David Louis Edelman
'Infoquake' mass market paperback cover

On the Orbital Colonies

Ever since Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon in ancient times, humanity has sought to establish a permanent presence off the Earth. Despite the longevity of this dream, however, it’s only in the past few hundred years that technological and economic factors have aligned to make it a reality. Yet even today, many observers doubt the offworld colonies’ prospects for long-term survival in the face of a Terran global disaster.

History of the Orbital Colonies

The first permanent human settlement in space, Yu, was commissioned and built by the Congressional China Assembly in years of antiquity. Named after the legendary founder of the first Chinese dynasty, Yu was seen by its contemporaries as a way to solve the pressing population problems of the day. The colony housed ten thousand people in a series of interlocking rings.

Unfortunately, the colony’s engineers made a crucial miscalculation by placing the reins of Yu in the hands of the thinking machines known as the Autonomous Minds. The sabotage and destruction of Yu by the Minds (and the colony’s cataclysmic landing in the great ancient city of New York) triggered the Autonomous Revolt. The Revolt claimed billions of lives and put the prospect of offworld colonization on hold for many decades.

Orbital colonization remained an unattainable dream until 61 YOR. It was in that year that Jesus Elijah Muhammad (the last of the fanatic religious prophets known as the Three Jesuses) commissioned the construction of 49th Heaven. The colony was intended to be a haven for the faithful seeking refuge from the extremism of the Pharisee Territories and the religious pogroms being executed by many of the remaining nation-states.

Although 49th Heaven did not exactly succeed in the manner its founder had hoped (about which, see below), it proved that the construction of orbital colonies was technologically feasible and thus inspired a rash of other developers to follow suit. Over the next century, the prosperous colonies of Allowell, Patronell, and Nova Ceti were all established.

Life in an Orbital Colony

Given all of the technologies that dominate modern life — teleportation, multi, SeeNaRee, OCHREs — life in most of the orbital colonies is not radically different from life on Earth, Luna, or Mars.

The main differences have to do with the extremely high premium put on space and the reliance on the quasi-governmental agencies GravCo and OrbiCo. The science of gravity control is simply not mature enough to provide 100% stability, resulting in the occasional fluctuation with comic (or disastrous) consequences. And OrbiCo interplanetary shipping, while a necessity, has long been called one of the most unreliable services in the history of humanity.

The fact of the matter is that, even with all of humanity’s advances in the past few centuries, the orbital colonies remain tethered to Earth and dependent on it for continued existence. Most residents of the colonies see this as their most pressing issue. The recent acquisition of a seat on the Prime Committee (at the expense of TubeCo) was seen by the offworlders as a major political victory.

Major Orbital Colonies

The Prime Committee only officially recognizes orbital colonies that have been in continuous operation for ten years with a permanent population exceeding two hundred persons. By this standard, there are several dozen orbital colonies in the solar system, ranging from the prosperous city of Allowell to the small scientific outpost of Ducenzia out beyond Jupiter. The amount of small, unrecognized orbital colonies is thought to number in the thousands. While most of these colonies are clustered in orbit around the Earth and Luna, there has been a rash of building lately in the asteroid belt.

These are the major orbital colonies as of this writing:

  • 49th Heaven (founded 61 YOR) was built as a religious refuge by Jesus Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad’s grand plan was eventually done in by the economics of the nascent hoverbird industry, which put the cost of travel out of the reach of religious pilgrims — but well within reach of the bio/logic scions looking to evade Terran law. By the mid 100s, 49th Heaven had become a sybaritic resort notorious for its gambling, sporting, and black coding cultures. Today the colony hosts approximately twenty thousand permanent residents and an uncountable number of tourists.
  • Allowell (founded 83) might have quickly descended into the same decay that awaited 49th Heaven if not for the leadership of military veteran Tul Jabbor (later the first high executive of the Defense and Wellness Council). Jabbor smoothed out Allowell’s early engineering difficulties and set out a strict, conservative set of laws and regulations that has withstood the test of time. Today the colony boasts a quarter of a million inhabitants and a strong economy.
  • Furtoid (founded 293) was the first major orbital colony constructed in the asteroid belt beyond Mars. As such, the colony has been plagued with logistical, economical, and technological problems. Not helping matters is the fact that Furtoid is dependent on Terran supply shipments run by the ever-unreliable OrbiCo company. The colony with its eight thousand permanent residents is therefore a constant drain on governmental resources, and many politicians have won elected office by promising to shut it down. The colony’s status as the most distant major human settlement has given rise to the phrase “from here to Furtoid.”
  • Nova Ceti (founded 85), once the home of the great painter and sculptor Tope, has become a haven for artists (both real and self-proclaimed). Many a promising young painter or musician has packed up for Nova Ceti to make his fortune in the arts — and many have ended up living in lazy servitude to the wealthy patricians who run the colony. Nova Ceti is home to about 110,000 people.
  • Patronell (founded 147) orbits Luna and boasts around 130,000 citizens. While technologically stable, the colony has never been the most politically stable and has hosted a number of violent rebellions over the years. The current administrators of Patronell have been currying favor with the Defense and Wellness Council for half a century. As a result, the offices of the Meme Cooperative and several other minor central governmental organizations are located here.


Copyright © 2008 by David Louis Edelman. Licensed under a Creative Commons License.