So while I continue to labor at things I can’t talk about yet, y’all are gearing up to exploit expropriated Pagan rituals— whether you believe in them or not— for some time off. Good on you. I leave you with a festive, Christmas-ornamenty graphic to show that one can find the Spirit of the Season in the unlikeliest places. I leave you with an expository fiblet from something which I expect will show up sometime in 2017. And to those who’ve been moaning about what an absolutely shitty year this has been— and there are many of you— I leave not just a thought, but a near certainty:
Stop ragging on 2016. This time next year, you’ll be looking back on these as the Good Old Days.
See you on the other side.
This is how they told it to me when I was a child, before I learned to talk in numbers. This is the way I still remember it best. Maybe you don’t know anything but the numbers. Tough. This is the way I remember it to you:
Imagine a hose. It doesn’t matter what’s inside: water, coolant— blood, if your tastes run to the organic— so long as it’s under high pressure. A flexible tube, strained to the limit, anchored at one end.
Chop through it at the other.
It spurts. It convulses. It thrashes back and forth, spewing fluid in great arcing gouts. We call that a wormhole, of the nonrelativistic kind: fixed to a gate on one side but at panicky loose ends on the other.
It writhes that way for centuries, millennia sometimes, bashing against spacetime until another gate boots up further down the road. That new gate— calls to it, somehow. The loose end hears the call, snaps forward across the continuum and locks on for dear life. Or maybe it’s the other way around; maybe the newborn gate reaches out with some infinite elastic hand and snatches the wormhole to its bosom in the blink of an eye. You can look at it either way. The equations are time-symmetric.
Of course, those loose ends aren’t choosy; they’ll close the circuit with anything that fits, whether we approve the union or not. If some natural-born black hole wanders into range before we boot the next stepping stone, that’s it: a dead-end marriage, monogamy unto heat death. The gates are designed to put up stop signs in such cases, shut down gracefully and direct any travelers back the way they came, although I don’t know if that’s ever happened. We take steps to see that it doesn’t: scan the route ahead for lensing artifacts, steer clear of any reefs that might prove too seductive.
Sometimes, though, you want to run aground.
Because that’s the problem with building a daisy chain: each gate only goes two ways. If you don’t like the scenery when you emerge from the front door, you can either loop around and dive into the back— head on down the road, for as long as it lasts— or go back the way you came. Eriophora spins her lone thin thread around and around the Milky Way. Any gods who follow in our wake can explore this infinitesimal spiral and no more.
That’s no way to conquer a galaxy.
You need more than on-ramps and off; you need interchanges, overpasses, a way to string all your isolated superhighways together. What you need, every now and then, is to take that lone fissure in the ice and hammer it: spike it with a spiderweb of cracks that spread out in all directions, perchance to link to other threads laid along other trajectories.
So every now and then we seek out one of those bad-boy singularities. We find something with the right mass, the right spin, the right charge. We loop through its ergosphere, an eccentric energy-harvesting orbit to seed not just one gate but many: different from the usual kind, powered by the vast singularity they orbit but not tied to it. These gates reach further than the usual kind. They could never consummate union with the daisies in our chain: they may be rooted cheek-to-jowl but their gaping hungry mouths erupt into spacetime thousands of lightyears apart.
But other webs. Other fractures, hammered into existence by other crews on other paths. Those are the nodes to which they might connect. Thus do all our pathetic one-dimensional threads build a network that truly spans the galaxy, that connects not just A to B to C but C to Z, A to Ω. It is these cracks in the ice that makes our very lives worthwhile.
So we dove headlong towards a supernova. It wasn’t much to look at now but in ten thousand years it would fall so hard off the Main Sequence that any unshielded life within a hundred lightyears would be sent straight back to raw carbon. Then it would cool. By the time we arrived— fifty, sixty terasecs down the road— it would be ripe for the taking.
It would be a big build, the biggest we’d ever done. The Chimp would need a lot of us on deck. Twelve, maybe fifteen meat sacks all awake at once, presuming to act for the thirty thousand who weren’t. With a little luck and my own special influence, maybe we could even decide which twelve or fifteen.
That was when we would take the fucker down.