, champagne bars and expensive book stores. Clean, bright, spacious, airy-- all in stark contrast to, say, its sister station King's Cross, just over the road, whose low, dark ceilings have been soaking up industrial pollution for a century and a half. You can get to Paris on the Eurostar in less than two hours and that's exactly what Ching-Yu Kuang is intending when he runs into Mitch Calrus, changing trains on his way to Edinburgh to see friends.

It turns out that they both have time to kill. There's a pub in the station, and ironically its only real failing aside from the unavoidable crowding and impersonable, transient clientele is that it, like the station, is brand new. Pubs are difficult to build old, though.

They steal a pair of stools at the bar and order a pint apiece. "It's you, then," Ching begins. "Still here? Coping?"

"It gets easier to tolerate," says Mitch, "but I still get the dreams about the rest of the Structure. Anne helps me with it. She understands it better than anybody else I've met."


"Anne Poole. I never mentioned this?"

"The Anne Poole? The one who lost her mind."

"I've helped her find it again. So we have a comfy symbiosis going on," explains Mitch. He glances at Ching, and frowns, puzzled.

During the pause, they drink again.

"Are you still trying to find a way home?" Ching asks.

"I just don't know. I mean, Oul's got to still be out there somewhere, or this whole mess would have dissolved by now. I just don't know where on Earth he could be, or how I could find him."

"I was thinking about that," says Ching. "I study the Script. It's all anybody studies these days. But the amount of stuff locked out to us is becoming unpleasant. Everybody knows that trying to implement these designs always ends in death for anybody involved, but they keep trying it on, with compartmentalisation and remotely-controlled automated fabrication. Did you hear about this exec in Spain who's on trial? It turned out that he had about two hundred and fifty people working on parts of a single supertechnology and none of them had any idea what the full picture was. They were having fatal accidents. More than a dozen of them. And they were just working on the smallest, most innocuous pieces of the puzzle. You get nowhere, now.

"Science is over, do you see? Roadblocked. Until we can send you home. Teleportation, replication, antimemetics. There will never be FTL. Even if it works once, it'll break right after."

Mitch Calrus has been getting visibly uneasier as Ching has been speaking. "I've never heard of antimemetics."

"An antimeme is the opposite of a meme. A meme is any idea with a self-replicating property, a hook which causes people to disperse the idea to other people. Any world religion is a meme. Memes can be attached together, they mutate, and they reproduce, like genes do. An antimeme is the opposite. It's an idea with self-censoring properties. An idea which is repulsive. People who have the idea discard it. They don't share it. They try to prevent it from spreading. Secrets. Scandals. 'The public must never know about this.' 'We don't talk about X.'"

"But something that simple is a supertechnology?"

"Oh, sure. You could weaponise it. It'd be completely different from brainwashing or mind-wiping or censorship. You could make a device which could antimemeticise anything you wanted. Or anyone. And then nobody would give a second glance to that person. They'd be an unperson. A ghost, drifting through the world. Even close family would forget that that person had ever existed. They'd just mentally edit him out of their memories and experiences. They might even disappear from photographs and videotapes and public records. And nobody would ever notice."

"That sounds like a terrible thing to do to somebody," says Mitch. "Ching, are you okay? You... look ill."

"I'm fine. You're right, it was a terrible thing to do. Because someone was erased. Not a thing, a person. Antimemetics were locked out years ago, but it took me years to see through this 'magic eye pattern' and see the extra Script Amendment which had been hidden there in plain sight the whole time. You see, the victim might still exist in some way. If somebody really had been erased from the universe like that, their only hope of being found again would be if someone spontaneously decided to look for ghosts. They could be right here in this room, unable to get anyone's attention no matter how loud they shout. Don't get up."

Mitch, who has hurriedly picked up his backpack and started to leave, freezes in his tracks. Ching hasn't moved and isn't even looking directly at him. "I'm going to miss my train," says Mitch.

"You are not going to miss your train. I have some questions for you." Ching drinks. Casually. Mitch turns and sits back down, as if being forced by an unseen hand. He places both his hands flat on the bar, framing his half-empty pint glass, concentrating. There's something wrong with your brain, he thinks. Or mine.

Once Ching has put another finger of beer away, he continues. "Why am I the only person who remembers the name Thomas Muoka?"

"I don't know who that is," says Mitch.

"Of course you don't. That's not what I'm asking. There were five of us on the roof of the Medium Preonic Receiver that night. You remember four. You, me, Seph Baird and Mike Murphy. We saw you do magic that night. But Muoka was there too. And that's the last thing that happened before antimemetics dropped out of the Script and Tom Muoka dropped out of the universe, like neither of them ever existed. Why do you think that is?

"Here's another. I do know Anne Poole. Actually, I've been following her case quite closely. I knew you two are involved together. How did Anne Poole recover her mind so fast? The sensory deprivation specialist, Srin Shapur, said that she was going to be vegetative for decades. How come her recovery began right after you volunteered to work with her? How come, after just a few years, she's as articulate and powerful a physicist as she ever was? And she's working for you now?

"And another. We saw impossible things. We shared a vision of the Structure and your war. And we all believed you when you told us your story. That's wrong. We had what amounts to a religious experience, but we didn't test it. We just fell into line and started working for you, trying to send you home. Why didn't we challenge you? We're supposed to be scientists.

"Mikhail Zykov was smart, manipulative and powerful. He surrounded himself with scientists who knew more than he did and politicians with more power than he had and he brainwashed them into helping him achieve his goals. He created false ideas and put them into other people's minds. He was a telepath. Does this sound familiar, Xio?

"What did Muoka see which we didn't?"

"First of all," says Mitch, "you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Second, I have enough mental control over these sheep that I could kill you right now in front of them and never serve a day--"


Scintillating white light coruscates from one of Ching's hands. He has a blue-black metal cube clenched in one fist, and the light is escaping through the cracks in the box's welds and the gaps between his fingers.

Mitch stumbles backwards, tripping over his stool and holdall, and tries to run for the door, but Ching catches his arm. "There's no use running. This thing has a range measured in miles."

Mitch stares wide-eyed at Ching for a moment. The man's mind is a locked door. His face is a picture of calculated fury. But the pub is full of people (none of whom have noticed or reacted to the detonating weapon of mass destruction in Ching's hand). And the station outside is equally densely packed and King's Cross Station is fifty yards away and there's a major Tube interchange below the two as well. "You'd kill thousands," he says. "You're bluffing. Feet, at most--" Mitch tries to phase his arm through Ching's grip. It doesn't work. Suddenly, instantly, he is properly frightened for his life.

He charges forward, effectively picking Ching up and slamming him against the wall where it meets the bar. For a moment Ching is stunned by the blow to the back of his head, then there's a struggle and he swiftly has Mitch in a rudimentary headlock. Mitch kicks off the wall, but by now the light is so bright that neither of them can even see what's actually happening and they trip over the tipped stool. They hit the floor hard, Ching mostly on top. Mitch recovers fractionally quicker and tries to scramble out from under Ching, smashing his head into the bar as he does so. For a split second he manages to completely free himself from his opponent's grasp. During that split second, the box goes nuclear.

When everybody in the bar can see again, there's a metre-wide circle of scorched wood flooring where Ching was.

Where Mitch was, which is centimetres outside of the blast radius, there's still Mitch.

Lost Time

It's a legitimate problem.

The prison in which Alef is suspended is impregnable and inescapable in all known conventional and unconventional spatial directions and, any time another path is discovered and tested, another, narrower set of walls is erected to block those off. There was a time before the walls existed, but the prison is now capped at that end, too - no time travel, no closed timelike curves, no possibility of escape via the singularity at the origin of the universe.

There will also be a time after which the walls cease to exist. Eventually, there will be an instant of total entropy, the Omega Point which no finite energy resource can stave off eternally and beyond which nothing coherent will ever exist. A point when all Alef's intelligent life - cosmic or otherwise - will have passed; when the walls are no longer necessary and the Imprisoning God, task completed, will have expired too.

It is towards this point that Ching is hurled, clinging to his osmium cube, tossed and dragged down the frothing white timestream like an unmanned rubber raft. He accelerates to more than eight thousand five hundred years per second before the Imprisoning God catches wise to what he is trying to do and rips Standing Wave Time Suspension out of Alef's configuration. Ching coasts for a decade as the timestream evaporates and then drops back into real space, crash-landing over the course of a six-week span of late 230th-century London. The impact is devastating, but the build-up of radiation and vibration preceding it means that the surrounding portion of the city has long been evacuated by the time Ching lands. He arrives in a city as ancient and storied as any of this era, seemingly built alternately from hundred-metre-tall skyscrapers and giant redwood trees, the two species of structure interlocking and competing with one another for sky.

After things cool down, Ching is recovered from the blast zone, frazzled but alive. The locals speak to him in sophisticated variations of languages which are utterly alien to him and which he does not speak, but he quickly realises that he can simply look into their heads and pull out the word/idea combinations he needs. The biggest obstacle is pronouncing the unfamiliar syllables back to them. His first attempts are at the "lost tourist with phrasebook" level, but after a solid week doing nothing else his only problem is a bizarre accent and a tendency to stumble over implosive consonants.

Travel across this future Earth is difficult. There is a vast amount of pre-existing road and rail infrastructure, up to and including a pressurised submerged maglev tunnel crossing the entire North Atlantic Ocean, but the state of repair varies from "good" to "nightmare-inducingly dangerous" depending on the terrain and the distance from civilisation. The North Atlantic Crossing is broken in dozens of places. Modern humanity seems to be not long out of the Stone Age, and still tied to what Ching would call naive conceptions of the origin of the world and all the wonders in it. They have notions of machine health, and machine spirits. They regard transit infrastructure as a circulatory system of a living planet. At almost every junction is a minor or major monument to a different guardian angel of travel, the God of Market Square, the God of the Former A20, the God of the Flooded Chunnel (Coquelles Terminus). Many of the monuments have memorials or burnt offerings beneath them, and every time Ching switches from one mutant vehicle to another, or from one principality to another, it involves at least two of a blessing, a chant and a toll.

Collecting information, by comparison, is easy; disturbingly so. Ching consciously tries to exercise restraint but the alternative is to become overwhelmed by a world he no longer remotely understands. Just asking "Why?" is enough to cause the true answer to condense out in the mind of the person he's asking, so fast that Ching often loses interest and stops listening to the oversimplified, misleading or simply mendacious verbal explanation. Even so, it takes him an extraordinary amount of time to uncover any kind of truth about the circumstances leading to the present situation of the human race. It is a blind spot in history, and all he can do is explore its edges.

The trail leads him south.


This is all the result of a dire miscalculation.

He had hoped to catch hold of Calrus and ram him headfirst into the far wall of the timestream. Calrus would be crushed in the attempt, sieved out of spacetime, leaving behind Ching and the rest of the human race. With Calrus dead, there would be no reason for the Imprisoning God to continue to exist, the walls would collapse, and humanity would be able to continue onwards, alone, to their rightful destiny. Ching reckoned that the Imprisoning God would be primed and waiting on a hair trigger; that its intervention would occur within a year of travel.

Without Calrus in tow, though, the threat of the escape attempt was drastically lessened and God took tens of millennia longer to react. Ching knows that there is still a temporal wall looming some time in the future, but it could be anything from hours to decades away. And a glance at the (unexpectedly starless) sky reveals that decades are not available.

And then, as he travels towards Empyrean territory and he encounters the minds of more knowledgeable astronomers and theologians he comes to understand the truth: the universe has been sundered; Oul is real; Oul is still alive.

He was wrong.


Mitch hits the railings. He hangs on. The drop below him is a hundred metres into an abyss full of frozen, tangled mechanical equipment and broken rock. The railings are iced up and almost impossible to get purchase on.

"She was an agent of the Imprisoning God," bellows Ching from far above Mitch's head. Ching is standing on air, radiating stolen heat and light, dumping waste Power. "So you broke her brain down and rebuilt it yourself so that she would spend an eternity serving you and then kill herself so you could win the war. Where should we be? After twenty thousand years?"

"I was never your Adversary," Mitch screams back. "You made a mistake. How can you argue with that thing in the sky? It would have exterminated your entire species if I hadn't saved you. I saved your whole world from itself! A dozen times!"

"You saved yourself! I don't think you understand the scale of what we've been denied! We could have taken every star. We could have circumnavigated this universe. And this is just the lowest rung on the Structure. But all possibility of salvation was taken from us as soon as we knew it existed, before we could comprehend the magnitude of its implications, before we even had a chance to process the colossal theft which was happening in front of us. We should have lived forever, but the door to an uncountable infinity of possible afterlives was closed to us because of a single, petty, stupid creature which decided we were acceptable collateral."

The sky is dimming, as if night is falling. The malevolent blue pinprick in space is right overhead and growing in intensity. They have seconds at most. Mitch screams that killing him will not save anyone. Ching replies that he knows. The rage radiating off him is palpable, washing over Mitch's mind so powerfully that it makes it difficult to concentrate on anything else. Mitch can only hang onto his slippery railing with both hands while white light, heat and noise saturate his senses. He feels electrostatic charge building up in the catwalk and hairs rising on his arms. Soundlessly, unable to tell whether he is even moving his mouth properly, Mitch asks Ching what he should have done. A few seconds pass.

"You're going to want to watch this," Ching replies, his voice cutting effortlessly through the building scream.

In an eyeblink Mitch is a mile away, watching a brilliant yellow humanoid accelerate into the sky on a lightning bolt's zigzag course, rising to meet Oul at an altitude which surely won't come to more than a few light-seconds. "Xio!" shouts a human voice behind him, and he turns to see his three soldiers and helicopter pilot, rushing forward to meet him. "What happened to you? What happened to us?"

"Someone got to the Solution before it was destr--" is all Mitch can say before the noise of Ching's launch catches up and flattens them all.



The first thing Ching does is overclock his brain, pushing the virtual control all the way forward until it breaks. He's a hundred thousand kilometres above the Antarctic and still accelerating and about to hit Oul fist-first at a combined velocity which he would need a Lorentz transform to accurately calculate. Still, Oul has the upper hand in terms of sheer speed, and a simple application of the law of conservation of momentum has them both hitting the ground again within a matter of two more seconds. Ching has that long to end the war.

Each superhero was twice as powerful as the last. This went on for twenty years, and then...

Oul is humanoid, and this is the only thought that Ching has time to process before absorbing the entirety of Oul's opening seven attacks, all of them energy-based and equivalent to titanic, tightly focused nuclear weapons. In an instant Ching is improvising and constructing force-field shields to protect himself-- force fields being an entire technology which he had no idea even existed before he ramped up his intellect. He retaliates with a half-formed attempt at a force-field punch, flanked by multidimensional energy attacks of his own and a steel-sharp mental directive which, all things being equal, should eviscerate Oul's brain of all intelligent thought, leaving him docile. This does not work. Oul not only shrugs off the blow, but starts breeding secondary offensive units. Ching instinctively does the same and rapidly loses track of the war. With further attacks converging on him and absolutely no idea what he is doing, Ching grants some autonomy, a lot of intelligence and a monumental injection of firepower to his external pawns and the fight instantly blossoms to a hundred times its original diameter. Then Oul finally physically collides with him, so hard that Ching's physical manifestation momentarily disconnects from his perceptual centre - he is borne back down to Earth so fast that he can barely keep up with his own body.

Ching senses that he is losing the initiative. There are people on the rapidly rising continent down there - he clenches one fist and moves them out of the way, not knowing or caring how, but causing two dozen more minor Amendments to switch on at the tail end of the Script. With the loss of mobility, the war among the pawns at the interface between him and Oul becomes noticeably slower and simpler to follow. That will work as a battle-level tactic, Ching thinks. Use and abuse. Take away all his aggressive outlets.

But that will take away all of mine. Ching manages to gain the upper hand in the tussle, turns, uses Oul as a live shield and switches every particle of Antarctica from "mass" over to "energy". ("No," warns the Imprisoning God, in stern, blunt Eka: "In this universe, you do not pull stunts like that. There is a limit. You are racing towards it.")

The sparkle, flash and catastrophic outrushing shockwave from the detonating continent will easily be enough to wipe out all life on Earth. But there'll be a critical delay before the shockwave starts hitting inhabited countries, and now that Ching has used this trick, Oul can't use the same on the planet itself or the people on it. Ching locates the null spot in Oul's energy wake-- the point directly behind him where all his shields neatly intersect with one another-- curls into a ball and rides out the shock. Oul, caught off-guard, bears the brunt of the entire explosion. Easily. Then turns, and resumes the fight, with negligible damage, yet greater aggression and the same furious purpose: EVERYBODY DIES NOW.

It has no mind - that's how it withstood the first kill-command. All it has is firepower. Even within punishing and rapidly contracting constraints, Oul is unimaginably stronger. The thought occurs to Ching that the two of them could battle until they were invisible points fighting for control of a zero-dimensional universe, and he would still be hopelessly outclassed. Xio and Oul were both of effectively infinite capability. But there are levels of infinity. That was how this all began in the first place.

I'm just thinking faster. I'm still stupid. Did I even have a Plan B?

So that's the full two seconds elapsed, and Ching hits ground zero like a kinetic harpoon and keeps going, driven into the molten crust and then the Earth's mantle by Oul at his back. He shapes his shields into something roughly hydrodynamic so that he can slip relatively smoothly through the kilometres of black liquid rock but it's an ugly dive and his defences are still being torn away in thick layers as they carve downwards. How do I beat this creature? Does it even have weaknesses? We held it off with a black hole. It can't violate SR. But functional singularity modulation is gone.

Gravity. Gravity is its weapon.

"No. That is not something you can do."

He has milliseconds before real human lives are going to start ending. And, under this much pressure, short of directly asking for divine intervention to finish the fight for him, there's nothing else he can think of.

Ching raises one hand ahead of him and delivers a series of complex commands to the fabric of reality. At first it looks like nothing has resulted, but then they pass through the interface between the lower mantle and upper core and erupt out into what is now a seven-thousand-kilometre-wide bubble of vacuum that Ching has torn in the centre of the Earth. Freed from the rock, Ching accelerates forward out of Oul's grip, stretches and re-establishes as much of his shield array as he can. Oul screams and pursues him, drawing gravitational power from the aether to defend itself. But Ching gets there first, taking hold of the still-contracting globule with both hands, pivoting around it and coaxing the superdense material into a handgrip. Above them, planet Earth begins to implode.

Oul is too late and begins decelerating while Ching wrenches the impossible spinning zettatonne weapon around to face it. Spacetime twists and cracks and light and energy bend with it and the rainbow firestorm around them dims and shuts off as self-defence takes priority. Oul's image wavers and changes size as it tries to construct a gravitational sink intense enough to divert the attack elsewhere, but Ching can see reality changing and simply waits until all the graphs meet before firing a bullet with the mass of the Moon at his opponent.


And that's the moment. The walls come down. The Script opens up. The End.

When Everything Is Possible

There are parallel universes.

Agents from those that are immediately ana and kata around the multiversal curve arrive in Alef within microseconds. The surface of the rapidly self-destructing planet Earth-Zero is swept molecule by molecule for intelligent human life and evacuated with time to spare. Quite a lot of the more historically significant features of its surface are saved too, for sentimental reasons and future study. The whole collapse can't be prevented - a full hour's warning would have been necessary for that - but it goes on the scientific record, every moment of it. So does the supernova, which always makes great entertainment.

There is FTL now. There are pan-stellar civilisations. There are pan-universal civilisations. There are uplifted humanities crawling up the pillars of the Structure towards Upsilon layer, for whom Multiverse One was just the cradle. There are timelike loops and solar sails and bifurcations and antigravity and honest-to-God laser blasters. For the bewildered or homesick the lost Earth is rebuilt in virtuality in perfect detail. There are worldtrees, space elevators, Dyson swarms, replicators, space stations, terracompatible planets and cities on the Moon. There are halos, AIs, brains in jars, Jacob's Ladders, Singularities, infolectricity and superlight. There are people from the future and people who can fly and people who can't die--

Discussion (71)

2010-01-27 11:31:29 by Vladimir:

So: 1) The deciding moment that saved most of humanity and its potential was 'Verse Chorus. 2) The imprisoner's very first intervention was in Taphophobia. It created an invincible agent, Anne Poole. But then Mitch hijacked her somehow, meaning that he had mind control powers all along. 3) On second thought, Taphophobia was not the first intervention. The first was closing off A-LAY FTL communication, as noted in "this is not over", probably because Zykov signaled the Earth's location to Oul. 4) Mitch had been awake longer than we'd thought. No indication of that in the other stories, and no idea why it was necessary. 5) The mother of all plotholes: the Imprisoning God could have just killed Oul right away (or imprisoned him in a brick, or whatever) instead of leaving the job to an underpowered Mitch.

2010-01-27 11:38:05 by Pozorvlak:

And this is why nobody mourned when Ching went missing in action: because in a story like this, a character is dead only if you've seen the body :-)

2010-01-27 12:31:54 by qntm:

Ching knew that 'Verse Chorus had created parallel universes. This is who he's appealing to for help when he shouts "I know you're watching, help us" during "There Was No Leak". Mitch having been awake for longer than anybody thought alters his motivations for approaching Seph Baird, raises the possibility that he could have sabotaged the first teleportation experiment without anybody knowing. You have no idea how long Poole was invincible for, or what her activities were before the accident which destroyed her mind. And that last plot hole is no plot hole: the Imprisoning God's role is right there in its name. Alef is a prison, designed to keep its occupants under control. It is not Death Row. It's only when Oul starts invoking seriously dangerous gravitational powers that it becomes necessary to step in and put it down.

2010-01-27 12:44:26 by Pete:

I'm one of yours fans but this is hard to read with so long between chapters! A little disspointed with over-elaborations like "...something hot and red dripping..." or "ionised plasma" but its a small complaint in the grand scheme of things.

2010-01-27 13:45:18 by skztr:

I've tended to brush of questions-in-the-comments, as things usually seem to be either "obvious" or "just not answered yet", but this being the last one, it raises a few ambiguities: - was Mitch (that is "a host of Xio") weakly immortal? ie: didn't age, but still killable - was Mitch lying whenever he seemed to know less than he really did, and if not: - what makes him forget? - what makes him remember? - How did Ching come across the "solution"? Did he use the calculation, or did he already have it? - can you enable <ul>/<li> tags in the parser? :)

2010-01-27 14:08:13 by ProstheticConscience:

"And that last plot hole is no plot hole: the Imprisoning God's role is right there in its name. Alef is a prison, designed to keep its occupants under control. It is not Death Row. It's only when Oul starts invoking seriously dangerous gravitational powers that it becomes necessary to step in and put it down." I don't think the Imprisoning God killed Oul. I think Ching manipulated it into ruling all of Oul's potential defenses against his final attack illegal.

2010-01-27 14:26:42 by qntm:

No, the body of Mitch Calrus was not weakly or strongly immortal. It was human. While plenty of backups of his brain were taken, Calrus' body expired in reality some years before the events of "Last Ergs/You Are Here". From that point to 22985 he is repeatedly resurrected in new cloned bodies or donor bodies. The shell he's using in the final few chapters is a randomly-chosen soldier. What points are you referring to when you say Mitch seems to know less than he really does?

2010-01-27 16:58:24 by PrimeIntellect:

Excellent. Amazing ending.

2010-01-27 17:09:06 by LabrynianRebel:

So Xio died?

2010-01-27 18:12:23 by Stel:

...What exactly did Ching do? Is the power we see a consequence of his interpreting the decoded script on his own, or has he simply earthed Xio in himself? Surprising ending there- I wasn't expecting him, of all people, to show up again. Bravo!

2010-01-27 18:24:05 by skztr:

I suppose what I don't understand is: if Xio remembered who he was the whole time (prior to "Leaving The Real World"), had been manipulating people and events leading up to that, then what was the real point of getting to the receiver? Was "touching the script" (for lack of a better description) an attempt at grounding more of Xio, which failed? Previously, I'd been under the assumption that Mitch was host to Xio, but a side-effect of being crammed into 3+1 was for Xio to forget who he actually was. Was that all really just a ruse?

2010-01-27 18:59:20 by qntm:

The events at the receiver convinced everybody present that Mitch was genuinely a hyperdimensional creature from a greater universe. Mitch already pretty much had Seph on his side; he also gained Muoka, Murphy and Ching.

2010-01-27 19:27:04 by qntm:

I've considered the comments carefully and I think many of them are justified. This may be a controversial move but I've removed the "Marooned" portion of this story and a line in "Ghosts" which implies that Mitch was awake and conscious before he was really.

2010-01-27 20:02:50 by scratskinner:

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?

2010-01-27 20:51:13 by Josh:

Here's a play-by-play of my thoughts while I read this: "Graveyard Universe" Okay, the world's still ending, just like we left it. Mitch is feeling useless. "If it was ever time, it's time--" Time for what? Does he have some sort of ace-in-the-hole? "Marooned" ...wait, wasn't he just in Antarctica? How'd he get to the jungle? And the past??? What's he babbling about? (After re-reading it, I get what's going on, but I had no clue what I was seeing when I first read it) "Ghosts" Oh, it's that Ching guy. He's the one who worked with the Powers and went crazy about the Script and then didn't and stuff. What happened to him anyways? Okay, he meets Mitch. Talks about how bad things are. Antimemetics? So we could get the internet to forget about hearing how much I like mudkipz? Ha ha, I'm so funny. Wait, Mitch made everybody forget a guy? Why? Who was that guy? Wait, so Mitch didn't just find out what he was when they all got mind-blasted by the multiverse? Now Ching is trying to blow Mitch up. Why? Weren't we trying to help him? (My attention span being that of a box of hamsters, I really can't keep up with all the characters I haven't seen in over six months) "Lost Time" Oh, so he was trying to fly Mitch through time. Still, why? And now he can read minds. How??? And it seems a bit coincidental that he pops out just right around the end of the world. He seems to think that killing Mitch (and whatever that thing is that is also Mitch) will end this mess. I thought it was Oul that needed killing. How does killing the guy that's supposed to kill Oul solve anything? "|[A]|----" Back to Mitch, who is back to hanging on for dear life. And now Ching is...flying???? If he could fly, why did he take the trains???? He's saying Mitch (who seems unphased by Ching flying) doomed humanity. Didn't he save humanity? Isn't that was he's been doing this whole time; stopping us from blowing ourselves up? Whatever, Ching is mad, Mitch is desperate, and stuff happens, Ching turns into Super Man and flies off. I have no idea what I'm reading anymore. (I have an idea now, but I didn't then) He's flying up, time is short, yadda yadda..."Each superhero *something something* and then..." What? And then What????? What happened? Oul is humanoid for no apparent reason except it makes more sense to see two guys punching each other than one guy punching the air. EPIC FIGHT SCENE! Ching blew up Antarctica. I guess when he said Mitch would want to see something, he only meant for a second or two before he blew up the continent he was standing on. Prison God is acting as the ref and declaring every play against the rules. Ching muses about how he's going to lose at this rate. Ching blasts a hole in the earth and gets ready to punch Oul with it. He had better know what he's doing. "No." Gee, thanks Prison God. "When Everything Is Possible" Earth is destroyed, not that it mattered. We have a trillion billion more just like it. Really, the whole thing loses its significance when put into perspective. Now we get a list of all the great stuff science says will happen one day. Didn't half this stuff already exist somewhere? So what was the point???? This is a really well-written story, and I can tell how much work you put into it. I just didn't really get it after it got far past the part about the flying people. I guess I'm not your ideal target audience member. If anyone cares to answer some questions, I'd be grateful. How did Ching learn to read minds? Why did that Tom guy get wiped from everyone's memory, and how did Ching remember him? What was that thing Mitch sensed at the end of Marooned? And was there really any point to this whole little anecdote?

2010-01-27 21:04:00 by Vladimir:

So it was Mitch/Xio who engineered the events of Taphophobia? Made Anne teleport into a rock, and then teleported the rock duplicate of Anne into the stratosphere so the other scientists wouldn't find her? Now that you removed Marooned, Xio isn't supposed to have been conscious during Taphophobia.

2010-01-27 21:33:06 by skztr:

I came to re-read, hoping it would make more sense through repetition, and saw those parts were gone. A bit extreme, but certainly makes things fit better in my head. Will the deleted parts (including other deletions whose original I never noticed, but which I have seen referenced in a couple of comments every now and then) be preserved in the "Extras, appendices..." section for posterity?

2010-01-27 21:40:33 by Vitronus:

That was a truly epic finale. Seeing Ching return as the ultimate hero - acting for humanity rather than, like Xio, for himself - was a satisfying twist, and it was nice to see a positive fate for Alef's residents. I'm interested in seeing the retconned 'Marooned' section. Will it appear in the appendices? Also, regarding story details: What was Anne Poole's role as an 'agent' of the Imprisoning God? Is it a coincidence that Ching landed in 230th century, in good time to find the Solution?

2010-01-27 22:21:31 by qntm:

Vitronus: I'll move the omitted section to the appendices along with an explanation of why it was removed. Thanks for that suggestion. 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. It is not a coincidence that Ching landed in 22985 at about the same time as Mitch's resurrection AND the same time that 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".

2010-01-28 03:59:13 by Thrack:

I just realized how John Zhang shook off Oul's mind control the third time he was woken (by Mitch). It was Xio's mind control. I've been wondering about that for months. I'm going to have to re-read all of Fine Structure so I can find all the new connections and recompile it in my head properly. I'll wait and see if more changes are made though (and until I actually get time).

2010-01-28 06:19:09 by kabu:

@Thrack Knowing what I know now, I still think that was Zykov's mind control, but Xio maybe helped him snap out of it telepathically. All of Zhang's actions prior to that point were clearly in the service of Oul, his actions right after in the service of Xio.

2010-01-28 13:05:19 by Thrack:

@Kabu Is that not what I said?

2010-01-28 14:46:53 by Knut:

Question: 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? Also, "ionised plasma".

2010-01-28 15:24:44 by Adin:

@ Josh "If it was ever time, it's time--" is a relatively common expression that usually goes "if there was ever a time for a miracle, it's now" or some variation thereof. Ghosts - Ching was involved with Mitch and the rest of our heros until "There was no leak" when Jason Chilton (his friend) died. At that point, he had no intention of fighting Mitch or anyone else. But as noted previously, he loved being involved with the Eka script more than he loved his wife, so it's not unexpected that he'd continue to research. While researching, he discovered something (or several somethings) that would protect him from Mitch's 4-D shifts, read minds, travel forward through time, Anitmemetics, etc. This helped him remember that Mitch could adjust people's minds. He made the assumption that Mitch was in fact the bad guy, which led the this confrontation. Lost Time - If the imprisoning God see Mitch flying through time, he's more likely to actively stop him or make him do something so dangerous he dies. This is the same thing he does to stop Oul in the last battle (with a whole lot more power). At this point he thinks that Mitch/Xio is the real threat, not Oul. (either that Oul was all ready destroyed, or never existed). "|[A]|----" - Ching pieced things together and got to the Dome in Antarctica before Mitch. Once there he got the rest of Xio's powers (which is what Mitch and Anne had been working on for 20k years). With those powers he had leapfrogged Mitch's power. Where Everything is Possible - In Last Ergs (Escape from Planet Earth) We've seen the 20k year version of the rest of the universes which had advanced technology to the limits of the Eka script, but they mention that they should have all features that the imprisoning God has blocked off. These certain features were essentially one use only, once someone figured them out, the imprisoning God determined that it was an escape attempt and stopped it. Tom got wiped from everyone's memory because he wouldn't or didn't want to go along with Mitch's plan. Mitch made everyone else forget about him so there wouldn't be a focal point for them to figure him out (which Ching did anyway). Mitch sensed his egg at the end of Marooned. If you read the extended storied, you'll see some other things that could have happened with that egg. "When Everything is possible" is like the epilogue of the story. Yes, the earth was destroyed. However the neighboring universes save most of the people on earth. The imprisoning God's prison is gone, People can do all the things that were blocked off.

2010-01-28 17:52:07 by kabu:

@Thrack That's what I get for reading comments while sleep-deprived. Oops :(

2010-01-28 20:38:52 by qntm:

Josh, I think your main problem is just that you read the whole thing too quickly. I wrote this chapter to move as fast as possible because I had a lot of stuff that I wanted to happen and I wanted the story to feel like it was accelerating to a climax. If you actually paid attention to what was happening in each sub-chapter then you would have seen that pretty much *all* of your questions were answered, in almost the exact order that you asked them. Skimming the whole thing so fast that you missed vital details and then complaining about missing vital details is pretty ridiculous. There are plenty of actual problems with this chapter, but those aren't they. For the record, the full phrase was going to be "it's time to save the world" because this is basically the most ridiculous, desperate situation humanity could possibly ever be in, but it just sounded corny and obvious in full.

2010-01-29 04:27:46 by Mick:

Same, thank you. Thank you for writing with depth, for writing with intricacy, and for writing with style. Mostly, though, I thank you for writing with math. I cannot wait to see what you come up with next.

2010-01-29 22:33:23 by Raphfrk:

So, Ching absorbed the power of the Solution/Xio? Does that mean that there was actually no point in recovering Mitch and overwriting that guy's brain. Anne Poole could have just done her thing with the black hole at any time, once the computer had completed the last stage of calculations? Ching would have exited the time stream at the appropriate time instant. Also, did Mitch survive in the end and if not, presumably the brain state info from Jupiter could have been used.

2010-01-30 00:24:54 by KJ:

I don't think Mitch survived; Ching destroyed Antarctica.

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

KJ: It might be that the physical body did not, but Xio could have survived and went home. Or even Mitch could have survived by being copied and rebuilt by the rescuers from the neighboring parallel universes. What is really strange, the it is possible that actually the fight between Oul and Xio saved humanity, contrary to what Ching thinks. Without them, there would be no parallel universes (I mean, they would be just a mirror of each other) and so no second chances. As many of those worlds are uninhabited, and based upon what happened on Earth Zero, a sufficiently foolish man, group or nation could have triggered the extinction of humankind. These parallel universes diverging gave the possibility, by the law of large numbers, that at least in some of them mankind could reach a sufficiently advanced level without destroying itself.

2010-01-31 00:00:46 by qntm:

Ching completely evacuated Antarctica of all human inhabitants before blowing it up.

2010-01-31 01:17:57 by Josh:

@Sam Yeah, I'm not surprised that the answers were there and I was just missing them. Your story is quite detail-oriented, and I didn't mean to insult or offend your writing skills. Sorry if you took my comment that way. All-in-all, I think you've told a very entertaining story. Thanks for the free entertainment! :)

2010-02-05 15:25:08 by Jacko:

Totally floored here. This has been a fantastic experience for me. Thank you so much for all of your hard work.<br>I will admit that there were times when I wondered if any of this would really make sense in the end, or if it might lose your interest and just never be finished (as happens so often on the net these days, it seems), but you have masterfully put those niggling doubts to rest in a way that is more complete than I could have imagined. I never wanted it to end, and was not sure that any ending could really do the characters and the universe (Multiverse!) you've created justice, but I really could not be happier with the way this has all turned out.<br>I really hope this ends up being published. Science Fiction has completely lost its way in my eyes, and it's writing like this and authors like you who will get it back on track.<br>Best of luck, and keep 'em coming. I'll be staying tuned.

2010-02-09 22:02:52 by Andrew:

Hey wait a second... If Ching absorbed all of Xio's power, what's going to happen to Xio when he resurfaces in his own dimension? Will he still be as weak as a human?

2010-02-18 18:50:44 by LabrynianRebel:

Yep, Xio is going to be the sickly kid who gets picked on at school from now on

2010-03-13 18:28:14 by Voodoo:

Well, I'd just like to say that this is the most epic story I've ever read, by far. * * * * *

2010-03-26 08:03:13 by FlashMedallion:

I just have to jump in here and say this is amongst the best hard science fiction I've ever had the joy of stumbling across. Engaging, resonant, Immacculate attention to detail, and simply epic. I'll be recommending this to every scientist who enjoys fiction that I meet.

2010-06-15 15:49:58 by Naleh:

Coming back to this months later, this (a) all seems to make sense, and (b) is still extremely awesome. Really. Awesome.

2010-11-17 23:48:07 by DaveB:

Thank you very much for this excellent series. I came to the party slightly late, so I had a fair amount of the story sitting for me in a queue. Once I caught up though, I was waiting for new installments just like everyone else. It was like Christmas (or Hannukah, in my case) every few months! Thanks again, and I look forward to any and all content that you intend on creating. My only question is... did Mitch know he was evil? Or does "evil" not even have a meaning in 80d?

2011-04-18 03:30:22 by EricB:

"Mitch" wasn't "evil" any more than a human's actions would be "evil" to an ant. "Mitch", as a higher-order being, would think on an entirely different wavelength than humans would... at least, once his memories were unlocked. This was especially true once his "touchstone" (Seph) was gone. As for Xio/Mitch "re-ascending"... I think it's more likely that Xio/Ching took his place. I have a few questions/comments of my own. The narrative style and technical writing reminded me strongly of David Brin's novel "Earth". (one of my favorite authors) I think that, to achieve publish-ability, the story would need more detail... specifically more about lesser characters and peripheral events. For example, the only time Power-6 (the Russian woman) is mentioned is when she saves the "villian" from the rooftop in Italy. We know that the early "Powers" are Russian, but other than that tantalizing glimpse nothing is said. How did "Mitch" get in contact with the US government? How did he convince them to work with him (mind-control)? I really thought that the "I know you're watching!" line (during Power-12's birth in Italy) was aimed at Power-9... since it was he who came and grabbed #12 (and died fighting her). Speaking of #12... it's not clear by the narrative that she died. If #9 died, then doesn't that imply that #12 killed him before he could (or because he wouldn't) kill her? Since "Mitch"'s powers were based upon knowledge/awareness, couldn't he have taught the secret to Ms. Poole? Certainly would have made things easier.

2012-09-12 02:43:35 by LaurenIryzi:

This has been really great! I just stumbled across Fine Structures from TV Tropes (I actually came in at the one where Anne gets teleported and had to back-track), but the only thing I regret is that it only took a few days to read it all! Also, I thought of a job-description for Anne as an agent of the Imprisoning God that changes everything. Assuming that Xio/"Mitch" created the Imprisoning God to ensure that Oul didn't escape in the event of his death, Anne's job may have been to differentiate between escape attempts and humanity's progress. So Oul/"Zykhov" (I'm not sure I've spelled his name correctly) not Xio/"Mitch" destroyed her mind. Xio/"Mitch" did help her recover and put her to work for himself, but he may or may not have been aware of it as such. Perhaps he was subconsciously drawn to her because he either created her - or earthed a portion of his/the Imprisoning God's power in her, depending how you look at it - and a part of him remembered this. This would imply that it was never Xio/"Mitch"'s intention to stifle humanity, and that he was in fact the "good guy". It would also allow for him to have not been fully aware of his past up until the shared vision incident, and possibly not even then. After all, wiping a guy from existence isn't exactly the kind of thing someone who went to such lengths to ensure non-interference would do. It's my personal theory that "Mitch" never knew much more about Xio than anyone else and that any horrible things he did were not entirely the actions of Xio, because his mind wasn't completely there.

2013-05-01 13:40:52 by Ichai:

This was absolutely beautiful. I read the first half of Fine Structure as it was written several years ago. Kinda forgot about it in 2009, but a conversation this morning reminded me. Came back and read the rest in one sitting.

2013-10-29 00:44:32 by Lumen:

That last line always makes me tear up a little.

2014-05-21 21:46:54 by j.m.s:

Bravo. I was referred here by reddit, and powered through the whole thing in a week... still can't wrap my mind around some of it, so I'll be re-reading. Wow.

2014-07-08 18:04:13 by Andrew:

"For the bewildered or homesick the lost Earth is rebuilt in virtuality in perfect detail."<br> <br> Fucking virtuals...

2014-08-04 15:18:35 by Mr. W:

I wanted to add one more voice to the chorus of praise and say in the booming voice of the Imprisoning God, "YES." Thank you for the wonderful read. You may have won the Internets. All of them…and not just in Mulitiverse One.

2014-09-27 09:03:31 by ninevra:

These are the best humans. Arika McClure redeemed herself in her own eyes, Ching found the truth and the key after tearing down so many layers of misdirection. This is also the best magic. Consistent, infinite, and worthy of even Anne Poole's monumental task in unlocking it. Thank you.

2015-01-23 17:32:04 by Woods:

Since Ching was simply "switching" every particle of Antarctica from mass to energy in the most optimal method possible, we can use E=mc^2 to find out how much energy that results in. The Antarctic ice sheet contains 30 million cubic kilometers of ice. So mass = 3×10^19 kg. ("But Woods!" You exclaim, "A large portion of the ice was melted!". To which I respond "How about you go find the mass of Antarctica without the ice, and get back to me.") The largest bomb ever detonated on Earth was Tsar Bomba, "weighing in" at 58 Megatons of TNT and was about 1.4 times the total energy from the sun that hits the earth in one second. This is nothing. The approximate energy released when the Chicxulub impact caused the mass extinction 66 million years ago was estimated to be equal to 100 Teratons (1x10^8 Megatons). This is nothing. How about the total energy output of the sun in all directions per day? (7.89×10^15 Megatons). Not even close. The Antarctica Bomb equals out to 6.44×10^20 Megatons of TNT. This is about 220 times more than all the energy released by the sun in a YEAR. My feeble Human brain cannot understand this number. Scaled down, I believe this explosion would be something akin to attaching a grenade to a watermelon, and pulling the pin.

2015-04-14 13:08:55 by Arizona:

I disagree. That number suggests to me the image of gluing a raisin to a stick of dynamite, setting it off, and then trying to find what's left of the raisin.

2016-02-29 22:59:44 by Joshua Hanley:

Second time I've read Fine Structure, and I still enjoy it, but I'm still annoyed/confused by the "graphs meet/'No.'/That's it" climactic . I'm choosing to read it as: Ching wisely waited a moment and let the Imprisoning God outlaw all of Oul's really good defenses ("the graphs meet") before actually attacking with Zetatonne Weapon , and that attack is what actually killed Oul, ending the need for the Script Restrictions and the Imprisoning God, whereupon they both evaporate. It's kind of confusing and less satisfying if I read it as this authorial comment seems to imply it should be read—that IG kills Oul: "It's only when Oul starts invoking seriously dangerous gravitational powers that it becomes necessary to step in and put it down." (But I admit the actual text supports that reading more readily than mine.) So setting off a wake of supernovas over a million light year journey doesn't count as "seriously dangerous gravitational powers"? Or was that some effect intrinsic to Oul? How come IG didn't stop him doing that after the first one? Come to think of it, if Oul hadn't done that, he could have won, or at least destroyed earth, and he wouldn't have even had to wait 20k years to do it. I guess that's the all-firepower-no-intellect working against him, though. Did he ever have any plan for dealing with the Imprisoning God and escaping, or was he content to remain in his 3+1 prison and merely lay waste to Earth 0? I really like this story, but I think it could be even better and bigger.

2016-02-29 23:03:34 by qntm:

As it happens, I'm currently working on an end-to-end rewrite of this story (which I consider to be at the "first draft" stage right now), and all of your comments will be taken on board, thanks!

2016-03-20 10:19:24 by Shieldfoss:

Then I would add that I, too, do not know why Mitch did the anti-memetic stuff to that one guy I can't remember.* *thematically appropriate

2016-08-30 16:27:28 by Wyldwraith:

I'm going to agree with the chorus that the "Graphs Meet/"No." Is difficult/non-intuitive to grasp. I got it, after thinking about it a minute (Oul's Gravity Sink Defense triggering the IG's "No." Leaving him gobsmacked with a Zetatonne Weapon) but some readers would be truly pissed. My first emotion was a flash of irritation, but since I was enmeshed in the story and needed to figure it out, I did, rather than dismissing it as Soprano-esque BS. Still, some people have a hard science-fiction maximum threshold. Or, to put it more will have readers not smart enough to figure out how Oul goes boom if you don't polish it.

2016-10-12 09:51:27 by Neverdies:

First read this a while ago, and personally, I think this entire story is amazing. I'm an amateur physics nerd, not smart enough to fully grasp it but enthusiastic enough to say I love physics, and this is the perfect amount of hard sci-fi to make a great read. 10/10, have personally recommended it to a lot of my friends (without spoiling it).

2016-11-16 02:59:17 by Horatio Von Becker:

This was, indeed, amazing. Not without a number of problems, most or all of which I can chalk up to its' unusual format, but I did love it. By the way, did Ching use time travel to save everybody using the now-unlocked Klick's Exit? Particularly the people such as Anne Poole Prime, who would be dead but with an inhabitable shell? Also, I'd like to know more about the Scientists' Dice. I did like the idea that they were all different materials, and that Ching's was made of Osmium. They add an extra something to the local flavor of psychic powers, which I found really cool in concept by the way.

2017-02-08 20:21:49 by Overtoast:

Fucking fantastic. Didn't understand half of the sciency stuff, but I still loved it anyways. Happy to know you're rewriting it, so I can read it again.

2017-04-05 14:23:31 by Castle:

Wow, what a marvelous story! I first heard of Fine Structure from TV Tropes, and finally decided to read it a couple days ago. Having now finished, I have a couple questions. 1. What exactly are "the Calculation" and "the Solution"? I take it that's what the supercomputers in the little sphere in the future are doing. It seems to be implied that the Solution will allow Xio's power to be grounded... somehow? There's several mentions of "brute-forcing the Script" - I don't really see how that works... what does it mean to brute-force something that isn't encrypted? 2. When did Ching get his Klick (Eka-mind-machine) powers? Did he get it from earthing Xio's power by getting to the Solution node in Antarctica before Mitch did? If that's the case, how did he build the time cube to fling himself into the future? 3. When John Zhang created his Alcubierre drive, how did he know that the Imprisoning God would seal away the Earth, in addition to annihilating him? Had no one really ever built something that catastrophically flagrant in the face of (the) God before? Or was he really such a savant that he knew the rules of the Imprisoning God? 4. In 'Verse Chorus, did the discus actually create the parallel universes, or were they there before? Why are there so few of them? How did the discus accelerate in the fifth dimension - and so fast that it broke loose of the loop? Is that technique part of the reason the Imprisoning God walled in Alef - to prevent people from getting that fast going ana or kata? (Also, out of curiosity, do you have any words for the fourth dimension directions? i.e., the direction that Mitch "lifts" himself into, and then the direction he gets pushed back.) 5. About the Script - what criteria decides what technologies get banned? At one point, it mentions the Space Shuttle no longer working because of Zykov's aggressive tech abuse - is this because one of the laws that were changed happened to be necessary for the Space Shuttle to work? If that's the case, how come we've never triggered a violation before? If we used "standard" physics to build nanomachines or a Dyson sphere or whatever, would the Imprisoning God start deleting basic physical laws? Surely not - so what really constitutes a violation? In addition, an early technology in the story, teleportation, isn't even *abused* before the God punishes it - albeit by interference - I presume he eventually gets around to banning that, too, though. Extra question (just out of curiosity): What happens if you collide with something moving at a really high velocity ana or kata? Would you "explode" in the opposite direction, turning into fifth-dimensional shrapnel? Hm... what about a more average velocity? Would you bounce? Imagine that... walking along the street, when suddenly *WHAM* you get whacked like a cueball into the fifth dimension, careening through parallel universes... that could be a short story on its own. Anyways, thank you for making Fine Structure! It was quite a wild ride to read, and I'm definitely going to tell my friends about it.

2017-07-29 05:08:29 by stellHex:

With hindsight, I think Fine Structure's messy construction is nearly inextricable from it's particular brand of excellence. Constructed from several initially unrelated excellent short stories, it sort of took their Cartesian product, a "self-assembling hyper-story", expanding multidimensionally to integrate all of their best points, but becoming difficult to navigate in the process. But it's hard to think of another way a story could be written which ends with the following revelations and events: -- a major character who disappeared 2/3 of the way through the story turning out to have disappeared because he tried to kill the main character (a god) by grabbing him and slamming him into the future, but he missed -- but then he accidentally ended up in a position to claim the main character's lost divinity -- Which he then used to save humanity by punching a hostile, significantly more powerful god in the face with a lunar mass-worth of the Earth's mantle -- Then the technological singularity happens and it's awesome -- Oh, and by the way, all of that is well within the boundaries of the established lore

2017-10-31 17:47:47 by atomicthumbs:

when your end-to-end rewrite of Fine Structure is done I fully expect to be able to obtain it in hardcover :)

2018-05-31 20:05:43 by JeeshBoy:

I come back and reread or at least skim this story every couple of years. It's one of my favorite pieces of sci fi. It occurred to me on this trip that I really have no idea what it means when Ching thinks Oul "can't violate SR". It being quite useless to search for a two-letter acronym, I was hoping Sam or another reader could enlighten me as to what it stands for.

2018-05-31 20:43:14 by qntm:

Special Relativity. Although Ching should probably have referenced General Relativity there. Maybe.

2018-09-06 21:23:10 by Spencer:

I really liked this! I liked to imagine it like a movie, one that you have to watch multiple times in order to really get everything. I'll definitely re-read this at some point.

2019-07-10 00:23:57 by Luna:

I've been rereading some of the more plot-critical chapters, especially at the beginning and end, and two plot points still bother me:<br/> -If Xio is a higher-dimensional "divine" being, then how is it that Xio requires the brain scans of the mortal human Mitch to stay alive/existent? It would appear that for long stretches of time, all that exists of Xio is Mitch's brain scans, existing in forms such as the tungsten punch cards or the databanks. In other words, pure information. Is Xio a being of pure information? Was Xio somehow bound to Mitch's human form? And since Xio has phasing abilities, how is it that that can be bestowed upon a human body just by downloading their brain scan? How come Oul isn't subject to these same restrictions, and can manifest in Alef in its "pure" form, separate from and not dependent on its avatar Zykov?<br/> -Upon a rereading of "Unbelievable Scenes," that chapter seems to imply that the Imprisoning God was created either by Xio, or by their allies in its home universe. If the IG was capable of destroying Oul/stripping it of its defences and abilities (depending on your interpretation of previous comments), then that would imply that Xio/their allies created something that could have defeated Oul this whole time, but which for some reason was content with merely trapping it until Ching goaded Oul into bringing the IG's wrath upon itself. If Xio's original/core mission was to defeat Oul, and was capable of creating a tool that could do just that, then why did they create it with orders to imprison them? Why not just create it with orders to destroy/weaken Oul, and save themself the trouble of twenty thousand years of plotting and scheming to achieve the same result?

2019-12-21 04:47:14 by AGM:

That's all, folks!

2020-05-05 10:21:27 by Jacko:

Ten years later, and this is still one of my favorite pieces of Sci Fi. Life has taken me a long way from the night I first finished this epic story, but reaching the end once more brought me all the way back. Thank you once again for all this time and effort.

2020-08-27 20:44:59 by Sam Page:

I'm joining the chorus of people saying I'd love the rewrite you say you're working on to be hardcover (even this version I would love to have hardcover tbh). If/when it happens, I would happily fork over 15-20 dollars just to be able to recommend it to people. Seriously amazing writing, my favorite part was "She is the two hundred and twenty-third life that Arika McClure has saved."

2020-08-28 17:30:56 by qntm:

Sam Page: unfortunately, plans for the rewrite were shelved in April 2017.

2022-09-19 03:18:54 by Agnu:

Ran through this whole saga in two days, loved it. Wonderful writing, thank you!

2022-12-04 23:52:14 by Andrew:

What’s a Jacob’s Ladder in this context?

2023-01-01 02:57:23 by reader:

Bought the book. Finished it as quickly as possible because the puzzle pieces coming together were utterly captivating, came back to read here so I could see comments. I’ve been dreaming in math since then. Maybe not literally. All I know is I’m still putting those original pieces together with selective rereads. Sci fi has always been my favorite genre. This was a tour de force. I can’t stop using cliches because I Don’t Have Words besides preexisting words.

2024-03-23 00:02:57 by Twisted_Code:

So I'm still quite confused, at one point, in ./over (This Is Not Over and I Am Not Dead), it was hinted that Xio might be Alef's intended prisoner, or at least that Oul was making him a co-prisoner. But aside from that, I only see one point where, prior to this chapter, any hint was given that Mitch!Xio shouldn't be trusted (namely, when he used his ability for thievery, and even that was seemingly a matter of desperation). On the other hand, he seemed to have done a lot of selfless (or in the case of the arcology, at worst pragmatic?) things... I'm not quite convinced that I was given enough of a hint that he was a Flawed certainly but he seemed like he was trying to be benevolent and just get out of their hair? I may have to revisit this another time, though if you could provide some hints to help enlighten me when I do, I'd appreciate it. I think I'm still pretty satisfied with the story, FWIW, just this one point is bugging me.

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