Welterfindung Vier

Worldbuilding thoughts.
  • Apparently China had a positional numerical system, in its rod-numerals—they didn't have a zero-sign but they didn't need one, because they just used a space—all the way back in 475 BC. Then they apparently stopped freaking using it because abaci allow faster calculations and have no need for a zero marker. Which suggests, as I may have mentioned before, that other cultures may have had zero at one point and then lost it when other methods became more useful.

    The Maya get lots of credit for coming up with zero on their own—but they don't lose any credit for not having the concepts of multiplication or division or any fractions beside half and quarter. (The Nahuatls had multiplication, division, and fractions, but no zero.) There are Old World Neolithic sites as precisely placed as anything the Maya made, but no culture in the Old World had zero (that we know of) till the Chinese—and it wasn't till AD 458 that we had a symbol for it in a positional numeral system.
  • Maybe if elves dislike the idea of creating half-elves it's because, if they're possible at all, they're likely to be stunted, sterile, and have all kinds of health problems, like pumapards. The objection would be like a reverse incest taboo, too far to result in healthy offspring rather than too close.

    Even ligers, which aren't between two different branches of the Felidae like pumapards, have problems mostly related to their freakish size, from joint issues to requiring C-section deliveries or having their mothers die giving birth—but also have plenty of other birth-defects, like a congenital neurological disorder (which seems to afflict a whole eighth of them).

    Maybe the half-elves with stats you see in the D&D rules are the ones that buck the odds and manage to not die in infancy. (The ones in my setting are artificial transgenic organisms, more like glowing mice than ligers, made by a fantasy-transhuman empire to be slave-soldiers.)
  • I am an idiot. I had had the races with darkvision in my setting, all of whose eyes glow when they use it, have some way to make their eyes stop glowing. But…it's passive super low frequency radar, using (half of) the eyeball's surface as its antenna. Eyelids are transparent to SLF waves. They can conceal the glowing of their eyes by shutting them.

    Presumably, so they aren't seeing in darkvision while trying to sleep, they have a nictitating membrane lined with something that blocks off the radar when they sleep. Or maybe a nictitating membrane they can close over their eye-antennas and still "see" through with radar, while hiding the glow? Then their outer eyelids are the ones that block the radar.

    Yeah that second one sounds more plausible. Some animals can consciously close their nictitating membranes. Pity; them being able to fight with their eyes shut seemed a lot cooler. (Though their eyes being milky for a moment, then clearing to reveal a glow, then the glow fading as their pupil dilates open is pretty cool too.)
  • The flipside of that half-elf thing, occasioned by my brother playing Bloodborne and its Cosmic Horror "strange births" thing—which began as an allegory of race-mixing and eugenics, fun fact—is, I really want to write a story about someone who's like Wilbur Whateley in "The Dunwich Horror", but he's the hero. Because, well…a much more intelligent work of fiction than anything by Lovecraft says why.

    It's funny how speculative fiction portrays the people opposed to the creation of artificial life as being the ones who say the beings so created should be killed because of their origin. I mean it's not like the people in the real world who oppose creating artificial life are also the most consistent opponents of killing people because of disease or birth-defects or other "accidents of birth". Or anything.
  • Been looking around at stuff about writing YA novels. One theme that I keep seeing is "don't worry whether parents will approve, you need to be authentic to what teenagers actually experience"—especially about sex. They're very selective about this—e.g. teenagers also experience being convinced by white supremacists, not a lot of YA writing-advice recommends that.

    More to the point, you are an adult. If an adult writes explicit sex-scenes intended to be read by minors, well, there was this show hosted by Chris Hanson a few years back (till 2015 in fact), that shows how that goes. Unless you also trick their parents (usually) into paying you for doing it, I guess? The parents are arguably your real customers; you can't ignore their sensibilities.
  • It's also interesting to me that so little YA ever really criticizes our society. They pretty much just present things we don't do, and everyone agrees we shouldn't, as bad; at most they set up a straw man of some aspect of society (standardized testing, for instance) and then pummel it mercilessly. I guess even if teens can handle ideas their parents might not be comfortable with them being exposed to, we still have to make sure their middle-school social studies teachers are happy.

    I mean, for just one example, how about a setting where hereditary power means people can be raised from birth to understand their obligations, while elected power is an opportunity for the venal to engage in self-aggrandizement? Those both happen to be accurate accounts of the political conditions of the real world—they're just not exhaustively complete accounts. The point is that they're no more incomplete than the apple-polishing you get in YA.
  • I was trying to figure out what people would steal, in my SF setting, since they use an entirely electronic currency. Obviously you can rob the people doing business in precious metals, but A, that's not many people, and B, you're picking a fight with black marketers by going after their customers (or the black marketers themselves).

    But it occurred to me, handhelds. You'd steal computers. Not for things like account information, because that would be overwhelmingly biometrically keyed, but for the hardware itself—quantum processors are always going to be a valuable commodity, even when they become common enough to be in phones. Some parts of modern phones are worth a couple hundred bucks.
  • It occurred to me that zled lasers' triggers, being on the side of the grip and pressed with the thumb, would necessarily come into ambidexterity issues—but then I remembered zled handedness is not like human handedness. Human handedness isn't even like dog handedness, and our last common ancestor with the dogs (we're both in the Boreoeutheria) was somewhere between 80 and 100 million years ago. Without the particular pressures that create humans' weird, across-all-tasks handedness, there's no reason to think zledo would not all fight right-handed. (They eat with their left, and work most tools, but write with their right because communication is, lateralization-wise, the same as conflict.)

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