For Seeds Among the Stars, the series’ world starts in the microcosm of Ceric colony so I thought I’d give you a glimpse into how the colony became what it has when you arrive there.
Where the wealthy expected luxury, many of those from less privileged ranks hoped to see their family businesses flourish when demand on Earth had shrunken to the realm of the ultra-rich.
This was definitely the case for the original Samuel, whose family raised horses and had as far back as anyone could remember. The same contacts that afforded him this opportunity grated on his nerves when he could look at the family history and find their stables meant something, whether supplying the sturdiest mounts for war or the fleetest for races. But with the overcrowding and space at such a high demand, his stock had dwindled, and his only customers kept these magnificent beasts confined to tiny arenas and even smaller stalls. At least the wealthy were willing to pay the credits to keep his family tradition going, but at what cost?
Samuel saw hope for his horses: wide open pastures, real purpose instead of toys, and everything his family had stood for restored.
This dream, not so much unlike Trina’s, drove him to listen to an off-hand comment about a new colony from one of his customers who called to close his account. He used his contacts to secure space on the ship not just for his breeding stock, but for his whole family. It took a lot of arguing for the need, and emptied his accounts, but ultimately, the sponsors saw the value of having someone used to maintaining stock, especially once he added cows, sheep, and other valuable animals.
Earth tried many different types of colony ships in those early years with no way of knowing if any had succeeded. The ship bound for Ceric used hibernation technology, preserving resources through freezing not just the animals, but also the majority of the colonists. Only those necessary to maintain the on-board systems stayed awake, a mini-generational ship as they were born, raised, and died during the passage.
It took three and a half generations for the colony ship to arrive. In that time, they had experienced numerous problems, some the crew could solve, and some they could not.
Samuel and his family arrived in this new world to discover not one of his horses had survived the voyage, nor had the technology necessary to convert the genetic samples he’d brought as backup into living beings. A long family history destroyed in one risky choice.
There were other failures on the ship besides the horses, and the newly awakened colonists were not expecting such a struggle to survive. Most of the machinery had been damaged, leaving very little functioning technology when a majority of the colonists had no idea how to survive without it.
The majority, but not Samuel and his family.
Tradition had always been strong for Samuel and the generations before him. They maintained the old ways even when technology offered easier solutions. While many despaired of surviving, Samuel got to work. Bit by bit, these wealthy families he’d had to beg to allow him to come turned to him for how to make things work and get things done. He’d come to this place as the one they’d expected to bend to their every desire, and instead, he took over the whole colony.
It might not have been what they’d planned or expected, but oh so slowly, First City grew and thrived until it was stable enough, and had surplus to allow a second city and a third. Samuel crafted this success out of strong management, but more, he understood the work of their backs had to be matched with focus in their thoughts.
To ensure the last, he create the Doctrine, a set of rules by which everyone must live if they wanted to survive. These rules focused on the work of your hands. The colonists had become beasts of burden when they’d expected to put all such efforts on the backs of others: machine, animal, and human. Too few of the animals survived for such use while the specialists had little understanding of how to create without their tech and the machinery dead.
The Doctrine made re-education a matter of pride rather than a failure. The accomplished labor became each person’s contribution to the community when how much money they’d contributed to the initial systems meant little. Machines became nothing more than scrap to scavenge for parts to keep the critical water maintenance functioning, the only system they were able to recover.
The Doctrine proved crucial in those first few years, keeping people driven and rewriting their expectations. Still, there came a tipping point when survival had been achieved, and some lost the taste for hard labor or felt unfairly used. The backbreaking work of digging tunnels to connect the new cities made the conflict grow until a group of laborers rebelled.
Unable to see past his vision, Samuel had the rebels driven out of the city into the very tunnels they’d been struggling to build. The shafters, as they came to be called, created their own, separate cities deep underground, returning to the surface to trade, or steal when necessary, and gaining a reputation as ruffians with no civilized society to call home. Whether the name came from how the tunnels were little more than shafts in areas or because the rebels felt the benefits of their labors had been stolen from them is unknown.
While the above is purely backstory and very little ends up in the novels, it forms the underpinnings of modern Ceric society, both the economic disparity and the contempt for shafters that had grown so strong there had been little protest when shafters were captured and used for lab rats. Only security concerns ended the practice, and not soon enough to protect Trina’s mother.
The Doctrine has taken on the weight of a religion with the rules set down by God as opposed to a simple businessman trying to bring success out of disaster, and technology itself is considered cursed while those who depend on it are tainted. This doesn’t stop the modern polits from interpreting the Doctrine to serve their purposes, however, nor does it prevent the founding of additional colonies with the assistance of The Spacer Guild. It does keep the spacers separate from Ceric society, and shafters have no contact with technology beyond the structures put in place in the shafts before the rebellion. These may never have been functioning on Ceric, but if they were, they have fallen into disrepair.
You might imagine how this history affects Trina in Shafter. After all, she longs for the stars, something only technology can provide, while she’s lived in the shafts her whole life. She’s only seen glimpses of the luxuries to be found in a polit home. If it doesn’t have value she can sell to Fence, it holds little interest, and to recognize value, she has to know what something is first.