Image from Steve Bowers
A Meistersinger individual together with some members of its choir. This individual has been provided with a specialised vehicle by the Contact Council, allowing xer to move freely in Terragen society. However most Meistersingers decline to take advantage of such devices.

Biology, Society, and Evolution

Imagine a something like a cross between a birch and a crepe myrtle tree that thinks and has a space faring civilization. Individual Meistersingers are 4.5 to 6 meters tall. They are sessile creatures who root in one place and are unable to move. Nevertheless they are intelligent tool users who have built an interstellar civilization. They manipulate and perceive the world around them with their 'choir'. A choir consists of 7-10 specialised symbiotic organisms that act as the singers eyes, ears and hands. They are split between flyers and crawlers. Flyers are about the size of sparrows, can hover and have large and sensitive eyes and ears. Crawlers are about the size of a large cat, resemble a land crab and have two sets of manipulators resembling crab claws with retractable tendrils that can be used for fine work.

Baseline Meistersingers use two methods to control their choir. For short range, immediate work they use a complex aural code that covers a huge range of frequencies and can convey information equivalent to a visual image. This is also how the singers use their eyes to see even though they are not physically connected to the singer. The required sounds are generated by thousands of fine, stiff tendrils that cover the branches of the singer in place of leaves. For long range work that requires a choirmember to travel out of aural range the Meistersinger uses a chemical version of its aural code to 'program' the unit for its job. Programming is accomplished by having the unit consume a specialized sap that is exuded by the singer through specialized organs in its branches. The detached unit can also report back to the singer chemically by 'downloading' its memory through its own secretions which are consumed by other specialized organs in the singers branches. Modern singers also use electromagnetic and photonic communications implants to augment their abilities.

Both types of units breed on their own but must implant their fertilized genetic material in the body of the singer in order for it to mature. As the young develop they bud off the body of the singer and are programmed in the womb to either serve the singer or one of its offspring which it grows from its body.

While the Meistersingers themselves do not discuss their origin, several hyperturing and ISO simulations agree they began as non-sophont sessile hunters like sea anemones or venus fly traps, possessing only a simple nerve-net. Slowly through chemical mechanisms there developed to symbiosis with small mobile zooids which would shelter and make their homes in the branches of the ancestral meistersingers. A series of radical climatic changes and reduction in food availability led to the ancestral Meistersingers encouraging these animals to return with food not only for themselves but for the pre-Meistersingers as well. The evolution of this control also increased their neural complexity. Eventually the mobile creatures organically symbioed with the singers to become their hands and eyes. Aural control would have come later.

Culture and Technology

Meistersingers have mastered bio and nanotech and as such have extremely long lifespans, in fact virtual immortality. They were a long lived species to begin with and they have built on that. About the only thing that really kills them is accident or suicide and in the controlled environment of their worldships, both are very rare. As a result of their longevity, the decades and centuries of sub- relativistic travel don't bother them at all. Further, they have cybernetically enhanced themselves to extend their perceptions into a shared virtual universe in which they pass the time on their voyages and which can, if desired, alter their sense of subjective time to make a voyage seem shorter. During an interstellar passage they use this system to revisit places they have seen and to access downloads from other Meistersinger ships that contain recreations of what those ships have experienced on their voyages.

Meistersinger culture and tech is very stable, and seems to have changed little in several millions of years. They do not have AI as such, although there are distributed bionano control systems throughout their vessels that in some way resemble terragen dedicated hyperturings. Of course, we only know of those Meistersingers that have entered terragen space.

Their ships are large, some 5 to 7 km in length, but fairly slow by terragen standards. Average cruising velocity for a ship is 0.2 to 0.3c. Propulsion is by ram augmented amat-fusion rocket. Curiously, while Bussard Ram has proven an impractical technology for terragens, the Meistersingers have discovered a way of making ram drive work, using very large magnetic scoops of unusual geometry. The ships themselves are constructed from spun buckytube fiber and are very light for their size.

Meistersinger ships tend to travel in fleets of about 10 vessels spread out over a volume about a tenth of a light year across while traveling and coming together to enter a star system. They use their ramscoops as giant magnetic brakes to slow down since this saves on reaction mass.
The distance between fleets is very larger - often in the order of thousands of LYs. Although the Meistersingers have archival record of contact with other fleets on those occasions they happen to be in proximity and with whom they choose to communicate, they are apparently not aware of how many other fleets exist or their location. The next nearest fleet known is some nine hundred light years away and as such there are centuries of time lag in communication.

Home World

Given the limitations of their drive systems and the fact that they claim to be from the other side of the galaxy, the Meistersingers are believed to be many millions of years old. They do not even know whether their homeworld is still inhabited. In fact they may not even remember or care where it is any more than Terragens care about what portion of beach the first life crawled out of the ocean onto.

Psychology and Spirituality

The entire social ethos is driven by a semi-religious principle of The Joy of Discovery. They travel the way they do because their ultimate goal is to reach the end of time where they believe the Ultimate Discoveries may be found. They do not reveal what they have seen in the parts of the galaxy the terragens have not reached yet because that would prevent mindkind from experiencing their own Joy of Discovery. There may be tens of thousands of Meistersinger ships roaming around the galaxy or maybe even between galaxies.

In person the Meistersingers have a noble presence. They are friendly and inquisitive with an occasional tendency to mysteriously hint at the great wonders they have seen elsewhere but refuse to discuss since that would take away the terragens the Joy of Discovery.

Terragen Contact

So far only one Meistersinger fleet has entered Terragen space. First Contact was made at the prospector outpost Dhexte-iv on the Cygexpa frontier, when they approached the star system to re-provision and make contact in 9203 AT.

While it took some five centuries for news to reach the nearest wormhole termini, the result in 9685 was a sensation. Ripples of excitement accompanied news of their arrival on the Known Net. During the late 9680s Meistersingism was the latest Big Thing. The excitement soon died down when the rumor-mill ran out of news tidbits. The Dominion were quick to dispatch a relativistic linelayer, in conjunction with the local wormhole authority. In 10279 AT the linelayer reached Dhexte-iv. By this time most of the Meistersinger fleet had relocated to the adjacent brown dwarf Ihthon Red, and it took another decade to establish a nanogauge wormhole.

Currently the wormhole has been inflated to 50 meters, enough to permit a very regulated flow of small craft (mostly micro-probes). However, no Meistersinger has traveled through the inflating wormhole to the Nexus (the structure is still somewhat unsafe for heavy traffic) and only a few reporterbots have been allowed through the other way. Even so, the singers are already celebrities, and everyone wants a piece of them. This problem will only be exacerbated once the new wormhole is inflated to full size. Xenologists fear the situation could be quite disorientating for these ancient and noble beings to have swarms of unruly terragens suddenly grabbing at them, wanting to sign them up for Cosmos Immersives Entertainment, or Novamedia, take them home to meet their cladekin and clonesiblings, and shoving virchcams in their branches!

It is not known how well the Meistersingers could defend themselves. The fact that they have seen an awful lot and lived to tell about it, indicates that they put great thought into planning for contingencies and are likely armed to the roots. Anyone trying to exploit or coerce them may get a really nasty surprise. In any case, the Meistersingers have only been treated as celebrities since entering terragen space. Moreover, they seem to have been adopted by some hyperturings who are taking an interest in their welfare, and have already been approached by nanoagents acting for various private security corporations, and more.

At least one other xenosophont species is known to travel with the Meistersingers, the so-called Wayfarers, about whom very little is known.

Related Topics
Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner
additional material by Anders Sandberg and M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 09 December 2001.

Additional Information

Fiction relating to the Meistersingers

Finders Keepers.

OA Glossary of Terms