Wilful Suspension Of Disbelief: The Story Of Nu

Introduction (or, Too Long; Don’t Read)

To the best of our knowledge, this term was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge back in 1817. He was talking about the need for a writer of fiction to integrate “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic framework in order to permit the reader to continue on through the work without questioning fantastic elements. Specifically, the object of his discussion was the existence of the supernatural in poetry, read by an enlightened humanist audience; it remains readable and enjoyable even to those who dismiss such conceits as childish nonsense.

A more modern writer, Tolkien, addressed the same theme from a more… shall we say “developed” place in literature. In his essay, “On Fairy Stories”, he praises those tales which maintain narrative consistency and causality within an established framework, an artificial universe with its own laws of cause and effect, power and value, nature and super-nature. The reader can understand and enjoy a story based in this setting without worrying over trifles so long as the framework remains consistent, just as a puppet-show can be enjoyed even though the strings and rods are clearly visible or a comic book can have literary merit and convey subtle truths despite the unbelievable aspects of the fictional world in which it exists.

All of this is preface, a philosophical justification behind the history which I now intend to present. Please bear in mind, this is not an authorized history; neither is it authoritative. It is merely a framework, a useful tool for those among us who prefer to suspend disbelief.

I want to be clear on this: Joshua has explicitly said that this is not the Gospel of Nu. It may get modified in time, once a formally accepted story exists. Then again, there may be no need.

The Echo Cluster War

In the depths of history, eleven great and mighty civilizations each sent a one-way probe to a newly-discovered (and oddly flat) star cluster past the edge of known space. On each probe were sufficient colonists to occupy and, in time, claim and control the cluster under the banner of the home civilization. (Ten of these probes were deliberate; the Colonies took a wrong turn at planet Albequerque and had to stop to ask for directions.)

These mini-civilizations expanded until they met each other, and then the cluster exploded into bloody war that continued for centuries. Vast fleets were built and conflict raged until, one by one, the new homeworlds of the settlers were wiped out in multiple successive Ragnaroks, each more deadly than the last. The huddled remnants cowered before the single power that rose as leader and dominated the star system.

The Rise Of The Senate

While all this was going on, a new era of peace, prosperity and technological advancement continued throughout the galaxy. A Galactic Senate was formed and each of the great races was invited to participate. With the boom in trade, a new golden era began… but it was not to last.

As happens with all entrenched bureaucracies over time, the Senate grew ever more powerful, inefficient, corrupt. Local revolts against this power became common, and the central government began to fight its own people with the tools of tyranny and oppression. Chaos and anarchy began their bloody rule on the ungoverned rim, and the future of all civilization was in peril. But then, the impossible happened.

The Nu Movement

From the mists of prehistory, legend spoke of a mysterious force known as the Tim Continuum which had the power to detect and purge corruption across the vastness of space. A small band of companions, led by the stalwart Joshua, sought out this force, and through great trials harnessed its power. This was no easy task, and many were the tests faced by the intrepid band; many were they who fell by the wayside, but more flocked to the banner of the Nu Movement until it raised its standard across the galaxy.

The corruption was purged, but the wise leader of Nu foresaw that, without a fundamental change in the governance of the galaxy, the same forces that had led to this pass would soon enough overcome the hard-won peace. And so, drawing again on the awesome power of the Tim Continuum, the mighty Joshua reached out to the Echo Cluster and contacted the leader of the victorious power. This man was brought back across time and space and appointed Emperor. And his reign was long and just, but it was not eternal.

Knowing that no system can remain static yet incorrupt, the Nu Senate established a periodic contest to choose a new Emperor, so that, from time to time, the most worthy among a field of proven administrators would be chosen to rule. In this way, all of the civilizations of the galaxy could be represented over time.

The Scenario

As the first Emperor was chosen from the Echo Cluster, so too would all of his successors be. And yet, bloodshed and warfare were to be avoided in the galaxy; civilization itself would not long survive the new weapons and tactics that had evolved in the centuries since the original Echo Cluster war. And so it was decided that an artificial battleground would be created, one that was modeled on the original Echo Cluster. Several identical “Nu Clusters” would be prepared; each would be used in turn to test the would-be champions of each race. For the sake of efficiency, the clusters were made two-dimensional and stacked, with an impermeable artificial luminous Oort border between each layer to prevent untoward influences. (This is why there are no suns; the Oort border provides light and energy.)

Just as in the original war, the new Clusters were restricted to a set of five hundred planets, but in order to present the most balanced test, a pseudo-random distribution of worlds and contestants became the new standard. To limit the potential for destruction, only the original archaic technologies (with some modifications for the sake of balance) were permitted. Conscription was outlawed throughout the galaxy, and only the most proficient volunteers were allowed to serve their factions aboard the primitive vessels and starbases. To prevent the slaughter of civilians, self-replicating android pseudo-colonists were created to populate the worlds of the contest, with variants introduced to simulate native races.

Early Nu Wars were often failures, stalemates due to caution and the natural defensive advantage. As a result, the construction androids were permitted to join labor unions and secretly programmed to go on “strike” when a preset limit of ships was reached. A complex system of points was then established so that certain “priority builds”, determined by the respective commanders, could continue to be produced at need. Random destructive events, called “ion storms”, were introduced into the basic framework in order to prevent the dominance of another static situation.

Over time, the contests gained popularity, and soon even such long-lived mainstays of culture as Pyramid, Brockian Ultra-Cricket and Football faded into obscurity. (Manchester United, as an act of rebellion, joined the Privateer Bands as a unit, immediately whereupon Arsenal opted for voluntary assimilation into the Cyborg.) Now, the competitions between trainee emperors are the highest-grossing broadcast sport in all of history, and variant versions of the contests are evolving into new sports of their own right.

But we must never forget the fighting force of each civilization that voluntarily marches out onto the field of battle. These brave souls sacrifice themselves so that those of us who do not volunteer may continue to live in peace and prosperity. They are to be remembered with honor and solemn pride, these new warriors of peace, for without their sacrifice the Galaxy again would be plunged into horrible war.

The preceding is a selection from “The Nu War”, by James Chancellite. All rights reserved.


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