Orion's Arm Synopsis

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Orion's Arm is a tightly plotted historical timeline approximately 1,400 years in duration. Currently stories and art exist for about the first 750 years. The artwork is based on a yet to be published collection of short stories and novels which taken together make up the Orion's Arm future history.

A Timeline Graph is to be found here: Timeline.

Timeline beginning point is the establishment of a private and independent Mars settlement; this takes place within 100 years of present day.

The history spans the maturing of an interplanetary civilization resulting from an effort to terraform Mars, and extends into an era when humans begin a migration outward from the solar system, spreading out, across, and into the local arm of the galaxy.


The Orion's Arm Future History is unrelated to the Orion's Arm Universe Building Project.  

"Orion's Arm," is a double-entendre reference:

Reference 1. Orion: the nuclear pulse propulsion technology developed at General Atomics in 1958. In my future history Orion is the application which opens the solar system to mankind. Later along the timeline pulsed fusion propulsion plays a role in more advanced interplanetary commerce. Much later along the timeline a robust interplanetary civilization mounts interstellar expeditions.

Reference 2. Orion Arm: the location of Earth's sun, on the inner edge of the Orion arm of the Milky Way Galaxy – the reference indicates the span of my future history: At 1,400 years into the second Epoch of my future history humanity has started to spread into interstellar space.

Orion's Arm is Hard SF

Meaning that the spacecraft and their propulsion systems, and the many related technologies I depict in the artwork, are grounded in, or are logical extrapolations of, the science and physics and engineering specifications of real-world systems, existing, or proposed.



Winchell Chung"s  Atomic Rockets
 website has proven itself as a virtually inexhaustible and unparalleled source of  inspiration and hard data. Additionally, Scott Lowther's  Unwanted Blog, has been indispensable in this regard as well. Orion’s Arm would not be what it is without the decade’s long support and invaluable intellectual contributions of my long-time friend Darrell Wollert.

Orion's Arm Synopsis

This synopsis spans events from the Martian settler's departure to the dawn of the System State's Era, some 750 years later.

The future history begins with the embarkation of 1,000 men and women, individuals dedicated to the goal of establishing permanent habitation on the surface of Mars. The designers of the program, a uniquely motivated group of men, select individuals who personify in their lives and actions the ideal of man as a noble free individual capable of guiding his own existence. These are  individuals dedicated to the cause of building a new society where men are constrained only by the laws of nature and the limits of science and not the edicts or demands of any criminal State or predatory activist mob, or collective of other men. The settlement project is a private venture, and the society which unfolds from it sets as its objective goal the terraforming of the Red Planet.

The Mars settlement project requires 110 vehicles comprised of 100 unmanned Cargo Carriers, and 10 settler transports.  

Cargo Carriers are launched over the span of a decade, transporting a one million ton payload containing the necessary equipment and stocks of seed and frozen animal ovum required to maintain yearly harvest along with the tools to construct the infrastructure of an industrial colony – arriving ten thousand tons at a time in individual landing craft launched via single stage, earth surface-launched,  nuclear fission initiated pulsed plasma rockets.  

The Martian settlers arrive in ten transports making a 39 day crossing, establishing and founding the settlement on arrival.

More information on nuclear pulse propulsion is to be found here: Orion: Nuclear Pulse Propulsion.

Formalization of Principles

Among the founders of the Martian settlement, the implementation of freedom as the right of men to act in their own interest is fully realized, meaning that the founders recognized that it must be unconstrained beyond reasonable civil, contract, and criminal law (obviously there is no freedom of one man to cause harm to another – sanctions against criminal action exist and are enforced).

There is no power granted to governance intervene between men and their freedom to act, to establish production, to meet needs, and create free markets. Government among the Martians consists merely of an elected legislative body and an inviolate elected judiciary.

This means that, in the affairs of individual men, in regards to the determination of needs and requirements, the range of freedom is absolute. Thus the freedom to associate under private agreement (i.e. to form corporations), and to own, to control, and dispose of material values is sacrosanct.

In this regard the Martians embody the trader principle as established by Ayn Rand.

The Martians labor for a span of 200 years, through triumphs and losses, establishing their industrial base on a hostile frozen desert of a world, then turn their attention to the long term goal.

The Pandemonium

The Pandemonium is a Singularity event— the period in history during which the industrial nations of Earth fall into chaos, ending the age of prosperity.

To pare the definition down: the Pandemonium is a Self-Terminating Singularity—destructive effects target the technological infrastructure of civilization. The technology involved (direct neural interface which permits invasive manipulation of human consciousness by means of a wireless connection to wide area networks) depends on that very infrastructure.

The Self-Terminating Singularity is analogous to a firestorm, starting with a high mass of volatile (but limited) fuel, it burns fiercely, and at high temperature, wrecking widespread havoc and destruction, till its fuel source is consumed. In the absence of power generation, electrical grids, and global telecommunications—the event is terminated.

In its physicality the Pandemonium is a global event not dissimilar to what happened in our real-world timeline when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in 1975: in an attempt to socially engineer a classless peasant society the Khmer Rouge wreaked modern infrastructure, and executed “classes” of people they deemed a threat to the new order, these included businessmen and intellectuals, doctors and engineers, civil servants and scientists. Within a few days of seizing power entire urban populations, (from Phnom Penh and other cities) approximately 2 million people, were force marched into the countryside where they labored to construct a network of work camps under primitive conditions.  Thousands died during the “evacuation” while behind them, the Khmer Rouge laid waste to all artifacts of modern infrastructure, destroying power plants, factories, warehousing, goods distribution centers, transportation networks, and port facilities.

In just four years 2,627,000 people died of starvation, execution, disease or overwork. (Body count: Rummel 1994).

Unlike the real-world example of Cambodia, the Pandemonium is not brought about by a singular military force, or even a single social movement – It is not any natural or environmental disaster which brings an end to the present Age of Prosperity; it is the work of an invasive technology which combines the failing points of flawed cognition, and a flawed technology, the combination of which is wrapped up in the poisonous implications embedded in certain philosophical undercurrents.*

[*Note: Everyone has a philosophy regardless if they are aware of it or not. It is the rare individual, who chooses to live out, in full, the implications of a given philosophy. It is my thesis that if this were the case, if the consequences of a philosophy were inescapable, on par with unrelenting compulsion perhaps, then the result would be akin to  Christopher Booker's fantasy cycle. See journal entry:Singularity.]

In this light, the Pandemonium is a culmination of widespread irrationality, the roots of which lie hundreds of years in our own past, effects of this undercurrent can be seen in the world around us today– visible in philosophies which teach that the facts of reality are less important than an argument which can be believed by many, regardless of how far the terms of the argument might be removed from the facts of reality – most notably this is a feature of both Pragmatism and Utilitarianism.

Carl Sagan, in his seminal work "The Demon Haunted World," wrote: "I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time ... when no one representing public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agenda's or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching crystals and nervously consulting horoscopes, their critical faculties in decline, people become unable to distinguish between what feels good and what is true ... and without noticing, humanity slides back into superstition and darkness."

The Pandemonium: Consequences

The Pandemonium's most destructive effects begin in the days and months following the Martian departure – like a monstrous wave breaking in slow motion on unseen shoals the major effects (mass destruction of infrastructure, the collapse of law & order, wildfire riots, mass executions, murder, looting and pillaging, and in some few rare instances the terrible illumination of nuclear fire sown on populations) crest in the following years.
In the immediate aftermath survivors are devastated. Effect varies, but most individuals directly subject to the invasive manipulation of the technology are shattered, left psychologically crippled. Demented and violent pathology run rampant in enormous swaths of the population.

The long term impact, the footprint on the consciousness of the survivors, and its effects on succeeding generations, the Pandemonium's most lasting and destructive effect, is 300 years.

Earth is reduced to rule by thousands of petty mobsters and savage tribal bands scrabbling in the wreckage of a once formidable scientific and industrial civilization.

Man reduced to his primitive state, without his technologies, is subject to famine, plague, and endless minor wars of savage tribal aggression – a state of affairs which sets the stage for the Alliance, a brutal global  collectivist bureaucracy which comes into being more than 400 years later.

Terraforming Program

The Martians know nothing of events on Earth, they know that Earth's moon remains uninhabited and that no one followed them to Mars, they are consumed with their labor. The process of establishing their industrial base, then building infrastructure for the terraforming program (including a re-visitation to earth), consumes 350 years total.

The mechanism of their terraforming plan is the Resource Importation Method.

An overview of terraforming techniques in the context of my future history is to be found here: Terraforming Mars.

The Resource Importation Method requires thousands of spaceflights from Mars to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn over the span of 500 years. Among the moons of the Jovian worlds crews mine for the chemical ices (Methane, Ammonia, and Nitrogen) required to warm and thicken the native atmosphere of Mars.

Great orbiting polar mirrors are set in place, bathing the ice caps of Mars in 24 hour sunlight, releasing the water vapor and carbon dioxide locked in the ice. Space stations are lofted on heavy boosters and the core of a complex which will eventually become the main orbital port or mooring is set in place upon the Martian moon Phobos.

Terraforming Mars via the Resource Importation Method would be the longest coordinated sustained endeavor in human history. Building pyramids pales by comparison to the level of effort and technological innovation required. Such long term and sustained transportation of materials would necessarily require infrastructure at both ends, on Mars (in Martian orbit) and in and among the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. As a direct consequence independent industrial space faring civilization is established at both locations.

The System States

Among the moons of Jupiter and Saturn the Martian terraforming program leaves a legacy: a sprawling archipelago of island stations and industrialized moons, Bernal Sphere's and O'Neill Cylinders, Spindle and Wheel cities, and a population of humanity growing into the millions.

These are the System States.

Trade is the lifeblood of these independent city-states. Entire generations are born and live their lives in spinning cylinders, bubbles, and torus shaped habitats, harvesting, mining, and fabricating all they need from the environment of the outer solar system.

The System States Era represents the advent of humanity as a true space faring civilization.

Countless transports and freighters move along Hohmann orbits, or high velocity Brachistochrone trajectories. Commercial vessels propelled by high-impulse Orion thrust systems ply between the planets. Asteroids of metals and valuable chemical ices are maneuvered by massive nuclear pulse-systems into new, more accessible, orbits. Solar traffic is monitored by telescopic cameras and regional flight-control centers.

Alliance Earth

750 years after establishment of the Mars settlement Earth turns its attention to Mars.

Alliance Earth is the legacy of Sinclair's grand hoax, a monolithic global collectivist State, the step-child of the criminal empires which preceded it, a dystopian bureaucratic State which owns all industry and controls all production. Individual rights as such do not exist. The Pandemonium seared all sense of liberty from the peoples and cultures of Earth, under that brutal rule men learned to seek and curry favor on bended knee, they no longer know or seek freedom. With the organization of labor and production under a unified State, and the consequential elimination of random brutality and destruction wrought by the condition of Anarchy, there is an establishment of order, and some semblance of peace, the possibility of a life that rises above the drudgery of mere grubbing for survival, an elevation above the dreary conditions which preceded establishment of the State. A life in the State means Duty, not freedom. Privilege is won by obedience, not excellence in achievement. Like sacrificial animals men are born to live or die at the whim of the State.

This is the stage, the backdrop, and the players … Alliance Earth, the Martians, and the System States.

Alliance Earth, a humanity poisoned by a constantly favored envy. The legacy of Sinclair's grand ruse sits bitter, and the masters of Earth delude themselves to believe that what the Martian's forged with generations of labor is theirs by right.

Mars ... a living world brought into being through the application of science, won by generations of effort.

The System States ... man set free from the planetary environment.  

A war is coming, and there is nothing to stop it.

And one more …

Somewhere, somehow, in amongst the myriad computer systems located across the breadth of the solar system, among the links and interstices of the system-wide network, the web of inter-communicating computers, the orbital tracking stations, the freight and traffic scheduling systems, established by the Martian's and the System States— something new, something surprising … has come into being. A growing awareness, a consciousness … an influence which emerges as subtle ghostly manipulations, the patterns of which are not readily noticeable, leaving but the barest traces here and there …

And far from the center of attention, at the very edge of the solar system, a tiny vessel, an intruder from elsewhere, falls sun ward out of the night.

Everything is about to change.
© 2013 - 2024 William-Black
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thephoenix's avatar

Are you still on it? I love solar system based scifi universes. In particular when they sport nuclear pulsed propulsion as a pacemaker. I also like the reasons you came up with to explain a costly interplanetary conflict.