State of the 'Verse

So, it’s been pretty quiet around here this month.

Part of that is post-book recovery, of course, but another part is that in celebration of Book III, I’ve been working on a fairly comprehensive revamp of the technical end of this site and its associated operations to make them work better, stronger, faster, cooler, and all that.

Top of that particular list is that we now have a Discourse as a discussion and chat site for the reader and fan community, which you can get to through the “Community” link at the top of the page. This is part of a greater effort to stop splitting said community up across multiple incompatible sites and services, which will later also include replacing the WordPress comments for new posts with shiny new Discourse topics embedded right into the pages. In the meantime, if you want to talk about the ‘verse, or have questions you want to ask, or the like, the Discourse is the absolute best place to do it.

There’s more, of course, but that’s for later. In the meantime, please enjoy the new community site!

The King and the Planet Are One

KALLAER (SAPROS DEMESNE) – As the Laeth Pact entered its third year of economic recession, the reign of Hieros Navat atir-Laeth ul-Sark was brought to an end today. After failing to successfully address the Pact’s ongoing economic problems, the Elder Chieftains of the Pact directed that the Hieros be dedicated to the shadows of the overworld in accordance with the customary usages.

The ritual sacrifice was performed at the Omphalos by the chosen Successor, na-Hieros Rabil atir-Laeth ul-Rank. The former Hieros met his end with the dignity proper to his office, walking willingly to the altar after exchanging a few words with the Successor.

As is traditional, the flesh of the former Hieros will be plowed into the fields for the fertility of the land, his blood poured into the aqueducts serving the capital as a blessing on his people, and his bones gifted to interstellar merchants for good fortune in the marketplace.

An announcement of policy changes from the new Hieros is expected in three days, local time; 4.1 days, Imperial Standard.

As We Wax Hot In Faction

To understand the Conclave of Galactic Polities, it is perhaps most important to understand the various alignments within it, of which there are six major alignments (although these together make up less than two-thirds of Conclave members) and a large number of minor alignments which may or may not associate with one of the major alignments.

These alignments, of course, are almost entirely informal blocs; such power as their leaders may have over their members or benefits which their members may receive is exercised outside the Conclave itself.

The Empire, as you know, is the foremost polity of the Imperial Axis, a minor alignment composed of our satrapies, client-states, allies, and close friends. The Axis, in turn, is one of the leading lights of the major Freedom’s Necessities alignment, known to our detractors as the “Minimalists” or the “Irresponsibles”.

In the Conclave, Freedom’s Necessities acts to promote the hands-off, laissez-faire approach to interstellar governance coordination we favor, ensuring that the Accord does everything that it must, and nothing else.

Two other Presidium powers, the Photonic Network and Consolidated Waserai Echelons, also commonly align with us. The Rim Free Zone, also, is a dedicated supporter of the alignment, but one which frequently ends up opposed to us in internal debates. We also attract considerable support from the minor species of the Worlds, since we are happy to offer these species concessions and benefits (such as can be offered) in exchange for cooperation and support, contrary to the demands so often made by more interventionist powers.

Of the other alignments, there are four of particular significance:

The Council for Economic Justice & Development

Also known to cynics as the “Levelers”, or the “Parasites on Parade”, the Council’s concern is the transference of income from rich polities to poor ones. In practice, this means that their primary support comes from emerging market polities which resist economic integration into upper-tier markets, but aren’t sufficiently kleptocratic as to caucus with the Socionovists for self-preservation.

In the long run, they would dearly love to institute a progressive tax on gross polity product across the Worlds to fund aid to their members, but without a Presidium seat, their current business model is largely holding up Conclave business (and in particular the establishment of new colonies) until sufficiently bribed.

The Responsible Government Movement

Sometimes shortened to the “Federalists”, or derided as the “Meddlesome” or the “Alliance for Pecksniffery”, the Movement’s grand dream is the conversion of the Accord from an intergovernmental association into a full federated interstellar governance, with the Conclave as its legislature. Concomitantly, this would also entail much deeper intervention into the affairs of member polities to enforce its policies and expansive view of sophont benefices, and it is an open secret that the federation the Movement wishes to see is one of democratic – or, more realistically, oligarchic – republics.

The Movement’s prime mover, the League of Meridian, is also a Presidium power. It attracts support from a variety of strong republic-model polities across the Worlds.

The Socionovist Association

Pithily summed up as the “Union of Repressive Autocracies”, the Socionovist Association is composed of – by its own description – those polities opposed to the current political and economic order of the Worlds, who seek reform along better and fairer lines.

By everyone else’s description, the Socionovist Association is a collection of malcontents, rogue states, despots, kleptocrats, and the generally despicable, united primarily to prevent interventions in polities’ internal affairs, limit peacekeeping operations, and generally to stir up trouble.

The principal members of the Socionovist Association are those polities which are, if we may be permitted use of the vernacular, “begging for a good kicking”.

The Systems’ Rights Alliance

Also known as the “Localists” or the “Disintegrationists”, the Systems’ Rights Alliance sees itself primarily as a watchdog on interventions. They chiefly oppose the Meddlesome, whose interference in their internal affairs would be unwelcome, but also oppose us in our desire to open up free trade and travel across the Worlds.

Unlike the Socionovists, however, they are prepared to back interventions against governances engaged in, for example, slavery or democide, and fully support peacekeeping operations against interstellar imperialism.

Much of the support for the Alliance comes from members of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms – as a matter of principle – but they also draw considerable support from polities with particularly unconventional governance forms, including many utopian, religious, and ideological colonies, and also from the Microstatic Alliance, who see themselves as easily steamrolled by larger factions.

– MoSaO briefing book for new Conclave attaches

Darkness Within

Darkness Within, the third book of Tales of the Associated Worlds, is now officially released, in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats. It can be obtained here:

Primarily set after the Core War, this book returns to the style of “Vignettes of the Star Empire”, with more nanofiction from the Associated Worlds, including some of the events following the war in “Aftershocks”, and the multi-part story “Darkness Within”.

[Buy now as an e-book for Amazon Kindle.]
[Buy now from]

I hope you enjoy it.

The fourth book in the series, Unscheduled Reality Excursions, is currently planned for late 2020 or first half 2021.

Book Announcement

After a troubled period in its development, I am delighted to be able to announce that the third book in the Tales of the Associated Worlds series, Darkness Within and Other Stories, will be released on December 12th this year in Kindle e-book and paperback. Pre-orders will be open soon.

Additionally, to accompany this release, the previous two books in the series, Vignettes of the Star Empire and The Core War and Other Stories will be on sale starting December 1st, so if you haven’t already got them, that would be a good time.

(Or if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a fellow SF reader, of course!)

Those Pesky Belters

In pre-space speculative fiction the image of the belt miner recapitulated the image of the prospectors of old. Grizzled belters in small ships, big enough to hold them, a small partnership, or perhaps a family, who would set out, hunt down a “motherlode” rock, hack the ore out of it with traditional miner’s tools loosely adapted to space, then net it up and sling it on its way to a smelter, cash-for-density.

This concept was, as you might expect, wrong in almost every respect.

To begin with the nature of the beast, ore veins are not to be found among the asteroids. Without a planet’s gravity to differentiate them, or hydrothermal processes to concentrate it into ore bodies, pay dirt tends to be evenly differentiated throughout the rock. And to call an asteroid a rock is itself generous, insofar as the majority of them1 are little more than heaps of rubble glued together with a dusting of regolith.

Thus, the smeltership.

In its modern form, the smeltership is instantly recognizable; they look as if a starship had collided head-on with one of the larger breeds of industrial plant2, and decided for whatever reason to keep on going, accompanied by their flock of parasites and the inescapable halo of dust3. From these ships, the collector drones, “spikers”, travel to nearby target asteroids and wrap them in finely woven titiridion nets, preventing the escape of fragments, then haul them back to the maw of the smeltership proper.

Behind the maw, the smeltership incorporates a maze of ore processing and smelting equipment. While in theory plasma-fountain distillation can reduce anything to its component elements, it is an inefficient process reserved only for otherwise intractable residues of ore processing. More conventional processing chains, therefore, handle the commonplace elements once the asteroids have been powdered by the initial grinding step at the back of the maw.

Meanwhile, flocks of lighters, typically drone freighters and tankers – for the volatiles driven off – attend the stern of the smeltership, collecting the ejected ingots of metal and blocks of other elements, bundling them together, and hauling them to market.

The “almost”? While the largest operators, such as Atalant Materials’ space subsidiary, Celestial Mining, operate entire fleets of fully automated smelterships, many smaller or more specialized mining interests instead contract smelterships owned and operated by independent belt miners – often, indeed, small partnerships or family outfits whose homestead-hab is permanently docked to their ship. So while incorrect in method and scale, the writers of yore did, to their credit, predict the demographics of belt mining correctly…

– A DirtsidersHistory of the Belt

  1. And, ironically, those preferred for mining. More solid asteroids have other uses, while rubble piles are generally considered only of use for mining, and thus the claim-staking fee is lower.
  2. Not the vegetative sort.
  3. Even with high-grade electrostatic traps, regolith fines get everywhere.