In the Imperial Radch trilogy of novels, the protagonist Breq Mianaai is in possession of a powerful weapon created by the alien Presger. The weapon is a relic from the failed resistance of Garsedd (which acquired the weapon from the Presger) to annexation by the Radch.

It is established that bullets fired from the weapon will, upon contact with any object, penetrate that object to a distance of 1.11 metres (and no further).

In Ancillary Mercy, Breq (and the audience) learns that the distance of 1.11 metres is not intentional, and is instead a side-effect of its design. As Presger Translator Zeiat explains:

"It wasn't meant to be a useful distance. In fact, the distance wasn't meant at all...the bullets aren't designed to go through anything for 1.11 meters. They're designed to destroy Radchaai ships. That was what the purchasers required of them. The 1.11 meters is a kind of... accidental side effect sort of thing. And useful in its own way of course." (Ancillary Mercy, Chapter 9)

This provides an in-universe answer to the significance of the 1.11m, however, is there an out of universe explanation as to why the ammunition of the Presger gun is limited to this distance? Is there any significance to this detail being 1.11 metres?

Comments from the author on the subject, or theories with explanation, are both acceptable and encouraged.

  • reddit.com/r/sciencefiction/comments/2ige0f/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 10:58
  • @Richard I saw the same discussion, but it's not quite what I've asked. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 11:00
  • 1
    Hence why not posted as an answer. I just thought it was interesting stuff :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 11:01
  • @Richard I should have realised, sorry. Did a bit of googling before asking and I would have been mortified if the answer was in there and I had missed it! Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 11:36
  • I may be able to get Word of God on this. Hang on. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


I just asked Ann Leckie, author of the Imperial Raadch trilogy, this question on Twitter. Her response, posted here, is

@matgutting There is no significance to the number, it's just one I chose because it seemed cool for whatever reason.

  • 4
    Great effort (on your part). Crap effort on hers.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 22:31
  • 4
    What leads you to say that? She doesn't have to have a specific reason for everything. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 22:39
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    @Richard - For plot elements related to the characters and their psychology and history and decision-making, perhaps, but for minor details about imaginary technologies and setting details in science fiction? I doubt you could find any major science fiction authors who had detailed reasons for every little detail of this nature, for example I doubt there was any scientific rationale or deep symbolic reason Frank Herbert chose to have the spice in Dune turn people's pupils blue as opposed to some other color, or reason the force fields had those velocity limitations other than plot convenience.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 23:10
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    @Richard - That answer suggests the choice of eye color may have been inspired by the clothing of a real people, but I don't think you are going to find specific real-world inspirations for every minor aspect of the Dune universe--I mentioned as another example the fact that force fields allow slow moving objects (under 6-9 cm per second as mentioned here), is there any reason for that particular value other than justifying old-school fight scenes with swords and other bladed weapons? The "rule of cool" is pretty common in space opera.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 4:43
  • 1
    But you're right, it is space opera so there is no reason that any answer would have to have any kind of scientific explanation. Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 7:52

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