Report On The Colonisation of Planet Bartley


This was a simulation run by Ken & Jo Walton over the weekend of Intersection. This report starts with discussion and moves on to specific handouts given out to the participants and information about the biology of the planet.

Running the Simulation


The way we run these things is to have a starting situation presented to the participants as a fait accompli - you are here and for these reasons. Then we split them into groups, or committees, with responsibility for certain things, and give them information and problems. All the background is done in advance, but information is given to the committees only when they start looking for it.

It was very international this time. We had plenty of British people, two Danes, an Irishwoman, several Americans, a Frenchman and one unforgettable Swede. Everyone in it was marvellous and inventive and did things we hadn't thought of. Apart from the acoustic problems it went very well. The acoustic problems were a *real* problem with this - using a mike is fine to address a crowd, but to give privileged information to a group of six that you don't want the rest of the room to hear it is useless. It is also no good for parliamentary meetings with everyone gathered together - it destroys spontaneity of response. Something like this needs an enclosed room with good sound quality.

Unlike every time we've done this before, we ran the two start-up sessions with two separate groups and then brought them together in deliberate conflict. We knew we'd have a number of people who'd done it before - though there were only a handful - and we wanted to surprise them as well as the new people. We also had the problem of there being a lot of people at Worldcon. We decided we could cope with having them in two groups, and deliberately set out for them to have different experiences and identities. We gave them all badges - DTPd pieces of paper with their ship name and logo on, both to help them identify and so we could tell them apart when we brought them together. This worked very well indeed.

Something that had also never happened before was new people turning up every day. This threw us the first time and we took ages trying to sort them out. After that we just sent them where they looked as if they might be useful or thrust them into the two main groups, trusting people to brief them. Some stayed and enjoyed themselves, others left. By the last day we came up with a response to this problem - we decided to recruit them to be the mining expedition we'd planned to control. This worked - but it can only work if we have another force sorted out for them to be, and it only worked because the people involved were brilliant and picked up their position from very slight cueing.

Having David Angus' globe made a big difference to running things - people could point to their geographical locations and it made everything seem very real.

Themes


These simulations always use a lot of SF cliches, but generally work along the lines of "You are abandoned alone on a new planet with just this stuff." This time the theme was "You thought you could colonise this planet in peace, but other people keep turning up". Our two groups set out separately and did not expect each other. A light-sail space-ship, the Linton-Landis, left Earth expecting a 40 year voyage. The laser powering it was switched off part-way because of an economic crisis on Earth, and the first two-hour session for this group was spent aboard, coping with turning the ship into a generation ship. The Setanta was a libertarian FTL ship which left 80 years later but arrived six months before. They were very surprised to see each other. Then in the last session miners from an Earth megacorporation turned up.

What Happened


The Linton-Landis had problems because their hibernation was insufficient to carry them through their longer voyage. They had to cope with having far more people awake on the ship than it was designed for. They had to extend the hydroponics far beyond its capacity. The way we worked out the figures in advance, out of their 10000 colonists, they could arrive with between 1000-7000. They did it with slightly over 6000 - a triumph for social engineering. We wanted them to have to make hard decisions. They held out against "mulching" sleeping colonists (they had to get the biomass from somewhere!) and instead encouraged a suicide cult, a religion based on safe arrival on the planet, and mass off-duty use of hash-brownies for contentment. The religion and suicide-cult were first suggested by a ten-year old boy in the Engineering Department! This, combined with major re- engineering, saw them safely through to arrival - when they saw that the planet was occupied and their equipment, instead of safely orbiting, was in use.

The Setanta assumed that the Linton-Landis were safely dead, and spent their first session dealing with Bartley's peculiar biology. By the time the Linton-Landis arrived, they had burned all life from one island, set up fishing villages on stilts over the water, and 5000 of their 20000 population had gone AWOL to another island. They put a lot of energy into trying to hack into the codes of the weather satellite which was in orbit - we had no intention of giving them it, but let them keep on trying. This became the LL's hole card later.

The second session began with the two parties contacting each other - we started with the LL coming into the system and sending a radio message, and giving everyone time to respond to each other, the time slowly being cut as they got closer and closer to each other. This ended with a "summit meeting" aboard the Setanta, for which the LL crowd brought some hash-brownies. This worked very well, and they came to an amicable agreement to share the planet but settle separate islands.

Over the next session the two groups came to a reasonable accommodation with each other, and discovered that the loopers were intelligent. There was a lot they weren't telling each other - the LL knew where the missing Setanta people were, and the Setanta had a lot of information on the biology that they didn't share.

In the last session a Megacorp Mining Company from Earth arrived. As soon as they got the microphone they announced "Hello. This is the Planetary Exploitation Corporation." Ignoring any claims the colonists might have, they went on to claim the planet, clearing ground of slime with a dirty-nuclear explosion. Making rapid plans, the rest allied against them, and managed to capture their spaceship. At the same time the loopers, enraged, poisoned the Setanta island with a strong form of slime. The simulation ended with the mining corp defeated, only one shuttle left working, and peace being made between humanity and looperkind.

Notes made in Advance


Delta Pavonis - 19 light years from Sol System

(Given to both)

Stellar Information:

Planetary Information:

Linton Landis Separate Equipment Modules

(Given to both)

Modules 1-4 will arrive before the Linton-Landis reaches Delta Pavonis and will be waiting in orbit. Thereafter a module will arrive every two years

A Brief History of Space Colonisation

(Given to the Setanta committee)

Earth: 2095. The new technology of solar-sails and giant pushing lasers has been discovered, and reports are coming in every day about wonderful new Earthlike planets being discovered. It is a time of peace and prosperity - pollution is finally licked. The United Nations, at the end of a century of uneasy balancing acts, manages to unite the whole planet on the platform "A brighter future in the stars!". Earth is overcrowded, and this gives everyone new hope. With a planetary government (Known as "United Earth" or "Mother Earth") for the first time in history, a major effort is put into the Bartley Project - sending colonists and all they need to survive by solar-sail ships to the new worlds. This is a fabulously expensive project, but Earth pulls together and sends off 80 colony outfits to different planets. The frozen stuff (people, animals and embryos) are sent in one ship, equipment etc. is sent separately to save on costs. The plan is that some of the equipment will be waiting when the people arrive, while the rest will arrive year by year as it is needed.

Earth: 2141. The effort of sending the 80 colonies bankrupts the United Earth, which collapses in political and economic chaos. New Corporations emerge to rule some areas of the planet, others become independent libertarian or "Free" areas, refusing all law but their own consensus committee decisions. The space colonies are now seen as a waste of resources.

Earth: 2179. In one of the Free areas a FTL jump drive is developed. The first thing its inventor does is go and visit the colonies - only to find dead bodies circling those worlds where the ships have already arrived - some, naturally are still in transit. The freezing technology has failed, and the colonists have arrived dead. Many libertarians and people seeking freedom off-Earth buy the FTL drive and set off to the colonies, feeling that at last they can have a return on the resources they and their ancestors worked for.

Earth 2190: The Setanta sets out for Delta Pavonis and Planet Bartley, which was one of Earth's original targets and where a bounty of surplus equipment sent out from Earth will have arrived.

LINTON-LANDIS START-UP SPEECH

"Here you are, Citizens, aboard the Linton-Landis, one of Earth's Colony Starships. Using the technology of Lightsails you are making the long voyage to Delta Pavonis, to begin a new life in the stars. You have made it through the rigorous testing program, and you can now sleep for the forty years it will take your ship to reach its destination safe in the knowledge you are equipped to tackle the brave new world you will discover. All Earth's teeming billions would love to be in your place. Earth was united on the slogan "The best and the brightest to the stars". You, and the colonists in the other ships in this program, are the brightest and the best. Good luck, Citizens, Mother Earth is proud of you."

Mother Earth Knows Best: 2 The Colonisation Program

A Close Look At The Linton-Landis

(Given to the Linton-Landis)

Recommended for 8-12 year olds.

The Linton-Landis is one of United Earth's finest Colony ships. She will carry 10,000 colonists to Planet Bartley at Delta Pavonis, to begin a new life for humanity in the stars. Like all the "Forward" class starships she consists of a thousand kilometre light sail and thirty-five decks. She will be powered by laser, but will brake at arrival at Planet Bartley by use of her fusion drive. This fusion drive will then go on to be the power nucleus of the fledgeling colony. Linton-Landis will go, at her cruising speed of .4 c, but it will take almost 22 years for her to reach that speed. Her voyage to Bartley will take 50 years.

The colonists will spend most of that time in cold sleep, but they will each spend one year of the voyage awake helping to crew the ship. This means that at any time a "village" of 200 people will be awake. The ship doesn't need a crew of 200 of course, although the hydroponics need considerable attention. But physiologists and psychologists agree that some time awake on the voyage is more healthy, and a community of 200 is large enough to avoid the problems of close confinement. Problems needing expert help will be rare indeed with a solar-sail ship, and there will always be time to wake an expert crew member in an emergency.

The top three decks of the Linton-Landis are given over to ship controls, the fusion plant, recreational and meeting halls and residential areas. The next two decks are hydroponics. The hydroponics provide oxygen for the ship as well as food for the waking colonists, in ample taste and variety. Beneath that is the gravity deck. This will not be needed during the period of the voyage when the ship is under acceleration, but later this deck will be spun to provide rim gravity for exercise of the waking colonists. The rest of the ship will not have any gravity for the twenty year cruising period. Beneath this begin the cold-sleep decks where those colonists whose turn it is to sleep may dream of the new home they are going to. At the very bottom of the ship, but still within the radiation shielding, lie three floors of seeds and animals - in the same cold sleep as their human partners. These Earth animals and plants are going to colonise in exactly the same way as the humans.

Apart from the fusion plant, which is needed for deceleration on arrival, the Linton-Landis carries little of what the colonists will need. The rest of the equipment has been sent separately, under the "Bartley Plan", first suggested by C.A. Bartley as early as the mid-1990's. Some of if has been sent ahead, more will arrive year by year as the colony needs it. Equipment, not being bound by the same constraints of radiation and gravity as human bodies, can sustain higher accelerations and more time in space.

LINTON-LANDIS PERSONNEL DETAILS

(Given to LL Personnel) Religion Native Tongue

MESSAGE RECEIVED BY LINTON LANDIS WHEN LASER WAS SWITCHED OFF

"To those aboard Earth's Colony Ships. Regret to inform you that due to economic considerations imperative we switch off laser. Sorry, we tried to help, but they are rioting outside, they have stopped believing in you. Good luck - I think you're our last chance now. Goodbye, I can hear them breaking down the doors -

NO CARRIER"

A Potential Problem with Reference to Coldsleeper Biodegradability

(Given to Linton-Landis)

It has come to my attention that the voyage is now expected to last 70 years instead of the projected 45. Are the committee aware that, apart from the 50 Medical Emergency Coldsleepers, all Coldsleepers used for this voyage are made of biodegradable plastics which are intended to biodegrade after 50 years? Pardon me, but this seems to imply that they will not last for the length of the proposed journey.

Coldsleep Technician First Class Juan Thant

SETANTA START-UP SPEECH

Fellow Startravellers!

Here we are, at Delta Pavonis, in orbit around Planet Bartley.

I see gathered here before me a bunch of rugged individualists, pioneers, bold settlers who have cast off the shackles of Earth and chosen to take the great adventure and set out across the depths of space to colonise a new planet. All of us have paid out of our own pockets to be here. The committee organised the effort to buy and launch the Setanta, all of you put your hands in your pockets, selling your houses and your cars and liquidating all your assets to buy a share in the spaceship and in the colony. You have taken the great gamble - to live free, beyond the reach of the governments and megacorporations of Earth. As in the days of covered wagons across the plains of America, you have each packed up your belongings and used your individual weight allowances to choose what you want to bring to our new home. The committee will continue to guide the colony and make decisions where necessary, and we hope that everyone will contribute to the great scientific effort needed to truly understand this new world, but all suggestions of the committee and all sharing of knowledge will be purely voluntary. The committee and scientific research will be funded by public subscription. There was a word on Earth that legitimised the practice of governments stealing money from people's pay - let that word never be uttered on Delta Pavonis.

Humanity's last attempt at colonising this planet failed. The United Earth ship the state sent out here perished on the way. But the equipment is safely arrived in orbit, and more will arrive each year. This is our shared inheritance - our parents and grandparents worked hard to pay to subsidise that wasteful space programme, but now we will see the benefit. That equipment henceforth belongs to all of us. The Utilities representatives will be in change of organising its use, but it will be fair and open organisation.

Fellow Startravellers, welcome to Planet Bartley, welcome to freedom.

GROUPS PAYING TO TRAVEL ABOARD THE SETANTA - PAGE ONE

(Given to Setanta Personnel)

ECOSYSTEM FOR PLANET BARTLEY

Sunday 5th June 1994

SFIK session with Jack Cohen

The planet "selected" was one which a robot probe would accept as suitable for human colonisation. We decided it would have a range of temperatures and climate zones similar to Earth and that the dominant land series of creatures (in the same way that the vertebrates are dominant on Earth) would be evolved from something that came out of the sea in the form of a six armed starfish. This would mean that although some creatures would walk on two legs, they would then have either four arms or two arms and two wings etc. This starfish idea was originally thought of by Dougal Dixon and Jack Cohen and they had made some models of some animals evolved from it. However we did not develop their models but concentrated on other areas. These starfish- descendents would fill every niche but could not be smaller than about 2 inches high because of the jumping mechanism in their legs worked. This would make children's nature study very easy because you would not need a microscope!

Niches for smaller creatures would be filled by jellyfish-like creatures, which also evolved in various ways. There would be an all pervasive thin film of tiny jellyfish which could merge into one and secrete a great dissolving gel to eat dead vegetation, dead animals and also excreta of animals. Most living plants and animals would have chemical cues which warned it off or killed it, but there might be some animals which adapted to use it as a parasite, providing some protection against their predators. There would also be a terrific assortment of worms of all sorts. There would be trees and bushes but no grass analogue, grass could not survive these creatures. In fact anything that kept still or moved too slowly or did not send out the cue for them to go away would be eaten up by them.

We then worked towards building a symbiotic system for three types of creatures, in which it might be possible for all three types to develop intelligence of a sort. The central point of this symbiosis was a tree, a tree which produced fruit containing a central seed or nut capable of growing into another tree. This fruit was produced inside the bark, to protect it from the "jellyfish" and then pushed to the outside when it was ripe. Small looping starfish descendents, (looping along like caterpillars on two of their arms, with four small arms for clutching and carrying), would then eat the fruit and inject their egg into the seed. They would then bury the seed in the burrow of a large, long-lived worm, where it would in time develop into a baby looper which ate the nut and continued the cycle. They would also hide nuts which do not contain an egg, hence spreading the trees.

Over time, these loopers would begin to peel away the bark from almost ripe fruit. This would be an advantage to the tree, which is not losing as much bark as before. It would also tend to fall in squares or lumps rather than as strips, and might therefore be more use to the worms. The worms eat the jellyfish in vast quantities. They make burrows to live in and protect the entrance with these squares of bark, when they can get them. Eventually the jellyfish get through the bark, of course, but it lasts for a while before the worm needs more. The worms live in their burrows, using the bark as both trapdoor and bait for their prey. They use the nut and the baby looper as protection against their predators.

So the looper is getting the following advantages from the symbiosis: food (the fruit) and food for the next generation (the nut), protection for the next generation (the burrow). It is getting impetus to develop intelligence because huge worms will evolve whose mouths look just like burrows, and also little creatures which will burrow under the bark waiting for loopers to come and peel off the bark - and then eat them. The smarter it is and the better it is able to distinguish the real fruit and burrows from the deceptive ones then the better it will survive and pass on its genes. There may be species of loopers where both sexes climb the trees and compete for the fruit, or where the male offers the nut to the waiting female. There may be some where only the female climbs and the male defends a territory.

The tree is getting the following advantages: the fruit is taken at the right point, and nuts are spread and planted. It is losing less bark than if it had to push the fruit right out. The tree may develop chemical cues to only open up to the "right" species of loopers, the smarter ones which will spread the nuts better. It doesn't have much impetus to intelligence as things stand.

The worm is getting the following advantages: squares of bark to protect/bait it's tunnel; a nut and a baby looper to protect it from its predators (not many creatures will eat both worms and baby loopers). It is also getting, if all goes well, a tree growing out of its burrow, which is an advantage because the worm only nests very occasionally, and then in the top of a tree. If it has its own tree it can crawl up the trunk, find a place where the bark has been cut, produce its babies in safety and sunlight, die, let the babies eat it and then they can slither down the trunk to eat jellyfish, build tunnels and wait for nuts.

The intention was that all three parts of this symbiosis would develop different kinds of intelligence and end up as a kind of tripartite intelligence, heart and mind and soul.

Watch out for a workshop colonising this planet at Intersection, Worldcon in Glasgow '95. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Note on Biology

We didn't give out this information in this form, but rather let them discover everything piecemeal. The acidic slime jellyfish was a real problem for them, as it was everywhere and slowly ate away anything organic. We also had pencil sketches of a looper drawn by Ken - but we can't reproduce it in ascii, unfortunately. The reports below are the initial reports they had on investigating.

Report of First Exploration

Once off the burned area there appears to be a layer of acidic slime all over everything. Our boots suffered some damage from contact with it. The dominant flora are huge trees, with smaller bushes also found. Many areas are exclusively populated by the trees with a solid canopy and bare soil below them. Other areas have many bushes and trees dotted about. The fauna all seem to be have six arms. We have seen some leaping like mechanical toys, and some the size of large dogs looping their way along like caterpillars.

Report on Animal Life

The dominant land-based life forms are based on a six-armed pattern.

The majority of land organisms have two "legs" and four "arms", and move in a looping fashion (similar to a caterpillar) using their "arms" for manipulation of their food. These have been called "loopers", and vary in size from small creatures a couple of inches long, to large creatures the size of an elephant.

The other six-limbed creatures (which are less frequent) have four "legs" and two "arms" (the arms being at front and rear). They generally move with a strange leaping motion, and have been called leapers. The smallest of these are about two inches long, due to their leaping mechanism.

Worms of various sizes form an important part of the ecosystem, being very common in the soil. Many of these are immune to the acid secretions produced by the slime, and the slime forms a major part of their diet.

All the animal life so far studied constantly exudes an alkaline sweat, which serves to warn off the Slime (see separate report).

Report on the Slime

The slime is made up of millions of organisms about the size of a jelly-bean. They are never found in individual state, and they are capable of joining together without a visible join into a blanket of slime. This is the all-pervasive film of slime which can be found everywhere, except in the ashy recently-burned areas. They move within the earth, leaching minerals from it. They are eaten by some varieties of worms that have been identified. They eat dead plants and animals and the excreta of animals. Local animals and plants must have some protection against them - maybe we should investigate this? - or there would be none left.

In laboratory conditions it is possible to study them individually. Their underside is all stomach, which secretes a cocktail of acidic digestive juices - some kinds of slime have stronger acid than others. They immediately begin to dissolve anything organic with which they come into contact.

There are a number of other larger slime-like organisms occupying other niches in the ecology, but so far none have been identified that are larger than 40 or 50 millimetres long.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

This simulation would not have been possible without the following people, who are acknowledged in various ways by the traditional method of expeditions of naming things after your benefactors. The Bartley Plan - you don't have to send all your stuff with fragile people, you would do better to send it separately - was proposed by C.A. Bartley on r.a.sf.w. Extreme help with how lightsails and the Linton-Landis could work came from Geoffrey Landis, Steve Linton, and Alan Brannings - whose nodename is Setanta. The biology was done with the help of Jack Cohen - it would have been impossible without his knowledge and imagination. David Angus kindly lent us a beautifully sculpted globe of an alien planet of his own design. We should also like to thank all the participants, for putting so much effort in. Last but not least, thanks to John Bray for asking us to do this simulation at Intersection and making it possible for us to be there.

Ken & Jo Walton