Yes, if you were wondering, I just changed the name at the top of the blog.
(It is the official name of the setting, after all, on the book covers and everything.)
But carry on using the short name if you like. It’ll answer to it!
Yes, if you were wondering, I just changed the name at the top of the blog.
(It is the official name of the setting, after all, on the book covers and everything.)
But carry on using the short name if you like. It’ll answer to it!
The Accord of Galactic Polities, less formally known simply as the Accord, is a loose meta-civilization composed of the non-starbound polities of the known regions of the galaxy. The Accord is frequently conflated with the Associated Worlds, which is more properly a galactographic term. (While the Accord is primarily composed of the polities of the Associated Worlds, it is neither exclusively nor exhaustively so composed; there exist both Accord signatories not galactographically part of the Worlds, and polities of the Worlds who are not Conclave signatories.)
It should be noted that the Accord is an association, not a governance – its membership is comprised of those polities which have agreed by treaty to observe certain borders, protocols, and procedures designed to maintain the peace and make trade and communication possible. Similarly, the Accord itself has no officers and maintains no offices; it is simply an agreement between its members.
The most important of the treaties which make up the Accord, of course, is the Accord on the Conclave, being a signatory to which grants full membership in the Conclave of Galactic Polities. This in turn grants you an embassy and exclave on the Conclave Drift, and the right to send one voting representative (titled curate) to the Conclave itself, along with a number of secondary negotiating representatives on the basis of your population. In short, it gives you a seat at the table.
Conclave membership also commits you to the single binding principle thereof: Members of the Accord shall not make war on each other, nor commit acts of war upon each other (including but not limited to piracy, slaving, and intentional destruction or confiscation of property), to the detriment of the Accord.
Violations of the Accords are arbitrated before the Central Conclave Court, an arm of the Conclave.
The ten lesser Accords (which are almost universally adhered to among signatories to the Accord on the Conclave, although a small number of members derogate from one or more of these agreements) are these:
I. the Accord on Colonization
The Accord on Colonization establishes the rules by which claims on colony worlds may be made and negotiated, and/or purchases may be made from the star systems held in trust by the Accord as the stargate plexus expands, including the allocation of limited numbers of habitable and near-habitable worlds as freesoil worlds, open to settlement by anyone.
NOTE: We would urge those polities for whom it galls to be asked to subordinate one’s expansion claims to the overall growth of known space, rather than to be able to expand as one wills into terra nullius, to study the historical summaries included in the first contact packet.
II. the Accord on Intellectual Properties
The Accord on Intellectual Properties provides for the mutual recognition of intellectual property claims between signatories, requiring them to treat all foreign intellectual property at least as well as domestic examples, and setting both strong minimum standards and weaker recommended standards for creator’s privilege, copyright, patent, discovery, and trademark law.
The Accord on Intellectual Properties does not provide for the recognition of intellectual property claims from non-signatory polities.
III. the Accord on Mail and Communications
The Accord on Mail and Communications establishes the Conclave Communications Commission, which addresses both the extranet and physical packet delivery.
In the former role, it defines and publishes open standards for extranet networking protocols and policies, and acts as a registrar for various shared extranet resources.
In the latter role, the Commission publishes transstellar addressing standards, and coordinates postal unions and other cooperative endeavors to ensure efficient and secure physical packet delivery throughout the volume of its signatories’ space.
IV. the Accord on Protected Planets
The Accord on Protected Planets establishes the Galactic Trusteeship Commission to regulate research access to and passage by protected planets, those planets subject to administration or interdict under the jurisdiction of the Conclave. Such planets typically include quarantined worlds, necropolis worlds, Precursor sites or other fossil worlds, unique sites of scientific interest, promising prebiotic worlds, and worlds home to unusual emergent sophont species that have not yet achieved technological competence or xenognosis.
It also sets the rules for designating a world a protected planet under Conclave law.
V. the Accord on the Law of Free Space
The Accord on the Law of Free Space sets common standards for interstellar jurisdiction, starship operations, space traffic control, communication protocols, duties and privileges of Flight Commanders and owners, distress, salvage, and related matters.
VI. the Accord on Trade
The Accord on Trade, through its arbitration and standards body, the Galactic Trade Association, defines protocols for trade and other forms of economic exchange between signatories, generally accepted accounting standards, transstellar corporate forms, choice of law, form contracts, trade categories and open standards, and provides access to interstellar transaction clearing services via the Accord Exval Fiscal Exchange.
VII. the Accord on Uniform Security
The Accord on Uniform Security coordinates law enforcement between the various jurisdictions within the Accord. Its provisions require either the extradition or local trial of criminals who are accused of serious crimes in another jurisdiction, with the reservation that signatory polities may reserve the right to only extradite and/or try those whose crime would have been such under local law.
It defines no universal legal code of its own.
VIII. the Common Volumetric Accord
The Common Volumetric Accord defines the agreement between Accord polities concerning what will be considered sovereign territory among star nations, on the system, planetary, and habitat scales, and which areas within and without it shall be recognized as free space, open to the passage of all.
It provides, additionally, for the recognition of regional galactographic institutes, and their coordination via the Galactic Volumetric Registry.
IX. the Ley Accords
The Ley Accords extend the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights to encode the rights of sophonts, both combatant and non-combatant, in time of war.
Their first chapter concerns itself with those Instruments of Regrettable Necessity which are capable of causing gross damage, such as gigadeaths or major environmental damage to a world, proscribing their use and laying out pains and penalties for violations.
The later chapters lay out the conventions of civilized warfare applying between signatories, forbidding the use of Instruments of Regrettable Necessity near civilian areas, types of noetic warfare which might affect or corrupt noetic backups, mistreatment of prisoners, and other causes of permanent and irreplaceable harm. Terrorism and other asymmetric or indiscriminate attacks on non-military targets are forbidden. Parole is to be accepted, as is honorable surrender, and quarter will be given. A baseline is also established for the treatment of POWs and of civilians under martial law in areas under occupation.
X. the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights
The Universal Accord on Sophont Rights (noted as universal as it is intended to be applied even to non-signatories) establishes the equality before the law of all sophont species, regardless of substrate, and their fundamental and inalienable possession of certain sophont rights: to liberty, to property, to associate and to contract freely, to defense of their self-integrity. It goes on to establish, too, certain rights derived therefrom to avoid misinterpretations.
The difficulty, of course, is in the details, and interpretations of the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights have been known to vary considerably between signatories – leading to a cautious approach in Conclave Court-led mediation which might prefer one interpretation above another – and in addition, the rights asserted are notably circumscribed: attempts to include economic “rights to” rather than “rights of” have been vetoed by the Conclave, for example, as have pressures to include protections for sub-sophonts against suffering or sophont cruelty, although non-binding statements of principles on these and other matters have been appended.
– An Introduction to the Accord, First Contact Publications
In partial apology for the lack of artwork thus far, I bring you a map of the Associated Worlds, constellation by constellation!
(Click through for the full version. Caution: it’s a big image, 3049 x 3030.)
Key-wise, gold constellations represent the Imperial Core and Fringe, blue the mainstream Associated Worlds, purple the Expansion Regions, and green the Periphery. Red constellations represent the off-the-edge-of-the-map places, namely the Leviathan Consciousness and the connected constellations of the Voniensa Republic. Thin lines are interconstellation stargate connections; thick lines are special high-capacity arterials.
The major connected sets of those are the Worlds’ major trade routes: in green, the Lethíäza Trade Spine; in red, the Mercantile Corridor; and a rough circle in black at the edge of the major Worlds, except where it shares a link with the Spine between “58” and the Azure Fade, the Circumferential, or Golden Band.
I’ve annotated the approximate locations of the major powers, and also (in small text) of a few minor powers that have been mentioned and about which there might be curiosity.
(Oh, and when it comes to those constellations currently numbered – the aforementioned “58”, “E76”, and “P13”, et. al.? Apart from a couple of potential spoilers, that’s my innovation space/creative breathing room. Pay no attention to the Doylist explanation behind the curtain.)
And one more:
How about approx. population density/sapient life occurrence frequency/percentage of races successfully achieved spaceflight without rendering themselves extinct etc. of Associated Worlds?
Well, now. If you were to compare the number of species around the place in the Worlds to the total number of star systems connected, what you would get is something on the order of one sophont species per 40 to 60 star systems. Once you eliminated all the digisapiences, neogens, post-technological speciation, polytaxic species, nomads, and suchlike that complexify the issue, anyway. (95% to 98% of those haven’t rendered themselves extinct; it’s rare that people manage to screw up that completely, especially once starflight is available, but the ones that have are rather prominent in the news and history books for obvious reasons. Maybe 25% of them had interplanetary flight/in-system development when contacted.)
Of course, that’s completely non-representative.
The Far Horizon Probes that Ring Dynamics and the Exploratory Service use to decide where and when to expand the stargate plexus are programmed with certain biases, mostly towards interesting things. Like, say, the blue-white giant star Leytra in the middle of the Ringstars constellation, or the Eye-of-Night black hole, both unique features. But also, always, the signs of intelligent life (which, of course, further biases it towards species advanced enough to produce radio signals or other features observable across the light-years).
So that’s not the number of species spread over 10,000 systems, because the 10,000 systems connected to the Worlds are spread across a volume of space – an oblate spheroid with axes roughly 3,300 ly by 4,100 ly by 2,000 ly – that contains maybe 100,000,000 star systems. So, the prevalence of sophont life is more like 1 per 400,000 star systems in the aggregate. (I’m erring to the high end, here, since pre-technological star systems are effectively invisible except at close range.)
Local population density varies widely throughout the Worlds, of course, just like it does in the greater Galaxy. (Some bubbles are life-rich, some are less so, some have been scoured entirely clean of life by, say, supernovae and gamma-ray bursters. Plus, of course, the inner and outer thirds of the galaxy tend to be life-poor compared to the central band: the former because of the high radiation levels near the galactic core, and the latter because of the lack of necessary elements.) But that’s the average, and the Worlds bubble is… average, maybe a little on the high side, by galactic standards.
Realpolitik: The Ministry of State and Outlands would love to be able to pursue such interests as the Empire has (which generally excludes its private interests, who tend to pursue their own foreign policies) with this much ideology-free pragmatism, but since the Empire is a strongly ideological libertist-technepraxic state, they have more often to confront the reality that they’re working for a governance, on behalf of a people – and drawn from that same people – who find some polities out there just too disgusting to deal with.
Played rather straighter with the Presidium of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, which is much more pragmatic – despite the ideological slants of its members – in the interest of preserving the stability of the Associated Worlds and the approximate neutrality of its institutions.
One World Order: Averted. Most species have more than one government. Even the Empire, huge as it is and prone to casual memetic imperialism and absorption as it also is, has spawned splinters – not just the individual Renunciates and Renegades, but some actual other eldraeic governances created by minority factions that just couldn’t get along with the overall libertist-technepraxic consensus. (Given the predicates of said consensus, Imperial relations with these are usually, albeit not always, remarkably toxic – with the splinters being seen as something between heretics and just plain old bastard-coated bastards with bastard-flavored filling.)
Many governments also include more than one species. Looked at either way, no-one speaks for all.
Also, even the supposedly all-encompassing Associated Worlds and Conclave of Galactic Polities don’t encompass everything. The Voniensa Republic prefers to stand aloof from the whole situation, smug gits that they are, and horrified by the sheer lack of control of the whole thing. There are plenty of still balkanized planets around, whether the countries have come together to create some international body to deal with offworld affairs or are each trying to conduct their own interstellar policy. And, heck, encouraged by the fact that at least two of the major powers in the setting are functioning libertarianesque polities that shamelessly encourage this sort of thing, there are a lot of independent habitats out there that have taken advantage of the vastness of space to declare themselves the Sovereign Polity of Brad & Janet, pop. 5, or just straight-out sovereign not-owned-by-any-government individuals, m’kay?
Unity is not where it is at, today.
So let’s talk a little about the setting of our ongoing fiction, the Associated Worlds.
First: they’re big. Really, really frakkin’ big. Sci-fi writers with a sense of scale big. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemists’, but…
Ahem. Enough of that.
So, let me draw you a picture. The free-space volume of the Associated Worlds is an irregular mostly-oblate spheroid. Along its major axes, it’s about 3,300 light years from core to rim, 4,100 light years from spinward to trailing, and 2,000 light years from acme to nadir. To put some perspective on those numbers, that means that at its tallest part, much of the center, it completely fills the galactic disk top to bottom. Meanwhile, the Lethíäza arm of the galaxy in which it is located is approximately 3,500 light years across, and since one slightly-flattened end of the spheroid – expansion having slowed, although not stopped, to coreward on encountering the inter-arm gap – is pressed up against its coreward side, it lacks only about 200 light years of running into the rimward side of the arm, too.
As those of you with calculators will already know, that’s approximately 27 billion cubic light years of volume, which contains approximately 100 million stellar bodies of various kinds. Like I said, big.
Of course, on the cosmic scale, or even the galactic scale, it’s still a barely significant mote. Space is like that.
The kicker, of course, is that most of that is unused and only explored astronomically. The expansion pattern of the Worlds has been, essentially, to look for interesting things, and then fire off a long-range stargate to a system near them and weave a constellation from there. The one black hole in our neighborhood? That counts. The blue-white supergiant? That counts, too. Any system which appears to have signs of intelligent and usually technological life? That definitely counts, as maybe we can sell ’em something. That sort of thing.
That process has resulted in maybe 10,000 star systems over that whole enormous volume being actually connected to the stargate plexus and thus readily visitable. That would be roughly 0.01% of the stellar bodies in that volume. The rest would be the “Inner Periphery” of systems that didn’t seem so interesting at the time but which are likely to be hooked up if and when they become interesting, or if and when polities in inner constellations feel like expanding locally, rather than out in the ecumene, and also feel like paying for it.
So when you think of the Associated Worlds, think of a cobweb. The strands are long-distance wormholes. The dewdrops clinging to the points where they intersect are local constellations, where constellation in this case is defined as maybe fifty systems linked together with short-range stargates with three or four long-range gates connecting to it at various points. And the empty spaces are not-quite-empty space.
To hang some numbers on that, the Empire has all of one constellation (the Imperial Core), and about half each of five more (the Imperial Fringe), close to 250 worlds in total if you include its colonies out in the ecumene. Which is to say, it’s the tiny kernel at the heart of the big nut – although that said, it’s nearest competitors, the Photonic Network and the League of Meridian, are only 120-150 world polities. To divide up the rest, in the divisions Where’s Where in the Galaxy would offer you, these six constellations and 73 more make up the “true” Associated Worlds, the well-developed, comfortable, and stable metropolitan regions.
109 more constellations surrounding those make up the Expansion Regions, which are a bit less developed but not actually frontier. They tend to be the places where most of the action is, when there’s astropolitical action.
And the 23 constellations of the Periphery, found all around except to acme, nadir, and along the border with the Republic, are the wild and wooly frontier.
Leaving the Worlds proper for a moment, the Voniensa Republic, featuring rather heavily at the moment, is located spinward and slightly to rimward. It has about 8,000 worlds in its volume, although by no means all of those are politically part of the Republic. (More than a few of them belong to people who are currently being Prime Directed, for a start.) It’s also substantially smaller than the Worlds in free-space volume, because while they’re not quite as bad at insisting territorial volumes make sense in space as the members of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms, they do pursue a much more consolidate-y expansionary policy.
And finally to note, cutting through the rimward systems of Lethíäza, and thus both the rimward side of the Republic and the fringe Periphery – only a few stargates at the far edge of the rimward Periphery breach it – is the Shadow Veil, which is a vast dark nebula of opaque gas and dust that does a fine job of obscuring both the view further rimward from most of the Worlds, and vice versa.
(So even if its still flexible galactic location turns out to be directly coreward of us, there’s still a reason why our astronomers *there* aren’t getting all excited about those distinct signs of someone building megastructures and operating pion drives. Heh.)
In response to a wondering, which response grew too long to post as a replying comment.
It’s not about the gain, so much, any more than, say, the Cold War.
On one level, it’s because they’re both expansionary civilizations, the Republic and the Worlds. (I say the Worlds rather than the Empire because it’s the Worlds as a whole that they have an issue with; and, also, they’d have to fight a long way through a lot of people to reach the Empire, although they may hit up some distant Imperial ecumenical colonies.
…not that that stops some Worlds polities from complaining about the Empire fighting its war on their turf, the ungrateful sods.)
Even if the Republic destroyed the connections along the Borderline, and even if everyone in the Worlds agreed to let it alone (unlikely), the fundamental problem remains: they’re competing to absorb new territories (they’re less xenophobes than neophobes, to be fair to ’em), and they have to, or they’re going to end up surrounded and an isolated backwater.
Worse, and what really keeps Vonnie planners awake at night, is that as a centralizing/hierarchist civilization/polity, they’re starting to reach the limits of their control span and their grip on their outer territories is getting a little, ah, wobbly. The Worlds doesn’t suffer this disadvantage, because it’s not one civilization/polity, it’s lots of them, and a good few of them (such as the Empire, the Photonic Network, etc.) aren’t centralizing/hierarchist, they’re delocalized/cooperatist, and aren’t going to hit the limits of their control span any time soon, if ever. So to a certain extent, they’re gripped by some urgency on this point.
But even more importantly, they perceive each other as mutual ideological foes and existential threats. They represent contending visions of the future. And, indeed, most of the differences they have arise from that split. They have lots of differences, some familiar, some less so:
But it all boils down to that the Republic is, at its base, conservative/preservationist. (Note: not as in current politics; insofar as kalatri domestic politics can be mapped onto anything Earthwise at all, they’d be pretty seriously progressive and humanist [well, kalatrist].) The future they offer is based in their ideals of preserving sophont nature and its supreme inherent value – the kalatriness of kalatri, the humanness of humanity, all of that; it’s a universe by, for, and of natural species “baselines” for ever and ever, amen, or at the most what “natural” evolution makes of them. (At least until the cold and the dark of the post-stellar era comes along and wipes ’em all out.)
The future the Worlds have to offer – no, let’s say the future the Empire has to offer —
Well. It’s principally the Empire that are the foremost exemplars of this, but the Worlds in general are the home of all sorts of social and technological experimentation that offends the Vonnies’ principles. They dislike the Equality Concord, etc., too, almost as much.
Anyway, that future is vaguer, because it involves any number of people chasing down independent dreams just as hard as they can, but the Empire and other similar polities in the Worlds are charging hell-for-leather for singularity after singularity, pausing briefly at uebermensch on their way to postmensch, with – especially in the Empire – all thought of constraint stripped away and considerations of eldrae, etc., “nature” thoroughly discarded in favor of their Vision Of What Ought To Be. But what we, and they, can be certain of is that it doesn’t belong to the baselines. It’s going to belong to ancient immortal consciousnesses enshrined in organic crystal computers and multilayered collective consciousnesses and Vingean Powers and the long, slow, massive thoughts of an entire galaxy turned into a constellation of computronium moon-brains that may, with some small parts of itself, sometimes remember individual incarnation and play at flesh once more. Unaugmented baselines – well, they just can’t compete. It’s a future of gods and angels, not men.
And these visions are intrinsically incompatible. Thus:
The Empire has to stop the regressive tyrants of the Republic from condemning the galaxy, and possibly the universe, to a future of such petty mediocrity. And the rest of the Worlds, squabbling and disagreeable as they may be, don’t want that future either.
The Republic has to stop the madmen next door, and especially the Empire, from turning all the “real” people in the galaxy into monsters more machine than man and/or the reservation pets of unleashed technological demon-gods.
(And they’ve got to do it now before they’re too strong to stop with the Republic’s weight of metal. Whatever the official public line might be, the Vonnie strategic planners are well aware that 99% of the time, baselines fighting a mature postsophont intelligence can be summed up as “You Lose”.)
Generican Empire: Well, the thing to remember here is that the Empire of the Star was named long before it ever got into space (and has many stars, besides). It’s actually named after a philosophical symbol rather than anything physical. (In fairness and trope-compliance, they could have called it the Eldraeic Imperium, or some such, except (a) back on their own world at the beginning they didn’t feel like offering up such a blatant statement of world-conquering intent, and (b) once they got out among the stars, they didn’t want to sound like a bunch of race/species-obsessed jerks.)
By the time it acquired the alternate soubriquet of the Eldraeic Transcend, evidently people figured they’d already established their credentials on the polyspecificity front.
(The third alternate name, the “Bright Empire”, is actually a given-in-scorn-adopted-in-pride name originating with a news editor’s slip of the tongue and an unfortunate phrasing in an interstellar explorer’s autobiography; as such, in the Imperial mouth, it can make you sound isolationist, hegemonic, or even belletrist, and in the outworlders’, either distinctly pro-Imperial or distinctly sarcastic, and should thus be used with caution.)
Anyway, back on topic: most star nations hang some sort of non-generican name on themselves. The ones which don’t are often considered suspicious, maybe even likely to be rogue – sort of the way that, on Earth, any country calling itself a Democratic People’s Republic is definitely some sort of creepy-ass dictatorship.
Averted somewhat by the “Associated Worlds”, which isn’t all that creepy – it’s just that a name that Generican is all that the various people included under that moniker could agree on. They are all worlds (well, mostly, but the drifts that disagreed didn’t push that point too hard) and they are loosely associated, at least galactographically. Everything else may vary.
In answer to a general question elsewhere about “Third World” nations in your setting:
Depending on whose perspective you look at it from, the Associated Worlds have lots of these. From the point of view of the Empire and the other self-designated “Core Economic Zone” powers – which is to say, distinguished by being effectively post-material-scarcity and energy-rich, most of the known galaxy is like this.
Actual conditions vary considerably, from places like the People’s State of Bantral (which could give most desperately impoverished kleptocracies on Earth a run for their money in the grinding poverty/oppressive dictatorial craphole stakes) at the low end to places resembling the Star Trek federation in which, despite having cornucopia machine technology (== replicators), somehow terms like “quotas”, “allocations”, and “rations” still keep turning up, and the lifestyle is still pretty much 20th-century wealthwise.
While the difference between these cases is pretty obvious even to them, the people from the civilizations in which the average Joe lives in a mansion attended by a flock of robotic minions, can have virtually any material good for the asking, and thinks nothing of heading three star systems over for an impromptu “road trip” when the whim strikes him are not impressed, and would call both of them and everything in between poverty-stricken backwaters.
As for why – well, the standard CEZ diagnosis of either is “stupidity and/or power”. Stupidity, in the sense of having their brains eaten by bad economic ideas, like “relative wealth is more important than absolute wealth”, or “economics is a zero sum game”, or “the best way to get rich is to keep other people poor”, or “jobs, rather than the products of jobs, are good”, or “free trade bad”, or suchlike; and power, in the plain old sense of wanting to be able tell people what to do. Either of those things tends to be acutely corrosive to prosperity in general and the post-scarcity transition in particular.
(The locals in most of those places disagree, and usually have some narrative or other about, in the former-type case, how the bad old CEZ powers are keeping them down, or in the latter-type case, how their situation is actually better, safer, keeps superempowering tech in the hands of the experts, isn’t so decadent, etc. Since there are plenty of people in the CEZ who would happily give an open-source cornucopia and the open-source/public-domain fab library that goes with it to pretty much anyone who asks for one… well, the former is not exactly considered a serious complaint, and as for the latter – hey, if you like poverty so much, you go ahead and marry it, why don’t you?
That the governments and in many cases the corporate, unionist, etc., special interests that own them in much of the non-CEZ world go to a lot of trouble to keep smuggled cornucopias, or at least unregulated cornucopias not running state oversight code out of their polities only gives more credence to the “it’s because you can’t strut around like a great entitled jackass and tell people how to live unless you keep your economic, etc. leverage” point of the view that the CEZ-types espouse.)
As for how they’re treated – well, a few of the interested activist types in the CEZ work actively to try to spread counter-propaganda about what life’s really like in the less, ah, controlled chunks of the galaxy, and smuggle cornucopias to friendly groups inside those nations (and, of course, when you have one, you can rapidly have more than one) to try and fix the problem – after all, it’s not the locals’ fault that they’re governed by power-hungry idiots.
(Well, mostly. It’s not like most of the Western world on today’s Earth wouldn’t instantly be classified by them as a perfectly democratic example of both economic stupidity and power-hungry jackasses, and it’s hard to argue that we didn’t do that to ourselves – as in the cases of many of the democratic, etc., polities in the Worlds outside the CEZ, of various levels of economic development – but I digress.)
But the modal member of the CEZ mostly just ignores the problem. You can’t fix stupid, and you can’t fix grasping, and you pretty much can’t do anything with these people until they grow the fuck up, so worrying about it will only give one indigestion. More wine, old boy?
While this might seem depressing, and in the short term rather is – well, the CEZ are pretty sure they’re on the right side of history, here. In the long term, it’s pretty damn hard to persuade people that refusing to touch the magic box that can build anything is for their own good, and as for banning a technology that’s freely available elsewhere – hey, that trick always works, right?
To begin at the beginning, the galaxy in which we dwell, the Starfall Arc, is a barred spiral galaxy, possessing four major spiral arms, and attended by a number of satellite galaxies, most prominent among which are the Greater and Lesser Ancíël Whirls. These arms, from innermost to outermost, are Arilíäza, Vierníäza, Lethíäza (with its outer spur Sulíäza), and Dúraníäza. The Associated Worlds are to be found near the outer edge of the Lethíäza arm.
The most important part of the Starfall Arc for us, as sophonts, is the middle third, encompassing Vierníäza, Lethíäza, and Sulíäza; those stars further from the galactic core than one-third of the galaxy’s radius, the Inner Third Ring, and so far enough away to avoid the high radiation, prevalence of supernovae, and other hazards of the core, and yet still close enough to for carbon and heavier elements to be prevalent in quantities sufficient to support the evolution of life. The pulsar Tehelmír, the galactographic reference point closest to the center of the Associated Worlds, sits almost precisely in the center of this third, close to the galactic plane.
The Associated Worlds themselves make up a small fraction of one piece of this described life-friendly region. In theory, the Associated Worlds are composed of six nested spherical regions similar to a palel-fruit, from innermost to outermost:
The Imperial Core, the heartland of the Empire, containing the eldrae homeworld, the Thirteen Colonies, and other tightly-linked purely Imperial worlds;
The Imperial Fringe, a half-dozen highly Imperialized – but not exclusively Imperial – constellations close to the Imperial Core;
The Associated Worlds, the majority of the developed constellations of the Worlds, and what might be considered “civilized space”;
The Expansion Regions, the areas of the Periphery near the developed Worlds, currently targeted for colonization or other development by various polities of the Worlds, but not yet “fully civilized”. The busy transitional zone between the worlds, and;
The Periphery, the furthest reaches of the stargate plexus, containing few if any colonies, and still being fully mapped and explored by the Grand Survey and other astrographic organizations.
The Outback, that area of space which, while unconnected to the stargate plexus, has still been reached by lighthuggers or starwisp probes, manned or unmanned, and so known to the Worlds in some terms not purely astronomical. Everything beyond the Outback, space which has never been visited and is known only by astronomy, is simply the Beyond.
This simple theoretical picture, of course, is a nonsense. The boundaries of the stargate plexus sprawl thousands of light years wide, and the galactic disk is not so thick; and colonization has not proceeded equally in all directions, but has proceeded more vigorously to coreward than to rimward. Thus, the true shape of the Worlds resembles more a flattened egg, its point towards the galactic core; and to acme and nadir, the Expansion Regions are thin and the Periphery nonexistent, squeezed out by the edge of the useful galaxy.
Also, along its spinward edge, the stargate plexus of the Associated Worlds has intermingled, along a line three constellations in size, with that of the Voniensa Republic, another galactic civilization of nearly equal scope, again flattening the spinward side of the Worlds. The area of the Expansion Regions closest to the Republic, the Crimson Expanse, Csell Buffer, and Vanguard Reaches, is informally known as the Seam. The Expansion Regions and Periphery are thin here to spinward, as there has been little expansion of the plexus in areas which would be actively contested by the Republic.
And finally, as you might expect, these terms are themselves broadly disputed. Few outside the Empire use the terms Imperial Core or Imperial Fringe, preferring not to escalate any polity of the Worlds above the others, galactographically speaking, or at least choosing their own to so escalate. The term Associated Worlds, therefore, commonly refers to all of the developed systems within the Expansion Regions, including both the Core and the Fringe. The use of the term Expansion Regions, too, is often controversial in its application to any given constellation both by Peripherals who dislike creeping colonization, and by those worlds which wish to consider themselves part of the metropolitan, and thus developed, Worlds.
Also unmentioned is the so-called Inner Periphery. While the web of constellations incorporates many of the stars technically within the outer boundary of the stargate plexus, many remain unconnected, and accessible only by lighthugger. While most of these have been visited, at least by unmanned probes, they are not considered part of their containing galactic region, due to their inaccessibility, forming a backwater region intermingled with the heart of civilized space.
Having defined these principal astrographic divisions of the space we inhabit, we can now discuss the economic, cultural, and less formal divisions of the Worlds.
“The difficulties of interstellar travel are widely underestimated. Within the stargate plexus, even simple ships — capable of only relatively low accelerations, capable of being built by cultures little more capable than those which have developed orbital flight, and requiring no extraordinary skill for a single sophont to pilot and maintain — can travel between star systems in a matter of weeks or months. The capital and operating costs of such ships are high, but are not out of reach of a small consortium or well-off individual entrepreneur. As such, worlds and cultures throughout the constellations connected by the plexus have blossomed, spreading civilization across the Associated Worlds and out into the Expansion Regions; and those cultures and their people which possess basic spaceflight capability can indulge freely in interstellar travel freely for colonization, trade, exploration, even tourism, at costs which are low enough to keep it from being the exclusive preserve of an elite, wealthy class.”
“Further, the stargate plexus binds the Associated Worlds together, in what may be an even more significant way, by acting as a carrier for the extranet. While not instantaneous, since the Luminal Limit still applies between gates in the same system, communications can cross the entire width of the plexus in a matter of weeks rather than centuries, and most delays within polities are mere hours or days, even if not ameliorated by broadcatching, caching, and the use of AI and fork agent-proxies. While light-lag and other delays and inconveniences in communications maintain separate cultural regions even within individual systems, as well as across the Worlds as a whole, that such communication, broadcast of media, and free exchange of information are possible and within the ready grasp of almost anyone in the Worlds with access to any sort of terminal does a great deal to create a common metaculture and understanding from core to Periphery. (An effect which is only enhanced in those polities whose citizens have access to and cultural mores permitting the use of mindcasting to travel as data, at extranet speeds.)”
“All of this is to forget that in order for this to be possible, the stargate plexus had to exist already. Let us examine how unlikely this truly is: the construction of artificial wormholes requires simultaneously an advanced scientific and technological culture, enough wealth to invest in the construction of multi-trillion-exval stargates and the new industries required to enable their construction, an adequately long-term viewpoint to make such investments seem viable, an existing lighthugger technology able to transport the distal wormhole terminus to its destination, and, most unlikely of all, such a multi-millennial genius as Imogen Andracanth to make the particular breakthrough permitting controlled wormhole inflation and stabilization without first possessing a mature ontotechnology. Of all the thousands of civilizations known in the Associated Worlds and beyond, only two have ever made this discovery independently – the Empire, and the Voniensa Republic.”
“Without these miracles – I do not believe that this understates the case – could an interstellar civilization be possible? I will not say that it would not; it would be possible to imagine a loose confederation of worlds, or a meta-empire, held together by slow light-bound trickles of information and low-speed lighthuggers bearing high-value data, supremely precious low-mass cargoes, and the occasional colonization mission – at least among the immortal or extremely long-lived. But with only lighthuggers available – ships the size of mountains available only at high capital cost, requiring millions of tons of antimatter and deuterium to fuel at the cost of billions of exval, with large and skilled crews making much longer commitments in terms of wall-clock time and even more yet in empire time, no thriving, cosmopolitan association such as we now enjoy could have come into being.”
– Linde Valentinarius, An Overview of the Flowering
The Alliance: The Conclave of Galactic Polities. Which sounds like it runs the Galaxy, actually in theory runs the relatively small chunk of the Galaxy called the Associated Worlds, and in actual practice does so slightly less well than the United Nations runs Earth. But it is spectacularly less pretentious about it, which helps, as does the fact that at least four of the five star nations powerful enough to get a seat on the Presidium agree on – if nothing else – that while they like its authority kept solid enough to make communications, trade, IP law, borders, and the conventions of civilized warfare work, they also like it kept tenuous enough so as not to significantly interfere with their arguably sacred sovereign right to do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they feel like doing it, as long as it doesn’t totally screw up the interstellar status quo.