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Thursday, February 28, 2013
Alright, so now that we have some of the technology defined (Jammers, AIH Clones), I think it is time to get back to the political beasts of the setting. Doing a quick wordcount, I see that I have just about 8,000 words written. Thats about an eighth of my eventual goal - but its a good start. Of those 8,000 words and 20+ entries so far, notably absent are the primary "protagonist" and "antagonist" -- Mars and the U.N. I find that fascinating - its not for lack of thought or definition that they haven't been written up yet, its that other ideas pop in my head and I rush to get them into the catalog. Further, I am finding that as I fill in other details about the setting, I am also defining the peripheral facts about Mars and the U.N. There is a lot going on in this setting (potential energy), and a lot of it hooks into the brewing conflict between the U.N. (which is desperate to reassert its authority and quiet the questions about its ability to project power) and recently independent Mars (which sees its best defense against Earth as a strong offense that undermines its off-planet interests). So, I heed Orson Scott Card's advice and sit on my ideas to allow them to ferment and germinate.
An example of defining the U.N. and Mars through the other entries is Luna. It was developed, in part, as a quick thought exercise of each stage of Lunar colonization -- exploration, then mining, then as a vector for material movement, then as a colony profitable on its own, then as a tax/financial haven, and finally as a sophisticated society that can stand on its own (though, because of political considerations, doesn't .
Luna is also a good example of the complexity I want out of the setting elements. I want every entity to have good and bad points to it. I want conflict. I want dynamism - I want the writeups and descriptions to paint a picture of societies in motion -- moving, evolving, and changing. The content entries are supposed to be snapshots - and with Luna we have a colony that has hit its natural limit of subservience. For it to keep growing it will have to make a hard decision - continue to be stymied by prioritizing Earth interests or try to cast off the colonial shackles and go it alone. Comfortable status quo or the lure of even bigger profits of change. Invest in steady blue chips or a promising start up? And as much as the SCEs control Luna, they will need the support of the people on whatever path is chosen. Of course, freedom for Luna isnt necessarily a guaranteed paradise - in fact, the way the government and social support is structured, independence may be a very bad thing for the residents and citizens of Luna...
The Financial Axis – Luna: Luna is the home of the Lunar Commonwealth, a corporatist government that has built its success by bending over backwards to serve the Sovreign Corporate Rntity (SCE) agenda. Luna was originally settled as a more convienant launching base for further exploration and colonization. Additionally, the relatively large amounts of Heluim-3 in the regolith made harvesting a profitable endeavor for the handful of corporate interests that had the resources to establish a permanent presence on the moon. Over the years and decades, the population of Luna grew - starting with a few homesteaders and eventually blossoming into a full fledged population.
As the population grew and stabilized, so did Lunar economic interests. Mass drivers were created to help move valuable materials across the inner system. High powered lasers and masers were established under Lunar corporate oversight to help power the early growth of the solar sail trade. In time, these material interests yielded to digital interests, with Luna leading the way in financial, solar web, and broadcasting interests. Where once there was the moon of scientists and miners, there is now one of the most savvy and sophisticated societies on the System.
In 2131 the Lunar Commonwealth is powerful, not due to its unity of purpose (it has none) or its military (which is laughably small) -- the Commonwealth is filthy, stinking rich and only getting richer in the current age of uncertainty. As of 2131, the Commonwealth includes most of the Lunar city-states as well as a majority of habitats based in Earth’s L1 nd L2.
Citizenship and due process in the Lunar Commonwealth is a tricky thing. The Charter and subsequent legal codes that formed the Commonwealth was drafted over a decade, with competing interests constantly working to get their own loopholes codified. Everybody had to get their share. The end result was a document that falls just short of “hideously complicated” and “disastrously vague.” However, the complicated legal and governmental structure serves the various corporations and their allies well, since they have the budget to hire the army of lawyers required to parse the various legal codes of the nation. Its not surprising that with that sort of confused birth, the Commonwealth remains disorganized and politically schizophrenic.
Citizenship in the Commonwealth is secured through paying a minimum amount of taxes. All people that live in a city-state or habitat that has formally joined the Commonwealth is taxed by the Commonwealth, but only those that voluntarily increase their taxes beyond 50% of their income are granted suffrage. Similarly, to qualify for the Commonwealth's extensive social welfare program, a member has to pay at least 30% of their income in taxes for five years. This means that while the Commonwealth claims over 400 million members, less than a quarter vote and less than a third receive social support. Still, the quality of life in the Commonwealth is generally quite high, meaning there are strict intake rules for the many prospective immigrants.
The government of the Commonwealth is composed of 15 “seats” held by the taxpayers who pay the largest amounts. This means, of the 15 seats, 13 are held by the leaders of corporations. The Prime Minister position, which selects the government, is voted on by the Council seats. Since a simple majority within the Council can oust a Prime Minister, government changes are frequent. This leads to the schizophrenic reputation Luna so rightly deserves.
Complicating things further is the fact that the Commonwealth acts, for all intents and purposes, as a sovereign state but still is technically administered by the OCRI with an appointed Administrator. However, with the amount of money that flows through Luna, and the fact that everyone seems to have a direct stake in ensure the situation remains stable (and profitable), OCRI is under unstated orders to give the “colony” wide latitude in its own dealings. One area where the Commonwealth's status as a colony is glaringly apparent is that it is only allowed to maintain a small self defense force and host a handful of OCRI bases (most of those bases are, not coincidentally, located near the many mass drivers located across Luna). To their credit, most Lunans (and ‘Grangers) stifle their lingering resentment of the Crimson helmets. The Commonwealth's status as a colony also precludes it from a seat in the United Nations and most inter-Solar bodies.
Next up, I think its time to talk about influences and priorities. What do I hope to get out of the setting What issues do I think need to be discussed? I'm open to any feedback so far before I jump into dissecting my own motivations - so please, comment away!