Trope-a-Day: Terraform

Terraform: Played mostly straight, but note that the general term is “ecopoesis” – after all, different species have different ideas as to how the ideal planet looks, most of which are not at all “terra”-like.

Also, only mostly, because both the constraints of physical reality (you only have so much sunlight, even with solettas, and gravity does not change easily) and those of economics, not to mention aesthetics, often mean meeting the planet somewhere in the middle with pantropic adaptations of the permanent residents.  (And if the process starts with a life-bearing world – well, in that case, responsible ecopoesis means the even more complex variation of an already complex and incredibly expensive task, namely, building a functional hybrid ecosystem.  Ecocide is unethical entropism, and thus very much illegal under almost every circumstance.)

And let’s not forget that depending on the magnitude of the changes involved, we’re generally talking high decades (for trivial changes) to low millennia (both extreme cases; middling centuries is more usual) to make them comfortably self-sustaining.  Even with very high technology indeed, a planetary ecology has a lot of momentum.

(A “cool Arean” archetype is actually the most common result, at least within the Associated Worlds.)

The Canals of Talentar

“How are we doing? All on schedule?”

The largest monitor showed the reddish, ragged rock of a cliff face, roughly torn, a notch in its top revealing the ribbed end of a silvered balloon wedged into it, held down by a curved framework of steel plates. Above, a zeppelin hung in the yellow sky, lowering a large crate down towards it.

“Physics package is on its way now. Supervisor on-site says, give him half an hour for hook-up and check-out, no more. Gas mix is nominal; pressure in the balloon is nominal and stable. Fill compressors are unhooked and clear.”

“Good, good. Topology?”

“Final check is done. Satellite altimetry says we’ve got good slope in the channel all the way from here to the Basin. We cut this, it’ll pour.”


“Boreal traffic control confirms there are no ships within two hundred miles of the intake. Project security reports the existing cut and the Basin are clear of people.”

“Very well. Sound the warning sirens now; let’s make sure people have lots of time to get out of our way.”

* * *

Thirty-six minutes later, the crate had been landed and ripped open to reveal a gleaming silver bullet, now mounted to the end of the balloon. The zeppelin, its job done, had left the scene under maximum power. All within the camera’s view of the cliffside site was quiet and still.

“Final safety checks?”

“The Boreal is still clear; the channel and the Basin too. ATC shows the skies are clear. Our work crews have all reached safety range. We’re clear for firing.”

The geotect pulled a molecular key from his pocket, and inserted it into his firing console.


“Empire Nucleonics 3.75m Directional Primer Charge, Series V. Permissive action link recognized. Authenticate serial code DPC11479322-V.”


“Authentication confirmed.”

“Set tamper for 29 miles, full diameter. Activate detonation sequence, minimum count.”

“Detonation sequence running. 72 seconds and counting.”

* * *

The monitors whited out, intolerably bright; distant thunder swept over the bunker. To the observers in orbit, a bright line drew itself across the surface of the planet, and faded slowly away.

* * *

“Okay, let’s reset the monitors, and give me a view of the Boreal opening.”

“Already done, estrev.”

“…then give me an infrared view.”

The darkness of the monitor cleared, to show a mound of rubble at the end of a new, ragged gash cut in the planet’s surface, faintly glowing with heat. A few trickles of water trickled down its surface, then more spurted out from gaps in its face, until in slow motion the wall toppled – house-sized boulders bounding past the camera borne by a wall of water, clawing and tearing at the walls of the widening fresh-cut channel.

“Nicely done, gentlesophs. How much initial flow do we expect – thirty, forty miles an hour? Someone tell Chairman Lanqin that he’ll have his riverfront property by tomorrow afternoon.”

Home on Lagrange

It was understood relatively early in Project Redblossom that Talentar would become a major food-exporting planet as the ecopoesis continued. As the major geophysical stages were completed, the planet warmed, water was introduced, and the microbiome became established, it became time to introduce macroscopic flora, among the earliest of which called for by the ecopoesis plan were grasses to bind the regolith dunes.

It did not escape the ecotects’ attention that the grass family included a variety of commercially-viable flora, most obviously the widely used grains landesh and irdesh, and that incorporating these into the ecopoesis plan would help to render it self-sustaining in more ways than one. Thus, an extensive agricultural industry rapidly grew up around the early colonies, especially those located in the lowlands of Kirinal Planum, exporting vast quantities of bread, beer, and raw grain to the system’s expanding population of drifts and orbital habitats – aided in this by the relative shallowness of Talentar’s gravity well as compared to Eliéra’s, and Talentar’s possession of the system’s first orbital elevator. The ecotects required that part of the payment for these goods be made in nitrogenous and other organic waste collected from the habitats, which became feedstock to their dirt farming programs and thus in turn expanded Talentar’s fertile regions; a virtuous cycle.

Unanticipated was what followed. Commercial grains, being insufficient in themselves for a stable ecological tier, were by no means the only grasses spreading on Talentar. Forty-seven years after the initiation of this program, a ranchers’ consortium from the Iniositac-Variasotec Commonwealth, observing the spread of common grasses in less desirable regions of the planet, obtained title to one of the largest contiguous areas of this “Talentarian prairie”. A year later, they introduced the first Rieltelir-adapt quebérúr, modified Eliéran cattle capable of breathing the low-oxygen, high-dioxide atmosphere, shaggier and better able to live in cold conditions, the dung from whose grazing in turn helped expand these prairie regions. While the export of quebérúr meat was much lower in volume than grain exports, it was much higher value due to the near-impossibility at that time of producing such anywhere else in the system with a relatively shallow well, and several fortunes were made in this new business.

And to this day, the Carbon-Carbon Grill at Suléyn Dome still serves the best non-vat quebérúr steak in the Lumenna-Súnáris System.

Talentar Blossoming: the Early Years,
Vallis Muetry-ith-Miritar

Do You Want to Change the World?

“If you want to learn how to make worlds, come to the University of Talentar.

Our rusty world and its youthful wine-dark – and wine-colored, red as a fine Vintiver port – seas have been the test-bed for every ecopoetic technique in the manual. Since first Copperfall, we’ve changed the face of the eutalentic world we found in more ways than we can count.

Comet herders have brought ice, nitrate, and clotted carbon from the far Shards to fill its oceans and thicken its air. Vast soletta arrays and deep thermal boreholes warm the new waters and melt the polar caps, while canals, carved in an instant by nucleonic cutters, open up crater lakes and let them flow freely across its face. Now-ancient bacteria break up oxides for breathable air, and leach ammonia and methane, too, into the building atmosphere.

A nanoecology of mechal elementals now thrives across the world. Blackeners and smart clouds tune the planetary albedo; high in the stratosphere, self-replicating haze absorbs harmful excesses of ultraviolet light. Warming rods capture solar heat and conduct it deep into the ground to free the permafrost. Aerator swarms stir up the regolith and break up the hardpans. Landcorals, saltshapers, and exotic cyborg lichen thrive in the badlands, locking up salts unwanted by later stages of the planned evolution.

Meanwhile, the bioecology spreads in their wake. Miritar plants, crafted to thrive on that barely-modified regolith, bind the dunes and eat halogens, releasing potent greenhouse gases to warm the world. Behind them advance the dirt farmers, brewing true soil in all its microbial subtlety, such that true plants and animals can thrive – both those hardy imports that can survive, and neogens made specifically for the new world, designed to take their place in the ecological web being woven by the ecotects, the mezuar treeherders and selyéva gardeners. Bigenetic organisms, plants and animals sharing a common genome and producing each other’s seeds, spread life across the new living wilderness. In all but the highest of cold highlands, the rieltelir-modified may walk freely outside without masks – and could do so everywhere did our design not wish to retain those highlands.

Our world is where ecopoesis began; it’s where ecopoesis has made most progress; and it’s where you can get hands-on experience with every aspect of every stage of the process.

And ecopoesis, too, is an ever-growing art and industry. The Worlds are expanding faster every year, and of all the new planets discovered, the majority of those considered potentially habitable are eutalentic, in need of the helping hand of a talented ecotect and crew.

Contact us today for details of our introductory and advanced courses.”

– voiceover for an advertisement published by the U. T. Faculty of Megascale Ergetics

[P.S. If any talented artist/videographer types are interested in making the video for which this is the voiceover, please do contact me. I usually hesitate to include notes like this, but I can see the imagery in my head, and it is awesome.]

Trope-a-Day: Hostile Terraforming

Hostile Terraforming: In the Worlds, pretty much any straight ecopoesis carried out on a currently life-bearing world is considered this, and even sensible-but-dubious regimes steer clear of it because it is, in effect, burning down an asset. Ecosystems are extremely valuable informational resources, and not to be casually overwritten.

On colony worlds, what you’re supposed to do, ecopoesis-wise, if you need to, is engage in whatever complex bioengineering you have to do to introduce your necessary support species into a successful hybrid or co-existing ecosystem, usually combined with a degree of personal pantropy (adapting yourself to the planet, rather than t’other way around).

This tends to be… tricky, for those without the absolute highest levels of competence in such things, but so it goes. If you can’t manage that and aren’t willing to pay for someone else’s expertise, stick to colonizing barren worlds that you can ecopoese without breaking anything preextant. Or else.