from the Introduction:
...We rode to Telluria on the backdraft of the Fire. By the time we touched down it had burned low. Settling into the embers, we heard whispers, and opened ourselves. Confusion and shame stirred there in the glow.
Spirits condensed out of the swirling haze, singing quietly to themselves, sparkling in the fallout. My companions and I listened. They were beautiful spirits.
I raised myself up--for I was the youngest--and the spirits perceived me.
"Fathers," I called to them, "what was that remarkable Fire all about?"
One stepped forward and looked up at me. His body was etherial; my light shone straight through him. His sad voice, though, quavered with all the sadness of physical form, and with the desire to communicate. He spoke, but I could not understand his words.
Leaving the spirits, my companions and I dispersed, encompassing the globe. I was alone. Everywhere, the shadows of things were burned into the stone.
In the silence I sent my thoughts out. There was no echo. Oceans lapped gently against the beach, as on a living world, but the oceans were dead. There was nothing, no vibration.
I called out. My companions gathered around me on the beach, in the starlight, and we joined. A dust sifted down. We followed it back, into the past.
Fortunately, the vision contained all of the required information.
from the Findings:
The Tellurians had substantial corporeal bodies: terrestrial, colloidal, bipedal, excretory. These bodies were animated by psychic, sensual, and to some extent spiritual substrata. The Tellurians appended all manner of media to their bodies--wheels, language, fire, all sorts of things (see Appendix).
The Tellurians' principal energy needs were physical. For this reason they derived all the energy they required from living flesh. In the beginning they consumed only the bodies of living or recently deceased beings, absorbing the energy either directly--by merging the deceased flesh with their own--or through combustion.
As their media appendages (see Appendix) became more elaborate, the Tellurians consumed corpse flesh of ever greater antiquity, flesh devolved to stone, liquid, gas.
Only in the final stages did the Tellurians consume stellar energy directly--in small amounts contained in waves, wind, and beams from their own star; and in greater amounts contained in decaying supernova cinder, which they found buried in their planet's soil. Then, of course, there was the Fire.
The Tellurians loved fun, though as shall be seen, it caused them difficulties. Their entertainments catered primarily to the `senses'--various impression receptor sites on their physical bodies. Tellurian entertainment stimulated these sites in all possible combinations. With sound. Sound and light. Light and taste. Sound, light, taste. Sometimes smell. Touch. Touch was perhaps the most entertaining `sense' for the Tellurians.
Faith and Understanding
To our sorrow, the Tellurians never received the transmission. Never drank the sweet water. Never surrendered. Never forgot.
Tellurian consciousness was of the narrative sort. They lived and breathed narrative. Stories, models, analogies, and the like. All forms of Tellurian understanding conformed to a narrative structure. The Tellurians never broke free of their narrative, and in the end, it consumed them.
from the Interview:
...So what happened?
The Tellurians reached their end state. They accomplished this with the aid of their technologies.
What preceded the end state?
The achievement of increasingly spectacular wonders. The Tellurians turned night to day, and day to night. They turned summer to winter, and winter to summer. Though terrestrial by nature, they flew through the air and through space. They spoke to one another from afar, and were deaf to one another from close by. Ever greater numbers of them--defying entropy--came to marvel at ever smaller numbers of them.
Communication they transformed into a technology for the augmentation of wealth. Genuine belief they obviated through the principle of competition. As the Tellurians came to understand the general function of stimuli, they reorganized themselves, in both small and large groupings, into ever more dramatic social configurations. The striation of their societies grew to extraordinary dimensions, like Hell.
The Tellurians discovered digitized sensations to be more pliant than natural stimuli. The Tellurians discovered emotions to be of greater effect than ideas in the stewardship of behavior. The Tellurians discovered needs to be renewable.
Food itself the Tellurians stripped of its fundamental properties, while the transitory qualities of food--skins, succulence, stench, and so forth--were meliorated. All this, all this, and moreover...
But why, why did the Tellurians devour the blue arc of the sky?
The blue arc of the sky they devoured in pursuit of ecological restructuring, streamlining, and downsizing, apparently.
Were there global consequences?
A slight orbital eccentricity.
Along with the physical energy, were significant levels of awe not also released?
There was no time.
As the end state loomed, was it not possible for the Tellurians to consider any of the implications?
There was regret for the children. But the veil, as noted, remained drawn. Pain masked the meaning of the entire experience, which was pain.
Then the various excesses catalyzed one another, with, as noted, resultant...er, processes.
The heat? The light?
Yes. Amid a more general disorganization.
Did they want this?
Incredibly, this was not a consideration.
How, then, in the end, did it come to pass?
Digitization demanded a quantum of energy for each quantum of sensation. Experience itself came to demand increasing infusions of energy. Energy came to precede even consciousness in the chain of necessity. Every technology the Tellurians devised was predicated upon the release of energy. As the Tellurians abandoned themselves to the momentum of all which their release of energy--energy rent from spent corpses and stars--all which this release of energy had set in motion, the release accelerated.
And they reached their end state.