For quite some time, I have worked on/thought about/written some things down on a setting I have preliminarily called n-Body Politics. Themes and ideas have changed over the last years, but the basics have remained the same - it’s supposed to be a fairly hard science-fiction setting concentrating on themes of politics, humans, and space.
For inspiration, look at Transhuman Space, the Expanse, or 2300 AD - this is not Star War’s slow spaceships and fighters. It’s Newtonian movement (Einsteinian movement will probably not be attained), space combat with kinetics and lasers, and most crucially without energy shields.
But it’s not supposed to be about war (though the technology and military positions shape arguably do shape the world) - it’s about the people living in it. And yes, it’s also about conflicts on a state/nation level.
The Goals of this Blog
But why write a blog about it? Partly, I have been inspired by the excellent work of Mailanka’s Psi Wars, whom I would do wrong if I were to describe it simply as an adaption of Star Wars.
Partly, however, it is an attempt to increase social pressure to focus more of my attention to n-Body Politics. We’ll be seeing how that goes.
Warning: The following may contain spoilers to the settings
There are several settings and media which I’d count as inspirations, and yet each of them has points I do not want to include. Those are
Transhuman Space is a GURPS setting in our solar system, tackling issues of what it means to be human and multipolar conflicts. The two main things I dislike are the restriction to the solar system (although admittedly, “restriction” and “solar system” should not really belong in the same sentence), and the fairly slow space drive. The stealth capabilities of spacecraft is also strange to me.
The Expanse is a book series (although there’s a TV series based on it, which I also recommend). Its main topics are humans being faced with
deus ex machinaan alien virus, the conflict between Earth and Mars (with the belt acting as a cross between the IRA and US revolutionaries). It is restricted to the solar system until later books, where a jumpgate network is ex-machina-ed. My main issues with it are the alien virus and the restriction to what is essentially only three relevant factions (though with internal conflicts): Mars, Earth, and the Belt. There are no individual countries left, no Luna nation, nothing. Only with the latest book does it promise to move away from that, introducing at least one breakaway state.
2300 AD is an RPG series by Game Designers’ Workshop, first published in 1986. It features a multipolar world (and indeed I recommend reading how they came up with it), aliens, and down-to-earth tech. It also contains an extremely nice concept for keeping space manageable (see here for a look at how it worked and an updated version plus nice visualizations). What I dislike is the existence of aliens (though 2300AD’s are quite nice), the stutterwarp real-space movement, and the existence of stealth. By the way, also check out the really nice renders of spacecraft in 2300 AD here.
Mass Effect is a computer game series which shouldn’t need much of an introduction. For my own setting, I actually dislike much of it especially in the visuals - but what I do like is the feeling it gives that there’s a setting behind it, clichéd as it might be.
I am basing much of the work here on the GURPS role-playing game. That’s because I really like it and it nicely supports most of what I do. Relevant books are probably going to be
- Basic Set
- Spaceships series
- Transhuman Space, probably.
I am going to, regularly, feature some combat scenarios I want to show off, both on the ground and in space. Those will be played out in GURPS.
For now, the themes for the setting are the following:
Humanity Ultimately, what matters is people interacting with each other. The background, the means, might be a spacefaring civilization. Yet the conflicts themselves are - or should be - human-driven. Accordingly, there are no aliens.
We’re all Just Folks As in the real world, there are only people. Even the Big Bad Evil Guy has a motivation and a past. The henchman you just shot may have been forced into his service by poverty which your home nation provoked through economic sanctions.
A Future in Use An analogy for this setting would be Working Stiffs from Pyramid 3/94’s So You Want To Build A Spaceship - space travel is close to routine. Spacecraft are not the shiny crome-lined Naboo thingies, but are functional - unless you want to pay extra to impress people, of course. Technology should follow that, underlining the differentness of space (this is a nice contrast to people working on there). Accordingly, there’s no artificial gravity or space magic.
And now, looking at which things are or aren’t going to be a part of the setting, there’s what Microscope calls the Palette, a list of what is included and not included. For me, these are
- + Space Stations/Asteroid Habitats
- + Human Modifications
- + Space Travel including FTL
- - Artificial Gravity
- - Aliens
- - Personal Laser Weaponry
- - Energy Shields
We can already start with a few questions and topics regarding technology we should answer. Those are, in no particular order:
- Space travel has to be cheap enough to be worthwhile
- This includes FTL travel
- There has to be a way to get people off planet - cheaply. Space elevators or high-thrust rockets are both possibilities.
- Since we assume that people live in space for a long-ish period (or even forever), biotech has to be sufficiently advanced to make that possible.
- Lasers as personal weapons aren’t going to happen (I’m blaming power densities). Slugthrowers are going to be used.
We’ll look more into technology next time, specifically, one of the most setting-defining tech there is: FTL travel.