Chapter 1: Domestic Kernel Hacking
Domestic Kernel Hacking
A future archaeologists guide to Tin Town.
Anyone looking close enough into the outer ring can find the green sun. A grass-coloured sparkle in a sea of iridescent stars. Ironically, it is the only sun most people will ever see in the outer ring, the other stars actually being distant incipispheres and pocket universes.
Douglas Hofstadter once described discovery, knowledge, and the sciences as a grand orchard, the pieces of information taking the place of all of the trees. If you have ever had the experience of driving past an orchard in a car as a child, peering out the window, you might have noticed that the endless forest of trees seems to be without order or reason, a chaotic and organic set of plants, but if you can catch it at the right angle, you can see straight through to the other side, peering directly between two rows. And by taking this unique perspective, you can understand how the entire orchard is laid out, that is it a series of straight rows of fruit-bearing trees, not a chaotic and orderless jungle, and you can see the structure as a whole in your mind.
The Green Sun was the divine angle that needed to be viewed through, and the orchard the outer ring. An orientating lighthouse, from which its lone lime axiom could one construct the entire map of the outer ring. Of course, the eyes needed to see through that divine angle also needed centuries of time and death to create unique mathematics. And needed still dozens of exploratory expeditions into the void to truly build up a theory of outer ring navigation.
But the practicality of the situation doesn’t make for as good of an opening paragraph.
Around two AUs from the green sun are 24 spokes, round poles with a blunted angular tip, carved with markings and tally marks indicating which out of the 24 spokes it is. The spoke is covered in dark blood covered rust, and one might think that this is because of age and disuse, to which I would reply, of course it isn’t, metal doesn’t oxidize in space. They were rusted when they were first made.
I would also say that while technically metal does oxidize in this space, because it’s not a vacuum but rather is in fact filled with some kind of ethereal mental concept of air that lets one breathe perfectly fine but does damage to one in slower ways than asphyxiation, it still doesn’t change the fact that the spokes were made rusted.
Around four AUs away from the Green Sun is a city. A terrible clash of design philosophy, from the outside it looks very much like a kaleidoscope of wood and metal, that rotates around itself in unnatural ways as you look at it from different angles. Two dozen void ships attach to it at random spots where the surface seems to not shift. And at the risk of cultural shift changing the prototypical void ship that one imagines, a standard void ship is a golden battleship covered in doodads, as if someone had covered it in glue and dipped it into the broken parts bin of a electrical engineering lab.
Inside the city, topography makes a lot more sense. Not that it does not change, but that the changes in topography are usually prefixed with a 2 week notice, and done on a public vote.
Further inside the city, is a coffee shop. To any incredulous readers that would feel unease that a wooden space station orbiting around a mathematical anchor point dipped in green paint, which is further orbited by exactly two dozen metal rods, contains a coffee shop and not wondrously horrifying horrifying wonders of sci-fi novels, I would say that, the need for coffee shops is both a human, troll, and probably sapient being constant, and that even if we were disembodied astral beings of pure energy, we would still have some kind of place to get the astral being of pure energy equivalent of that delicious bean juice.
Inside the coffee shop, called “The Land of Coffee and Milk” (a presumably cute attempt at referencing the naming schemes of Sburbian lands), sits the author of this series.
Yeah, I’m a real person writing this, and this story will also follow parts of my life while I narrate more about the world and what I know about history, science and politics.
Two kinds of historical writings were very useful to historians on Old Earth, political and historical works describing large scale events and civics of the civilization at the time, letting us understand with good insight both the physical and actionable history and leaders of an ancient civilization, and their thoughts about their own history and people, and the personal journals of random individuals who write about their day, which give us an insight into their lives and culture and what life was really like for them on the daily.
To save the future eminent historian discovering this document for the first time the pain of having to also find another document, I have decided to do the future a favour and write both about my own life, and what I know of our history, culture, people and anything else that crosses my mind. You’re welcome. An essential piece of our people’s culture is writing pieces that mix exposition and personal narrative. This is a tradition that dates back to our historical equivalent of pre-recorded history cultures, loose replayers.
Chapter 2: Coffee Shop
The Land of Coffee and Milk
A coffee shop is a place where coffee, tea, and various other beverages and pastries are sold. Given that coffee is a universal constant this probably does not sound especially novel or unique.
Imagine a room with red brick walls and wooden windows to the cityscape outside. Sequestered along the walls are booths, in one I sit with my laptop, where inhabitants sip away at their bean juice. Knitted cushions sit upon the booth seats, each with a unique hand crafted pattern, featuring geometric shapes, SBURB ideograils, designs of animals and plants. In a corner sits the counter, with many stools off it. On the counter sits an espresso machine, an ancient and arcane machine whose operating secrets are only known to the order of the barista. In addition, a glass pane off the counter shields a few rows of baked goods, cakes and brownies and other such coffee munchers.
The walls are littered with various memorabilia, from ancient posters of movies of old earth, to various game-era propaganda pieces (my personal favourite being the picture of two humans embracing, with the caption ‘have you hugged a friend today?’ under it), to a few relics on shelves.
If this all sounds awfully mundane to you, it’s because it was designed to be mundane. People from tin town have all, without fail, been through an awful lot, and much of their life is based around making things as domestic and mundane as possible. One would think that with our phenomenal cosmic power of the fabric of reality itself, we would spend our time doing something grand and ethereal, but we do not. We spend our time in coffee shops, in bars, in schools and in theatres, entertaining ourselves and gossiping and spending time with those we love. It’s an existence with only the meaning that we make of it.
That isn’t to say that there haven’t been grand adventures undertaken to get to this point, as our history books are filled with adventures of the most grand nature, but that this is the end result of all of said adventures. That what we wanted, was just a normal, mundane kind of life.
On my table is my laptop, on which I write this document you are reading now. There is also a cup of coffee, a latte to be precise, in a white mug with the words ‘Nasdaq stock exchange’ written on it. The mug, like all of the mugs here, are all relics from old earth. Not because we couldn’t make new mugs, of course we could, but because each one has a cool and interesting history behind it. Was my mug perhaps owned by a famous stock broker, who won and lost fortunes in the span of minutes. Or maybe a high powered CEO, who sat behind a grand oak desk and demanded that assistants bring him coffee in this very mug. Or was it perhaps used by a destitute intern at a huge company, who sipped on brews to keep themselves working deep into the night for no pay. I may never know, but I do enjoy being able to wonder.
Also, on the desk is a laminated copy of the menu at this café. It lists various types of coffee, tea and pastries. Another paper sits on top of it, this one extoling the latest special that is on offer, a fancy single origin bean from Nigeria from old earth, lovingly transported here by game-runners, instead of the standard mass alchemised stuff. Alchemised coffee beans are supposed to be molecularly indistinguishable from ‘real’ ones, but the snobs will always pay more of their fake money for the rarity (Money, in our society, is only partially fake. Oh, we have notes and coins with the faces of heroes on them, but they’re only really traded around because people like the idea of it. In reality we’re effectively post scarcity, nothing essential for life costs money, and if you want more money you really only just have to ask the tin town mint for some and they’ll gladly print you up as much as you want. Of course, people view that as a sort of cheating, but whatever).
The smell of roasted beans wafts through the air, and the sound of the chatter of the patrons and the hiss of the coffee machine also wafts through the air, through wafts more as sound wafts than smells waft. There are 9 patrons in here that I count, and also the Barista, a tall and lanky troll wearing a brown apron and a nametag that reads “Hethea”.
Outside the rain drips against the windows. The rain is artificial, as is all of the weather in here, set randomly each day. Well, it is not entirely random, the bureau of meteorology has a quite complex seasonal calendar set up, and sends out reports to the weather report on the radio every week. The current season is autumn, for the record, so the temperatures are a bit chilly out, cardigan weather really, and the ground in the parks is filled with crunchy autumn leaves.
I hope this description lets you picture this place, and my place within it in your head. I find that describing the small things is the best way to understand the big things, and while I could, and will, write long diatribes on our chequered history, our wars and our politics, the best way to understand us as a people is to understand the coffee shop. All the blood sweat and tears we exerted were for this coffee shop to exist, and for people like me to be able to sit in them peacefully, sipping on a latte in the afternoon in autumn.
About five thousand people live in tin town. About seven thousand people exist, as far as we know, as citizens of the extended tin government. The rest of the two thousand that don’t live here are game runners, those who play SBURB despite not having to for material, experience, or whatever personal reason they have, those who are travelling the outer rim on void ships, those that live in pocket universes, those that live in remote outposts, or the various few who have other, strange and unique roles and endeavours that take them away from here.
Of those seven thousand, roughly five hundred, as far as I know, are voidborn, those who are birthed naturally by us, and are raised from infancy in tin town. The rest of us, including myself, are gameborn, those who were born on an old earth or old alternia, and lived their lives up until the age where they played game that ended the world. After one or two replay sessions, people tend to gather enough game experience to make a trip to tin town, through not all live long enough to make it that far.
Those that were born in the age of replayer networks are far and few inbetween, but are around. They are the ones that helped to build tin town, and the extended tin government. Or at least the ones that were around to see it built, and sort of hopped on board when it looked like there was a chance for this game to be put to rest. I am, unfortunately, not one of them. I moved into tin town after my 3rd game session, in the year 22 AF (twenty two earth years after the founding of tin town.). The year right now is 28 AF, and it has been a long 28 years for us all.
Regardless, I am well positioned to talk about our past, and am well positioned to talk about our present. I have spent a lot of time combing the library and have and will interview those that were there for pivotal moments in our history.
Freya Sefton, the Princess of Blood (Princess of Blood being her epithet, not her native role, which was The Prince of Blood. She is called the Princess of Blood to distinguish her from other Princes of Blood), one of the founders of Tin Town, and war leader of the Tin forces during the azurite war.
Talia Mason, the first mayor of Tin Town. The creator of most of the social structure of our government, and to this day the chief advisor of the management board.
Andrew Dragutin, chief kernel engineer, the creator of copperOS, the custom operating system our pocket of reality runs on. As it turns out, the first thing that we do when we discover a piece of new hardware is code a version of linux for it. This is no different when said hardware is the fundamental underpinings of reality itself.
And those are only a few of the people I’ve reached out for an interview. Of course, none of them have actually accepted me yet, and I’m fairly sure Freya is only sapient for like, maybe 10 minutes a day, but still.