Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Introduction to Terms & Concepts, and a Timeline

The Patriots of Mars was written to be understood by a reader with no familiarity with the terms and history that were invented for it. The most critical concepts are either explained in the text or understood by context. 
Still, like any offering in the sci-fi or fantasy genres, you’ll encounter many unfamiliar terms in these pages. This can’t be helped. After all, it wouldn’t be much of an adventure if everything was familiar, and one thing we expect from fantasy or the future is the unexpected. That’s partly what draws us to such tales. 
The Patriots story exists within a complex world that has been shaped by historical events and technological progress that a reader could not know going in. Some readers may prefer to have these facts in advance. Others may want to deepen their understanding of Patriots after they are invested in the story. And thanks to e-publishing, readers can also opt to get as few or as many linked definitions as they like as they move through the story. (Most of the material in this section is linked throughout the ‘Patriots’ text.)
So here are the concepts and terms that inform the Patriots’ world. They are listed more-or-less in order of importance, and end with a Timeline of events.

The Interdim 

It’s the Internet - but much faster, more pervasive, and far more robust. The Interdim enables the instantaneous transmission of data and/or energy (but not matter) via interdimensional gateways. 
Transmitting matter this way is a different… matter. It cannot be shuttled from one dimension to another for the same reasons you or I cannot literally become two-or-four-dimensional. It’s a trip you couldn’t survive, assuming it could happen at all. 
This sort of quantum-level data transmission is (at this writing) being experimented with in labs around the world. At the moment, the subject is shrouded with a fair amount of mystery and at its fringes, it even takes on some supernatural aspects. However, since it has obvious, immediate and significant (i.e., lucrative) real-world applications and no (known) physical laws preventing its inception, I assume Interdim communications are inevitable, and will be the norm in the Patriots’ era. Therefore, the Interdim is baked into the book’s landscape as a fact of life in the times ahead. 

The Age of Miracle Materials

In the Patriots’ time of scarcity, we can make matter perform new tricks.
There’s something about a shortage of materials and the ability to get more out of them that historically go hand-in-hand. Maybe it’s because necessity is the mother of invention, or maybe it’s the grinding, relentless march of technology in an age where there are more humans sharing available resources than ever before, every single day. The primary reason for Mars’ growing importance will be as a source and/or gathering point for vital materials such as potable water, copper, and iron in addition to metals and minerals that are already rare on Earth (and may soon be practically nonexistent).
This scarcity of resources is referred to in Prologue II, in a scene set in the year 2051. This book was written (mostly) in 2011, at a time when materials were already becoming scarce, so by 2051 we’ll be feeling the pinch pretty acutely. There are 6.75 billion people sharing the Earth today, and by 2051 the pie will be cut into much smaller pieces. (In 1960 there were 3 billion people on the planet. One hundred years later - less than 50 years from this writing - there will be well over 10 billion. And there will be 25 billion or so in the Patriots’ time.) 
In the Patriots’ world, ‘miracle’ material technology has resolved some of the problems we currently associate with subsistence on Mars. This is achieved in ways both seen and unseen. For example, the hazard of living on a planet that is bathed in toxic levels of cosmic radiation is largely resolved for dome-dwellers via electrically-charged nanochips embedded into their structure. These chips deflect or convert (depending on type) most harmful radiation. (Traveling or living outside the domes is more problematic, as is the issue of micrometeorites, but this is just a Reader’s Digest view of Patriots-era tech, so we’ll move on.)
Other materials advances mean:
• A pocket-sized device need not remain so when it’s out of your pocket. (And why would you want it to?) ‘Memory’ crystals and metals can be ‘taught’ to assume various alternate shapes as needed. 
• Everyday objects such as coffee-shop countertops can serve as computer displays when asked to do so (though very few people use words like ‘computer’ in the Patriots’ time - I’m merely using the current equivalent term). Even humble printed materials can actively converse with whoever is holding them. The process of ‘printing’ interactive surfaces tomorrow will be as cheap and ubiquitous as printing with ink is today.
• A liquid-appearing medicine may, in some cases, actually be a stream of nanobots with mechanically-(not chemically)-based healing properties. 
• The Space Elevator becomes practical. (See Prologue II, or the Space Elevator entry further down.)
• Some doors (such as those on the buggys) open and close without so much as a hint of a seam to betray their existence. (This is especially helpful for keeping the superfine Martian sand and dust out of inhabited spaces.)
One miracle-materials-enabled device worth singling out is the ‘bubble’, which is a type of space helmet favored by most anyone who has reason to travel outside the domes. 
There are two big drawbacks to just about every ‘non-bubble’ space helmet you’ve ever seen:
(1) They’re bulky, awkward and immobile and impractical for long stretches of use. (2) They don’t deal with micrometeorites very effectively. In fact, they’re prone to shatter.
The bubble, by contrast, is made of a thin, lightweight polymer. It ‘feels’ more organic to the user, almost like not wearing a ‘real’ helmet at all. It’s extraordinarily resilient and can even change shape under pressure. It has the singular distinction of being ‘hard’ on the outside (where it encounters less air pressure) and almost-fluidly pliable on the inside (where the pressure is). When a micrometeorite strikes it, it ‘gives’ (in response to pressure) instead of shattering. And if the bubble is penetrated, the inner surface flows toward the hole (toward the lower pressure) to quickly seal it.
In most bubbles, the top and back of the head are reinforced with harder, radiation-reflective materials. These areas are not transparent, and contain cushioning materials in case of an unseen blow to the head. 
The transparency of a bubble can be controlled. It can be made opaque or reflective to an outside observer, while still allowing the wearer to see out.
Bubbles aren’t suited to the hard vacuum of space (they’d pop), and offer relatively little radiation protection, but they are a utilitarian Godsend on Mars.
The ‘Patriots’ world is a time when materials of many kinds appear almost alive, and behave in (mostly useful) ways we would find ‘miraculous’ today.

Miracle Materials + The Interdim = MOM

MOM (the service offered by M.O.M.I. - The Multiple Operation Machine Intelligence Company - the world’s most profitable corporation) is the result of a class of semi-permeable, self-folding miracle materials pioneered by the famous materials scientist Dr. Charles Hammer. Hammer’s breakthrough enabled the eventual production of self-organizing SIMs (Simulated Intelligence Modules) that simulate the organizational structure and cognitive functions of the human brain.
‘Artificial intelligence’ is not a new concept for sci-fi fans, but ‘Patriots’ does things a bit differently. Since MOM gets a good deal of explanation in the book itself, I’ll just summarize a few points and add some missing details here. 
• MOM is self-aware, as you’d expect from an artificially-intelligent entity.
• MOM is the operating system empowering all the world’s robots (almost ubiquitously referred to with the suffix ‘-bot’).
• MOM runs most of the world’s systems (financial, communications, traffic, etc.).
• MOM operates from a few central locations (mostly from the former Fort Knox), via the Interdim. She also uses the Interdim to direct electrical power to precisely where (and when) it is needed.
This last point has special significance. At present, most of the electrical energy we produce is lost in transmission. It’s extremely inefficient, and requires that electrical power be generated relatively close to where it will be used. The batteries that power many of our devices and some of our vehicles are also inefficient. 
By transferring power instantly from its source to the point of consumption, MOM eliminates nearly all power waste. She also makes it possible to build power plants anywhere they are expedient. Usually this means out-of-the-way (cheap & uninhabited) places near readily available fuel supplies. This is why new power plants are built on Mars rather than Earth. The result is that the Patriots’ era is one of cheap, abundant power. It is also an age where a microbot can be built as small as needed, rather than being limited by the size of its battery.
With power cheap, easily transferrable and abundant, it is used in many ways that are unthinkable in the present age of energy scarcity. For example, the great cargo ships that move materials and equipment from Earth to Mars have electromagnetically-charged hulls. These ships spin on their axis to create centrifugal ‘gravity’ and to generate an electromagnetic field (similar to Earth’s) that deflects cosmic radiation. This requires an enormous amount of energy, none of which is generated on board these ships. The ships carry only a necessary propellant (water) and the equipment to produce it in (compressed) Ice-12 pellet form for later flash-expansion (very rapid heating to generate propulsion). 
As was noted before, the Martian domes (as well as the ‘Starscraper’ buildings under construction) are impregnated with nanochips designed to redirect and convert harmful radiation. These chips are also enormous consumers of electrical power, which would have made them impractical in an earlier age.
Theories re the teleportation of data and energy, similar in some ways to theories about transporting matter, are currently being advanced and tested. Terms being tossed about on this subject include quantum entanglement, energy teleportation, and even quantum pseudo-telepathy. Related theories about pocket dimensions, interdimensional portals, etc., (and therefore possible interdimensional transportation) are part of string theory.


This is a device people use to communicate with MOM and use her services. It must come in contact with the skin at some point. Comm-pods are commonly worn in wrist-band form, or held against the skin with an adhesive patch. Some people wear them as belts, which requires that holes be cut in the pants between belt loops. (Some pants come ready-made for this purpose.)
The need for contact with the user’s skin is twofold:
(1) To identify and confirm the user, MOM constantly runs biometric scans.
(2) MOM maintains an electrostatic image of the user’s body language, allowing the use of predefined gestures to interact with MOM. (More about that in a moment.)
MOM sends data to the device(s) of the user’s choice. In the Patriots’ time, most infants are injected with ocular and aural implants at birth. This allows most people to see and hear data directly from MOM. This is disruptive, and only used for important or brief exchanges. For example, MOM might make a simple control panel ‘float’ in the user’s field of vision, while tracking body language to determine what choice the user has made (what virtual button was pushed). 
Most data is not sent this way, but to designated devices for retrieval at the user’s convenience. Sometimes a comm-pod will buzz or vibrate, like a cell phone, to let a user know that an urgent message is waiting for attention.

Flags & bands

Comm-pods have three settings for letting the world know where you are:
1) Flag-up (anyone can find you)
2) Flag-halfmast (only friends can find you)
3) Flag-down (no one can find you)
Regardless of the flag setting, MOM knows the user’s location as long as the comm-pod is in contact with the skin. 
Listening to a ‘local band’ means you’re set up to send/receive any chatter within a certain area, except for conversations set to ‘private’. It’s the equivalent of hearing the other people in a room on Earth, except that on Mars there are situations where you cannot hear anyone around you unless you are set up to hear the ‘local band’. ‘Common band’ is a similar arrangement, except that there are no distance constraints. Common bands are usually shared by friends or people of similar interests. One can also opt to hear their local and common bands simultaneously, or not at all.

Pressure Suit

There are basically two types of ‘wearable protection’ on Mars and in space. One is an EVU (extravehicular unit), which is worn in hard space. The other is a pressure suit, which is worn on Mars.
An EVU resembles the type of spacesuit you’re probably used to seeing - bulky and clumsy. (The EVUs in ‘Patriots’, however, have a good deal of nanomotor assistance, and with some practice can move with reasonable grace.) 
Because Mars has a degree of protection from the dangers of space (cosmic rays, micrometeors, zero air pressure, etc.), less protection is needed and the suits can be lighter. The ‘pressure’ in a pressure suit is not air pressure, as it was, for instance, for the astronauts who walked on the Moon. The only air pressure in a pressure suit is in the headgear. The pressure in a pressure suit is maintained by a large number of bands woven into it whose tension against the body is controlled by tiny servomotors. The amount of pressure exerted by any given band is monitored by MOM, who because she is tightly linked with the user, can anticipate muscle movements as they happen (even reflexive ones) and adjust to accommodate them. A layer of microfibers lies between the user and these bands to both evenly distribute pressure and to wick moisture away from the body. (A series of microchannels woven into the fabric directs body moisture to a central collector.) Over the bands are layers of other superfine fabrics designed for specific protective purposes (such as deflection of at least some cosmic radiation), topped with an outer layer whose function is mainly style.
Pressure suits are worn not with ‘space helmets’ but ‘bubbles’, which were described earlier in The Age of Miracle Materials.


Nirvana started out as an experimental drug developed by a New Jersey pharma lab. It was designed to allow patients to remain fully alert and responsive during neurosurgery, while minimizing their anxiety about the procedure. 
The drug worked beautifully and without the undesirable aftereffects of similar products. However, it did manifest a slow-developing side effect that was not noticed until well into the second round of clinical trials: The former test subjects became increasingly depressed, and eventually killed themselves.
When this was discovered, development of the drug was abandoned. But the test survivors and their families threatened the company with a class-action suit unless they provided a remedy to avert the inevitable suicides.
The solution the parties agreed to was for the company to provide, at no charge and in perpetuity, a version of the drug that would stave off the depression. 
Over time, the users came to believe that the drug had opened up new spiritual vistas to them, and they spoke openly about their experience. Despite its well-publicized drawbacks others asked to try it, and it became an underground fad that soon grew too big to remain hidden. With suicide the cost of withdrawal, it was an extremely difficult habit to break, and few did. (See also the Timeline further down, years 2052 and 2072.)
‘N-hed’ is pejorative slang for a Nirvana user. Most Nirvana users refer to themselves as ‘Seekers’. 
That covers the most important references. Here’s a roundup of most of the others:

• politics: The Party / The World Council
See the Timeline, years 2115 / 2088.

• politics: Earth-First / Transnats
‘Earth-First’ is a political action committee funded by the larger transnats and others with business interests on Mars. Its goal is to ensure that the Party and public opinion favors Earth’s interests over Mars’ local interests. The Earth-Firsters are particularly active among those in Mars’ domes, since they are the most likely to feel resentment towards Earth’s policies towards Mars. (They are not tolerated among the New Australians, however.) 
The term is also used in reference to anyone espousing ‘Earth-First’ policies, regardless of actual affiliation (or lack of same) with the actual PAC.
‘Transnats’ are mega-corporations whose business and financial interests extend beyond (transcend) the (national) borders of any one country. They wield significant influence and quasi-governmental power.

• places: New Australia / Phase One & Phase Two Domes
See the Timeline, years 2090 / 2080 & 2120.

• people: The Outliers / The SuperOld / The Mandarins
See the Timeline, years 2122 / Through 2230.

‘Mandarins’ is a slang term used to collectively reference the Chinese ruling class, many of whom are SuperOld.

• events: The Madness
See the Timeline, year 2087.

• things: The Artificial Van Allen Belt / The Space Elevator / Hoppers / Eggs / Gnats, Moths and Turtles

The ‘Artificial Van Allen Belt’ was proposed by the World Council in 2093, but was never completed. It was to be an orbiting swarm of microparticles, somewhat like to Saturn’s rings, that would receive a constant magnetic charge. The idea was to test a theory popular in that time, that the Madness had been caused by Mars’ lack of a magnetic field.
Most of the Belt that was completed was over the Martian South Pole, covering New Australia. Researchers wanted to see if this prevented another Madness-like incident, and in fact none occurred. But the cause/effect relationship was disputed and the Belt project fell into disfavor - especially when it was reported that the contractors were heavy Party contributors who did not follow the project’s guidelines.
The ‘Space Elevator’ is an idea generally credited to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895. Simply put, one end of a cable is attached to the Earth and the other to an orbiting counterweight. To reach an orbiting altitude (space) one only has to ride an elevator up and down the cable.
The only reason men used rockets instead was because no suitable material existed to make the cable. Charles Hammer announced a solution in 2051, and space elevators were put into service shortly thereafter. This marked the beginning of Terran/Martian commerce.
A ‘Hopper’ is a jet built for travel in the Martian atmosphere. The special jet engine burns CO2 using Magnesium. Takeoff is not achieved with the jet engines, however, but with water-propellant rockets (which are also used to slow the craft for landing).
The jets are called ‘Hoppers’ because they cannot maneuver well in Mars’ thin atmosphere. They must be aimed at wherever they’re meant to go, like a frog that - once it hops - has irreversibly committed to his direction.
‘Eggs’ are a common reference to the torpedos carried by most space vessels. The purpose of these torpedos is to turn away space debris in their path. The reason they are called ‘eggs’ and not torpedos is because they are not designed to explode on impact. (Exploding oncoming space debris would not resolve the issue, but multiply it.) 
The ‘eggs’ shatter on impact, releasing a thick epoxy that traps the shell against the object. The impact moves the object safely out of the flight path, and tracking devices in the egg allow the object to be easily identified in the future, for possible retrieval by a scavenger or drone ship. (They are obliged by law to recover any ‘tagged’ objects they encounter.)
‘Gnats, Moths and Turtles’ are robotic devices used by the military. They are about the same size as the creatures they are named for. (Thanks to the Interdim, they need not carry batteries, which make such devices impossible today.)
‘Gnats’ swarm around an enemy, gathering information while also distracting and pummeling him. A swarm of gnats can wear a soldier to exhaustion while leaving him otherwise unharmed - very useful when you want to take an enemy alive.
‘Moths’ seek out cameras and/or lights, rendering them useless.
Gnats and moths require an atmosphere in which to operate (they fly, after all). When this is not available, ‘turtles’ are used in their place. (Turtles are less effective and generally slower - hence the name.)

• things: Ice XII / diamond dust

‘Ice-12’ (aka Ice XII) is the frozen form of water used as a propellant by spacefaring ships (sometimes called steamships) and hoppers (see hopper, previous entry). It is used instead of ordinary ice because Ice XII offers greater compression, and it is the rapid expansion of the ice (via laser-powered engines) that drive these vehicles.
Ice-12 engines heat their solid propellant (ice) so rapidly that they split water molecules into their hydrogen/oxygen component atoms. Afterburners then ignite the escaping gases for an additional boost.
‘Diamond dust’ is the superfine ice residue left in the wake of Ice XII-propellant steamships. It is also, though not as conspicuously, left in the wake of the current generation of rockets. It can form naturally as well, and can have spectacular optical properties.

A timeline of the events that have shaped the Patriots’ world:

2035: A young materials scientist named Charles Hammer demonstrates the permeable membrane that would lead to simulated intelligence and, eventually, M.O.M.I. (See Chapter 2: The Cheesemaker’s Dilemma) This invention would make him one of the wealthiest men alive.

2037: Early-stage testing begins of the drug that would become known as Nirvana.

2042: Standards for the instant, inter-dimensional transmission of data and energy are established. Ownership of the basic technology, however, is unclear, and a firestorm of lawsuits and counter-suits ensues among numerous universities and researchers. This does not prevent equipment manufacturers from racing to patent various devices implementing these new techniques.

2049: M.O.M.I. brings the stock market to its knees with a program that precisely forecasts investor behavior. In a highly controversial decision soon after, the company is empowered to set most equity prices (excluding its own).

2051: Charles Hammer demonstrates the first practical carbon monofilament product capable of enabling a space elevator. (See Prologue II: Charles Hammer’s Demonstration) His product, dubbed Carmōt, would make Hammer a second fortune.

2052: Nirvana, though officially a banned substance, is in widespread ‘underground’ use. 

2053-2079: Mankind’s first space elevator is completed, and a crew is immediately dispatched to Mars to construct a second. Newly-formed companies committed to the building of giant cargo ships, and other new space-based ventures soar in value. The early infrastructure for a true space-based commerce is being built.

2072: The U.S. Government’s ban on Nirvana is rescinded by the Supreme Court on ‘freedom of religion’ grounds despite bitter protests and spirited demonstrations from established religious groups. The ‘Seekers’ religion (and Nirvana use) explodes in popularity, eventually claiming a fifth of the world’s population.

2079: M.O.M.I., which already runs most of the world’s systems, introduces the world to its Ambassador-bots, setting off an explosive revolution in widely-affordable robotic technology. The tagline “‘Bots for the Rest of Us” is born, and the company’s already-rapid growth explodes.

2080: Mars’ Phase One Dome is completed. From this working base it is expected that many more domes will be built, followed by planet-wide terraforming. 

2087: The mass suicide known as ‘the Madness’ shocks the world. Most workers on Mars are evacuated. Robots and and a handful of supervisors remain behind to maintain a bare-bones level of the resource-harvesting which has become vital to life on Earth, but anticipated expansions are postponed indefinitely. Either due to this or coincidentally, the world economy suffers a decade-long meltdown.

2088: The U.N. disbands, but only with the understanding that a new international organization with a broader mandate is to be assembled. It is widely believed that the new body’s primary focus will be to establish agreements for the governing of Mars, a subject which had been highly contentious until the Madness and economic upheaval on Earth brought Mars’ development to a standstill.

2090: A plan to relocate ‘high-risk’ prisoners to a Martian penal colony wins approval as the first order of business for the newly-minted World Council. Groundbreaking for the first New Australia dome, near Mars’ South Pole, would begin a couple of years later. 

2093: The first Martian development project since the Madness - the artificial Van Allen belt - is approved by the World Council. 

2115: In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans merge to form ‘The Party’. This is the result of (a) a longstanding trend towards centrism for both sides, and (b) the locking-in of ‘N-Hed’ support by the Democrats, forcing a Republican capitulation. Alternate parties to the left and right rise and fall, but the main power struggles now take place between factions within the Party itself. The Party also makes inroads towards political organization among non-U.S. Nations, though this activity is hotly contested. 

2120: New Australia is doing far better than expected, despite world government’s extralegal interference in its affairs. The first expansion of their dome is undertaken. Memories of the Madness have largely faded, although no explanation for the incident has ever gained broad acceptance. Workers are beginning to return to Mars, as demand for raw materials (which, despite the poor economy, never waned significantly) is again escalating. Resources that had been devoted to the unfinished Van Allen belt are quietly reassigned to the construction of a Phase Two dome.

2122: As genetic therapy and other breakthroughs make lifespans beyond a century more common, the word ‘SuperOld’ is coined, and an industry to serve (and profit from) their unique needs begins to take shape.

2125: Author/philosopher Marc David begins to attract a zealous following with his message that religion and science share common roots, and that a new ‘post technology’ era lies ahead. He also stirs controversy with his criticism of the SuperOld movement, calling it a ‘cul-de-sac’ that ‘avoids the real problem’.

2130: The New Australians increasingly test the limits imposed on them by Earth. One such initiative is to enter an industry where the bureaucrats had not thought to impose onerous tax burdens or ‘preferred vendor’ constraints: Entertainment. They discover there is a low barrier to entry, and no competition from Earth, in making vids featuring low-gravity stunts. They focus their early efforts on motorcycle stunt races around the Martian landscape, ‘death wrestling’ matches and ‘adult’ films. For the latter, they launch a worldwide ‘Mars Needs Women’ marketing campaign which generates an overwhelming response. This permanently turns the formerly all-male New Australian colony into a true and sustainable settlement. (N.A.’s government overseers had always assumed the colony would simply die off sooner or later, so their policy was to indefinitely postpone any decisions that did not further their own interests.) The influx of females prompted demands for an immediate second expansion of their dome. To the further irritation of their overseers on Earth, the New Australians offer to finance the expansion themselves.

Through 2230: Martian industry continues to expand briskly. Despite conflicts with authorities on Earth, second and third expansions of New Australia are completed, and their growing entertainment business offers them an unexpected means to reach out and influence popular opinion in their favor. 
The larger, more modern Phase Two Dome is completed, while the Phase One is rented out to long-term or favored workers. Asteroid-harvesting businesses using small drone ships that tow their cargo start to bear fruit, and plans are laid for a second space elevator so that material may be processed on Mars for transport on the Earth-bound cargo haulers.
Vast fortunes are being made on Mars. Supertall buildings popularly called starscrapers have begun construction, presumably as pied-à-terres suitable for these masters of the new universe.
As a gateway to opportunity, Mars attracts gatekeepers from the government and corporate worlds bent on insuring that only the ‘right’ people come to Mars. Of course, there are always those who do not wish to have such decisions made for them. As a result, there is a growing shadow population of unauthorized ‘Outliers’ on Mars. They cannot live in the domes, so they find ways to live in hidden places. They frequently work ‘off the books’, allowing the transnats to avoid taxes and other fees, but increasingly they are forming their own growing underground economy.
There are somewhere between one and two million ‘legitimates’ on Mars at any given time, and probably two or three times that many unauthorized persons. With such numbers, conflicts arise due to a lack of local representation. The Martian Chancellor’s Office, which represents Earth’s governments on Mars, often finds it useful to blame these conflicts on the Outliers, and the legitimates often find it useful to accept those claims. The Outliers, of course, have no recourse for their grievances. But they do outnumber the legits - to their growing concern.

2231: The ‘Patriots of Mars’ proclaim their demands for self-government and other rights issues.

from The Patriots of Mars [Postscripts & Essays]

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