by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 1994, revised 1998
Due to various problems that arose during the HTML conversion of this file, it was decided to put
the "science" sections, 3 and 4, into a separate file. This avoids some problems associated with the
total size of the file, while keeping the material most important for the spacegoing parts of the game together.
Return to main index
0.0 Introductionback to contents
Return to main index
This is the second in a series of science fiction source packs, aimed mainly at users of table-top role playing games, but also of interest to SF fans and scholars. It is not a computer game; I am simply using shareware distribution as an alternative to printed publication. If you have obtained it on the understanding that it is software, you are STRONGLY advised to ask for your money back.
Before looking at the rest of this document, I recommend reading the Astronef stories by George Griffith. They are included in this collection and should be read in the following order:
All are illustrated by the graphics that accompanied their original publication, now including the larger scans which were previously distributed with The Astronef Collection.
This revised collection also contains the novelisation, A Honeymoon In Space,
which was not a direct source for this worldbook, and unfortunately contradicts
it in many ways. While it would have been possible to make extensive revisions to bring reconcile the
game material and novel, there were so many practical problems that it was decided to leave things as they
are. In some respects the extra background described in the novel makes it a less interesting source than the stories, and
there are numerous contradictions between the stories and novel, including one outrageously unlikely example of parallel linguistic
development that can only have been added at the insistence of an extremely unimaginative editor.
With some exceptions mentioned below the stories are almost identical to chapters VI to XX of the novel; most of
the extra text is in the first five chapters.
0.1 Scientific Romancesreturn to contents
In the beginning there was fiction. And fiction begat fantasy, stories of people and places that did not exist. And fantasy eventually begat the scientific romance, stories of the world that might emerge through scientific invention and discovery. And scientific romance begat science fiction - which promptly sealed itself into its own literary ghetto and pretended that most of its predecessors had never really been at all important!
Scientific romances were the ancestors of science fiction, and are now often difficult to find. They were usually set in the future, as it was then visualised, and often had a strong Utopian flavour.
The world portrayed in most futuristic scientific romances is simpler and cleaner than the futures we imagine today, and full of wonderful inventions. Some have been achieved, some look bizarre or quaint today. For example, the "Astronef" stories feature some very dubious science, but they also mention space suits, air locks, and other inventions which were either imaginary or in their infancy when the stories were written.
A common feature was social prediction. Sometimes the story promoted a particular moral or political system, and the background would be slanted to show this belief in the best possible light. At other times the author wanted to deliver a warning; these futures were much darker, and sometimes (unintentionally) extremely amusing to readers of a later era, and it's important to remember that their authors usually intended them to be taken very seriously.
The First World War saw such scientific horrors as trench warfare, tanks, and poison gas, exploded the idea of technology as a sure recipe for an Utopian future, and made it clear that change wasn't necessarily going to be for the better. By the end of the war the Utopian novel and scientific romances in general were in decline.
The final blow came when science fiction was established as a separate (and disreputable) literary ghetto. Many excellent authors suddenly discovered that most of their markets were refusing to publish speculative stories, or decided that their reputations would suffer if they continued in this field. Early science fiction plundered the ideas from scientific romances, usually without acknowledgement, and reduced complex ideas to simple action plots which were often inferior to their predecessors. For many years SF historians ignored all work done before Gernsback's invention of "scientifiction" in 1926, and some excellent works were ignored or forgotten.
Today the distinction between SF and the scientific romance is becoming blurred, especially when viewed by observers outside both fields. All speculative writing tends to be tarred with the SF brush, and consigned to a ghetto whose sole occupants (to outsiders) are Tolkien and Star Trek. Within the SF community the "steampunk" movement is starting to re-visit some Victorian themes, but a good deal of excellent or influential work remains virtually unknown.
One of my aims in the Forgotten Futures project is to make the complete text of selected works available to a wider audience. Griffith's writing is seldom seen; part of the third story was included in the anthology "Farewell Fantastic Venus", and the entire series of stories (plus some others by Griffith) was reprinted in facsimile form in the anthology "The Rivals of H.G. Wells", but both of these volumes have long been out of print. Some of his novels were reprinted in the 1980s, but even the reprints are now very difficult to find.
These stories were originally published in Pearson's Magazine in 1900, and expanded as a novel in 1901. The novelisation sets the scene before the first story (incidentally mentioning that its events begin in 1900), extends the epilogue slightly, and is a little more verbose, but in most other ways is identical. Unfortunately I was unable to obtain a copy when writing the original version of this worldbook, and afterwards learned that reconciling the two would be very difficult, and in many respects would make the worldbook less usable as a role playing source.
Engravings by Stanley Wood accompanied each instalment, and I have
included them with each story. Wherever possible this worldbook
reflects the art as well as the written word.
0.2 Language And Unitsreturn to contents
The author of Forgotten Futures is British, as was George Griffith. American readers will occasionally notice that there are differences in spelling and use of language between our 'common' tongues. These differences are made worse by the slightly dated English of these stories. Hopefully most scanning errors have been corrected, but I have otherwise stuck to the spelling used in the magazine printing if an apparent mistake was repeated several times. This is most noticeable in the names of astronomical bodies, where there were some considerable variations in the 19th century. If that worries you, you are welcome to run documents through a spell checker, but please DON'T distribute modified versions.
Griffith used Imperial measurements in the Astronef stories; ounces,
feet and inches, miles and horsepower. To retain the flavour of the
stories these units have been used where appropriate. Readers who are
unfamiliar with the older British and American system of weights and
measures will find the awful details in Appendix A of the rules,
which also explain pre-decimal British currency. The
spreadsheet template CURRENCY.WK1 accompanying the rules contains conversion routines.
0.3 Role Playing Gamesreturn to contents
This worldbook is largely written as a source for game referees, and most sections contain notes for use with these games, or specifically for the Forgotten Futures rules. I've tried to keep them as unobtrusive as possible; usually they are boxed, in square brackets [like this], or in separate sections of the text. There are fewer of these interruptions than in the first Forgotten Futures worldbook, because the adventure campaign covers a good deal of ground and includes numerous ideas for continued adventures. A few sections (especially those covering technology) are written mainly for the game. The Forgotten Futures are on this disk, but you are welcome to use the game of your choice, and add game statistics to fit its rules. No one will complain provided you don't try to publish a modified version of these files.
The "history" in this sourcebook is written from a viewpoint in 1920, but the adventure campaign begins in 1901, when the R. force is little understood and the Solar System is wide open for exploration. Players in a campaign beginning in 1901 need to know nothing of gravitational technology, which in any case is thoroughly protected by patent, and you may wish to keep some future "history" secret. In 1901 the Pilot skill does not cover spacecraft, unless Lord Redgrave supplies the training (which should NOT be readily available). By the end of the decade this skill is much more common.
The spaceship design sequence involves some moderately complicated
calculations for ship costs and performance. To make things easier a
Lotus-compatible spreadsheet template is also provided. If you and
your players aren't interested in this aspect of gaming, and just
think of ships as a means of transport, you might prefer to bypass
this section completely and use the Astronef or one of the "off the
peg" designs in section 3.6; after all, if characters have to worry
about the cost they probably can't afford it. Sections 3.1 and 3.2
"explain" R. force engines in enough detail to run the game, while
section 3.3 describes the main components.
0.4 Writing Between The Linesreturn to contents
The first Forgotten Futures worldbook extrapolated a hundred and fifty years of history and technology from two short stories which gave very few background details. In assembling this worldbook the main problem has been deciding what to omit; the sheer wealth of material, both text and illustrations, leads to occasional contradictions between the different stories, and between the art and the written text. Most of these problems arise in dealing with the science of the stories, mentioned in more detail below, and in working out the physical layout of the spacecraft Astronef.
For example, the location of the Astronef's control room (sometimes called the conning tower) seems to vary according to the needs of the stories. To overcome these discrepancies I assumed that there are actually two rooms - a small forward room used mainly for atmospheric manoeuvres, and a conning tower (the funnel-like structure towards the rear of the upper hull) used primarily for navigation in deep space. Some of these assumptions were proven incorrect by details in A Honeymoon In Space, but I have decided to leave things as they are in this worldbook and the adventures. The hull as illustrated by Wood is narrower than that described by Griffith; the result shown in the plans is a compromise.
While Griffith did describe several worlds, his descriptions are naturally from one viewpoint; that of the occupants of the Astronef, who see very small regions of the worlds they visit, and are unable to understand the languages of the aliens they encounter (except in one instance in the novelisation, which I prefer to ignore). I have chosen to assume that there is more to be learned on all of these worlds, and on the worlds Griffith didn't visit, Mercury and the outermost planets. Material which was invented specifically for this source-pack is not marked as such; read the stories to find out how much I've added.
All of the "history" and most of the technology described below and in the adventure has been invented for this collection; the original stories didn't detail events before the flight of the Astronef, or carry the story beyond its return, but it seems certain that the R. Force would lead to a scientific revolution at least as important as the development of nuclear power. For convenience the history below covers the last decade of the 19th century and carries the story forward to 1920. It borrows freely from several sources, most notably H.G. Wells' "The Star". It is also written from a firmly British viewpoint, where damage to London is a disaster, damage to Europe is a regrettable incident, and damage elsewhere is hardly worth a footnote. These attitudes are not necessarily those of the author. In many respects this material is contradicted by A Honeymoon In Space.
This period overlaps a very important time in the evolution of science and of modern society; with the extra knowledge gained from Professor Rennick's work, and from contact with at least one advanced alien civilisation, decades of research might be bypassed or eliminated, and society would surely see many changes. For this reason the language used to describe R. force technology is that of 1920s physics, as augmented by Ganymedan research.
Some of my wilder extrapolations of hints in these stories may not be
fully justified; in particular, the "Zaidie hypothesis" is mainly
intended as an optional plotting device, a convenience to role-playing
referees, and can safely be ignored by other readers. My comments on
Lord Redgrave's personality are also highly suspect. The opinions and
philosophies described below are not necessarily those of the author.
0.5 Weird Sciencereturn to contents
Griffith used the best and most accurate scientific data available to write his stories; much of it was subsequently proved to be wrong, but that wasn't his fault!
In 1900 many astronomers believed that life might exist throughout the solar system. An important exponent of this theory was Nicolas Flammarion, a French follower of Percival Lowell who promoted the Martian canals and other "evidence" of life on different worlds. Flammarion even believed that he had seen evidence of plant growth on the Moon. His 'Popular Astronomy' was translated into English in 1894, and had an enormous impact. It has certainly been read by the main characters in these stories. Most of the information on conditions on other worlds in these stories can be traced directly to Flammarion or Lowell's work; unfortunately their opinions were often inaccurate. The account of Saturn in the fifth story seems to be based on the work of a British astronomer, Richard Proctor, who was also a prolific populariser and lecturer. Again, some of the wilder guesses are Flammarion's. Finally, there are a few silly mistakes, such as the idea that it might be possible to "fall off" one of the moons of Mars, which seem unlikely to have originated with either astronomer; I have taken the liberty of blaming such errors on George Griffith, a journalist hired to ghost-write the popular account of the first voyage of the Astronef.
The speed with which worlds are believed to age and die was a widely-held theory. Before the discovery of the mass-energy relationship, and the realisation that the Sun must be powered by the disintegration of matter, the most optimistic estimates gave the Sun a few million years of life. Referees should decide if this opinion is correct; if so, nuclear fusion is not part of the solar cycle, and may not occur at all. The latest events discussed below occur before any form of nuclear power has been harnessed; the referee should decide if radioactivity is a peculiar property of some materials, useless for generating power or making bombs, or will eventually become as important as gravity technology.
The R. force could be justified by 19th century physics; since magnetism and electrostatics both seemed to show the existence of opposing fields or charges, there seemed every reason to believe that gravity should follow suit. Unfortunately the stories include enough details to preclude the idea of a field affecting the entire ship; it is obvious that it is possible to create tightly-focused R. force beams, and that different parts of the ship can be attracted or repelled at the same time. This means that gravity must be carried by suitably charged particles, or gravitons, with a negative or "R" graviton for repulsion. For the purposes of this worldbook gravitons of both types are easy to handle and isolate with the right equipment. R. force engines are anti-gravitational rays, but the physics is extremely dubious. It is unfortunately necessary to ignore or minimise some minor problems such as G-forces, weightlessness, the origins of the vast quantities of power used by these craft, and the fact that the beams should rip normal matter apart via gravitational stress. DO NOT explain how it all works in any detail. In a campaign set in the early 1900s the best minds in the world are still grappling with the problem; by 1920 a few scientists understand much more, but reaching this point took the combined work of Rennick, Redgrave, Tesla, Bohr, Einstein, and many others. Presumably the adventurers aren't in this exalted intellectual league. If they are, they don't need to ask!
Pluto doesn't appear to exist in the universe of the Astronef stories; if it did, Lord Redgrave would know about it, given his unique opportunities for observation and contacts with a race that have had telescopes for thousands of years. Readers who disagree are welcome to add lots of data; I haven't bothered since it looks like a singularly dull place. For your convenience Pluto is included in the spreadsheet template covering journey times. Some moons that weren't discovered in 1900 have also been omitted.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the biology of the Astronef universe suffers from fatal flaws, which cannot be covered by any amount of "weird science"; similarities such as the layout of eyes, nose, and mouth, and the arrangement of finger joints and other bones in alien arms, can only be explained by common, close, and recent ancestry or by direct act of an extremely conservative God. Even the Saturnian sea serpents are far too like Terrestrial forms, and extremely unlikely to evolve independently. Since Griffith did write at least one story set in Atlantis, I have invoked ancient Atlantean astronauts as an explanation for the worst example.
This worldbook attempts to describe a universe that works by the laws of nature known at the end of the 19th century, with the additions found in these stories, and has astronomy and physics appropriate to the ideas that were current in this period and the early 20th century. In some cases it has not been possible to reconcile different parts of the text without contradictions; where this problem arose I have invented the science, regardless of internal consistency, and tried to err in directions that would amuse the reader and provide useful "hooks" for role playing campaigns.
If the universe described in these stories seems strange, remember
that the real universe is stranger than we can possibly imagine. I
began writing this collection in 1993, and finished the original version in the week
of July 18th 1994; a week in which 21 comets hit Jupiter. If
any author had suggested that in 1900, no-one would have taken his
0.6 Acknowledgementsreturn to contents
Thanks to Fantasy Centre (157 Holloway Road, London N7 8LX) for
finding these stories, to Brian Stableford for information on the
contents of the novelisation, to Charles Stross, Simon Bisson, John
Dallman, and others for weird science, to Hugh Mascetti and Charles
Stross for armaments, to Roz Kaveney for historical data and advice,
and to Brian Ameringen (now proprietor of Porcupine Books, a specialist
SF mail-order company, www.porcupine.demon.co.uk) for literary help. None of the above bear any
responsibility for the results! My main sources for the "real"
portions of the timeline were the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopaedia and
Chambers Quick Facts.
0.7 Omissionsreturn to contents
As already stated, this collection originally missed parts of the story that were added to the novelisation. In general they have not been incorporated into this revision, for the reasons given above.
All I know of Stanley Wood is that he was an occasional illustrator
for Pearson's Magazine and Pearson's Weekly. Additional information
would be appreciated.
0.8 Technical Notesreturn to contents
Documents were typed using Borland's Sprint word processor, then exported to ASCII format. The revision was again edited and converted to HTML using Sprint, with Internet Explorer 3 used to view the finished documents. Play-testers have checked compatibility with a variety of other web browsers on PCs and Macs.
The original graphics were mostly scanned in at 300 DPI, 16 grey scale, using Proscan software, then exported to Micrografx Photomagic for size reduction to fit each illustration to a 640x480 format. Since there were still nearly 2mb of files they were reduced further, and assembled as collages for the original collection. This revision adds all of the 640x480 illustrations.
Other software used included Microsoft's "PC Paintbrush", Enabling Technologies' "Zing" (3D graphics), Walnut Creeks' "GIFs Galore" CD-ROM (NASA images), Personal MicroCosms "Astronomy Lab For Windows" and Larry Puhl's "Planets" (orbital maps), and several other programs.
Spreadsheet templates were prepared in Lotus 123 Executive, a version
of Lotus 123 incorporating a WYSIWYG add-in which I believe is now a
standard feature of the program. The final printout is greatly
improved if you have this add-in.
1.0 Glossaryback to contents
This list defines these terms as they are used in the Astronef stories, or in the material that follows. Terms introduced for this worldbook are starred (*)
Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim gun, and they have not. Belloc: The Modern Traveller, 1898Its use in adventure fiction usually followed the pattern shown in the second Astronef story.
The passages which follow are taken from the series "The Road To The Stars" by Mark Lee, published by Pearson's Magazine in March-May 1920. I am grateful to Mr. Lee and to Pearson's Magazine for permission to use extracts.
...From dust we come, and to dust we go. Too much dust out there. Why
isn't it adhering? Millions of years, and it just drifts in space.
...(illegible)... Electrical effects? Maybe, but surely some dust
would have an opposing charge, and start to adhere. Light might push
it, but there is light in all directions. What keeps it apart? Maybe
we assume too much. Must gravity always attract? ...(illegible)...
Could there be something pushing things apart? Call it the R. force, R.
for repulsive. It could explain Olber's paradox - make the universe
expand. There might be a paper in it...
(From the notebooks of Professor Hartley Rennick, by courtesy of the London Science Museum)
In 1892 Professor Hartley Rennick first thought of a phenomenon now known as the R. Force, or repulsive force. He reasoned that there was strong evidence for the existence of dust in interstellar space, but that (given many millions of years) all such dust should have been attracted together by gravity, forming new planets and suns. Since this was not the case, something must be negating gravity in the interstellar dust.
Rennick guessed that there were two forms of matter; normal matter, attracted by gravity, and R. matter, or repulsive matter, which exerted a corresponding repulsive force. Due to its nature there could be very little R. matter on any planet; it would tend to disperse in interstellar space. Olber's paradox (in brief, the fact that the night sky is dark when an infinite number of stars should light it evenly at all times) is also explained by the existence of R. matter; it repels ordinary matter, and thus makes the universe expand.
Rennick reasoned that the most likely source of R. matter on Earth was the outer layer of meteorites, which might have struck R. matter during their passage through space. Since R. matter would obey the normal laws of chemistry, it could become embedded in the rock, or fused to it by the impact. Using the most refined methods of pulverisation and examination he eventually found several microscopic flecks of dust which resolutely defied gravity, falling upwards as fast as normal flecks fall downwards. This discovery initially seemed to have no useful application, since the quantities of R. matter involved would have barely supported a flea, let alone any useful object. They were affected more strongly by Brownian motion than by gravity.
To summarise the extensive series of experiments that followed, Rennick eventually proved that there are two forms of gravitational particle, or graviton, differing only in sign. G. gravitons are found in normal matter, R. gravitons in R. matter. Gravitons are continually radiated and regenerated by atoms; the theoretical mechanism of replacement is extremely complicated, but seems to be inexhaustible.
For reasons which were then unclear (and are still extremely difficult to describe without a lengthy digression into calculus and quantum theory), all the gravitons attached to an atom must have the same sign. If even one changes, the others will spontaneously "flip" to the altered state. Rennick discovered that at extremely high voltages particles of R. matter shed gravitons with enough force to "infect" neighbouring atoms with the R. force, spontaneously regenerating the gravitons they lost. This process slowly enlarged his original samples.
|Scenario Idea 1894-6: Romancing The Stone|
Professor Rennick needs meteors and is prepared to pay for them. Unfortunately several geologists are also after them, in pursuit of their theories, and the price has gone sky-high. The adventurers discover some particularly good specimens, and must play the bidders against each other to get the best possible deal.
This episode takes place at least four years BEFORE the flight of the Astronef, and characters should not be aware of Professor Rennick's identity or importance. Rennick is represented by an agent.
...This man Rennick is a pest of the worst kind. I know that he's a
Professor, but he's not doing any professing around my workshops. If
he tries to see me again, show him the door.
(Edison, talking to one of his technicians, quoted in the anthology "Famous Fallacies")
In 1898 Rennick constructed a demonstration gravitational engine. Unfortunately his equipment was crude, with no means of storing gravitons for extended periods, and the forces he could develop were tiny, only detectable by the most sensitive balances. It was obvious that engineering development was needed before there could be any useful result. He tried to interest Edison but was dismissed as a crank; a few days later the magazine Nature rejected his first paper on the subject.
Depressed, ill, and in need of a rest, Rennick took a vacation in the Canadian Rockies, accompanied by his daughter Lilla Zaidie. There they met Lord Rollo Lenox Smeaton Aubrey, the Earl of Redgrave, who was enjoying a hunting holiday in the area. Lord Redgrave was strongly attracted to Miss Rennick when he saw her. He initially used his knowledge of engineering to scrape an acquaintanceship with the Professor, mainly to have an excuse to be near her, but soon realised that Rennick wasn't just an eccentric. Lord Redgrave had the money and engineering facilities needed to develop the Professor's ideas, and in less than a week they formed a partnership that was to change the course of history. The Astronef, or star-navigator, would be built in Lord Redgrave's works at Smeaton in Yorkshire, under conditions of the strictest secrecy; Redgrave would finance and oversee construction, with Rennick the brains behind the project. Miss Rennick was to stay in New York, to complete her education and take care of their home.
During the next year Professor Rennick developed all the essential mechanisms of gravity control; graviton manufacture, storage, and release, and a means of focusing gravitons to push away from an object with enormous force. It was a staggering achievement, equalled only by Einstein's evolution of his Grand Unified Theory in 1915, and it should be noted that Einstein often said that without Rennick's results he might never have reached a conclusion.
...Professor Rennick is as well as can be expected, although I am
concerned about some respiratory abnormalities. He has allowed his
health to deteriorate badly, and is near to exhaustion. I must
strongly recommend that he takes some time to convalesce before
returning to work...
(Note to Lord Redgrave, unsigned and undated)
In 1899 the project received a near-fatal blow; the Professor died of pulmonary complications following influenza, a victim of overwork and the damp Yorkshire climate. His body was later returned to New York for burial beside his wife. Today their tomb is an object of pilgrimage for scientists the world over.
At this point most of the remaining work fell into the realm of engineering, rather than research, and Redgrave could carry on, although some delays were inevitable. One handicap was the Professor's nearly illegible handwriting, which Redgrave could only read with extreme difficulty. Hundreds of pages were photographed and sent to Miss Rennick in America; fortunately she could usually decipher the scrawl, and gave invaluable help on several occasions.
Throughout this period Andrew Murgatroyd, foreman of the works at Smeaton, was the unsung hero of the Astronef project. He lived in the works, always ready to lend a hand where it was needed, and prevented several mistakes that would have been catastrophic in space. He was later offered honours and other decorations, but refused all awards.
Redgrave's Mechanical Mole Will Make Verne Come True
Redgrave Building Terror Submarine, Says French Minister
Redgrave Secrecy Stunt Best Publicity I've Seen - Barnum
Smeaton Mystery Continues: Armed Guards At Redgrave Works
(Headlines from various newspapers, 1899-1900)
Experts from every field of science were called upon to contribute their ingenuity to different aspects of the project, with no idea of its ultimate aim - one engineer's indiscreet description of airtight asbestos suits led to wild rumours that Redgrave was building a mechanical mole to travel to the centre of the earth, while the French learned that he had ordered air purifying equipment, and were convinced that he was preparing a submarine of a new and deadly design. The works at Smeaton were besieged by the Press, curious onlookers, and spies of various nationalities. Redgrave hired armed guards to keep them out.
When everything was ready Redgrave and Murgatroyd conducted a series of tests, culminating in late-night flights over the North Sea and Atlantic. On several occasions the Astronef was heard or sighted by ships; while the R. force itself is completely silent, the propellers which drove the Astronef through the air were quite noisy. Soon most newspapers were running stories about mystery airships; somehow these reports were never connected with Lord Redgrave's secretive activities.
|Scenario Idea, 1899-1900: U.F.A. (Unidentified Flying Airship)|
The adventurers are members of a society or government organisation with an interest in unusual events and unexplained phenomena. Suddenly there are dozens of reports of mystery airships over the North Sea, and for once the Germans don't seem to know anything about it. What is happening, and how will they investigate?
Eventually Lord Redgrave summoned a representative of The Times to his study and issued a curt statement, explaining that he had developed a new form of transport and would give a full Press conference in New York - later that day! He refused to answer any questions, or explain how the Astronef worked.
An hour later, to the tune of the works brass band and in the sight of a large crowd, the Astronef flew publicly for the first time, circling the yard then heading upwards into space. Redgrave simply took the craft out several thousand miles then flew back again, reaching New York an hour and forty-three minutes after he left Britain.
"British Airship Crosses Atlantic In Two Hours!"
"Redgrave's Repulsion Revelation!"
"Honeymooners Head Heavenwards"
(American newspaper headlines, 1900)
Amongst the welcoming crowd was Lilla Zaidie Rennick. She and Redgrave had been secretly engaged, but separated, for eighteen months. During the last weeks the banns for their wedding had been read in the chapel of the British Embassy, with great care taken to keep the news from the Press. That night the editors of Redgrave's newspapers were allowed to know the truth, and they scooped the world, announcing the wedding and explaining that the newly-weds would spend their honeymoon exploring the solar system. It was a sensation that almost eclipsed the first news of the Astronef, and sent shares in Redgrave's companies soaring.
The wedding, held aboard the Astronef a mile above New York, was attended by the British Ambassador, the Mayor of New York, and the cream of society. Afterwards the Astronef landed a last time, to set down its visitors, then set off for the Moon. The adventures that followed are too well known to need elaboration; the best source for a full account is the travelogue "Stories of Other Worlds", written by the late George Griffith from Lady Redgrave's notes, and illustrated by her sketches and photographs. It should be noted that Mr. Griffith was not a scientist, and made several minor mistakes in his depiction of the physics and use of the R. force and the details of space travel. His subsequent expansion of these articles is best considered fiction.
Most accounts of this period somehow suggest that nothing happened on Earth while the Astronef was in space. Nothing could be further from the truth. Within a month the works at Smeaton were laying down the keel of the Hartley Rennick. This was to be a much larger ship, with copious holds, accommodation for thirty, and mounts for six guns. Since Redgrave didn't know what he might find on the voyage, he wanted the next vessel to be easily adaptable to the widest possible range of eventualities. The graviton plant at Smeaton was also hard at work, preparing R. matter and R. gravitons for the Astronef and its successor.
Naturally most of the major global powers were alarmed by the implications of the Astronef. While little was said publicly, all were uneasily aware that the equipment that could lift a solid steel hull might equally well be fitted into a warship, which could be sent to raid inland cities. Even one flying dreadnought would be an enormous military advantage. These fears, in the form they then took, were almost groundless; it had taken the Smeaton works nearly a year to synthesise enough R. matter for the Astronef, and it would have taken another three years to generate enough for the Hartley Rennick if later advances had not speeded the process considerably. Production of gravitons for a battleship-sized warship would then have taken decades, and even now takes a year or more.
Four key figures now enter the story; Sir William Crookes, Admiral Sir John Fisher, Thomas Alva Edison, and Nikola Tesla.
Soon after the Astronef's departure the British government approached various scientific and military authorities and asked them to "look into" military aspects of Rennick's discovery. The committee included Crookes (then as now one of Britain's foremost physicists) and Fisher. While newspapers were talking about flying warships, Crookes had already realised that there were serious obstacles in the way of such behemoths. Although Fisher was a strong proponent of the big gun, and was eventually to modernise Britain's entire surface fleet with hugely increased fire-power, he listened to Crookes and realised that the military advantages of the R. force were speed and manoeuvrability; for a long time R. matter would be in short supply, making weight a major limitation. This meant that ships must be fast, small, and equipped with lightweight weapons. If they could approach their targets and attack before defences could be brought to bear they would still be a formidable threat to any enemy.
Recent memoirs reveal that a sizeable minority of this committee was in favour of destroying the Astronef and all records of Rennick's work. Fortunately it was obvious that it was already too late; once it was known that the R. force existed, any competent physicist could follow up the clues in Rennick's published papers and work towards the same ends, avoiding many false trails and errors. Crookes' report made it abundantly clear that the genie couldn't be pushed back into the bottle, while Fisher recommended encouragement of Redgrave and the earliest possible purchase of the technology for military use, so long as the surface fleet was not compromised. This report is usually considered the birth of the Royal Navy's space fleet. Britain built a strong surface fleet, copiously armed against aerial attack, and a few fast agile military spacecraft. America followed the British lead, as did most of the continental powers. Only Germany made serious attempts to build really large flying warships in this decade, and they were remarkably unsuccessful.
Edison may seem an odd person to mention; in the context of space travel, he is mainly famous for refusing to help Professor Rennick when he sought backing in 1898. However, he was also important as a catalyst in the later story of the R. force. During his last Press conference before the wedding, Lord Redgrave was asked why it took an Englishman to develop an American invention. In replying, Redgrave mentioned that Professor Rennick had tried to obtain American backing. He didn't mention Edison's name, but the Press soon realised who he had meant. When asked why he had turned down the professor, Edison's comment was a snarled "didn't seem practical". Meanwhile his hired detectives were hard at work, tracking down all possible information on Rennick and the R. Force. Lady Redgrave's New York apartment was burgled, but the intruders were caught as they were leaving. The stolen papers made it obvious that they were not simple thieves, and at first they were treated as spies. They implicated Edison in their confessions; there was no proof, but from that moment on Edison lost much of the support that he had previously received from the American Press.
A few years earlier Edison had fallen out with Tesla, who was delighted to hear of his old enemy's problems. Tesla had previously paid little attention to the Astronef, but this incident aroused his curiosity. A photograph of the works at Smeaton showed the gigantic graviton plant. Tesla studied the photographs, and the little information he had on the process, reasoned out the mechanism, and redesigned it for AC operation. There was a lengthy period of confusion following the Astronef's near-fatal crash landing, but in October 1901 Tesla arranged an appointment and showed Lord Redgrave his modified design. Redgrave wasn't convinced, but Tesla offered to demonstrate the process and produce an ounce of R. matter within a month if Lord Redgrave would supply a small sample to "seed" the electrodes.
Several weeks later a needle tipped with R. matter was delivered to Tesla, who had meanwhile found an error in his calculations and realised that he would need much more power than he had anticipated. The only source available was the new generating plant at Niagara Falls, built by his colleague George Westinghouse. Luckily Westinghouse was already interested in acquiring the American rights to the R. force, and was having trouble persuading Lord Redgrave to agree terms. The Tesla process was the lever he needed to complete the agreement. He and Tesla were the world's leading authorities on AC generators; without them Lord Redgrave had little hope of making it work. After some negotiation a partnership was formed, beginning a long and profitable association. Tesla provided a steady stream of improvements, while Westinghouse's combination of business sense and engineering expertise made him the perfect counterpart to Redgrave. All three were united in ingenuity and dislike of Edison, and through their association R. Force Developments Inc. has become the most profitable company in America.
Meanwhile, at least ten nations were developing graviton technology. Britain and America were in the lead, especially in the field of space travel; other nations took some time to catch up, mainly because it took many months to build up the stocks of R. matter needed for large-scale production. Redgrave and the Americans reserved the bulk of their production for their own projects, although "seed" quantities of R. matter were made available to anyone who wished to build a graviton plant and pay appropriate royalties. R. matter itself, as a natural phenomenon, was not patentable, but every other part of the process was thoroughly protected.
"Make Moon Part Of The Empire"
"Lunarians For The Zoo"
"Are We Throwing Away Our Lead In Space?"
(Newspaper headlines 1902-3)
As 1902 began, the Astronef was still undergoing repairs; Lord Redgrave had promised to lend her to the Army when she was airworthy, but the African war ended first. Later she made several flights to the Moon for archaeological and selenological investigations (which eventually led to the huge mining complexes we know today), and to collect plants and animals at Newton. With immense difficulty these specimens were transferred to a special refrigerated enclosure at the London Zoo, and their descendants can still be seen today. Incidentally, it is untrue that Lord Redgrave attempted to catch a Lunarian for the collection, as claimed in several sensationalist articles; evidence in the case of Redgrave versus the Royal Society for the Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals and Mr George Bernard Shaw proved conclusively that great care was taken to avoid disturbing these pitiful creatures.
Patriots called for the Moon to be made part of the British Empire; the motion was passed by both Houses of Parliament, and Lord Redgrave formerly claimed it during the second expedition, but at this point the Astronef was the only British spacecraft. By the time Britain had a strong military presence in space, four other nations had bases on the Moon. In view of the difficulty of maintaining a permanent garrison Britain eventually agreed to refer the matter to the international courts, where it still rests.
The Hartley Rennick first flew towards the end of the year. Unfortunately its propulsion system was woefully inadequate, developing only a fraction of the anticipated power. Lord Redgrave decided to limit it to flights in the atmosphere until the problem was solved. The cause remained a mystery for several months, but eventually proved to be due to the designers "scaling up" the system wrongly, and using crystals that were far too small for the power required. It then became apparent that two engines were insufficient for such a large ship; two more were fitted, which necessitated a lengthy series of modifications and design changes.
One final event of 1902 was the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Lord Redgrave. There was some criticism of the choice, since it was generally agreed that Professor Rennick did the lion's share of the theoretical work and would probably have been the sole recipient if he had lived. There was also some disquiet about events on Mars. Lord Redgave accepted the prize but used it to set up the Rennick Scholarships (Physics, Astronomy, and Extraterrestrial Biology and Linguistics) at Oxford and Harvard, which silenced most of his critics.
1903 saw the first completely successful trials of the Hartley Rennick. The Redgrave yards also laid down keels for the Zaidie Redgrave (a sister-ship of the Hartley Rennick, shorn of her engineering problems) and Britain's first purely military spacecraft, HMS Nova.
HMS Nova was a radically odd design, with an angular hull shaped somewhat like the blade of a chisel. Although she massed nearly 600 tons she was still much smaller than the other flying warships planned at the time, with a total crew of 22. Nevertheless she cost over a million pounds, more than most battleships of the era (but a tiny fraction of the eventual cost of Germany's flying dreadnoughts). Her first captain described her as "a cross between a brick and a submarine", and this wasn't far from the truth. She was certainly as cramped and uncomfortable as any submarine.
While German plans saw indestructible flying fortresses raining down death and destruction as they advanced inexorably towards their enemies, British military designs were based on Crookes' and Fisher's suggestions, and on the lessons learned from the first expedition to Mars; the Nova was built to raid from space, using hit and run tactics to avoid defences rather than confront them. Her two 8" guns were fixed to fire forward along the axis of the ship, reducing their weight dramatically and avoiding stability problems that were to plague her rivals; they were aimed by aiming the whole ship at the target, and their recoil was absorbed as a loss of the ship's momentum. She also carried six 1000 lb bombs or three torpedoes. Electrically-driven machine guns were rigged to fire to the sides and aft at prodigious rates if she was ever forced to low altitudes, but her defences were primarily speed, height, and manoeuvrability.
These details were kept secret, and newspaper sketches showed her flying at low altitudes and fitted with turrets. The relative smallness of the Nova was widely criticised in Britain, and derided in European newspapers (which didn't know about the difficulties other shipbuilders were already encountering). France, Belgium, Italy, and Russia were also building ships of similar sizes; all had turrets, and were bigger, slower, and much less agile than the Nova.
No Martian would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth
century that his world was being watched keenly and closely...
(H.G. Wells: The War Of The Worlds, 1902 revision)
In March 1904 the Hartley Rennick set off for Mars, carrying a scientific team and several diplomats. The expedition was captained by Lord Redgrave, but Lady Redgrave was expecting her first child and stayed on Earth. The expedition spent a week on Phobos, observing Mars from space, and eventually attempted to land near a city adjoining Syrtis Major. The Martians immediately began a sustained aerial assault; Lord Redgrave destroyed one of their flying ships, then (under diplomatic pressure) ordered a retreat to space. Three more landings were met by similar attacks. It became apparent that the Martians had interpreted the Astronef's visit as a scouting mission, and spent the last four years arming to defeat an invasion from space.
Given the Martian attitude, and the impracticality of an invasion across the void of interplanetary space, the simple answer was to leave the Martians to their own devices. The expedition did learn that the Martians were using wireless signals, and linguists have spent many hours attempting to decipher their language, so far without success. The Martians seem to ignore any signals we transmit from space.
From Mars the Hartley Rennick carried on to Jupiter, returning to the "glass-house" cities of Ganymede. The inhabitants were pleased to welcome their new visitors, and willing to co-operate with anthropologists, linguists, and other scholars. Progress was rapid; by May some of the natives spoke English, and were sharing their scientific knowledge with the explorers. Lord Redgrave was anxious to return home for the birth of his child, while the scientists wanted to remain on Ganymede and learn more. Eventually a compromise was agreed; the scientists and diplomats stayed on Ganymede, guests of the city, while the ship returned to Earth. Passengers on the return journey included the first Ganymedan ambassador, Vlok Frul Rell Vorix, later the Foremost of Ganymede, with his wife and servants.
Lord Gordon Wellesley Redgrave was born in September; the Hartley Rennick returned to Jupiter in January the following year. En route the ship visited Ceres to collect specimens for the Zoo, and larger samples of the strange "heavy water" of that world which were shipped to Earth for use in experiments at the National Physical Laboratory and Imperial College.
|Scenario Idea, 1905 onwards: ...And Not A Drop To Drink|
If one of the adventurers is a scientist, why not "accidentally" lock him into a store room over a long hot summer weekend. Unfortunately the room is escape proof, and there's no sink. The only thing that looks even vaguely drinkable is a bottle of Ceres water, which has carelessly been left out of the safe. Is a dedicated scientist prepared to drink this precious substance? What will the stuff do to him if he does? Remember that a mouthful will weigh several pounds, and might just possibly rip through the stomach lining on the way down if you feel unusually sadistic...
Another event of 1905 was the first flight of HMS Nova. Several other nations were developing flying warships. Once the Nova had shown her paces in space, and in attacks on ground targets and derelict ships, it was obvious that she was superior in every way. Given the nature of the R. force, and the need for speed and manoeuvrability, the turrets most other ships carried were an almost insurmountable handicap. Later European designs were modelled much more closely on the Nova.
Germany alone continued to build flying dreadnoughts; too many reputations, and too much money, were tied up in the idea, and no-one seems to have been prepared to admit that they were obsolete before they were even built. Even the primitive winged aircraft and airships of the day could have out-flown them, and today's Ganymedan-designed flyers would run rings around them. One eventual consequence was the loss of the Goethe, a Prussian eighteen-gunner launched in 1912. During trials it fired a broadside, lost its R. force "legs" from the sudden recoil, and crashed and sank in the North Sea. Nearly a hundred crewmen were killed.
Once the Nova was in service, there were repeated calls for retaliation against the Martians. The Navy was justifiably reluctant to release HMS Nova for a prolonged campaign. Lady Redgrave's vision of conquest ("...we'd better go back and build a fleet like this, and come and take it.") ignored several practical problems that would probably have resulted in a military debacle and immense losses. For one thing, there was reason to believe that the air of Mars might be poisonous on prolonged exposure, and it is obvious that Martian plants are not based on the chemicals we know on Earth. It is difficult to imagine an invasion succeeding if the invaders are permanently forced to wear breathing dresses, and have to import all food across the void of space. There is also a grave risk of the Martians acquiring our technology from any ships they might capture. Today there is usually a British or American warship somewhere near Mars, and it is illegal to land or venture within the orbit of Phobos. There the matter still rests. Despite the predictions of Wells we have still managed to avoid carrying our colonial wars to Mars, and it is to be hoped that we will never have to do so.
Trade between Earth and Ganymede developed rapidly in 1905-7; the Ganymedans are mainly interested in copper, nickel, iron, and other metals for the machines that keep their cities habitable, while there is an enormous demand for Ganymedan fabrics, scientific knowledge, and art. With the aid of the Ganymedans exploration was greatly simplified. Their cities could be used as staging posts for expeditions to Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The second Saturn expedition was mounted the following year, returning with a range of useful drugs extracted from the bodies of Saturnian sea-serpents. Meanwhile the first pressurised mines were opened on the Moon, producing seventy tons of useful ores in their first year of operation. Today annual production has risen to several thousand tons, mostly of light metals such as aluminium and titanium, smelted in solar furnaces during the Lunar day.
On 30th June 1908 parts of Moscow were devastated by the impact of a gigantic ice meteor. Wireless messages from HMS Nebula gave the first warning a few hours before the event, but her guns and bombs were powerless to deflect the icy projectile. An attempt to tow it clear of the Earth might have succeeded, given more time, but time was not available. Bare minutes before the asteroid struck, the Nebula attempted to ram the asteroid and push it off course; there were no survivors. Fortunately the Russian Court was at the summer palace near St. Petersburg at the time, and no members of the Royal family were killed. Today Moscow is largely rebuilt to modern standards, but much of the Kremlin was destroyed and it will be many years before its cathedrals are replaced. The officers and men of HMS Nebula posthumously received the highest British and Russian awards.
|Scenario Idea, 1909: Fallen Heroes|
Everyone aboard the Nebula was killed when it crashed into the meteor.. but now the Germans claim that the Navy deliberately aimed the meteor at Moscow, and that the Nebula wasn't really destroyed. They say that without British intervention the meteor would have crashed harmlessly in Siberia. Both Britain and Russia have ridiculed the idea (remember that there are strong ties between the British and Russian Royal families), but the Germans claim to have proof. Can it be true; if so, what really happened to HMS Nebula, and why was Moscow destroyed?
1909 saw further exploration in space, including the first expedition to Uranus (mounted at colossal expense, and producing few worthwhile results), and a second landing on Venus, sponsored by the Anglican Missionary Society against the wishes of Lord Redgrave. American explorer Robert E. Peary led part of this expedition to Venus's North Pole, finding it cooler than the equatorial regions visited by the main expedition and the Astronef, but much warmer than Earth's Poles. After six weeks on Venus the missionaries were still unable to communicate with the natives, and split on the question of their religious and social status. Meanwhile there were several meetings between Lord Redgrave and the Archbishop of Canterbury; their content has never been published, but eventually HMS Capella was dispatched to Venus, carrying orders to withdraw the expedition. The disappointed missionaries returned to Earth, while the Capella carried on to take the first close look at Mercury, finding a seared rocky desert, a thin but breathable atmosphere, and a restricted range of moss-like plants and invertebrates resembling large Terrestrial arachnids. No higher forms have been discovered. Exploration was hampered by extreme heat and an almost complete lack of water.
No-one aboard the Capella had geological training, so mineral samples were loaded for analysis on Earth. Nothing very interesting was found, apart from a scattering of curiously heavy violet crystals which no-one could identify. There were so many that they were left until last, on the assumption that they were too common to be valuable. Eventually samples were sent to chemists at Imperial College, where they were found to be a compound of gold and fluorine. Unfortunately the scientists had not been warned that the matter was confidential, and word soon got out.
Rush To Space - Lives At Risk, Says Lord Redgrave
Economic Collapse "Only A Matter Of Time" - Official Treasury Report
Mercury Bubble Bursts - Gold Shares Soar
Newspaper Headlines 1910-1912
While several ships were already in service or under construction, the Mercury find triggered the real rush into space. Eight keels were laid down in five countries in the month after the find was publicised, and another fourteen ships were under construction by the end of the following year. Haste and greed led to two tragic accidents, but the remaining ships were well-built and most are still in service. As the crystals reached Earth a currency crisis seemed inevitable, but the pioneers had underestimated the difficulties of extracting gold from the crystalline form; it was an expensive and dangerous process which consumed vast amounts of electricity and released clouds of toxic gas, which reacted with water vapour to form strong corrosive acid. Workers at the pilot plants on Earth suffered skin diseases, eye infections, and respiratory problems, and the machinery began to break down as corrosion took its toll. Demand for the crystals plummeted, and gold shares soared. The Mercurian miners began to look for alternate ways to make a living; less agile ships moved out to the asteroids and the dead moons of Jupiter, others re-fitted to hunt the monsters of Saturn. A few stayed on in the gold trade, despite very poor profits, and were vindicated when Imperial Chemicals built a fully automatic extraction plant on the Moon in 1912. Production was a little cheaper than mining in South Africa or America, but expensive enough to keep gold prices stable.
1911-12 saw the continued exploration of the outer planets, most notably the race to be the first to explore Neptune. Robert Scott led the British expedition, Roald Amundsen the Norwegian. Both had spent years exploring in the Arctic, but Amundsen recruited experienced space crew, and tested his equipment in the cold of the Lunar night, while Scott took a predominantly amateur team with minimal preparation. In consequence the Scott expedition was plagued with a series of mechanical breakdowns, and was forced to spend several weeks re-fitting on Ganymede. When the ship reached Neptune the explorers found that Amundsen had already been and gone, leaving instruments and markers on Triton and Nereid. The planet itself resembled a colder version of Uranus; Amundsen had wisely refrained from exploring its atmosphere, but Scott took his ship into the depths. The result was disaster; pipes froze, and the recycling equipment broke down and could not be repaired. The expedition set off for Earth at maximum speed, but it became clear that air would run out before it reached a safe haven. Despite heroic sacrifices all died on the return journey, their calm radio messages being the only record of what must have been a desperate struggle for survival. Their ship, the Discovery, was never recovered.
|Scenario Idea, 1912 onwards: A Major Discovery|
The wireless operators of liners on the Earth-Ganymede run pick up very faint radio signals as they pass through the Asteroid belt. There is no message, just random clicks and buzzes. The Discovery was last reported somewhere in the region; could they be hearing the last feeble sparks from its radio transmitter? If the Discovery is found, will there be any unpleasant surprises? Did everyone die as heroically as is generally imagined?
Monsoon Floods Out Test Match
Hundreds Killed As Dam Bursts
(Newspaper Headlines 1910-14)
During 1905-1910 meteorologists began to notice an unprecedented change of climate. Winters were warmer, summers wetter, and there was an enormous rise in the number of icebergs sighted at sea, accompanied by severe fogs and storms. It slowly became apparent that the ice caps were shrinking. Ganymede was also experiencing unprecedented warmth, and for months at a time the Martian surface was obscured by clouds. In hindsight the source of this heat was obvious, but it was several months before the facts were clear. The nova Lilla-Zaidie was to blame.
Lilla-Zaidie was kindled by the collision of two hitherto-unseen planets between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. One has been estimated as having approximately twenty times the mass of the Earth, the other was much smaller but moving very quickly. The impact fused them, releasing enormous heat. The combined bodies were still travelling fast enough to escape from the Solar System, but the collision deflected them into a cometary orbit which approached to within three hundred million miles of the Sun in 1905, then extended back into the depths of space (see 20_NOVA.GIF). By 1910 the star had already passed the orbit of Jupiter again, and was approximately twenty million miles above the plane of the ecliptic.
While Lilla-Zaidie is a small star, and even at its closest approach seemed little brighter than Venus, its radiance was powerful enough to alter the balance between radiated and absorbed heat. Ironically, meteorologists at the end of the 19th century had feared a new Ice Age; in 1910 the average global temperature was four degrees higher than usual, mean sea levels had risen by five inches, and coastal regions throughout the world were threatened with flooding. At the end of 1912 sea levels had risen nearly a foot, and Holland's dykes were breached during a month of savage storms. Hundreds died before they could be evacuated to higher ground. New Orleans was also flooded, with thousands killed in the wake of Hurricane Beulah. Nearer the Equator, it is estimated that at least a million natives were killed by tropical storms. Worse was to follow; in November tides overtopped the embankments of the Thames, and much of central London was flooded, causing hundreds of millions of pounds of property damage and killing dozens. Most of the underground railway system was flooded, and this plus widespread damage to sewers, gas and water mains, and electrical supplies meant that low-lying areas were uninhabitable even after the waters receded. A new outbreak of typhus added a fearsome death toll amongst the poorer classes. Another British loss was the liner Titanic, sunk by one of the hundreds of icebergs that now made all oceans hazardous to shipping.
As the oceans rose, flyers of all types became increasingly important, a lifeline to areas isolated by flooding and storms. In all civilised nations there was a move towards higher ground; Britain's new Houses of Parliament are, of course, on Parliament Hill, while the King's new London residence is a modest mansion on Primrose Hill.
While the events of this period seemed to be dominated by the rapidly rising waters, it should be remembered that in many areas life continued as usual. As reported above, the exploitation of the Moon and asteroids was continuing; if anything, the loss of coastal resources spurred on the enterprise. Scientific developments also continued; for example, in 1913 the Danish physicist Niels Bohr published his atomic theory, which neatly explains how protons, electrons, and gravitons fit into the atom. His work laid the ghost of the so-called "neutron", although even today there are still a few physicists who prefer to assume that this particle does exist. His model (with some minor changes suggested by subsequent work) is illustrated in figure 13_ATOM.GIF.
Amidst the chaos of the floods, the loss of the research ship Beagle II went almost unnoticed. Exploring in the asteroid belt under the command of Ernest Shackleton, she was struck by a meteor which wrecked both engines. Fortunately there was just enough power to make an emergency landing on Pallas, an asteroid whose orbit occasionally nears Mars. By rationing food and restricting all activities to a minimum the explorers stretched their stores until they were within extreme wireless range of Mars, then used the remains of an engine's R. matter core to raise their radio aerial and signal for help. Fortunately the American frigate Orion heard their call, and they were rescued three days later.
|Scenario Idea, 1914 onwards: Salvage Run|
The remains of the Beagle II were left on Pallas, since the Orion could only load a minimum of personal belongings. Now the owner of a mining company wants to salvage the wreck and see if there are any interesting mineral samples aboard. It's all legal, nothing to worry about - until the adventurers discover that they aren't alone on Pallas. What's living there is up to you, but recommended sources are Robinson Crusoe, Alien, and/or Psycho...
In 1915 the physicist and mathematician Einstein announced his General Theory of Relativity, and within a matter of months the Grand Unified Theory linking all aspects of force, matter, and energy. Building on the work of Rennick, Planck, Bohr, Crookes, and others, it was an intellectual triumph and the key to rapid advances in every field of science, which were accompanied by improvements in the speed, range, and endurance of spacecraft.
By 1916 the situation seemed more stable; a sizeable proportion of the most productive land on Earth was now underwater, but the waters seemed to have stopped rising, and winters were becoming colder again. Despite this, meteorologists estimated that it would be decades before the seas returned to more normal levels. Unfortunately this left most of the European nations with insufficient space for their populations, now crowded inland to escape the floods. The results were inevitable.
Tensions Mounting In Europe
Archduke Ferdinand Assassinated
(Newspaper Headlines 1916)
1916-17 saw the Great War, the first and (so far) only major war of the Space Age. For decades tensions between Britain and the European powers had been growing; the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand during a state visit to Vienna catalysed events, and sent the nations of Europe on a headlong dash to war.
Even now some of the reasons for the war are unclear, but it seems apparent that all sides were desperate for land and their neighbours' resources, and believed that they could somehow avoid the full horrors of modern conflict. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand (a success after many earlier failures) was the excuse they needed. British hopes rested on the surface fleet and the Nova-class spaceships, Germany had three flying dreadnoughts and a sizeable submarine fleet, and France had invested substantial sums in armed flyers. Further afield, America appeared to be determinedly neutral, and Russia and Japan were preparing to conquer the colonies of the combatant powers as soon as the war was well under way.
Within a week the German invasion of Belgium bogged down, slowed to a crawl by marshy conditions and a new form of warfare; the Belgians had secretly developed a large fleet of amphibious land ironclads, the so-called tortoises, equally at home on land or in water, which were almost invulnerable to bombs and cannon fire and stopped the German ground forces in their tracks. The German dreadnoughts dropped troops in Brussels and Liege, only to find the cities virtually deserted and heavily mined; the population had been evacuated into France, and the tough Belgian army was reinforced by a large contingent of Dutch refugees. Meanwhile Britain found that the German dreadnoughts were tougher than expected, while the Germans were horrified to discover that the Nova and her sister-ships were fully equipped for underwater operation, and could outrun any German ship and vanish into the sea if they ran into serious problems. After HMS Nova and units of the surface fleet destroyed the flying dreadnought Bremen, the Germans became reluctant to bring their big ships close to the coast, and this severely hampered their operations. The French flyers also had a substantial effect; although their light armaments couldn't hope to harm German dreadnoughts, they were a continual menace to the German troops, who found themselves harried on the ground and in the air.
At sea things were much more even; the British and German surface navies were of roughly comparable strength, and casualties were heavy on both sides. The British ships were fully equipped to deal with aerial attack, and the sheer size of the German flying dreadnoughts made them easy targets, but insufficient attention had been paid to anti-submarine tactics. Meanwhile the German surface fleet was woefully unprepared for British aerial hit-and-run tactics, but fully prepared to meet conventional units. Eight ships were destroyed in the first week of the war, and the death toll continued to rise until it ended.
In space commerce raiders began to attack German freighters and mining ships, while the Germans destroyed British and French bases on the Moon. Fortunately these operations were conducted with remarkably few casualties, and with a chivalry singularly lacking on Earth; typically the attacking craft ensured that any survivors had ample oxygen, and radioed their position before vanishing into space.
After several months the war was getting nowhere; Belgium was devastated, many ships had been sunk, but none of the contending powers had anything worthwhile to show for their efforts. At this point America, still officially neutral, unleashed an unprecedented form of warfare.
During December 1916 silver prices rose steadily, partly because of war pressures, but mostly because American buyers were making massive purchases in Europe. The warring powers were delighted to take American gold, since values were fully recovered from the Mercurian scare of 1910-12, and vast quantities of metal changed hands.
At the end of January 1917 President Wilson announced that, because of the economic effects of the war, America would adopt the silver standard at the beginning of March. The warring countries paid little attention, wrongly assuming that the silver purchases had been made by profiteers who had learned of the impending change. On March 1st America switched to silver, and began to dump gold on the international currency market, systematically wrecking the economies of the warring nations. In a week the amount of gold in circulation had quadrupled, and its price was plummeting; silver prices were sky-high, of course, but it gradually became clear that a vast proportion of the metal was already in American hands. Those nations which adhered to a strict gold standard found that there was no money for foreign purchases; countries following the practice of bimetallism (the use of both currency metals) were in a less precarious state, but still forced to dance to the American tune. Soon it was obvious that the Americans had an effectively limitless gold supply, and that the metal was now worth less than lead. Since there was no sign of any unusual activity on Mercury or the Moon, apart from the events of the war, the Americans must have found an enormous deposit of the pure metal somewhere in the Asteroid belt. This conclusion was confirmed after the war, when US Steel published the first pictures of Asteroid 1916-K7, now better known as the "six million ton ingot".
Gradually the economies of the warring nations faltered and stagnated. All were dependent on foreign suppliers for a variety of needs, from food to armaments and industrial chemicals. Suddenly their currencies were virtually worthless. By May the war was over; German forces withdrew from Belgium, and the armed forces of Europe slowly reverted to their peacetime status. Belgium threatened to sue Germany for reparations, but Germany (like the rest of Europe) was almost bankrupt.
While the war was over, the problems it created took some time to end. The most pressing was the issue of currency. Without excessive value, gold could become what it should always have been; an extremely useful industrial metal, conductive, corrosion-resistant, and attractive. Something else was needed to take its place. Since it was apparent that the Asteroids and the planets might contain any imaginable mineral, it became imperative to find a new currency standard that was not susceptible to a lucky discovery. Silver was a useful stop-gap, but too much is already in American hands.
Eventually the economist John Maynard Keynes produced an answer, especially appealing to industrialised nations, which is slowly becoming a global standard. In many ways R. gold is the perfect currency metal; durable and attractive, its value is almost entirely a product of the work and energy needed to make it, and thus reasonably stable; it will only fall if there are new discoveries which reduce the cost, and such discoveries are likely to lead to economic improvements which will more than offset the reduced value of currency. Storage difficulties mean that it is most useful as the backing for paper currency, but coins have already been minted and are in limited circulation. Of course there are snags; tills must have a special compartment to hold these coins, and they can float out of pockets if they aren't properly secured. Banks must check their value by comparing their negative weight and inertial mass. Forgery is possible, but a forger still needs to make quantities of R. gold, and purchasing the necessary equipment and power enriches the economy indirectly.
Smeaton Works "Ready For New Challenge"
Allcock And Brown Launch "Stella" Fund
To The Stars!
(Newspaper Headlines 1919-1920)
By 1918 it was possible to seriously consider travel beyond the solar system, and in 1919 the explorers Alcock and Brown began to solicit funds for an expedition to Alpha Centauri. The response was overwhelmingly favourable, and construction of the Stella began only four months later.
Meanwhile a 75-inch telescope was erected on Mount Edward, on the far side of the Moon; while a little smaller than the instrument on Mount Wilson in America, the lunar instrument is free of all atmospheric haze, and thus capable of unprecedented magnification. It also incorporates Ganymedan technology, such as a spectrometer with unusually high sensitivity. Once operational, scientists detected planets in three nearby solar systems, and began to understand the true extent of the galaxy. Few readers will have forgotten the furore that followed the discovery of oxygen in the spectra of the fourth and fifth planets of Proxima Centauri, and the decision to change the goal of the Stella expedition.
Today we hope that a new era of peace is beginning. There is a widespread realisation that war is now insanely dangerous. At least a dozen nations have their own spacecraft, and any ship is potentially a meteor of devastating size and speed, capable of exceeding the damage suffered by Moscow in 1908. There have been widespread and apparently irreversible population movements, impelled by the rising seas. Borders are becoming a joke, posing no barrier to any flyer. The Ganymedans have set us an example of the advantages of peace, and the Venusians have reminded us that is possible to base a society on love, while the Martians are a grim warning of the perils of war, and a potential threat to the rest of the solar system. In response to these circumstances the League Of Nations was founded in 1918, and has already been joined by most industrialised countries. It is not intended that it should become a global government; it will be a forum for peaceful co-operation and arbitration between sovereign member nations. War will hopefully become a thing of the past, as the countries of the world extend their dominions into space.
As war becomes obsolete, many other social issues are gaining prominence. For example, the question of womens suffrage still vexes Parliament, while Ireland remains the hot potato of British politics. Abroad, growing socialist movements and anarchist agitators threaten the stability of Germany and Russia, although their monarchs still retain firm control. While borders become less relevant, the freedom provided by flyers has not been an unmixed blessing; fugitives, spies, and other undesirables are also able to cross borders at will, and the church believes that flight has led to a general decline in moral standards, as the owners of fast flyers use them for loose living. To paraphrase a recent wireless talk by the Bishop of Westminster, in the last century we made much of our entertainment in our own homes; today, flyer owners think nothing of travelling twenty or fifty miles for a party, and the natural consequence has been a decline in family values. Who can tell where this will lead?
Despite these potential problems, most experts see the future as bright, and are optimistic about our continued development of the worlds of the solar system. And in the future, perhaps, the worlds of our neighbouring stars.
As this last article was about to go to press Alcock and Brown reached
Lilla-Zaidie, radioing news of conditions there and the message that
they intend to carry on to Proxima Centauri as planned. We wish these
gallant explorers every success in this great endeavour; if all goes
well they will return in 1930, and humanity will then have taken its
first steps in the next great stage of exploration.
2.1 Timeline 1887-1920return to contents
Queen Victoria is dead, and the staid pace of the Victorian era seems to be coming to an end. Motor cars are becoming an everyday sight, Count Zeppelin's gigantic airship has just flown over Germany, and, most miraculous of all, Britons have visited the Moon and our neighbouring planets.
At a time when most London homes still have gas lighting and outdoor plumbing, it's hard to believe that mankind can fly; the news that it's possible to fly through space is only a little more remarkable. Even so, it's just one event amongst many; most Britons are more interested in the disastrously slow progress of the South African War (the Boer War), following the campaign via newspaper reports and maps.
While Britain presents a facade of military might and strong social structures, the cracks are starting to show. The war has revealed serious deficiencies in the army's tactics and strategy; predicted to last a few weeks, it will drag on until May 1902. The war highlights one statistic that starkly exposes the ills of modern industrial society; even after the army lowered its standards for recruits, only 10% of the 12,000 men who volunteered in Manchester were medically fit. The rest suffered from a variety of illnesses related to pollution, overwork, and malnutrition. The other big industrial cities are little better. In just ten years the population has risen by 3.8 million; meanwhile Ireland's population has shrunk from 6.5 to 4.3 million, largely a result of emigration to America. The government is slowly moving towards granting home rule to Ireland, but the Protestant minority in the province opposes any change. This minority includes many influential land owners and most of the Irish peers and members of Parliament, and the end result will be a series of unsatisfactory compromises leading to bloodshed.
While Britannia still claims to rule the waves, much of the fleet is poorly equipped, slow, and obsolete. The flight of the Astronef makes the situation worse; the continental powers are rumoured to be developing flying warships, and Britain doesn't seem to be doing much to counter them. Meanwhile the grinding poverty of much of the population has resulted in the rise of the Labour movement, distrust of the government and capitalists, strikes, and crime. At the moment the government is the right-wing Conservative party, led by Lord Salisbury, with a majority of 128 seats. Almost all of the opposition is Liberal, but the growing unrest of the workers has led to the slow rise of the Labour party. In 1901-6 six Labour MPs will be elected in by-elections, with 29 Labour and 34 "Lib-Lab" MPs taking seats after the 1906 General Election. At first the Labour party will simply represent the rights of the working man, later becoming the voice of socialism in Britain.
A crucial key to the future is the new King, Edward VII. When Victoria reigned, the Prince of Wales was widely regarded as a "lightweight" figure, often involved in scandals and far too frivolous to rule. His first public acts as King have done much to heal this distrust, and most Britons are now prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. By the Coronation, in 1902, he will be widely loved and respected; he will spend a portion of his time in the public eye, and will soon be seen by more of his subjects, especially those of the lower classes, than ever saw the reclusive Victoria. During his reign he will do much to encourage the modernisation of the armed forces and improvements in social and economic conditions.
Despite the new democratising influences, social class is still overwhelmingly important in Britain. There are dozens of gradations between the lowest and highest ranks, often so subtle that they are only apparent to an insider. At the bottom are the unemployed, the dross of the working classes. Their only recourse is to beg or seek the "charity" of the workhouse, where revolting food and poor accommodation must be paid for with hours of back-breaking toil. Next come the poorest industrial and agricultural workers, often living six or eight to a room, poorly fed and clothed. Above these are foremen and other manual workers whose posts involve some degree of responsibility. All are made to feel inferior to the poorest clerk. Meanwhile servants have their own hierarchy, as do the self-employed, the employers, and the aristocracy. At the top, the fate of Britain and the Empire is mainly determined by a tiny minority; the most important landed aristocrats, a few key figures in the armed forces, and some leading industrialists. The King knows them all, and spends much of his time at their homes or in their company. He moves with an entourage of at least eighteen servants and detectives, more if he is accompanied by the Queen, and anyone who wishes to take an active role in society must be prepared to accommodate all of them, along with dozens of other guests and a small army of servants, whenever the King makes it known that he might consider accepting an invitation.
The rigid stratification of society is felt in many subtle ways; one of the oddest aspects is the question of headgear. Regardless of class, no man in Britain will willingly be seen outdoors without a hat. Its type and quality reflect social status, occasion, and wealth. You raise your hat to show deference to those you meet; without a hat you defer to everyone, regardless of status. Hats are chosen in accordance with the season and the occasion. For example, a gentleman will own two or three top hats of the latest style; the name of his hatter is an instant guide to his position, and even without a label can often be determined by such qualities as the curve of the brim or the finish of the lining (see Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers for a later example). The colour of the hat and its band are even more significant indicators; a subtle mismatch between the occasion and the hat are enough to brand the wearer as nouveau riche or old-fashioned. Naturally there are special hats for special occasions; straw boaters for punting, deer-stalkers for an expedition to the moors, and so forth. Even schoolboys conform to this code. At the poorest end of the spectrum every tramp or chimney sweep owns some sort of hat or cap, even if it has been stolen from a scarecrow, and often guys his betters by wearing a cast-off that is wholly inappropriate to his status. Between these extremes there is little variety; workmen and labourers always wear cloth caps, clerks always wear bowler hats, and anyone who ventures to choose something different will soon hear about it from colleagues and employers.
For the wealthier classes elaborate meals are the norm, often running to ten or twelve courses (although six or so are more usual). For the poor, starvation wages and malnutrition are more common.
While these social contrasts provide one easy way to think of the
period, there are many other possibilities. Even without the Astronef,
it would be the last great age of adventure; within a few years most
of the world will be mapped. Technology is changing by the day, with
endless wonders like electric light, X-rays, radium, and the R. force.
While most private transport is still horse-drawn, the world is
criss-crossed by elaborate rail systems; they are steam-powered, but
in the cities public transport is rapidly switching to electric trains
and trams, and omnibuses with internal combustion engines. It's the
decade of Sherlock Holmes' last cases and Fu Manchu's first crimes, of
Marie Curie and Mary Stopes, of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It
sees an immense flowering of science, education and literature, and of
spiritualism and dozens of crackpot crazes and religions. Anything
that you can imagine is probably happening somewhere - all that you
need do is look for it.
2.2.1 Wages and Pricesreturn to contents
|Housemaid||£12-30 per year|
|Cook/Housekeeper||£80 per year|
|Page boy||£10 per year|
|Butler||Up to £100 per year|
|Skilled engineer||36s 6d per week|
|Assistant to above||19s per week|
|Bricklayer||38s per week|
|Assistant to above||18s per week|
|Clerk||£1 10s per week|
|Foreman||£2 5s per week|
|Miner||£1 15s per week|
|Craftsman in London||£2 per week|
|Cabinet minister||£2000 or £5000 per year|
|(£38 or £96 per week)|
|Hovel||4s per week|
|4 room rural cottage||5s per week, £200 to buy|
|Small inner London house||£200 per year, £1000 to buy|
|Small suburban house||£50 per year, £500 to buy|
|Boarding house room||£1 1s per week|
|Collars for above (12)||6s 6d|
|Leather gloves||3s 3d|
|Good quality boots||11s|
|Bowler hat||12s 6d|
|Soft felt hat||7s 6d|
|Hat box, leather||15s|
|Blouse||£1 5s 11d|
Food & Drink
|1 lb Almonds||2d|
|1/2 lb tea||8d|
|1 lb butter||1s|
|2 oz tobacco||6d|
|1 lb fish||1 1/2d|
|1 lb ham||9 1/2d|
|1 lb chocolate||1s 2d|
|1 lb soap||3d|
|1 lb currants||3d|
|1 lb Biscuits||2d|
|Loaf bread||2 1/4d|
|12 Bottles Cider||14s|
|12 Bottles Champagne||£4 18s|
|12 Bottles Claret||£2 10s|
|12 Bottles Port||£1 14s|
|12 Bottles Sherry||£2 2s|
|Bottle Brandy||9s 10d|
|Bottle Gin||4s 6d|
|Bottle Rum||7s 6d|
|Electricity||6d per unit (kilowatt-hour) *|
|* rate held artificially high to protect smaller generating companies|
|1 lb Candles||10d|
|Safety matches, box||1d|
|"Thermos" Vacuum flask||£1 1s pint, £1 15s quart *|
|* both leather with silver fittings|
|Chest of drawers||17s|
|Simple bed||£1 15s|
|False teeth||1 guinea per set|
|Kodak cameras||£1 to £8 7s 6d|
|Flash for camera||12s 6d *|
|* uses explosive magnesium flash powder|
|Cricket bat||12s 10d|
|Golf balls||10s per dozen|
|Watch, good quality||£10|
|Watch, for schoolboy||12s|
|Sewing machine||£1 10s|
Inflation adds about 1% per year to these prices. For simplicity add
5% in 1906-10, 10% in 1911-15, 15% in 1916-20, and so forth.
2.3 Monarchs and Political Leaders 1900-1920return to contents
If a date is followed by a dash (eg 1910-) without a second figure, the office is still held in 1920
|1837-1901||Victoria||1895-1902||Marquis of Salisbury (Con.)|
|1901-1910||Edward VII||1902-1905||Arthur James Balfour (Con.)|
|1910-||George V||1905-1908||Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Lib.)|
|1908-1916||Herbert Henry Asquith (Lib.)|
|1916-||David Lloyd George (Coalition)|
|Lib. = Liberal, Con. = Conservative|
|1897-1901||William McKinley (Rep.)|
|1901-1909||Theodore Roosevelt (Rep.)|
|1909-1913||William Howard Taft (Rep.)|
|1913-1917||Woodrow Wilson (Dem.) *|
|1917-||Thomas R. Marshall (Dem.)|
|Rep. = Republican, Dem. = Democrat|
|* Wilson was assassinated in office, killed by an angry Californian gold-miner after gold was abandoned as a currency metal. His Vice-President then took office, and remains there today.|
|1887-1905||Jome Do Sola Natu|
|1905-1912||Hort Welo Ve Hinor|
|1912-||Vlok Frul Rell Vorix|
|** The title of "Foremost" has no exact parallel on Earth. For convenience and precedence it is treated as a form of non-hereditary monarchy, rather than as a presidency.|
These sections are now in a separate file, containing the "scientific" background
to the game, details of spacecraft design and operation, and a guide to the Solar System
of the Astronef stories. Click on the heading above to switch.
5.0 The "Zaidie" Hypothesisback to contents
This section consists of some EXTREMELY optional ideas for referees of role playing games. If you are going to play a character in these games, you REALLY don't want to read it, because your enjoyment may be severely impaired. If you aren't interested in role playing games there is no reason to read it at all.
The ideas discussed below won't appeal to all referees, and have not
been used in the design of any of the adventures that accompany this
5.1 The Observer Effectreturn to contents
"...I've always thought that, as the air and water disappeared from
the upper parts of the Moon, the inhabitants, whoever they were,
must have been driven down into the deeper parts. Shall we go
down and see?..."
A Visit To The Moon
"...they may not be men at all, but just a sort of monster with a
semi-human intellect, perhaps a superhuman one with ideas that we have
no notion of..."
The World Of The War God
"...I shouldn't be surprised if we found the people of the Love-World
living on nectar and ambrosia..."
A Glimpse Of The Sinless Star
"...Zaidie, we shall find human beings down there..."
The World Of The Crystal Cities
While reading the Astronef stories you may notice something odd; more often than not, Lord Redgrave or Zaidie makes a guess about the nature of a world that is precisely right. It's possible, of course, that their biographer later put words into their mouths; an unsympathetic reader might even suggest that the stories are entirely fictional. Naturally this is nonsense.
If we assume that the stories are accurate, it's evident that both characters have some foreknowledge of events to come. One possibility is that both are capable of feats of precognition or intuition; a more interesting idea is that their preconceived ideas are somehow altering the course of events, and the universe itself. Would Mars have had inhabitants if astronomers hadn't examined it through their telescopes and decided that they saw canals? Would there be a gravity-free zone between Saturn and its rings if Lord Redgrave and his wife hadn't expected to find it? Was there life beneath the clouds of Venus in 1899?
The "Zaidie Hypothesis" is an extreme form of solipsism; the assumption that the nature of the universe is largely created by human perceptions. We find what we expect to find, because we are unconsciously shaping the universe to conform to our ideas. The Moon, Venus, Mars, and Ganymede have humanoid natives because we expect intelligent creatures to look like humans. Jupiter is a world of fire, and Saturn's atmosphere is attracted outwards by its rings, because dozens of astronomers and thousands of their readers shared this idea, and because it was believed by Lord and Lady Redgrave.
In the Astronef stories both of the Redgraves seem to have a hand in this process, but Zaidie is a little more accurate. Murgatroyd rarely participates and is usually wrong, perhaps because he is extremely unimaginative.
For example, consider the Astronef's visit to Mars. Many thousands of people had read Lowell's work, and all of them believed that Mars had canals and seas. When the Astronef went there, it found exactly what was expected. Nothing was known about the civilisation that built them, but Lord Redgrave's peculiar ideas somehow turned out to be exactly right.
The implications are bizarre. Amongst other possibilities, it suggests that a sufficiently ignorant group of observers may be able to shape the universe to conform to their preconceptions. For instance, if everyone aboard the first ship to Uranus had been convinced that it was a world like Jupiter, they might have arrived to find a world in flames. Similarly, adventurers who look for trouble on a new world will always find it!
Naturally the game universe shouldn't change form whenever a player or
character has a new idea. It should be impossible to change
"consensus" ideas held by a large number of people, or impose ideas
that are contrary to known facts and everyday experience. Crackpot
theories will have some effect, but only if the adventurers have heard
of them. The more that the adventurers know, the harder it should be
to make changes.
5.2 Practical Mechanicsreturn to contents
Whether you use this idea or not, it is always a good idea to get your players to explain their intentions, and intentions often reveal a lot about ideas. For instance, adventurers who take great care to go armed are expecting to find trouble. Adventurers who fill their pockets with jelly babies may think that they'll be making new friends, or may just be greedy!
In this scheme the will of the adventurers, expressed as the average of MIND and SOUL, is used to determine what they'll find. A minor alteration of previously unknown reality should be easy, a complex change should be difficult, but changing anything that all the characters know should be impossible. The referee should note this average for every character, and for the group as a whole.
For instance, characters might be the crew of a freighter, thrown off-course by a meteor and making an emergency landing on a convenient (and hitherto undiscovered) asteroid. Average MIND and SOUL for the team as a whole is 4. The referee has provisionally decided that the asteroid has a thin but breathable atmosphere; if the characters say nothing to the contrary, this world will be inhabited by peculiar but friendly furry creatures who live in an underground cave complex, drink nothing but soup, communicate by whistling, and will be extremely helpful if the adventurers give them a can of chilli powder and teach them some new recipes.
As soon as the freighter lands, all the characters raid the armoury for revolvers and other weapons. The referee decides that they aren't expecting to encounter friendly natives. Changing the native personality is easy; hitherto humans knew nothing about them, so the Difficulty is only 2. Suddenly the natives have spears, knives, and some primitive firearms; since they are hostile, they stay out of sight until they are ready to attack.
A little later the adventurers find the entrance to a cave. Ignoring the asteroid's low gravity, but noticing that the entrance is covered by a moderately thick stone slab, they decide that the creatures living underneath must be very strong. Someone uses the fatal words "on an asteroid like this, with low gravity, they must be bloody huge". This isn't such an easy change, not least because the players already know that the entrance is only two feet wide. The referee expects that the other characters will disagree, but no-one seems to notice the discrepancy. The player concerned averages MIND and SOUL 3. The referee makes this Difficulty 10 and rolls the dice; on a 2 the will of one adventurer changes reality again. Suddenly the asteroid is inhabited by very large (but slim) furry natives.
Several dice rolls later the hostile and extremely carnivorous natives
have captured one of the adventurers and are preparing to push him
into the soup pot. His screams are almost drowned by their deep
whistling roars. At this point the nature of these creatures is
permanently set; the adventurers know that they are facing huge
hostile carnivores, and the stage is set for a last-minute rescue or a
tragic death. It's too late to make more changes.
5.3 Objectionsreturn to contents
Referees usually prefer to design plots for themselves, and are naturally reluctant to let the dice or the players dictate major changes. It's also difficult to come up with new plot developments on the fly. Used incautiously, a solipsistic universe can end up out of control. The secret is to make the minimum changes necessary, and to keep the number of decisions small.
For instance, in our example in section 5.2 the inoffensive little furry aliens initially became hostile little furry aliens, not ravenous bugblattter beasts. They stayed small and cute until the players decided otherwise. If the referee was determined to keep them small he could have let the players see them before they reached a decision. If he wanted to keep them friendly he could have assumed that they had previously encountered another expedition, whose ideas had "fixed" their nature. Since the characters knew nothing about their civilisation it's obvious that word never got back to Earth, but that could simply mean that the previous visitors are dead, or still on their way home.
A more serious objection is the idea that a solipsistic universe will tend to be "user-friendly", a juvenile wish-fulfilment fantasy where players' wildest dreams come true, populated largely by beautiful maidens dressed mainly in jewels. This is especially likely if players know or suspect that their ideas are being used to determine the course of an adventure, or the nature of the game universe itself. Phrases to watch out for include "I have a good feeling about this", "There'll be lots of treasure here", and "These guys are peaceful, I'm sure of it." This is the point at which a wise referee abandons the Zaidie Hypothesis and returns to a more normal style of play. You may also want to consider using your players' assumptions to lull them into a false sense of security before hitting them with some unexpected problems. For instance:
Player: "Right, we've convinced these aliens that we're gods from the stars. See, I said that they look gullible. Now I'm going to take the gem from that idol's forehead. I think that they'll give us all their treasure if we persuade them that our magic is better than theirs. I'm sure of it." Referee: "Oh..kay.. [Rolls dice, pretends to look annoyed] The beautiful native maidens shower you with flower petals as you step forward. As you touch the gem the idol blinks. Stone eyelids flicker across the gem, amputating your fingernails, and its other eyes open, bathing you in baleful green light. It yawns, revealing sharklike teeth, and reaches out for you with all six arms." Player: "Oops..."
Played wisely, the Zaidie Hypothesis can be a good source of ideas and plot development. With more mature players it can even be the focus of a campaign; how did this ability arise, and why has the human race been chosen to use it? Is the universe real, or just a construct of consensus ideas, and is it possible to look beyond them to some ultimate truth? Is there a God, and why has she, he, or it given us this strange ability? Are we all figments of the imagination, characters in some vast unimaginable game? When you know the truth, grasshopper, it will be time for you to leave.
On which philosophical point the author bows out, leaving referees to
decide whether or not to use this idea...
6.0 Charactersback to contents
Professor Hartley Rennick (Posthumously famous genius)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Scientist 
Quote: "Ummm yes, I suppose it isn't really that obvious. Perhaps we should take another look at the equations, and try to simplify them. What was that? Supper? Oh, I'm sorry, did I forget it again?"
Equipment: Carpet slippers, chalk, notebook, laboratory equipment.
Notes: Elderly, frail, and a little absent minded. Since he is dead before the Astronef stories begin, Professor Rennick is unlikely to play an important part in any 20th-century adventure. He may feature in a 19th-century campaign. He is usually accompanied by his daughter.
Rollo Lenox Smeaton Aubrey, Earl of Redgrave (Immensely rich
aristocrat, scientist and engineer)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Athlete , Babbage Engine , Brawling , Business , Marksman , Mechanic , Melee Weapon , Military Arms , Pilot , Riding , Scientist , Stealth 
Quote: "Don't worry, darling, I'll protect you!"
Equipment: Everything aboard the Astronef including numerous guns, cannon, etc. On Earth, all the resources of an immense industrial and business empire.
Notes: A romantic English gentleman of the old school, whose hobbies include hunting, shooting (occasionally with a Maxim gun), and fishing. He is ready to rise to any emergency, from a Martian attack to gradual death by asphyxiation. He is passionately in love with Zaidie, and will take any risk to protect her. He has resources that would rival many governments, and can be a formidable enemy.
Redgrave II (The evil alternative)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor (lie convincingly) , Athlete , Babbage Engine , Brawling , Business , Marksman , Mechanic , Military Arms , Pilot , Riding , Scientist , Stealth , Thief 
Quote: "Hah! Try to harm us, will they! We'll soon see about that. Murgatroyd, break out the Maxims!"
Equipment as above.
Notes: This is an alternative for referees with a more cynical slant on life. Redgrave is a cunning schemer, possibly a borderline psychopath. He encouraged Professor Rennick to work himself into an early grave, possibly helping things along by employing an incompetent doctor, then married Zaidie to ensure that he owned all rights to her father's inventions. Evidence in favour of this theory includes his behaviour on Mars (taunting the Martians into an attack, then retaliating with much more force than the situation warranted), and his unprovoked taunting of, and attacks on, Saturnian sea-serpents. Zaidie is no threat, provided she continues to love him; if he were ever to discover that she suspects the truth, or she were to seek a divorce, it is likely that an unfortunate accident would quickly follow.
Note: Lord Redgrave's full name and titles are 'Rollo Lenox Smeaton Aubrey, Earl of Redgrave, Baron Smeaton in the peerage of England, and Viscount Aubrey in the Peerage of Ireland.'
Lady Redgrave (Nee Lilla Zaidie Rennick)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Actor (singing) , Artist (photographer) , Brawling , First Aid , Marksman , Psychology , Riding , Scientist , Stealth 
Quote: "Oh, tentacles! How horrible!"
Equipment: All the resources of the Astronef.
Notes: Passionately in love with Lord Redgrave, inclined to be a little squeamish at the sight of monsters (but has killed at least one alien), very much the dutiful wife. In a campaign set after 1905 she will have at least one child. Her diaries and photographs, edited by Mr. George Griffith, are perennial best sellers.
Note: A Honeymoon In Space describes Zaidie as follows:
'It was a face which possessed at once the fair Anglo-Saxon skin, the firm and yet delicate Anglo-Saxon features, and the wavy wealth of the old Saxon golden-brown hair; but a pair of big, soft, pansy eyes, fringed with long curling, black lashes, looked out from under dark and perhaps a trifle heavy eyebrows. Moreover, there was that indescribable expression in the curve of her lips and the pose of her head; to say nothing of a lissom, vivacious grace in her whole carriage which proclaimed her a daughter of the younger branch of the Race That Rules.'
Andrew Murgatroyd (Ridiculously faithful retainer)
BODY , MIND , SOUL , Brawling , Driving , Marksman , Mechanic , Military arms , Pilot 
Quote: "No good will come of this, mark my words..."
Equipment: All the resources of the Astronef, especially tools. On Earth, the equipment in Lord Redgrave's works at Smeaton.
Notes: Murgatroyd is a pessimist, xenophobic, and totally loyal to his employer, Lord Redgrave. He hates space travel, regarding it as an "impiously daring" invasion of the heavens.
APPENDIX A - George Griffithback to contents
George Chetwynd Griffith-Jones (1857-1906) was one of the most prolific and influential SF authors of his day, but he was always overshadowed by Wells. His work often appeared in British magazines, most notably Pearson's Weekly and Pearson's Magazine, and he helped to create a genre of sensationalised "high-tech" future war stories, typified by the work of Griffith himself, William le Queux, and M.P. Shiel, in which new inventions totally revolutionised warfare. His strong revolutionary politics made him unpopular with American publishers, and little of his work appeared there. He was a globe-trotter and explorer, whose exploits included a voyage around the world in 65 days (shattering all previous records), and discovery of the source of the Amazon.
Griffith's work often mixed Utopian themes with quasi-religious apocalyptic disaster. For instance, The Angel Of The Revolution (1893) and its sequel Olga Romanoff (1893-4) describe a benevolent revolution (involving flying battleships) which leads to a world government, a second revolution which leaves the world in a state of anarchy, climaxed by a cosmic disaster caused by the impact of a comet which leads to an Utopia. In the Astronef stories we see two worlds collide to form a new sun, incidentally saving the characters and strengthening their religious beliefs.
While it must be admitted that Griffith was never as good an author as Wells, Doyle, or Kipling, his stories showed endless energy and a steady stream of interesting ideas which were occasionally more accurate than those of his rivals.
Readers familiar with pulp science fiction will notice some striking parallels between the Astronef stories and common themes in early space opera. These parallels are most notable in the second story, "The World Of The War God".
The standard form of this story is a wish fulfilment fantasy. A scientific genius (invariably male) invents a means of space travel. Often accompanied by a wife or fiancee, or by a group of loyal friends, our hero lands on another planet, only to discover that he has inadvertently stumbled into a war. Usually he takes sides, often ramming some or all the ships of an alien fleet. Sometimes this is a mistake. Eventually he saves the nicer of the two sides, in a way that guarantees that the grateful natives will grant humans incredible honours or even ask them to rule their planet. Often one or more of the characters marries a native princess.
While this is rather more elaborate (and a good deal less believable) than the plot of The World Of The War God, the similarities are obvious. This theme was used by E.E. 'Doc' Smith (in "The Skylark of Space" and sequels, in the "Lensman" novels, and in his "Spacehounds of IPC"), by John W. Campbell (The "Black Star Passes" and sequels), and elsewhere. These stories also often include worlds civilisations with a philosophical or scientific bent resembling the Ganymedans of "The World Of The Crystal Cities". The most obnoxious aliens are often modelled on racist lines, and there is a strong vein of xenophobia running though all these stories; "Humans Uber Alles", with "humans" defined as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, was the spirit behind much early SF.
The technical name for this type of story is an Edisonade, because characters are usually modelled on the American inventor; in some Edison appears as a character. I have no information on his reaction to this attention.
While it would be nice to believe that Griffith inspired most early
science fiction, or invented the Edisonade, the sad fact is that he
didn't; Garrett P. Servis's "Edison's Conquest Of Mars" appeared in
America (as a reply to Wells) in 1898, and it and the near-endless Tom
Swift series (1910 onwards) are mainly responsible for this vocabulary
of ideas in early American science fiction. Griffith explored these
ideas independently; in many ways he's more believable and readable
than other authors of the period, but regrettably his work seems to
have had no long-term effect on the genre.
APPENDIX C - Recommended Readingback to contents
Clute & Nicholls: The Encyclopaedia Of Science Fiction 
No apologies for recommending this book again. It's essential reading on George Griffith, Edisonades, and other themes.
Dr Harold Priestly: The What It Cost The Day Before Yesterday Book 
A source for many of the prices.
Patrick Moore: Concise Atlas Of The Universe , The Guinness Book
Of Astronomical Facts And Feats 
These books, and the computer programs credited in the introduction, were my main sources of astronomical data, which has been sadly abused in this worldbook. The Guinness book is especially useful as a source for the dates of various discoveries.
Brian Aldiss & Harry Harrison: Farewell Fantastic Venus 
An anthology of stories set on Venus, from 1897 to 1967. Includes an extract from the novel Honeymoon In Space; my first encounter with the stories.
Stephen Baxter: Anti-Ice 
A modern "steampunk" version of an Edisonade.
D.R. Bensen: And Having Writ.. 
An alternate world where aliens, whose ship was the Tunguska asteroid in our world, managed to crash-land instead. They try to manipulate human society to speed our technical development. Naturally things don't go as planned. Characters include Edison, Churchill, most of the crowned heads of Europe, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Hitler (very briefly) and many others.
Daniel F. Galouye: The Infinite Man 
Robert A. Heinlein: They 
Two interesting and extremely paranoid stories which discuss some of the issues raised in section 5, above. For various reasons it is not appropriate to detail their plots.
Captain W.E. Johns: Kings of Space [1954, and sequels to 1963]
Written for juveniles, this series of novels is possibly the last to seriously use the 19th century view of the solar system. The Moon supports life, Venus is a primeval world of dinosaurs and cavemen, Mars is a dying planet whose natives now live on the asteroids, and Jupiter is a raging inferno. Combines flying saucers with Velikovsky-style catastrophes, Martian canals, and references to Atlantis and the Flood. Johns is also the author of the Biggles stories, which can be an excellent source of ideas for an exploratory campaign.
H.G. Wells: The Star 
A fast-moving star passes through the Solar System and nearly destroys the Earth.