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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Things needed for a new colony (Sci-fi)

   
Author Topic: Things needed for a new colony (Sci-fi)
Fooglmog
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I've had an idea for a story kicking around in my head now for a couple months. I've started to write it a couple times.. but been forced to stop for various reasons. I think I'm ready for another go at it but there's one problem I've never reconciled that I hope this community can help me with. The problem is basically that I can't think of everything a new community starting from nothing would need.

I'll phrase that more precisely at the bottom of this post, just let me explain the setting and my intention for the story first.

It's based in the future, about the first colony man has ever formed on another planet. Basically -- we discovered a habitable planet by using a probe, and have sent a fleet of a dozen ships there to form the colony. The story itself is about the founding of that colony and political insurrection upon it over the first 20 years of its existance.

The way the story develops is basically that the ships carried construction crews who land and build the infrastructure of the colony... but they've only brought enough fossil fuels for that and from then on everyone's living like the Amish (pardon the simplification). I'm basing it in an ecology similar to the US mid-west

Clearly, most people would be farmers. But here's my question: What professions, materials, supplies... etc. would be necessary to make such a colony practical?

Any thoughts?


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arriki
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blacksmiths, miners, geologists, farmers,ranchers, brewers, fishermen, butchers, people to make glass and ceramic containers for storing food, doctors and other medical people and some good herbalists too to exploit the environment's potential for medicines. Carpenters and plumbers. Some smart entrepeners good with inventing things, machines and other stuff. How about hunters?

Then come the government types. Some sort of people for law enforcement -- whatever laws are decided on.

Religious leaders. I'd hope they would be good, caring men and women. Honest and inspiring and able to give hope in desperate times.

How's that for a start?


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Andrew_McGown
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what is the reason they are colonising?
It is a massive investment.

What is the imperative that drives them?

Is it some kind of speculation on the aprt of a corporation?

Is it a land-grab like the Oklahoma Stampede?

Are people making money from supplying transport?

Is the government involved or is it a private venture with a government's imprimatur?

Are there more than one corp or government involved?

Is the earth cactus, or overpopulated?

All these things will call for a different mix of settlers and skill groups.

It occurs to me that the Jamestowne colony in Virginia may be a good model to follow, with tweaks for setting and time.

See here for info. You can get settlers breakdowns etc.

BTW: The links at the bottom are the best bit about wikipedia.

[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited August 27, 2009).]


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SavantIdiot
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I have a similar situation. My colonists are escaping a repressive world government on Earth. I am using the pilgrims as kind of a model.

I am thinking that they need to store data, in various places, to access later, when they have the infrastructure to use it again. I don't know how many generations will be building basic infrastructure to get ready for that, assuming the new planet doesn't kill them off first. (I'll be careful not to let that happen.)

My people are religious. Mostly Christian but not all. Trying to do better than the way things were when they left Earth. But I don't want them to have given up on the people on Earth, just getting themselves out of a situation which was very bad and which they cannot change.

But I'll be interested in this thread. My characters are farmers, tradesmen. They lose a lot, technologically speaking, of course, they have to. I haven't decided what they get to keep. Some of it, surely.



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Andrew_McGown
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The fact is that, no matter what kind of society people try to set up, certain processes seem to occur inevitably in human societies.

For instance: there will be those (of later generations) who decide it is easier to kill and get gain than it is to work for, earn or make it themselves. This is opportunism and a kind of brutal expediency. It prompts the original colony/culture into trying to protect itself by creating a 'job' for a protector or 'protector class'. They would rather 'pay' a certain amount to a protector than lose the same amount to raiders. Regardless, what it does is create a societal niche for those whose temperament is more geared toward being protectors or 'Guardians'. This sort of process can give rise to a warrior class.

If you look at the Keirsey's four temperaments, and their descriptions, the role variants and their frequency, you may find a useful method of establishing a rule-of-thumb when devising the 'naturally' occuring 'types' in your colony,

He breaks them down like this:

Artisans:
Operators --(Crafters and Promoters)
Entertainers -- (Composers and Performers)

Guardians:
Administrators -- (Inspectors and Supervisors)
Conservators -- (Protectors and Providers)

Idealists:
Mentors --(Counselors and Teachers)
Advocates -- (Healers and Champions)

Rationals:
Coordinators -- (Masterminds and Fieldmarshals)
Engineers -- (Architects and Inventors)

You can find more here.

It also may be of no help at all.

[This message has been edited by Andrew_McGown (edited August 27, 2009).]


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Symphonyofnames
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Take a look-see at what kinds of things colonies in history have started out with: what did the pilgrims bring over from England when colonizing America? What did people bring with them heading to the American Midwest, since your ecology is similar?
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rstegman
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One thing with that happened with the Oklahoma Stampede was that once the people had their land, they had to clear it for farming. There were tractors but they were expensive. If one did not rent a tractor to break up the natural turf, they lost their lands and it was not really possible to do so by had.

You can use your construction crews to clear the lands for the farmers.

One question, does the construction crews leave or do they remain as colonists?

If you bring biomass processors like they are developing now, they could take the trees and plants and convert them into alcohal or biodiesel and have a good supply of fuel to at least keep some things going. One can then crack the biodiesel into longer chains and make all other kinds of oil.
Wind generators and solar arrays would be set up for electrical power. Mineral deposits would be broken open so they can be easily accessed when machinery is no longer availble. Think of a strip mine, once opened to the minerals, mined by people simply by digging the ground and transporting them. Would there be coal deposits within the general area?


What native life is there, how can they be used? Portable chemical labs would be brought to do tests on them. What about the aniamsls. Herding or pack animals tend to be more domesticatable than others. Some might be harnessed for farming. Even dogs are good for pulling a small wagon around, think dog sled.

Would they be bringing cattle or horses? what other live stockm, pets, animal and insect collections would you bring? What plants, trees, seeds, would be brought? What about imported pests?

how would the site be selected. One of the political problems might be that those in charge chose the site for all the wrong reason and there are those who want to move the colony or open a new site in a place that has all the natural resources they need and those in charge refuse to give up their control over the population.

The Mayflower colony was set up with the idea that everybody pools their gain in a communal coffer and take what they need from that. They found that was not working. When they broke up the land into separately owned plots, the colony flourished and became so profitable that they were able to send some of their bounty back home. That showed that the colony was a place to come.

The governmental system that is established makes a big difference. If it is "top down" command where people have to have permission to do anything substatial, you have a perfect source for your later conflict. People see problems and the command won't allow them to correct the problems, especially if the corrections will take some command away. If the command is smart, they would handle the problem the way the chinese handled becoming somewhat capitolist.

More later if any of this sticks.



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Robert Nowall
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Of course the colonists at Plymouth also had the horrible experience of exploring around, discovering the harbor that would become Boston, and realizing they should have sailed into that in the first place.
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rich
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You also may want to look at the circumstances with the founding of Australia. A lot more than just about a bunch of convicts setting up shop.
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Andrew_McGown
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The establishment of Sydney is a great example of how a colony trying to bring 'old methods' to a new and alien environment can fail. And a great example of how they can recover.
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SavantIdiot
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You know there was a man in Texas who wanted to return his huge ranch to it's native grassland. What has happened in Texas is these awful trees have 'immigrated' here and taken over. We call them Cedars but what they are is Junipers. They are horrible water hogs, they suck up all the water and the plants around them just dry up. Anyway, this guy got some really heavy chains and dragged them across the property between some heavy tractors and brought down all the trees. The native grasses came back and six or seven natural springs came back, too, some of which he wasn't even aware were there. That doesn't sound very high tech. Of course six generations of men can do a lot of clearing, too! I don't know if that is helpful but I found it interesting.

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rstegman
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Most colonies we know of have many more people coming in waves, which helps get the colony established. There were ships going back and they were sending requests on what they needed to keep going.

I saw a NOVA program about locating the original Jamestown fort. They went through the history of the colony. The first colonists were hand picked people and were mostly men. Some women arrived in subsequent ships, and a few people headed back to England. They had a lot of deaths, the captain and motivator for the colony was an early loss. They had selected key people to build the site and then others came.

In your story as you mentioned it, Construction teams would go to get it established, and others would come to be the actual colonists.
A well planned colony construction project would build and clear the things the colonists would need most to be successful, the infrastructure that the colonists themselves would not be able to build easily. Clearing land for farms, building dams for power and water, building roads or at least clearing paths for them, possibly running utility feeds along with the roads so that they will be in place for the colonists when they arrive.
Foundations for future towers might be put in, filled back in later, so the colonists can build their structures easier with little work. Bridges might be built, or at least their foundation piers, be built so colonists can later spread out (read about the Brooklyn bridge construction problems for an idea of the kinds of works that can be avoided)

Of course, the source of the conflict might be the improper planning the founders used, the things they left out or refuse to bring. Consider if the founders decided that no petroleum will be used on the planet and that is the source of the conflict. The colonists have information of making some easily and have the technology available, but those in charge refuse to let them do it. Think of whiskey stills in the back woods, but instead are primitive processors for petroleum. I have seen pictures of the early cracking towers to refine crude oil. They could easily be stuck in the back woods to make fuel and lubricants the colonists need and would be something the officials would be looking for stop and arrest the people making illegal fluids. the REVENUERS would be hunting for the "crude shiners" who are making them.

With any well planned project, the planners always forget or overlook something. Part of the story would be getting around that problem, and then another part of the story could be the conflicts caused by the adjustments or the plans that the planners refuse to give up.


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Lyrajean
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One possible source of conflict is that certain goods or services (like medical care) are in short supply. First generation colonists would remember having thse things available and perhaps become resentful of the suppliers (particularly if the colony was supplied by a government or corperate entity)for not providing adequate provisions, trained staff etc...

And how do you lure someone with a high level of training, engineer doctor etc.. to come to a remote colony to live and work in a deprived environment? what incentives are there?

I've been working along these lines in my current WIP. The main characters are doctors and the situation is that while society as a whole has lots of wonderful miracle technology availble much of it can't be accessed on that remote colony outpost. Also they are perpetually understaffed.


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Robert Nowall
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I'm thinking more that the absence of something-or-other might influence the course the colony takes rather than the presence of something-or-other. Say they brought something they thought they needed, and lost it somehow. Their improvised response might make a more interesting story.
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