01/14/20 – A Souvenir for Aitana

Spacetrawler, audio version For the blind or visually impaired, January 14, 2020.




As Robert Asprin wrote, “”if you think you’ve gotten a good deal from a Deveel, first count your fingers, then your limbs, then your relatives.”


  1. Jude

    Quick, Ruddock, follow the scent of that dicey so-called vendor. No, not that one, the other one.

    And judging from the last panel, it looks like the bored-to-death long-faced ground dweebs can ‘smile’ after all.

  2. andreas

    Love it that Emily who kind of was a self-exile from a dark planet when we met her now has the whole galaxy pegged.

    At one point we thought the universal constants were maths or perhaps fundamental physics, and expected alien species to communicate by sending Fibonacci sequences or Planck constants to establish rapport.

    As Stanislas Lem pointed out, we can hardly assume our ideas about maths and physics are widely, let alone universally shared. He suspected the true universal constants to be I) bureaucracy and II) Emily’s very notion that nobody would give out stuff for free.

    This nicely explains the silencium universii – the fact that nobody sends radio transmissions to us beginning with Pythagoras theorem and ending with free plans for fusion reactors.

    In the spacetrawler universe, the radio silence explained by the GOP’s designation of Earth as a dark planet. However, I suspect that Lem was right and that designation is mostly public relations; the real reason for the GOP not bothering with us is likely Emily’s very insight as the GOP only spends 0.4% of GDP on development aid (and that mostly goes to overhead).

    1. Gregg Eshelman

      One item that will have to be universal among sapient species is some method of organizing the elements in some fashion similar to our periodic table.

      That’s the Ah-Ha! piece in H. Beam Piper’s “Omnilingual”. The ancient Martians left behind a large amount of artifacts, including books, but nobody can decipher any of the writing. The explorers find that in the city they’re exploring a wind turbine atop a building was providing power to life support, and it failed in a way that wasn’t repairable. Soon after they find their first Martians, the last of their species. They’d gathered in one room, closed the door and lit a brazier to die from carbon monoxide rather than slowly asphyxiate.

      But on the wall of the room is the key to understanding the Martian language. A table of the elements. Not like out Periodic table but easy enough to work out what it represents, which provides an easy translation of their numbers and all the words for their names of the elements they know.

      I think it’d make a great episode in a SF video anthology, just change the setting to some Mars like planet orbiting another star.

  3. Pete Rogan

    Hair up on the back of my neck. You don’t have to roam the Galaxy to know that TANSTAAFL is universal: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Or the drinks would be half as much. There’s a payoff coming in something else. Only there’s no indication what. That’s probably deliberate; why give your secrets away when you can get so much more by being quiet about them?

    The map vendor disappearing is signal, too. But what does that mean? And how soon do they find out? I mean besides being before they’re ready for it? Emily, instincts UP!

  4. Night-Gaunt49

    Why would any intelligence willingly send information using primitive radio waves? Every star out there sends radio waves and they are slow. The advanced ones would be using something we may have no idea of or it would considered fringe “science” at best. Also what if what we think of as natural going on out there some of is artificial, but on such a large scale it looks natural? We may be seeing it now and have mistaken it for just part of the natural order out there and some of it is made or destroyed by a species of incredible power and have been that way for centuries or longer.

    Radio waves? What if no one is listening on such a crowded frequency? Why would they think to bother?

    Looks like some of the intelligence bureau hands out a freebee to monitor them. Who would refuse something for free? Then clearing out when the hand off is done.

    I expect Emily understands. I wonder what she will do with the map?

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