Friday, September 18, 2015


Today's post is going to have me doing some broad setting brushes on culture out in the cosmos of the Mage Star universe and how it is going to contrast with other space settings people may be more familiar with. I think it will come across as a little more rambling than the previous posts, so I'm just going to go ahead and apologize for that in advance,

When I think about space I think about the separation and isolation that is inherent to its very being. The endless void is not something that could easily be controlled or patrolled without huge advances in long range sensors. This means two things for our setting. The first is that we won't see much in the way of large multi planet empires. The second is that we won't be seeing much in the way of mono cultures that are common in shows like Star Trek.

The reason space makes large empires difficult is multifaceted. When you get right down to it a society is a social agreement among a large body of people. The larger the body becomes the harder it is to maintain this agreement peacefully. The logistics of maintaining it through military might would also be cost prohibitive due to things like travel time and just general resources. This doesn't even begin to deal with the issue of trying to keep a secure border in deep space. 

Conquering new planets to expand their control would also make things more difficult for our fledgling empire. Space does provide the ultimate high ground, so the actual invasion would be easy enough to plan. It is the continued occupation that would smack into the logistics wall mentioned above, especially if the planet proves especially resistant to integration and ties up the empire's resources for long periods of time

This doesn't mean that there would not have been attempts, just that they tend to be fleeting. One rogue planetary governor decides he wants to be king, and then another while the fleet is dealing with the first. It wouldn't be long until an empire would collapse under the weight of its own size. 

A much more likely scenario would be the prevalence of raider and pirate cultures instead of vast empires. The spread out nature means that any alliance of planets or government would have a hard time protecting against harrier tactics unless they already have a sizable security force or fleet. A small fleet of raider ships would be able to thrive if they were smart.

The same factors that make larger governments struggle would be what would cause mono cultural planets and star systems to be unlikely. If you think about just Earth, where we have countless different cultures based on a much more limited geography, it seems obvious that the same thing would happen on any planet over time as the population spread out across its habitable regions.

Faster communications would help stabilize this, but unless we want to jump the communications technology to the point where FTL communications exist, there would still be a delay or very limited bandwidth communicating between planets. People just tend to culturally drift apart the further they are seperated. This means that unless there is an extremely small number of habitable places that are physically next to each other on a planet, there will usually not be one all encompassing culture.

Taking those points in mind, I feel pretty confident in saying that the majority of major power players on a galactic scale would look a lot like multinational corporations today. Their more focused interests combined with the ability to selectively recruit means that a corporation would be able to create more cohesion among its members toward a very specific goal.

This tendency to large corporations wielding huge swathes of power without all encompassing oversight actually makes the Mage Star universe very appropriate for stories in the Cyber Punk sub genre of sci-fi. For those of you who might not be familiar with this particular sub genre, it is usually filled with small groups of outsiders struggling against all powerful corporate interests while addressing themes of advancing mankind through technology and how far is too far. This is something that I will have to keep in mind when I move into the actual plotting stages.

The last aspects of the setting that need to be considered are the actual scale and if other intelligent life should be included besides humanity. The more I think about the idea of scale the more I realize that my sense of scale break down the more cosmic the scope. Just out small star system in a small arm of a single galaxy has more space than I can comprehend. I think it is extremely safe to limit humanity to just a portion of the milky way galaxy. Despite me wanting to encourage a sense of wonder, the idea of mankind spreading out beyond that strains against believable reason.

As far as alien life goes, Just from a probability stand point, there is most likely something out there. What about the Fermi Paradox some of you might be asking (for those of you who don't know what that is, it has to do with the fact that despite statistics suggesting that there should be other life in the universe we have somehow not found it)? I don't particularly want to deal with it, so it's easy enough to go the "wizard did it route." Mankind only found alien life once they figured out magic, which didn't happen until they really set out to the stars.

Now that they are out there its like that scene in the Star Wars cantina. There are all kinds of alien races, some vaguely human others no even remotely human, mingling together with huge variations of personality withing the various species. As a whole galactic society is a pretty cosmopolitan place, although pockets of xenophobia spring up in the less traveled locals.

With that stage set I think next post will be time to look at some history for the human race, and maybe start to focus in on some of the actual details that will have a more immediate effect on the story that is percolating. I may try to flesh out a major corporation or pirate group that is likely to show up. I guess I'll think about it over the weekend. Until next time,though, see you space cowboy. 


  1. Research eve online, which is corporate based and the social experiment that exists inside the null-security regions along with a free market of goods that must flow with any expansion of a populace. Just a thought.

    1. I already having a passing familiarity with EVE online, but I'll be sure to look more closely

  2. Water on Mars! I like where you're going and the blurs between science and magic.