Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Geography of a space station

So, does a space station actually have a geography? Well, Tiberius Base is pretty big, so, yes, it does. It’s a space city, really.

This is a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays blog hop. Join us!

The Core

The core of the Base is a hollow-out asteroid donated by The Diggers. The Diggers are a True Alien race— not humanoid— and they are classified as Fernal Aliens. In other words, they can’t or don’t communicate with humanoids normally. But in this case there is another alien race, the Tsanan, who are Bynal Aliens— they do interact with humans— and they are able to communicate with the Diggers.

The Core is the center of the Base but it is covered in artificial constructions. The Base is in levels and has artificial gravity emanating from the bottom of the sphere. I might mention that in my current WIP Tiberius Base is in the late stages of construction and a lot of the interior is still being build or adapted for its intended used. Tiberius Base is built and owned by the corporation Fortunate Dragon, which is based in the Terran Empire, in a subdivision ruled by Chinese people.

The Docks

There is a double-ring of docks around the ‘equator’ of the station, where ships can refuel, undergo repairs, or trade cargo. At the Docks level, most of the facilities are related to trade or repair, as well as lodgings for those who are visiting the station. There are also security officers aplenty, because there are also some spacemen’s bars being set up and trouble is anticipated.

Topside

This is the ‘top’ of the station although designations like ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ are arbitrary. Topside is where the well-to-do will live and work when the Base is fully operational. A home in Topside is considered very exclusive. The rooms don’t just have many rooms. Most have their own gardens build in— and they are not practical gardens, but are filled with difficult-to-grow exotic flowers, usually. Though one eccentric grows nothing but varieties of day-lilies in his. A few of the more posh spots also have a second garden for the practical purpose of growing herbs and vegetables for the kitchen. The Topside shops and restaurants are the most desired locations and people of all levels of the station use them.

Midside

The levels just above and just below the Docks level are devoted to the homes and workplaces of the middle class. The homes are not luxurious but are nicer than those in most space cities. The ‘downtown’ shopping district is also located in upper Midside. The great ‘street’ which makes up the shopping area has streetcars. It is also where the Base’s forest is located. All Bases and starships have a forest, but the one on Tiberius Base is larger than any forest previously set up by Terrans. During mushroom season, mushrooming in the forest is a popular activity, but one heavily controlled by the authorities. On other stations there have been murders over poaching mushrooms (they were morel mushrooms so it was justifiable homicide.)

The Dome

It is a tourist attraction really. There are a lot of transparencies (like glass but tougher) so you can see out into space. There is also a grand colored transparency like an abstract stained glass window. My main character Ping was in charge of the project of installing the transparency. The Dome area leads into Midside’s ‘downtown’ area. It is also the entrance to the ship’s forest.

Bottomside

Bottomside is dedicated to the most practical operations of the base, like the sewage system. There are also the homes of the menial workers. These homes are NOT posh and there are actually barracks for the unmarried workers. The only shops and restaurants at the Bottomside level are a few cheap places that cater to the poorest. Most Bottomside residents shop and eat at Midside. The station management makes shop spaces available there at low-enough prices that most folks locate businesses there.

 

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Food

Yet another post in Worldbuilding Wednesday, a blog hop sponsored by Rebekah Loper.  This week our topic is food.

Food supply is an essential for many worlds, yet authors don’t often think about all the difficulties involved. Our culture discourages involvement in food production. I read about a promising farmer’s son who was told in high school he would be ‘wasting his life’ if he studied agriculture in preparation to take over the family farm.

In my WIP Tiberius Base, the setting is a space city— like a space station but much larger — which is called, not surprisingly, Tiberius Base. The city is still under construction, but it needs to support the needs of a crew of builders and of some administrators supervising the project.

Tiberius Base is very large. It is built around a hollowed-out asteroid which was given to the human base-builders by the Diggers, a true alien race (not humanoid). The humans don’t understand the Diggers and cannot directly communicate with them.

Given the large size of the base they can do a lot of food production on their own. Since the population of the base are meat eaters there is no question of imposing vegetarianism. There are large facilities which grow hydroponic grasses which are fed to cattle of various sorts, as well as artificial pastures, which are rotated almost daily. A small number of pigs are kept in order to recycle food waste. Chickens are kept along with the cattle and they clean up spilled feed and provide eggs. Some ducks are raised also.

The base was started by Asians, mostly Chinese, from Earth. So rice is grown on the base on a large scale. The straw from the rice plants is used as cattle bedding. When a large group of Catholic workers are imported, a small amount of wheat must be grown so they can make their own communion wafers.

Sprouting is a vital food source. Sprouting seeds are imported from various worlds and sold nearly at cost by the station administration. Most households on the base do their own sprouting both of salad sprouts and of bean sprouts or lentil sprouts. There are also commercial operations which supply sprouts to restaurants and cafeterias.  The sprouting habit is the major source of vitamins and minerals to the average station inhabitant.

Hydroponic facilities grow a variety of vegetables, including oriental veggies that most Americans would consider exotic. A few orchards on the base provide fruit.

Every space city has at least one transplanted forest at the heart of it. Tiberius Base has an exceptionally large one, as well as three smaller parks. The forests/parks are traditionally seeded with mushroom spores so there are many inhabitants of the base who go mushrooming regularly to supplement their diet. A mushroom growing center will likely be added to the base at some point to supply those who had bad luck mushrooming.

Lower income people on the station have a rather boring diet of beef or pork, rice, and locally grown veggies. Higher income people can pay for imported canned food or frozen meat grown on a relatively local planet. The richest can buy exotic meals from many different cultures specially preserved for the high-income consumer.

The hydroponic growers and the meat producers are sensitive to the desires of the consumers, even low income ones. If they import a group of workers who want more cauliflower or more chevon (goat meat) they are likely to look into ways to produce it. The employers of the low-wage workers, who do such things as move cargo from docked spaceships or do menial tasks around the station, think it very important to provide their workers with decent food to keep their morale up.

Love science fiction movies? Maybe it’s time to try a book.

I’ve been a science fiction fan since childhood. I started off with science fiction TV— Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space— and the kind of science fiction movie that made it on to ‘Creature Features’, the Saturday night scary movie show.

But science fiction books are better. It was a struggle, as a child, getting in to science fiction books. Neither of my parents read it. In third grade, a boy in my class brought one of the Star Trek novelizations by James Blish. I somehow got my own copy of that book— it was Star Trek 3— before the month was out.

Going beyond novelizations was difficult because one of the first science fiction stories I read— from a collection in a school textbook— was about a spaceship crew that found the star of Bethlehem— a sun went nova, killing a world full of sapient life forms, to mark the birth of Jesus Christ, yay God. That felt too much like propaganda to me.

Another school-approved science fiction story was The Cold Equations, in which a girl I thought was the viewpoint character got spaced out the airlock for being a stowaway on a small ship that didn’t have fuel for two. Depressing.

I have since learned that short stories are the enemy. Short stories are filled with characters that authors feel all right about killing because, after all, the authors haven’t known those characters long. Short stories can be utterly depressing because they are short and the reader hasn’t invested much time or money in them. Avoid short stories at all costs, unless they are stories related to a novel series.

Science fiction novels are better, because the author, like the reader, is more invested in them. Series novels are particularly nice for those of us who grew up on Star Trek or Babylon 5 or the like.

But science fiction novels can do more. TV and movie science fiction is more about the explosions and the special effects. Science fiction television can take the time to be a little thoughtful— the characters can encounter a new world with a new species of sapient life, and take the time to learn about them— perhaps to find out that their initial impressions were wrong, all wrong. But to really experience science fiction as a fiction of ideas, you need to go over to the books.

For those of us thoughtful enough to consider ideas beyond the conventional within the science fiction community, books can have their down side. Many contemporary SF authors are playing to the hateful-atheist crowd these days and in their books, if you find a person of faith, they will prove to be the enemy. If you find a dogmatic, preachy atheist, you’ve found a good guy. So, if you buy your SF books new, keep your receipts. It’s perfectly legitimate to return a book when an author expresses bigotry against your religion, political views or life philosophy. Just don’t read the book while eating Cheetoes.

So, what are some good ways to get a taste of science fiction in book form? I, being a major, obsessive Star Trek geek, started with reading Star Trek novels. They were a cut above most movie/TV tie in fiction, though often restricted by the fact that Paramount owned Star Trek and limited what an author could do with the characters.

Going to an actual bookstore with a decent-sized SF/fantasy section can help because you can browse through the section reading the back cover until you find things that appeal. Or you can find a source for recommendations online. For example, if you read a blog that has given you good recommendations for television and movies, perhaps they also recommend some books.

Here are a few series that I liked that may appeal to you:

  1. Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card. Starts out with a space war against the Buggers, an insect-like race, and goes on, in other volumes, into a period of space colonization. Card is a good author for Christian readers since he is a member of the LDS church and has held prolife and pro-marriage values. And has experienced discrimination within the SF community for it.
  2. Worldwar/Colonization series by Harry Turtledove. What if we humans gave a World War and the aliens came? This series, with multiple character groups set around the world, gives a panoramic view of a World War Two disrupted by an alien invasion. This series is great for the older history buff, though younger persons won’t get enough World War Two history knowledge to understand the history in these books. The books are not clean as far as sex events are concerned. Also, the author portrays Pope Pius XII as a quisling who helped the aliens conquer Earth, while in real life that pope was a heroic figure who stood up to the Nazis and saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. But the series is very readable in spite of this.
  3. Vatta’s War by Elizabeth Moon. Series of five books featuring the adventures of Ky Vatta, a young woman who got kicked out of her planet’s space academy and was sent off by her family to captain an old trade ship on its last voyage. Decently envisioned worlds, and lots of action including fights with space pirates, mutiny, and the rescue of a cute puppy.
  4. Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz. Yes, that’s a real book title. I haven’t read more than the free preview on Kindle, but found it very readable. And, hey, it’s worth the purchase price just to have the book to display in some prominent place in  your home.

I hope these recommendations will help some science fiction fans start to explore the world of the novels in our genre, and break free of dependence on big budget Hollywood hyped SF movies in which the explosions are more important than serious SF content.

If you have any great science fiction reads to recommend, please do drop us a comment. We are always searching for Something New to Read.