Being Solum 🪱

It’s tough being Solum. Two hundred ten thousand light years away from the Swyrl galaxy, the Solum inhabit the planetary system circling the star Waol. These blue-blooded, six-eyed, four-armed, twelve-legged, sentient, segmented worms evolved on their home planet, Halm.

We humans know that galaxy as the Milky Way. When the Solum view Swyrl, they see a classic spiral galaxy from a vantage point sixty-seven degrees north of the galactic plane. In full phase, the galaxy spans a quarter of their sky and lights up the night as bright as our moon. When Halm’s night side faces away from Swyrl, they see only blackness and dim smudges of distant galaxies.

For at least twenty-two millennia, and perhaps more, they have looked up at the Swyrl and imagined a galaxy teeming with other civilizations, other cultures. They devote countless hours wondering about those people, how they live, who they are, what they might think of the Solum.

Sociality is baked into Solum genes. They form communities almost without thinking. The Solum value community as much as life. Envisioning those distant communities has created a deep yearning to belong. The desire is so strong, it spurred development of their FTL technology.

Imagine their collective pain when the FTL topped out at one light-year per day. Not ten kilo-lights, nor the slow but respectable one kilo-light. Only the minuscule one light. Adding insult to injury, even that pathetic top speed is unsustainable. Their maximum continuous speed is only eight-tenths of a light.

Is it any wonder conspiracists invent outlandish reasons the universe has kept the Solum isolated? Is communal outrage a surprise when the Others appear above Halm—ten millennia into the Solum’s Fourth Civ—and say nothing, then abruptly vanish?

I think not.

Being Solum means enduring profound isolation. It means suffering from the crippling consequences of conspiracy theories run rampant. Solum bear the scars of three system-wide, civilizational collapses. What will come of the mysterious and silent appearance of the Others? An end to isolation? Another collapse?

Only time will tell.

This was background material from my upcoming novel A Star Apart. I intend to finish A Star Apart soon and publish it early this year.


To start this new year, my partner and I completed two jigsaw puzzles. The first, a 500-piece puzzle featuring the Tarantula nebula, an image from the Webb infrared space telescope. Though challenging in coloration, the pieces had greater variation in size and shape. We spent 5 days finishing it.

The next puzzle had 1,000 pieces and an image from Hubble of Super Star Cluster Westerlund 2. We needed a full day to complete the border, not realizing it had errors. Daunted by hundreds of pieces with similar coloration around the edges, we assembled it from the inside out. The task required 9 days.

Nothing sets a positive tone for the year better than solving a difficult problem. I hope you have a great 2024.

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