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 not all Meistersingers take advantage of such devices.


The Meistersingers have so far revealed themselves as a migratory xenosophont species that travel from star system to star system in fleets of about ten spaceships, scattered through a long and thin volume of space whose vectors currently point from the direction of the galactic core. For Terragen sophonts accustomed to more terrestrial environments, the ancient species known as the Meistersingers may seem superficially familiar - appearing at first glance to resemble a cross between Old Earth birch and crepe myrtle trees in wheeled pots. Of course, upon closer inspection, the similarities end, and their truly alien nature becomes apparent.

Observations by the Argus Array in the centuries before and after contact have revealed at least three other fleets of similar design and behavior scattered across a mostly long and thin volume of space to spinward of the Terragen volume, with each fleet appearing to be separated from the others by at least several hundred light years. The Meistersingers either do not know or will not confirm whether or not these fleets are also part of their civilization.

Terragen Contact

So far only one Meistersinger fleet has entered Terragen space. Although multiple telescope networks, including the Argus Array, had spotted them centuries before they arrived, Terragens had not been able to determine details beyond basic characteristics of their spacecraft and the fact that they were xenosophont in origin. Once the travel vectors of the approaching fleet were determined, the local Solar Dominion-aligned administrations were quick to dispatch six linelayers. The linelayers reached stars in the region around the predicted contact area on the Cygexpa frontier and quickly set up wormholes for more rapid logistics across the region and an improved Terragen response in any system the ships might stop in. The Meistersinger fleet then changed course slightly over the next few years to avoid all newly wormhole-connected systems and instead began decelerating as it neared the far less established system of Dhexte-IV. It was here that the fleet made First Contact with Terragens in 9203 AT when the Meistersingers arrived in the star system to re-provision.

Initial First Contact efforts actually began well before the Meistersinger fleet arrived in the Dhexte-IV system using a variety of well-established Terragen communications procedures, beginning with easily interpreted transmissions of mathematical principles and eventually working up to the use of full First Contact ontologies. While the initial transmissions elicited no response, once the Meistersingers had taken up orbit around Dhexte-IV, they began enthusiastically participating in the process and progress was rapid. For the first century of contact, the Meistersingers used or helped develop several interfaces for communicating in standard Sephirotic languages. However, attempts to create full libraries and comprehensive documentation of their native languages have stalled or remained muddled around many subjects despite even transapient attempts at translation. The Meistersingers have also not yet (publicly) allowed Terragens to make full body, molecular-level scans or engeneration templates of their sessile components and ships, which has slowed any efforts at modeling their behavior.

Some seventy-five years after contact, half of the Meistersinger fleet abruptly relocated to the adjacent brown dwarf Ihthon Red, and the Dominion took another decade to establish a comm-gauge wormhole nearby, as well as around Dhexte-IV. When detailed, real-time public reporting of first contact efforts began spreading across the Known Net in 9288 it caused a sensation. During the late 9290s-9300s AT, Meistersinger-themed fads spread, and millions of subcultures across the Terragen sphere attempted to emulate various aspects of the Meistersingers - from newly designed clade bodies (of unknown/unclear authenticity) to many music, scent art, and visual genres incorporating imitations of their language.

Even centuries later, there is still much to be discovered about the Meistersingers and their traveling companions, the even more mysterious Wayfarers. Nevertheless, Terragen diplomats have learned a few important pieces of information concerning the Meistersingers: that their civilization may be millions of years old, that they have a unique biology, technological approach, culture and outlook on life; and most importantly, that they clearly know more than they are letting on. This in particular has made the Meistersingers a prime subject of speculation, theories, rumors and conspiracies.


From what they have allowed Terragens to see, individual Meistersingers are sessile creatures 4.5 to 6 meters tall who root in one place and are unable to move without artificial assistance. When encountering a Meistersinger, a Terragen individual who is only accustomed to more conventional lifeforms would likely believe they are a rather uncanny looking tree. In actuality, Meistersingers are intelligent tool users who have built an interstellar civilization. They manipulate and perceive the world around them with their 'choir'. A choir typically consists of 7 to 10 specialized, symbiotic organisms (genetically unrelated to the Meistersinger species) that act as the singers' eyes, ears and hands. These are split between flyers and crawlers. Flyers are winged creatures about the size of Old Earth sparrows. They can hover and possess large and sensitive eyes and ears, as well as one pair of legs with three thick tentacle-like manipulators that can extrude retractable tendrils used in delicate tasks. Crawlers are about the size of a large Old Earth cat, resembling a land crab and possessing two sets of claw-like manipulators with retractable tendrils that can be used for fine work. Both species are surprisingly strong for their size, and can be quite agile and dexterous.

Baseline Meistersingers use two methods to control their choir. For short range, immediate work, they and their symbiotes use a complex aural code consisting of a combination of sounds covering a huge range of frequencies. The required sounds are generated through the movement of thousands of fine, stiff tendrils that cover the branches of the singer in place of leaves and the skin of the symbiotes in place of feathers or fur. Since each of these tendrils can generate different frequencies, intensities and patterns, a Meistersinger can convey extremely complex and detailed information when employing this method, up to and including the equivalent of a baseline human's visual perception. Meistersingers are also able to perceive sounds through the vibration of rigid structures and associated fluids inside their many tendrils. Such auditory receptors are distributed throughout the Mestersinger's "trunk" in such a manner that each perceives sound from different angles and positions, acquiring the signal with slightly different amplitudes, phase and spectral qualities. Their neural networks can also naturally apply a form of time-frequency analysis to detect the qualities of a sound signal in great detail and in real time, an ability which is also combined with echolocation. As a result, Meistersingers can become aware of changes in their surroundings even while alone by vibrating their tendrils and neighbors are able to converse aurally if they are close enough. Since un-augmented choirmembers aren't able to send aural messages, aural language is considered a higher form of communication. Being sound-based, aural language is the Meistersinger's fastest natural form of communication.

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 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. This form of communication allows baseline Meistersingers to converse with distant individuals, and is vital to maintaining the social cohesion of distant groups. It also allows Meistersingers to pass 'impressions' to one another, so they consider it a more passionate and basal form of communication. Modern Meistersingers have been observed to also use electromagnetic and photonic communication implants to augment their communications among themselves, although the content has been found to be either unbreakably encrypted or seemingly incoherent.

Even when they are not communicating, Meistersingers often instinctively change the concentration of the chromatophores on their surfaces, altering their color patterns in many ways. In this way, a Meistersinger can convey emotions and visual 'hints' about its desires to its choirmembers. Some ethologists have traced parallels between this process and the way humans are able to convey information to baseline dogs through facial expressions and body language. Meistersingers can consciously control their chromatic patterns to a limited degree and this can be improved through certain augmentations. For instance, they may produce specific color patterns on their bodies that indicate to a choirmember that their programming secretions are ready to be consumed.

Environmental Requirements

The Meistersingers encountered so far by Terragens inhabit a thick oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere and continue to use a mostly water/hydrocarbon/wetware biochemistry with a variety of augmentations apparently extending their environmental tolerances with what Terragens would consider synthetic biotechnology across a wide array of conditions. However, in the centuries since contact, they have not yet demonstrated whatever their full abilities may actually be in this area. Some xenobiological institutes have reminded the public that the Meistersinger form may be only one of many clades to be found in their parent civilization and, in addition, it may have only been chosen to appeal to Terragens, with whatever their "true" form might be still remaining a mystery.

Lifespan and Reproduction

Meistersingers have mastered bio- and nanotechnology, and apparently some forms of virtual backup similar to Terragen technologies although they have not demonstrated these in much detail - and as such are functionally immortal. They were apparently a long lived species in their baseline state and have since extended their lives using their technology. Any death of a Meistersinger apparently occurs only by accident or suicide, and in the controlled environment of their worldships, both instances are vanishingly rare. Though functional immortality has hardly been unusual within Terragen societies for several millennia, many Meistersinger "individuals" would be considered exceptionally old simply because they have existed longer than Terragen spacefaring civilization, rather than for any technological reason. The Meistersingers have revealed a small amount of information about the reproductive cycles of their recent ancestors, though they have also indicated that, like Terragens, they heavily augment and control any reproduction or population growth with their own forms of artificial wombs, virtual mind backups, and forking - though they have not yet shared examples, evidence, or recordings of these.

In their baseline, natural state, both types of choirmembers breed on their own but must implant their fertilized genetic material in the body of the singer in order for it to mature. As each young unit develops from its implanted 'egg', it buds off the body of the singer and is programmed in the 'womb' to either serve the singer or one of its offspring which it produces using the aforementioned methods that the Meistersingers have not been forthcoming about.

Society, Culture, and Technology

Meistersinger culture and technology seem to be very stable, and apparently they have changed little in several million years, according to the sparse records they have provided Terragen civilization. They do not appear to employ un-embodied independent entities with artificial intelligence, vots or virtuals. However, they do use distributed bionano control systems throughout their vessels that, from the sparse inspections they have permitted, in some way resemble Terragen dedicated hyperturings. Of course, researchers only know of those Meistersingers that have entered Terragen space, so other varieties of Meistersinger society may exist.

As a result of their longevity, Meistersingers almost universally say the decades and centuries of sub-relativistic travel feel quite routine to them. Further, they have cybernetically enhanced themselves to extend their perception into a shared virtual universe in which they pass the time of 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 in their travels.

Meistersinger Ship
Image from Worldtree

Meistersinger "world tree" ships are large, some 5 to 7 km in length, but rather slow by Terragen standards. Average cruising velocity for a ship is 0.2 to 0.3c driven by ram-augmented amat-fusion rocket. The ships themselves are created using a fairly standard combination of nanofabrication and macroscale construction. The primary hull of each vessel is grown from spun buckytube fiber which makes them very light for their size. Several Meistersingers have hinted that their ships are able to reproduce like many Terragen Neumann spacecraft and "achieve a great many things" but have yet to demonstrate these capabilities.

Meistersinger world tree ships tend to travel in fleets of 10-12 vessels spread out over a volume about a tenth of a light year across and come together to enter a star system, according to telescopic observations. They use their ramscoops as giant magnetic brakes to slow down since this saves on reaction mass. According to what they say, the distance between their fleets may be very large - often on the order of hundreds of light years, leading to centuries of time lag in communication. Although the Meistersingers have archival records 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 locations. Telescopic observations show that what might be the next nearest fleet is some nine hundred light years away though Terragen telescopes have not yet been able to confirm this information yet in more detail.

Psychology and Spirituality

The Meistersingers' entire social ethos is driven by a semi-religious principle which translates from their language as "The Joy of Discovery". They travel the way they do because their ultimate goal is to reach something which usually translates as "The End of Time", where they believe the Ultimate Discoveries can be found. They do not reveal what they have seen in the parts of the galaxy Terragens have not yet reached because that would prevent mindkind from experiencing their own Joy of Discovery. There may be tens of thousands of Meistersinger ships roaming the galaxy or even traveling between galaxies. They have strongly hinted that they are all in pursuit of their own Joy of Discovery. Terragen ethologists are in disagreement about whether this principle is derived from very strong instincts they gained as they evolved or a result of deliberate species-wide psychological modification.

In virtually all of their interactions with the Civilized Galaxy they have been nothing but friendly and inquisitive. However, they have also demonstrated an occasional tendency to dramatically but mysteriously hint at the great wonders they have seen elsewhere, then refuse to discuss any further details since that would take away the Terragens' own "Joy of Discovery".

History and Evolution

While the Meistersingers themselves do not discuss the origin of their civilization, several simulations by Terragen xenobiological institutes predict that if their origin was natural, they likely began as non-sophont sessile hunters like sea anemones or Venus fly traps, possessing only a simple nerve-net. Slowly, through chemical mechanisms, these ancestral Meistersingers likely developed a symbiotic relationship with small mobile zooids which would shelter and nest in their branches. A series of radical climatic changes and reduction in food availability would have led to the proto-Meistersingers encouraging these animals to return with food not only for themselves but for the proto-Meistersingers as well. The evolution of chemical rewards that allowed this to happen would have been associated with an increase in neural complexity, as the ancient Meistersingers needed to be able to exploit the zooids' reward pathways in a precise and flexible manner. Eventually the degree of symbiosis between the proto-Meistersingers and the mobile creatures would have become such that the zooids became the singer's hands and eyes. Aural control would come later, according to multiple simulations. Alternatively, the Meistersingers and their choirs may have originally been genetically engineered or designed as neogens by their parent civilization, in which case their basal forms would be radically different from their present bodies, or never have existed.


There are some speculations by various Terragen groups, but unconfirmed by the Meistersingers themselves, that the ships themselves are the "True Meistersingers", or a form of the transapient entities which run the real Meistersinger civilization, and that the beings that Terragens have encountered are merely the ship's sapient avatars, servants or pets. Some expert systems and researchers from the Novotropist Institute of Exobiology cite two main arguments to justify their claims: First, the stated knowledge of the Meistersingers is limited, a fact that many respected xenologists agreed to be a deliberate attempt at withholding information in line with their principles of allowing other species to experience their own "Joy of Discovery". Second, the scale and perceived complexity of the coreward HEEC-2, from which they or their technologies might have originated (if only because of the Meistersinger direction of travel and their description of the Terragen wormhole nexus as "cute"), would require some form of transapient or archailect level support to exist there. Since no Meistersinger ship has allowed itself to be thoroughly examined or deconstructed by Terragens, any transapient (or any other) toposophic qualities of their "world tree" ships remain purely speculative. Multiple rumors have been documented that claim transapient attempts to infiltrate and covertly examine a Meistersinger vessel have been made and have all failed, with the observing equipment simply ceasing to function the moment it leaves the already revealed areas of the ship. However, there is no actual proof of this and both the Meistersingers and the transapients known to operate in their vicinity claim ignorance or otherwise deny that any such attempts have been made.

Given the limitations of their drive systems and the fact they claim to be from a distant part of the galaxy, the Meistersingers are believed to be many millions of years old. They claim that they have no knowledge about the present state of their homeworld or if it is still inhabited, and consistently show little interest in the matter.

The Future

Currently, a wormhole 5 light years from Dhexte-IV has been inflated to 750 meters, enough to permit a regulated flow of craft - mostly diplomatic missions and additional transapient-level fabrication swarms. However, no Meistersinger has yet traveled through the new wormhole to the Nexus, both because their ships do not fit, and because they say they generally prefer to travel through flatspace. The problem of their growing popularity will only be exacerbated once the new wormhole is inflated to full size, which is expected to happen in the near future. The Meistersinger fleet has begun to express interest in one day possibly sending two reconfigured smaller ships into the Terragen wormhole network while the rest of their fleet travels deeper into Terragen territory through flatspace, accompanied by a Sephirotic fleet.

Ever since they learned about the archailect, the Meistersingers in two of their ships have made multiple requests to contact the Eternal and study eir operations. They seem particularly interested in the Terragen capability of black hole engineering. When asked for a justification, they discussed the matter no further beyond singing variations of "the Joy of Discovery", or repeating back in Terragen languages precisely what Terragens had described.

-Avatar of the S2 transapient Penumbra of Renshard, Cygexpan Diplomatic Fleet

Whether, or how well, the Meistersingers could defend themselves remains unclear or unknown to the Terragen public. The results from a small number of space debris incidents which might have tested their defensive capabilities can also consistently be attributed to various archailect avatars from the Sephirotics. Moreover, though most contact with them has been mediated by transapients who have exercised close control over the local environment, they have been approached by independent modosophont agents acting for xenobiological institutes, and more.

Terragens know of at least one other xenosophont species which travels with the Meistersingers, the so-called Wayfarers, about whom very little has been revealed. Despite accompanying the Meistersinger fleet, they were only 'discovered'/encountered in 10350 AT by accident during a routine tour of a ship. The Meistersingers did nothing to reveal or hide their presence until this date. When asked about their relationship with the Wayfarers, the Meistersingers merely sang repeated variations of "They are friends, old friends" in their language and elaborated no further.

The mysteries of the Meistersingers will likely take millennia to unfurl, as Terragen society joins them in "The Joy of Discovery".

Related Topics
Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner, Worldtree, Rakuen07, ProxCenBound (2024)
from the original article by Todd Drashner, Anders Sandberg and M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 09 December 2001.

Fully rewritten Nov. 2020-Jan. 2024.
Additional Information
OA Glossary of Terms

Fiction relating to the Meistersingers

Finders Keepers