Ad Astra is nowhere near as 'conventional' as most sf games. For
example, the Third Imperium of Traveller obviously owes much to
Isaac Asimov's Galactic Empire future history, and the various
cyberpunk games are clearly inspired by the Movement. Familiarity with these
literary inspirations enables the GM and players to fill in considerable amount
of background that can be essentially left unsaid, at least until there is a
large body of background material relating directly to the game. With this in
mind, and considering that the literary precursors of Ad Astra are more
recent and more varied than those of most games, we thought it wise to describe
ways in which we have been influenced and inspired by sf stories and novels.
Although Ad Astra does not have any single work to which it owes a
great debt, this survey will provide at least some sense of the atmosphere for
which we are aiming.
- The sense of rapid technological advance has been influenced at least in
part by Marooned in
Realtime (Vernor Vinge). The pervasive power
of molecular nanotechnology is like that of Aristoi (Walter Jon Williams), and a
more recent novel that, although not an inspiration, is similar in atmosphere is
Stephenson). From the latter we also acquired the term "phyle", although not
the underlying concept, which we independently invented. The effect of
technological intervention on human minds is similar to that in many Greg Egan stories,
especially "Learning to be Me", "Axiomatic" and Permutation City, and
also to Mike
Swanwick's Vacuum Flowers.
- Earth is a little like Golter from Iain M Banks' Against a Dark
Background, being a patchwork of small statelets with complex relations
and only limited overall authority. Again Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash
and The Diamond
Age describe political set-ups on Earth that are something like ours.
- The massive scale of industrial development on Luna was directly influenced
Swanwick's excellent novella Griffin's Egg. Its
corporate-playground nature was not influenced by John Varley's Steel Beach but has turned
out fairly similar. And, of course, all modern fictional Lunas have echoes of The Moon is
a Harsh Mistress (Robert Heinlein).
- Sol System
- Solar system colonisation has been highly influenced by Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars
trilogy, which we both consider to be a first-rate future history.
Our colonisation programme, however, has a quite different balance of importance
between Mars and colonies in the asteroid belt. Paul McAuley's Four Hundred Billion
Stars and Eternal Light share
atmosphere more than any specific details (and certainly not the dodgy empathic
abilities of Dorthy Yoshida).
- The Belt habitats are inspired by Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix. The sense of
a wild diversification and modification of humanity advancing almost out of
control is certainly influenced by the Shaper/Mechanist future. I suppose that
there are at least some echoes of Larry Niven in there too. The
nature of the Belt habitats also makes them somewhat similar to Iain M Banks' Culture, although
considerably less utopian (many are following explicitly utopian programmes
however). The naming scheme of Astartan ships is, of course, a nod in this
direction. On a similar note, the Terran Imperium bears considerable resemblance
to Galactic Empires in general (and perhaps one in particular).
- The Archipelago is something like Larry Niven's Known Space
setting in the time before We Made It bought the hyperdrive from the Outsiders.
There are, of course, many stories of slower-than-light colonisation that have
undoubtedly exerted subconscious influences on us.
- The term "Uplift" is, of course, from David Brin's Uplift Series. I
consider the concept to be central to any setting that attempts to provide a
coherent rationale for the existence of different species of starfaring aliens
at the same time. Gregory Benford's Galactic
Centre series juggles large amounts of space and time in a similar
manner to that for which we are eventually aiming, and has an interesting
machine civilisation that probably influenced us in some way. Brin's "Lungfish" is also a possible
- The Future
- The development of the Human Archipelago could turn out like the human
societies of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee
Sequence, or Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, or Greg Egan's Diaspora, or be completely
different. Only time will tell.
The future of Ad Astra