Other Things You Should Be Reading: The Steerswoman

Reminded that I meant to occasionally feature things like this here by it, let me quote to you a little of Joshua A. C. Newman’s review of Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series:

The Steerswoman is an extraordinary speculative fiction series by Rosemary Kirstein. So far, it exists in the form of four novels: The Steerswoman (1989), The Outskirter’s Secret (1992), The Lost Steersman (2003), and The Language of Power (2004). She’s promised two more novels, with the fifth volume starting its Kickstarter next year, in 2015. As of this writing, I’m most of the way through The Lost Steersman.”


“Between the series’ excellent and subtle characters, its thoughtful and beautiful worldbuilding, and its strong philosophical standing, I’m having a great time reading these books. I hope you will, too. They’re available, DRM-free, both from Smashwords and Amazon for Kindle, where she makes a principled stand against digital restriction.”

I concur entirely with this review, let me say, and I heartily commend these excellent books and their worldbuilding to your attention.


Speculativism Index

The Speculativism Index, under any of its names, is a crude clionomic hack used by free traders, weirdseekers, adventurers, and various other professions which necessarily interact with the starbound and minority civilizations of the known Galaxy in a more amateurish way than the Grand Survey or the Exploratory Service.

The Speculativism Index is calculated thus: Examining as large a sample as you feel necessary of the civilization’s media stores and libraries, across formats, and avoiding specialty locations, compute the volume of data devoted to various types of speculative fiction and the volume of data devoted to other, non-speculative fiction; then obtain the ratio between them.  This ratio, expressed as the percentage of the former, is the Speculativism Index.

(A large part of the difficulty involved in this is the problem of recognizing what constitutes speculative fiction in an exotic cultural context.  The Speculativism Index of the d!grith, for example, was historically underestimated due to the failure to recognize their popular “speculative accountancy” genre, while more severe problems attended properly interpreting, and therefore classifying, the multibranched “quantum fictions” of the star-dwelling seb!nt!at.  When these were corrected for, the recalculated d!grith Speculativism Index matches their observed performance; the unusually alien psychology of the seb!nt!at remains something of a special case.)

The Index is principally used, by its inventors, as a sales/interaction valuation tool.  As one free trader explained the associated rule of thumb: “Anything under ten, just leave – they’re never going to make it off their world on their own, and they’re not going to thank you for forcibly introducing them to so many things outside their context.  Between ten and thirty, a little backward, so probably more effort than most of us want to deal with, but with work, can shape up into a solid customer.  Thirty to sixty, that’s the respectable Galactic mainstream.  Over sixty… then you’ve got a whole different class of problems.  Then you’re fighting off their enthusiasm.

It has generally been thought in the past that the Speculativism Index was too rough-and-ready a measure to be of use for clionomic purposes.  Recent studies have established, however, that there is a strong correlation between generally accepted estimates of the Speculativism Index of various well-known civilizations and the degree to which they prosper in the meta-society of the Associated Worlds according to various well-known scales (the Integration Coefficient, the Polity Prosperity Index, and the Progress and Innovation Index), and that the Speculativism Index also correlates with the results of the accepted clionomic coefficients of neophilia, xenophilia, and internal cognitive freedom.

Colleagues, I commend this area to your attention.

– Journal of Cliodynamics, Vol. LXXVI