The Annotated "Moving Day"



There are several sorts of comments here. Explanations as I framed them in 1976–7 when this was written (first draft in '76, redrafted and expanded in '77); how I might have written it starting in 2000, how the science and speculation has held up and suchlike, and again in 2023. I shan't attempt to self lit-crit or comment about the adolescent angst - or horniness.

The tale is a “secret origin” story, setting up a character who would be my take on the Telzey Amberdon meme; but I never quite got settled what her “super power” would be, and ended up with three.

The name comes from a nod to Ruth Blackett, from Swallows and Amazons, another to the Lord of the Rings, and Wolf 'cos it's kewl.


Human Outreach
A grand name for the wave of interstellar colonization. The time-line runs roughly thus — c2040, space industry and colonization becomes economically feasible, and by the end of the century, large ramscoops had started out the usual suspects within 6–7 parsecs of the Sun. FTL travel (modelled on the spindizzies from Blish's Cities in Flight) were acquired by trading with other civilizations some centuries down the line. The setting as given uses this (and some other slow-FTL drives) to establish footholds. Developed systems can then be tied into the mainstream by the Linker based instantaneous gate-to-gate travel. This one is stolen from the SPI game Starforce. Indeed that whole trilogy of games (OutReach and StarSoldier being the other two) furnished input to this future history.
AD Terrestrial — i.e. conventional dating, not mangled by different lengths of planetary years.
It's a planet in the white-earth state; the perspective of the year 2000 suggests that the environmental control involves pumping plenty of water-vapour, methane and other short-lived greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This state is akin to current thinking on the state of Neoproterozoic (late Precambrian) Earth, 700Myr ago.
In [2023], we have real exoplanets, rather than rolled on the Dole model ones and τ Ceti f, the 4th of 4 detected to date, fits the cold super-earth niche (surface gravity ~1.2g, orbit reaching outside the habitable zone) quite nicely.
Feudal system
This one is the concept from Niven's A Gift from Earth taken to a further degree
This one I had pencilled in for the first contact encounter, and the acquisition of the twirl (spindizzy) drive.
A lite is a light-year.
Web of Man
In function, an interstellar Internet, rather like Vinge's Qeng Ho net, only more planetary civilization than trader-ship based. Still radio or communications laser in this epoch; inward traffic would be the relaying of results from cheap large aperture telescopes carried by surveying or first-wave colony ships, looking out to systems beyond their destinations, and colonial discoveries. Outbound traffic would be technological advances (though by this stage things would be well onto the top of a sigma curve).
This is one of the genre tropes — planets have almost-earthlike biochemistry, biology and ecology. Part of the secret history of the setting has a “war in heaven” about 30Myr ago that explains why there are only emerging civilizations now. Year 2000 speculations are that perhaps in the real deep past, this convergence of biology was engineered, perhaps 600Myr back
Genetically manipulated — slang taken from Benford and Eckland's If the Stars are Gods. The conceit is that the appearance of the people of Clan Wolf is such that they don't look different in a black & white photograph.
It was about three years before writing this that I'd read Gormenghast. It shows.

Chapter 1

Nancy's room
This is a composite of a number of rooms observed during student days in the late 70s, with a few high-tech frills. It's not simply my own squalor that's on display here.
Some of the high-tech is still ‘magic’; but I lost big-time on guessing about computing. There is home automation which has strong AI, but Nancy's display screen is a sophisticated dumb terminal link to a logical central mainframe (which may be a number of distributed processors). Personal computing power — or portable telecommunications — are missing.
View the cassette/crystals as MP3 in some fancy optical storage medium.
You have an extended family of what would be clones, were there not a little bit of deliberately engineered differences, and they have been part of a system of apartheid which viewed everything not family as less than human. The line between both incest or homosexuality and masturbation blurs when outgroup sexuality gains connotations of bestiality (or at least rishathra). No explicit sex here — I didn't feel qualified to write any at the time, and these days, I don't feel inclined to add to the pool of mediocre smut on line. The rest of the internet is there if that's what you're after. Or, as the Stranglers put it, use your twentieth century imagination, if you've got any, that is.
When I wrote this, my image of Earth twelve centuries hence was of a somewhat backwards, bucolic sort of place — images of post-Imperial England here. An idea for a later Nancy Wolf story had her eventually arriving on Earth, and I have a scene in mind of her sitting by the light of a late spring full moon, looking up at the masses of Lagrange colonies and those further afield in solar orbit near the Earth, from Castle Hill in Cambridge, a Cambridge that was more 17th century with unobtrusive high tech. If I were to revise this universe today, Earth would have undergone some Singularity, as per Swanwick's Vacuum Flowers or the Nanoclysm in Adam Warren's Dirty Pair and the real magitech would be the results of limited commerce between Earth and human-level entities. Linkers would be the most comprehensible form of Transhuman, beneath orders which I will refer to as Seraphim, who start out incomprehensible and work in mysterious ways up from there.
[2023] See also the take on this from just a few years later ..
A flat screen display (as are they all in this tale), with a glorified — but much more like a detailed simulation — screen-saver, used for decoration.
I wrote as someone who thought in Imperial measure. Units used by the author in description reflect this. The characters use a more systematic set of units — temperatures are referred to in Kelvin, for example
Changing faces
There is serious but understated biotech here; the change is a major phenotype re-engineering — deep biochemical changes as well as shifting bone and muscle. Alas, such a substitution would be easy to spot with techniques akin to traffic analysis (even if one just didn't compare lists of students before and after). How mannerisms and other identification techniques based on gait and similar features would be preserved through the change is open.
There is a fair amount of crypto in this tale, all done in hardware with props gathered from 60s spy films; looking back at the story, the file referred to here would be simply encrypted under some hefty conventional algorithm (perhaps One Time Pad) and decrypted by some hardware token. The scrambler used later would also be an OTP, perhaps with some SSL-like negotiation in order to establish the starting offset into the pad.
Conventional 24 hour clock imposed on local planetary rotation as 24 hours; I don't recall making notes that Wyvern's day is much adrift from Earth's.
Sounding like Tee-V; rather than the old standby, Tri-V, or anything else clumsier, like 3D-TV.
The newscaster is a lizardman of some sort. Aelia Min-Koë is an Ayassa; close to human, about 7ft tall, with a feline cast to the features (but definitely not cat-headed furries). Hrulgani (like Jayso, who we meet later) are great big bear-furries.
Anything previously regarded as death, but to some point just short of information-theoretic death, can be cured with prompt enough treatment. Getting into such a moribund state counts as being killed; but you can get better — if you haven't succumbed to information-theoretic death as in this case. Then you are dead. And in a society of emortals, this is not good news.
I definitely missed out on this one — personal use motion compensating and self-focusing portable video recorders are not far fetched now, but they seemed impossibly so then. [2023] Eye-witness phone video is so last decade...
The economic system implicit in the story is like the one from many of Mack Reynolds' stories. It's an economy of abundance. Everyone gets some basic income, enough for a spartan life; but you can gain extra credit for economically useful activity. The Clans have acquired credit from the Linkers' Guild for terraforming, they in turn gain it from their transport function. And compound interest still works.
Inspired by the automated fast-draw kit in Harry Harrison's Deathworld
Based on the material technology from The City and the Stars, but the current viewpoint would explain it as some form of nanotech smart matter, and within the setting it would be a black box gift from the Seraphim and other Transcended beings via the Linkers. I assume that there are mechanisms preventing unrestricted Nanoclysms. The Linkers must run a covert BTR.
Slang for “Old Clan”
Via the slang use of Bear for cop in 1970s trucker CB slang (presumably in turn from Smokey Bear) via Yogi Bear. Plus the Linker-trained guards can do weird mystic shit and get the yoga practitioner angle too.
I picked up this idea of some extremely light absorbing night camouflage from John Campbell (writing as Don A. Stuart)'s Cloak of Aesir.
Night Climbers
There used to be an honourable tradition of night climbing of college buildings at Cambridge — I recall seeing a book called A Night Climber's Guide to Trinity College in the University Library, written as an undergraduate by some-one who went on to academic respectability (perhaps even becoming Master of the College); here that tradition gets obliquely linked to Steerpike's traverse of Gormenghast. There are contemporary night climbers too, but the links don't stay still.
Radio Silence
This for once would apply just as well to mobile phones; though a race-to-the-bottom with extreme spread spectrum techniques might be won by the transmitter rather than the eavesdropper.
asKorran Museum
For those who remember their Andre Norton, this is one of the places where all the stuff (transcendent artifacts in the y2k interpretation) that came out of the various archaeological digs in Forerunner ruins end up.
Wire and Gems
There's a Robert Silverberg short story which involved a robot guardian of ancient treasures that asked questions of those who came to plunder, and killed those who didn't respond correctly. The treasures here come from that source.
As seen on the Kelly Freas cover to the issue of Analog containing Stan Schmidt's Lost Newton
No fat chef, or Hall of Spiders here, but that's the influence
Tegrith Shan
A Hrulgani clan, with family name Shan
Cartridge cases
I'd not heard of caseless ammo at the time; perhaps in the end it doesn't make more than a passing fad.

Chapter 2

A lot of student life here; or at least a composite of the way things were in the late 70s with the F&SF/CompSci crowd that I used to hang around with.

Digital timepieces were still a curiosity back when I was writing this. LCD watches were just coming in. So this was sexy high-tech.
Interstellar Internet Worm
I can't remember when the famous worm happened compared with when I was writing this (it was in the '76 draft). I do remember as an undergraduate having heard of people communicating by computer network from the US to the Computer Lab at Cambridge, usually from people who pulled all-nighters suddenly getting message on their terminal asking “Where have I managed to connect to?”. These were the same folk also mentioned in the context of late night hacking exploits into the local home-grown operating system, the so called Key Zero club.
Nancy is clearly in the local Key Zero club, and has been getting out onto the network.
A few years ago, I would have asked forgiveness, and said that this would have to be replaced by keyboard input in a rewrite. But palmtops are getting pretty good at decoding handwriting. OTOH, my handwriting has deteriorated from disuse from the level that got me marked down bad handwriting at school, to where it would need serious AI to decode from context — certainly the current 2003 TablePC handwriting recognition will pick up some words, but often turns input into,… well I guess "poetry" is probably the most positive description of what results.
Voice input wouldn't be feasible for taking notes in lectures except for capturing the lecturer verbatim.
Gender Neutral terms
I guessed that the outcome would be to swallow the “man” or “person”, getting to a state close to that which transformed “boatswain” to “bosun”.
Dean's Tower
Dean as in Roger Dean. It was the late '70s after all. I believe the image was called Lighthouse
Tracy Craig
This is a tangential guest appearance by this parallel's version of Telzey Amberdon. It can't be the prototype as the settings just aren't compatible.
Yah-boo politics
I can't remember if the proceedings of Parliament had been opened to broadcast when I wrote this. However, the level of debate here and what passes for debate in the Commons these days aren't that far apart. If some of Jeanne's directness might be considered unparliamentary, then assume that there is some concurrent transmission by aides of supporting evidence of the assertions to the Speaker-equivalent.
Voting System
I did work out how this functioned, involving various levels of plurality required, and any implicit ordering of preferences, and weighting of the Houses. I can't remember what they were, but trust me, there was one.
Digital Images
The digital images we can do now; and we can do something better, like not display analog static. But then William Gibson got caught by this one a few years later — I don't think by the opening lines of Neuromancer that he meant that the sky was bright blue.
Mobile phone
There aren't mobile phones, but the AI can send out a robot with an outside broadcast unit. This is where the real world has most significantly leapt ahead since the time of writing.
Spread owner massacre
Akin to what happened in Zimbabwe in the first half of 2000.
Qbedel Field
The Heissen field from the StarForce background. I'd given it another name, but I decided I liked the look of the printers pie that the scanning made of the fairly faint typewritten pages better. More alien.
Gun Control
This is implicitly a “sensible Libertarian” type of future, at least in terms of most personal conduct; at the University, part of the contract is that they handle security matters. As for how come there aren't various security scanners — partly, there is a culture of trust that has only recently been subverted, and partly due to interesting materials. I can't remember if in '77 I had given much thought to the latter idea — plastic and ceramics, though it was definitely possible. The home-made weapons referred are definitely not just zip-guns, but manufactured to proper specs with readily available home workshop tools, so I probably had some idea along those lines. The original draft had some comment about Nancy wondering about how some of the guns had been snuck into the dining hall.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that the AK-47 is simple enough to build that it is an output of a cottage industry in southern Asia these days.

Chapter 3

Just action, description, more studenty bits, and a little bit of AWAK-ing here. The opening dream sequence is a bit “me doing Andre Norton”.

Rather than “Interlingua” (a real auxilary languge, like Esperanto, by the way) or similar latinate name for a common tongue, this one is explicitly Northern European.
Infrared signal
Much like one's car-keys these days; but containing some personal ID as well. This was meant to be the standard issue, as we see shortly, not part of special hardening of security.
Lifter Fields
As noted, a variant on Blish's spindizzy, with many of the same behaviours. At low levels (compared with those needed for moving the whole castle) such as this, we have the visual “special effect”, the imparting of a significant upward impulse to anything material trying to pass, and the tendency to disperse high concentrations of energy attempting to pass. We see this when the defence laser is stopped at the field.
These one-man battle platforms are the troops from StarSoldier rebadged, only now we see them from a civilian's viewpoint — i.e. hardly at all when powered up.
Treaty of Foundation
Essentially, a document with a role matching the Constitution for the United States. A stab at the question of how the planetary polity might be bootstrapped.
Relative at some more distant degree than immediate cousin.
Low-Pass field
Fancy air-conditioning, using a Maxwell's Demon effect, stopping the fast molecules in the air from entering. Of course it takes power, and magically doesn't affect people walking through.
Fuschia's Attic
These two rooms are a nod to Lady Fuschia's secret attics in Gormenghast

Chapter 4

One of the few bits of the text I have amended; the hands-on interaction with the computer was extremely simple in the original — well simpler when compared with having to craft JCL to run a program so as to be able to invoke a delete-on-terminate handler in order to delete a file. The various coloured permutations on green-screen terminal mode used by people accessing this file later in the text I've left for period flavour.
The nearest I've seen to a realization of this is that broad grin so often shown on Lara Croft's features, usually accompanied by the gunfire.
Car keys
A smart-card of some sort.
Relay Comsat based car-phone
They're using geosynchronous relays, not low orbit systems like Iridium, so a mobile unit would be far bulkier, and not pocket-sized. UV beams would be high bandwidth and low side-lobes, so eavesdropping would be difficult. But you'd only want to use it at high altitude when you're above the most strongly absorbing parts of the atmosphere.
I saw the screen about 10–15cm on a side, the keyboard icon as a simple 3x3 array of squares, and the bell icon as a maybe 8x8 pixel thing across that size of screen
Free Traders
This is not to be taken as being against free trade as the Economist would define it; the Free Traders are those who ply trade off the beaten tracks defined by the Linker network. Often this means goods carried clandestinely between systems served by the Linkers. Freebooters is probably the more accurate, but less tactful, name.
It would require too much AWAK-ing in line to explain that this is a Hrulgani ethnicity — extees are poly-cultural too! There is a pseudo-Chinese implication in this culture, but the Han part is accidental (I didn't know at the time of writing that this was the name of the Chinese ethic group).

Chapter 5

I have amended the text (or to be precise, dialogue) in a couple of places this chapter, more than simply making sentences broken by writing to a fixed medium from flow-of-consciousness, into more grammatical structures. The significant places are in the bickering between Jeanne and the Councillor (which has been made somewhat more mature); and in the description of what happens when one messes with Transcendent artifacts.

One notes that man-portable sensory enhancements — particularly IR and millimetre wave technology — don't appear to be in regular use. Nancy does use something like an anonymous remailer net towards the end of the chapter.

The code ‘1’ is — or was — of course that of Lady Trixy herself. And there has to be an end-of-code symbol to follow for this non-hierarchic system.
Mike Kimberley
It was my intention that Mike is of Native Australian stock.
Another improvement from the scanner. Though it does like the letter Q when not simply degrading into punctuation.
Radiation accident
In comics-book parlance, this is the radiation accident, the radioactive spider, the cosmic rays, whatever catalyst required to unleash our hero's super powers. I wanted Nancy to be, like Telzey, a psi outside the organized society of such folk, and so needed an unorthodox method to jolt her powers from latency. What I didn't intend was this to become the staff that became an Uru Hammer — but it had ideas all of its own on that score.
Continuity of Consciousness
This was, of course, long before I encountered Daniel Dennett, and his work — and how consciousness is of necessity fractured and discontinuous.

Chapter 6

This is where the guiding precept “No plan survives contact with the enemy” comes into play. The radiation accident continues, as I try to figure out what the artifact might actually be or do. The blaster works with cartridges of “slow glass” bound under some gravitic standing field, which are pushed through a phase transition to release the stored energy

The chapter is also noted for its graphic vomiting scene.

Chapter 7

This is where we get to see a little more of the casual use of space technology; and the appearance of some different faction amongst the matts. The Patti Hearst case was, IIRC, an influence in this plot device of memetic engineering.

We also get to see civilian life in this society; the minimal impact including housing in ultra-high tower blocks; but when you can buy a floor large enough to build a house and garden in if you want, and without being crowded by neighbours, the evils of the 1970s could be mitigated.

We note that the “yuppies” do have something close to cell-phones. Very time-of-writing.

Kingarra, the starfish, is of a race drawn from Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker

The flashback scenes are a bit Andre Norton meets RQ.

Chapter 8

The memetic programming is me trying to write evil or horror. Compared with e.g. Bret Easton Ellis, it's of course tame. But I plead that I intended to use understatement (and that good old 20th century imagination).

The escape from the Snowflake uses an implied threat — “Incapacitate the pilot of this ship, and say good-bye to most of the population below”. A desperation tactic.

At the start Nancy was a latent werewolf, living on a world where it's always full moon. Hence all the foreshadowing, about the effects of the ring-light upon her and her state of mind. Here, she makes the transition for the first time. And I was being misleading above, when I said baldly Wolf 'cos it's kewl.

Chapter 9

Being a wolf would have misled infrared traces — she would have been detected and then passed over as not being human. Clearly the two matts walking past aren't using any such devices actively as they pass.

With most infrastructure service operations automated, there is little impetus to get up early for work in this culture; but there might be joggers and such.

Chapter 10

So now we have Nancy set up for a whole string to tales. Cut loose from home, free to wander, loaded, a novice telepath and unwitting werewolf (just see the sequel). Just that damned necklet to foul things up.


As prologue.

© Steve Gilham 2000