The Belter War Background

21 Jan

Possible background for a story …

The Belter War Background

The year is 2100.

The civilised parts of Earth (North America, Western Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, Israel, Brazil) are united in the Federation, a marriage of convenience. All member states are fascist to some degree; on one hand, there’s a great deal of personal freedom (the war on drugs is long in the past), but political freedom is almost non-existent. The war against terrorists has gone on so long that a surveillance state seems normal. Government is pretty much a mixture of democracy, corporate fascism and outright dictatorship. Basic foodstuffs and entertainment is free. Life is pretty good in the Federation as long as you don’t rock the boat.

Outside the Federation, there is chaos. Governments rise and fall, often within days. The Federation watches from high overhead and drops KEWs whenever a steady government seems to be forming, or there is a realistic chance of a terrorist group or rogue state building nukes, biological weapons or long-range missiles. Living standards have been slipping for decades, not helped by mass expulsions of undesirables from Federation territory. Average life expectancy is forty years.

Governments started a serious move into space long before the Federation came into existence (2060). Terrorist and cybernetic attacks made it an urgent priority. The development of fusion power, running on HE3, pushed various governments into establishing mining colonies on the moon, then cloudscoops orbiting Saturn. (Jupiter is considered too dangerous to use as a fuel source.) Solar power satellites provide additional power for the Federation; asteroid mining cuts off all dependence on materials produced outside the Federation.

The moon was settled in 2040. Despite a brief rebellion in 2050 (workers rebelled against appallingly bad working conditions) the lunar population continued to grow, particularly after the addition of gene treatments preventing Lunar Rot (muscle decay). Luna is now a patchwork of colonies, some operated by the Federation and others owned by corporations or individuals.

Humans first set foot on Mars in 2044, then started a major terraforming and colonising project in 2050. (There were protests against wrecking the native environment, but the protesters were rapidly rounded up and sent to work camps.) Massive colony ships arrived over the following 50 years, bringing hundreds of thousands of colonists to Mars. As of 2100, Mars has a very thin – but breathable – atmosphere and a growing population.

There are small colonies on almost every major body within the solar system (including Pluto.) Titan and Europa are amongst the most important as they supply water-ice to Mars and Venus (which is also being terraformed, but on a far longer timetable than Mars.)

Asteroid settlement started in 2039, starting with small mining ‘towns’ that rapidly grew into populous settlements. Governments saw the asteroids as a place to put groups that were both awkward and potentially useful. A number of small corporations established research bases in the asteroids, which often spawned independent colonies that hid from government authority. As relatively little tech is needed to support an asteroid settlement, no one is entirely sure just how many settlements there are. A number of independent asteroids have small industrial complexes, where spacecraft and spare parts are produced. Others attempt to raise foodstuffs, although Earth is still the main source of fresh (and very expensive) food.

***

The Federation controls a small fleet of interplanetary cruisers and troop transports (the former have more in common with modern-day submarines than surface ships) which are intended to patrol the spaceways. These forces are intended primarily to deal with rebellions on Luna and Mars (the Federation had to improvise to crush the first rebellion on Luna and hasn’t forgotten the experience), although they have been deployed to support corporate factions when their workers proved rebellious. In recent years, the Federation has been building more warships, despite the lack of any credible threat in space. The Belt Association suspects that the Federation intends to crush it when the time is right.

In addition, the Federation deploys 10’000 Space Marines; men and women trained for deployments in space and non-terrestrial worlds.

***

The Federation makes no attempt to dictate the internal policy of its member states. Overall matters are decided by secret negotiation between the members and presented to their respective populations as done deals. On Earth, it’s still possible to pretend – and believe – that there are multiple independent nations.

In space, the Federation is far more powerful. It claims jurisdiction over the entire solar system, appointing everything from judges to colony governors (a point that is increasingly resented on Mars, Luna and the Belt.) Balked at any chance at power on Earth, the Federation has grown increasingly oppressive to the colonies.

The Federation’s government is … complicated. Governments have a major say, but so do corporations. (One can argue that the whole system operates like the Republic of Gondar; the more one invests, the more say one has.) Corporations have practically unlimited control over ‘company towns’ (corporate asteroid settlements), while there are a handful of settlements that are effectively independent. Some company towns are run with a very loose hand, other towns are run so badly that minor rebellions and sabotage are a constant problem.

***

The Belt Association is the closest thing to a non-Federation political entity outside Earth itself. However, it is not – by any earthly standards – a reasonable government. It is, at best, a tissue of agreements signed by various Belters, which are enforced by social pressure and a handful of law enforcement officers (Belt Marshals). Generally speaking, the Belt has two principles; one may do as one wishes, provided that non-consenting people are not involved, and honour contracts. Paying what one owes is practically the founding principle of the Belters – a Belter who does not honour his word, for whatever reason, will rapidly be denied everything from docking to fresh oxygen.

Belters are not ruthless, but they can be strikingly pragmatic. They rarely give second chances.

The bigger asteroid settlements are democracies, mainly run through electronic networks (allowing every adult a vote.) Others have more restrictive franchises. The Kingdom of Pallas, for example, is solely governed by the King and his family.

Unlike Earth, the Belter Internet is largely free of any form of censorship, but suffers badly from time-lag caused by being spread out over light-hours. Many Belters while away the long hours in transit writing posts to internet newsgroups or downloading the latest stories, videos and VR packages from the net.

There is no unified culture, save for the points mentioned above. Belters generally don’t care what their neighbours do, as long as it poses no threat to anyone else, nor do they really care about skin colour. (Women are generally protected, although manpower demands are too high to keep women in isolation.) Space itself tends to remove idiots very quickly. (The Belter version of drink-drivers, assuming they survived whatever happened, would probably be removed permanently by their fellows.)

The Belt, unlike Earth, has no laws against bodily modification. There are some Belters (Spacers) who have been heavily augmented, to the point where they can survive in space without protective suits. Others have been genetically engineered, both to prevent Lunar Rot and extend their life spans.

***

Over the last few years, tensions have been rising between the Federation and the very loose Belt Association. In particular, a number of events have hardened opinions on both sides:

-An author on Luna published an EBook entitled ‘Musings On The Belt,’ which concluded that the governments on Earth were already so dependent on the Belt that the Belters could not only claim their independence, but bring Earth to heel. He was arrested before he could flee Armstrong City, shipped back to Earth and disappeared. All copies of his book vanished from Earth’s internet, but other copies made their way to the Belt where they were keenly studied.

-A large-scale uprising on Mars (after it was announced that a further hundred thousand settlers would be deposited on the planet) successfully took and held territory for two and a half months before reinforcements were rushed to the planet. The Federation, evidently concerned by both by the uprising’s success and the simple lack of warning any of its intelligence operatives supplied, crushed the uprising with more brutality than usual. It was not, however, able to keep word from spreading through the rest of the system.

-The Federation’s decision to organise a ‘Belt Court’ to handle legal matters concerning the Belt, specifically issues surrounding the claiming of asteroids. Previous Belt formalities weren’t just ignored, they were brushed aside. Combined with a handful of demands for extradition of former corporate serfs who vanished into the darkness – a demand the Belt could not have met, even if it had wanted to – it sent a strong signal that the Belt’s days of semi-independence might be coming to an end.

-Finally, an increasing number of Federation warships calling at Belter ports and surveying nearby asteroids for ‘Dark Colonies.’

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28 Responses to “The Belter War Background”

  1. R Godfrey January 21, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    Interesting premise, have you read the Eclipse Phase setting? Because the situation you describe is some what similar to the pre-Fall situation of that series. The books are available for free on their website.

    • Dennis the Menace January 22, 2016 at 1:27 am #

      I am reading the Eclipse Phase Core book and the Outer Planets sourcebook right now. It is taking me some time because those books are thick with a lot of small print to fit it all in. Extremely well developed.

      Nova Praxis is an alternative take that I find quite compelling as well. No free novels produced yet from them, though.

      http://www.voidstarstudios.com/nova-praxis/

      Both cover the New Economy that involves a lot of anarcho-capitalist and near post-scarcity societies, which I find fascinating even though their main premise is totally from Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”.

  2. Cameron January 21, 2016 at 10:27 pm #

    Well damn. I don’t think I’ve actually read any of your sci-fi books yet, but I’d be really interested in that premise!

  3. Steve January 21, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

    Someone just watched The Expanse…

    • chrishanger January 21, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

      No, it’s really a rewrite of ‘The Spacers’ without the Multiverse War.

      Chris

      • Steve January 22, 2016 at 6:28 am #

        have you watched the Expanse yet?

      • chrishanger January 23, 2016 at 9:52 pm #

        No. The whole concept is really a remake of ‘The Spacers’ without the multiverse elements.

        Chris

  4. Cathy Howat January 22, 2016 at 12:13 am #

    Don’t see New Zealand there, wot, my old country not civilized enough for you poms? 🙂

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 22, 2016 at 12:28 am #

      Maybe you’re a “protectorate” of Australia. [Wink]

      • Rob Godfrey January 22, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

        Any chance of any Transhuman elements? I mean by 2100 it would be strange if their weren’t.

    • chrishanger January 23, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

      Good point. DOH!

      Chris

  5. Dennis the Menace January 22, 2016 at 1:22 am #

    Very Eclipse Phase AND even Bablyon 5. Early Bab5 Earth Alliance history involved a Earth – Belter Alliance conflict that ended up with the Belter Alliance joining the Earth Alliance as a full member state. They maintained their own fleet separate from Earth Force that saw a lot of action during the Earth-Minbari War during the Battle of the Line.

    And then there is The Expanse series now being Game of Throned on TV by SyFy channel.

    It is quite the beaten sci-fi trope.

  6. Anarchymedes January 22, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    1. Russia and the US unite? Only after one beats the other to a pulp: too much bad blood between the two; the grudge from the Cold War is way too massive (at least on the Russian side).
    2. The Powers that Be are only so powerful today because of outsourcing: if iPads had been assembled in the US by the American workers they’d cost $12,000 apiece (an old estimate, don’t remember where I’ve heard it, but it would be nice if someone passed it on to Mr. Trump, who recently promised to force Apple to make ‘their damn computers’ in the US). So the Fedreation won’t be able to exist without cheap slave force from…somewhere – and so it wouldn’t let that ‘somewhere’ fall into chaos.
    3. No book is ever that powerful – and no author, that dangerous. Even on the loudest & proudest underground rock concert people gather, yell, stomp their feet, maybe even shoot into the sky, and then – guess what? Go home. And nothing changes. No artist has ever really stated a revolution (much to the chagrin of my much younger self, from different time and different place 🙂 ).
    4. The way to control a rebellion is to buy over one or two of the rebels by promising them token liberties if they help controlling the rest: look at Russia and Chechnya.
    5. Anything other than pure politics? AI, a new virus, human races mutating, afterlife confirmed scientifically, something fresh and spicy…?

    • Anon January 22, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

      Point2

      Massive automation is coming, good chance that by mid century production will be by robots instead of cheap third world workers.

      • Anarchymedes January 23, 2016 at 2:42 am #

        But we’re not talking about manufacturing jobs only: all software development is outsourced to India. Can anyine make a robitic orogrammer?

    • Dennis the Menace January 22, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

      Yeahhh…I find the whole notion of more and more centralization like that to not be too credible unless a Really Good Reason justifies it — like a Singularity event caused by the emergence of self-aware AI or un-regulated nanotech that even a five person terrorist cell can unleash on the world.

      The Robot Revolution will be really swinging into high gear over the next 10 years. And it will be non-linear in emergence and ‘takeover’. Think how Uber penetrates and then quickly dominates new city markets.

      FoxConn, the main manufacturing source for iPads, is switching to mass roboticization. The South Koreans are starting a project where the goal is to create a robotic manufacturing base that can outcompete with Chinese labor in almost all forms. When this happens and matures, location won’t matter too much and might even be a hindrance. A Chinese robot won’t be all that much more efficient than an American one. But the American one is local, and thus its produced goods don’t have to be shipped over the Pacific to reach American customers. If you think that Just In Time delivery logistics are pretty awesome now, just wait until full automated manufacturing evolves it to a hyper-state.

      (I thus predict that Amazon & Wal-Mart both will jump onto robotically manufacturing their own stuff close to their markets. For Amazon, that is a natural outgrowth of their supply chain. For WalMart, it is matter of existential survival.)

      The upshot is: By 2025, manufacturing in the US will be well on its way to being restored as the means of delivering goods to the American consumer. China, Inc. will experience MILLIONs of worker layoffs all within a compressed time (say 5 years) frame, too. Sucks to be China.

      • Rob Godfrey January 22, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

        that is where we may HAVE to move to a guaranteed basic income system, getting a job will literally be impossible for large swathes of the population, robots will do it cheaper and better, so unless we want a revolution, the only solution I see is GBI, even if every single one of those people could get a degree level qualification, we would not need that many graduates, and the robot factories would need someone to buy the goods…anyone else have a different solution?

  7. JJ Reuter January 22, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    I have some ideas if you are interested.

  8. Anon January 22, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    Breathable atmosphere on Mars by 2100?

    I might buy an atmosphere thick enough that you don’t need space suites. But making an atmosphere where you can breath means not only oxygen, but also the right buffer gasses.

    How about an atmosphere where all you need is a very light re-breather and thick winter cloths on most of the planet, but is warm enough in closer to equator that hardy plants can grow outside?

    • Rob Godfrey January 22, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

      depends how heavily modified ‘base’ humanity is,

      • Anon January 23, 2016 at 11:58 am #

        @Rob

        For some reason I could not replay on your post below.

        The whole catastrophic decompression of a habitat was covered in the Lois McMaster Bujold novel Komarr part of the Vorkosigan Saga.

        Newly minted Imperial Auditor Vorkosigan and a fellow Imperial Auditor take a side trip from of investigating what broke the local sun mirror used in the terraforming process and end up visit/inspecting the local terraforming office.

        As they are entering Vorkosigan turns to his fellow Auditor (the engineer of the team) and ask what would happen if the dome cracked. His fellow Auditor tells him noting much it would just be a slow leak since they make the air inside the domes from the atmosphere outside.

        If you get the atmosphere thick enough and with a high enough oxygen content that you can make breathable air mechanically setting up new settlements become a lot easier as long as you have a power source and the right buffer gases to mix in with what you can get from the atmosphere.

        And that offers up many plot chances for the kind of hidden settlements/bases a rebellion would need.

        Would also open up many more options for long range transportation, hell if your rebels are unable to make small fusion reactors or advanced enough batteries they could grow plants and make bio fuels to power 3d printed ICE or turbine engines.

    • Dennis the Menace January 22, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

      I never get the whole Terraform Mars thing.

      It makes no sense as a long term investment because Mars lacks a magnetic field that is needed to keep the proton exposure from the solar wind at bay. W/o it, not much in the way of advanced life can live on the surface. Humans will still need to live underground or with some other shielding over them. Going outside all the time a la ‘shirtsleeve’ with just a rebreather will not be an option.

      But more importantly, w/o the magnetic field the resulting solar particle bombardment will strip away whatever atmosphere the rest of the terraforming process builds up at great time and expense.

      This makes Venus a waste to attempt to terraform for the same reasons.

      Thus the only way to properly terraform Mars would be to make a huge moon for it that will cause the appropriate tidal effects to get Mars’ core spinning again enough to produce the required magnetic field. This would involve moving a LOT of asteroids there (the expensive part) and then wiring them up together in some sort of mesh (probably the easy part).

      But if we could do that, then it makes more sense to use the asteroids to create something like a Dyson’ Mini-Sphere instead. Something like a really, really big and hollow moon more like a Cole bubbleworld on steroids.

      Kim Stanley Robinson, Ben Bova, the writers of Star Trek & Babylon5 and all the rest of Mars terraforming ‘greats’ really look like fools to me. Bishop Rings habs (like that depicted in the film Elysium) that are not enclosed aren’t that viable either unless they are in orbit of the Earth or Ganymede in such a way that they fall within those respective world’s magnetospheres.

      • Rob Godfrey January 22, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

        given the tech in elysium (cancer cured in seconds at home) the radiation issues would appear not to be a thing, in that setting.
        Giving mars an atmosphere is more about pressure and reducing dust storms, give it oceans as well, the thicker atmosphere retains heat for you, the oceans give you weather that is sane as rain tamps down the dust, and breaches in a habitat go from catastrophic decompression to a maintenance issue.

      • Anon January 23, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

        You make a good point Denis when it comes to solar particle bombardment and long term feasibility, think the reason why people is fixed on is because it seems more manageable than the other options.

        If you are effectively going to living in a fall out shelter dropping some H-bombs over the polar caps like Musk got lambasted in the press for suggesting to jump start the process might be cheap way to get started.

        Because even if you are living in fall out shelters and have to drop water asteroids/comets into the atmosphere on a regular basis to stop it bleeding away the system as whole would still be more robust than a single asteroid settlement far away from help.

        Personally I think a hollowed out asteroid spin up to create artificial gravity make more sense that going down another gravity well after having struggled to get up from the first, make the asteroid multiple cave and have extremely redundant engineer plants instead.

    • Rob Godfrey January 23, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

      Why use none modified plants and people? Tolerance for extreme conditions could be spliced in from conception…2 generations back.

  9. Wayne Pharries January 27, 2016 at 5:01 am #

    Chris, at the risk of sounding like a fawning toady, I just want to say that if you write it, I will read it. Perhaps you should write Rob’s GBI into the story. It fits pretty well into the concept of the Federation. I really don’t think he’s read any of your books.

    • chrishanger January 29, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

      I’m just scribbling down notes for the plot . Need to see what i can harvest from The Spacers and then improve.

      Chris

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