engine of joy mikel evins

Lev Chrysotile, MD

tags: stories 

Ixion 11 “Lev” Chrysotile is the ship’s physician aboard Kestrel. He’s the narrator of the first several Kestrel stories.

Lev is a mech—that is, an autonomous, self-aware robot. (Such persons are not referred to as “robots” in the setting; the word is considered a slur.) He is a Leslie Model 11 specialized for medical field maintenance on biological and mech persons.

He’s about twelve years old at the beginning of the Kestrel stories, but, like most autonomous mechs, Leslie Model 11 s roll out of the factory fully mature and prepared to take care of themselves.

That said, they do tend to be a little naive at first.

Lev met Jaemon Rayleigh at the beginning of his career, when they were both employed by the Criminal Investigations Unit of the Jovian Diplomatic Guard on Mars. They became close friends and served two five-year tours together. When Lev mustered out of the Guard he accepted Jaemon’s invitation to visit Rayleigh Company on Callisto. There he joined the Company and became Kestrel’s medical officer.

Jaemon Rayleigh

tags: stories 

Executive Officer and second-in-command of the torch ship Kestrel.

Jaemon was a captain in the Jovian Diplomatic Guard, a military policeman stationed at the Jovian Consular Estate on Mars, when his father’s unexpected death led him to take an early retirement so that he could return home to Callisto to help his brother Esgar take over running the family shipping company.

The pointed ears shared by the Rayleighs and Chief Engineer Burrell are a common feature of many of the old Jovian propertied class, along with a preference for tallness, slimness, and pale pastel skin tones. It’s these characterisstics that lead natives of some other worlds to refer to Jovians as “elves”.

Esgar Rayleigh

tags: stories 

CEO of Rayleigh Scientific, Captain of the torch ship Kestrel

Esgar Rayleigh, along with his brother Jaemon, inherited majority ownership of Rayleigh Company, an old and prestigious shipping firm that was driven nearly to bankruptcy by his father. He and Jaemon liquidated most of the firm’s assets and laid off most of its employees in a desperate bid to save the company. A fortunate meeting with a wealthy scientist named Constantine Yaug led to a life-saving investment that funded the transformation of Rayleigh Company into Rayleigh Scientific, a company that provides mobile scientific transport and support services throughout the solar system.

Esgar and several of his crew are Jovians whose embodiments reflect traditional aesthetics of the old families of Jupiter’s moons. Those families’ predilection for tall, slim body types, pointed ears, and monochromatic skin tones means that other inhabitants of the solar system often refer to them—perhaps jokingly—as “elves.”

Against despair

tags: stoicism 

Despair is a pernicious kind of vanity, and it’s seductive when things get hard.

Despair tells you a story like this: “I have tried everything and it hasn’t worked. I may as well give up.”

This story is a lie.

When despair tells you “it hasn’t worked,” it means that we have falsely assumed that the world owes us a particular outcome for our labors. It doesn’t. The world promises one thing: the world itself. Included in that world is our freedom of action and some inherent capabilities. We are free to act, and we are free to choose how to act. The world doesn’t promise us any particular outcome for our actions.

“It hasn’t worked” means we expected some specific outcome and didn’t get it. We’re disappointed because we didn’t get the value we expected from the effort we expended, but that’s because we’re deriving value from the wrong thing. The world does not promise us value in exchange for effort. We can have it if we want, but the world doesn’t supply it. We have to do that ourselves.

We can’t reliably get it from outcomes, because outcomes aren’t up to us. Outcomes are like seasons and weather: they’re given to us by the whims of fortune (or, if you prefer, Providence). We don’t choose them.

What we can choose is where we get our value. If we want to get value for effort, we have to derive it from something that is up to us—for example, from the effort itself. We must choose to make efforts that we value.

Just as “it hasn’t worked” is a false story about where value comes from, “I’ve tried as hard as I can” is a false story about our freedom of action.

“I’ve tried as hard as I can” sounds right when we’re frustrated. It’s a lie, though. Despair tells us that there’s nothing more we can do, but despair doesn’t know that. It’s just pretending to know.

We may have tried everything we can think of, but that just means we’ve exhausted our knowledge and imagination for the moment. It doesn’t mean we’ve exhausted our options. We always have options we don’t yet know about. Tomorrow we’ll know things we don’t know today.

Our efforts may have failed up to now, but tomorrow the world will be different. We don’t know what will change, but we can be sure that something will. Nothing is more certain in life than change. Despair whispers that nothing significant will be different, but it doesn’t know that, either. It’s blowing smoke.

Despair is a liar. If you have a fanciful turn of mind you can think of it as a demon. It comes to us when we’re exhausted and frustrated and offers a false promise of comfort. It says to us, “There, there, it’s all right. There’s nothing you can do, anyway.”

We don’t have to listen. We don’t have to believe its lies. We can recognize that we’re exhausted and need to rest. We can give up for the moment without giving up for good.

Despair wants us to promise that we won’t try again, but we don’t owe it that. We don’t owe it anything. We can rest and wait for our strength to return. We can wait for change, for new understanding, for help that we didn’t expect.

We’re free to choose a different goal, perhaps a better one.

We’re free to choose what to value.

We’re free.