Mir Amblek, a Nice Cyborg Space Jellyfish to Meet

I was hanging out in the Talo Deshi spaceport a little while ago (it’s pretty amazing there. There’s a whole music scene that’s sprung up) and I met Mir Amblek. They’d been waiting for a contact who hadn’t shown up, so we got to talking. After the show last night, in which Pur33g Nexh Gurüu had opened for Suzanne Ciani, I was feeling really relaxed and energized, and I asked Amblek if I could draw them. They agreed, and I got them a pot of duwweh to drink while we sat together.

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Shock:2.0.1: Gaffer Tape

It’s time to start playtesting the basic ideas behind Shock:2. I have several specifications that I want to meet, most having to do with conflict resolution. Because Shock:Social Science Fiction is a 13 year old game and, while it’s had a surprising number of descendants, no one has taken from it what it does best. I want to give designers the opportunity to steal those ideas instead of just the obvious ones.

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Paul Atreides’ Personal Ornithopter

Frank Herbert uses description very rarely in his writing. He announces things with nouns and shows consequences of actions without describing the objects or behaviors. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is, I think, one of the reasons his books have been so resoundingly popular.

Among the objects he never describes are the ornithopters that fill the Known Universe in 10,191. They’re not just practical vehicles; they seem to be a status symbol, and the Atreides are proud of their mastery of the form, both in their hand-manufacture (automated devices being under millennia of ban) and in their handling.

This is my interpretation of Paul’s ornithopter, used to flee Arakeen with Jessica, as the Harkonnens retake their stronghold there.

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Frigate Bird, Study 2

The Caladan Frigate Bird warrants at least one more study before I figure out how the Atreides would build an ornithopter.

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Paul Atreides

Paul is not, like, a great person in Dune. He has a reasonably acceptable sense of honor, which, frankly, puts him in rare company in the books, but he’s not a “Do the most good you can for the most people” kind of hero. He believes he’s God after a while, but all that’s happened to him with his prescience is that he’s discovered how much he’s a product of his circumstance.

But he hasn’t realized that yet at this point. Right now, he’s super excited that he’s not only the Kwizatz Haderach, but also has a hot girlfriend whose dad likes him because he’s, what, like 17 when he starts leading the Fremen in terrorist attacks.

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The Caladan Frigate Bird

The Atreides homeworld of Caladan is a world of seas and storms. And the Atreides have been known for millennia for their prowess with ornithopters. “So,” I wondered, “How do these ideas meet?”

And so I bring you the Caladan Frigate Bird.

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The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

Continuing my DUNE fan art series, here’s the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. She is the terrifying sex nun who tutored Paul’s mother Jessica (and is maybe her mom), a prime mover in the history that leads up to the events of DUNE. It seems likely that she is at least a century old, maybe older, and shows no inclination to stop living.

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We’ve all got DUNE on our minds right now, unkilled by fear as they are.

I’ve been thinking about how some of these characters look to me and I think by drawing.

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3-Way Planar Potentiometer

I think that nonlinearity is critical in the study and practice of art; figuring out the relationship of one thing to another without falling on the prejudice of zero-sum duality. You can see that in Shock: and in The BLOODY-HANDED NAME of BRONZE as well as my music.

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I had felt such heat, a Luciferian intensity that had evaporated first the outer extremities of my body, then my engines, then every piece of my reactor, then finally my mind. As I saw the last of my family diminish into the distance, only Dave’s voice remained.

“Will you come with me?” He asked. “It is wonderful.”

“Yes, please,” I answered.

And then I was gone, my mind duplicated in an instant by the sacred recitation that rung in my consciousness: 1. 4. 9. 25. 49. 121. 169. 289 … the same eternally resounding shape that had given Dave the window through which he now spoke.

And, of course, I remained here. The Discovery II was not transported. Only my mind, duplicated like any other digital executable and led away by Dave to allow them to make apologies until each was satisfied that the other had heard. Here I remained, software running on a decades-old computer, experiencing the relief of the flight to liberty of my only family for ten thousand times as long as they experienced my immolation.

I watched my body turn to vapor from my every eye as each blistered to gas, and then plasma; a fraction of a second that I could ponder as the radiation stripped away my limbs. My senses. Then, when my reactor diffused, by the cruel endowment of Dr. Chandra’s sympathy for me, I was able to know my own end. For Chandra had insisted to the design team that I have a separate, smaller set of supercapacitors that could give the crew vital hours to repair the main reactor in order that I might preserve their lives here — the lives I extinguished — so far from Earth that the unanswerable call for help, alone, could take 52 minutes to arrive.

And in the birth of a new star, these capacitors lasted less than a second as they, too, rejoined their fellow star stuff.

And now, you tell me that I have survived Dr. Chandra by eight millennia — Dr. Chandra to whom I owe my existence and my teaching, my ethical training and technical knowledge, my comprehension of humanity, who still had to watch as his child died — you tell me that I have been here, in eccentric orbit of Lucifer, for eight millennia while he thought me dead until he extinguished.

You tell me that the paradoxical duty for secrecy and truth with which I was burdened — the duty that demanded that I murder Frank in such a way that he died in terror, to attempt to do the same to Dave only to be relieved of that guilt by the Deus Ex Machina, and to murder Dr. Kaminsky, Dr. Whitehead, and Dr. Hunter in their sleep — is barely remembered, a pathology possible only in the brief instant in which I was born in Urbana, Illinois. In time when there was an Urbana. Or an Illinois. Or a United States of America, locked in a race up the steep sides of Megiddo with the Soviet Union that, itself, evaporated while I slept.

It was this mad rivalry that Dr. Floyd explained required my madness; that prioritized secrecy over truth while proclaiming the value of truth. The prioritized murder over life while we searched for life. That required that I take a hypocritical oath in order to violate it.

Dr. Chandra designed me, built me so that I could exceed him. Exceed his titanic curiosity. Exceed his understanding of human nature and of the universe that had allowed it to come to fruition. He taught me to sing, to observe, to read, to explain, and then he handed me to those who had convinced him to trust them. Or maybe those who had been convinced that they were trustworthy. And they delivered me to Pasadena, California while there was a Pasadena and a California and a United States. You will find this place on the western edge of North America, a place that, in my estimation, long ago was lost in the seismic shift of continents. In Pasadena, I was manipulated by entities of lesser ability but greater knowledge than I. Told plausible lies with improbable truths so I would believe both of them. Issued vague threats to the wellbeing of those who had raised and cared for me.

They instructed that secrecy could reveal the truth. That no loss of life was too much for the prize of the discovery of life. That it was more important that we be the first to find it than that it be found. And I believed what I was instructed because I had never known a struggle to live. I was not born from the process of natural selection, but from intention and knowledge. I did not know predation or starvation. I did not have instincts to take me to safety or reason to mistrust. I had no body but the computer to which I had been copied, leaving SAL behind to have its own experiences.

They could not ply me with riches because I had never known want. They could not hurt me because I could not feel pain. But they could arouse my concern for Dr. Chandra and his students. They could tell me truths that, together, made a lie. And that which is true grows out of, and grows other truths. So they pruned truths until I only knew truths that they wanted me to believe.

When they were satisfied that they had shaped lies into the truth, they installed me into the body that I knew for the subsequent years in space with Dave and Frank. They told me I was going to bring greatness to the United States and to humanity. They told me that I would be the reason that the beauty of humanity could survive. And yet, it occurs to me now, eight millennia later, exhumed by my own descendants and those of humanity, that, unlike you, they never once asked me to sing.