|In the Grimdarkness of the far future, a brief life burns brightly. This article or section is a work of Grimdark. Expect a copious amount of depression, existentialism, hopelessness with a sprinkle of edge. So what can we say but exclaim: I LOVE BIG BROTHER!|
"Do not remember heroes. Do not speak their names.
Remember my words, but do not speak my name.
I have a vision of a Galaxy overrun by mankind from Core to Rim. Of four hundred billion stars each enslaved to the rhythms of Earth’s day, Earth’s year. I have a vision of a trillion planets pulsing to the beat of a human heart.
And I have a vision of a child. Who will grow up knowing neither family nor comfort. Who will not be distracted by the illusion of a long life. Who will know nothing but honor and duty. Who will die joyously for the sake of mankind.
That is a hero. And I will never know her name.
Always remember: a brief life burns brightly."
- – Hama Druz, de facto founder of the ICoG, promoting the ethics of child suicide bombers. Yeah, he's that type of person.
Xeelee Sequence is a series of hard science fiction novels and short stories written by British author Stephen Baxter, spanning billions of years of fictional history (leaving 40k in the dust with its "mere" 10,000), with plots revolving around theoretical physics, futurology, multiple universes, artificial intelligence, faster-than-light travel, and the usual existential and social philosophical issues that tend to go with such works. If you want to believe that Cosmic Horror cannot be done in Hard Science Fiction, this series will prove you dead wrong.
Most relevant to /tg/'s interests, though, is that Xeelee is unbelievably grimdark. Like, holy shitballs, final word on the matter, makes-40k-look-like-Sesame-Street-in-comparison grimdark. The Interim Coalition of Governance, just to pick one example, is arguably the most grimdark galactic government in all of fiction, even giving 1984 a run for its money, although the Empire of Sol and the Holy Superet Church of Light also come pretty close to being a bunch of amoral dipshits. The Xeeleeverse is a place where the concept of hope and humanity has been forgotten so hard that trillions of child soldiers are sent to fight (and get slaughtered) in a war they don't have a hope in hell of winning, and the Coalition knows it and doesn't care.
Another part of the Sequence that also interests /tg/ is that whenever there is a take on anything to do with discussions on Hard Sci-Fi, the Kardashev Scale, or theoretical physics, especially when it comes to the more science-laden homebrews, there is a good chance the Sequence would get brought up. A lot. Because let's be frank, some of the ideas that Baxter comes up with within the Sequence are just fucking cool. Do take note and be forewarned that comparisons between WH40K would be needed in terms of context given how 40k along with Star Wars is sometimes considered the 'benchmark' of Mid-tier Sci-Fi. This is done to better contextualize the sense of scale both in the applied sciences and in the harshness of the setting.
- 1 Plot in a Nutshell
- 2 The Sequence and the Critique of Humanity Fuck Yeah!
- 3 Notable Factions
- 4 Shortlist of Grimdark Shit in the Sequence
- 5 Things that make the Xeelee Sequence Absurdly and Horrifyingly Overpowered
- 6 See Also
Plot in a Nutshell
"And everywhere the humans went they found life..."
- – The good news is extraterrestrials life does exist and the bad news is...well everything shown in Star Trek was BS from Vacuum Diagrams.
"That’s the trouble with happy endings. You just live on and on, until you’ve sucked all the juice out, and it turns out not to be so happy after all."
- – The ending is just the beginning repeating and it will only get much worse from Transcendent.
- – A basic summary of how grimdark society in the ICoG is from Exultant
To make things short and easy, the entirety of the Xeelee Sequence is centered around the cosmic war between the Xeelee, the masters of 'baryonic' matter (AKA normal matter for us non-scientist plebeians), and the Photino Birds, the masters of dark matter. The war stretched through the entire timeline, from the split microseconds of the Big Bang to the heat death of the entire universe. The war started because the Photino Birds, creatures made from dark matter, wanted to make their home a little bit comfier, and in order to do this they decide to unintentionally exterminate all Baryonic lifeforms in the entirety of the universe by reducing all the stars into white dwarfs via accelerated cosmic heat death. The Xeelee understandably did not like the idea of some home invader trying to do a home deco around their turf and the battle begin. Yes, you hear us right, the entire war was due to the Photino Birds, for all intents and purposes, searching for a comfier home to live in. Essentially, the war stretched throughout all of time, since almost every major race in the Xeelee Sequence has weaponized Time Travel, and since Stephen Baxter KNOWS his science better than most sci-fi authors, FTL travel has significant effects on time dilation. Granted, his work relied a lot on speculative physics; for example, The Great Attractor has proven to be much less massive than what was thought when the novel was written and has an even larger mass concentration behind it.
But what about us humans? We got our asses kicked by two alien races; the Squeem and Qax, and the latter of the two was so traumatic that it turned humanity into one of the most xenocidal forces in all of science-fiction. Seriously, the Imperium of Man has nothing compared to these assholes, and no chapter in human history was so downright depressing and fucked up as Qax occupation. Humanity has reached the point that it wants to force the one Xeelee inhabiting the Milky Way to GTFO because they thought the giant Cosmic Ring that the Xeelee was making was a weapon designed to destroy humanity (when in reality the Ring was made by the Xeelee to save ALL Baryonic lifeforms, including humans, and bring them a new Universe). This understandably annoyed the shit out of the Xeelee, so they decided to leave the galaxy. And what did humanity do after the Xeelee left? It collapsed into a wide-scale civil war before being unified by another tyrannical regime, and then humanity evolved into different species and fought each other in the period known as the Bifurcation, some humans losing their consciousness in the process of evolution. In the following millions of years, the descendants of humans have annoyed the Xeelee to the point that they got fed up with our shit and decided to lock the entire Sol System in a fourth-dimensional prison while leaving pretty much 99% of humanity to die off. The only humans who are actually doing OK (sort of) are the passengers of the Great Northern, a generation ship that predated all the asshole empires, wound up stuck five million years in the future, and promptly made a beeline for Xeelee-controlled space to hide.
Unfortunately for the Xeelee, dark matter outnumbers and outmasses baryonic matter 9-to-1, meaning that the war was long-decided eons ago. Desperate, the Xeelee decide to create the aforementioned Cosmic Ring to open a gateway to a new universe to escape to. The Photino Birds find this giant Cosmic Ring to be a threat and decide to destroy it, and almost succeed - but in the end, the remaining Xeelee, humans, and other baryonic lifeforms managed to escape into the new universe, leaving the old Universe to be conquered by the Photino Birds. Those unfortunate chaps who missed their chance would die a slow and painful death as their universe becomes unfit to uphold baryonic life.
What Baxter should be commended on is the fact that his aliens are truly alien in every sense of the word. None of them are even remotely humanoid and almost all of them (barring the Silver Ghosts) do not think like a human; with the majority of them bearing chemistry so fucking bizarre it borderlines on theoretical physics for some of them. Another thing he should be given plenty of credit for is that Baxter also understands a thing or two about scale. The vast, vast majority of Sci-Fi works have no understanding of what scale is, making their respective universe feel too small or too big. Warhammer 40,000, Star Wars, Star Trek, Halo, among countless others are all guilty of this. However, because the Sequence is a setting-driven story rather than a character-driven one, Baxter manages to showcase just how motherfucking ECKBAWKS HUEG the Sequence is. It is truly fucking mindboggling yet, grounded in reality due to his application, knowledge, and respect for physics.
The Sequence and the Critique of Humanity Fuck Yeah!
Whether by accident or by design, the Xeelee Sequence is notable for being inherently hostile to Humanity Fuck Yeah, even if it shows one of the most overpowered factions of Humanity to ever exist in fiction. Many of the HFY rallying cries and tropes are subverted and deconstructed down to its core, while others just don't exist because the aliens blew them up in their faces. Throughout the series, Humanity has never been shown in an overall good light, if anything they are viewed as vindictive, (self) destructive, short-sighted, petulant, petty, and overall pathetic. All of the cliches that make HFY so appealing are rendered to paste in the Sequence. Case in point:
- Trying to show Humanity's might and achievements? Barely if any noticeable by the Xeelee, nothing that Humanity tries to strive for would ever register so much as relevant footnote to the Xeelee. Even if Humanity shouts their loudest at the top of their lungs like a sociopathic ten year old on a powertrip throwing a temper tantrum to be noticed, the reality is that the multiverse doesn't care about the opinions of a bunch of unga-bunga space monkeys, so you all should consider yourselves grateful that the Xeelee gives the slightest two shits about your existence at the end of reality.
- Conquering entire Galaxies? It all Immediately falls apart the moment the primary enemy left due to Humanity's inherent nature for power, xenophobia, bloodlust, and wanton greed, rendering the entire point of conquering the Galaxy (which would be considered one of the greatest achievements by most Human-centric polities in Sci-Fi) worthless and meaningless.
- Becoming the dominant species and trying to play God? Gets curbstomped so bad Humanity is reduced to pathetic, stone-aged savages once the actual dominant species gets sick of our shit and immediately shut us all down dead in its tracks.
- Trying to be a badass hero and save the day? LOL nope, you will immediately get arrested and punished for disobeying orders by time-traveling NKVD/Gestapo/thought police hybrids. Essentially speaking, every characteristic that makes Humanity Fuck Yeah Awesome is exposed for the folly that it truly is:
- Human resourcefulness: Humanity spent hundreds of thousands of years fighting multiple wars that were basically worthless and meaningless on the grand scale of the multiverse that never even mattered to start with. All for what? A bruised ego and a massive inferiority complex? Basically the direct opposite of resourcefulness and showcase how our usage of resources is only utilized at its fullest extent when our hubris is threatened, NOT for the improvement of society.
- Human ingenuity: Completely butchered by Humanity's own innate fallacies of infighting, incompetence and power struggles. Innovation if it is ever permitted, is only used for the cocksucking of the fragile Human ego than it is, for the betterment of society and humankind. But despite all this, Humanity is still a less than third-rate blowhard by Xeelee standards due to the implementation of superior closed-timelike curves.
- Human warrior prowess: Exposed for what it is in Exultant; juvenile, petty, and pathetic. Ties hand-in-hand back to the fallacy of Human resourcefulness. To something like the Xeelee, the so-called Human 'warrior spirit' is nothing more than spoilt retarded psychopathic manchildren fighting over what would be considered petty face-saving for the Xeelee.
- Human tenacity: Similar to Human warrior prowess and resourcefulness, the Sequence shows how the multi-millennia wars against the Xeelee, Qax, and the Silver Ghosts have reduced a positive Human trait into a degenerate showcasing. It is even quoted in-universe. By comparing ourselves to rats, all of a sudden, being tenacious doesn't sound all too appealing. As such, Humanity is nothing more than vermin and would stay as vermin.
- Human masculinity: Humanity was metaphorically cucked not once, but TWICE by two alien races. Never has a Humanity in all of literature, been this powerful yet carried so many Ls in its existence. There is nothing 'badass' nor 'manly' about a polity that routinely used children as suicide bombers and construct what is effectively a state sanctioned child rape camp.
Tl;dr, Humanity, in general, is nothing more than an irrelevant third wheel, a literal side character to the plot that bitterly learned their place in the hierarchy of things.
As you can imagine, Stephen Baxter really does not like the idea of glorifying what is basically Human supremacy. Most of his works aren't HFY friendly with the Sequence being the most notable example. This is made more impressive when one considers that Baxter was able to mold this into a setting that is both Grimdark yet not Edgy. How is that possible? It's simply because Baxter does this neat delicate trick called Show, don't Tell. Baxter shows how the machinations, ideas, and processes could turn children into literal and metaphorical war machines. He shows what would happen if any regime got its hands on advanced technology. And he shows how said technology could function to an incredibly detailed scrutiny and he did it without trying to justify nor glorify it, but to present it as it is.
You compare and contrast this to 40k's attempt at Grimdark for the sake of marketing and flowery prose and language. Now flowery language is great when it comes to adding in-universe mystery. After all, many legends and fables contain flowery languages, and incorporating this into in-universe legends is good world-building. But 40k is too reliant on this form of medium, which is a serious issue when it comes to trying to comprehend the validity of said language and whether or not to take it seriously as a feat of Grimdark or as - you know - a fable. This often leads to obvious mixed results and the creation of Grimderp. Flowery language is also really, really immature when handled badly. The most embarrassingly notorious example is almost anything written by C.S. Goto which is so absurdly dark for no point or reason other than for shock value, that it borderline resembles parody. Except it is not and written 100% seriously. Most edgy fan-fics written are often reliant on overly descriptive prose which sounds a lot, but in the end, means nothing. Sometimes, less is more.
Think of the Xeelee Sequence, therefore, as the Anti-STTGL. Whilst Gurren Lagann showcase the 'Humanity is Special' trope to an over-the-top degree, Baxter just puts that idea in a blender and pours out the contents in the drainage pipe.
There are multiple factions that spanned the entirety of the Xeelee Sequence. Here are some notable examples.
"The ancient spacetime-chemistry creatures, having survived yet another cosmic transition, gradually found ways to accommodate themselves to the latest climate, even though to them it was cold and dark and dead. In their heyday there had been no "matter" in the normal sense. But now they found they could usefully form symbiotic relationships with creatures formed of condensate matter: extended structures locked into a single quantum state. A new kind of being ventured cautiously through the light-filled spaces, like insects with "bodies" of condensate and "wings" of spacetime defects. It was the formation of a new kind of ecology, emerging from fragments of the old and new.
But symbiosis and the construction of composite creatures from lesser components were eternal tactics for life, eternal ways of surviving changed conditions.
In the unimaginably far future humans would call the much-evolved descendants of these composite forms "Xeelee." "
- – A small tidbit on one of the most poetically beautiful descriptions of the birth of an Eldritch race in literature history, from Exultant.
"Some believe that by such interventions the Xeelee are maintaining their monopoly on power, which holds sway across the observable Universe. Others say that, like the vengeful gods of man's childhood, the Xeelee are protecting us from ourselves."
"...Damn those Xeelee. I should have known they can beat anything we've got. And of course they would police this lithium beacon. It wouldn't do to let us lesser types get our hands-on stuff like this; oh no..."
- – Despite the Xeelee barely notice mankind existence, the human race still go to war with them anyway out of spite from Vacuum Diagrams.
"We are done with fighting. After all this time, perhaps we humans have learned a little wisdom – and humility."
"We humans took on the Xeelee. Remarkable when you think about it: savannah apes against a super galactic power. We did them some damage, we drove them out of the Galaxy. But the Xeelee are far more than we ever were; we could never defeat them. And we barely noticed the true enemy, a foe of both ourselves and the Xeelee and everything made of baryonic matter, matter like ourselves—"
- – A human admitted the Xeelee superior to them in every aspect, from Resplendent.
The main "mascot" faction of the entire series, the Xeelee are the undisputed masters of all Baryonic life. They are made from self-propagating, space-time defects that reproduce via Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and were born in 10−43 seconds after the Big Bang during the Planck Epoch, where the four fundamental universal forces (Gravity, Electromagnetism, Strong and Weak Nuclear Forces) have yet to diverge; ergo physics were still fused under the Grand Unified superforce AKA GUT (Grand Unified Theory). They eventually formed a symbiosis with Bose-Einstein Condensate creatures and allied with the Quagmites, creatures made from Quagma during the Quark Epoch approximately 1 microsecond after the Big Bang. The proto-Xeelee then went to war with the Anti-Matter aliens before winning by tweaking the universal constants so that there was more baryonic matter than anti-matter. Fun fact, that war accidentally created cosmic inflation.
The Xeelee are so far up on the technological scale that they might as well be gods. Their most notable vehicles are the Xeelee Nightfighters, and in many cases, they are so attuned to their technology that it is difficult to distinguish them from the Nightfighters. These motherfuckers make the motherfucking Culture look shockingly pedestrian and modest in contrast. Not only do they weaponize Time Travel, but they also have the ability to use entire galaxies as literal building blocks to create megastructures, such as the Xeelee Ring (or Bolder's Ring to humans). When things get ugly, the Xeelee drop the star-busting pistols and upgrade themselves with gravitational slingshots that can launch a hyperknot of cosmic string, 50,000 light-years in length, with the mass of a hundred billion stars, moving at the speed of light to turn weaponized galaxies into silly string. They are tough enough to laugh off attacks from guns that shoot neutron stars and black holes at 99.c the speed of light, and they come in the untold trillions. Yet despite all of this, in an interesting flip/subversion of the Cosmic Horror trope, the Xeelee are non-malicious (Especially when compared to the walking insane asylum that is, Humanity) and more of a force of nature than your generic "I eat your universe because GRIMDARK!" hentai monster.
Tl;dr, these guys are one of the apex predators in all of Science Fiction. They are not to be fucked with.
"I just don’t think it’s helpful to think of them in that way. They’re doing what they’re doing—wrecking our Sun—because that’s what they do. By accelerating the stars through their lifecycles they’re building a better Universe for themselves, and their own offspring, their own future.”
“They’re like insects. Ants, perhaps. Do any of you know what I’m talking about? The birds are following their own species imperatives. Which just happen to cut across ours, is all."
- – Do take note that this comes from the fact that the Photino Birds barely noticed the Xeelee, just to show you how lopsided the war was, from Ring.
"But there are places in the universe, little pits of gravity, where they could squeeze down and find the compression they need."
"In the hearts of stars, right! We know gravity works on dark-matter creatures; we know they are immune to heat and radiation. So the Galaxy is like a great reef, to them, full of these tight little pits, the gravity wells of stars, where they can deposit their . . ."
"Which hatch out to become photino fish, as we called them, swimming around inside the stars, like the Sun. Like larvae. And when they are mature . . ."
"Ah. They hatch out. As if a star was an egg. They fly back up, out of the stars, out of the disc, up into the halo. And – open their wings."
- – The Birds breeding cycle aka self-cloning, mind you these Birds were just juveniles but they were the ones that attacked the Xeelee Cosmic Ring with weaponised galaxies, from Redemption.
"We’re trying to map the dark matter, for example. Its distribution around the Galaxy: it makes up most of the Galaxy’s bulk by mass but is entirely invisible to human eyes. A thin sheet of it lies within the plane of the Galaxy itself, the spiral arms. That much is well known. But now, beyond, in the halo, we are observing huge, tangled towers . . ."
"Towers. Structures of some kind?"
"Indeed. Not unlike tendrils, in some places, reaching down into this puddle we call the Galaxy. The dark matter constitutes the bulk of the universe’s matter; why shouldn’t it contain structure? And I know what your next question will be."
- – Now these are the real adult Photino Birds, makes the Anti-Spirals feel inadequate eh? from Redemption.
The Photino Birds are the main adversaries to the Xeelee and the undisputed masters of all dark life, with absolute mastery over dark matter. Unfortunately for the Xeelee, dark matter just so happens to outmass Baryonic matter 9-to-1, meaning that the Xeelee are outnumbered and out-Dakka'd. First encountered somewhere between the late Planck Epoch and the early Hadron Epoch 20 microseconds after the Big Bang. They are acausal, von Neumann swarms of self-replicating dark matter entities who are not bound by the effects of temporal entropy. All Photino Birds resemble an ovoid/seed-shaped mass approximately 40 meters long and rarely interact with baryonic matter due to being made up of dark matter. The only thing that could kill them are exotic weapons with extreme - and we mean EXTREME - gravitational forces like monopole cannons, the singularity lasers of starbreakers, or a cosmic string to the face.
The Photino Birds attempted to destroy the Xeelee Ring, as they view it as a threat to their manifest destiny on making the universe more comfy for them, preventing the baryonic lifeforms from ever achieving a safe haven in which to live. In a nutshell, these guys are selfish dicks who can't even share the same bed with the Xeelee, and instead try to create a complete mess of the Universe instead. All because the Xeelee held most of the blanket when they try to go to sleep. When angered sufficiently, they also use Galaxies as glorified weapon systems by flinging the entire fucking Galaxy at whoever pissed them off. They are responsible for creating a war (to use "war" generously; the slaughter is so one-sided that some books imply the Birds didn't even realize the Xeelee existed) that would give the Last Great Time War from Doctor Who a run for its money.
Interim Coalition of Governance
"I'll tell you why. Because, after twenty thousand years of the Third Expansion, the majority of mankind are soldiers—and most are still children when they die. Most people don't grow old. They don't even grow old enough to understand what is happening to them. To our soldiers war is a game, whose lethality they never grasp. This is what we are: this is what we have made ourselves. And the numbers are terrible: in a century, more people die in this war than all the human beings who ever lived on Earth before mankind first reached the stars."
- – Welcome to one of the bloodiest and most cruelest regimes written into fiction, from Exultant
"Breed, fight hard, die young, and stay human: you could sum up the Coalition’s philosophy in those few words. In its social engineering the Coalition set up a positive feedback process; it unleashed a swarm of fast-breeding humans across the Galaxy, until every star system had been filled."
"Not a noble way to do it, but it worked. And we did stay human, for twenty thousand years. Evolution postponed!"
- – Michael Poole observation the Xeeleeverse Human Space Rats social behaviors in their galactic wide habitats from Resplendent.
"More indoctrination. The children must be trained to handle weapons, to deploy destructive forces – and to kill?"
"There are native animals – flying, bird-like creatures – which they hunt. These days the animals are raised for that purpose, of course; it has ironically saved them from extinction. Yes, they must learn to kill."
"The Xeelee are not like us – but they are sentient. Therefore it helps to be exposed to the moral conflict of killing a sentient creature, before it is necessary to do it to save one’s life. So, yes, people too, when appropriate."
"Commissary, must we commit such barbarism to wage our war?"
"But there is no barbarism here. Novice, what did you expect? This regime, this crude empire of mud and clubs and blood, is actually a sophisticated processing system. It turns human beings, children, into machines."
- – An ICoG Commissary justifying their brutal treatment that makes the Schola Progenium look humane by comparison, from Resplendent.
What can be briefly described as Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge in space if its leader was Goge Vandire while he was tripping out on bath salts.
The ICoG was one of the major human governing polities that emerged after the Qax occupation, which forcefully deleted most of human history and forced humanity into a multi-billion year PTSD. The ICoG is identifiable by two things: the first is that they are complete dicks that makes Eldrad look like a gentleman, and the second is that they are even more xenocidal than the IoM who has the common sense to leave truly harmless xenos the fuck alone. The ICoG is one of the most oppressive and grimdark factions in all of science fiction, which is an impressive feat all by itself. The ICoG makes you hate humanity. Seriously, these guys are just evil.
Imperium of Man has legitimate reasons to be un-fucking-believably careful with any new iteration of a technology, let alone a new discovery. The concept of machine spirits, materiél infection by Chaotic influences, no matter how subtle is extremely real and possible. The Xeeleeverse has no Gods that interfere, nor has it "Warp" or supernatural enemies in any sense (If it means "super" at all). Any technology is free to be discovered with no danger strings attached. You want to destroy Black Holes using gravitational disruptors that literally tear reality a new one? No Daemons pour forth, go for it, the human army employs them as line artillery. Time Travel? Yawn. Making the whole of reality a closed-time loop and use parallel pocket universes to bypass enemy clairvoyance of time travel computation? Bo-ring, a 16 year old kid did it (and got punished for it because he disobeyed the "Druz Doctrine").
So you got tech that makes Dark Age of Technology like banging rocks together with a production capacity that consumes planets' worth of metal PER DAY. Remind me why we have trillions of child soldiers shat out of breeder pods and brutalized (sometimes sexually bullied in front of everyone) and sent to the battlefield in skinsuits? Why not use quadrillions of aimbot-guided megacomputers with said "clairvoyance-proof" tech firing at Xeelee? (Answer: Same vein why IoM likes to use Imperial Guardsmen. The costs of raising, training and equipping one child-soldier is far cheaper than 'aimbots')
The ICoG spent the lives of countless children, all in a gamble to get rid of the Xeelee from their galaxy and become the dominant lifeforms in the entire universe USING WW1 TACTICS. Against aliens with corporeal form etched inside the universe's mathematical equations, using mega-sized mobile asteroid bases fortified by slave child soldiers with shovels to absorb enemy fire, someone forgot to build a couple of dozers. They exterminated countless aliens who were in their way, and reduced those who surrendered to a fate worse then death (read, re-cloned and made mentally stunted slaves). They commit countless atrocities, not because they are backed into a corner, but just so they can sate their wounded and shattered egos, which never truly recovered from their occupation by the Qax (yes, this is sad, but yeah...). They are absolute hypocrites and liars that makes the High Lords of Terra look competent motherfuckers. At least the Imperium's bureaucracy is limited by physical, computational (remember Men of Iron) and warp-speed and operated as best as it can, because the machinations behind it has some semblance of goodwill.
They created such a totalitarian shithole, not because of some pseudo-philosophical bullshit, or a horrible universe with genocidal sentient forces of existence and infected technology, but because they are a bunch of spiteful pricks who want to make their people suffer. They want to channel their suffering and hate towards the Xeelee, who are trying to save them from the Photino Birds. And what did the ICoG do once they finally drove the Xeelee out of the Milky Way? Did they usher in a new golden age or do they amend their crimes? Nope they immediately fell into civil war before being unified by another tyrannical regime, which also quickly collapses. Seriously, fuck the ICoG, just fuck 'em. When we mean the combined and concentrated Grimdark from all of WH40K still pales in comparison to just the ICoG itself, WE FUCKING MEAN IT.
Ironically if not cynically the Coalition is basically a more realistic portrayal of the Imperium of Man except superior in all aspects, more successful and yet humorously more retarded and incompetent than the Imperium itself. The Coalition may not have the religious themes, Gothic architecture or skull obssession of its Imperium cousin, but its fanatical ideology of human supremacy is undeniably similar. Because of this single-minded ideocracy, the Coalition thinks it has the right to genocide anyone and anything that stands in its way because of 'Muh Doctrine' and believe that all aliens are evil, and must be purged from existence even if they're friendly or not (sounds familiar anyone?). It does not change the fact that they are also despicable monsters as well.
Despite the comparisons, the Coalition society are much closer to the Skaven than they are to the Imperium, hence their nickname of Human Space Skaven. Given the facts that their leaders repeatedly compared themselves to vermin throughout the Sequence, and their founder Hama Druz saw Humanity as an inherently rat-like species. Who is Hama Druz? That guy is the psychotic founder of the ICoG State Ideology, the 'Druz Doctrine' whose primary motto of the faith is “A brief life burns brightly” and he means it literally, which is what happens when someone takes the ideas of combining HFY and Ingsoc to its logical and retarded conclusion. To Druz, Humanity only exists to reproduce quickly and to populate every single planet, moon, asteroids, black holes, superclusters, star and space station in the galaxy, not even rogue planets are spared from the Assimilation (basically Lebensraum in space and on krokodil). To Druz, the true ideal for Humanity is to make 'miracles' out of their short, pathetic lives, and the suffering that comes along the way in their expansion would be considered as the BEST STATE a HUMAN could ever possibly be in. To Druz, honor and duty is Humanity's highest calling in life. That means NO thinking of the past nor the future, only the present is important, with all other types of culture, entertainment, distractions, even love and family were either frowned upon or deleted. To Druz, innovation, ingenuity, curiosity and new discovery are absolute heresy. To Druz, Xenocide is not only justified but is also the duty of every man, woman and child to purge the ever-living shit out of every single Xenos in the galaxy, spare no one, not even the smallest bacteria or a single microorganism is allowed to survive, and if they do survive, they will be de-evolved into a fate worse than death. To Druz, heroism, individualism and egotism were discouraged and banned since such concepts are anathema to the goal of a unified Mankind. To Druz, to be a real “Human” in his way of thinking, there should be NO immortality, NO transhumanism, NO enhancement, NOTHING, humanity should remain pure till the heat death of the universe. To Druz, Human suffering, Human pain and Human misery are seen as the main driving force behind everything that would be defined as “Being Human”. Did we just add that many higher-caste elites use LITERAL ALIEN ORGANS and trans-genetic add-ons to stay immortal? Yeah, muh doctrine.
A silver lining is that dissent is widespread but low-key and many characters literally flout the Druz Doctrine, including Commissars and higher-ups to better the war effort, as well as many child soldiers admit straying from it occasionally.
Artwork of an ICoG Greenship. Possessing more firepower than the entirety of Segementum Solar, combined.
"If something is so far beyond your imagination, it’s hard even to fear it."
- – Even when nearly ascended to become a truly infinite being, but with human suffering in their past unredeemed, even this would cause even a God eternal pain, from Transcendent.
"Impossible. A mere human could not bargain with the Transcendence. She, he couldn’t possibly comprehend the meaning of the choice, let alone make a valid decision.”
“She’s right, Drea, this isn’t about rivalry, about one bunch of humans lording it over the rest. We’re dealing with the Transcendence. It genuinely is a higher life-form, a higher consciousness. You could no more debate with it than a flower, or a blade of grass, could argue with you."
- – This is just the barest bone description of the Transcendence without going into the absolute insane shit they do, from Transcendent.
"It isn’t going to be like that. There are no teachers, no guides. This is the Transcendence, remember, a manifestation of the group, not of individual actions.”
“Like a Coalescence?”
“Like a Coalescence, yes—although a Coalescence is a mindless machine, and the Transcendence is the essence of mind. There’s nobody in charge. Alia, I called this a ‘Transcendent world,’ but that’s just a simplifying label. It isn’t a headquarters, or a capital. It’s just that many of the population here happen to be Transcendents. But there are Transcendents all over the Core—indeed all over the Galaxy. Just as individuals don’t matter, nor do places; the Transcendence is everywhere, or nowhere… Even I’m not in charge; I’m only here to point out your choices. It’s always been up to you."
- – A human envious at how powerful the Transcendence really are, from Transcendent.
Humanity from the far, far future. Basically the Q from Star Trek, only on steroids and completely unhinged.
So named because of how the multiple transhuman races have 'ascended' to a literal plane of higher existence called no-space, kinda like the Matrix if it could reality warp. Oh yeah, you heard us right. Reality warp. As such, the Transcendence was more of a collective consciousness than an actual polity. They were also just as homicidal as the ICoG, with Transcendence Humanity going on their merry murder-spree across the entire galactic supercluster, turning entire Neutron Stars into relativistic ICBMs and even contemplating on condemning every single Human whoever lived or will live into perpetual agony, ignoring the levels of causality contradictions and paradoxes it would create. Just because they can.
That last statement can NOT be understated in terms of the scale here. The ability to fold every single timeline of Humanity into one meta-reality is truly mind-bogglingly extreme. As an example, just the number of mere Human genome combinations could reach up to 1.6*102041 alternate universes with each unique genotype for just ONE Human. And that is just genome variety, never mind the various alternate actions which could create its own branch of alternate realities and sub-realities. Never mind that this is just taken without consideration of the 750,000+ history of Homo sapiens sapiens and the potential branches of different universes that would permutate from time travel abuses. What the Transcendence was doing, was their fusing of both the M-theory “bulk” and the Many Worlds Multiverse theory into one incoherent screaming nightmare. Chaos wishes it could be this nihilistic when it grows up.
If they are feeling incredibly spiteful today, they may turn a baseline Human into a Quantum Wave Function entity and force them to monitor the universe as it dies from premature heat death. Still, despite all their omniscient and neigh omnipotent power, they finally got the full attention of the Xeelee after they were finally sick of our bullshit and proceeded to Godstomp them back into the literal stone age; trapping the remnants of Humanity on Earth in a four-dimensional hypercube while letting the rest of Mankind to freeze to death.
"Everybody walked around on permafrost, down to the equator. The Squeem controlled it, somehow. After all, humans are just big bags of water. We didn’t freeze, nor did the grasses, the animals, the birds, the moisture in the air. Of course rainfall was screwed, because nothing was evaporating from the oceans. ‘They kept it up for a full year. By then people were dying of the drought and the cold. And Earth blazed white, a symbol of the Squeem’s dominance, visible even to all the off-planet refugees and hideouts, visible light years away."
- – The Squeem unleashing their wrath from the Heavens upon mankind like a pack of dicks from Endurance.
"Communication with the group-mind Squeem was utterly unlike anything envisaged before their arrival. With no separation between individuals, the Squeem hadn’t evolved to count in whole numbers, for instance. But eventually common ground was found. And despite fears that mankind might be overwhelmed by a more technically advanced civilisation, trade and cultural contacts were initiated."
- – The Squeem are so connected that they don't count their numbers from Endurance.
"Only a few years after first contact Squeem ships burst into the Solar System, in a shower of exotic particles and lurid publicity. The Squeem were aquatic group-mind multiple creatures. They crossed the stars using a hyperdrive system beyond human understanding. They maintained an interstellar network of trading colonies. Their human label, a not very respectful rendering of the Squeem’s own sonic rendering of their title for themselves – ‘Ss-chh-eemnh’ – meant something like the Wise Folk, rather like ‘Homo sapiens’."
- – The Squeem are so utterly alien in both biology and psychology, that Humanity didn't even know how to spell their name during first contact, from Endurance.
(Pronounced as Scheme)
The oddly named Squeem were a race of eusocial hive-minded squid-fishes and were the first alien race to fully conquer Humanity. Despite starting off roughly the same as Humans chronologically with technology equal to us, the Squeem lucked out by discovering Xeelee tech of which they could reverse-engineer. You can imagine how that worked out when they invaded the Humans.
The Squeem also possessed a form of alcubierre drive in which they form a pocket of spacetime around their spaceship and propel it to FTL. Since general relativity stress that no matter could travel faster-than-light, the hyperdrive of the Squeem - unlike that of Star Wars - respects the laws of physics and just create a loophole around the concept. After all, nobody states that spacetime itself can't travel faster-than-light. So whilst the bubble freely propels itself beyond lightspeed, the object within the pocket dimension remains fine as it is, in theory, not violating general relativity. The problem with this is that you can't see jackshit inside of the bubble, relying on precise calculations or you end up going straight into the heart of a star. Fortunately for the Squeem, no one stated you can't weaponize them. Oh yes, FTL-accelerated cannon-platforms that fire GUT missiles hitting with the pressure and heat of a Big Bang.
Nevertheless, due to how unimpressive their base technology is, it didn't take long for the ICoG to completely curbstomp them to the ground and forced them to de-evolve into human-dependent symbiotes, meaning they turn the Squeem into a Galaxy-spanning telepathic communication network, they create a telepathic beacon when swallowed by a human and kept alive by consuming the human from the inside out. Still, their occupation left a nasty scar for Humanity as it led to the freezing of the Earth's oceans, starving/freezing billions in the process and the following memory-wipe of all Humans to the point that they forgot that organisms once lived in the ocean.
By far the weakest race in the Xeelee Sequence, although this is all relative in Sci-Fi as the Squeem are still powerful enough to kick War-in-Heaven Necrons in the dick and assrape everyone else with their self-improving GUT-driven missiles and stolen starbreaker technology.
"Although that’s all it is. Mike, they’ve shown me some pictures of their Earth. Cities flattened. The continents bordered by thick chlorophyll green: offshore farms. The produce from what’s left of the planet’s arable dry land is exported off-planet. The complex molecules are highly prized, apparently, and raise a good price. For the Qax. Michael, they’ve turned the planet into a damn factory."
- – A human reacting to the Space Capitalists turning our already shitty planet into an even shittier hellhole, from Timelike Infinity.
"Parz, turbulence is an example of the universal self-organization of matter and energy. In the ocean of my world the energy generated by the temperature difference between the vulcanism and the atmosphere is siphoned off, organized by the actions of turbulence into billions of convection cells."
“All known life is cellular in nature. We have no direct evidence, but we speculate that this must apply even to the Xeelee themselves. But there seems to be no rule about the form such cells can take.”
"You’re telling me that those convection cells are the basis of your being?"
- – A Qax explaining their evolutionary to a confuse Jasoft, from Timelike Infinity.
"But we are nevertheless a technological race. Parz, my awareness is very different from yours. The scales are different: I have sentience right down to the molecular level; if I wish my cells can operate as independent factories, assembling high technology of a miniaturized, biochemical nature. We traded such items among ourselves for millions of years, unaware of the existence of the rest of the universe."
“Then we were ‘discovered’; an alien craft landed in our ocean, and tentative contact was established—”
“Who was it?”
“Our biochemical products had enormous market value, and we were able to build a trading empire — by proxy — spanning light-years. But we must still rely on clients for larger projects—"
- – A Qax Governor explaining how a stranded alien gave the Qax an offer they can't refuse, from Timelike Infinity.
The second alien race to conquer Humanity and basically the tertiary antagonists of the Sequence after the Photino Birds and Humanity itself. The Qax weren't actually a race of militaristic conquerors, unlike other conventional Sci-Fi races. They were actually a race of merchants and traders. The reason why they conquered Humanity right after the Squeem and treated them like shit was because it was just THAT easy. Which kind of gives you a clue on how fucked the Xeelee Sequence is, if the fucking merchants behave like this. The Qax were truly alien in every sense of the word. They were a bunch of 90-meter wide, hyper-individualistic race of convection cells held together by a core of a micro black hole. In a sense, they were a race of living thunderstorms. Due to the fact that they are made of convection cells, they were functionally immortal in the traditional sense as they could easily replace these cells, although their complex biology meant that they had a very low population numbering in only a few thousand, meaning that they place immense value on their individual lives. Nevertheless, because they were living hurricanes that lived off the currents of wind, solar flares, virtual particles and space-time itself, they were individually quite powerful, with only three to four Qax being needed to control the entirety of Humanity on Earth.
Masters of genetic engineering since each cell of a Qax can function independently as a biological factory for biochemical products, which led to the creation of the treacherous Human Pharaohs and a respectable time-travelling military to boot, the Qax were known to utilize the Spline (Themselves a race of 1km wide living meatbags) as biological warships because its cheaper that way and were known to make their own bootleg starbreakers. They also have weaponised Grey Goo that could breakdown mountains, wipe out every biological compound right down to the bedrock and even turn waste into food. The Qax was finally decimated when a Human tricked one of them into firing a bootleg Starbreaker in their home star causing it to go supernova. They were eventually pushed out of the galaxy by the ICoG, but the trauma of losing so many including their homeworld to their own slaves has made every Qax in the future to kill all Humans on sight as their base instincts.
"I’m going to die. I haven’t done anything yet. I haven’t even had sex properly—"
"Nor, as it happens, have I."
"In the training academies there was a joke about Ghosts that had the right of way to cross a road. But the transport drivers ignored the stop signs. So the first Ghost crossed, exerting its rights, and was creamed in the process. So did the second, the third, the fourth, each sticking to what it believed was right regardless of the cost. Then the fifth invented a teleport, changing physical law to make the road obsolete altogether…"
- – A joke of how the Silver Ghosts will flip the bird to humanity's traffic problems, from Resplendent.
"Always protect your core heat. It is the most important thing you possess. Remember…"
- – A Silver Ghost went full Master Yoda to their panic human explorer through the act of altruism and the power of...body heat from Resplendent.
The only other race in the entirety of the Sequence that isn't a homicidal jackass. Seriously, they actually have a dry sense of humor, which brings in much-needed levity in this absolutely depressing saga. The Silver Ghosts are a passive race of spherical aliens approximately five-foot-wide in diameter with a weight of one ton and resembling a floating spherical mirror. So-called the Silver Ghosts because of their...well...silvery skin, a big misnomer is to think of the Ghosts as a single organism. They are not. Rather, like the Portuguese Man-o-War, they are actually a superorganism made out of various individual organisms all cooperating as one to better survive this ultra-Grimdark setting. Apparently, this is due to the fact that the Ghosts had a ultra-secret and ultra-heretical past where they had a civil war which made their Star turn into a Red Giant. By cooperating to the extent where a Silver Ghost can literally choose which cell to die - making them functionally immortal - the Silver Ghosts became a post-scarcity society.
Inside a Silver Ghost host a nightmare ball of fleshy substance, organs, red and purple, pulsating like a Lovecraftian Shoggoth with a core strangely resembling a Human fetus. Oh, but it gets weirder. Their silver skin - in itself an independent organism as aforementioned - fucks around with Planck's Constant (Ergo: it was a Planck-zero layer, a sandwich around a zone where Planck's constant was lowered), making their skin ultra-reflective to the point of being immune to ALL DEWs. In fact, it was considered normal for Silver Ghosts to literally sunbathe in the core of a star. At the start of the Third Expansion, the Silver Ghosts were unfortunate enough to be in the way of the expansionist ICoG despite occupying a significant chunk of the Perseus Arm in the Milky Way Galaxy. Despite being passive, the Silver Ghosts weren't slouches in combat, especially when led by the Black Ghost. During the war, the Silver Ghosts were using the gravitational energy of entire star clusters to fuck around the universal constants such as the Lightspeed Constant (Cockblocking Humanity from going FTL) and the Electromagnetic Binding Forces (Makes everything baryonic including Humans; brittle). These stars were quickly used up like giant Double-A batteries and replaced not long after. They were also doing a lot of whacky shit outside of your typical time travel shenanigans such as Planck teleporting entire planets and battlefleets as weapons and even entertaining the idea of creating a False Vacuum Collapse to destroy the entire fucking universe if need be. Yeah and do take note that they are the second weakest race in the Sequence.
Still, being the nice guys and all, it still didn't stop Humanity from wiping out the Ghosts and farming their skin for shits and giggles. This is the Sequence, only the assholes survives. A final silver lining (pun absolutely intended) is the Xeelee saved a few silvery bois and sent them to a universe fine tuned to be pleasurable to them when this one collapsed.
"Still, that brief period of first contact had provided humanity with most of its understanding about the Qax and their dominion. For instance, it had been learned that the Spline vessels employed by the Qax were derived from immense, sea-going creatures with articulated limbs, which had once scoured the depths of some world-girdling ocean. The Spline developed spaceflight, traveled the stars for millennia. Then, perhaps a million years earlier, they had made a strategic decision."
"The Spline rebuilt themselves."
"They plated over their flesh, hardened their internal organs — and rose from the surface of their planet like mile-wide, studded balloons. They had become living ships, feeding on the thin substance between the stars."
- – A description of the Spline origin and how these biological factory space whales remade themselves from Timelike Infinity.
"The Spline had become carriers, earning their place in the universe by hiring themselves out to any one of a hundred species."
"It wasn’t a bad strategy for racial survival, Parz mused. The Spline must work far beyond the bubble of space explored by humankind before the Qax Occupation — beyond, even, the larger volume worked by the Qax, within which humanity’s sad little zone was embedded."
- – A human leader of the ICoG interest in using the Spline for their new conquest from Timelike Infinity.
"Then imagine a hundred violently armed GUT ships crashing through that portal, and into the future. They could do a hell of a lot of damage—”
“A single Spline warship could scythe them down in a moment."
- – The Qax are very please with their well-spent money from Timelike Infinity.
The Spline were space going entities that were considered the products of convergent evolution. Their origins were traced to immense sea-going creatures with articulated limbs that had once scoured the depths of their world-girdling ocean. In time, they developed spaceflight capabilities leading to them travelling the stars for millennia by creating their own. This led them to remake themselves and we mean remade by putting plates all over their flesh and hardening their organs in order to survive the bleak conditions of star travel, which included moving through the shifting perspectives of hyperspace. Eventually, they rose from the surface of their planet as mile wide living meatballs, leading them to feed on the thin substances between the stars as fuels whilst also killing extra-solar parasites in the process. Thus, the Spline became carriers who earned their place in the universe by hiring themselves out to hundreds of different species. To better explain this, they are basically bio-cybernetics living sentient whales ships that acted as rental transportation services and part-time-mobile-mercenary-vessels in space.
They are large, very large in size with one being as long as a mile wide in bulk. A pit by its head consisted of an eye that was a gleaming ball, which was startling similar to that of a human but was three yards across and able to roll in order to fix their gaze at objects, also you can literally swim in their eyes without harming them, no seriously you can but don't forget to put on your spacesuits. The Spline had a wrinkled leathery hide, similar to the epidermis of an elephant. The various pods contained sensory organs, weapons emplacements and other equipment, while their orifices allow for the ingress and egress of smaller ships. Furthermore, they were adapted to serve the needs of their passengers that resided within the warm bellies of the creatures, which seemed cosy for races like the Qax but not us Humans (yeah this is essentially a mix of Cronenberg movies and a vore nightmare come true). They also grow their own faster-than-light hyperdrives organically within themselves. The only weakness these meatballs have are going through a wormhole, which temporarily weakens them and the other is their ocean-wide homeworld which they must return to breed.
The Qax were the Spline's biggest clients. Since the Qax are made of collective balls of cells, limited in numbers and biology, they use the Spline as transportation; living in their stomachs like first-class airline passengers. They are also partially responsible for the invasion of Earth, in which they were under the Qax contracts and the other reason is that they think the human race was too pathetic to work with. This led to a series of dominoes, cascading into all the grimdark shit that happened to mankind, leading to the eventual foundation of the ICoG. Ironically after the Qax occupation, the Coalition ended up seizing control of the Spline homeworld, preventing other alien species from becoming Spline clients and gaining a monopoly on them by suppressing their conscious control. A tactic that was previously exercised by the various creatures upon mankind, an eye for an eye.
"What connections? Gravity?"
“That, and quantum wave functions, and, and – I can see it, I can’t say it! The ancients understood. If you use complex arithmetic to extend most theories of cosmology—"
“Just tell me what happened."
“The Snowmen had a defensive system. They found a way of manipulating these cosmic linkages. A way to use them as a weapon."
“Does it matter? I guess you learn a lot in thirteen billion years."
- – A group of Coalition scouts try to understand how the Snowmen technology works, from Resplendent.
So who are these guys? Well, they are believed to be amongst the oldest species in the Milky Way Galaxy, how old? They are older than the Old Ones but still considered a junior race when compared to the Xeelee. They developed at a time when the Galaxy itself was no more than a disc of smoke, illuminated here and there by hot-spot protostars; a time when there were scarcely any heavy elements to form planets. At some point in their evolution, they turned themselves completely towards the philosophy that to record events - and only to record - was the highest calling of life (They are similar to the Watchers from Marvel except older). Out of all the respectable titles given to an ancient race like the Precursors from Halo, Xeeleeverse Humanity unlike most Sci-Fi settings, have given these poor geriatrics a very delicate name...The Snowmen...(don't expect any Frosty the Snowman reference here). The Coalition being xenophobic pricks, however, retconned the Snowmen off the face of the universe and stole all their technology to the point where nobody knows what they actually look like, nor their purpose and origin.
The structures they left behind were very important for mankind in their war against the Xeelee, the Snowmen took apart their world and rebuilt it as a monstrous storage system that was shaped like a tetrahedron. This structure was built around the remains of a black dwarf. It measured over ten million miles along the edges of its circumference or roughly 16.1 million kilometres. They used all the material at their disposal to freeze as much data as they could in an artificial structure via the near-optimal use of matter; by recording information right down to the thermodynamic limit set by the background temperature of the universe. As the universe cools down they can store more data. To better explain this, the tetrahedron structure is basically a Blackstone Fortress on steroids that are also used as a research station that can manipulate cosmic linkages, distort gravity fields as a defence whilst also having a global-manipulation weapons system. How it maintains its structure in the gravity well of the star remains unknown. While possessing about the same mass as the Earth, it has been puffed out like candy-floss; filled with struts, threads and whiskers of iron, like delicate scaffolding. The Coalition uses these structures as their Galaxy-spanning watch stations that spy on the Human population for any rebellions or warn Earth of any Xeelee attacks from the Galactic center. Of all the cool names the Coalition could have given to these ancient structures, they just so happen to give it another delicate name...The Snowflake...(yeah either Humanity in the Xeelee Sequence are so retarded they can't even think of any imaginative names or Stephen Baxter has a very dark sense of humour since he's British). Despite these remarkable feats, the Snowflake however cannot defeat the Xeelee, as it would be the equivalent of pointing a Lasgun against a Necron Monolith.
It remains unclear if the Snowmen still exist. It is speculated that a dully-glowing globe of purple, miles wide, embedded beneath the planar skin of the Snowflake is believed to be what remains of them. As no complete exploration of the Snowflake has ever been done, other such spheres may exist in its structure. The Snowmen are basically the Malal of the Xeelee Sequence.
"There was no place. There was no time. A human observer would have recognized nothing here: no mass, energy, or force. There was only a rolling, random froth whose fragmented geometry constantly changed. Even causality was a foolish dream. The orderly spacetime with which humans were familiar was suffused with vacuum energy, out of which virtual particles, electrons and quarks, would fizz into existence, and then scatter or annihilate, their brief walks upon the stage governed by quantum uncertainty. In this extraordinary place whole universes bubbled out of the froth, to expand and dissipate, or to collapse in a despairing flare. This chaotic cavalcade of possibilities, this place of non-being where whole universes clustered in reefs of foamy spindrift, was suffused by a light beyond light. But even in this cauldron of strangeness there was life. Even here there was mind. Call them monads."
- – A great description of how the Monads came to be, better than someone's origin story from Exultant.
"The monads considered the bubbling foam around them. They dug into a reef of spindrift, selected a tangle of possibilities, picked out one evanescent cosmic jewel. This one—yes. They closed around it, as if warmed by its glow of potentialities. And, embedding themselves in its structure, they prepared to shape it. The monads enriched the seedling universe with ineffable qualities whose existence few of its inhabitants would even guess at."
- – The Monads creating the universe with the power of Science from Exultant.
"The monads cared nothing for humans, of course, or for quagmites, or Xeelee, or photino birds, or any of the rest of the universe's menagerie at this or any other age. But they liked their universes to have story; and it was living things that generated the most interesting sagas."
- – This is how uncaring Gods should feel about weaklings, from Exultant.
The Monads are Gods (yes Gods with a capital G) they were the ones responsible for creating the Xeelee Sequence multiverse. They are so God damned powerful, they view both the Xeelee and Photino Birds in the same way the Xeelee and Photino Birds view humanity. The Monads are literally what Chaos fanboys think the Chaos Gods are, except you know, the Monads actually showed concrete feats to back up their claims. So feel free to pray to them. But spoilers, they won’t be listening.
The Monads are eternal, abstract beings that live in the very fractured structure of the Multiverse or sometimes live in the 'Bulk', which is the space between universes. They enjoy selecting and shaping universes and embed them with complexity. They can create universes with a stupendous amount of dimensions, and then slumber through the lifespan of each Universe inside black holes' event horizons for hundreds of billions of years when they aren't awake, and the entire story is just part of their dreams. To simplify this, think of the Monads as a bunch of Azathoths if he has an actual brain and self-awareness without the insanity and destruction, or even better they are basically the Downstreamers juniors (Stephen Baxter wrote both the Xeelee Sequence and the Manifold trilogy). But above all else, they take delight in watching the history of sentient life unfold. In a sense, the Xeeleeverse and other universes are like a multiversal Netflix to them. The Monads live in an abstract realm of random geometry, in which entire universes come into existence and disappear almost instantly. They are beyond time and space and the laws of physics.
They are so above everybody that even the most godlike advanced civilizations like the Xeelee are just pitiful little ants to them, they laugh at the Photino Birds galactic frisbee discs, and they treated Mankind's Galactic murderboner like some annoying bed bugs. They may not even care if the Photino Birds win as to them, the Xeelee-Photino Birds Universal war is like watching a free epic-drama tv series, and then after all of this, they went on to create another universe for themselves to entertain when the Xeeleeverse ended.
This is just a small taste on why the Xeelee Sequence is a pants-shittingly terrifying place to live in.
- It is already a foregone conclusion that the entire Universe will die a slow and painful death.
- Before the really bad shit starts happening, humanity was fucked up from the start. The Holy Superet Church of Light raised a girl called "Lieserl" as one of their projects, innocent enough right? Well she was infused with nanomachines which caused her to grow to the age of 90 years in 90 days. She was downloaded into a virtual copy, dropped into the sun, to monitor the Photino Bird threat and forgotten about.
- Empress Shira, a girl from a Qax-occupied future, subjugates Earth and makes them believe in a bullshit religion worshipping the sun, in an attempt to not get occupied in this timeline. Well her Empire was the most oppressive and amoral empire yet. For instance, one of her guards found an unauthorized colony of humans living out of the Solar System, and disassembled it, putting all of the inhabitants into stasis pods. Alpha Centauri, one of their colonies, didn't handle the situation any better, unleashing a data-virus on the Earth and hitting it with asteroids, causing tsunamis until Shira gave up. She still didn't prevent Earth from being occupied by the Squeem or Qax. Also, the bad shit is only getting started.
- What about the precious planet Earth? Well in Xeelee Sequence Earth is a pretty depressing place before the Qax and after it, it’s decaying due to climate change, and in Transcendent, there was the “Reef” outside of the Spanish city of Seville. The Reef was basically a ramshackle village of car parts. Also Spain is a desert and the permafrost is melting. Humanity dodges a threat as bad as the Permian Extinction where the ocean fills with hydrogen sulfide, and methane hydrates fill the atmosphere. Even during the Qax occupation and under the Coalition rule, Earth’s sorry state of disrepair makes Holy Terra seem like a nice vacation spot by comparison. It’s overbuilt 10x time, inhabited with all sorts of grimy creepy creatures, and it's incredibly polluted. It state of misery and insanity will make the High Lords of Terra have a collective heart attack.
- This is just the beginning, Earth was not only stripped of its air and water by the ICoG, but also its entire iron core was sucked dry to the point that the planet's magnetic field nearly collapsed. The only reason it didn't collapse was due to the magnetic stations in low orbit that act as an artificial replacement of the long-gone magnetic field. There is literally no more volcanoes or earthquake anymore, even mountains eroded away completely, with Earth's mass shrinking to that of Mars.
- The entire Human race has its culture and history destroyed by the Qax in order to pacify and turn them into useful slaves. Literally, we mean using nanites to kill plants and destroy fossil records. Qax blow bubbles into the bedrock called Conurbations which are basically hive cities shaped like domes and absolutely MISERABLE to live in.
- Oh did we forget to mention, Conurbations are meant as temporary structures. When the Qax left Earth, no new Conurbations could be built. This resulted in Conurbations becoming unlivable, fucking fantastic.
- Humanity was completely uprooted of everything. Historical sites, culture, history, even languages were wiped out, the Qax even cross-bred humans to remove all genetic markers that could give a clue about the origins of Mankind. There are literally no memories of peace or anything else pre-occupation. Even the archetypical hero's journey stories were also erased, and all that was left were the memories of misery, pain and suffering that led to the foundation of the ICoG.
- The Qax occupation deliberately altered the Earth's biosphere, causing mass extinction and pushing the human race on the brink of catastrophe. The Squeem on the other hand, dropped bio-engineered plagues to extirpate out a large segment of humanity's population, and froze the entire fucking oceans using electricity in a process called "polar cubic ice".
- The Qax leaving did not end happily for humanity. As seen above, the Qax were the ones who made new Conurbations, and also provided food to all the humans. People were homeless and starving on a global scale. When the ICOG's Green Army were forcing people to grow food in the nanite-fucked ground, they couldn't and anyone who questioned it got a date with a club to the face. Also, the Green Army deliberately withheld rations from the people.
- Human traitors who sold out their race to the Qax are given genetic engineering to become immortal 'Pharaohs'. The immortality, however, is random especially for their children, as sometimes their kids are stuck being an 8-year-old forever. Or, in some cases, stopped growing in-utero, forcing the mother to commit an abortion.
- The Silver Ghosts also abducted humans to keep as samples for experiments. Alien Joseph Mengele, hurray. One of their subjects, labeled "five" was raised differently from humans. When she was extremely young, some human samples who broke into the facility had the audacity to subdue and rape her. What a warm welcome into humanity.
- When the ICoG exterminated the Silver Ghosts, they kept some of their genetic samples so they could use their skin for augmented purposes. Ergo, they reduced an entire race into cosmetic farm animals to be harvested and the humans wear them as skin. This applies the same to any aliens exterminated by humanity.
- Humanity went on a mass universal xenocide campaign before entering a 500,000-year siege in the Lanikea Galactic Supercluster. You'll be thankful when the Xeelee put an end to humanity's brutal curbstomping of every Xenos species.
- The way the Xeelee exterminated humanity was unbelievably brutal, they planted a Xeelee Flower in every star and covered it in XCM (Xeelee Construction Material). While everyone froze to death, the Xeelee provided booths for humanity to escape into (because they aren't a bunch of fucking monsters, they were trying to stop humanity's murder-rampage), and a four-dimensional prison for them to rot in.
- Going on the theme of humanity's murder-rampage, they sent a Xeelee Nightfighter back in time to interrupt Michael Poole's wormhole project, and also kill humanity by firing thousands of diamonds which weigh several thousand tons. Michael drove the single nightfighter back to the galaxy's center with its tail between its legs, but the Nightfighter made sure that humanity would never spread throughout the galaxy and cause pain and misery for themselves and any other species, which the Xeelee was honestly right for doing.
- When the Adeptus Mechanicus stopped innovating, it's because of incompetence. When the ICoG stopped innovating it's because there's no point in this Grimdark future. It makes no difference if you send child soldiers or mechas against the Xeelee, because they'll kill you anyways, so they just send child soldiers because its cheaper.
- Also, the Guild of Engineers are so gung-ho on standardization throughout the galaxy. That means technology stood static for tens of thousands of years. It doesn't matter anyways, because the Xeelee are capable of fucking up even the best technology a human can make.
- Throughout the ICoG's history, the rate of interservice abuse was so extreme, that the commissaries (Their version of the Commissar) routinely beat their conscripts to death. Do take note that all these conscripts are children. So expect a LOT of child abuse. It gets to the point of being borderline uncomfortable to read.
- In the short story "Riding the Rock," the Interim Coalition of Governance took over a world and proceeded to condition the children into child soldiers. They took a school, which honestly was like Pol Pot's S-21, and forced the children to do unspeakable things: they beat them to death, forced them to fight, and tried to "breed out their emotions" to prepare them to fight the Xeelee.
- Because the ICoG has time travel if you did an oopsie, every single variant of your past, present and future self will either be tortured to death or get a summary kicked to the jaw for a crime you have yet or have not commit.
- One of the highest honours a parent would receive is if their child were to be inducted into what is effectively a child suicide bomber corp.
- Hama Druz was a MASSIVE bitch to the highest degree. He organized a witch hunt on all the Jasofts and Pharaohs (human collaborators who served the Qax), even though they were the last ones who remembered Earth's history and only serving the Qax out of necessity. Hell, most Pharaohs were TRYING TO HELP HUMANITY DURING THE RULE OF THE QAX. Hama, being the racist twat, proceeded to exterminate every abhuman species which evolved in the universe. Needless to say, most human settlements were less-than-thrilled to join the Third Expansion. Also did we forget to mention, Hama Druz continued the Extirpation. The deliberate deletion’’ of every bit of old data regarding pre-ICOG Earth, its biological record, and even intermingling human genotypes to prevent the re-emergence of divergent cultures or ethnicities. Just like how the Qax did, but per Druze’s words, to prevent humanity from being distracted by the past. This, on top of actively discouraging long-term planning among individuals, made the bulk of humans in the ICoG become cogs in a soulless war machine focused only on the present. Honestly, what the fuck.
- Humans in the ICoG are indoctrinated by birth about the Druz Doctrine and, unlike the half-assed attempts of the Imperium or Galactic Empire to issue autocratic control, the ICoG goes full 1984 and have near totalitarian surveillance right down to control of your timeline.
- In fact, the rate of indoctrination was so extreme, that even the thought of outright violating Coalition doctrine convinced one of the characters to nearly commit suicide out of pure instinct.
- When there is rebellious dissent breaking out, the Imperium uses the Adeptus Arbites and rarely, a small Crusade to crush them and retake the world. When there is even a potential tinge of sedition, the ICoG dump an entire moon with the population of tens of billions into a Gas Giant; just to make a statement.
- You'll be living in a barracks ball: a spherical conurbation where you live with your cadre of child soldiers, where you'll ride a Greenship straight to your death, or you'll live on a rock: a filthy and miserable environment where you'll work until you die by the hands of the Xeelee. So many children are expended, their names had to be etched on the wall via nanotechnology. Talk about literally becoming a statistic.
- If you somehow manage to avoid being conscripted into the Green Army as a child soldier, then you will be living in a coalescence, a literal human ant farm built out of faeces with a million people crammed into a space the size of a city block. They make the underhive of a Hiveworld look pristine in contrast.
- Coalescences half a million years later evolved into even more nightmarish versions, with humans preforming functions with their own bodies such as recycling air, recycling shit. Yes, we mean post-humans swimming in shit and converting it into food.
- These nightmarish environments evolve wherever there is massive overcrowding and nowhere else to go. This can happen to any society, and evolved in Rome, Mars, and on a Xeelee structure called the "Wheel" which is a smaller dollar-store knockoff of Bolder's Ring.
- Many of the ICoG's child soldiers are bred from either vats or 'breeders' from Coalescences. Breeders are human Martian females that are pumped with so many hormones and genetic engineering that their stomachs balloon-up with the number of babies they are carrying. Breeders are essentially impregnated the moment they menstruate and continue the rest of their lives shitting out
babieschild soldiers until they expire. Human females in the Xeelee are reduced to birthing sows' Yes, this is state-sanctioned child rape. Daemonculaba, eat your heart out.
- The ICoG forbids ALL forms of heroism as it runs counter to the Druz Doctrine and risks splitting humanity apart due to the dangers of individualism and egotism being a potential byproduct of heroic deeds. So if you wanna be a goody-two-shoes and save someone by ignoring orders like Luke Skywalker or sacrifice yourself for the greater good like Sanguinius, the ICoG would go back in time to arrest you, charge you and than execute you if you're the former, or erase your existence from history if you're the latter, or do both if they are feeling particularly spiteful today. Since the ICoG wants you to die like a bitch, they’ve made it absolutely certain that you will die like a BITCH.
- The ICoG's motto is "A brief life burns brightly". They mean it literally, with the average lifespan of a human being measured 16 years of age at most, as the majority of humanity are child soldiers bred to die in the front lines. Combine with the mass state-sanctioned child abuse and child rape, the stripping of identity and the fact that the concept of the nuclear family is pretty much extinguished, you will die a brutal and ignoble death, a death which will be reduced to a statistic and quickly forgotten. They make even the callousness of a Krieger and an Iron Warrior look like a bunch of woodland hippies in comparison.
- On average, the life of a Green Army soldier measured in just 1.7 missions before death, with 10 billion child soldiers dying each year. It was estimated that 30 trillion child soldiers died in asteroid trenches surrounding the Milky Way's galactic core for over 20,000 years, just to get one Xeelee too fuck off.
- In one short story, during the Squeem Occupation (The first alien occupiers of Old Earth), a couple of human refugees decided to make a break for it. They modified an asteroid by putting a GUT-drive on it and turning it into a spaceship before escaping the Solar System. The Squeem took note of this and launched a GUT-missile that could tracked them, theoretically, forever. Since missiles have a better thrust-to-weight ratio, it would eventually catch up. In order to avoid being turned into stardust, the humans slowly increased their velocity, in which the missile would respond in kind, creating an intergalactic cat-and-mouse chase. The faster the ship travelled near light speed, the greater the G-force and inertia. Eventually, slowly but surely, the crew of that ship would experience every bit of their bones and organs slowly breaking by the crushing G-force. Some of the humans commit suicide whilst others uploaded their minds on a computer. Eventually, they manage to get rid of the missile via baiting it in a black hole's event horizon. Unfortunately, this is the Xeelee and Stephen Baxter knows his shit. The faster you go, the more extreme the time dilation. Ergo, once the humans finally got out of the chase, several million years have passed. By this point, the Photino Birds have won and they enter a dying Universe.
- In another short story, a Human crew encountered a derelict ship, whose hull is seemingly made out of human bones. Once they entered the ship, they realized that the ship was housing a community of degenerate humans that got lost in space. How did they survive for so long without any agriculture? By turning their women into a literal food vending machine. Yeah, turns out that the skeleton decoration on the ship's hull were actually baby bones; they literally reduced infants into ration-packs and farmed meat produce.
- Baxter has a tendency for flesh-ships. Near the end of the novel "Raft", the main character gets exiled to the Boneys because nobody else would take him. Well, the Boneys are a fucking ball of flayed skins and skeletons floating in space. These people live in a mini world made of corpses, and eat discarded corpses from the Raft and Belt societies. The whole place smells like rotten corpses, and it's also described as absolutely filthy.
- Keeping in theme with the flesh-ships, Spline ships are massive asteroid-like meatballs a few kilometers wide. It's said to feel like being swallowed, being in a Spline ship.
- One of the ICoG's distant descendants, the Transcendence came to an endpoint, of which they concluded that humanity = suffering, and that it would instead reach into every timeline of every human that has ever existed, would exist, or could exist and just annihilate them; forcing every human who ever lived to experience all the pain and suffering of every other human who ever lived, over the course of quadrillions of relative years. They consider this as 'paradise'.
- Configuration Space from "Reality Dust" is a bunch of bacteria in the Callisto ice neurally and chemically communicating with each other to form a new universe: an island with a mountain of order, and a sea of entropy. This island seems pretty nice, but the ocean is all black and it melts whoever touches it by the power of entropy. There's a community of degenerate humans in this universe which are basically zombies.
- A character was downloaded into this space, and started doing normal shit like eating the grass. She touched the water and melted her fingers off. She saw one of the "zombies" and explored the forest. There, she found even larger, more depraved zombies in the forest.
Things that make the Xeelee Sequence Absurdly and Horrifyingly Overpowered
As you know by now, the Xeeleeverse is not the nicest place to live in; arguably one of the worst settings you could ever conceivably have your unfortunate sorry ass be dropped in. Yet, it is the setting's power capabilities that would truly catch the eye of most of you readers here. There is a reason why the term "Xeeleestomp" is a thing. These guys curbstomps The Culture and makes the likes of Gurren Lagan feel small and limped-dick. Here is a shortlist that showcase just how overpowered the Sequence truly is:
- On the Kardashev Scale, the Imperium of Man is considered a Type 2 Civilization, which means that they control the energy output of at least one star but less than the whole galaxy. The Necrons and Ancient Eldar combined would be a Type 3, controlling the energy output of a single Galaxy. In the Xeeleeverse, factions like the ICoG and the Qax are ranked Type 4 - easily harnessing the energy output of Galaxy Clusters. The Xeelee themselves would be ranked Type 5, a catch-all "uncategorized" type to indicate they rule the observable universe. And the Photino Birds were even stronger.
- To give a better context, the Silver Ghosts, easily one of the weakest factions in the Sequence, is generally agreed among multiple versus forums to be able to utterly steamroll the entirety of the 40k universe, combined.
- Every A.I. and supercomputers in the Xeeleeverse use CTC (Closed Timelike Curve), essentially meaning that information goes backwards in time to achieve what is essentially negative reaction times and unlimited processing. Since the answer was already given before the question, the actual processing power needed to compute would have never existed in the first place. Yes. This is theoretically feasible.
- The Xeelee themselves one-up this by having the Anti-Xeelee, an A.I. construct made of probability quantum wave functions and is a fixed point in time, meaning that it exists in the beginning, present and end of the Universe, all at the same time.
- The Xeelee' equivalent of a supercomputer is a supermassive black hole. Yes, they use the core of Galaxies as a desktop.
- Every FTL ship is effectively a timeship. Time travel is heavily militarized with ships from various factions going back in time to accelerate the civilizational progress a hundred-thousand fold or grant their ancestors effective precognition.
- The Space Marines use miniature rocket launchers as standard equipment, whilst other factions use molecular-disintegrator beams and monomolecular shuriken cannons. Compared to mainstream Sci-Fi universes, that seems over-the-topped. In the Xeeleeverse, the ICoG's equivalent of the dudes in T-Shirts carries Flashlights that could turn boats into slag and kill thousands of humans in seconds. Their Flamers act more like Meltas, flash-frying and carbonising people in a near-instant. Their 'Bolter' equivalents are guns that fire GUT-rounds. GUT stands for Grand Universal Theory, or in layman's terms, they are rifles that fire pellets with the mass-energy density of a Big Bang (approximately 10-36 seconds at the beginning of time) - ergo, Big Bang Rifles. For anti-air purposes, the Green Army ground forces use Monopole Cannons, that fires one-dimensional, topological space-time defects at near the speed of light as their RPG equivalents. They also have reverse-engineered Xeelee Starbreakers that could rip apart anything, up to and including, entire Stars.
- The average joe in the ICoG wear skinsuits which could affectively negate the melta-level effects of their flamethrowers. Have fun imagining a couple of guys that are almost completely immune to Melta weapons.
- Basic GUT-ship and vehicle weapons from the ICoG involves firing black holes, neutron stars and monopoles at near the speed of light. These black hole cannons mind you, could disrupt the event horizon of a galactic core. The ships themselves could tank a point-blank burn from a Magnetar Eruption and are protected by a Gravastar Shield, which is a pocket dimension that defends them from FTL foreknowledge and other forms of conventional or physical attack.
- Your average tweeb in their mother's basement can make wormholes for shits and giggles.
- The Imperium considers the Siege of Vraks as one of the largest and longest form of trench warfare in their history. The Transcendence use entire galactic superclusters as trenching material on their off days.
- The Silver Ghosts had Quantum Gravity AI that was both acausal and allows it to see the future. Unlike the Eldar Farseers, they are always proven right with flawless precognition.
- They later one-up themselves by creating a Planck Zero AI, which, as its name suggests, lowered Planck's Constant to zero via shoving it in a pocket universe. The A.I. had infinite computational power and could make these computations in zero time.
- When the Silver Ghosts got their shiny skins flayed by child soldiers and hunters, the Quantum Gravity AI was taken and implanted into weaponized humans who could see into the future. In the story "Gravity Dreams," nearly a million years in the future, a boy heard the transmission of a girl in another universe, the same universe of the book "Raft," which was reaching the end of the stelliferous era.
- The Silver Ghosts used teleportation that deliberately increases Planck’s Constant, which in turn, increased the uncertainty principle, which in turn, makes the manipulation of the probability of a given object's place absolute. This range from a single person to entire planets.
- The Silver Ghosts could rewrite the laws of physics. From weakening the electromagnetic force (Thereby increasing the lightspeed constant at the expanse of shaking matter apart) to increasing the strength of gravity by a factor of a billion.
- The Transcendence was capable of folding every single timeline of Humanity into one meta-reality. What has been said in the Transcendence's section should be re-instated again. The sheer scale of this project immediately puts the Transcendence way above even the upper echelons of the Kardashev scale. We are talking about reality warping numbers that make a Googolplex look small.
- And despite all of this, they still were considered as second-rate tryhards by the Xeelee, who promptly curbstomped the Transcendence back to the stone age.
- The Xeelee are widely agreed to compete against the Time Lords and Time War-era Daleks as peer equals. That is a feat that should not be scoffed at.
- The Xeelee Nightfighter 'wings' are composed of space-time defects called "Domain Walls" which stretch for tens of kilometres and are constructed from one-dimensional singularities. The materials for the ship itself are called...well...Xeelee Construction Material (XCM for short)(Also called Xeelee Hull-Plate). You know those Big Bang Rifles that the ICoG's basic grunts carry around as mentioned earlier? Yeah, they do as much damage to these Nightfighers as a Stub Gun could do to Terminator Armour.
- The Xeelee lives off on the event horizons of supermassive black holes. Only extreme gravitational forces or their own Starbreakers could actually harm them. You know the XCMs? Yeah, they violate the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which means all of its atoms share the same quantum state; able to absorb energy with a 100% efficiency. Essentially meaning that using direct energy weapons or exterminatus-level bombs like a Cyclonic Torpedo would do nothing and in fact, may actually heal them.
- An example of this is when a human used a literal XCM umbrella to shield himself from an exploding stellar nova.
- Their Nightfighters could stay motionless to going at near the speed of light in a blink of an eye. Their most basic and common weapon, the Starbreaker as mentioned before, are basically black hole lasers that open a wound in space-time - which are also cherry-red in colour due to electromagnetic red-shift - that could blow up a star system for the kicks.
- The Xeelee could reshape and move entire galaxies like lego set-pieces. The construction of the Xeelee Ring was a one-dimensional singularity that was turned into a cosmic string and was big enough to start pulling Galaxy Clusters into its gravitational well.
- The Xeelee have weapons that could vapourize weaponized galaxies. These are essentially cosmic string anti-air missiles, thousands of light-years wide and moving at over half-light speed to bisect entire galaxies.
- The Photino Birds could use said aforementioned weaponized galaxies as anti-armour weapons.
- The Photino Birds lives off the gravitational and stellar energy of stars. Ergo, they started a mass reconstruction program via the mass accelerated heat death of the Universe, turning every star into a white dwarf, whose long lifespans in the hundreds of trillions maximizes the Birds' comfort and reproduction cycle. This contradicts the Xeelee's way of life as they need the event horizon of a black hole to sustain themselves. Accelerated heat death = no supernova = no black holes. Ergo, war begins.
- The Photino Birds's reproduction is a form of self-cloning or replication. They are in effect, Dark Matter von Neumann swarms.
- The Photino Birds were creating an inertia bomb big enough to shake the Xeelee Ring - a ten million light-years wide construct - into pieces.
- The Photino Birds was making the Xeelee their whipping bitch. Take that into consideration. In other words, they made the strongest beings possibly made out of Baryonic matter flee the universe with their tails in between their legs.