Planetary Overview: New Doncaster

9 Jul

The setting for the first of Prince Roland’s stories. What do you think?

New Doncaster

The settlement rights to the New Doncaster System remained in a curious legal limbo until roughly 500PEF, as the system was claimed by the remnants of a political faction that was steadily losing its remaining influence in the Grand Senate.  This did not, of course, stop rogue factions from settling the planet before the official colonists arrived, causing all sorts of minor problems as the newcomers asserted their claim to the planet.  There was a brief series of engagements that ended when the Imperial Navy bombarded the illegal settlements, the survivors forcibly integrated into the new power structure.  Tales of hidden settlements and rogue sailors abound, but few believe them.

Officially, New Doncaster – generally shortened to Doncaster – is a representative democracy, with a parliament composed of elected MPs.  Practically, voting rights are highly restricted and based largely – almost completely – on land ownership.  The original investors – the Landowners – own roughly 70% of the planet’s land surface (as well as the moons, asteroid belts and gas giants) and generally run the planet to suit themselves.  They have endless privileges, written into the constitution by the first legal settlers; the majority of government jobs are reserved for them.  Naturally, the parliament is little more than a rubber stamp.  Decisions are taken in private, by the dominant landowners, and then effortlessly passed through parliament.  The handful of MPs from townie factions are unable to do anything about it. 

This is bitterly resented by two of the four other factions: the townies (who form a growing business/middle class) and the debtors (who are effectively serfs, working to pay off impossible debts).  The economic slowdown that ended with Earthfall has hit the planet hard, ensuring that the debts are even more unserviceable.  The townies want more say in planetary affairs – in effect, an end to the landholding scheme – and are prepared to agitate to get it; the debtors want an end to debt and a more fair sharing of planetary resources.  The more perceptive landowners realise that they’ll have to make some concessions, sooner or later, but they’re blocked by their fellows, who feel that any concessions will come back to bite them. 

The remaining two factions – the sailors and the spacers – try to have as little to do with the other factions as possible. However, that may not be able to endure indefinitely. 

There is a surprising amount of ethnic diversity amongst the population, but the planet is resolutely monocultural.  The price of settlement – as a townie or a debtor – was abandoning one’s former culture, if it was believed to be incompatible.  Racism is thankfully rare – classism is considerably more prevalent – and it isn’t unknown for a particularly competent debtor or townie to climb the ladders.  However, this is uncommon.  There are very few slots for newcomers, no matter how talented they may be.

The planet’s military is more of a glorified police force.  The landowners disliked the idea of a standing army – particularly one drawn largely from the lower classes – and kept it as low as possible.  They preferred the idea of a volunteer force drawn from the higher classes, who were the only ones who were allowed to bear arms.  Accordingly, the army consists of little more than 10’000 infantry, with a handful of supporting aircraft and boats, backed up by volunteer posses whenever things get too far out of hand.  Logistics are minimal.  Training is very much a mixed bag, as officers are exclusively drawn from the landowners.  Some are strikingly competent, some are practically useless.

New Doncaster is unusual amongst planets, in that it has a relatively small settlement zone running around the equator.  The planetary surface is an archipelago of islands, some of which are very large indeed (think Cuba or Ireland); the waters, stocked with fish from Earth, provide more than enough sustenance for the system’s inhabitants.  (This is partly why the sailors think they can remain aloof from the power struggle, as they can feed themselves and maintain their sailing ships without much from the main islands.)  A number of islands play host to factories, farms and plantations; a cluster of mid-sized islands represent the capital of the planetary system.

The planet is orbited by a small halo of asteroid settlements and industrial nodes, with varying levels of ties to the planetary government.  Some are owned directly by the landowners, some owe formal fealty to the government but pay as little attention to it as possible.  Smuggling is big business.  Doncaster’s government will never admit it, but the planet sells a considerable amount of advanced technology on the black market.  There is a formal planetary defence network, but no one is really sure how capable it is.  The handful of outdated gunboats patrolling the system are completely inadequate for the task.

Outside the high orbitals, there are small settlements on the rocky worlds, cloudscoops orbiting the gas giants (both owned by the landowners) and an ever-increasing union of settled asteroids (some independent).

The planet’s major exports are food, rare chemicals (harvested from the plantations) and a small – but growing – trade in advanced technology and starship components.

Unsurprisingly, Doncaster has been heading steadily towards disaster.  Earthfall has ensured that the planetary government can no longer call on the Imperial Navy for help.  Worse, the steady economic collapse across the sector has brought pirates, (more) smugglers and independence activists to Doncaster.  The Secessionist League, in particular, has been trying to supply the debtors – and some of the townies – with advanced weapons, hoping the rebels can take the planetary surface and industrial nodes.  The government has reacted poorly, as it remains unwilling to make any substantial concessions to either the townies or the debtors.  Instead, it has tried to crack down – unsuccessfully – on subversion.  It’s heavy-handed tactics have only made things worse, ensuring more resentment and more recruits for the rebel factions.

It is only a matter of time until the planet explodes.

9 Responses to “Planetary Overview: New Doncaster”

  1. Les Barrie July 9, 2020 at 6:39 pm #

    looks promising

  2. PhilippeO July 9, 2020 at 7:00 pm #

    Another 19th-century analogue then.

    It still confuse me why so many “radicals” who support Great Reform Act and overthrow nobility nevertheless become conservative when they see 20th century development.

    • Neil O'Dea July 9, 2020 at 9:29 pm #

      that simple, they are the ones in charge now

  3. Neil O'Dea July 9, 2020 at 9:32 pm #

    who are the Secessionist League?

  4. R. Klingman July 9, 2020 at 9:55 pm #

    I agree with Les.
    Go for it.

  5. Gary F York July 9, 2020 at 10:52 pm #

    Just finishing the Alexis Carew series (similar in concept) so I probably won’t be having a look at this one of yours until it comes around again — on the guitar. 🙂

  6. Daniel Clark July 10, 2020 at 4:20 am #

    Explodes figuratively right? they don’t have any Death Stars hanging around right?

  7. Bewildered July 10, 2020 at 10:12 am #

    PhilippeO suggested this would be just another 19th century setting, but why not subvert expectations?

    Your Landowners own 70% of the land surface, America’s 1% own 40% of the wealth. Might you exaggerate the divides so obvious in America? Remember militant activists and organisations receiving financial aid and favourable media coverage from 1%ers and their interests.

    You mention Doncaster is ostensibly a representative democracy, but in practice voting rights are heavily restricted and parliamentary decisions are made in private by a handful of landowners. Could this parallel Tech billionaires etc meeting with Democrat powerbrokers to get ‘parliament’ to rubber stamp their interests? Not a perfect parallel but subverting expectations right?

    You mention Townies but who does this entail? You say middle class\business class, but the term usually refers to the urban population of towns by colleges\universities e.g. Oxford. It doesn’t relate to city dwellers does it? What is Doncaster’s population – are you talking millions e.g. Ireland or New Zealand, hundreds of millions e.g. America, or billions e.g. China + India?

    Debtors are serfs paying off impossible debts but are they farm labourers, or sweatshop labour? The latter would likely be more profitable, but entail a more urban focused economy. Urban populations would also be far easier to manipulate\control.

    It seems like Townies want equality, your debtors want something more akin to communism. You say perceptive landowners realise concessions will be needed, but their peers block them. What techniques do these rivals use?

    Sailors and spacers seem to be neutrals so I’ll ignore them.

    Donovan is multiracial but monocultural. Is this really rational though? Even White America has some distinct cultural differences, and that in a mere 200 or so years – double that for the original colonies. You explain that as price of settlement, but how could that be enforced, and what counts as culture? Language, religion, festivals, ways of doing things, food choices, ways of cooking, culture covers so very very much! You mention classism, but isn’t that another form of culture? And you seem to suggest that landowners were permitted to retain their own cultures so they could have imposed particular cultural paradigms on residents within their territories.

    A 10,000 man volunteer military suggests the planetary population is small, though you do note they’re drawn from the upper classes who are permitted to bear arms – I’m assuming this means landowner subclasses e.g. youngest sons of youngest sons rather than Townies etc.

    Is it that Doncaster has a narrow belt of land, or that only a narrow belt has been settled? You say land includes some large islands, and then give Cuba and Ireland as examples. Ireland is 84,421 Km^2 while Cuba is 105,806 Km^2. Contrast that with Great Britain which is 209,331Km^2 let alone Greenland which is 2,130,800 Km^2. If you needed to reference Earth islands would you refer to Earth or Old Earth as residents of Donovan wouldn’t have much to do with Earth right?

    You say exports include food, rare chemicals harvested from plantations, advanced technology, and starship components. How does debtor labour fit into this? Having debtors as farm serfs would veer into a 19th century parallel, but copying modern slave\sweatshop labour could mean debtors working more in tech fields. Sweatshop labour likely wouldn’t have time\energy\privacy to get into real trouble.

    Your Secessionist League is seeking to arm debtors and some townies and start a war. Couldn’t pragmatic Landowners co-opt debtor organisations and turn them against townies? The rich leveraging poor against the middle class is something of a tradition. Do debtors make a distinction between townies and landowners? If violence ensues harsh measures against debtors will be supported by most. If debtors can overthrow townies with the aid of pragmatic landowners then townie wealth can be used to forgive debt and a compromise drawn up on the bones of townies. Debtors would thus be grateful to landowners for the generosity shown – which doesn’t cost landowners anything. If rebel debtor efforts fail then mass arrests and executions can be used to subdue the population, and townies will be grateful to landowners for their protection. it’s a win:win scenario for the landowners.

  8. Bill July 10, 2020 at 7:38 pm #

    Looks Great So Far!

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