Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Hence the little race of ‘Gag-genes,’ which does not mean, as rumor claims, genes whose story is so vile it makes you gag, but ‘Gag-order-genome,’ a court order which denies the child access to the testimony of its own blood, for its own happiness.
2022-10-22T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Does it distress you, reader, how I remind you of their sexes in each sentence? ‘Hers’ and ‘his’? Does it make you see them naked in each other’s arms, and fill even this plain scene with wanton sensuality? Linguists will tell you the ancients were less sensitive to gendered language than we are, that we react to it because it’s rare, but that in ages that heard ‘he’ and ‘she’ in every sentence they grew stale, as the glimpse of an ankle holds no sensuality when skirts grow short. I don’t believe it. I think gendered language was every bit as sensual to our predecessors as it is to us, but they admitted the place of sex in every thought and gesture, while our prudish era, hiding behind the neutered ‘they,’ pretends that we do not assume any two people who lock eyes may have fornicated in their minds if not their flesh.
2022-10-22T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Murder for profit is the crime most people think of when they see a Servicer’s uniform, a crime the convict has no reason to repeat now that law has stripped him of the right to property. Those with more imagination might envision a grand corporate theft, or a revenge killing, avenging some great evil beyond the reach of law, or a crime of passion, catching a lover in a rival’s arms and slaying both in a triumphant but passing madness. At the dawn of the Fifteenth Century, St. Sir Thomas More described a humane, though fictitious, Persian judicial system in which convicts were not chained in the plague-filled dark, but made slaves of the state, let loose to wander, without home or property, to serve at the command of any citizen who needed labor. Knowing what these convicts were, no citizen would give them food or rest except after a day’s work, and, with nothing to gain or lose, they served the community in ambitionless, lifelong peace. Tell me, when our Twenty-Second-Century forefathers created the Servicer Program, offering lifelong community service in lieu of prison for criminals judged harmless enough to walk among the free, were they progressive or retrogressive in implementing a seven-hundred-year-old system which had never actually existed?
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Regan Makoto Cullen broke with her great teacher Adolf Richter Brill on November fourth, 2191. “Break with” is easy to say, but not so easy to do, to face the man who has been your patron, teacher, foster father for twenty-five years, the man all Earth hails as the great mind of the century, who mapped the psyche in undreamt-of detail, who revolutionized education, linguistics, justice, to face him down and say, “Sir, you are wrong. So wrong that I shall turn the world against you. It’s not the numbers, not these rare psyches you’re charting that stimulate great progress. It’s groups. I’ve studied the same inventors, authors, leaders that you have, and the thing that most reliably produces many at once—the effect you’ve worked so hard to replicate—is when people abandon the nuclear family to live in a collective household, four to twenty friends, rearing children and ideas together in a haven of mutual discourse and play. We don’t need to revolutionize the kindergartens, we need to revolutionize the family.” This heresy, this bash’, which Cullen shortened from i-basho (a Japanese word, like ‘home’ but stronger), this challenge to Brill’s great system Cullen did not dare present without extensive notes. In those notes—still held as relics in Brill’s Institute—you will find the test bash’es Cullen set up in the 2170s, including both Weeksbooth and Guildbreaker.
2022-10-22T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
The Simile of the Three Insects was originally about knowledge, not wealth. Our age’s founding hero, Gordian Chairman Thomas Carlyle, stole the simile from Sir Francis Bacon, the founding hero of another age five hundred years before. In Bacon’s 1620 version the ant was not yet the corporation, stripping land and people to hoard wealth within its vaults, but the encyclopedist, heaping knowledge into useless piles, adding nothing new. The spider was not yet the geographic nation, snaring wealth and helpless citizens within the net of its self-spun borders, but the dogmatist spinning webs of philosophy out of the stuff of his own mind, without examining empirical reality. Bacon’s ideal, his scientist, was then the honeybee, which harvests the fruits of nature and, processing them with its inborn powers, produces something good and useful for the world.
2022-10-22T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Our Thomas Carlyle, genius thief, co-opted the simile in 2130 when he named the Hive, our modern union, its members united, not by any accident of birth, but by shared culture, philosophy, and, most of all, by choice. Pundits may whine that Hives were birthed by technology rather than Carlyle, an inevitable change ever since 2073 when Mukta circled the globe in four-point-two hours, bringing the whole planet within comfortable commuting range and sounding the death knell of that old spider, the geographic nation. There is some truth to their claims, since it does not take a firebrand leader to make someone who lives in Maui, works in Myanmar, and lunches in Syracuse realize the absurdity of owing allegiance to the patch of dirt where babe first parted from placenta. But there is also a kind of truth the heart knows, and that is why our Age of Hives will not strip Thomas Carlyle of the founder’s crown.
2022-10-22T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
In 2266, when the work week finally shortened to twenty hours, and crowds deserted those few professions which required more, the first Anonymous, Aurel Gallet, rushed to defend ‘vocation’ with a tract which is still mandatory reading for three Hive-entry programs. Why is a calling passive, he asked? Why is one called helplessly to one’s vocation, when surely it is an active thing? I find my calling, take it, seize that delight, that path before me, make it mine. I call it like a summoned magic, it does not call me. His new word ‘vocateur’ (one who calls) was born to remind us that a person with a strong vocation is not a victim driven helplessly to toil, but a lucky soul whose work is also pleasure, and to whom thirty, forty, fifty hours are welcome ones.
2022-10-22T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
The office of Censor is just as paradoxical in our age as it was in ancient Rome: neither executive nor lawmaker, commander nor judge, yet more potent than any in its own way. As master of the census, charged with tracking changes in membership and wealth, the Censor judges when one of the seven Hives should gain or lose a Senator, and thereby holds the balance of the planet in his hands. Since he makes and unmakes lawmakers, we may call him a grandfather of laws, and, as the most prominent life appointment in the Alliance, he is the only officer in Romanova that the media can turn into a prince.
2022-10-23T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
When the death of Chairman Carlyle made it no longer possible to put off picking a world capital, three issues faced the committee: the design, the distribution of the real estate which would soon be the most desirable on Earth, and who would pay. Spreading the cost equally would hit the poor Hives hard, especially the Cousins and Olympians, who then sheltered most of Earth’s surviving poor, but divvying by wealth would take the lion’s share from tiny, patent-rich Utopia, which could then reasonably demand the biggest slice of the land all powers coveted.
2022-10-23T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
When those prophets men call economists predicted revolution or collapse in some weak corner of the globe where a subscriber had investments, Carlyle’s Gordian would fly in Mukta’s children and evacuate everything: factories, goods, workers, families, capital in all its forms all snatched to safety in a day, like good fruit from a rotting tree. As the tremors of the Church War grew, Gordian carried out the affluent of every nation, leaving governments and poor to slit each other’s throats. But Mukta worked as a sword back then only because those snarls were geographic. In our world all powers are global powers, and all snarls global snarls. That is why, while Thomas Carlyle could snip out the shape of a new world like topiary from the overgrowth of nations, today our Censor—with the same data at his disposal—laughs at those who put him on their Seven-Ten lists: Vivien Ancelet, the world’s accountant, maker of Senators but slave of numbers, helpless as the astronomer who watches the universe’s pool balls act out their predetermined dance.
2022-10-23T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
The Blacklaw sash around this visitor’s waist proclaims his choice to renounce all protections of the Law—Hive laws and Romanova’s neutral Gray Laws—and to face the Earth with no protection but his own strength, and the restrictions others’ laws may place upon their use of force. A Mitsubishi or strict Cousin may not, by their own chosen laws, indulge in fists and brawling, but Humanist Law accommodates those who sometimes wish to settle things with fists. Lesley was considering her aim when her eye caught the line of the dueling rapier almost hidden in the pleating of the Blacklaw’s coat.
2022-10-23T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“What is a people?” the speech continues, the actor’s voice resonating through the dome. “It is a group of human beings united by a common bond, not of blood or geography, but of friendship and trust. What is a nation? It is a government formed by a people to protect that common bond with common laws, so its members may enjoy life, liberty, happiness, justice, and all those rights we love. Americans, America is no longer your nation. Your nation is the friends who live and work with you, in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, all of the Americas, and all the other corners of this Earth. Your nation is those who went to school with you, who cheered beside you at games, who grew up with you, traded intimacies with you over the internet, and still today break bread with you in your own house, on whatever continent it stands. Your nation is the organization which you chose to protect your family and property, in sickness and in health, as you traveled the globe to find your ideal home.
2022-10-23T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“Friends, I stand here today with the leaders of these organizations, to tell you that, once again, the time has come to found a new kind of nation, freer than any that has come before. We speak today for the Cousins, for the Olympians, and for Gordian, three groups which have the means to allow a human being, or a family, to live in this world without a country, without citizenship, without obligations to any power you have not chosen to join. For more than a generation we have not just been your travel agents but your banks, your lawyers, your hospitals, your schools. Now let us be your nations. I call on all Americans who do not support this war to renounce your citizenship and trust us—any one of us, you have your pick. Let us protect you and your families in this new, free world. I call on the citizens of all other countries of the world to respect our members, and accept the passports we will issue, just as you would the passports printed by a country which can boast a blotch of territory somewhere on the globe. Join us if you like, or remain loyal to those geographic nations which still merit loyalty, but either way acknowledge us, and in acknowledging us acknowledge the right of all human beings to choose a different nation if the nations of their birth betray their trust.”
2022-10-23T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“Friends, all this is not as sudden as it seems. These three are not rash radicals, or business tycoons drunk with their own power. They are taking an inevitable step. The European Union has long recognized that it is absurd to force someone with a father from one country, a mother from another, raised in a third, and working in a fourth to pledge allegiance to one arbitrary geographic nation. More than sixty years ago we instituted floating citizenship, so children of mixed parents would not be compelled to choose between several equal fatherlands. It was not the end of our countries. Almost everyone still prefers to have a homeland to love and return to, and the legal possibility of life without a homeland does not destroy the bonds of culture, language, and history which make a homeland home. What Chairman Carlyle proposes today is nothing more radical than extending that floating citizenship to the world.
2022-10-23T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“Neo-Epicureanism says that, whether there is an afterlife or not, people are healthier, more productive, and live longer if they’re happy, so the government—for us the Hive—should try to make sure people live in ways that make them happy. Living in a bash’ with a group of friends that you have fun with every day is one of the institutions the neo-Epicureans promoted to help people be happy. The original Epicureans probably would have liked the bash’, and their ideas helped it spread, but they didn’t come up with it, Regan Makoto Cullen came up with it, based on Brillism, which is another fairly recent philosophy.”
2022-10-24T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
You have seen Lifedolls before, but have you touched them? Each bone, tendon, and muscle of a human body is reproduced precisely, so a hand squeezed folds just as a friend’s hand folds, and ingenious systems even keep it warm. Lifedolls are the pinnacle of man’s long quest to craft synthetic love. A child with a Lifedoll cries less when ba’pas head out for an evening; a twentysomething with a life-sized Sniper stashed at home rebounds faster when love turns sour. You may call it sick when grown men and women hold these dolls as dear as bash’mates, or, with the fully anatomical Sniper-XX and Sniper-XY models, lovers. And you may be right to call it sick, but should a sickness be cured if makes its sufferers happier than healthy men? When the Lifedoll labs first decided to mass-produce a version of the vice director’s two-year-old, they thought no more of it than that the child was exceptionally cute, good therapy for lonely kids and childless couples, especially because his hybrid face, mixing Asia, Europe, and South America, let small changes in costume make him seem like almost any couple’s child. When it proved their best seller ten times over, they marketed the child again at age four, again at six, at eight, and it took only one fan to recognize the original on the street to open the doors to young Sniper, instant celebrity.
2022-10-26T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
I told you, reader, that Utopia does not give up on dreams. When a Utopian dies, of anything, the cause is marked and not forgotten until solved. A fall? They rebuild the site to make it safe. A criminal? They do not rest until he is rendered harmless. An illness? It is researched until cured, regardless of the time, the cost, over generations if need be. A car crash? They create their separate system, slower, less efficient, costing hours, but which has never cost a single life. Even for suicide they track the cause, and so, patiently, blade by blade, disarm Death. Death, of course, has many weapons, and, if they have deprived him of a hundred million, he still has enough at hand to keep them mortal. For now.
2022-10-26T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
That very night—I will not say ‘in my honor’—Cornel MASON created the Ordo Vitae Dialogorum, “the Order of the Life of Debate.” Membership is open to all Masons, and marked by one white sleeve, a permanent invitation to engage the wearer in debate over the Masonic life, not for a year, but lifelong. I wear it proudly. That night too, the title of Familiaris was promised to me upon my passing the Adulthood Competency Exam, since, by Alliance Law, a minor may not subject themself to Caesar’s Force.
2022-10-26T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
I see Martin has introduced the word ‘murder’ into our tale. Technology has eliminated that middle breed of criminal who thinks that, if they wash their hands and dump the body far from home, they can get away with it. Criminals now are either self-labeled geniuses who, through elaborate preparation, think they can outwit the trackers, DNA, and all the practice and experience of law, or else they are plain men with no delusions of escaping punishment. Of every five killers now, three turn themselves in right away, having acted in the grip of rage, or else in the calm confidence that the deed was worth the price. One out of five escapes by suicide. Only the last of the five attempts to hide, having schemed and toiled for months to form the perfect plan. He fails. There are professionals, of course, for the mob will always need its violence, but they too know that someday they must either flee the Alliance entirely, living out their lives in trackless hiding, or else be caught. Gone are the days when the police would gather evidence, conduct their interviews over a few days, and, in the end, discover the boyfriend, ex-wife, or business rival who had seen the opportunity and seized it. I asked Commissioner General Papadelias once which he preferred, the would-be mastermind who challenges the detective to a game of wits, or the honest criminal who waits red-handed at the scene. The former, he answered, was more stimulating, but usually only the latter commanded his respect. I understand it. The Prince of Murderers, said Papadelias, the Moriarty he waited for, would do both, accepting fully and philosophically his inevitable end, yet still fighting with all his strength and cunning to extend his freedom to the last breath. He needed, I think, to meet a soldier.
2022-10-26T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Is it not miraculous, reader, the power of the mind to believe and not believe at once? We all know the powers of Utopia. We see their living wonders fill the streets, cheer as they conquer syndromes, hire them to make the impossible possible for us job after job. We even trust them with this hunt for the dread Gyges Device. Yet we still think and plan for the world. One world. We never doubt that every individual shipment they send to Mars must be successful, that their science is sound, their effort proceeding, but somehow we do not believe the distant end will ever come. These Nine Directors don’t believe Utopians will really live on Mars in 2660. Utopians do.
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
We date the Hive to 2137, the war’s height, six years after Carlyle’s Great Renunciation shattered the nation-states. Those who did not share the uniting ethic of any early Hive—did not love Europe, Asia, sport, stage, kindness, Nature, profit, Brill—found themselves abandoned, their states dissolving, their Churches (first resort when states failed) swept up in the zealot flames. As war matured into chaos and plague, one false hope lay in the Masonic lodges peppering the towns, which fiction claimed were more than what they seemed. We say that Antoninus MASON just harnessed the myth, organized those who came to the lodges into a global force before people realized there was not one already there. “Power I am,” this master storyteller claimed, “the Secret Emperor, more ancient than the Pyramids, more far-reaching than Alexander, more long-lasting than Rome. While Ramses and Ozymandias built monuments that fade, I hid in shadow, and reveal myself only now that the fools I left to sub-govern in my place have failed so much. Come back to me, my people. My Empire has endured ten thousand years, and will not be shaken by this petty war.” That fiction birthed this Hive which swallowed up the remnants, as a gleaner picks fallen grain after the harvest. Much grain remained, more than enough to make the myth of Empire real. But something inside us can’t believe it’s all invention. It feels so ancient: the dread Imperial Guard, the awesome shadow of the Sanctum Sanctorum tower, the Imperial Palace with its clustered ziggurats, the laws unrolled on crackling papyrus, the cold, iron-gray throne. The language of myth slips from our tongues: ancient custom, ancient law, Imperium, millennium, Empire, Caesar. Perhaps it actually is true and false at once. Great institutions—Hive, strat, nation, kingdom, guild—all are built of consensus, willed into reality by we who love, obey, protect, and fear. If Will alone can make these powers real enough to reshape the globe and burn the heavens, perhaps Will can also make them have been real ten thousand years ago.
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
That she did, reader, and does still when she visits Blacklaw country on her days off, the wildernesses urban and natural which we cede to the bold minority who, on passing the Adulthood Competency Exam, would rather invite their fellows to prey on them like lions than accept a law that deprives them of any freedom, even murder. The Universal Laws still make it criminal for them to prey on children, take trackers away, or jeopardize the world with toxic chemicals, or fire, or religion, but they feel in their hearts that humans are a predator, and predators need the right to tear out each other’s throats. You must not think they rape and murder daily. Most rarely more than duel, and it is a strong deterrent knowing you have no armor in this wide world but the goodwill of peers who could kill you where you stand. It is liberty’s pride that puts the swagger in Chagatai’s steps, not bloodthirst, and had our Master not rescued her from vendetta’s execution, Chagatai would have accepted her end with grace—combat, but grace.
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“I said once you think about it a long time. The Utopians’ idea with modo mundo is that, if you killed a Utopian, you destroyed their world, their nowhere, their ideas, their fiction, since they all invent stuff even if they don’t all publish. You destroyed a potential other world, so you get banished to this one and don’t get to go to any other worlds anymore. I think what T.M. was trying to communicate was that destroying a manuscript is effectively the same thing, destroying somebody’s creation, the remnant of the world they created, even if they’ve been dead a thousand years.” She took a saucepan from the stove and drizzled a trail of honey-scented glaze over the strudel before pouring the rest across the roast. “I’d never thought so seriously about the manuscripts before, but I sure take good care of them now.”
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
All Hives are proud of their unique governments: Europe’s nation-strat Parliament, the Masons’ nonhereditary absolute monarchy, the Mitsubishi shareholder democracy, the Humanist flexible-constitution democratic aretocracy, the Gordian Brain’bash and corporate Board appointed by Brill’s Institute. And if those Hives have an irritant, it is that the Cousins can remain the perennially second-largest, second-strongest Hive with a system the others wish they could deride: suggestion box. The all-embracing Cousins never did update their structure, not since the earliest days of Mukta’s children, when they were just a volunteer group for women to help each other while traveling abroad. They had a volunteer committee with a Chair, some rules of conduct, a family-friendly atmosphere, and a suggestion box, no more. No one thought they could stick to it, not as their membership expanded: women, minors, sexual minorities, then kids of Members, friends of Members, friends of friends of friends, finally anyone willing to act like a distant “cousin” and offer smiling airport pickup and a sofa for the night to a stranger in return for knowing that the stranger would reciprocate. With just shy of two billion members, the modern Hive has fitted its “suggestion box” with an analytic Feedback Bureau streamlined to process a hundred million friendly notes a week, group the overlap, and send them on, every one of them, to the right volunteer to consider the suggestion: “This town needs a new school,” “This drug needs a sixty-million-dollar research grant,” “This intersection would be a great place for a mural.” They get it done, this vast, cooperative ‘family.’ It works. At least if outsiders have not infiltrated, and sunk their fangs into its living heart.
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Do you still believe in the Death of Majority, reader? The First Anonymous’s first essay, lauding what they saw as the promise of eternal peace. After the Church War there was no majority race, no majority religion, no majority language, no majority nationality. Mukta birthed a world so intermixed that no one anymore grew up among people mostly like themselves: the majority of Japanese people did not live in Japan, the majority of Greeks did not live in Greece, so too for every country in the world. Majority died with Church and Nation, the Anonymous proclaimed, and with it war and genocide died too, for they require a majority united, patriots, an ‘us’ and ‘them’ in which ‘us’ is normal, larger, more powerful, capable of overwhelming and defeating ‘them.’ I could ask any contemporary here, ‘Are you a majority?’ and I know what he or she would answer: Of course not, Mycroft. I have a Hive, a race, a second language, a vocation and an avocation, hobbies of my own; add up my many strats and you will soon reduce me to a minority of one, and hence my happiness. I am unique, and proud of my uniqueness, and prouder still that, by being no majority, I ensure eternal peace. You lie, reader. There is one majority still entrenched in our commingled world, a great ‘us’ against a smaller ‘them.’ You will see it in time. I shall give only one hint—the deadliest majority is not something most of my contemporaries are, reader, it is something they are not.
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
And proof too, reader, that our age has at least one enlightened aspect, for the Celebrity Youth Act, fierce as it is, could not safeguard these children of the spotlight without the help of a protective public, which has learned (from one too many tragedies) to grant its favorite wee ones what privacies they ask for, and will punish with boycotts—far fiercer than Law’s teeth—any journalist or paper which would violate the public prince(sse)s that every bash’ on Earth loves as our own.
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“The First Law bans religious discourse, or proselytizing more specifically, under the rubric of ‘action likely to cause extensive or uncontrolled loss of human life or suffering of human beings.’ I don’t know what comments you heard, but I am confident you will agree they were not proselytory, and they were done in the service of protecting the global transit system, which is a much more immediate threat of uncontrolled loss of life and suffering.”
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Too Like the Lightning: Book One of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Two hundred years ago, when the Eighth Law vote loomed, it was not the Humanists who battled it. Mycroft MASON fought it, certainly, but even more than him it was Utopia, those strangers behind their vizors who see the true Sun less often than Eureka. Utopia knew, when the case went to trial, that if this Eighth Law passed, if it was judged legal for Lindsay Graff to kidnap children from a set-set training bash’, that it would be the floodgate. Next, all as one, the mighty, angry Earth would descend upon Utopia, as Catholics used to descend on Protestants and vice versa to ‘save’ the others’ children. Terra the Moon Baby would be the excuse. The Utopians could protest all they liked that they did not anticipate the astronaut’s pregnancy, that early complications made the trip back to Earth too dangerous for mother and fetus, but in most minds Terra is still thought of as intentional, a lab rat, happy, indispensable, who taught us more about space adaptation than a thousand simulations, but still a lab rat, short-lived and crippled from gestating on the light and airless Moon. If Utopia was willing to do that to one child, Earth accused, what might they be doing to others beneath those vizors? How long until cyborg U-beasts, made from iguanas and dogs and horses, had human pieces too? Fear forced Utopia to act. They chose a gentle protest. When the Graff trial began they called in sick, “indefinite stasis,” as they put it, not one, not hundreds, but all four hundred million at once. The laboratories, factories, think tanks, presses closed. For three weeks the world tasted life without four hundred million vocateurs. Hate rose, and fear, all the arrows of complacent Earth against Utopia, and it was that threat which steeled Mycroft MASON to step onto the Senate floor and stop the Nurturists’ Eighth Law at any price.
2022-10-31T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
There’s a word to chew on, ‘avocation’: a second great occupation that takes you away from your vocation, like a musician sidetracked by acting, a teacher by politics, Thisbe by making movies, or my ba’pa designing dolls, all important tasks but secondary still. I don’t blame the parents who made me and Ockham rivals for O.S. (it made us stronger), but when Lesley entered the picture it was clear there would be a winner and a loser when we grew up, no ties. When the fuss over being a Lifedoll model made me a child star, I saw a second path before me, a surer shot than the fight for bash’ leadership, which was always fifty-fifty. The rest agreed a celebrity in the house would be a good addition to our arsenal, so I worked like a maniac to secure my fame: studying for the press, keeping informed, full of jokes, always the most fun to interview, then finding a sport at which my small body (neither exceptionally strong nor fast) could excel, and working to remain competition-worthy through three Olympiads and counting. I loved my avocation, suffered for it, and I took very seriously the duty of belonging to everyone who loved me. But that still came second, and my bash’ vocation first. I do apologize to all who were in love with what I was. I miss you too, and if you contact my underground and host me for a night I’ll do my best to be your Sniper again, but that comes second.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
My Hive, all Hives, come first. I am a Humanist because I believe in heroes, that history is driven by those individuals with fire enough to change the world. If you aren’t a Humanist it’s because you think something different. That difference matters.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
If the European Union enjoyed an easier birth than the other Hives, its apparatus a century old before the Great Renunciation, it pays the price whenever its nation-strats rehash their ancient grudges: you seized my borderlands, you executed my hero, you conquered me a thousand years ago and I remember. All Europeans are equally guilty, English, Flemish, Kurdish, myself no less, for I catch myself from time to time rejecting good sense just because it came from a Turk’s lips. The strat delegates who make up Europe’s Parliament, and the strat leaders—Presidents and Premiers, French, Belgian, Laotian, Canadian—who sit on her Executive Council, they all answer, not just to Now, but to the pride of Then, and every problem must consider the silent wishes of countless ancestors.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
No monarchy has ever had so suspenseful a succession. An impotent king may wait decades for an heir, but at least he can try aphrodisiacs, affairs, placebos. The Anonymous can only wait and hope for the day some bright young thing will reason him out and come to claim the apprenticeship, as he came to his predecessor, and she to hers, back through six generations.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
The constellations of Utopians have, to my knowledge, no rank nor hierarchy, but if, like stars, they may be said to have magnitudes of brightness, then surely Mushi Mojave is one of those Crowns of Heaven that pierce even city smog. “Except ants” is Mushi’s motto. Humanity is forever boasting of its ‘unique’ achievements: “Humans are the only creatures who build cities, use agriculture, domesticate animals, have nations and alliances, practice slavery, make war, make peace; these wonders make us stand alone above all other creatures, in glory and in crime.” But then Mushi corrects, “Except ants.” How proud the day when Mushi rushed in to tell the young Apollo and the other Mojave ba’kids that even man’s greatest achievement, Space itself, was no longer a monopoly. The terraformers had found ants, stowaways in one of the nutrient shipments, which had escaped and built a colony in the new Mars soil, spiral tunnels woven like DNA around a leaking oxygen pipe. The first city on Mars was not built by humans, but under them.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Those who lived through it cannot forget the days after Apollo’s death, when across the globe the coats which should be windows to so many other worlds turned blank. When a Utopian dies before his time, the Hive mourns together, all the coats in the world turning to static for as many seconds as their kinsman lost years—thirty seconds for a centenarian, ninety for someone full of midlife’s promise, a full two minutes for a child. Apollo’s murder was different. For him their mourning would not stop. They left the static for hours, days, four hundred million walking holes in space, their vow that they would catch the killer and end this nightmare where all other Hives had failed. It was terrifying, wounds of static around every corner, everywhere and organized, reawakening a fear Earth had not tasted since the Set-Set Riots.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“A war that came after a long period of relative peace and smaller conflicts, combined with accelerating advancement. Earth had never seen anything like that before. Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the first four centuries of the Exponential Age, they had all seen frequent war, large-scale war compared to the population, but Nineteenth-Century Europe confined the conflicts to its colonies and border zones, while at home they engineered their long and rosy peace. Technology kept changing, made new, worse ways to kill, but military experts had no opportunity to realize how the new tools would change the face of war when the big powers finally fought each other directly. When the Twentieth Century saw total war again, soldiers didn’t have the dignity of dying at the enemy’s hands; they rotted in trenches, froze in winters, wandered in jungles, blew themselves up on kamikazi missions, drove themselves mad attempting genocides, as deluded commanders kept urging them onward to their noble deaths. The Church War may have killed more people, but at least then it was the zealot enemy that killed you, not your own side and stupid ignorance. The Mardis thought that three things make wars more or less terrible: the length of the peace before them, the amount of technological change, and how little the commanders know about war’s up-to-date realities. We’ve had three hundred years of peace now, Caesar. Can you imagine what the next war would be like? With the trackers? With the transit system? With every spot on Earth a two-hour hop from every other? With the Hives all scattered equally across the Earth? No homelands, no borders, and without a single tactician who’s ever taken the field in any kind of war? It will be Hell on Earth. Even the wonders Utopia has made will turn to war.”
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
The watching Fellows knew it too, students and instructors, researchers and researchees who leaked like fugitives from the bright pastoral ant farm of the Adolf Riktor Brill Institute of Psychotaxonomic Science. The Institute complex covered a series of artificial slopes above the festive city center, its dorms and classrooms, tiled in blue and white porcelain, nested among precisely measured hills and banks of flowers, still waiting for April to awaken them. Have you visited it, reader? The Cognitivist’s city? I remember well when Mercer Mardi first brought me, eight years old and still on crutches from the accident, to limp my way through these too-calculated gardens: paths precisely wide enough to fight off claustrophobia, banks of carefully chaotic flowers, so test subjects can say what shapes they see in the living Rorschach. As Headmaster Faust’s Heir Presumptive, Mercer Mardi had enjoyed the finest office with the finest view: three-quarters mathematical perfection, while in the corner of the window one could just see the Old City below, historic Ingolstadt, lurking like an archenemy with its one-horse-wide organic streets, its fort and cathedral towers alive with pigeons. Matter and antimatter must not meet, so, to separate the Institute from the Old Town, Brill conceived this Spectacle Strip between, where Faust and Sniper stand. Here the great sculptors and architects of each generation are invited to build ‘abstract self-portraits,’ anything they can dream, a rainbow tree, a singing obelisk, a warren of mirrored tunnels, a sausage stand in the shape of a chambered nautilus, anything so long as it is a reflection of themselves. Old Town, Spectacle Strip, and Institute; if only the most successful revolutionaries cease to fear their teachers, how better could Brill boast his conquest of Master Freud than to let his capital flaunt its Id, Ego, and Superego so conspicuously?
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“The CFB is the heart of the Cousins. All the other major Hives are run by political types, power brokers, from Mitsubishi directors to President Ganymede. They’re vokers, too. They like power, it’s their play as well as their work, and what they do in office is at least partly dictated by what will make the people keep them there. But the Cousins don’t have elections, don’t compete, they just get suggestions filtered by the CFB, and they put into office whatever generous soul is willing to take on something so onerous. That’s what makes the Cousins a family, instead of a corporation or an empire. If people start doubting the CFB, they’re doubting what makes the Cousins cousins.”
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
Sniper could not help but follow Faust’s glance across to the observers. These now included several elite Fellows, their heads ostentatiously shaved to display the blotches of pressure spots, proof of their participation in the Institute’s eternal mind-machine interface experiments, which crawl toward digital immortality as slowly as Utopia toward worlds past Mars. Even to hold the gaze of such a specimen is a compliment.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
The Clothing as Communication Movement began in the 2170s, that same stretch of postwar regeneration when Chairman Carlyle proclaimed the Death of Majority, when Utopia launched the first terraforming ships to Mars, and yes, when Cartesian set-sets took Earth’s bloody helm. As we left the Exponential Age behind us, the Clothes-as-Com leaders called for our new modern age to be an ‘honest’ one, where our clothing would proclaim Hive, work, hobbies, allegiance, a glance proclaiming what makes each stranger special. We tend to assume the Brillist sweaters sprang up in that same decade, along with Mason suits and season-changing Mitsubishi cloth, but it was actually earlier, 2162, when a freshly converted Thomas Carlyle was channeling half of Gordian’s budget to the Institute, that Fellows began to home-knit sweaters which spelled out their numbers, the first digit coded by the texture of the knit, the second by the waistline, the third by cuffs, etc. I myself have found the code impossible to master, too unintuitive, like Brillism itself, but I have picked up four things: shorter sleeves go with better skills at math, the patterns on the fabrics get less complicated as a kid grows up, quiet types wear turtlenecks, and a hood on any Brillist makes me feel fear.
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“I don’t mean the next Headmaster, I mean the Brain-bash’. You’re supposed to pick the most innovative and original bash’ you can find, with the rarest number combinations, and put them in charge of picking new political and intellectual directions for Gordian. ‘The guiding light must be one that has never burned before, the spirit of the age personified in its rarest newborn,’ isn’t that what Chairman Carlyle wrote in their memoirs?”
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“The last Brain-bash’ was assigned almost seventy years ago, and the position’s not hereditary. You must have your eyes on a replacement. Is it J.E.D.D. Mason’s bash’?”
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“We say war ended with the Exponential Age, that humanity matured after the Church War, developed peaceful means to settle conflicts: sports, debates, elections; that we’ve shed nations, armies, all the apparatus of warfare, but the French peasants didn’t have those either! They just had torches, and pitchforks, and very hungry children. It doesn’t take a declaration, or an invasion, to start a war, all it takes is an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ And a spark. You think there aren’t plenty of sparks today? What if this Seven-Ten list theft turns out to be a plot by one Hive to sabotage another? What if this mystery at the CFB turns out to be Mitsubishi set-sets taking revenge on the Cousins for sabotaging set-set training bash’es? Remember the Set-Set Riots? Riots turn to war in a heartbeat when the situation is ripe, and then what? Don’t think it would stop with fists and bricks and torches. What city in this world doesn’t have a factory that could switch production from stoves to guns in an instant? What kid can’t cobble together a rocket in chemistry class?”
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z
Seven Surrenders: Book 2 of Terra Ignota - Ada Palmer
“I’m not a Brillist, and I can’t speak for anybody else’s psyche, but I love my Hive. I love my bash’. I love scanning the news each morning to see what great deeds my fellow Humanists have added to the sum total of human excellence. If something threatened to destroy that, I’d fight to stop it, kill to stop it, I know I could. And I can’t be the only one who feels this way.” The master crowd-pleaser slid slowly toward the podium. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from helping the President these past years, it’s that the balance between the Hives is a lot more fragile than people imagine. They say the geographic nations were the cause of past wars: borders, nationalism, that Hives are better. But I think Hives could be worse. Our fellow Members are our comrades, not by chance, but because we think alike. We choose them. If in the past people would kill or die for the field they happened to be born in, then I think most of us would fight ten times more fiercely for the Hive we chose. That doesn’t mean I hate the other Hives; of course I don’t.” Sniper spread its arms, its androgynous torso offering the world a broad embrace. “I love the other Hives too, all of them. They’re part of this. There have to be multiple Hives to make the choice meaningful. But if another Hive threatened my own, I’m sure I’d fight back, I’d fight anyone: a Mitsubishi, a Hiveless, a traitor Humanist, even my own President if they somehow threatened what makes us us.” Sniper’s clear, almost-black eyes disarmed even Tully’s guards, who stood frozen like caryatids as the celebrity, and hundreds of millions of viewers with it, stepped up onto the steps beside Tully’s soapbox. “Would I fight for my Hive?” Sniper continued. “Yes. And I’d kill for it, I know that. I think I’d die for it too, though there’s no way to know if I’d really be brave enough until the day comes.”
2022-11-09T00:00:00Z