Sunday, July 4, 2010

Revolt of the Colonies

Cover of 'Between Planets'
Of the blessings the Founding Fathers of the United States bequeathed on posterity, few could have been less foreseeable in 1776 than the birth of a science fiction trope. The American Revolution itself has all but fallen into the memory hole, except for this one day each year, but it lives on whenever and wherever a colony planet or spacehab tells old Mother Earth to stick it where Sol doesn't shine.

Robert Heinlein, naturally, was a leading proponent of this trope, which I first encountered in Between Planets - quite possibly the edition shown above, with a forward view of a classic Heinlein spherical deep space ship, along with a (flying boat!) ramjet shuttle. He had already treated the theme at least once previously, in Red Planet, and he would treat it again, at greater length, in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Thus Venus, Mars, and the Moon all get their chance at a Glorious Fourth, and I seem to recall that he mentions yet another Venus rebellion in his 'official' future history.

For obvious historical reasons the Revolt of the Colonies is particularly a theme in 'Murrican SF, though it also figures in an Arthur C. Clark novel, Earthlight, which includes his most extended take on a space battle. His perspective on the rebellion is naturally more detached. Indeed, he does not go into the politics at all, beyond the amusing twist that the one named Martian rebel leader is descended from Winston Churchill.


If space colonies come into being at all, it is obviously possible that they might eventually revolt and declare their independence from their Earthside rulers. Whether it is particularly likely is another matter. For one thing, there might be no one to rebel against. Ancient Greek colonies were born independent, expected to retain ties of affection with the metropolis, but none of authority. This would almost surely be true of any STL interstellar colony; if you send people off to settle a planet decades or centuries away, sending a viceroy along is fairly pointless.

On the other hand, if the central authority retains close control of its colonies, the colonials may well accept and embrace this state of affairs. Latin American colonies remained remarkably loyal for some 300 years, even at times when Spain and Portugal were cut off by sea and in no position to exert authority. Only Napoleon's invasion of Iberia itself set off the chain of events that led to revolt and independence.

This suggests that the key to colonial rebellion may not be metropolitan domination per se, but the attempt to re-establish it. Or - as in the case of the American Revolution itself - a belated attempt to exert it in the first place. The British American colonies were founded, from Britain's point of view, in a spirit of good luck and good riddance. By the time Whitehall decided to insist (not unreasonably, on the face of it) that the colonials contribute to imperial defense, the horse had been out of the barn for generations - not to mention that the heavy lifting of knocking off French Quebec had already been done.

Another possibility is a metropolitan political struggle spilling over into the colonies, with one faction losing at home but winning in the colonies. I cannot think of a direct example, but it seems like the sort of thing that might happen.

When in the course of literary events, it becomes necessary for a space colony to kick over the traces, a way can always be found.


Related post: Three years ago today I reflected on possible 'Murrican futures.

81 comments:

Jim Baerg said...

"By the time Whitehall decided to insist (not unreasonably, on the face of it) that the colonials contribute to imperial defense, the horse had been out of the barn for generations - not to mention that the heavy lifting of knocking off French Quebec had already been done."

A reasonable counter-argument on the colonials part is that they had done a large part of that heavy lifting.

In particular the fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island was crucial for the French to guard the approaches to the rest of New France. In 1745 a force from the New England colonies with help from the Royal Navy captured Louisbourg, but it was returned to France in the treaty that ended that war, so it had to be captured again in 1758.

kedamono@mac.com said...

And of course a further element to consider is that the colony is simply "graduated" to nation by the parent nation. For example Canada and Australia. Both have dominion status in the British Commonwealth, but are separate and sovereign nations. They share their monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth, with other members of the Commonwealth, but their rise to nationhood was not fraught with rebellion and war, but with negotiation and politics.

Something similar could happen to colonies "out there". Instead of warfare and revolt, they get their own government, and a seat at the big kids table for political decisions and what not.

I've always wondered why Canada and the British Caribbean never joined the rest of the colonies in the rebellion. I've never gotten a satisfactory answer.

Anonymous said...

"Another possibility is a metropolitan political struggle spilling over into the colonies, with one faction losing at home but winning in the colonies. I cannot think of a direct example, but it seems like the sort of thing that might happen."

War of 1812/Napoleonic Wars. America was allied with the French, and the impetuous for war was that the British were attacking our economic interests, arming and agitating the native Americans on the western frontier, and conscripting our sailors to harm French economic interests. So America threw in on what amounted to the French side, albeit staying in North America when we did so.

Napoleon lost, but America won the War of 1812 (or at least achieved its strategic ends of ending economic interference and halting British interaction with the natives).

Anonymous said...

"I've always wondered why Canada and the British Caribbean never joined the rest of the colonies in the rebellion. I've never gotten a satisfactory answer."

Probably the same reason most of the Americans didn't join the rebellion. There was not much reason for them to do it.

Keep in mind that the Boston Tea Party was in fact triggered by deregulation and a tax cut. Most of the rhetoric American's are fed and the freedoms we enjoy are not the result of the high minded ideals of the founders, but because if the founders hadn't done that, not enough people would have backed them, and they would have been executed as traitors to the crown.

Thucydides said...

Canada was very sparsely settled and economically far behind the 13 colonies; the critical mass of people who's interests were being adversely affected by the State did not exist yet.

Later in our history, there were revolts against oppressive arrangements like the Family Compact, but since Canada had been filled by Loyalists who were forced or chose to leave after the Revolution, there was (and perhaps still is) a lingering aversion to the use of violence for political means. Canada also has so much empty space it is often the simpler solution to move to the unsettled west or north to escape from perceived oppression than to stand and fight. (Modern Canadians also have the option of escaping to,,,,the United States).

The Coming of the French Revolution has a great thesis that only the middle class can stage a true revolution since they alone have hard won property, rights and wealth that they are willing to fight to defend, and will change society in order to protect. Aristocrats who seek to revoke rights and confiscate property and wealth from the middle class are the usual trigger in this view, but the middle class are also well aware of an envious underclass willing to rise up and steal wealth and property on a large scale if possible. Middle class revolutionaries arrange society to protect their property. Socialist revolutionaries arrange society to steal other's property. Peasants can overthrow hated overlords, but have little conception of property rights and short term horizons. Aristocratic coups are fights over the existing pie.

It is hard to say what situation would obtain in a space setting. The distances and limited population might make revolution impractical. Technologies that allow space travel and settlement also allow Earth bureaucrats to send the Space Navy to enforce their regulations. The people of Earth might simply not care what the colonies do.

Anonymous said...

To the other Anonymous: you said;
"Keep in mind that the Boston Tea Party was in fact triggered by deregulation and a tax cut. Most of the rhetoric American's are fed and the freedoms we enjoy are not the result of the high minded ideals of the founders, but because if the founders hadn't done that, not enough people would have backed them, and they would have been executed as traitors to the crown."

You can't really assign modern motives to historical events; most of the people that joined the American side of the revolution did so due to their perception that the British were not treating them as equals; they enjoyed being first class citizens, not second class subjects (no matter what the proper terms were at the time), and the actions of the British reafirmed those beliefs; those tax cuts you wrote about happened far too late (especially taking into account the weeks it took for news to travel across the ocean at that time), to affect the anger and frustration the American middle class felt toward the far-off government. It took decades to reach that point and wasn't able to be changed in a few short years, not to mention the British Parliment didn't have a good idea of what those frustrations were, nor did they have a lot of time to devote to it (those French guys causing all that trouble...).

Thucydides said:
"It is hard to say what situation would obtain in a space setting. The distances and limited population might make revolution impractical. Technologies that allow space travel and settlement also allow Earth bureaucrats to send the Space Navy to enforce their regulations. The people of Earth might simply not care what the colonies do."

I'd have thought that the vast distances and limited lift capability would make it easier to revolt than not. But, that's just me...or, at least it might make the colonists feel like they might win.

Ferrell

Sabersonic said...

One can argue that the success of any revolution, no matter how the "mother country" manages the offworld colonies on any scale, can be answered by these questions:

1) Orbital vs. Planetary

2) Must the infrastructure be captured intact?

For the first question, many of us have debated and learned over the previous blog entries that orbital colonies are very fragile structures compared to planetary settlements and, as such, far more vulnerable to violent action then their planet-side breatheren. Not to mention the near-dictatorship level of control that is needed to keep orbital habitats functional would make any acts of open rebellion a poor judgement at best.

The only time a planetary settlement is as close to vulnerable to orbital habitats is if the planetary environment is a very close second to space when it comes to hostility towards human survival. The only difference is in the heat management with convection with either the atmosphere or the ground below, just one of many factors that'll make defense against any reactionary orbital constellation task force sent to qualsh any rebellion.

Of course, this also depends upon if the political and/or economical reasons for the colony to be intact after military action are present and strongly argued for. If not, well as the old addage goes "bombs away".

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Albert said...

Some thoughs sparkled by Sabersonic's post above.

Imho the main question should be:
"Why should a colony rebel?"


To answer you need to know why the colony was established.
Afaik the general consensus here (or at least Rick's opinion) is that meanigful colonies will be " a city in spaace!" otherwise called travel nexus, while mining and otherwise resource-exploitation stations/bases will be "Oil rigs in spaace!".

Now, Oil rigs don't rebel for obvious reasons. They may have some strikes and turmoil, but noone wants to live there forever.
Thus noone wants indipendence.

So, why should a travel nexus rebel?

Probably taxes from Earth or something that affects the number of shippings that must go through it to reach their destinations (its main source of income after all).

Even then, why should a travel nexus be so violent about it?

Imho the sheer existence of said station is linked to commerce and most warfare would keep merchant shipments away from it.
Thus, that station won't be able to support itself without merchant traffic.
And I'm not talking about life support issues, but money to pay the bills.

That's a major difference from an old times Earth nation, like the 13 colonies of the newborn US.
They had more than enough resources to be more or less indipendent, thus they could cut loose any connection with the outside world (and then think they are the whole world... but I digress).

A travel nexus exists to connect things, thus pulling loose the connections would be suicidal.

This reasoning makes me feel that most "colonies", if they rebel at all, will choose a much more political/economical way of settling the dispute.

Feel free to nitpick/debate about it.

-Albert

kedamono@mac.com said...

Speaking of revolting developments, Marcus Rowland, of Forgotten Futures RPG fame, is doing a Stanley Weinbaum RPG: Planets of Peril

In his current Live Journal post, he's asking questions of how the Space Pilot's Association and the Union of Spaceship Engineers react to the first automated spaceship.

An interesting concept, unions in space, no?

http://ffutures.livejournal.com/682460.html

Jim Baerg said...

Aside from outright rebellion there can also be resentments between regions of an essentially democratic federation as expressed
here

Anonymous said...

It could also be that the nexus just carries one flag or another for show, but the people down below actualy think that the nexus is theirs. If the people down below find out they have been trading with another orbital of a rival nation they might try to stop the trade. Those in the orbital wouldn't want to stop such a profitable trade so refuse, not knowing that the nation would try to force the issue. And when they do the orbital is forced to declare independence by the nation so that it has a fake reason to attack and gain control.

Rick said...

Quite true that the American colonists did their share of heavy lifting, as in the case of Louisbourg. But in any case, once the threat was removed, so was Whitehall's most effective leverage.


And of course a further element to consider is that the colony is simply "graduated" to nation by the parent nation.

This is both the sensible solution and a perfectly plausible one, but it kills the Revolt of the Colonies plot line right out of the gate!

That said, a transport nexus that lives on trade will tend to seek political solutions rather than trade-disrupting ones.

Boston, and New England generally, were nevertheless prominent in the Revolution because of their resentment of mercantilist restrictions on their trade. But in the War of 1812 the 'war hawks'* were largely in the interior, while New England had a good deal of secessionist sentiment.

* The origin of the current US political usage of 'hawk' for supporters of a war or a hardline foreign policy.


I'd have to think about the theory of what constitutes a 'true' revolution. But it is true that large and middling wealth holders often have very different political and class identities - for example, a nobility that has direct influence at court, versus a gentry that does not. Though from a peasant's point of view there is very little distinction between them!

Mr. Blue said...

I believe that the closer you are, the less likely you are to rebel.

If a colony is close, they can retain close cultural and personal ties. If it’s a colony in Earth orbit, light speed lag is not a big concern, so communication is almost instantaneous. One can talk to family in real-time and stay up with current trends and news via the internet. Frequent travel between orbital colonies and the earth is also pretty likely. Visits by ranking VIP’s and politicians would be frequent.
So, politically, a colony in earth’s orbit would likely be incorporated as a province or state with full representation if large enough (a small colony would be too small to rebel anyway).

However, move the colony out a bit further, say to Mars, and the communications lag becomes a factor. Light speed lag limits and filters the amount of data traveling back and forth. Weight limits on interplanetary transportation would encourage colonist to go with locally manufactured goods. And travel times of a few weeks does tend to discourage casual travel to and fro.
Thus, this colony would very easily develop its own very separate culture. The distance would encourage a feeling of separation and independence from the mother planet. Decisions made from Earth would most likely be resented as out of touch.

So, if the Earth tries to hold on too tightly, the colony would rebel. If they allow some sort of commonwealth type arrangement, the colony would be independent anyway, with only nominal and ceremonial ties to Earth. A bit like the British Commonwealth today.

Cityside said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cityside said...

"the colony is simply "graduated" to nation by the parent nation. For example Canada and Australia."

Or, in a parallel to the process that transformed US territories into states, granted full self-governing status as a full fledged member of the Federation (Speaking of SF tropes...)

The statehood process was itself fraught with plotting and intrigue, and occasional outright violence - ie. the short-lived "State" of Franklin. I've occasionally toyed with adapting The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence as a Firefly-esque space western).

Also, as much as we Americans' like to think ours is the first revolt to cast off the rule of a "foreign" king and declare a free republic, the Dutch might beg to differ.

True, it's not a colonial revolt in the truest sense, but in a near future where corporate and national sovereignty gets increasingly confused, the resulting mess might not be all that indistinguishable from the old-school dynastic politics that left the Netherlands subject to a nominally "Spanish" King.

Tianbin said...

No matter where, we are not going to build an Space Colony. it should be call Republic of X planet. and its govorment located mainly on earth under the guard of an internation organiztion e.g. The UN. In this way, the Republic of X planet can print their own money and their currence would be like current US dollar, a note of public debt of the Republic of X. for example, we create the Republic of Moon. at beginning they can issue a debt of 1 tirllion us dollar. convert that into He3, its just about 5000ton of He3. easily paid off.

Byron said...

I've sort of had to deal with this in my universe, Duel of the Buffoons. In there, Luna gained it's independence over a decade earlier, but the tensions from that revolt cause the story.
It was sparked by an attempt by the US to prop up it's economy by basically claiming sovereignty over Luna, after years of a hands-off policy. Luna responded with protests, and after some incompetence on the part of the US, it becomes a full-scale revolt. China steps in and calms both sides down, so Luna gains it's independence. See short story Anniversary p.14 for details.
However, in this case, Luna is aided by China because of the He3. Any revolting colony will need friends, so they have someone to trade with after the revolution. If they don't need to trade, or have anything else valuable, then they'll either be let go rather than go to the trouble of subduing them, or be threatened until they fall in line.
In some ways, rebellion in space is easy, if you control the systems. It depends on whether you are revolting against a foreign power (as in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), or against your own government. In the second case, there isn't much hope.

Ferrard Carson said...

Interplanetary conflict has always seemed a bit... arbitrary to me. It always presupposes a number of conditions, popularized by Star Wars and Star Trek:

One-World Government - The most basic assumption when you say, "Mars Attacks Earth!" Why would Mars as a whole have a problem with Earth? Why would they have a problem with all of Earth? How the hell did the entirety of Earth even agree to be ruled by one government?

Colonies - The second big assumption is that these are colonies, and not nations in their own right. Why would these planets be controlled from Earth? I can see a planet in Sol being controlled from Earth, but if you put a colony out in another star system, unless you have instantaneous communication or ridiculously fast FTL, then it's going to be inefficient beyond belief to govern that colony from Earth.

I'm currently at work with a couple of friends on a generic medium-hard Sci-Fi RPG that we hope can be adapted to cover both Cowboy Bebop and Firefly in addition to the homebrew setting we're creating.

From what I'm seeing of our setting (no ansible, interplanetary travel / communication is simple, but interstellar, not so much) there really isn't any incentive for Earth to A) have any influence or interest at all in the new colonies, and B) the colonies to revolt against Earth, when they're effectively autonomous nations anyways.

That's not to say that some moons can't revolt against their planetary government, and some planetary populace can't revolt against a planetary government. In fact, I see this intra-planetary conflict as being more informative of the setting than any inter-planetary fracas, considering the system as a whole is administered by the founding megacorp like a quasi-feudal confederacy.

~ Ferrard

Thucydides said...

The ultimate aim of a revolution is to settle the question "who is in charge here". England had their revolution in the 1600's, answering the question between the "Divine Right of Kings" or Parliament with a civil war and regicide.

Things like the war between the United Provinces and the Spanish Empire are more in the class of a revolt against a foreign power rather than a revolution (the "real" revolution was the creation of the quasi republican political structure of the United Provinces in the first place).

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has both a revolt (against the oppressive Federation), and a revolution (the Professor's manipulation of the crowd to institute a Limited Republic), which seems to me to be a more realistic way of setting the stage for the revolution trope.

The Earth will probably be vitally interested in the movement of large bodies in space, and also concerned about the movement of high velocity object with large amounts of kinetic energy. In order to "protect" the Earth from potentially devastating impacts, some sort of controlling mechanism, enforced by a Space Guard or Space Navy would be created, and proceed to closely monitor and control the mining of celestial bodies and the shipping of matter and energy across space.

You think bureaucrats and command economies screw up the economy, the environment, culture and civilization? Try applying the "Local Knowledge Problem" to controlling social, political and economic activity across the Solar System, with timelines measured in decades. Friedrich von Hayek would laugh heartily at anyone or any organization foolish and arrogant enough to try. (Examples ranging from the current administration's handling of the gulf oil disaster, the EU's dealing with the economic crisis of the PIIGS or the economy of the DPRK exist to enlighten anyone who feels otherwise).

The settlers and their colonies scattered across deep space will feel mightily pinched by cumbersome and generally negative bureaucratic interference in their lives, and so be inspired to revolt. They will also need to develop some new ways to organize in order to protect themselves from retribution and prevent further interference from Earth or other potential rivals (who knows what those Martians will do?). As people have pointed out, there will probably be a tendency for rigid internal controls in a colony, something the settlers might decide to change while they are at it.

Thucydides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I could see American colonies within the solar system having the status of territories, like Puerto Rico and Guam, though probably not full statehood.
Interstellar colonies (assuming FTL, with Age-of-Sail/Steam level travel times), could obviously not be governed day to day from Earth, but would require a local governor. The only real difference between such a colony and a sovereign state would be that the government and standing army would be ultimately accountable to and take orders from the parent government on Earth, rather than the local legislature or the colony population. Of course, this lack of accountability could lead to a revolt, or at least low-level dissent. In Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans, there is tension between the regular British forces, who are focused on defeating the French forces, and the colonial/allied Indian militia, who are focused on defending their homes and families from raids by the Indian allies of the French.
Interplanetary warfare could still take place without one-planet government, though it would be more complex, with nations having to deal with on-world and off-world allies, neutrals and enemies, as in the above example. The nearest thing to a world government might be Thucydides' Space Guard, perhaps not a standing force but drawn from national militaries much as UN Peacekeepers are today, and intended to prevent accidental or malicious asteroid impacts.

R.C.

Citizen Joe said...

I have s suspicion that colonies won't be politically organized but rather owned by the financing corporation. Political states would then become quaint notions to the now boundless corporations.

Mr. Blue said...

Another thought-
Projecting force over interplanetary distance is rather difficult.
How do you garrison a large colony near Saturn? Locally raised troops would tend to be more loyal to the colony. If you send too many soldiers, they would use up a too large share of the colony's resources. Too few and they could be easily overwhelmed by the locals.
Send in the fleet? It's a long way, and you're a sitting duck pretty much the whole trip. Keep a fleet there? Expensive. And if it's too local it would tend to be more loyal to the colony.

Ferrard Carson said...

@ Citizen Joe: That's actually what my friends and I are going with - one mega-corporation funded by people around the world led a colonization effort. Now they pretty much own everyone in the system because of the exorbitant price of interstellar transit. The new system is organized like a corp - the different planets and moons are separately governed but overseen by the general committee.

We have the idea that two or three planets / moons are self-sufficient and don't recognize the company as their overarching ruler, but as the guy assigned most of the fluff, I haven't quite figured out how to justify it. As for why they're allowed to continue whinging... it's probably not very cost-effective to attack them, considering the setting has minimal magitech, and no one wants to do a colony drop on them and waste a (more or less) habitable world / moon.

~ Ferrard

Thucydides said...

Owned planets would be suseptible to revolts, as people get paid off by the competition to act in manners which increase "friction" and reduce profitability for the owning corporation.

The supression of enturpranerial impulses inside the "company town" will also act as a spur to rebellion.

Finally, what happens when the owning company goes bankrupt or is bought out in a hostile takeover? The management might not be able to deal with the population (either as their nominal authority is no longer backed by anything or if the managerial class no longer has the will to do the job).

Corporate planets and colonies might be the easist places for social and political revolutions to take place.

Rick said...

Welcome to another new commenter!

Note to commenters - Blogger's commenting function is acting up today (the 6th), so if comments you posted earlier seem to be missing, that is why. Hopefully they'll get it straightened out!


Distance and rebellions: A case might be made that intermediate distances (or, more precisely, travel/comm times) are most conducive to colonial rebellions. A nearby colony may remain culturally and politically a part of the metropolis, while a very distant colony is effectively autonomous in any case.


Labor Unions in Space: I touched on the possible connections between labor issues and colonial rebellions in a post last year. Tension between colony and the metropolis could easily arise as a labor-management dispute.

This is most obvious in those settings where megacorps are the dominant force, but note that the ideological claims (on both sides) may be quite different from actual practice.

Rick said...

Interesting cross-post with Thucydides' last observation!

Cityside said...

"Corporate planets and colonies might be the easist places for social and political revolutions to take place."

And, even if a chuck of rock is nominally claimed by a national entity, a corporation is quite likely to be the de facto government (perhaps officially so, depending on the details of the lease agreement). Indeed, the "revolution" may amount to an appeal to the national government to assert political control (ie: the anti-proprietary struggle in Pennsylvania prior to 1776).

Anonymous said...

Ferrard Carson said:
"We have the idea that two or three planets / moons are self-sufficient and don't recognize the company as their overarching ruler, but as the guy assigned most of the fluff, I haven't quite figured out how to justify it."
How about you have the independent worlds trade with each other, but have almost no dealings with the Super-mega-corp...who suddenly feels the need to expand its market share.

People tend to let frustrations build up over years and it takes that long (at least), to plaicate those frustrations. That's why many revolutions take place after a "solution" has been found to the most visable problem...cases of 'to little too late'. People at every level, and especially those that are isolated by their positions, tend to overestimate their capabilities and underestimate their opponents'. A leader's ego (especially an autocratic, insolated one), has a lot to do with the actions a company or nation takes during a dispute with another geopolitical entity. No matter who starts the dispute; and especially if it is a 'manufactured' rather than a 'natural' dispute.
The source of the peoples' frustration can come from unfair policies, lack of policy, corruption, interferance with commercial or social practices, other burdens that the populce feels are unfair or are implimented in an unfair manner, or even just a general feeling that the "powers-that-be" aren't listening to their concerns.
One of the reasons that the Americans revolted was that the British Government was too far away to respond to their problems and concerns; indeed, most members of the British Parliment didn't understand the problems and concerns of the average American, or even think about them until they were forced to. People on Earth might feel the same way (or, rather, not think) about colonists and their problems, then get the wrong idea from the politicians and/or corporate heads...
I hope this helps.

Ferrell

Albert said...

Ferrard Carson said...
"We have the idea that two or three planets / moons are self-sufficient and don't recognize the company as their overarching ruler, but as the guy assigned most of the fluff, I haven't quite figured out how to justify it."

Imho full self-sufficiency is plain wrong.
Not only from a tech view (total magitech), but from a purely management view.

What better way to keep people in line than controlling the supply lines?

I mean, you control the supply lines of the interesting stuff.
Good quality objects/artefacts, Internet access, quality entertainment (Sex, Drugs, Rock&Roll :), newsfeeds, luxury items and interplanetary or interstellar UPS at discounted prices.

Remember, a boring life is worse than instant death.
(little twist of old Napoleon's said)

This is a heavy way to extert pressure on the "colony's free government". Or on the people anyway.

Thucydides said...
Owned planets would be suseptible to revolts, as people get paid off by the competition to act in manners which increase "friction" and reduce profitability for the owning corporation.

An exceedingly good reason to keep the "colonization" of the owned place at a minimum.
The people who don't work anymore for the company go back home (on Earth).

True corporations don't have any good reason to colonize imho, but have quite good reasons to pressure governments to do so.
(obvious goal is *wink wink*: get money from the governments to build and send equipment to colonists, and also exploit resources on the new world)

This way all the pains of governing the colony remain of the original government, while they get the nice profits by both colony's resource exploitation and equipment sales.

Also, corporations are extraterritorial, so even if the colony rebels to Earth for some reason, they will still do profits.

-Albert

SHarper said...

I do not believe traditional revolt with torches and pitchforks will be viable in space colonies.

I am working off of the assumption that space colonization will be done for financial purposes. Only big companies with lots of money will be able to afford the creation of and upkeep of space colonies.

For an example, lets say that Exxon decides to create an asteroid mining colony. It will cost alot of money to transport workers to and from the colony. Due to that cost, workers will probably have to sign contracts and agree to work for long periods of time to pay off the transportation. The longer workers stay on the Exxon colony, the more they need something to do besides work. Hence colonies will form in a similar way to old-fashioned mining towns. One big company is responsible for most of the economy, and smaller companies join in and serve the workers (and perhaps families) when they are not working.

It is likely worker councils (perhaps "unions" would be a better term) would form to negotiate wages, living conditions, etc. with Exxon. Political revolts then become sort of possible, but dont push it because Exxon owns your ticket back to Terra Firma.

Thucydides said...

Other colony scenarios exist that could change the revolution/revolt trope due to different initial conditions.

Jery Pournelle's CoDominion universe has the superpowers scouring the planet for dissident groups and exporting them en mass to distant planets. The USSR tends to remove entire ethnic groups (either space travel is so cheap that sending thousands of people at a time to LEO is no big, or the cost benefit ratio is heavily on favour of the elites running the USSR), while the US is busy shipping out criminals and welfare cases, and "encouraging" people with political beliefs outside the mainstream to head out as well. (A hilarious sub-story would be the planet settled by Libertarians is constantly at war with the planet settled by Objectivists).

Since none of the groups settling is either voluntary or inclined to do the actual work involved in colonizing, they will have no love for the CoDominium overlords, nor the corporations who are using their labour to exploit the planetary resources. They are none to fond of each other either.

Corporations might entice people to the colonies in order to get enough workers and infrastructure to support their operations in space. Imagine "oil rigs" popping up on various asteroids with no entertainment or service support infrastructure in place. Yes you can do it, but the workers need to be shipped home at great expense. Colonists are encouraged to settle and start support business' for the workers, but soon find their cash cow is more like a voracious shark...

Governments might simply encourage people with non conformist ideas to leave in order to maintain social peace at home, in which case the colonies have no need to revolt. OTOH they might find they have been dumped on an ice moon orbiting a Jovian supergiant, and want supplies and support from home. the only way would be to mount an expedition back to Earth (which Earth will object to, and send a Viceroy back to ensure this doesn't happen again).

Heinlein's "Free Range Men" settle on a virgin world farming and cow punching until the next wave of settlers arrive with barbed wire fences for would be cattle barons. The Marshal and his Regulators are soon on the scene, setting the stage for a showdown at high noon with both suns overhead...

You can go on ;)

Thucydides said...

Sorry for the duplicate posts, not to sure what is going on here

Thucydides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick said...

Blogger has been duplicating comments a lot lately!

Albert said...

SHarper said...
The longer workers stay on the Exxon colony, the more they need something to do besides work. Hence colonies will form in a similar way to old-fashioned mining towns. One big company is responsible for most of the economy, and smaller companies join in and serve the workers (and perhaps families) when they are not working.

I see this more as a modern ocean liner's shopping/casino area. The main company subcontracts the services it thinks the workers may need (unions will probably have a word in this).

The difference from mining towns would be that here everything is under control of the main company (Exxon in your example), that if needed can change subcontractors as sees fit.

Also, I really think that bringing a family is highly uneconomical.
And dangerous.
-you pay to ship people that does not work for you
-you must pay to keep them alive
-you must pay to keep them happy
-you must keep them from hurting themselves with the machinery (they aren't trained in its use)
-you will occasionally have to deal with family problems of your workers. When the jealous wife runs after your worker with a knife, for example.

Colonists are encouraged to settle and start support business' for the workers, but soon find their cash cow is more like a voracious shark...

Imho support businnesses will be other specialized interplanetary corporations that have the know-how and experience to set up everything needed and the people trained, and the costs lower than any kind of colonist-run enterprise.

Imho all bases of the same company will look alike and offer about the same... :)

-Albert

Mr. Blue said...

It is expensive to get families out there, but it may be worth it in the long run.
The last thing you want that far out is a lot of turnover. When it takes months to get to the station, you really don't want workers leaving after a few months. And you really, really don't want to force people to stay there against their will.
You want staff there for the long haul, or your profits will be eaten up by shipping workers back and forth- until you find no one wants to work for you.

And unless you make it a single sex colony, you will get families. People being people and all, fraternization will happen, and that's how babies are made. And since it would be very dangerous to ship a pregnant lady back to earth, she’d have to stay for a bit.

Again, the distance factor would have just as big an effect on politics as it would on warfare. We easily accept that the immense distances involved would render a lot of conceptions about space warfare void. It’s the same thing with controlling a distant space colony, even for a corporation.

That far out, most decisions have to be locally made. You don’t have time, in an emergency situation, to wait 8 hours (with lag) for decisions to be made back on Earth. Small, needless rules can safely be ignored- who’s going to know, or care. The local bosses agree it’s BS, and the bigwigs earthside can’t exactly check every little thing.

Anonymous said...

The corporate offices back on Earth wouldn't care about much of anything that their colonies did or didn't do, just as long as profits come in and the government regulators and private watch-dog groups are satisfied to the point where they don't feel the need to interfere with the corporations' operations (and, of course, profits). Colonist-run colonies might simply be the "corporate offices" being on-site and doleing out contracts to various corporations as sub-contractors.

Possible conflicts can come from giant mega-corporations trying to assert control over these "home rule" colonies; or a legal dispute between a colony and a corporation

Anonymous said...

for example...(sorry, but my computer froze and I needed to reboot, so my post is split). The conflicts rapidly move from the legal to the armed...People think that the other side is always unreasonable and that they are the rational ones who are fully justified taking whatever actions they feel they must. And then, the shooting starts...

Ferrell

Albert said...

It is expensive to get families out there, but it may be worth it in the long run.

I keep wondering what can do so much corporate people in space...
To mine things from asteroids/moon/mars you don't really need a lot of supervision and the majority of the work will be done by bots anyway.
One manned station/ship can place itself at a suitable position to supervise multiple mining operations cutting in half the light lag (and the travel time to get there).

In the case of "planetary/orbital colony services" the colony is set up by governments for some reason and the corps jump in to provide commodities to colonists for a price.

And you really, really don't want to force people to stay there against their will.
The long permanence time was clearly labeled as such in the contract, but the pay was pretty high as well. They freely choose to sign and embark.
Imho it is much cheaper to give ludicrously high pays to compensate for the minimal entertainment, when you think about the whole costs of building a station three or more times as big, with places where a family could actually live, with schools, and ship back and forth loads of useless people...

"Tough men" who would choose that life aren't in short supply.
And if a baby is born from a relationship of two workers he/she will be shipped back when one of the parents goes home.
(at no additional fee 'cause the CEO likes to feel good :)

Again, the distance factor would have just as big an effect on politics as it would on warfare.
Also, most true colonies (not corporate mining rigs) won't have big chances of producing more and better spacecraft and/or military hardware than a rich Earth nation for a looong time.

This could spell the end of the rebellion when a Earth's Laserstar and escorting kinetic buses will be parked in high orbit and the colonists have only a few space tugs and antisatellite missiles.

And most colonies will be pretty self-contained for a long time to come. You cannot run away in the forest and play Robin Hood if they burn down your hab.

That far out, most decisions have to be locally made.
This is true even for surface-dwellers. You can't ask the President to do the work of all US city majors (his head would explode!). The same goes for corps.

-Albert

Rick said...

The bad news is that a lot of the points about morale, fraternization, long contract periods, etc. are strong reasons to automate processes entirely. It is cheaper to lose a fraction of your robotic operations than to human-rate everything, especially when humans and their life support are heavy and therefore costly to transport.

It's the same logic by which the present day satellite industry lives with a launch failure rate of 3-5 percent.

Anonymous said...

A colony built around a scientific research base would be more likely to develop a 'town' surrounding the original base; as the population reaches a certan point in its development, it becomes self-seficent, or nearly so...these impromptue colonies might start trading with each other due to the reduced costs vs. having stuff shipped from Earth. Also, until the first colony revolts, Earth may not have many warships of overwhelming capabilities; the first colonial revolts might have the colonies having combat spacecraft only slightly inferior to those Earth can field. And the Colonials logistics line would be a hell of a lot shorter than those of the Earth force. Victory for one side or other isn't a forgone conclustion, that first time; the next time or the time after that, Earth would probably have massively superior warships.

Colonial revolts may well start by a colony (that having grown like I mentioned above), is suddenly surprised by some corporation,some national government, or supranational organization (like the UN, for example)declaring soverenty over the moon, hab, asteroid, or planet the colony is at; the colony then tells them "Screw you; this is our home, leave us alone!"...things deteriate rather quickly after that. Whether actual shooting occures or not would be up to the writer...

Ferrell

Mr. Blue said...

Truth is I really do think that automation and limited staff would be the most likely scenario. But, people do some strange, irrational things (as is explored in Rick's next post). Your senior engineer might not want to ship her new baby earthside- and she's too valuable to loose... and the CEO's neice... so she and the baby will stay. Or Titan Mining may be run by a religious organization who wants to set up colony where they can be free to live according to their principles. The mining is just a way to support their ideals, not to make a profit.

People do things for strange reasons. And sometimes it even works out.

Rick said...

At the time of an initial colonial rebellion, Earth might not have any deep space warships, because no one saw deep space as a threat. Rival Earth powers will tend to build forces for denial and defense of Earth orbit, because for Earth that is the most strategic area of space.

As a (recent!) historical comparison, neither side in the Cold War built manned space warcraft, or did more than the most cursory testing of unmanned ones. The USAF had to be dragged into 'Blue Shuttle.'

And if deep space is dominated by mega corporations, as in many scenarios, they may also find themselves on their own. As the megacorps emancipate themselves from national control, they may (belatedly!) discover that they have also emancipated themselves from national protection.

Here the historical comparison is contemporary: The enthusiasm of maritime powers to protect cargo ships flying flags of convenience from Somali pirates is decidedly modest.

In this case the megacorps could be pretty much on their own, left to pay for warships out of their bottom line, which levels the playing field with rebel colonies, and also makes the whole thing look even more like a labor dispute writ big.

Albert said...

Your senior engineer might not want to ship her new baby earthside- and she's too valuable to loose... and the CEO's neice... so she and the baby will stay.

How many CEO's niece are also senior engineers that have a baby on the station? :)
I mean, this will be a likely exception (also nice as PC background in RPGs or for a good story), but will be rare.

Or Titan Mining may be run by a religious organization who wants to set up colony
Septs and religious organizations are a pretty likely candidate for colonization "for the sake of it", and they also allow you to cook up an instant enemy for Earth (if they are evil/zealous/wicked enough).
Although set-up costs will severely limit the number of such colonies.

At the time of an initial colonial rebellion, Earth might not have any deep space warships, because no one saw deep space as a threat.
If they have deep space people-cargo freighters they will just need to refit them with guns.
Most engines require ludicrous amounts of power, so you have already the power capacity for a laser for free.
While (rocket-boosted) kinetics are just a payload.

As the megacorps emancipate themselves from national control, they may (belatedly!) discover that they have also emancipated themselves from national protection.
They also discover that noone protects company A from the radiers of a pissed-off company B.
SpAcE pIrAtEz!

In this case the megacorps could be pretty much on their own, left to pay for warships out of their bottom line
I don't see it so grim. If they need a warship means that probably another can afford it, and if governments stay on Earth that will be another corporation.
The poorer megacorps will be absorbed into the bigger ones until either there is a stalemate or only one left.

-Albert

Rick said...

I don't particularly see it as 'grim' if megacorps can't get taxpayers to pay for their expensive security toys. In fact, it might be called naively optimistic.

That said, the whole subject of megacorps may be worth visiting in a future blog post ....

Thucydides said...

Historically, megacorps could and did pay for their own warships and security forces; the East India Corporation had an impressive fleet of warships (technically armed merchants, but still having the gun power of frigates or even "Third Rates") and their own armies in India (raised from the locals but officered by Englishmen working for the Corporation).

This was more than enough firepower to keep out rival State powers like the French, Dutch and Spanish, as well as making sure the local kingdoms stayed in line as well. Rival commercial corporations like the Dutch East India company played nice, since their local military forces were nowhere near enough to take on the East India Company, and were generally busy keeping things quiet in their own areas.

Other examples could be made of the Conderotti, who were best described as corporate entities who provided security for a price (the "Marshal and his regulators" were the same thing on a smaller scale in the US frontier, and today's security corporations like Blackwater can provide modern military services up to motorized and light infantry, and are apparently offering naval services against pirates).

Colonies founded by extreme movements could probably field impressive and effective military forces, either through totally mobilizing society (the Fascist Corporate State, Bolshevik Russia and National Socialist Germany perfected this technique in the early 20th century) or ideological conditioning (State Shinto in Imperial Japan or the modern day conditioning that produces suicide bombers for Islamic Jihadi groups).

While the technology of fighting will change, the ability and will is always going to be present, so long as there are people.

Albert said...

I don't particularly see it as 'grim' if megacorps can't get taxpayers to pay for their expensive security toys. In fact, it might be called naively optimistic.
Corps aren't govenrments. They will build only enough security forces to ensure that enough profit can be made from space trade.
And if spacecraft are demi-modular, it will probably be much cheaper than build a wet navy from scratch. (because they already have a few high-performance spacecraft)

In any case, the security cost will be payed by the consumer, due to rising prices.

And yes, Megacorps are quite cyberpunk, but can be rocketpunk as well. :P

-Albert

Rick said...

Yes, megacorps could provide their own forces, but under tighter budget constraints.

For story purposes this is a feature, not a bug. A spacehab colony would not stand much chance against a 23rd century Great Power, assuming they have anything like the relative resources of their 21st century predecessors. Against 'Indiamen' sent by a megacorp their prospects are more credible.

Ferrard Carson said...

I like the direction we're going with megacorps IN SPACE! - To use Firefly as an example, it's making a lot more sense to make Blue Sun the enemy rather than The Alliance.

And Albert, that comment about megacorps being very Cyberpunk... me and my crowd play Cyberpunk 2020 on a weekly basis, so make of that what you will =)

I like corporations as enemies though - they can have nearly professional (and thus credibly threatening) forces, but they usually won't curb-stomp the protagonist (or be stymied by hackneyed plot devices) because of the emphasis placed on economy-of-force.

It really bothers me when a monolithic Empire's military is shown to be mind-bogglingly incompetent simply because if they weren't, the heroes wouldn't last a split second (*cough cough* Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy...).

~ Ferrard

Mr. Blue said...

Isn’t Consolidated Evil MegaCorp. a bit of a storytelling cliché at this point? I think if the Megacorps operations could be summed up as
1) Do teh Evulz.
2)???
3) Profit!
Then the storyteller may need to do a little more development.

Uncaring and clueless is a bit more likely than malicious and devious.

Rick said...

I tend to agree, but this gets into some very meta issues about how many dimensions the bad guys should have. My bias is toward some complexity, but there is a lot to be said for bad guys who are just plain baaaad.

And for Super Elite Evil Stormtroopers who fire off zillions of rounds without hitting enemies who are in plain sight at 10 meters range.

My next post was going to be on megacorps, but I got distracted by numbers in the Bubble comment thread.

Anonymous said...

Giant Evil Megacorporations would tend to go with the lowest bidder when picking a subcontractor for security forces..."Them clones are cheap, but damn! they can't shoot..."

Of course, using cheap robots instead of native labor will also raise the level of frustration of colonists to the point where they might be spurred to nationalize the corporate assets...unpleasentness ensues.

Ferrell

Mr.Blue said...

Yeah, the Joker in the "Dark Knight" was in it just for the Lulz, but was in no way a two dimensional character. But he was very well written, and very interesting.
And he’s also a very rare example of that kind of character done well.
Most other characters in it for the Evulz come across as contrived 1 dimensional caricatures of whatever ideology the writer doesn’t like. Look, another straw villain. Another Eeeevil Megacorp. Yawn.

I vote for a Megacorp post!

Ferrard Carson said...

"I vote for a Megacorp post!"

Hear, hear!

I'm sorta sorry for derailing this comment thread, but at the same time...

Megacorps can be complex characters as well - only poor writers will leave them at "Their black cars and black helicopters and men-in-black are everywhere." Even the most monolithic megacorp needs to follow economy of force. Even the most incomprehensible of them has a goal, and a well-portrayed megacorp will not halt its progress towards that goal just to kick a puppy.

It's just that megacorps are the go-to villain for poor writers, and so you get the entire plot of the whole Aliens series, the Half-Life series, Dead Space, F.E.A.R., and many many more.

~ Ferrard

Thucydides said...

More likely scenarios are the Megacorps trying to entice colonies to become clients/customers through verious carrots and sticks. Incentives, sales and access to superior goods and services are the carrots; binding contracts with rather draconian penalties are the stick (and out in the Dark, corporate security is the law).

Corporations will probably not come to blows for economy of force reasons, but there will be plenty of zelots out there who will be out to attack the Megacorp(s) for idiological or commercial reasons of their own. You can look at the campaigns against Wal-mart as an example of this sort of protest, and I believe that various groups have firebombed MacDonald's resteraunts over the years to oppose that institution's corporate policies. Universities are corporations (after a fashion) and have attracted their own violent protesters (most commonly "animal rights" groups who trash labs and threaten researchers, although brownshirts who attempt to prevent controversial speakers from coming on campus also exist).

This is a neat reversal of tropes; the Megacorp and its employees are the good guys....

Albert said...

And Albert, that comment about megacorps being very Cyberpunk... me and my crowd play Cyberpunk 2020 on a weekly basis, so make of that what you will =)
Hehehe relax... Fellow gamer here. ;)
Different game, but had a few campaings in a cyberpunk setting as well.

but they [megacorps] usually won't curb-stomp the protagonist (or be stymied by hackneyed plot devices) because of the emphasis placed on economy-of-force.
I don't thint it can be the case.
They have to be at least powerful as the average police force to be effective (because there is no police in space). And a real police force has SWATs, snipers, dogs, and whatever finds useful in the environments it protects.

A hero cannot be more powerful than a serious security organization. Period.
Also because otherwise the story is just a cronicle of a shooting contest between Hero's grunts and Security's grunts.

Heroes have a love-hate relationship with plot devices, they need some of them to thrive and survive against ludicrous odds, but stupid/inconsistent/obvious plot devices degrades the book to a pulp-comic.

(*cough cough* Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy...).
To the point of sounding pedantic and going a little off-topic, Stormtroopers were "herding" the heroes to the ship, because Vader wanted them to escape, so the trackig device someone installed on Millenium Falcon could tell him where the secret rebel base was (Yavin).
When stormtroopers were boarding the Tantive IV they were much more efficient in killing off opponents in bare white corridors without any cover.
In most other situations, the Heroes just _blatantly abused_ of their Plot Invincibility for cool phew-phew moments.
As if Star Wars wasn't meant for Cool over Function. :)


Isn’t Consolidated Evil MegaCorp. a bit of a storytelling cliché at this point?
Yep.
Real-life Corporations incarnate human Greed, and work by "parcellizing" the fault like with an army ("I just followed orders" syndrome), and by keeping the ones who take the painful decisions far from the ones who actually will feel the pain (again like an army).


The main problem about the clichè is that megacorps aren't a block of drones guided by a demoniac CEO like in most fictions I saw.

At least a few Corps took up a shroud of right-doer to differentiate its otherwise not-so-different products, and will go to great lenghts to prove to the whole world it is Good.
It ain't any more good than most other corporations, but now it must adhere to its own "good-doer" rules or risk losing its market share.

Others are just plain Bad and focus on the cheapest possible product no matter what. (maybe because they are selling something that is in _high_ demand)
The vast majority of oil companies tend to fall in this category.

Most stand in between, they don't want to look really bad, but don't do a lot to look good.


Another factor is that the people that work for the corporation aren't mindless drones.
Each individual has his own goals and his own "alignment", so you may even find a corporate middlemen that will risk his own career to "save his honour" or "to redeem his soul" or for another patently inefficient purely human thing.
Although the higher you go in the herarchy the higher the chances of finding a double-faced back-stabbing soulless black-hearted blood-sucking Borg vampire.

And the last factor: corporate people aren't loyal to the death.
To the contrary, at the first sign of distress or problems that threaten them directly or their families they are much more likely they will surrender or stand with your side. After all they are mercenaries, they fight for money, not for a cause or "to defend their nation from the evil enemy".
Although most companies try to limit this with extensive screening.
And the evil ones may set up drug-dependencies or whatever else to ensure loyalty.

-Albert

Albert said...

Phew! Firefox crashed wile sending but the comment seems to be ok.

Btw, that's the 4th or 5th time it crashes firefox or gives absurd errors when commenting but everything goes well.

-Alber

Rick said...

Blogger's comment function is still acting up, so strangenesses may happen.

A megacorp tease: As they take on political functions they will start to have political concerns, such as seeking to ensure the loyalty of their security forces, and cloak themselves in legitimacy.

A polite request backed up by a .45 is good; a polite request backed up by a .45 and a badge is even better.

Byron said...

There's one thing we haven't considered in this revolt scenario: force levels. I personally think that any given colony will actually stand a good chance, as there won't be very many "warships" available to anyone early on.
I developed this for DOTB, but it's true in any universe. Any given earth country will, in the early days of colonization, spend only a tiny fraction of it's defense budget on space forces. This is for two reasons. First, the colony population will be very small compared to the earthbound population, and secondly, there will be a lack of demonstrated threat. Any early (pre-first war) warships will be designed for either customs or for meteor protection (for extraplanetary colonies).
Earth orbit can be dominated from the ground, as Rick said a while back, and thus it will make no sense to build ships to fight there, except for maybe "fighters". Neither side will have real power-projection warships until the first war starts. At that point, it becomes necessary to have them, and they will come. Even then, the colony will have an edge to partially offset the earth power's greater resources. First, they can spend their entire defense budget on their Navy, and secondly, the war is for their survival. There is no midfuture where a colony can realistically militarily threaten an Earth-based superpower. (Throwing rocks doesn't count.)
Thus, the first colony to revolt has a good chance of carrying it off. I'm not sure I'd bet on the second.

Mr. Blue said...

Don't forget the "Thank God For the French" factor. A third power may help our wannabe rebels with arms and advice. The same third power may also keep the might of the first power otherwise occupied on earth in a cold war type senario.

So Neo-Britannia could crush the revolt on Titan, but can't send it's full forces- seems that their main enemy, the South Asian Republic would take full advantage of this and invade.

Byron said...

I'm not sure about that. The problem is that space forces are fundamentally different from planetary forces. A more powerful power could stop a suppression campaign, but I can't see a "taking advantage of diverted forces" scenario between planetary powers. Unless each has extraplanetary colonies they have to defend, of course. Then it gets more complicated.
As for ground troops, the number required to subdue a colony is tiny compared to modern armies. If you control the air, you control everything, and that doesn't take many troops.

Thucydides said...

Space polities are also vastly different from what we are used to. The closest analogies seem to be company towns (at least initially), walled cities from the late middle ages in Europe (able to provide shelter and armed defiance to the merchant class from local warlords and minor kings) or classical Athens, which could abandon the hinterland of Attica during the Peloponnesian Wars and live exclusively on imports and export trade.

Company towns may well develop robust internal democracies and "town halls", which the corporation might even encourage as a way to bleed off excess energy and encourage locals to spend resources on things like the dogcatcher and art gallery which the corporation would rather not spend it's own resources on. Eventually, a critical mass of population, economic activity and decision making might be reached, exceeding the corporation's own authority and resources (or willingness to do something about it). The break might be clean, or it could be messy (corporate lawyers and the Marshal arriving to reclaim corporation property and recover any outstanding loans, for example).

Walled towns are a little harder to figure in a space setting, but suffice to say they can stand off any lesser Power, or even a Great Power which is unwilling to damage or destroy the valuable property and resources encompassed in the "walled city" polity.

"Athens" could grow naturally out of a port or transfer facility; the massive momentum tether that provides the "spine" of the structure and source of revenue is also big enough to eventually house hundreds or even thousands of modules along its length, as well as vastly more free flying modules and settlements in various orbits nearby. There is no direct analog to the "long walls", and planetary powers are not direct counterparts to Sparta (if Sparta had an effective navy at the start, the Peloponnesian wars would have turned out quite differently). "Athens" would take control of space very seriously indeed, and would probably field an effective space navy to protect its trade lifelines (the planetary powers don't start building laserstars and military constellations until after they realize "Athens" already has a fleet in being...).

Three different starting points; three different seeds of conflict and revolution.

Rick said...

Spacehabs have much in common with city states, starting with size and population. I'd expect an intense localism, because you can walk the circumference of a mega hab in an afternoon, while going anywhere else requires traveling through space.

They are frightfully vulnerable to all out war, but the same is true of all cities in the postnuclear age - either the modality of conflict adjusts or you have no industrial civilization to write about, either on Earth or in space.

One other big difference from terrestrial experience is a corollary of Byron's point. There's no equivalent to the contrast between land powers and sea powers. The only way to project power is through space forces, whatever form they take. They may not be much like navies, but they surely will be even less like armies.

Thucydides said...

PErhaps the main difference between a 22nd century "Athens" and "Sparta" is derived from where the wealth comes from.

"Athens" is a trading power, importing and exporting all manners of goods and services. Because the source of wealth is trade, the polity attracts clever people who can see the possibilities in trade, and the economy is constantly bubbling with new products and services, as well as business failures.

"Sparta" is a planetary power, whos primary source of wealth is the resources it can export (this includes moons which export various ices and volitile elements) When the resources run out, or are undercut by less expensive resource providers, things can turn ugly. Readers with longer memories have seen the suggestion by me that the Moon might become some sort of "rust belt" planet as cheaper and more abundent sources of Helium3 come on line and cut out the market for expensive 3He boiled out of rock.

The analogy breaks down in the power projection phase, although the two waring leagues in the classical age had access to both armies and navies, each side tried for strategic reasons to play to their strengths and attack the enemy weakness. The 22nd Century Athenians might indeed have fleets of laserstars and constellations of KKV's to protect the trade lanes, the planetary organizing boycotts by the cycler fleets might be an unexpected avenue of approach.
.

Rick said...

Great minds, and all that. I was mulling the idea of trade nexus and mining center as different cultures with different political goals, different outlooks, and different military modes. Infantry cultures v cavalry cultures might be a very loose analogy.

One possible spillover would be lasers v kinetics, assuming both are viable. Kinetics could be a natural fit for a trade nexus, because tossing loads through space at high speed is what they DO. And you could easily say that mining uses high power industrial lasers, so they are familiar with that tech. (Presumably, in this setting, laser boost is not a competitive shipping tech.)

So each side builds forces around its strengths, and you could similarly work out the implications of their differing economic policies and grand strategies.

Albert said...

Although a laserstar is just a cargo ship with a laser instead of cargo pods. (and kinetistar is the same)
That's a definite cost-cut.

Colony A rebels? The liner ship (ship that carries humans, thus faster than average robot cargo ship) that was supposed to get there is hastily retrofitted with a weapon instead of some human carrying capacity and then takes off.

Here the main point is weapon cost/availability and who has the cargo ships when the shooting starts.

I don't see the average mining colony having powerful lasers.
The excavation lasers should be powerful but pretty short-ranged, unless they are excavating rocks at silly distances (big mirrors are pretty expensive), and they will probably lack the industrial capability to build decent-ranged mirrors/optics.

Although they will have some kind of construction facilities to repair simple equipment, and the raw materials for kinetics aren't exactly hard to find if they are mining a space rock.

Trade Nexuses instead, are wealthy and have (probably) lots of high-tech friends that can sell them what they need.
If you need lots of kinetics, you may end up throwing away too much money just to ship them from a producer to your nexus. While lasers cost a lot more but may weight less overall.
Here is more a cost issue, that is in turn linked to the tech issue: "how much kinetics to smoke a Laserstar" you discussed some time ago.

Then there is the question: who has ships?
imho both can own a few, but probably a Nexus has much more than a mining colony.

Also, ships already orbiting/docked/nearby your colony can (and should) be "captured" during the rebellion. (unless it angries someone tougher than you)

-Albert

Byron said...

Kinetics will likely not be sold as units, but as kits. You buy the parts you can't make, add armor and fuel, and off you go.
I think we're drawing too heavily on Greek analogies here. While the methods and causes of revolt will vary based on economy, the basic situation won't. Any colony will be isolated (except in planetary situation) and forced to revolt and fight in space. The possible exceptions are on bodies like Luna, where troops could be moved in without local space control. (That depends on the situation. Is it just one base in revolt, or all the Lunar colonies?)
However, all successful revolts will fall into one of two categories: they will either be won by force of arms in space, or by making it too expensive to suppress.
The fist is mostly what we've discussed, and it's feasibility depends on the situation with respect to warships. If there are Space Navies (or whatever) then they are likely doomed. Converted merchantmen can't stand against warships. Winning by force of arms on land (inside) is not a good idea, as any colony will be vulnerable to attack from space.
The second is what has happened in almost every successful revolt to date. The rebels outlasted the occupiers, and caused them to decide that it wasn't worth it. This applies to the American Revolution, and to the US in Vietnam for starters. The only example of being really thrown out I can think of is the French in Vietnam, and one could argue that they also decided to leave.
The point is that almost any successful revolt will come not because the rebels won on the battlefield (though that might be important) but because it would have been too hard to put it down.
If the asteroid miners decide to revolt, and I send troops, I can make them work, but that takes a lot of troops there forever. Also, they can portray me as evil to the world, meaning that there will be opposition at home. Maybe they work slower, and sabotage my air system. I can shoot them, but then I have to ship out new miners, and train them. Eventually, I'll either let them go or blow it up and be done. And the first is far more likely, as most people will frown on destroying capital and people.

Thucydides said...

Peer competitors will have similar military technology (a Venitian galley and an Ottoman galley were quite similar, and indeed the Ottoman empire paid a lot for renegades to bring examples of the latest tech from the Arsenal. Of course the Genoese and Spanish also had similar equipment as well...)

The difference lies more with the concepts and doctrine being used and the level of skill and experience backing the use of the kit. The Napoleonic Spanish and French navies outgunned the Royal Navy, but the RN had a history of success going back almost 200 years (to the Elizabethan sea dogs) by that point. The French had more and better (in terms of gun power and protection) tanks than the Germans in 1940, but the Germans had a far better doctrine and organizational model to employ tanks. Building aircraft carriers is actually a trivial exercise in ship building (various sorts of container ships, oil tankers and cruis ships approach the dimensions of an aircraft carrier), but despite the fact that Norway or South Korea have shipyards that *could* build these ships, they do not have the background or experience to use them effectively. Most navies can only use "pocket" aircraft carriers, and most only have a small handfull at most, reducing effectiveness even further.

So the real story between the 22nd century "Athens" and "Sparta" will be how they use their mass drivers, KKV's, laserstars etc. For that matter, they may have tools we havn't even considered. A spacegoing "Athens" might trunkline energy across the solar system via lasers to power spacecraft or provide cheap energy to client companies in deep space, undercutting the planetary "Sparta". Each side might use nanotechnology or "fire ant" warfare, resulting in military biological and technological "immune systems" to protect themselves from infestations.

The implications are hard to imagine,mspeculate away.

Albert said...

If the asteroid miners decide to revolt, and I send troops, I can make them work, but that takes a lot of troops there forever.

True, but what actually bothers the home nation is the loss of profits from exploiting the colony's resources.
The change of flag isn't a problem by itself. In most situations is even better.

The vast majority of the ex-european colonies are theoretically indipendent, but their economies still depend greatly from Europe and First World countries. Some still say they have a colony-like economy.

Those that export rare metals, diamonds, radioactives, bananas, ananas and whatever have you, need a buyer.

The same happens to a space colony.
They were established to produce something and all their infrastructure revolves around this product.

If you are the only buyer they can rebel all times they want but they will still want to sell the Space Stuff to you. And you can keep it pouring in at a relatively good price without bothering too much if the colonists live in inhuman working conditions or kill each other to control the mines.
I mean, usually that's a good riddance.

If you aren't the only buyer, you will have a little more problems. Because the other buyer(s) will probably offer better prices than yours, giving the colonists good reasons to rebel.
But anyway I wouldn't count that much on it. Imho you can expect cartels or accords between all the major corporations to keep the prices at about the same level.
Usually this is good for all the companies in the cartel.

-Albert

Byron said...

We can debate cartels separately, as that gets into game theory. My point is that rebellions won't be won by force of arms alone, on either side.
Also, just being able to build a cruise liner doesn't mean you can build any sort of warship, much less an aircraft carrier. I suppose you could make one, but it would be slow and vulnerable. A cruise liner doesn't have to worry about random holes in it's hull, which can't be said of a warship.
What we're getting into is interplanetary geopolitics which is interesting, but sort of groping in the dark. What we need is a universe to work these things out in. The Rocketpunkverse, if you will. Examples are so much easier if you have something concrete.

Albert said...

Also, just being able to build a cruise liner doesn't mean you can build any sort of warship, much less an aircraft carrier.

I think you are still talking in WWII terms.
Armor is mostly useless (in both navy and space environments, btw).
Aircraft carriers aren't really fast anyway. I mean, they cannot evade missiles nor air attack.
And I really dubt anyone will even try to attack them with battleships or smaller ships.

A relatively simple antiship missile can sink about any ship, (military or not) if said ship does not shoot it down before impact.

A modern destroyer hull must be lightweight to be fast and low-profile to avoid detection, and that's it. They have no real armor.

What really drives up the costs are the expensive equipment you install in the ship.
Radars, missile racks, comm equipment, hardened computers, whatever.

All in all, what I said applies to spacecraft as well.

My point is that rebellions won't be won by force of arms alone, on either side.
Yes, and I just added that the main nation may not really care if they become indipendent if they continue to sell whatever they were selling when they were a colony.
History demonstrated that such system is much more profitable than managing the area as your colony.
Some colonies may even "buy their freedom" by signing a treaty that forces them to sell at a lower price than before.

-Albert

Byron said...

Albert, warships and civilian ships are not the same. While you claim that armor won't help, that has been proved wrong several times. The British lost several ships during the Falklands War due to insufficient damage control and protection, while the USS Stark survived two hits by the same sort of missiles that sank the HMS Sheffield, and was returned to service. And I'm not merely speaking about slabs of steel, either. I'm talking compartmentalization, damage control features, and the sort of gear you describe. An oil tanker fitted with a flight deck and some electronics would be dead meat to a real carrier. There are all sorts of tricks to designing warships. Just because a country can build a utility helicopter (say a UH-1) doesn't mean they can also make an attack helicopter of the same size (such as an AH-64).

Geoffrey S H said...

...And a battleship (45,000 ton +) with massive pds and many cruise missile cells might one day be the bane of the carrier (the CG(x) cruiser come to mind).

Old technology, new uses.

Furthermore, new forms of armour, such as chobham, ballenite and electric armour, allowing defence against such weaposns are being developed. Wooden "armour" on ships was made obselete by exlosive shells, then along came steel plating, then the armour piercing bomb. All technology is cyclicle- I think we are nearing the phase where armour will become important again on naval craft.

Thucydides said...

A bit of clarification here. When I said that nations like Korea and Norway had the potential to build aircraft carriers, I meant thereal thing, with high strength marging steel, compartmentalization etc. South Korea has a pretty extensive military and arms industry and builds nuclear reactors, a South Korean CVN's sophisticated electronics could be built "in house", while Norway would have t get their milspec gear from Sweden.

Just because they have the potential does not mean they have the military need, or the will to do so. Even nations which feel the need and have the will, like the former USSR, found it difficult to bring the project to fruition due to the lack of the associated skill sets required to actually run the thing in an efficient manner. The Soviets made a decision that it was easier to build weapons to kill carriers than to project power using carriers, hence most Soviet era warships were bristling with pods of antiship missiles right on the deck in order to fire mass salvos at carrier battle groups.

The point here is that building massive space fleets for our future histories isn't impossible, just the manning, staffing and logistics of such fleets is many orders of magnitude larger than most people consider. Future revolutionaries take note....

Rick said...

There's a good argument that 'neocolonial' relations with colonies would be far cheaper and more effective than outright colonial rule in the classic sense. But it is sort of a plot killer, because you can rebel against a colonial occupier, whether successfully or otherwise, but it is hard to rebel against neocolonial exploitation.

Byron said...

I think we have different views of how hard it is to put ships together. I personally think that even if you had all the pieces, it'd be hard to make an effective warship with no prior experience. Look at carriers. Even if Norway wanted one, and they had the pieces, I'd expect it to be pretty bad as they have no experience with carriers. Pretty much all carriers come from France, the US, or Britain as far as designs go, all of who have experience with carrier operations going way back. A new ship would likely be like the Soviet carriers, which were not terribly successful, due to lack of experience. You view that as a logistical/tactical issue, while I see it also on the design level. For example, the West long ago learned that arming carriers is redundant, but the Soviets did it anyway.

Thucydides said...

Building a large ship is a special skill set, which a few nations have lots of experience in doing. The United States has let that skill set atrophy in the commercial market, but still commands it in the military market. Norway and South Korea have the ability to build large ships for commercial purposes (cruise liners, container ships and tankers), but for various reasons have never chosen to put these skills towards building large warships.

On land, certain companies specialize in building large structures, a company which builds residential houses would not have the skill sets to build a skyscraper, warehouse or large factory. If you do have the tools and skillsets to build large structures, then you can adapt those skillsets readily to other large structures (within reason. really specialized large structures like chemical plants or nuclear reactors require even more specialized skills, which are in limited quantity and high demand).

The real point I was trying to get at is while it is relatively easy to parade around warships, armies and the like, the professional skills and corporate knowledge are what make these forces in being effective. Going back a few millenia, the Greek Hoplites were able to clean the clocks of the vastly larger Persian armies from the time of Xerxes to the march of the 10,000 for these very reasons. If the skillsets are inappropriate, such as the British knowledge of European open field warfare during the American revolution, then the situation is reversed; American frontiersmen, "rangers" and other irregular formations caused considerable damage and limited the logistics and mobility of the British forces in ways the British could not answer.

Once again, the situation is something Heinlien alluded to in "The Moon is a harsh mistress", when the various forces of the Authority and the Federation were unable to come to grips with the Loonies.

Byron said...

No, it's easy to parade around armed ships. Warships are another matter entirely. An actual warship will likely be the product of generations of experience and design work, as opposed to just "a ship with weapons." I agree that people will also need organizational and tactical experience, but I think that the equipment, particularly at sea, is just as important.

Albert said...

Understood the point. The best you can get from an engineering team specialized in liners is a fast and sturdy liner. But they will do a subpar job on things a liner doesn't have like weapons, sensors or a hull with low profile.
Sure they won't screw up badly, but that ship will not be good as if the designers were military navy designers.
Will be something in the middle. Not a civil ship, not a warship.

A (hollywoodian) pirate ship? o.O
Or a Rebel Ship. Full of Snubfighters of course.

Still, could be feasible to hire people from nations that have the know-how?

At least with rockets and Von Braun they did it.

-Albert

Rick said...

The question of 'armed ships' versus 'warships' comes partly to how much previous military development there has been.

At the beginning of deep space warfare, no one really knows how to build warships - even if nominally purpose built military craft exist, they might be 'armed ships' in practice, based on civil designs with a few modifications such as weapon mounts. Or, they may be designed according to theoretical assumptions that do not survive contact with real combat conditions.

But even when experience is gained, it may turn out that there is little you can do to make a ship more combat worthy beyond arming it ('arming' including sensors, etc., as well as weapons.)

For example, if one hit one kill is the rule, there may simply be no point in trying to build in greater survivability (armor, compartmentation, redundant systems, etc.)

My guess, from earlier posts and discussion, is that in the ideal world of spherical war cows, ship design and crew experience hardly matter - but in the messy circumstances of real combat encounters, they will turn out to matter after all.

As a commenter observed some time back about the 'ideal' Lanchesterian duel, it is not a fight anyone will show up for.