The single most popular topic of conversation in Nexan barrooms is the origin and nature of Nexus itself. Not only does the subject provide infinite room for three-beer theorizing, any actual increase in knowledge could be of inestimable value.
Although, as the saying has it, if you put three Nexans in a bar, you'll get four theories, those theories tend to fall into certain patterns, in terms of which they can be analyzed.
The primary division is between volitional theories ("Someone made it") and nonvolitional theories ("It just happened").
The first theory advanced by any new arrival in Nexus is most likely that her local god(s)/swarm consciousness/oversquid is responsible. Because there is no compelling reason to believe one such claim over another, or (given the distinct limitations of such local powers within Nexus) even to believe any such claim at all, most experienced Nexans discard such claims out of hand.
Some, however, accept all such claims, and postulate that Nexus exists as/because of/to support a gathering of the Creators of all the realities. (Thank you, Ganymede, for that inspiring presentation on 'Sexual Harrassment in the Higher Realms'. Our next seminar is 'Getting the Most from Your Plagues and Pestilences', presented by the father-and-son team of Y*HW*H and J*H*V*H, who need no introduction because you're all omniscient.")
Most variation in these theories is based on differences in the nature of the creators of Nexus (generically referred to as the Architects). One school of thought holds that the Architects are creatures of the same order as Nexans, or at least what a Nexan might become upon achieving and surviving the Singularity/Rapture/Coming of the Great White Handkerchief. On the other tentacle, since even the most advanced/evolved/enlightened inhabitants of Nexus have shown no repeatable ability to affect the Infinite City, many claim that the Architects must be of a complete different order of being, perhaps based on perturbations in metaspacetime instead of mere matter, energy, and spirit.
The motivation of the Architects is also discussed, but with even less basis for speculation. One popular theory is that the Architects are looking for some quality, and that zones that go permanently out of phase have either passed the test and been taken to the next stage, or discarded as unworthy. Another is that Nexus is an attempt to create a system complex and interesting enough to eventually produce beings of a higher order, for the Architects to pass the torch to/sleep with/eat/use as pawns in a hyperreal war. Most people, however, accept that anything that can create an infinite city must have motives beyond their puny comprehension. Some even suggest that, despite its grand scope and the immense resources that must be involved, Nexus is merely a side effect or even the waste product of some other, infinitely greater plan.
This class of theory postulates that Nexus exists purely as the result of natural processes, with no external consciousness involved. To those Nexans whose worldviews include magic, psionics, or massive ignorance, it seems perfectly reasonable that the massive concentrations of sapient minds/mortal souls found in cities could produce physical phenomena not seen in other circumstances. Those from realities where physicial law is independent of thought are less sanguine.
Most nonvolitional theories involve some kind of "psychic gravity" strong enough to draw realities together, or even pull pieces loose and agglomerate them. Theories not reliant on the important of people generally founder on the rocky fact that only cities (of some description) arrive in or connect to Nexus.
Some suggest that there is an intelligence involved in the creation of Nexus, but that rather than being external to the process, it is or lives in the mass unconscious/world spirit/spare brain cycles of all Nexans. However, this is considered an unsatisfying theory, as it leaves the question of the origin of Nexus unaddressed.
A similar idea is that Nexus itself is alive, its streets the axons, its citizens the neurotransmitters, and its bars the synapses of an incomprehensibly vast intelligence. Although appealing at a certain hour of the morning, this theory explains even less than the previously-mentioned one.
Unfortunately for the collective knowledge base, but fortunately for the art of conversation, there is little firm evidence of the origins and nature of Nexus, and what evidence there is can generally be construed in several different ways.
For example, the fact that a few zones arrive as (or interfaces connect to suburbs that are) deserted or even ruined former cities is taken by some as evidence against nonvolitional origin. The reasoning is that physical processes generally either happen or they don't; they don't "trigger" and then wait around to happen at some later time when the conditions to support them have vanished. The observed pattern is (according to the claim) more consistent with someone marking cities to Nexify, and then later coming back and actually making the connection. The smartass reply to this is "*I* would remember to check the cities before actually Nexifying them, and it's for damn sure the Architects are smarter than I am." A more serious counterproposal is termed chronal slippage, and suggests that such zones spend some large amount of time nowhere in particular between being removed from their support structure and arriving in Nexus, and that such interfaces connect to a different time than when they were established. The counter-counter usually involves Occam's Broken Bottle.
That each reality, even if it consists of multiple dimensions each containing hundreds of billions of galaxies, connects to Nexus through exactly one interface, or loses exactly one chunk to Nexus, is generally taken to be significant. Volitionists find it completely obvious how this supports their view. Nonvolitionists can explain it as the result of rigid N-dimensional structures coming together at a single point in a space of very very many dimensions, but have recently come up with a more creative explanation based on what they term "reality potential".
The idea is that each reality has some amount of a potential of unspecified nature. Just as electrodes of sufficiently unequal voltage will produce an arc, realities of sufficiently different potential will form a connection and equalize their potential. Like the trail of ionization left by the electrical spark, the reality connection will persist for some time after the potentials are equalized, but is ultimately as transient. Periodic connections are explained as being to universes that recuperate their potential at some rate, eventually creating another connection (which naturally happens at the "weak point" left by the previous iteration), and a reality which recreates the connection faster than it fades will remain in phase indefinitely. In this view, then, Nexus is just a reality which has a very extreme potential and either a very large capacity or a very high recuperative rate, so that many realities will connect to it without depleting its native potential. Although this model leaves many aspects of inter-reality interactions unexplained, many people appreciate its appearance of scientific respectability.
A definite problem for nonvolitionists is the existance of transformative interfaces, which change anything passing through them into the functional equivalent for the destination side. The difficulty lies the ability of some interfaces to change not just an oxygen-breathing lizard into a chlorine-breathing reptiloid (which could be explained away with morphogenetic signatures or some such) but to transform a sports utility vehicle into a coach-and-four, where the equivalent function is defined solely by the mental constructs of sapient beings. The usual explanation is "acquired morphogenetic signatures": by using a sword to kill people, or to practice killing people, or even to look menacing, the user infects it with "personal hand weapon nature", so that the interface transforms it to match other objects with the same nature on the other side. Experiments using assemblers hundreds of generations removed from sapient engineers to nanostruct random objects, seal them in boxes, and have them pushed across interfaces by nonsapient automation have produced troublingly inconsistent results.
A significant number of Nexans have reported encounters with strange entities that appeared as geometric shapes either featureless or bearing only eyes, that communicated via nonlingual telepathy, and that displayed knowledge of happenings far across Nexus or even in out-of-phase zones or suburbs. Some claim that the similarity of reports proves that it's the same phenomenon being reported, and that it is therefore objectively real. Others think the only thing proven is the fundamental lack of imagination of con artists. Even those who accept the implications of transrealistic power don't necessarily concede that these entities are the Architects, although many make that assumption. Other opinions are that these beings are minions or minor extensions of the Architects (janitors, or Nexus's immune system) or are just highly evolved/enlightened citizens with a good understanding of Nexus from within.
No reliable conclusions can be drawn at this time. Many conclusions are drawn anyway, but are generally not agreed upon over a larger group than a small cult.
There exists an Institute for Pre-Nexan Studies, supported by people with more curiosity than frugality. Many of the Institute's results have been interesting, but so far they have all been negative. ("No, that is not a pre-Nexan artifact. It's a kiwi fruit. It is very old, though.") Anyone with high-quality data concerned the nature or antecedents of Nexus is encouraged to contact them at once; anyone with low-quality data is urged to take advantage of the array of highly informative videos and texts produced by the Institute.
This file was last modified at 1048 on 08Nov99 by email@example.com.