I Went Interstellar

And I forgot to buy the four mugs I wanted to bring back.

Okay, technically I went to a workshop on how to promote/organize/achieve interstellar travel.  And it was great.  I was one of the few people with very little technical training, because technical/scientific translation doesn’t help that much.  But it did help me to sort of understand what was going on (as did the fact I read everything I can get my hands on about space travel.)

I came back with a reading list and an idea on how to finally start the YA series that a  friend (another child of Heinlein) in the aerospace industry gave up an evening to brainstorm with me years ago.  Then I got very sick, and it never happened.  The funny thing is I have the long list of plots/stories (not a one-character series, as I want a great variety of backgrounds and interests in the kids) but I didn’t have a precipitating incident that sends us to space for the world building.  I think I have it now.  I have a reading list to deal with before I tell you more.

So, you see why I’ve been absent and when here have posted comments that resemble martian.  It took me forever to “update” the intro to scheduled posts because otherwise they come out in martian.  (I hate my tablet.)

I confess the whole “I’m having a blog war with posts Sarah put up before leaving for a workshop that’s taking most of her time and mind power” is hilarious.  Well, it’s hilarious now that I’ve slept.

The only big problem with the workshop isn’t.  The letctures start at 8 am.  This is actually pretty good for the east-coasters who do stay up late, but are in their time zone.  For us and with three people sharing a bathroom/shower, days started at what our bodies insisted was 4 am. (Next year, if money and time permit will go up a week early and acclimate.)  Add to that moderate carousing and fraternization with colleagues, and last night was the first night I SLEPT in a week.  And lack of sleep distorts everything, so mostly I felt really annoyed.

Speaking to that topic, I found it hilarious that one of the things I noticed askew from these scientists with long histories in Academia was the insane preoccupation with “who gets to go” to space and the unspoken, un-examined belief that “diversity is essential.”

I will confess right here that I too have written “single race in space” world building.  Only in short stories, though, because it doesn’t hold up.  The idea of either “We sent all minorities off Earth to stop them making trouble” or “Only white people go to the stars” require SUCH bleak futures I don’t want to GO there for novels.

Space, at least while it’s a pioneer place will HAVE to be a meritocracy, particularly since it’s a “Harsh mistress” and any place we settle, until completely terraformed will require everyone to be fairly sensible and safety minded.

This means that we should pick the best, period.  Whether they tan or not is likely to be irrelevant.  (Though of course I can come up with planets where it’s very relevant.)

The last thing we should worry about is “who gets to go” and the most important thing to worry about is “who can do the job.”  And it will be that way for generations.  Pioneers can’t afford the fuzzy thinking of wealthy societies.

Yeah, sure, send (fertile) women because to quote Heinlein, the race must go on, even (particularly) in the face of insanity, and also because single-sex societies very rapidly devolve to Dante’s Inferno, if there’s no hope of ever rejoining larger society.

But do not worry about “a woman’s special way of thinking.”  I think in that discussion I actually blurted out “with her brain?” which is my hope for anyone going out to seed humanity away from the rock of our birth.

I do not want to give the idea this was a major part — either time or attention — of the workshop, as it was about 10 minutes of a discussion among one work group to which I belonged.  Most of the conference is solid, science-based, technologically inclined and riveting.  (Those ten minutes and my response did serve to earn me the adjective “passionate” though.)

The only other thing that bothered me in these discussions was periodic references to “corporations” eclipsing “governments.”  You see the dent on my forehead, children?  I have yet to understand where the idea of “magical, evil corporations” comes from.  Well, maybe from working for them.  Whenever Dan worked for a large corporation, they all functioned like communist governments or the Rome of the Empire, which means centralized, inefficient and (in the limber-versus calcified stakes) about as capable of real movement as a fossilized dinosaur.

BUT the point is that a corporation is an entity CREATED and supported by governments.  It is the government (usually state) that grants them their status.  Multinational corporations have to get status in several countries.  Without that they can be many things (and probably will be limberer  — totally a word, shut up — since a lot of their insanity is the regulations requiring they act in certain counterproductive manners) but they won’t be corporations in “law and fact.”  And as for their going out of the rock first?  Well, one wonders how they’d mutate.  BUT again, they wouldn’t be corporations.  Not as we know them. Yes, they could be unimaginably worse little (or big) nation states with the power of high and low justice, but they’d not be corporations AS WE KNOW THEM.

If it sounds like I spent a lot of my time annoyed, that last one doesn’t even rise to annoyance, it was more an internal (do I explain what they’re doing wrong?  Nah.) calculation, but I had to say it somewhere, so I’m saying it here.

I did find out/learn far more important things, but those will take a little time to digest.  And I have a few short stories to write related to it, but RIGHT NOW I have two novels to finish.

And I’m prepping Sword and Blood (which reverted) to go up for pre-order tomorrow (HOPEFULLY) and live next Saturday.

So, I go back to work.  More as I go over notes and think of stuff.





(I have two guest posts waiting that I think relate to the topic (from skimming) and since both commenters are old hands here, I’ll probably run, though I’m not going to have the time or patience not to mention interest (I don’t care.  What people yell about in their own blogs is their business.  If they come here, I’ll let the huns eat them, but in their own places?  Their business.) to engage in that bucket of warmed up insanity.

474 responses to “I Went Interstellar

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Evil Corporations are the Required Devil of the believers in Big Government.

    I’ve heard people “defending” Big Government by saying that Big Government is necessary to defend the People from the Evil Corporation.

    Of course, smart people will wonder “Who defends the People from Big Government”. 😈 😈 😈 😈

    • But we’re all government, How can it be evil?

      • Emergent misbehavior.

        • Unpossible. To the gulags with you for insulting the State!

          • To the archipel I go. (Hrm, is that rocket/ship name? Archipel)

            • Well, GA and Australia started as penal colonies. Maybe Mars will too…

              • Wayne Blackburn

                With Heinlein, so did the Moon. However, for that to be possible, the cost of access to space would have to drop to around $100/kg

                • SpaceX is on the way. When the launch industry gets more like airlines than artillery this will happen. Fuel is cheap, hardware is not unless you go the SeaDragon and Orion, built like a liberty ship, route. Still, “Gang Bangers In Space” seems unlikely.

                  • Depends on what sort of law enforcement you have; in practice, pirates here on Earth had relationships with merchant houses or governments and I can’t see that being any different in space once space vehicles become more common.

                  • I’m sorry, but chemical fuel is not cheap enough for that. With the proper designs, you can get approximately 9% of your launch mass into low Earth orbit, and if you have living things on board, well over half that mass (probably more like 80%) has to be the superstructure of the vehicle and any machinery required to keep living things living. So maybe 2% of your launch mass going into orbit will be useful stuff.

                    If SpaceX is claiming they can bring the cost down that much, they’re either lying, or they’re dreaming.

            • ” (Hrm, is that rocket/ship name? Archipel)”

              Not that I’m aware of, but I’ll ask the dancers next time I’m at the Archipel-a-Go-Go; I’m sure they’ll know.

        • Simply people are both good and evil.

          • Nononono. Only rethuglicans are evil. If the Sainted Socialists are in power it’ll be peace, love and skittle shitting unicorns.

            • I thought the unicorns were going to fart fuel for cars that don’t cause Climate Change.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              I have it on excellent authority that Unicorns shit rainbow colored ice cream (haven’t you seen the “Squatty Potty” commercials?).

              • Feather Blade

                I have not. Is some (completely insane) one trying to introduce the concept here in the Western world? ’cause I can tell you from experience, they work best in societies where nobody wears trousers.

                • I don’t know exactly what they’re trying to do, but the ad I saw had a Unicorn muppet sitting on a potty, and ice cream cones were being filled with rainbow swirl as a dude dressed in approximately Renaissance clothing talked about how that’s where ice cream came from. Then he picked up one of them and took a big lick. It really wasn’t very effective at getting me to watch the part of the ad where they actually talked about the benefits of the thing they were advertising.

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    It is a step stool that goes in front of a regular western toilet, supposedly because lifting the feet aligns the insides for quicker? evacuation. Things not addressed: Using something else to lift the feet, because they don’t need much, if one is still using the seat to support the weight. Leaning the torso forward.

                    • You can certainly use something else. The design that tucks neatly under the toilet and is smooth plastic for cleaning has its good points.

                      I sought out a foot prop on the basis of reading what seemed like reasonable arguments (not from the company) that getting into a squatting position, even a supported one, periodically during the day helps gently with joint and muscle range of motion in ways that, among other things, facilitate giving birth — so leaning forward was not quite what I was after. Could I have squatted in other contexts? Certainly, and did, though I lacked the flexibility and balance to do so flat-footed. Did it help? Can’t say for sure; I have no what-if control group.

                      The commercials are awful. 😛 But memorable, I guess.

                    • Feather Blade

                      Interesting. I can see that being useful to assist small children in using a regular size toilet, as well.

                    • I actually really, really want a “squatty potty.”

                      We’ve got four kids, and the step-stool thing doesn’t fit in the toilet niche very well.

                    • Squatty potties OMG I hate them. Not friendly to big, fat, old, clumsy, westerners like me.

                      Would be great for kids though.

                    • Asian squatty potty.

        • But is it Ancillary Emergent Behavior?

          If you were emergent behavior, my love.

      • Nah, Jennifer is government…I’m comic relief via obnoxious and oversharing (although for RES’s sake I’ve tried to cut back on the ranting).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        We may be “all government” but only a few have control of the levers of government and they are Human not Angels.

    • I am always amazed at their complaints that big corporations have captured the government so the answer is more government (what, for the big corporations to capture more).

      I am also amazed at their inability to recognize the inevitability of regulatory capture which also happens internal in coporations with the auditors. The fact is the people who audit my group internally and regulate us externally have trouble understanding what we even do much less evaluate us and engage us as equals.

      That is the logical outcome in a field with limited talent. No one will ever pay the auditors as much as the people generating the profit (although I think they should, at least internally) because audit is cost center. At the same time audit, evaluating how to do a thing, is generally less fun than doing the thing. So, people really capable of doing it will be better paid and have more fun doing it than auditing it. Who will be left to be auditors?

      Sorry about the tangent there.

      • The issue that comes up, however is when you have the auditors having more control over process and procedure than those that have to follow them. Having to file a form every time you need to get access to a system or for every piece of data you create (or more commonly three or four forms) just to have an easy paper trail can often take more time than the actual work. Never mind when the processes just plain and simple do not work.

        No one likes IA. Auditors often have the same issue. As for the rest…My most common phrase at work is “That is not in my scope”. You have departments that should service the profit centers but they simply push their work off on them (Engineers doing the work of IT folks installing software on a scheduled push)

        • Sometimes organizations go overboard trying to stamp out costly mistakes. So, at every possible mistake point you need to ask for permission. The grant of permission positions tend to be held by anal-attentive form loving busybodies. Nothing ever gets accomplished because you are always coming up with new ideas/problems that don’t fit the forms. Then there is the fact that bureaucrats feel that saying yes is dangerous but no is always safe.

          In the mean time the customer has moved on to a more agile competitor.

          • Anonymous Coward

            Yep. In an environment (like government) where only the worst personal failures are punished but the successes are largely ignored, risk aversion is a survival mechanism. You tend to see organizations start to equate the absence of failure with success. Elaborate paperwork, processes and gatekeepers develop in order to avoid known risks, slowing progress and frustrating the competent. In the end, the organization is barely functional, but there is no one to hold accountable. The joint stock company model of Fail.

            • ” In an environment (like government) where only the worst personal failures are punished but the successes are largely ignored, risk aversion is a survival mechanism.”

              And with all the regulations we’ve stacked on business, most businesses are going to adopt that model. Think about it: most regs are prohibitum malum; they don’t require that you intended to break them only that you did.

        • We just lost one of our most talented mathematicians who was also one of our most talented programmers (probably the second best mathematician) for just that reason. He told me, when I asked, that when he started the idea to code to test was six weeks and code to test to using it to help make trading choices was six weeks. Now add to the end six months to get permission to use it to make trading choices.

          At Google they put him in an ad revenue optimization group with a similar sized portfolio: same risk level, same potential profits, same kind of mathematical challenges, and no one who thinks screen shots are valid evidence to have to convince to let him try something.

          • Yep. I’ve gotten to the point of saying that simple requests take a week. If I can get it pushed thru earlier fine, but I’m not going to kidnap their kids to get them to sign. And that assumes that other wrenches are not thrown into play.

            I understand some (Govt Customer and Aerospace) of the hurdles but not all. But in my field I’m remarkably free.

            • Quants in banking have apparently gotten much less freedom of action since 2008 (I got here in November of 2010). Even in the period I’ve been here it has contracted a lot. I had hoped to stay here 20 years but I’m starting to see worrying signs the good times will end much sooner.

      • Maybe if we limited the reach of the Federal Government, corporations would have less reason to try and influence government decisions. Nah, it will never work.

        • Big Government doesn’t protect us from Big Business. Big Government protects Big Business. Why do you think all the tech giants support Democrats?

          • That, I think is partly the protection mechanism, and partly a function of location. The disturbing portion is just how much they willingly act as the shock troops so that the .gov has deniability.

            The worse part is when you look at most companies that donate do so heavily to both sides so they have paid off the eventual winner.

            • Obamacare is a perfect example of this. The employer mandate ensures that no company will grow beyond 50 employees, since the marginal cost of that 50th employee isn’t just his salary, but the cost of health coverage (or the penalty) for all 50 employees. There’s no way a single employee can generate enough revenue to offset that cost. How likely is it that a company of 49 people will ever pose a significant threat to the likes of Microsoft, Google, or Apple? Instead, the company will grow to a few dozen employees and then get bought out by one of the big companies.

              • Well, or you have one 49-person company grow their business to the point they have to get bigger, then acquire or merge with one or more other 49 person companies at one big go to get a larger productivity increase without the “50th employee” hit.

                But I agree, the more likely M&A scenario is a bigger, already paying the regulatory premium company swallows successful 49-person companies up serially.

                It’s all about barriers to entry and rent-seeking.

                • Even that 98-person company would find itself at a disadvantage since they’re paying a significantly larger amount per person in regulatory compliance costs.

                  It’s a bit like why you don’t see abiogenesis anymore. The chemical precursors to life make a tasty meal for existing life. Even if those precursors manage to avoid being eaten long enough to create a self-replicating organism, that organism isn’t going to be as lucky.

                  • Not to mention other regulations kick in at 100 employees as well as some 250 and 1000 hits.

                    Even if the 98 company makes it they probably can’t survive to combine with a another to make a 196 firm.

                    • The first company I worked for was under that level for a while (And I was an intern on paper and as such had no comp time or insurance). We had actually just hit the EEOC reporting as I was on my way out. They did not understand how to deal with a refusal to identify.

              • That seems to be the pattern from personal experience. It’s been that way ever since Sarbanes Oxley and the ACA and Dodd Frank are just more nails in the coffin.

                • Back when I was a consultant we referred to SOx as the “Consultant Full Employment Act”. It probably didn’t prevent anything nefarious from happening but it made a lot of consultants a lot of money. I still want to know how getting signatures for approving deletion of data in the TEST environment made any stock holders safer.

          • scott2harrison

            About like the mafia protection rackets do. Plase note the before and after behavior of Microsoft vis the anti-trust suite. Before they had no lobbyists, after they had a building full. (also iirc Bill Gates had retired).

            • But the Mafia racket is just doing what government does already. Just a little more obvious about it, just like Mexican cops are obviously mostly paid in bribes.

          • Jeff, when they are directly messing with you, it makes sense to do what you can to buy them off…or make things worse for your competitors.

            Bad incentives lead to bad results.

        • I have actually had someone with a brain say that it was clear I just wanted to let companies poison people with tainted drugs because clearly I wanted all regulation ended.

          I have long been on the edge of deciding the Founders were wrong on one thing, most people would rather be ruled and unfree than free and govern themselves.

          • America was always exceptional because we had a majority who thought individual sovereignty wasn’t an insane intellectual fantasy. Now it’s for wacko birds. Democracy is now just a periodical ceremony for choosing who rules.

      • I’d contend the ultimate internal regulatory capture, which is directly driven by government action, is not by the auditors/finance and regulatory affairs folks, but by HR. The auditors are at base a defense mechanism imposed by the shareholders to protect from government regulatory consequences, but the HR nimrods are pure implementation of fiat interference.

        The countervailing external regulatory capture of government by corporate interests (and the concomitant flow of money as ‘contributions’) is the ultimate result of regulatory interference past the pain threshold, where the corporate body’s only defense is to influence, infiltrate and capture the diddlers to moderate the diddling.

        For an example see Microsoft’s government lobbying budget before and after the antitrust crusades, which can be viewed as a high level blackmail and payoff – “Nice company you got here – be a real shame if anything happened to it” – transaction between politicians and one company performed via legal channels.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I suspect that plenty of bribery (including campaign contributions) gets started by some body saying “nice company you have there….”.

    • Split the difference: Ceres Grange,anyone?

  2. c4c

  3. In colonization stories I always wonder about the lack of different nationalities. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read where everybody belongs to one government. with everyone having the same background.

    • yeah. Actually in small, manned missions, having variety might be detrimental. As long as it took me to acculturate, I can tell you the thing you don’t need is the tensions created by differential “manners” say. For instance, when I was an exchange student, my host parents thought I was the rudest person alive for not holding the door for the person behind me. No, it just wasn’t done. Took me an exasperate dress-down to even notice the difference. In the same way saying “yes” or “no” to an offer is not rude, and it took me MONTHS to learn to say “no, thank you.”
      And again, I was blind to it. Yes, I could write a story about this, particularly the way women are treated (place in line/in car, etc.) BUT in real life it would be a very.bad.idea. Unless you get them early teens and train them together.

      • Multiple nations in theory (We all know how it will really work) would allow multiple funding sources, multiple emergency capabilities (Say you have a space station and a rotating emergency launch of supplies/material between nations) and potentially different skills (A desert nation may be better at water capture than a wet one, etc).

        But the issue is that most of the experience we have is already with a group that speaks the same language (Typically English for same reason as all pilots must read and write English). And its a self selecting cohort where there is at least theoretical merit required. And they usually do have significant training requirements so that they are all on the same page.

        • Er, I was thinking of centuries later not the initial folks. I did understand what Sarah was saying. I was just veering off a bit. I was thinking of a colonized world with thousands to millions of people on it.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Ah, that’s different.

            Some of that could be “outside threat” or “other need for working together”.

            I tend to ask “why” when people talk about “one world government for Earth” but a colony on another world (even if it’s an Earth-like world” might have better reasons to create a “world government”.

            The US was originally thirteen separate governments on the east-coast of NA but formed a government that united the thirteen.

            IIRC part of the reason for uniting was concern about the “major powers” interfering in North American affairs including possible disagreements between the original thirteen.

            If there are several nations on a given Earth-like world, there may be a need to unite to deal with interfering off-world governments.

            • The same people who advocate “one world government” would have their heads go all splodey if there was a serious proposal for “one North American government”.

              What they really want is a higher authority to Make The US Do What They Want.

              • For that to work we would all have to think similarly enough … Yeah, THAT’s gonna happen. It barely does here in the U.S.

                • They tend to mistake respect for the law for rabid obedience to the law. Most people follow law because they may as well. Even the malum prohibitum stuff. Make it so that the law is not worthy of being respected and that respect will nosedive. Think of it as reverse broken windows.

                  • For the yougins herabout, google “55 MPH National Speed Limit” for one example – that one exercise in 70’s nannystateism did more to undermine respect for the law outside of the eastern seaboard metroplexes than anything else I can think of.

          • Ah. OK. I’m not certain but without external pressure I’m not sure a planet would say that they are a German planet (as an example) as opposed to Martians or whatever unless the entire populace is from there. But by the time hundreds of thousands or millions are on a planet I’d expect they have evolved their own culture and ideals. The only reason I can see for Earth nationalistic colonies is ideas like the Freelancer game where the colonies started from millions of selected colonists in sleeper ships and were separate from each other for formative years.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              I’m think Emily was talking about “one nationality/government” per colony world.

              IE the planet Haven has one government and the people of Haven think of themselves as Havenites.

              She thinking that the planet Haven would have several governments with several nationalities.

              Haven might have been settled by one Earth nationality but different regions of Haven consider themselves different nationalities than other regions on Haven.

              • I guess to me the question is whether you’re talking earth planets where your need for supplies is relatively low, in which case, yes. You will have separations. On a planet like mars, however, the supply needs seems more of a factor to push concentration and give a common opponent in the environment. But it will also be similar to existing cities where you have the ethnic neighborhoods.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Agree, it’d depend on the planet settled.

                  Of course, it would also depend on how the planet was settled.

                  If Mars was settled by several groups with the settlements far apart, then while the settlements may get into thinking “it’s us against the environment” and a willingness to help out other settlements, they may see any “unity” as allied nations not a single nation.

              • One big problem with much of science fiction not written by nerds is the total lack of comprehension of vast distances. You call a planet Haven and the author treats it as a neighborhood. Distance actually matters. I was totally thrown out of the plot several times in the latest Star Wars movie because traveling from on star to another took minutes. Jungle moons, desert planets. Is there no variety on a single planet? You just happen to run across someone broken down in the middle of interstellar space? GET REAL!!

                • Do not laugh… I have just written a story where that is a central theme.

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    Um… where what is a central theme? I can’t pick out which part of oldgriz’s comment you’re referring to.

                    • Running across someone in the vast distances of interstellar space and eventually there turns out to be a believable reason why it happens. Well at least what I think is sensible. Now I’ll have to run through it again and make sure.

                    • Whoo. Um… If two spaceships are traveling between the same two stars that are 10ly apart, and their trajectories are 1/1000th of a degree off from each other, you’ll come within a reasonable communication range of about a half million miles at closest approach, but really, you’re going to need a really compelling reason to change course for both ships before they will even know the other is there, especially on really long trips.

                    • That should read “intergalactic” space – not interstellar…. out in the vast emptiness between galaxies.

                    • There are only so many “straight lines” between planet A & planet B- so it’s not too cray-cray.

                    • On checking up I’ve actually 1 absolute must reason (compelled due to a third party) why the 2 main protagonists are brought together at a vast distance from anyone else and also two parallel story reasons why they each were there apparently for their own reasons. It’s already being checked by readers now so I should find out shortly if they think the setting is unrealistic. I’m hoping to get it out on Amazon by mid April, so fingers crossed it reads ok.

                • Patrick Chester


                  A disturbance in the Force…

                • The Other Sean

                  In the new Star Wars movie, I think of the blue and green world where they go to find Maz as Fractalia. Not only does the entire surface consist of nothing but green forest and big blue lakes, but the pattern of forest and lakes is something like a Perlin noise basis function fed into fBm, like a simplified version of what Musgrave used in his work under Mandelbrot a quarter century ago.

                  • I love the commenters on this site.

                  • Perlin noise is overused in video games and CGI for all kinds of world generation. But I keep using it.

                    • The Other Sean

                      It can be useful, but an entire planet generated with it looks like… an entire planet generated with Perlin noise (and fBm, typically). A few recent programs with vastly simplified plate tectonics models produce nice results, but many of the island/continent shapes end up looking a bit bland by comparison. I’m thinking of playing around with some sort of hybrid approach.

                  • yes, that was likely precisely what was used to generate the initial terrain.

                • Randy Wilde

                  It’s raining on the planet Mongo?

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


                  • Christopher M. Chupik

                    The irony is Mongo wasn’t a single-biome planet. It had everything.

                  • Sometimes that can be explained as short-hand; when I text my husband to ask if it’s raining in Seattle, he knows I’m not asking him to exercise knowledge of the entire blob, I mean “at the place in Seattle where you currently are, is it raining?”

                    Ditto when my brother would email that it was raining in Afghanistan.

                    So “is it raining on Glorp?” might actually mean “is it raining at our main office on Glorp?”

                • You know, if you tried to rewrite Star Wars as a planetary romance, the only real problem would be the plot twists where jumping into hyperspace (or not) is a driving force. Everything, you could put on one planet. Luke grows up in the desert, Leia flees in an airship, the Hoth base is at the poles, the Death Star destroys cities. . . .

              • Exactly! Barrayar is one gov’t but has 4 subnational cultures. I never understood the concept of one national gov’t. Or at least the absence of any subnational cultures.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Of course, it’s also possible that over time, the regional “cultures” may be very different than the original single culture that settled the planet and different from the other “cultures” of that planet.

                • Aaaannddd… some 50 different polities (sp?) ruled by Counts who don’t really have to cooperate with each other and had, in the past, undertaken warfare with each other. Cordelia and Aral had celebrated the victory of getting through a law that allowed people to *move* from one “state” to another without permission.

          • some will absolutely still be tribal. BUT yeah, they’ll… divide. millions or billions of people is too big to be “one tribe.” It’s like Earth is logically a water planet, but not really, as we live on the land. But in Star Trek, say, you had “water planets” and “Ice planets” and…

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Yeah, it would be nice to see/hear a character tilt his head and say, “What? The whole planet has pretty much the same environment all over? What kind of crazy planet is this, anyway?”

              • Ice ball earth?

                That is the only legitimate contender from science I can conjure up.

                Well, I guess Pluto would fit in that category (if it was a planet).

                • Pluto is too a planet you meanie!!! Poor Pluto, you hurt her feelings. It isn’t her fault that she is small.

                • Get a planet outside the sweet belt and it’ll probably be much closer to one climate than another. Mostly either desert or ice.

                  • I was thinking along similar lines. It seems a planet lacking any significant atmosphere will be a “one climate” planet. Mars is arguably a desert planet now and I’d say Venus is uniclimate too while it seems Titan, with a thick atmosphere might not be.

                    Certainly having a big pile of fluid around the planet helps create variation.

                  • The trick is not in making a unified planet. It’s convincing us that it’s all one ecosystem and things (and people) can live there.

                • Europa is quite a bit closer…

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Somebody has been meddling with this world!!!!

              • YES!!

              • Exomoons in certain orbits can have very similar average insolation. A planet with lots and lots of water or a thick atmosphere might have similar temperatures over much of the surface, but mountains vs lowlands, coasts vs inland, etc. should still be different.

              • Although as that seems to be the norm in Star Wars I figure the characters would be thrown off by one with a variety of climates. 😀

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  You want “strange”?

                  Luke lands on a planet, at random, and finds himself within walking distance of the person that he’s trying to find.

                  Oh, this is a person who was the object of an intensive search by the Empire.

                  And Luke “just happens” to find him? [Crazy Grin]

          • I mentioned the Traveller RPG downthread. IIRC, Traveller 2300 had planets colonized by individual countries.

            If that were to happen, it might take longer than a few centuries for populations to mix. It would be harder for someone from New Mississippi to visit New Louisiana than just having Conway dodge some gators swimming to Loretta.

      • …thought I was the rudest person alive for not holding the door for the person behind me
        This. You see a lot of this kind of behavior in places like California these days. Things that as an American you were brought up to do, because they were ‘polite’ and ‘considerate’ are no longer done because so many of the people here are not Americans. They weren’t born here, they don’t understand the culture here, and they do not want to assimilate into the culture here.
        It’s lots of little things, lots of small things, and eventually people at large stop doing it too and people all become just a little bit less friendly and just a little bit less of a country. It’s annoying, and it’s a clear result of rampant unrestrained immigration.

        • Well, working in Tech you can get in trouble for doing anything that could avoid making everyone card through the badge reader doors one at a time. Add that to the ‘get crap for holding a door’ thing that you get out here on occasion and the yout’s might just be reacting to their environment.

          “Look, I didn’t size you up, determine your presented gender and then decide to not let the door slam in your face based on a complex calculation of social and moral status. It has nothing to do with you, it’s all about me. It’s my cultural imperative, and you complaining is aggressive cultural colonialism. I’ll be filling out the micro-aggression reporting form on you when I get to my cube. There, that make you happier?”

        • If there are so many “not Americans” that something that was considered to be part of American culture is “no longer done”. Then doesn’t that mean that rather than the “not Americans” assimilating to “American” culture, American culture has changed and this new behavior now IS American culture?

          • Not if it is one regional oddity within America.

          • No, it means the culture is going away, and it is being replaced by something that isn’t American. American Exceptionalism comes purely from the American culture that strived to be better than everything else, to be the best of everything.
            We’ve lost that, it’s gone and I don’t know if it will ever come back. Now we’re trying to be just like everyone else. You know, the cultures and the people who have failed or are failing.

            • The culture of the coastal elites (Chicago does so have a coast) has warped a long way from the founding culture of 200 years ago. It is still strong in parts of the heartland.

              • Texas is a large part of the Heartland.

                • To be honest, the heartland includes most of the US outside of the large cities and (sometimes) their suburbs. Most of PA and NY qualify, although folks outside of there seldom realize it.

                  • Er I consider myself a heartlander even though I’m a city girl at heart. I live in a suburb of Dallas. My husband is a country boy.

              • Yeah, the part of Illinois south of I80 and west of I55 is Illinois flyover country full of ignorant rednecks who those in the city hold in contempt……

      • sabrinachase

        This effect in fiction, anyway, *may* be due to the hidden culture of science. Especially at the hard end, we are like technical gypsies of a single tribe regardless of what nation or religion or culture we came from. Being of the “science” tribe trumped pretty much everything else. I remember with a conversation I had with a fellow Korean scientist, talking about his new wife and how she was going to stay home “like she should”–and then asking me how my research was going 😀 Absolutely no awareness that I was one of “them”, because I was Science before Female.

        It’s hard to describe, really — but if I was in danger in foreign parts, I’d look up a scientific colleague first. I can see this attitude bleeding through to the new world of space, because OF COURSE scientists go first!

        • Now you’re pushing my professional pride…Scientists go second. The engineers go first because the whole of space travel is applied science (aka engineering).

          • Engineers blaze the trail. Scientists follow along behind trying to explain what happened.

          • sabrinachase

            Not saying it is correct, just trying to explain the tribalism. And I *have* seen the cultural issue show up with engineers. My father worked for a year in Indonesia, and could not comprehend why he was paid more than a local colleague just because he was Western–the local was just as good an engineer, but my dad was considered “prestige” (by the Indonesian managers, I will point out). Fortunately for the company my father was a really good engineer as well. But when you have that kind of attitude running around, you can get leaky airlocks. 😀

            • I was a bit shocked when I first got to Qatar, American, European and Japanese engineers are treated better. There is some sort of caste system going on that changes subtly from location to location.

              At one site in China, an American engineer whose ancestors came to California to build the transcontinental railroad, would be treated rudely until people realized he was American when he opened his mouth. Only Americans go overseas to work knowing only English. He was obviously a real American because he only knew English

            • Heh. Was sorta tongue in cheek.

              But part is that is the same love of difference we see here with diversity. The other part comes when you have a large population that may know the motions but not be fully versed in the whys.

          • Engineers can farm in their own shit on Mars. Scientists would starve trying to get the pH JUST right.

            • Finally saw the movie. I decided that no, I’d accept that the potatoes hadn’t had the life irradiated out of them in order not to bring germs to Mars… and then wondered that the poo hadn’t been insta-baked to kill microbials (I guess they *had* packaged it to bring them all home), and *then* I wondered why he did not have a composting slop bucket in the kitchen. I try not to wonder why they had zero botany experiments running. Because if there is anyone I don’t want to BE it’s Bill poke-the-holes-in-it-for-your-own-importance Nye.

              Just saying.

              • There’s a somewhat longer and more satisfying explanation in the book, including that not all the microbials came from the waste, because Mark’s purpose there was to find out if an Earth soil culture could be extended by adding Mars soil to it, so they had samples of Earth soil, which included the microorganisms, there with them.

          • Wouldn’t the soldiers go first because of dangerous? Of course engineers would make the equipment etc.

            • Kowalski! Secure that lump of sandstone NOW, Marine! I want interlocking fields of fire on those lichen!

              • And then he gets a snake in his head

              • Heaven forbid I’m bringing him up here but Scalzi, in one of the many clever bits of Old Man’s War had a planet inhabited by intelligent slime mold that wiped out a colony and a good part of a platoon sent to figure out why.

                After that the planet was off limits.

                • Now there’s a variation on Marty Sue you don’t see every day…. 😉

                  • I know he isn’t popular over on this side of the Hugo fence but I see his career as kind of sad.

                    I read Old Man’s War due to Heinlein comparisons and several things stood out.

                    1. Although he took the generic Matthew 7 cheap shot that the progs consider a kill shot against Christians (all it does to me is prove they have learned to bleat but not to read) the reality is he portrays religion as common in several advanced cultures and the single most advanced culture in the first book is a theocracy whose battles are religious cleansings to help less advanaged race. The protagonist’s realization of this is a key plot point.

                    2. Aliens aren’t all happy and loving and advanced speices are all Star Trek peaceful. In fact, the interspecies belligerence is high than that in Starship Troopers and includes routine consumption of intelligence speices as food by other speices.

                    3. The military, for all its issues, is portrayed as a force generally for the good of humanity due to the very tough neighborhood in #2.

                    All three of those are very non-progressive to the point of attacking progressive shibothliths hard. I realize they are considerably undone by the sequals but I have to wonder if that was always in his world building or if he changed the world building to become a Tor star.

                    If it is the later that’s pretty sad because that first book was by someone I wanted to read several books by.

            • Well…in the US it was engineers who also happened to be Air Force and Navy pilots.

              • was what I was thinking: military engineers.

                • military engineers

                  Which actually has a different meaning as per the unique military vocabulary rule.

                  Though thinking about it, Sappers would be just ricky-tick colonists, with very useful skills.

                  • Er aren’t there AF, Marine etc. aerospace engineers? I was thinking of the SeaBees or whatever they’re called these days. There are military building folks. They build they fight. For when you need construction done in a combat zone.

                    • Most test pilots have a degree in engineering as well as flight training (One of my professors in UG retired out of Edwards AFB Flight test). Civil engineering is common to all branches but mostly simple construction vs intimate design. There is engineering support thru stateside or major bases

                  • There is no problem that cannot be solved with the properly sized, applied, and shaped explosive charge…

        • Wayne Blackburn

          You actually see that in some stories. Visiting scientist bumps against unexpected laws/customs/whatever and gets help from fellow scientist from the host country because science (and probably because Nerds flock together, being used to feeling a little bit uncomfortable with the way other people act).

          • I usually see the third or more generation of this showing up– they get help from a scientist because Science is Double Plus Good.
            (Kind of like how some parodies of Murder, She Wrote will run with “gotcha” plot points that Miss Marple actually had stories built around, for example “little old lady meets in secret to challenge the Bad Guy.”)

            It’s generally not because Science Guy is also outside of normal culture and gets the gee-whizzes-that’s-cool effect.

            Actually, the only example of that I can think of is from Short Circuit, with the secondary male lead. He totally geeked out over Johnny 5.

      • Persons citing historical examples of successful, isolated cultures tend to ignore the fact that they were monolithic. There was a participant at the conference discussing the ethics of “planetary protection” (think – “Green” and “Prime Directive” taken to the extreme) who gave examples of neolithic villages – 1000 people – as a stable unit. But again, ignoring the fact that those 1000 villagers ALL LOOKED ALIKE!

        Many of these discussions ignore the fact that there will be speciation and the potential for isolated groups to infect each other with deadly pathogens if they don’t diverge *enough*.

        Oh, and lest you think I’m criticizing, I was the DIRECTOR of that discussion track Sarah was on.

        [Oh, and for the record, WORDPRESS *never* seems to let me log in, which is why I hardly ever comment here. It took 4 tries, fortunately I saved the comment!]

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I found once that I had to delete the cookies of any other WordPress logins I had done in order to switch from here to MGC or vice versa. Now, I login with the Facebook button because it got to be too much of a pain.

        • Spoken like a true urbanite.

          3/5 of the towns in my state are smaller than 1000 people. And the entire population of the state is 3 million; smaller than many US cities.

          …yet we have our own Constitution, laws, legislature, chief of state, army, and navy.

      • Anonymous Coward

        This can be easily solved by having the early missions being entirely staffed by people who lack ‘Privilege’. I have recently learned that Privilege is the source of all discord, so selecting Privilege-free personnel will guarantee a harmonious and successful mission.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Well Emily, many of the “one nationality” colonies based on my memory of them were either “Earth has one government now so we’re all Terrans” or “We want to get away from those other groups”.

      In the second type, we get worlds like Piper’s Lone Star Planet (also called A Planet For Texans).

      Of course, there are stories where several different groups are settled on the same planet. Those can be “very interesting” especially if there isn’t an ocean dividing the groups.

      • It kinda would be interesting to see how it fell out. Did the Canadian and American colonies eventually see themselves as Martians. Ally against the greater threat of the Martian environment, etc. Western nations (for now) I can see as becoming more collaborative. It would be what if the Chinese made a base or (to a lesser extent) the Russians that would lead to “Chinese Interesting”.

        But I also subscribe to the idea of shared hardship against an outside enemy can paper over lots of troubles.

      • “We want to get away from those other groups”.

        My half-assed thoughts for my own future history stories (inspired by reading pretty much all of Piper in a month or so) starts with the Solar System colonized mostly by religious groups fleeing Western governments that were hostile to religious expression with denomination centric colonies and one Orthodox group fleeing a new and less friendly Caliphate (if only to have the excuse to call an L4 station “Divine Wisdom”).

    • I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read where everybody belongs to one government. with everyone having the same background.

      Well, that does seem to map well to early European colonization of the Americas: English Catholics found Maryland, the Dutch found New York, English Calvinists found Massachusettes and then get into schism and run off to found Connecticut and Rhode Island to not be with people they don’t like (did that give us New Hampshire too), English debtors found Georiga, etc.

      It seems early efforts are fairly homogenous and then move to a more mixed group as they become viable and want to import new skill sets to expand.

      • If we presume interstellar travel that can be done fairly cheaply but is slow I think the end result might be several quite homogeneous small colonies on different planets, which either would start that way, or pretty fast become that. And it might take quite a long while before they’d grow big enough to start splitting into different nations. So at least for a while there probably would be several planets with just one nation on them.

        If however the travel was both cheap and fast you would probably get several different colonies on a same planet soon enough, and them growing fast enough that they would never meld into one planet wide culture.

        • Feather Blade

          I expect the greatest expense would be getting the asteroids aimed and moving in the right direction.

    • Actually there was one series that did this quite well. The Thousand Cultures by John Barnes. Each colony was relatively small and settled by a selected, coherent group via STL ships. Each group had voluntarilly gathered to found a specific, designed culture. Some planets did have multiple colonies with different cultures but the intentionally minimized interactions.

      They even had their own mythologies with stories mixing romantic poets with Poe hunting or Adam Smith being eaten by Marxist cannibals in Geneva.

      Of course, the main plot of the first book (and to a degree the later) concerns how these mon-cultures survive the invention on interstellar transporters that allow real time contact again.

      • The problem with that is that you get an entire generation of newcomers every generation. . . some stuff can be perpetuated, but others will produce strong reactions.

        • Guess I wasn’t 100% clear…once the colony is seeded no one other than the original occupants and their decendents are there to any large number. For example, in the first book the ships leave every 10 years and take 25 or so to transfer. The ship mentioned (one of the characters came on it) had 43 people of whom 15 suicided due to being unable to adapt to a culture they choose to immigrate into. 50 people a decade into even a five figure population isn’t going to be that disruptive.

          However, the teleporter allowing trade, ideas, and people to flow is seen to have heavily rewritten the designed youth culture of the protagonist’s home world in roughly six years. That said it had changed surface issues more than basic moral codes (as seen in the opening fight).

  4. As far as corporations and bureaucracy mirroring govt bureaucracy I can attest that that is true in large aerospace firms For both the companies (mom and pop niche engineering and “Name Brand” Aviation) I have worked for the joke is that Dilbert is either a documentary…or more commonly, understated.

    Note that the companies actually pushing are dictatorships of one man’s vision. Blue Horizon, Space X, Virgin Galactic, etc all are run off one person who is the driving force. And all are relatively agile compared to the big boys such as ULA. But if you look at the history of aviation, it started with the barnstormers and the military in the teens and 20’s. It wasn’t until the mid 1920s that aviation went mainstream commercial. And honestly not until the DC-3 and 707 that it became commonplace. I tend to see a lot of parallels between our current position and that of the turn of the century, although a lot more regulation heavy (Orville and Wilbur would have had to get permits for their test flights today).

    At the pioneering stage of space travel in the 60’s, the martial basis and the idea that you send the guys already teasing the edge of the envelope on the roman candles meant that the test pilots were going to be the fliers. Plus at the time there was less emphasis on science projects as opposed to testing the human limits and the multiple jobs meant you had a small pool. It wasn’t until you had passengers on the space shuttle that you could start sending people up solely for pure science. And that allows diversity to even be a consideration (McAuliffe, and the various PR fliers like John Glenn)

    • Anonymous Coward

      With the possible exception of NASA in the 60s, it is a rare thing when a bureaucracy (government or corporate) delivers innovation. When they do, one often finds that a small team with a shared vision managed to do something great despite, rather than because of the organization. I recall one semiconductor company that had a policy of splitting off parts of the organization as self-contained subsidiaries whenever the company grew too large, as an attempt to fight off bureaucratic inertia. Not sure how well it panned out, but at least they recognized the problem inherent in large organizations.

      • Yep. There is stuff once in a while but more likely it is slow advancement via adaptation vs revolution. The larger orgs tend to hew to ‘what works’ and the bureaucratic parasites reinforce that preference. A ULA rocket will be more expensive but 99% chance success. A competitor rocket may be cheaper but 90% chance. (Both numbers made up, but you get the idea) It’s all a matter or how risk averse you are to the high cost, low occurance events. Same with going back to capsules vs relanding rockets. Especially at sea

        • I have come to the conclusion that Bureaucracies exist not get something done but to minimize the amount of damage the least competent person can do. This happens because those least competent people can either hide or just flat out can’ t be fired.

          • Pretty much. There are a few names that are “Oh S**t!” mutterings when I see them

          • Wayne Blackburn

            This happens because those least competent people can either hide or just flat out can’ t be fired.

            Or perhaps because as a field becomes more common, the number of high-quality candidates for each company in that field diminishes, so they have to hire less qualified candidates? OR, perhaps in the downward spiral of profit as the field matures, they have to (or think they have to) hire less competent people to save costs?

            • Or because “competent” is something you can’t get off the rack, and there’s not a really good way to identify “will become competent with a little experience” from “won’t ever become competent.”

          • Anonymous Coward

            I’m more cynical: bureaucracies exist to shield the incompetent from accountability. When someone gets fired for the ObamaCare rollout, perhaps I will rethink my stance.

            • Nope. Bureaucracies exist to perpetuate their own existence. If the purpose for which the bureaucracy was initially created disappears, the bureaucracy just finds some other ostensible reason for its existence. A part of this is never ridding itself of incompetent employees–if it reduced its personnel count it would be reducing its labor cost needs, and reducing funding requirements is tantamount to a decline in viability to a bureaucracy.

              • Yes, and always exceed your budget. Obviously you were underfunded.

              • In case WordPress screws up the start time of the embedded video, it’s supposed to start playing at 2 minutes 46 seconds.

                • Yep. WP Delenda Est, and jump to the 2:46 mark to hear the quote I intended you to hear first.

    • …Dilbert is either a documentary…or more commonly, understated.

      We heard stories through the Silicon Valley grapevine, back in the 90s before Scott Adams came out publicly and told people where he then worked, of local (named) VPs in various tech companies going on internal witch hunts with HR to find out who the employee was who was so effectively mocking them in that horrible Dilbert comic strip, which they were obviously writing under the ‘Scott Adams’ pen name since they had already questioned all the employees named “Scott”.

      • Hell, at one nuke plant I was at, a manager tried to ban Dilbert calenders in the 90’s because some of us would pin really good ones to various bulletin boards after that day had passed……

      • Anonymous Coward

        For a short time in the 90s, Adams published the “Dilbert Index” comprised of the companies that provided the most fodder for his cartoons. One day I noticed that #1 on the index was my employer, and #2 had recently acquired several thousand employees from #1. Basically, I was working for the TWO top sources of Dilbert stories.

  5. But Sarah, you obviously have not been paying attention to the latest updates and pronouncements on critical elements of the progressive narrative. A meritocracy is bad, evil, unfairly keeps some people down while others excel.
    Wish I was joking, but I’m afraid not, equality of opportunity is passe, the meme of old dead white men. These days it’s all about equality of outcome.
    Except of course for the select few who get the special perks and bennies because they care so very much and thus deserve a few privileges.
    As for evil corporations, IMHO any entity becomes evil when it uses its position to harm its competition. Crony capitalism for example, where massive donations to the right politician gets legislation passed that prevents a new startup company from challenging the vested interests.

  6. Plain and simple: unless ‘who gets to go’ is equivalent to ‘who can do the job’ the attempt to make a foothold in space will trend toward failure.

    • Is it “who gets to go” or is it “who NEEDS to escape”?

      • I am not sure that in the early days ‘who NEEDS to escape’ will enter into it. ‘Who they are perfectly willing to let die if it doesn’t work out’ may be part of the decision.

        The process of colonization will require significant funds and an extensive support network just to get to anywhere to start a colony.

        • We also live in an entirely risk averse society. It is soooo hard to get permission to try something where someone may get hurt. Sometimes risks must be taken to get progress. And Progressives want to lock down progress completely. New products and processes just muck up their finely tuned society. If they could turn us all into robots, socialism would finally work!

          • Yep. If it had happened today, Apollo 1 would have cancelled space program. People do not realize that sometimes you and your crews pushing the envelope will get hurt when they rip thru. They expect everything nice and easy.

            • Compare and contrast the responses to the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

              • Admittedly I think the shuttle program was already on borrowed time. But yeah. Especially since there is a lot of very negative scuttlebutt about that incident from some folks I know.

                • A space shuttle was a good idea. The Air Force’s Dyna-Soar was well along before Space Command got rolled into NASA, who dustbinned almost everything the USAF had been doing.

                  The giant flying turd Space Shuttle was a graphic example of mission creep and design-by-committee, a relic of the nearly unlimited budget of the Apollo days.

                  • The Shuttle was an engineering masterwork and a logistical cluster fisk.
                    More properly the National Space Transportation System, made up of the Shuttle, External Tank, Solid Rocket Boosters, and Space Shuttle Main Engines, was a true heavy lift vehicle. Problem was over half the up mass consisted of the Shuttle structure. That really cool ability to land like a flying brick cost something on the order of 25 tons of wasted lift capability.
                    As a vehicle and temporary orbiting platform it made some sense, but for servicing ISS a capsule that just manages to carry a load up and provide safe crew and sample return is much more efficient.

                    • A friend of mine and I always thought they should have had at least one barebones “sled” platform that would carry the hardware needed to juggle around a very heavy payload and then return to Earth, unmanned, so they could use that ordinarily wasted mass to allow much larger payloads for carrying either larger equipment or else construction materials for building a BIG Space Station.

                    • I was a big fan of Lute Keyser’s OTRAG back in the back in the late ’70s/early ’80s, till the Soviets and Libyans managed to completely destroy the company.


                    • OK, correcting myself. First, the man’s name is Lutz Kayser. Second, this link is much more detailed about OTRAG:


                      Third, there’s a current company, Interorbital Systems, working on an updated version of the OTRAG launcher concept, with the assistance of Kayser himself.

      • Or “who do we need to get rid of because they’re rocking the boat”

        • Do that and the next thing you know the Loonies are throwing rocks.

          • Or you have everyone on Earth descended from phone sanitizers.

            • And your culture die out from a disease transmitted by dirty phones.

              That man had a first class sense of humor and irony. I miss him even though I never met him. The world needs more students of the human comedy at that level.

          • send the malcontents far far away. Just not too far. You don’t want to hook-up with Crazy Eddie.

  7. The funny thing is I have the long list of plots/stories (not a one-character series, as I want a great variety of backgrounds and interests in the kids) but I didn’t have a precipitating incident that sends us to space for the world building.

    Who authorized a second future history when we don’t have enough of your first one. Really, I mean, do you know how much weight you’ve added to my LG branded Kindle (that replaced my Nook branded one) already? 🙂

    Then again, having multiple series to wait for the next book/story makes it easier to survive the waits for all my other next in the series needs (and hey, of the two I’m following that finished in the past three years I’m finally almost done).

  8. But do not worry about “a woman’s special way of thinking.” I think in that discussion I actually blurted out “with her brain?”…

    Oh passionate esteemed hostess: There is a reason we love and respect you.

    • Just reminds me of an apocryphal tale of some bubbly young womyn that was proud of having voted “With her lady parts” in 2012. Sadly wasn’t there because the following two thoughts came to mind.

      “So that’s why the lever was sticky”
      “Glad I purelled the screen”

    • Yeah…that was the applause line of the post.

  9. Any chance you could share the reading list? I’m always interested in adding things to my TBR pile on the kindle.

    As far as single-race goes, the most plausible to me is that each space colony will be predominantly from one country – there’ll be an American one, a Chinese one, etc. Unless, of course, it turns out that the cost is so prohibitive for even the largest economies to pay for them by themselves.

    As for corporations – I’ve worked for some large ones and agree with the characterization. But when I was working for Microsoft while the DOJ antitrust investigations were going on I always wondered why they didn’t just pack up and move to the Caymans or something. I mean, they had 40 billion dollars in cash in the bank at the time, and about 40k employees. If you moved that many employees to most of the caribbean islands you’d basically take over the place. Apple should be considering doing the same thing right now. And that’s how you end up with quasi-governmental big corporations, at least if I’m writing the novel.

    • Do you really want Apple to literally run your country? They are good at tech but not so good to horrible on other things. There are skills to creating and maintaining infrastructure that are not in Apple’s skill set.

      • Not particularly, but I would say that having been to a number of them, I’d be hard pressed to say that Apple would do a worse job than the current leadership.

        We’ve actually got an interesting, somewhat related, test-case going on right now. In 2012 or so, Larry Ellison bought 98% of the Hawaiian Island of Lanai, and is basically running it as his own fiefdom right now. It will be really interesting to see how it looks in a decade or so.

        • Look up “Fordlandia” for an example of an ultimate company-state…

          • Feather Blade

            “St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I cain’t go: I sold my soul to the company store!”

        • Based on several of Larry’s well known personality quirks, like the province of a daimyo of the Tokugawa Shogunate, probably including the right to behead one peasant a year to test the edge of his sword.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Not to mention war.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Issue is law. Say the employees have the ability to set what the laws are by voting or force of arms. Law defines the contractual relationship between the employees and the corporation. Why couldn’t they set the law so that they can loot the corporation’s assets and retire?

      I suspect that unless a jurisdiction is much larger than a corporation’s employees, and maybe customers, there is too much risk and uncertainty. Unless the ‘corporation’ has an alternate means of loyalty, such as in feudal government, in which case it is more the alternative than a corporation.

      • In terms of supercorporations IN SPAAAACE! I would see the most likely cause as the initial need for company stores and such, much like you would see on oil rigs where the company provides all living essentials. As the colony grows it would be pretty simple to set the corporation up as a ‘Benevolent Dictatorship’ as would likely be necessary in early phases of the colonization (And honestly the closest governmental model to corps). If the government walks away from space expansion that is the most likely model I can see.

      • “Why couldn’t they set the law so that they can loot the corporation’s assets and retire?”

        There’s no such tendency in today’s employee-owned companies. I think we’ll eventually see colonies in the form of joint-stock companies. You can buy a share for $X. Volunteers for the colony automatically get 2 shares. Fertile women volunteers get an extra share, as do high-demand professions (doctors, engineers, farmers, etc.)

        • Randy Wilde

          Anne McCaffrey had something like that for the colonization of Pern, I think, with the number of shares related to how much land you got.

          • I figure 1 share = 1 vote. Kids born to colonists get a share at birth with their parents holding proxy until they reach majority. That might offset some of the worst problems of universal suffrage.

        • Manticoran History 101.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Yeah, but do today’s employee-owned companies have the ratio of wealth to employee that was claimed as evidence that Microsoft could have been transferred? As an aside, are employee owned companies less innovative?

          There is a difference between a group of people with common interest making a consensus decision, and a bunch of experts for hire dragged along with someone else’s decision.

      • Randy Wilde

        Why couldn’t they set the law so that they can loot the corporation’s assets and retire?

        I’m sure everyone at the Twentieth Century Motor Company has everyone else’s best interests at heart.

        • It’s not usually the ‘let’s divy it all up today’ but more the ‘we deserve to be taken care of in retirement’ that kills companies.

    • yeah, that makes sense — how you end up with them — but then they also change and become governments, really. So…
      I’ll share the reading list as I go down it, which is not until the two novels are in to Baen.

  10. > periodic references to “corporations”
    > eclipsing “governments.”

    Megacorps running the world was part of the common cyberpunk-dystopia meme of the 1980s-1990s. People thought corporations would build their own armies of mercenaries and fight it out.

    In actuality, I’m pretty sure they outsource that sort of thing to national governments. A little lobbying, some baksheesh, and let someone else do the dirty work…

    • A little lobbying, some baksheesh, and let someone else do the dirty work…

      The actual processes of waste management is generally not something people think of as glamorous. Let someone else take the blame for the dirty work necessary to keep the world from being taken over by human garbage and dreck.

      • Compare the costs with hiring, training and equipping a mercenary army to the costs of bribing a few congresscritters and senators. Amazingly, it seems our elected officials are quite inexpensive to purchase their loyalty.
        Even better, with regulatory capture, the influence peddling can occur before the army is required. For instance ‘taxi medallions’ vs Uber.

    • I also remember the Traveller RPG having megacorporations which were virtually governments unto themselves. Space fleets, ground forces, the works.

      • but where is the corporation registered? Which laws does it obey? My contention is at that point you’re dealing with a nation state, principate or satrapy, not a corporation.

        • What is interesting given the obsession of corporations as governments I can only think of one instance where a sci-fi evil big corporation was based on the East India Company in India which is arguably the best historical prototype.

          And that example isn’t in the cyberpunk or modern communist sci-fi era but was published in 1952.

        • You’re thinking of it too logically. Even though it is a state with the CEO as head of state (Sorta kinda Ferengi) if they admitted that it was evil government people wouldn’t associate it with the target the author/creator had in mind

        • It’s registered at a lawyer’s office or PO box in a state or country far away, that has no regulatory control over your practices, and where you’ve never even set foot…

          • Hence my argument the model, which no one seems to use, should be the East India Company.

          • Kind of like all cruise ships being registered to the Bahamas.

            • That is all about labor laws and union contracts.

              • The Jones Act comes to mind. Stop foreign competition for the longshoreman’s union.

                • Same thing is going on with IIRC Norwegian airlines. Pilots and Attendants unions mad that they are hiring from SE Asia for a company with holdings in Cork and Dublin (To get in under Open Skies treaties)

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              In one Jerry Pournelle story, there was this “big corporation” that had problems with a government but legally couldn’t take any sort of military actions (while a US corp, the US government wouldn’t help them).

              By the end of the story, they made a deal with a small government (Tonga) so that if they had to take military actions, they’d do it under the name of the Tonga government.

              Oh, it was a good deal for the Tonga people as well as for the corporation.

              • Well, look at Poul Anderson’s “The Star Fox” too.

                It wasn’t one of Anderson’s better books; too much is filler, and the stitching-together of its episodic structure is coarse. But Gunnar Heim and his privateers using a French letter of marque to balk the alien takeover of a colony world sounds much more believable now than it did back then…

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  But the French issuing a Letter of Marque?

                  That’s unbelievable!!!! 😈

                  • Actually, in the book it was pretty cool. As I recall, the French felt like they were being slighted by the rest of the UN (Federated Nations, whatever) and found an ancient, totally overlooked authority that allowed them to issue the letter of marque legitimately under the existing legal structure, thereby catapulting them directly back into the center of attention. Totally believable. 🙂

        • The megacorps were registered with the overall government (the Imperium) and operated throughout its borders.

          This government ruled 11,000 systems, and communications were limited to the speed of travel, so lower levels of government had a lot of power, especially on the frontiers. While the corporations did control some worlds, their primary focus was still commerce. Sometimes that commerce involved paramilitary action.

        • How will any corporation or government even keep tabs its people when they are flung far in space. Distance and time lags will be a huge headache for bureaucracy. Lots of little corps working freelance for bigger corps bigger than governments perhaps but all running different rules due to different situations.

          • Traveller thought about things like this a lot…they even have a large discussion in a New Era rulebook about the problem of maintaining a ship registry that is accurate in such an environment.

          • Oh, and they did so by using European colonies in the 17th and 18th century as models (and setting the travel speed to roughly that level…the periphery was roughly the same distance as China was from England before steam ships).

            • It’ll be real fun if suspended animation ever gets used. Determining what amount of time has passed even for a very short duration – could mean all the rules having changed when you wake up.

              • In Traveller it’s called a Low Berth whose mechanics and culture are pretty much lifted straight out of the Dumarest of Terra novels.

                When the New Era hit revival of people in suspended animation over a century who were awakened only to find their entire culture gone was a big plot element.

                • Oky dokey I’ve just pulled up a few links on Traveller to have a look through. Cheers.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                The “Real Fun” is when the giant colony ship is slower-than-light with Suspended Animation and when the ship gets to “their world” it has been settled by people who came in FTL colony ships.

                Note, David Weber’s Manticore was settled by STL Colony Ships but the Earth-Based Manticore Corporation sent FTL ships to make sure that nobody else settled Manticore before the STL ships arrived.

                Of course, the founder of Manticore had thought ahead. [Smile]

          • Wayne Blackburn

            I think that any distance which requires more than a year or so of travel will really be considered part of the same group, because eventually too much change happens between going and returning. I would doubt that even a year would be tolerated now, as it was back in colonial times (yes, I know it didn’t take that long, but a round trip which included several stops could take that long).

            If we don’t have FTL, we won’t consider anything in a different solar system as part of our group. Right now, we would probably only consider the Moon close enough to not be an entirely different culture.

          • How will any corporation or government even keep tabs its people when they are flung far in space.

            Each level of government (or corporate office) has authority to actually get things done, and delegates the necessary authority to the next lower authority.

            There will be problems, of course. I think the Traveller source material had at least one example of two companies in a region of space actively working against each other… only to find out later that they were part of the same megacorporation.

        • It doesn’t have to be registered anywhere. Think about how the Articles of Association on a pirate ship worked. Does that scale up to a multi-stellar megacorp? I don’t know, but maybe, if you treat individual teams as a ship, essentially, and the company as a fleet, with admirals and a grand admiral.

        • If you realize that a corporation is nothing more than a group of people working together (cooperating) for a common purpose, the difference between a corporation and a government becomes rather academic.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I see the “Megacorp as Government” model to be along the lines of, “At one time, they were a company in the [Insert name here] System, but then they went independent as they did more and more intersystem trading, and had to build their own quasi-governmental system with its own laws. Now, they are still referred to as ‘The Company’, but that is only a historical remnant. Really, they are now a Country, spread across a large section of interstellar space. They trade with planetary governments, but also their various groups are so spread out and so diverse, that most of their trading is internal.”

          In a situation like that, it might lead to company colony worlds having wars to go independent from “The Company”.

        • Actually, Sarah, it would probably look much the way it does now. Using the one I work for as an example, it’s officially incorporated in the state of Delaware, because of favorable laws for corporate organization, employer – employee relations, etc. It has offices and employees all over the world; the offices and the employees assigned to them operate under the building codes, labor laws, etc. of the government where the office is physically located, modified by any special terms negotiated into the laws and regs in exchange for locating there, and probably on “relationships” with local officials. Taxes paid would be pretty much the same.

          Right now, it tends to follow US law over all others because the US has had the power to make it advantageous to follow it’s laws even when operating on other countries soil. That is going to change because the US government is seen as increasingly ineffectual; witness Apple allowing the Chinese government security access it’s fighting with the FBI over.

          If the corporation is outside the effective governance range of the government it is nominally organized under, then it will simply set up a local government that will allow it to operate most freely. David Weber’s interstellars are a perfect example of how that would work. They don’t have their own official military, but if they can suborn a “government” or some portion thereof, then they will effectively have one.

          • Yah, but without a nearby government to enforce laws, what would it REALLY look like.

            • Legally? Again, like it does now. In practice, probably like the East India Company: it would have armed ships, it would conduct its’ own negotiations, and the only thing it would worry about is whether or not its’ activities would rise to the level where the nearby government to its’ owners would take notice and it couldn’t persuade it to look the other way.

      • Patrick Chester

        They could affect planetary governments, but if their antics got too disruptive the 3rd Imperium’s government would intervene.

        • Randy Wilde

          True… but the same would happen to planetary governments that got too far out of line.

          Now I’m getting nostalgic and want to dig up my old gaming stuff.

        • Unless they could influence the 3rd Imperium’s government not to.

    • I was always amused by the cyberpunk megacorp villains. They were essentially unrecognizable because, let’s face it, corporations just aren’t threatening as they are. The one that employs you can fire you, but otherwise Nike, for example, is limited to selling you or not selling you shoes. The worst they can do is threaten to withhold the next shipment of Air Jordans. Thus, the corporations had to have treaties that made them exempt from local laws and give them the power to make their own laws. They had to have police powers and standing armies.

      In other words, in order to make your megacorps even vaguely threatening, you have to make them indistinguishable from governments. That point was usually lost on fans of the cyberpunk genre.

      • Anonymous Coward

        I kinda liked the Zorg Corporation in The Fifth Element. Perfect cartoon version of the megacorp of the future.

      • “In other words, in order to make your megacorps even vaguely threatening, you have to make them indistinguishable from governments. That point was usually lost on fans of the cyberpunk genre.”

        Not exactly. What they were usually based on was essentially the Mafia and other organized crime families. They didn’t care if what they were doing was against the law because they had made sure through bribery and outright intimidation that the law would never be enforced against them. They might have “wars” over territory, etc., but they’d just as soon leave the “normal duties of government right where they were. And they had “militaries” for the same reason that the East India Company and other trading companies had armed ships.

        The heavy weapons and spec ops teams usually were a response to the introduction of either magic, or superheroics / mutants / high tech enhancements. Both of them were usually the sort of thing that meant that one man could in fact stand up to a squad. Doesn’t even count the presence of something like Dunkelzahn the Dragon in Shadowrun.

    • PRECISELY on the outsourcing. Big governments and big corporations are one single love affair.

    • Actually, it predates the 80s. It had enough currency to be behind the movie Rollerball in the early 70s and I know at least one novel, Jem from the period used it.

      If figure if it had enough currency to make a movie in 1975 it showed up in sci-fi in the 60s.

      Finally, please donate to your local Little League Rollerball teams.

      • Absolutely. A lot of Piper’s stuff as based on the same idea back in the ’40s and ’50s. But for a couple of decades there it was *very* popular. Then it morphed into Shadowrun and urban fantasy…

        • Yep..even showed up in Heinlein in Friday although he was a bit more nouanced about it and had fund discussions of how the corporate states were hard to bomb into submission. He did, however, have corporate citizens recognized as such meaning the corporations in question were treated as states although ones without territory.

      • One of the key ideas in Rollerball was that the game existed to show that an individual couldn’t excel and the team was more important. That sounds more like a Government idea than a business concern.

        • Be that as it may the world was run by coporations and talking about that is a constant in the movie. The corporations are essentially governments, even governing specific territory. They are also sector specific: energy, electronics, food, etc and the territories map to sector in a very mid-70s way. Energy’s capital is Houston, for example, in case you didn’t realize they were Standard Oil already.

          • I thought that Energy was capitalized in Dallas (the financial center of the Republic of Texas?)

            • I thought Jonathan’s team was based in Houston but it could be Dallas (been years since I saw the movie). Still, the meme was Energy = Texas = Oil in either case.

              • I meant co. HQ in Houston money in Dallas. It’s only 4 to 6 hours if you’re driving and an hour by air.

        • Sounds like Marxist collectivism to me. US has team sports but, there opportunities for individuals to shine.

  11. As for the ‘who gets to go’ well look at who went -last time- and that will tell you who will go next time. And by last time I’m talking about the tens of thousands of people who got on small leaky boats and sailed off to a new world.
    Those are the same people who will go next time.
    Thinking that any move into space will be diverse is pretty damn stupid, because it ignores history. The people who go into space will be very monolithic in both race and culture.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      When I was young, I read one book out of an apparent series that seemed to use or be close to Sarah’s model of getting them from young teens. Which despite the practical issues might be the way to go if one is working in the style of a Japanese light novel. Of course, if one is chasing that market, one probably is not also chasing hard sci fi readers.

      • Why? Heinlein did both.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Heinlein did hard sci fi for the juvenile market.

          Japanese light novels are close enough in target age. Assuming I know anything about those, hard sci fi isn’t that common. If one is chasing English readers who really like those, I would be unsurprised at seeing one choose harem romance and fantastic action.

          Of course, it is easy enough to get pirate translations for free that that a paint-by-the-numbers written in English would probably get lost in the noise.

          Maybe I’m just poorly read.

    • The default setting for humans is tribal. It will be the same no matter where we go.

      • I have a feeling tribal doesn’t mean what you think it means, though. As in, I’ve seen this in action and it’s less “what you look like” than “what is in the head.” Which is why Portuguese used to cluster with South Americans and if those were missing, then anything vaguely Mediterranean. Not me, though. I’m a goat.

  12. Eh, I never thought of it as corporations eclipsing governments. I thought of it more as entrepeneurs taking off from where the governments seem to have stagnated.

    I had a really good time at the TVIW. Finding out there were such things as NASA fanbois, complete with large tats of the logo on their biceps was different.

    • It wasn’t you. THAT one kept cropping up in the scientist talk, which always made me giggle. It was clear they were unclear on the concept. 😀

      • Never thought it was directed at me.

        I’m still scratching my head over the astroethicist, and his assumption that no one there had had an ethics course or had never considered the ethics of exploration.

        • Now, that’s not quite fair to Jim. If you talked to him one-on-one, his position wasn’t nearly so hard-edged as it might have seemed from his plenary talk.

        • Here’s a presentation that Jim gave for his philosophy department at Wichita State:

    • Hey, Jim’s tat was kind of cool! 🙂 It certainly matched his T-shirt on Tuesday.

  13. I am almost finished with Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves”. It is about being forced into space and what happens around the forcing and decisions made and their outcomes. It hits a lot of the topics you’re talking about including “Who gets to go” and “corporate vs gubmint space programs”. There are a lot of data dumps (which the author does in most of his books) but an interesting read.

    • I was initially annoyed that the Earth didn’t start building Orion ships and head over to Saturn space. But then I read “Anathem” and saw he did the Orion ship thing already.
      Plus, it would have been a completely different story.

  14. thephantom182

    Here’s a question. Did any of the academics give thought to how anyone was going to make a buck out of space travel, much less interstellar travel?

    • there was a lot of talk about this, with everyone agreeing it’s impossible. (Except me. There will be ways to make a buck.)

      • thephantom182

        I’m surprised. At least they are thinking about it. Generally academics treat questions about money as beneath their notice, in my experience anyway. Possibly I have met all the wrong ones.

        • The Other Sean

          Except when it comes time for the university’s contract with the unions to be renegotiated, of course.

        • I think you met the wrong ones, particularly with the rise of patent sharing and the prospect of self-funding labs.

        • I’ve often thought you could tell the difference between collegiate or otherwise funded scientists vs corps by their closing spiel. The former say they need further study and money. The latter say here’s what we did or are doing.

          They are good at keeping their funding coming but not at monetizing the ideas sometimes.

          • There’s needs to be a balance between cool factor and what do customers need/want/will pay for?

    • John S. Lewis wrote a good book on the subject entitled “Mining The Sky”

    • They conveniently ignore all the nickel-iron asteroids, the fact that you can vacuum titanium off the surface of the moon, and several other vectors. They seem convinced, or actively trying to convince others, that you can’t make a buck off it.

      • they’re academic not commercial thinkers. Ringo discussed/showed the possibilities in his Troy Rising series: Live Free or Die, Citadel and The Hot Gate.

      • You stepped in a trap that I almost stepped in a while back (though it doesn’t detract from your point – I mention this only for humor value): Pray tell how a vacuum would work on the Moon?


      • They seem convinced, or actively trying to convince others, that you can’t make a buck off it.

        Ignoring my snarky comment above, it may, indeed, prove difficult to make enough profit by providing Earth with materials to make the venture profitable, but once you have continuous inhabitants in space, the profit will be there, because you sure as hell don’t want to lift all their supplies and such from Earth.

  15. thephantom182

    By the way, concur with above regarding “who gets to go”. Only malcontents, hard asses and guys fleeing the authorities will be seen heading to space colonies.

    Probably mostly Scotsmen, same as last time.

    • The Other Sean

      No True Scotsmen will flee.

    • Why have Australians and Americans always gotten along so well? Because the Australians are descended from the ones that got caught while the Americans are descended from the ones that got away.

      • Name the planet ANZAC!

        • Imagine a planet settled by Usaians, ANZACs, and Gurkhas. Imagine the consternation on the part of the rest of the galaxy. 😀

          (One of Rahoul Khan’s nightmares is imagining Cdr. Na Gael Ni Drako meeting Gurkhas. They’d have waaaay too much fun.)

          • With the political philosophy resembling that of my Appalachian ancestors:

            I’m not bothering anyone, it’s none of your business, leave me the heck alone!

          • Please write more Cat and Dragon stories. I’ve read all of them and am experiencing Ni Drako withdrawal.

    • Israelis?

  16. Initially, it seems space corporations will be registered with the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, for codifying laws on how much of the mineral wealth the corporation is allowed to keep. Naturally, the UN and Transnationals will scream about anyone except themselves having the opportunity for graft and corruption.
    I think at least initially, the ‘diversity’ by most metrics will be diverse; but, those willing to accept responsibility for their own actions will be the crucible that purifies their culture.
    Now, once the number of off-world settlements increases, the possibilities for self-selection and homogenization also increase.
    Long term, it depends on how efficient interstellar travel is and how many terraformable worlds there are available. Not to mention xenophobic alien races.

  17. If the emigrant is not physically and mentally prepared to work his/her butt off, he/she must be prepared to be fertilizer in the new world.

  18. Christopher M. Chupik

    One of the ideas I’ve periodically entertained would be an SF story where the big corporation were the good guys. Still trying to find the right angle for it.

  19. Patrick Chester

    ….but did you go plaid?

    • she probably wishes she could be all the way into next week.

      • Next week is packing. Can I get to next month?

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Actually, you need a Tardis so you can go some when/where else for a few weeks and return a few seconds after you left.

          You still have that packing to do next week but you could have a few weeks vacation to relax and write. 😀

        • I’ll join you there. The 21st I am supposed to be at the new plant, doing a pilot batch and, having just seen photos of the equipment I am to be working with … I foresee someone, not me, cleaning a mess once my week in town is up.
          Egad, what did I get myself into?

          • Well, we’re moving to stay at a friend’s house for a month, maybe two (tops) while house sale comes through (fingers crossed) then of course, moving again. BUT instead of letting that month or two fry us, I’m treating that time as a break, to just write. Since it’s just the two of us.

            • House, house, house… have you considered putting your “stuff” in storage and buying an RV?

              • actually yes, the problem is the books.

                • We’re moving into a *much* smaller house as soon as I finish remodeling it. (for values of, “major structural repair”)

                  There’s simply not room for all of our books, and not a whole lot of “stuff.” We’re having to plan ahead for the move almost as if we were moving into an RV. It means parting with a *lot* of books. Gharr…

  20. kenashimame


  21. The only other thing that bothered me in these discussions was periodic references to “corporations” eclipsing “governments.” You see the dent on my forehead, children? I have yet to understand where the idea of “magical, evil corporations” comes from. Well, maybe from working for them. Whenever Dan worked for a large corporation, they all functioned like communist governments or the Rome of the Empire, which means centralized, inefficient and (in the limber-versus calcified stakes) about as capable of real movement as a fossilized dinosaur.


  22. But do not worry about “a woman’s special way of thinking.” I think in that discussion I actually blurted out “with her brain?” which is my hope for anyone going out to seed humanity away from the rock of our birth.

    maybe that sort of talk is an attempt to get at the idea that you can’t just have a cubical farm in space?
    You will need the “office mom” type, even if she’s not as effective on paper; you will need the “office dad” type manager, even if short term the results look bad, or in theory they’re unfair. You will need frankly unprofessional relationships between co-workers…. all my examples are coming out in NCIS format, but pick a show that works like that on an interaction level and you get the idea.

  23. Immigration into a ‘new world’ has always taken place in stages.
    First you have the brave risk takers who are willing to take on the challenge either for the challenge, or because they want to get away from where they are.
    Second you have the people who are willing to take some risk, or who are fleeing some level of persecution. Those folks don’t show up until there is some organized form of government (even if only local) and already existing communities. They started coming here in the 1700’s approximately.
    Last are the people who take no risk, and are looking to live off of what’s already there. They may still be productive, but in the overall scope they contribute nothing and are often more trouble than they are worth. We started getting those kinds of people coming to the USA in the 1970’s (but not a single one before that).
    The last group always wants things to ‘be like back home’, which of course they’re the ones that ruined it in the first place.

  24. I should mention, I was at TVIW too, and on the same working track as Sarah. “Who gets to go?” wasn’t really a central part of our questions, more of an aside. A much bigger part of the discussion was, how do you get a space-faring civilization that’s willing to expend the large amount of wealth required over a long period to successfully create and follow through on an interstellar colonization?

    There was a fair amount of discussion on the Pacific (polynesian) vs. Atlantic (european) models of colonization, meaning gradual expansion vs. sudden leap expansion. The discussion seemed to be tending toward gradual expansion of habitats through the solar system as a prerequisite for any interstellar missions, both to have a large population looking outward for more lebensraum and to get experience with creating long-lasting closed environments before tossing them far beyond any possible assistance.

    The question of “who gets to go?” also morphed into “who wants to go?” and in my mind at least, “how do you stop anyone from going if they want to?” After all, unless you assume that it will require a substantial portion of the resources of the entirety of civilization to launch your interstellar mission, I will guarantee you that no one organization or group will have total control over all the missions being launched.

    There was a lot of discussion on precursor exploratory missions, direct imaging of extra-solar planets prior to launching any mission, and various other biological and social requirements for any such mission.

    As for funding an interstellar mission, I proposed peopling the ship entirely with remittance men. Funding problem solved! 😀

    • There’s a largeish difference between Polynesian and European colonization: a single Polynesian could build an outrigger with his own hands and head off alone or with some friends or family. The European system depended on ships, shipwrights, carpenters, sawyers, an entire textile industry, metalworking… a sailing ship the size of the Nina required a whole industry to build.

      The Polynesian could land on an island, observe that the usual types of edibles were on hand, set up a hut, and live pretty much as he did before, less those annoying neighbors he had before. The Europeans, on the other hand, had *debt*; ships were too expensive to build and maintain without some expectation of profit. And whatever profit they found had to be portable and desirable enough to bring to some place where they could exchange it for money.

      • Sorry TRX, my reply to this came out as a fresh thread below. Here it is again:

        You’re of course talking only about the post-Columbus European system. The vikings did something fairly analogous to the polynesians, about 500 years earlier.

        You point out how the polynesians operated when they reached a new island. Honestly, that’s pretty closely analogous to how a group of belters would probably work when they decided Vesta was getting too crowded and it was time to spin up and stabilize a new habitat somewhere in the Jovian trojans.

        And what’s to say that profit would be the only motive driving a group to create a new habitat further out? After all, there are very few organizations with a long-term enough viewpoint to sustain an interstellar effort, and a very large amount of them are religions.

    • This seems odd to me. Barring some as yet unknown technological advance, extraterrestrial colonization will be limited to the confines of this solar system for an extremely long time.
      The planning should be focused on planetary and free orbiting colony infrastructure and the expansion of cargo capacity and reduction of transit time of space vehicles.
      IMHO interstellar travel/colonization (at least as a practical consideration) is a red herring distracting us from the real work needing to be done to finally get off of this rock.

      • I hear you, but the whole group was the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop so the topic was pretty much predetermined.

      • Some people need a heroic goal to strive for before settling down to working out the fiddly bits that actually get the ball moving.

        • And once we have the solar system we’ll want to go elsewhere. Also, only the solar system is not safe enough.

        • Some people need a heroic goal to strive for before settling down to working out the fiddly bits that actually get the ball moving.

          This. As I recall, the era of NASA being big news also included a whole lot of talk about beginning the push out into the solar system, but of course we slowed down drastically after landing men on the Moon. Talking about going interstellar might be enough push to launch us the rest of the way out into the solar system. Perhaps when the time is ripe for going interstellar, we’ll start having an Intergalactic Workshop.

    • Yeah, it wasn’t a big part of it. It was just the part that made my eyes cross. 😀

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I proposed peopling the ship entirely with remittance men.

      I hope you included remittance women as well. [Very Big Evil Grin]

  25. You’re of course talking only about the post-Columbus European system. The vikings did something fairly analogous to the polynesians, about 500 years earlier.

    You point out how the polynesians operated when they reached a new island. Honestly, that’s pretty closely analogous to how a group of belters would probably work when they decided Vesta was getting too crowded and it was time to spin up and stabilize a new habitat somewhere in the Jovian trojans.

    And what’s to say that profit would be the only motive driving a group to create a new habitat further out? After all, there are very few organizations with a long-term enough viewpoint to sustain an interstellar effort, and a very large amount of them are religions.

  26. Yeah, but when the Dutch set out to colonize the world they invented the Dutch East India Company, which was a nice cosy crony capitalist deal featuring the great and the good. And then the Brits did the same thing with the British East India Company.

    So I think that we’ll end up doing the same thing when we colonize the stars. And what with our modern billionaires each with their own space program, what’s not to like?

  27. I should perhaps also mention that Lt. General Steven Kwast, commander and president of Air University at Maxwell AFB, gave a presentation titled “Remarks Concerning America’s Far Future in Deep Space.” Given his perspective and obligations it was expectedly focused on a US viewpoint rather than a pan-human one, but I’ve just today queried him about some of the more abstract points discussed (how to project the rule of law out into the solar system and to bring violators to account, for one). If he responds I’ll pass along his thoughts.

  28. Never mind all that guff, Sarah, where’s my reactionless drive?

  29. c4catching up

  30. Totally off topic, but I was in the grocery store this evening and discovered Koala Crisp and Panda Puffs cereals. And was horribly disappointed to discover that neither contains koalas or pandas. They are made by *shudder* Envirokids Cereal. What ever became of sugar laden, bad-for-you, marshmallows with cereal bits for breakfast?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I eat their gluten free dairy free rice krispie bars sometimes.

    • Anonymous Coward

      Sadly, I see no chance of you being fairly compensated for this outrage :

    • EnviroKids? They’re soylent green?

      • One wonders . . .

      • Cardboard, iirc.

        They’re about the quality that Malt-o-Meal was in the mid 90s (very cheap*) but in boxes that are about the same size as the old name-brand cereal. About the same price as a good store brand.

        Not A Fan, even before the whole gag me with a spoon for the envirotheme.

        * I specify because I REMEMBER how bad that stuff was. Now it’s basically all my kids eat, and it’s at least as good as the Kellogs stuff was. I’d guess when they switched over to the “MOM” logo they relaunched with an eye on quality.

    • The Other Sean

      You sound almost as disappointed as I was to discover that the Endangered Species Chocolate Bars at the museum store did not contain the endangered species depicted on the chocolate bars. In fact, they contained no endangered species at all!

      • To say nothing about the disappointment on reading the ingredients list on a Baby Ruth candy bar…

  31. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Since a certain name has been mentioned and Sarah was annoyed at the “evil corporation” theme, I’d give an example of “what to avoid” if you want the corporation in your story to be the “bad guys”.

    Fuzzy Nation, a “rip-off” of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.

    The head of the corporation in Fuzzy Nation was a cardboard villain of the “worst kind” and I couldn’t finish that book.

    If you’re going to create villainous corporate folks, please make them more realistic than that author did.

    • That book was one of the numerous reasons why I don’t buy his books anymore.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Presenting corporations as bad guys is inherently racist, and a retrograde attempt to back the clock on the civil rights issue of our time. Anyone who does so is the same as David Duke. I expect SFWA to endorse Trump any day now.

    • I’d never even heard of John Scalzi when I tried to read that book.

      That was about like hiring Ann Leckie to write a sequel to “Starship Troopers.”

      • The Other Sean

        I think you just broke my brain.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Worse, nobody hired him to “re-write” Little Fuzzy, he wanted to “improve” it and got permission from the “Piper estate”. :frown:

        • I used to visit his site. The Big Idea posts where he lets authors promote their books are cool. So I new he was working on it. I could not get past the first chapter. I haven’t read his Hugo winning Star Trek fan fic.

          His industrial strength SJW crap drove me away.

  32. Corporations morphing into quasi-governments? Perhaps like the British or Dutch East India companies? Or the Massachusetts Bay Company? In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were more than a few companies that filled the roles of governments and some of them even developed into governments that are still with us today.

    • Sigh, yes, I can see that. What I can’t see is corporations working the same way they do now, in space.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        In space with cyborg assassins that do not earn a living wage, and homosexual polar bears going extinct for lack of recycling.

        • I can just see cyborg assassins completing their hits, then rifling the pockets of their victims for spare change…

          • Nah, everyone would be using DNA-coded credit cards instead of money. But the assassin might check the spot market for internal organs and relieve the corpse of its kidneys or liver if they were in demand…

          • Patrick Chester

            Well, they’re dead-dead so that’s pretty much all you can do.

      • Never mind Lawyers on Mars (fun book), imagine Stockborkers in Space trying to time their careers between successive interstellar market collapses separated by FTL time-lag restrictions…

        • I remember a story from the 60s that revolved around interplanetary arbitrage when Venus was behind the sun from Earth and communication would be down for a few days.

  33. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    In Jerry Pournelle’s Tinker, we have IMO a possible way Corps In Space would operate.

    There is no government in the Belt (Asteroid Belt) but there are existing agreements between the Major Corporations that operate and/or have business connections in the Belt.

    While obvious, if the Corps are based on Earth, they have to operate *there* under governmental laws & regulations but no government has the reach to enforce such things in the Belt.

    Generally, the Major Corps enforce such agreements even when dealing with “small fry” who didn’t “sign onto” the agreements.

    IIRC its implied that the Major Corps won’t “violate” such agreements even if the “small fry” lacked the “power” to fight a Major Corp.

    Of course, the “small fry” who is the POV character in the story worries about him being treated unfairly when he’s a pawn of somebody else who is trying to “screw” one of the Major Corps.

    Fortunately, one of the “roaming agents” of a Major Corp is aware that he’s just a pawn so he’s clear.

    Oh, while the Corps in the story would deny that they are the “Government In The Belt”, IMO they would fit Sarah’s idea that the “Corps would become the government”.