COMMANDER COMET'S UNIVERSE
The Commander Comet stories are set in the 21st Century, say 2052, but it is the 21st Century as seen from 1950 rather than the one we are actually experiencing. Here's the timeline:
1959 First spaceship (atomic powered) travels from the Earth to the Moon (as in Heinlein's Destination Moon) 1960 Lunar base established 1962 First space station built in orbit around Earth 1966 Orbital missile platforms give U.S. effective control of Earth. Pax Americana is established. 1970 Soviet Union collapses. United Nations, under leadership of U.S., becomes effective world government. A long period of unrest begins, with many nationalists, ethnic or religious factions practicing guerrilla warfare and/or terrorism against their perceived enemies. 1972 First expedition leaves for Mars. Discovers ancient race of Martians, highly advanced but in decline for millennia. Martian population is very small and large areas of the planet are deserted. Martians permit settlers from Earth in their unoccupied territories. The human settlers quickly develop a special bond with the ancient Martians and soon identify themselves as Martians rather than Earthmen. The original Martians are rarely seen outside their few ancient cities, but somehow are felt as a powerful presence in the running of the planet. (Think of Heinlein's Red Planet) 1973 Expedition to Venus finds world circling jungles, swamps and shallow seas beneath constant cloud cover. Reptiloid life forms dominate, including primitive but intelligent Lizardmen. Cooler polar regions and high plateaus are home to mammalian life, including blue skinned humanoids. Blue Venusians' technology is at the early steam age, but they learn quickly and adapt to Earth technology easily. 1974-2020 Scientific and technological progress eliminates poverty and war on Earth and allows rapid expansion into the Solar System. Settlement of the Asteroid Belt, the Twilight Zone of Mercury, the moons of the outer planets and rogue planetoids produces countless small governments and independent worlds. Many of those leaving are the nationalists, ethnic or religious factions who had been using guerrilla warfare and/or terrorism in attempts to impose their particular views on the rest of humanity. When the rest of humanity declined in favor of individual liberty and peace, they fled into space to establish their own societies. All start out human, but mutation adapts some populations to the particular environments of their worlds. These are mostly minor. 2021 Earth, Mars and Venus form the Tri-Planetary League. Earth is the primary leader in the union, with Mars acting as a senior but mostly inactive member, and Venus as a junior member, since it is still behind Earth in both technology and population. The UN Spaceforce is reconstituted as the Rocket Patrol. 2033 The Tri-Planetary League becomes the Solar League when Mercury and an independent Luna are admitted as members. Peace, prosperity and universal education reduces the birth rate on Earth to below replacement level. That, combined with emigration, reduces the population to a level that allows the environment to recover. Vast areas of Earth are thinly populated and revert to wild state. The total population (Human, Martian and Venusian) of the Solar System stabilizes at approximately 10 billion (low birthrate but increased life span), but it is spread over so many worlds that overcrowding is no longer a concern. 2034-52 Unlimited atomic power and robotic factories make most worlds self-sufficient as far as the basics of life are concerned. Interplanetary trade is mostly tourists and specialty goods, but there is a fair amount of that -- enough to tempt pirates and warlords. Many of the non-League worlds are aggressive and greedy to expand their territory. This is especially true of the People's Republic of Ganymede. There is still work for the Rocket Patrol. Interstellar travel is not yet possible, but the discovery of an FTL drive could be made at any time. The invention of the ansible, a method of instantaneous communication at any distance, has laid the theoretical groundwork. And who knows when aliens from beyond the Solar System might arrive?
Technology is advanced, but limited to that which was standard sci-fi hardware in the '50s. Weapons consist of various kinds of "ray" guns, missiles and atomic bombs. Tractor and pressor beams are in use, as are force fields. Artificial and anti-gravity is possible. Metal alloys of advanced composition provide strength/weight ratios better than steel or anything currently known. Communication is by two-way television, the "televisor". Devices like the "gyrotron" perform necessary functions in unexplained ways, but their names suggest that they are futuristic developments of things we know, like the gyroscope. All of these need to be limited in capabilities to keep the stories manageable. If the technology becomes too powerful, it makes it too easy for the characters to accomplish anything, or if both sides are equipped with super-powerful technology the story becomes a battle of cosmic proportions and removes the human element.
Power is supplied by atomic energy. Whether this is fission, fusion or matter-antimatter reactions is not specified. Atomic energy behaves as it did in '50s sci-fi movies. The power it provides is virtually unlimited, fuel is never a concern and radiation has few harmful effects - except for occasionally melting dinosaurs out of icebergs or producing giant, mutated insects.
The most noticeable difference in technology will be in the area of computers. Few people in the 1950's, including science fiction writers, foresaw the rapid development of computer technology and the impact it would have on society. In the universe of Commander Comet, computers are still large, cumbersome devices using banks of vacuum tubes to perform calculations. Curiously, these coexist with humanoid robots that are not sentient but fairly autonomous. This is a paradox we do not bother to explain. Everyday calculations are done with a sliderule (though probably a circular rule, since they seemed cooler than the standard straight sliderule).
Spaceships, of course, are long and sleek rockets, streamlined like the ship in Destination Moon, that take-off and land vertically. They are atomic powered and seem to have an unlimited supply of reaction mass (I think they may use magnetic fields to gather the particles of the solar wind, sort of like a Bussard ramjet, but the exact functioning is not important). However, the supply may become limited whenever it is useful as a plot device. Spaceships accelerate constantly at 1 G, which means travel times between planets is very short. Earth to Mars is a trip of a few days. Even the outer moons can be reached in weeks.
THE ROCKET PATROL
The Solar League Rocket Patrol is a military organization whose purpose is to maintain order in the League, patrol the space lanes, and assist travelers in space. It is more like the Coast Guard than the Navy. Though well armed and disciplined, it is not organized or equipped to fight a major war. Fortunately, that is not an issue since there are no military forces in the Solar System more powerful than the Patrol. It is often necessary for the Patrol to combat the aggressive powers of the outer planets, and to fight pirates and warlords. It is perfectly capable of doing so. Individually, its ships are the most powerful in the System. But they are not numerous and sometimes face superior numbers of opponents. The capable, brave and disciplined Patrolmen can be counted on to win out in the end.
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All text, illustrations, photographs and design are © 2001-2002 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.