gravity tremble: The variations in experienced gravity found aboard starships making use of the thrust gravity provided by nuclear pulse drives, or other discontinuous-thrust drives. Essentially, the gravity tremble refers to that portion of the thrust variation not damped out by the thrust transfer framework, leading to a predictable variation in experienced gravity around its nominal value, from the jarring on-off transitions of the earliest undamped concussion drives to the smooth and gentle oscillation (resembling a phugoid cycle) of modern fusion-pulse sail drives.

The term is also used to refer to the distinctive gait seen in long-term pulse-drive starship crewers (or, more accurately, crewers of those starships in which the pulse rate is relatively fast). With experience in maneuvering under trembling gravity, such crewers develop the habit of attuning their stride interval to the tremble frequency, pushing off and up with the drop and descending with the rise, thus gaining the most advantage from the momentarily lighter gravity.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Question: Marlinspike

Phineas Imhoff asks:

I have heard mention of the “spacers marlinspike” several times, I am curious what exactly is it for? Does it serve the same role as a traditional marlinspike, just recycled in space. Or is it something else?

It’s essentially the same tool, albeit with some minor microgravity adaptations. While there isn’t quite so much rope involved in celestime sailing vis-à-vis maritime, there’s more than enough to make such a tool useful (especially in the cargo department, for lashing of breakbulk), and that’s before you get to its handy secondary uses for poking suspicious-looking objects and rapping miscreants soundly across the base of the skull.


Mutual Annihilation

antiriot (n.): A social version of pair production.

To fully explain the antiriot, it is first necessary to explain the riot. This is a socially-accepted form of low-level terrorism found on some barbarian outworlds, in which a mob engages in violence and property destruction as a means to coerce – through embarrassment and pressure exerted by their victims – a local governance to give them, or more often their backers, whatever they want in exchange for not repeating the exercise.

As a custom, this interacts poorly with spacer culture. After all, if you break windows, loot, and set things on fire dirtside, and you get away uncaptured, the consequences are borne largely by property owners and their insurers, not by you yourself. In space or on hostile-environment worlds, however, where survival without infrastructure is anything but guaranteed, the equivalent exercise is likely to lead to any of several ways to die ugly, gasping deaths, for you and anyone else in the vicinity.

Thus, if the stereotype of a riot is a wild, drunk, angry mob smashing, looting, and burning with merry abandon, the stereotype of an antiriot is a sober, grim-looking phalanx dressed in neat station jumpsuits, rapping rioters smartly across the head with bolt keys as a prelude to throwing them out the nearest unoccupied cargo airlock in an orderly fashion.

Such an antiriot can be relied upon to assemble any time there is a riot in a spacer-dominated area, because spacers enjoy continuing to breathe and have very little sense of humor where related issues are concerned.

It is also notable that, while the law in the majority of the regions which give rise to riots and hence antiriots are concerned considers the acts constituting antirioting at least as illegal, if not more so, as those constituting rioting, law enforcement and station security forces have demonstrated a remarkable inability to stop antiriots or even to identify any but the smallest possible number of antirioters in the aftermath of such an event.  On this point, the consensus of opinion is that security forces also like to breathe.

Perhaps the most notable exception to this is the well-known case of Ngennye Station, in which the entire antiriot was arrested after the fact by a private security company relatively new to the station. That said, the case’s notoriety is a result of a hundred-strong group charged with murder and mayhem being convicted, in the end, of “negligent disposal of organic waste”, and sentenced to community service – namely, hauling back in and recycling the ex-rioters.

(It need hardly be added that the peace authority’s appointed justice was a station native.)

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary


Trope-a-Day: Space People

Space People: Well, about three-fifths of everyone, actually.

That would be “about” principally because it’s really hard to determine, say, exactly where one draws a line between people who live on large asteroids in “habitats” and people who live on small moons in “domes”.

And depending on how you want to count things – well, you could count only people who live in starships or city-ships (habitat-dwellers say “Hey!”), or ships and habitats (asteroid-dwellers have an issue to raise), or people who have the key spacer biomods (absolutely everyone without some sort of compatibility problem, since even planet-dwellers find themselves in space enough that the calcium hack, thumb-toe, etc., are now part of the baseline set), or only members of the genuine four-armed sennóris clade (a long way from everyone dwelling in space long-term), or people who live in space-type habitats (includes lots of moon- and actual-planet-dwellers), or people possessing the characteristic shibboleths of spacer culture (although since spacer and groundling cultures have been bleeding into one another for centuries)…

In short: there are Space People, but there’s not a readily denotable boundary between them and everyone else.

Traveler’s Charge

Many of the settlers of Talentar, who would later become dirt farmers and ecopoetic line techs, were drawn from rural areas of Eliéra, seeing an opportunity to apply their sophisticated knowledge of modern agriculture and silviculture to the problems of making this new world blossom.

It is from these settlers that a local variation in the rights and customs of hospitality has become ubiquitous. Many of the foresters and line techs of the Delzhía Terra region in particular were drawn from the wooded upland valleys of the Vintiver region. An age-old custom there was the “traveler’s bite”; a traveler riding through could stop at any farmstead and rap at the kitchen window, receiving in exchange for a few taltis a fill of working-man’s beer for their mug, a handwheel of cheese, a pocket-loaf, and perhaps some trimmings of the day’s roast.

On Talentar, this evolved into the custom of the “traveler’s charge”. A traveler by foot or rover can stop at any of the small domes or prefabs dotting the dusty plains, signal at the service hatch, and receive a charge for their powercells, a fresh oxygen tank for an expended one, and a packed handmeal of the local produce – an invaluable service for traveling light, or in a pinch.

– “Sophontology of the Talentar Settlers”
Mirial Quendocius

It’s a Shanty!

Reminded of it by seeing it posted on Google+ today, here’s something I’d been meaning to post to the “relevant-to-our-interests” section for a while: the nearest Earth equivalent to one of the old space shanties enjoyed, no doubt, by old spacers and spacehands of the Imperial Merchant Navy everywhere…

(We recommend that only trained professionals should attempt to sip their sippin’ whiskey from mid-air blobs.)

Getting There By Candlelight

candle (n.): A candle, or putt-putt, is the simplest transport spacecraft that can be devised, consisting essentially of a tank of hypergolic rocket fuel powering a thrust motor and a simple reaction-control frame. The pilot, supported by their vacuum suit, rides the candle – the tank itself – in much the same manner as a velocipede.

The additional accoutrements and controls of a candle vary widely by type. Most common are stabilization gyros, to make their handling less temperamental in the face of mass shifts. Commercial models often include a range of accessories: fly-by-wire navigation, Orbital Positioning Systems, a comfortable saddle and space for passengers, cargo panniers, canned life support reserves, and so forth.

But the virtue of a candle is its simplicity. One can be put together out of parts readily obtainable from even a half-stocked chandler, or for that matter from those lying around any wreckyard, or even crash site. Such a scrap-candle may consist of little more than the tank and motors, with handhold bars and lash-downs for bagged cargo welded on where they might be useful. Some go so far as to strip the navigation system down to a row of firing switches for each motor, requiring the pilot to figure burn times and vectors by eye, or at least by pocket-contents.

Indeed, in many spacer cultures across the Worlds, building one’s first candle from parts, salvaged, scrounged, and where necessary even purchased, is considered a rite of passage for the young. More cynical observers consider the true rite of passage being making one’s first candle flight without having to be ignominiously hauled home by the Orbit Guard.

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary


Gods of the Void

The Ice Bitch, the Spawner of Calamities, the Father of Error, That Whose Laughter Rings In The Ears Of The Dying

A near-ubiquitous spacer belief – even among the eldrae, who do not make a habit of placing masks upon the force of Entropy – is that of the many-angled god-goddess who deals out impartial death and calamity towards all whose efforts to ward his-her-its attentions off have been insufficiently fervent and effective. The Spawner of Calamities holds dominion over all ways to suffer and die in space: over void, dark, and vacuum; over fire, radiation, and flare; over leak, suit-rupture, and micrometeoroid; over hypoxia, toxin, and life-system collapse; over power-exhaustion, equipment-failure, and defect; and over stupidity, incompetence, and ill-luck most of all.

The Father of Error has little consistent depiction; mythography attributes him-her-it with, in combination, a gnarled and nauseating mass of virtually every body part and organ known to biology anywhere. The exception is that all of his-her-its forms are depicted as eyeless, befitting the blind idiot deity of error and mischance. The shadow of the Ice Bitch scars the world with radiation and poison as he-she-it passes. Symbolically, he-she-it is aptly represented by a red star in flare, bringing death to those left without shelter.

Throughout the majority of the Worlds, the cult of the Laugher is at best semi-serious – it is comforting, amidst disaster, to have someone to blame, to swear by, and indeed to swear at – although a few genuine cults do exist in less developed areas of the Expansion Regions. Unusually by comparison to similar cults, their theology does not support sacrifice or reverence; their deity’s indifference renders him-her-it indifferent to any worship. The offerings of bitter wine poured out on his-her-its altars are mere acknowledgement of the truth of things. Nonetheless, enough people seek the propitiation of their fears that his-her-its cults can sustain themselves and grow.

(Sadly, these cults do nothing to encourage wise caution and due attention to maintenance procedures.)

– Mythographies of the Worlds, 53rd ed., Third League Publishing & c.

And That’s Just How We Like It

Space will kill you in any number of ways. So, in fact, will most planets that aren’t your homeworld or close copies of it.

Simple risks will kill you, if you don’t keep a weather eye on them. Radiation, vacuum, dioxide, heat. Leaks, breakdowns, inefficiencies. Not paying attention to where your air and water and other things that just magically exist for the taking downside come from, that’ll kill you, too. Carelessness, inattention, expediency, pragmatism, shortcut-taking, an excessively casual approach to maintenance procedures – all things that bring an automatic death sentence at the hands of the uncaring, pedantic universe. Incompetence, determined ignorance, and native stupidity, even more so. And indulging one’s fond delusions about the nature of reality, that’ll kill you fastest of all.

These are the reasons why many sensible people from many sensible civilizations choose not to go there.

The people who scattered habs across the entire system from Oculus to Farside, from Eurymir to Galine, from corona-scraping Salamandrine to lonely Blackwatch, on the other hand, considered these things advantages.

– introduction to Tin Cans and Checklists: The Early Days, by Aithne Silverfall

It’s Cold Outside

“Yeah, vacuum won’t kill you.  Should you find yourself falling free out of a big hole in your ship, stay sharp, and keep your eyes shut and your mouth open the way they teach you when you go out for your S-license, and you ought to live through it.  You’ll get a full-body bruise.  You’ll freeze slowly if you’re out there long enough – and if you’re in the sunlight, you’ll burn at the same time.  You’ll swell up from the pressure differential, and that hurts fifty times more than you ever imagined anything might hurt before, unless you’ve gone swimming naked through molten rock sometime.”

“But if you grew up anywhere half-civilized, your hemocules’ll keep you going for a good hour, a bit less if you thrash around.  Plenty of time for someone to get a line on you – or, if everyone around’s got their own problems, for that mindcast carrier you’d better have to start looking friendly.”

“…from experience, kid.  Did you think I was born with this face?”

There’s No Hole In The World

Quöé and her clique called us staid, today, among a few other less polite assertions.  Can you imagine that?  Me!  Staid!

I didn’t understand what they meant until I remembered how they used to look at me and my cousins when we first got here, before we’d learned to stop looking around for a patch kit at every gust of wind.  But can you imagine trying to explain to these coddled dirtsiders that for the most of us who live in orbit and the most of the rest who don’t live on garden worlds, our entire lives have been spent one thin bulkhead and careless mistake away from the blood boiling out our ears?  If we don’t look carefree and pranksome enough to them, there’s good reason.

Oh, and they think that really happens, too.

– diary of Callia Irithyl-ith-Irileth, exchange student

Trope-a-Day: Artificial Gravity

Artificial Gravity: The piece of Applied Phlebotinium they call vector control does provide something which is functionally equivalent to artificial gravity, yes.  On the other hand, (a) a good plurality of cylinder habitats still prefer to use spin gravity, because it’s much easier on the energy budget; and (b) the vast majority of spacecraft and starships, modulo those passenger liners catering to planet-dwellers, don’t use it, because the 3/5ths of the population that are spacers got used to microgravity, both socially and through pantropic adaptation, a long time before vector control was invented.  Microgravity is their native gravity, essentially, so why change it?

They do use vector control quite often to make sure their nice microgravity environment isn’t messed up by thrust gravity, though.