Most colonies are pretty general purpose. They are a home to the settlers, but other than that they are diversified.

But sometimes they specialize in a particular area, like a farming planet providing produce to neighboring industrialized worlds that do not have enough arable land for food but have plenty of interstellar trade to buy. They are still diversified, but one purpose is emphasized.

And in science fiction, there are some colonies who turn it up to 11 and can only do one function. The classic example is a planetary Penal colony.

Remember in The Stars, Like Dust colonized planets go through a economic cycle of general roles:

  • Step 1 - Subsistence Agricultural/Herding: newly colonized worlds focus on subsistence farming, all their energies expended in trying to feed itself.

  • Step 2 - Developing: the world starts exporting. It mines crude ore and exports it along with agricultural surplus. In exchange it imports luxuries and machinery.

  • Step 3 - Industrializing: the world starts building an industrial infrastructure as population grows and foreign investments increase. Local agriculture shrinks as food imports grow.

  • Step 4 - Mechanized: The world is fully industrializd. It exports machinery, invests in other industrializing worlds, and imports most of its food.

Just try to avoid the Planet of Hats syndrome and one-product planets. Remember that each planet is a world, as big and diverse and old and mysterious as ever Terra was.

Obviously the simplist way to avoid the trope is to use two or more of these types on a given planet.

Now, if a planet is at the Step 2 "Developing" stage, if they want to accelerate their transition to Step 3 they cannot just do the same old tired strategy. Instead of exporting just crude ore and agricultural surplus they would be better off if they could supplement this with some unique planet product that they have a monopoly on. Historically, the British colonies in North America did this with Beaver Pelts. The jump-start only lasted a limited time, but in this case "a limited time" was "three-hundred freaking years." Since a colonized world is a world, full of hundreds of biomes, alien animals and plants, exotic gemstones, etc. there certainly is something worthwhile. You just have to look hard enough. Shrewd colonies would subsidize researchers and explorers to go looking for such things.


      In the pale air, a thousand hot-air balloons hovered in formation.

     Falcon, once more at his control station in the Ra with Trayne at his side, was awed despite his own previous jaunts into Jupiter. Each of those tremendous envelopes, around two hundred metres in diameter, was emblazoned with the sigil of the World Government, an Earth cradled in human hands—a design, Falcon knew and few others probably remembered, based on the mission patch of the Apollo-Icarus 6 spacecraft—and boldly marked with an identification number. And beneath each golden balloon was a knot of equipment, a suspended factory that Falcon knew must be an atmospheric processing plant, with a dock for small, needle-shaped craft, evidently orbital shuttles, freighters. Even as Falcon watched, one craft sparked rocket fire and soared away from its balloon, out of the farm and up into the higher atmosphere, heading for orbit and a rendezvous with an interplanetary tanker, into which it would offload its precious cargo of fusion fuel for delivery to Earth and the colony worlds.

     The World Government Space Development Secretariat had supplied Falcon with more information than he needed on this, its grandest project: its helium-3 extraction operation, dozens of plants like this established deep in the clouds of Jupiter. Now Trayne consulted a display, bending forward stiffly in his exposit. “So this is the North Temperate Band Atmospheric Processing Station Number Four—NTB-4. The station’s a long way from the lower-latitude zones where the native biota tends to congregate.”
     “There are a thousand aerostat plants in this one station alone, with ninety-eight percent fully operational at present. It seems there are frequent breakdowns.”
     “Hence the need for a crewed presence,” Falcon muttered.
     Trayne said dryly, “If you count Machines (Artificial Intelligence) as crew, yes. There are said to be ten Machines for each Martian working at this facility. Each plant processes three thousand cubic metres of Jovian atmosphere per second, in order to extract one gram of the isotope helium-3 …”
     It sounded so little, just the merest trace to be extracted from Jupiter’s enormous reservoir of air. But that trace was enough to sustain a mighty interplanetary civilisation. And, economically, it was an effective, indeed a highly profitable operation.

     The Martians were paid either in credit or in trade goods—oil or other complex organics—or sometimes in high-tech gear they could not yet manufacture themselves. It had always been that way, Falcon thought sourly. An empire bought bulk raw materials from its colonies in exchange for complex products from the centre, just as the Romans had traded with the provincial British, and the British in turn had traded with the colonial Americans. The Machines, meanwhile, had been rewarded with access to a few inner-system asteroids rich with the metals they craved.

     But, Falcon knew, a dependence on this collection strategy made Earth vulnerable too. Fallbacks were being explored, he had heard; since Geoff Webster’s day Falcon had maintained contacts in the World Council and other high echelons of the WG, so he knew that Space Development was already trying to establish similar atmospheric-mining operations in the clouds of Saturn.

From THE MEDUSA CHRONICLES by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds (2016)

In the Standard Sci Fi Setting, trade is common between star systems. Sometimes a planet becomes so specialized that it focuses on a certain commodity or service. Maybe it's building weapons or providing doctors. Whatever it is, the world trades this resource with other planets, becoming renowned for the export.

This trope isn't about a single Planetville; It focuses on the big picture on how individual worlds interact with each other. Subtrope of Planet of Hats, though any location (an asteroid, small moon, space colony) can serve as this. Compare/Contrast Single-Biome Planet.

Most SF tales assume Casual Interstellar Travel; it's possible for Slower Than Light ships to transport commodities, but the items being traded would have to be of extreme value to justify the high cost and long wait. It also often crops up if the setting is confined to a single solar system, which is slightly easier to justify as it only requires somewhat Casual Interplanetary Travel.

Well done versions of the trope will explain that a planet is widely known for its major export, while its other industries are neither profitable nor popular. It could also be used for comedic effect, by exaggerating it to the point of absurdity.

Economics aside, a planet has other values: political, cultural, religious, and military. The importance of the export directly influences the importance of the planet. For example, the Planet of Phlebotinum would have a lot of power and an armada protecting it. However, the Planet of Toasters would lack any economic influence and maybe warrants a corvette for protection. Meanwhile, the Planet of Judges, Robes, and Powdered Wigs would have political clout, but lack economic influence. The amount of protection depends on how much influence they have with their neighbors.

May correlate with Multipurpose Monocultured Crop, if the One Product is farmed instead of manufactured.




Political center of an interstellar government and a place of intrigue. The apex of culture and power, but also of decadence and corruption. Highly valued, expect the world to be well protected...unless no ships are available for whatever reason. Capitals of various space Empires tend to be highly urbanized. Also the center of the vast bureaucracies governing the stars.
(see below)


Offers scientific curiosities and unusual matter (monopoles, antimatter, mini black holes), or a site of strange astronomical happenings (such as wormholes or black holes). If extra-terrestrial life is rare, then worlds with alien biospheres would be of interest. Scientists and corporations would love samples of strange matter, or get a chance to observe such strange phenomenon.


Center of mass production. Presented as industrial nightmares, with polluted skies and large crowded cities. Its products can include technology, but it's often less than state-of-the-art. Focused more on production/engineering rather than research. Often ruled by tyrants or a corporatocracy.
(see below)


Grows crops and raises animals. There are typically two types:
  1. Worlds that only produce foodstuffs to feed places that can't produce enough subsistence, such as urbanized worlds or space stations. Not much value, except if the importer is totally dependent on them. Then the planet becomes an Achilles' Heel. Often rural in nature, but hydroponic bays and protein vats are not unheard of. Can be large tracts of cultivated land, or water farms on oceanic worlds.
    (see below)
  2. Planets which harvest an important crop that has unique attributes. Such flora or fauna could be used for medicinal uses, especially if it's a drug. Then it would be more profitable than a world that exports beef. Such farms tend to be jungle or death worlds.
    (see below)

Such worlds are usually peaceful, but could become unstable if the political situation changes. The local folk are religiously devout, originally settling such worlds to seek ascetic lives. The home of many a young adventurer and military / mercenary recruit - life on a farm world lacks excitement, and encourages wanderlust. Commonly metal poor, justifying why they don't have much industry.


Location of dangerous nature that no one visits. Could be a colony destroyed by plague or infested by alien locusts. Whatever the reason, the planet is no longer of any value, covered in ruins or wasteland. Only adventurers would willingly travel to these worlds.
(see Orbital Defense: Interdiction Platform)


Point or area where a wormhole/stargate/minimum hyperlimit exist that facilitates FTL transport. Vital for rapid transport (unless you want to slog decades across space), and in the cases of a Portal Network, a chokepoint.


Exports Mercenaries, coming in two varieties:
  1. Super Soldiers, often living in a military culture and/or harsh environment to develop their skills.
  2. Cannon Fodder, hired out only because the planet has nothing else to sell.

Along with these, various settings have specialized forces: armour warfare, Special Ops, sapping, urban warfare, etc. Life on these worlds tend to be tough, and often produces prideful fighters. Could be ruled under the military or an authoritarian society. Oddly enough in fiction, there are plenty of Libertarian cultures that don't mind setting up such worlds.


Harvests natural resources, often rare metals, minerals, or gases needed for industry.

Influence of a Mining world is dependent on what it gathers. A world mining Tin isn't going to be much value. However, a planet collecting Helium-3 (which can be used for fusion reactors) are going to be richer and better protected. Such places can range from terrestrial planets to asteroids to gas giants.

As business concerns, they're run by whoever owns the mines. Governance varies, but life tends to be hard and people poor. Another good source for military recruits - many sign up to avoid the harsh environment or receive better pay.

New World

Planet that is newly discovered and open for grabs. Expect new settlers or folks fighting over the planet. Such worlds would have little to export and much to import, due to a lack of infrastructure. If settled, frontier towns are likely. Local government is minimal at best. Because of the lack of infrastructure, these new colonies tend to be easily conquered.


Dumping grounds for "discontents". Expect these worlds to be unpleasant at the very least. Can range from orderly communities to work camps to lawless wastelands. If these worlds export anything, it's products of slave labor. If governed, it would be by the prison administration (authoritarian by necessity).
(see below)


Places for tourists to visit and relax, often paradise worlds or something akin to Las Vegas in space. Mostly, it is a place for the protagonists to relax, especially if there's beaches. Not likely to be a major target, unless it's a strategic location or attacked for symbolic reasons.
(see below)


Known for its research and development, and its state-of-the-art technology. The natives value logic and ruled by technocrats. Home to a lot of cool gadgets, new technology, and various scientists (mad or otherwise).


Instead of production, these worlds focus on training and providing professionals. Common in SF are:
  1. Medical: Devoted to healing others in body and mind. Includes Doctors and Psychologists. (see Colony Service: Medical)
  2. Education: Known for their universities and training centers. (see Colony Service: Schools)
  3. Financial: People who work with money, including loaning, banking, trading, escrow agencies, etc. Often ruled by Merchant Princes.
  4. Military Support: The supreme headquarters of the armed forces, academy for the fleet's officers, and boot camp for the army's troopers.
Other services can include lawyers, intelligence agents, engineers, beauticians, etc. May also produce items of great importance to these services, such as instruments if the planet is known for its musicians.


Places to build spacecraft. Since ships are vital to an interstellar empire, the yards are vital industries and military assets. Often military/government operated.
(see Starship Ownership: Ship Builders)


Planet notable for its black market products and services. With enough money, one can hire thieves, smugglers, and assassins. Otherwise, one can purchase slaves, illegal technology, and other contraband. The items provided by an Underworld need not be illegal, but merely taboo. Such locations are commonly seedy and ruled by those in the shadows.
(see Pirate Haven)


Big Dumb Object

Artifact of Precursors, often a massive construct such as a Dyson Sphere or ringworld. Or recently made by a highly advanced civilization. Can be visited by intrepid explorers and researchers to produce Lost Technology. There is a disturbing trend for BDO's to be abandoned, acting as prisons for alien viruses, which are accidentally released by said explorers.
(see Fabulous Locations: Megastructures)


Structure that houses a huge database of the knowledge of an entire civilization. Many researchers visit here to learn from the accumulated knowledge. Often left behind by Precursors, though such projects are undertaken by more recent societies as a prestigious project. Expect it to be very quiet and vast, and attracts seekers of truth.
(see Telecommunication: Cosmic Library and Telecommunications: Museums)

Phlebotinum Monopoly

When there's only one source of Immortality Drugs, Dilithium Crystals or Spice, and everybody needs it. Whoever controls this world can control the galaxy. Anticipate this world to warrant fleets or warships and armies to protect it, and many fights over it.
(see below)


Where a Weapon of Really Mass Destruction is housed. Whoever controls the superweapon can decide the fate of the galaxy. In Space Opera, this is the site of a climactic battle.


In addition to the above types, there are several attributes that can affect the value of a world. Some may overlap or change over time, depending on the current situation.


Worlds or stations inhabited by Intelligent Extra-terrestrials. An important term for emerging space societies or where life is rare. Trade and travel depends on the temperament on the aliens.


Prohibited from trade, frequently with an enemy fleet enforcing the embargo. Smugglers and rebels would try to get pass the blockade for various reasons. Such embargoes continue until the political situation changes.
(see Interstellar trade: Military Blockade)


Trade hub, either acting as a key location on Hyperspace Lanes or housing the headquarters of one or more major corporations. Mercenaries and private security forces will maintain order. The destination of many Intrepid Merchants, but possibly plagued by piracy.
(see Interstellar Trade: Transport Nexus)

Cultural Hub

Major center of arts and learning, valued for its impact on society. Often focused on entertainment or academics, these tend to be ruled by open and free societies. The destination and home of artists, musicians, students, writers, and and other creative folks. Tourists are also common, which also means Street Performers are near.


Technology or infrastructure is lagging. Part of the Interstellar culture and trade, but often less advanced than the major powers. Except these planets to be impoverished, often new colonies or exploited conquests. Between the major powers, the Developing worlds would be caught between political struggles.


Has seen better days, and is now waning. They may have been over exploited and depleted of primary resources or undergoing a natural calamity. To escape their fate, refugees will flee to the stars. These planets tend to collect garbage, both physical artifacts and the seedier elements of society. If anything of worth remains, it's related to the planet's primary export.


Can support human life, or whatever species the protagonists are. Can range from Edens to barely habitable Death Worlds. In a setting were most planets are dead or uninhabitable (say Real Life), a planet with a breathable atmosphere is better than nothing.
(see Planet Colony: Habitable Planet)


Were a species originated from. A lot of historical and religious importance, because of its mystique of being where a species is born. The dominant species of an Empire will have their homeworld as a Primary Capital, although there are exceptions. The destruction of a Homeworld is often a major mistake for space tyrants: it not only crosses the line, but ensures that a native of that world would eventually destroy said tyrant.


Location of past importance, such as a battle or discovery. Often archaeological sites or monuments are located here. Because of this status, these places are seen as important symbols. For example: a dead moon may have little or no value, but military commanders may make choose to fight there since it was the site of a previous victory.

Holy Center

Place of major importance to a religion, with many places of worship and pilgrims. If the religion is benign, attacking this center is a sign that you're an evil jackass. More fanatical sects would protect these centers. May be governed by a Theocracy, though it depends on the faith.


Location is no longer accessible or has disappeared. This could be due to a variety of reasons: The local Gate has been destroyed, the wormhole that connected the location is now unstable, or something happened to the settlers. In either case, no one knows were it is and may become myth. Explorers may find these places again.
(see below)


Location that akes no sides in a conflict, either forbidding sides from entering with force or acting as a third-party mediator. Generally worlds or stations that have little interest in fighting, but plenty of services to offer (shipyards, underworlds, pleasure planets, etc.). Often well prepared to make sure they maintain their neutrality.


Little or no high technology or advancements. Any inhabitants are either aliens developing civilization or the remnants of a failed colony, often savage. Expect wilderness and perhaps alien ruins. Any interest to these worlds are either for Science or Strategic. Travel to such worlds may be restricted, as to avoid exploitation or culture shock.


Travel to and from location restricted due to a medical emergency. A temporary measure until a cure can be found for the ailment, if at all. Except for medical craft and warships, no sane being would risk going lest they too fall victim. If the plague is left unchecked, the quarantined world may become permanently Forbidden. If it gets really bad, the planet may be sterilized.
(see Colony Service: Quarantine)


Location makes this world a vital military target. Expect military fleets and fortresses here. With changes in warfare, space travel, and the political environment, a location could cease being a military prize.
(see Strategy & Tactics: Strategic Location)


The local political situation is bad, and society is barely holding together. Order can fall apart at a moment's notice. Merchants and travelers will avoid going there if they can help it. It results in less trade, and could lose its status as a trade or culture hub. If it's really bad, it may become a War zone or worse.


Location is the center of an armed conflict, with military ships and troops fighting each other. Mercenaries and arms dealers would be attracted to this place. Lost of life and destruction of infrastructure will negatively impact its value. Refugees from this world would be common. If this status lasts long enough, a planet may become Dying as well.

(ed note: see TV Trope page for list of examples)

Agriculture World

Farm Planets grow food, because people have to eat.

An initial settlement will be a "subsistence world", where the impoverished settlers work hard to keep themselves fed.

Once they have advanced to having surplus crops, they can think about selling it to off-planet customers. Standard caveats apply: off-planet trading has to be possible and cheap enough to allow a profit. If there are no such things as FTL starships, the customers will probably be asteroid miners or other group in the same solar system. With FTL customers can be anywhere in the galaxy.

The standard trope is as a world becomes more industrialized and urbanized, its native agricultural sector shrinks and the world becomes more reliant on food imported from farm planets. Sometimes such planets are called "breadbaskets", "rice bowls", or other name based on a food staple.

A variant is when the planet has an agricultural product which is not food, but is [a] valuable and [b] does not grow on other planets for some odd reason. An example is the wonder fabric fiber "Kyrt" from Asimov's The Currents of Space. Another is the tree moss pseudofistus thalopsis on Plattner’s World featured in David Drake's Paying the Piper. From it can be extracted the raw ingredient for Thalderol, an anti-aging drug.


Grows crops and raises animals. There are typically two types:
  1. Worlds that only produce foodstuffs to feed places that can't produce enough subsistence, such as urbanized worlds or space stations. Not much value, except if the importer is totally dependent on them. Then the planet becomes an Achilles' Heel. Often rural in nature, but hydroponic bays and protein vats are not unheard of. Can be large tracts of cultivated land, or water farms on oceanic worlds.
  2. see below

Such worlds are usually peaceful, but could become unstable if the political situation changes. The local folk are religiously devout, originally settling such worlds to seek ascetic lives. The home of many a young adventurer and military / mercenary recruit - life on a farm world lacks excitement, and encourages wanderlust. Commonly metal poor, justifying why they don't have much industry.


With vast galactic empires, it doesn't seem all that likely that every world would be like Earth, which can and does produce enough food in its own right for its entire population. Some planets, after enough Blade Runner-esque urban decay and Hive World-esque urbanization, end up becoming little more than immense planet-spanning complexes which, without the necessary Applied Phlebotinum or artificial gardens, would simply not provide enough food to keep their inhabitants from dying of thirst and hunger.

The solution is to have a planet dedicated to the production of food and other naturally-occurring commodities, a purely agricultural world. Or, as the Trope Namer Warhammer 40,000 kindly shortened it, Agri World. An Agri World can be a Single-Biome Planet, but in some cases it seems more likely that the author just described the place as a food production planet and Planet Ville is in effect.

Sub-Trope of One-Product Planet. Compare Industrial World.

(ed note: see TV Trope page for list of examples)


      Pip scored a can of machine parts for Bar None (i.e., a contract for their cargo ship to haul a shipment of machine parts to the Bar None space station) and we pulled out of Mel’s after giving the crew a full four-day liberty rotation. Pip and I had partaken of a few rounds of beef and brew but as soon as he got the can, he seemed anxious to get underway.
     I looked Bar None up in the travel guide and learned why.
     “A ranch in space?” I asked.
     He started to put his feet on my desk but the sour look I shot him dissuaded him and he merely crossed his legs at the knee. “A ranch in space,” he said. “And a meat processing plant. And one of the best hydroponic operations going. If you want good, fresh food outside of a planetary gravity well, Bar None is the place.” (it can be cheaper to grow food for sale in orbit than to grow it on a planet and haul it up the gravity well. But it takes planning)
     “Doesn’t it take a lot of space for cattle?”
     “And a lot of feed,” he said. “That’s why they started the hydroponic operation, I think. I can’t imagine what it must have cost to ship grain out there to feed the beef. Once they mastered that, it was easy to expand it to include more fresh produce. Wait till you taste their watermelon.”
     “What’s with the machine parts?” I asked.
     “Stations run on machinery. Same as ships.” He shrugged.
     “And we’re going to Bar None because it’s the biggest food production operation in the Western Annex?” (civilized space)
     He shook his head. “Biggest in Toe-Hold space (frontier space). When you have a whole planet, like St. Cloud or Umber (in Annex space), you can produce a lot more food (Toe-Hold space does not have entire planets full of settlers. Annex space does). Enough food that economies of scale make it possible to lift it out of the gravity well for shipment. Not many places out here (Toe-Hold space) have that kind of real estate to exploit, let alone the ecological infrastructure to farm or fish.”
     “So if I were looking to feed a whole new station, I’d probably arrange with Bar None?”
     He smiled. “I’m trying to think of all the things an outfit like this would need to support itself in Toe-Hold space.”
     “Have you missed any?” He paused and started counting off on his fingers. “Food, water, environment, raw materials, personnel.” He looked up at me. “What am I missing?”

From TO FIRE CALLED by Nathan Lowell (2017)

TRANTOR-...At the beginning of the thirteenth millennium, this tendency reached its climax. As the center of the Imperial Government for unbroken hundreds of generations and located, as it was, toward the central regions of the Galaxy among the most densely populated and industrially advanced worlds of the system, it could scarcely help being the densest and richest clot of humanity the Race had ever seen.

Its urbanization, progressing steadily, had finally reached the ultimate. All the land surface of Trantor, 75,000,000 square miles in extent, was a single city. The population, at its height, was well in excess of forty billions. This enormous population was devoted almost entirely to the administrative necessities of Empire, and found themselves all too few for the complications of the task. (It is to be remembered that the impossibility of proper administration of the Galactic Empire under the uninspired leadership of the later Emperors was a considerable factor in the Fall.) Daily, fleets of ships in the tens of thousands brought the produce of twenty agricultural worlds to the dinner tables of Trantor....

Its dependence upon the outer worlds for food and, indeed, for all necessities of life, made Trantor increasingly vulnerable to conquest by siege. In the last millennium of the Empire, the monotonously numerous revolts made Emperor after Emperor conscious of this, and Imperial policy became little more than the protection of Trantor's delicate jugular vein....

From FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov (1951)

(ed note: Mundito Rosinante is one of the many space colonies located in the solar system's asteroid belt. Terra has recently suffered a stock market crash, and the company who was building Rosinante went bankrupt. Rosinante has to quickly come up with its own business plan to generate capital, with which to service its many debts.)

      "Our plan for Mundito Rosinante,” said (artificial intelligence Corporate) Skaskash finally (currently manifesting on the computer monitor as Kermit the Frog), “is basically to mine the carbonaceous chondrite asteroid Rosinante for carbon, and to sell that carbon in the value-added form of rubber, ginseng, paper, sugar, and the like." (i.e., use the carbon to grow cash crops)
     "What's ginseng,” asked Dombrock, “and why did we get so much of it?"
     Kermit disappeared, and was replaced by a picture of a ginseng plant. “This is ginseng,” said the frog voice. “It grows wild in oak forests, can be cultivated, and is highly prized in the Orient as a delicious herb tea and a rejuvenant. Mitsui had a ginseng plantation on one of their five munditos, but the terran ginseng farmers were able to get import duties imposed on space-grown ginseng, so (former corporate owner) Mitsui sent the plantation to Rosinante."
     "It was worthless, right?” asked Brogan.
     "Ginseng is a highly desirable but presently unmarketable commodity,” replied Skaskash.
     "We intend to set up purlin four as a mixed deciduous forest and ginseng plantation,” Cantrell said. “We also have some truffle cultivar which we might be able to harvest eventually."

From THE REVOLUTION FROM ROSINANTE by Alexis Gilliand (1980)

(ed note: Clarke County is an L5 space colony)

Torus S-16 was sometimes known as the Bamboo Farm. Unlike the other agricultural tori in the colony, which specialized in either food crops or algae production and thus were lined with long rows of hydroponics tanks, the Bamboo Farm resembled the Okefenokee Swamp. Instead of tanks, the upward-curving floor of Torus 16 was covered with vast, shallow pools of water and Mississippi Delta mud, imported at great cost from Earth. From this artificial swamp grew tall, dense glades of Arundinaria Japonica: Japanese bamboo.

The reason for bamboo cultivation in Clarke County were simple and practical. it was necessary to maintain an inexpensive, renewable supply of building material for structures within the colony; new walls were always being built, new homes and offices were always being planned. Yet it was prohibitively expensive to import huge amounts of wood from Earth, and even genetically tailored species of timber took much too long to grow in the colony, although a relative handful of decorative trees had been transplanted and grown in the biosphere and habitation tori. While lunar concrete was cheap and available resource—most of the larger structures, like the LaGrange Hotel, Bird Stadium, and the campus buildings of the International Space University were built with mooncrete—something less utilitarian than mooncrete was desired for houses, shops, and other small buildings.

The New Ark came up with bamboo as the perfect substitute. On Earth, the American strain of Japanese bamboo grew to heights of ten feet; in the lesser gravity of the space colony the reeds often topped twenty feet. Bamboo grows much faster than trees, and as a cultivated crop, requires less management. Since buildings in Clarke County were not subject to strong winds or extremes of temperature and only occasional rainfall, lightweight bamboo walls were more than adequate. It gave the homes in Big Sky and in the habitat tori a definite gone-native look., but the houses were sturdy and easily built.

As a bonus, surplus stalks were milled and refined as paper—one more item that did not have to be imported from Earth. Also, Clarke County paper was used extensively on the Moon and Mars, which provided an additional boost to the colony's economy.

(ed note: for a fuller discussion of bamboo, go to the main section)

From CLARKE COUNTY, SPACE by Allen Steele (1990)

      On the afternoon of December 20, 2041, Governor Charles Cantrell was in his office, studying a model of a proposed sugar mill that would also provide fiber for paper or fiberboard as a by-product of sugar cane.

From LONG SHOT FOR ROSINANTE by Alexis Gilliand (1981)

Drug World

A variant on agricultural worlds is a world with a native plant which produces an intoxicating drug. In SF novels for unexplained reasons (because the author said so) the plant will only grown on that particular world. The drug is usually illegal, and the entire solar system the world resides in is totally overrun with drug-lords, drug-runners, and narcotics police. In extreme cases the entire world is interdicted; but where there is a will, there is a way in. No matter how many fleets of patrol ships blanket the world, the blockade runners manage to escape with narcotic cargoes.

When the drug is not the focus of the author's novel, the drug can be legal. Or not even that special. In David Drake's Counting The Cost, the main export of the planet Bamberia is tobacco. It has a slightly different flavor than normal, but it is still only tobacco.

An interesting variant on the drug-world is Tanith from Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium universe. Tanith produces the drug Borloi. But it is being cultivated and harvested by the CoDominium government, not the drug king pins. It seems that Terra has huge enclaves of welfare dependents, the government distributes Borloi to keep them from rioting. Somewhat similar to the drug Soma from Brave New World.


Grows crops and raises animals. There are typically two types:
  1. see above
  2. Planets which harvest an important crop that has unique attributes. Such flora or fauna could be used for medicinal uses, especially if it's a drug. Then it would be more profitable than a world that exports beef. Such farms tend to be jungle or death worlds.


      Behind him (Grand Senator Martin Grant) was the sprawling mass of Columbia Welfare Island where most of those displaced from Washington had gone. Now the inhabitants were third generation and had never known any other life.
     He grimaced. Welfare Islands were lumps of concrete buildings and roof parks, containers for the seething resentment of useless lives kept placid by Government furnished supplies of Tanith hashpot and borloi and American cheap booze. A man born in one of those complexes could stay there all his life, and many did.

     Despite its miserable climate, Tanith was an important world. It was first and foremost a convenient dumping ground for Earth's disinherited. There was no better way to deal with criminals than to send them off to hard— and useful— labor on another planet. Tanith received them all: the rebels, the criminals, the malcontents, victims of administrative hatred; all the refuse of a civilization that could no longer afford misfits.
     Tanith was also the main source of borloi, which the World Pharmaceutical Society called "the perfect intoxicating drug." Given large supplies of borloi the lid could be kept on the Citizens in their Welfare Islands. The happiness the drug induced was artificial, but it was none the less real.
     "And so I am trading in drugs," (Grand Admiral) Lermontov told his visitor. "It is hardly what I expected when I became Grand Admiral."
     "I'm sorry, Sergei." Grand Senator Martin Grant had aged; in ten years he had come to look forty years older. "The fact is, though, you're better off with Fleet ownership of some of the borloi plantations than you are relying on what I can get for you out of the Senate."

from THE MERCENARY (1972) also from FALKENBERG'S LEGION (1990) by Jerry Pournelle

     Some of the convicts spent their entire days and nights stoned into tranquility. Borshite plants were the source of borloi, and half the Citizens of the United States depended on borloi to get through each day; the government supplied it to them, and any government that failed in the shipments would not last long. It worked as well on Tanith, and Herr Ewigfeuer was generous with both pipes and borloi. You could be stoned for half a credit a day. Mark tried that route, but he did not like what it did to him. They were stealing three years of his life, but he wouldn't cooperate and make it easier.

PRINCE OF MERCENARIES (1989) by Jerry Pournelle

Handwavium Monopoly

This is when the science fiction universe has some fantastically valuable handwavium mineral/drug/quantum-particle/whatever and of course there is only one planet in the entire freaking universe that has it.

Examples include Unobtanium (a room-temperature superconductor, not Unobtainium) on the moon Pandora in the movie Avatar, Stroon (or the "Santaclara drug", indefinitely delays aging) on the planet Old North Australia aka "Norstrilia" in the Instrumentality of Mankind series, and the spice Melange (prolongs life, heightened awareness, and unlock prescience) on the planet Arrakis in the Dune novels

On Pandora the interstellar expedition has an army armed with powered armor and milspec strip-mining bulldozers because they are not going to let a bunch of primitive indigenous aborigines stand between them and billion-dollar unobtanium.

On Norstrilia they know every crook in the universe wants to steal Stroon from them, so they have a powerful array of weapons including the dreaded Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons (don't laugh).

On Arrakis every powerful aristocrat wants to control Melange because people in general want to live forever and the Spacing Guild in particular needs it to safely pilot their FTL starships. The aristocrat houses are forever scheming and fighting each other for Arrakis. Whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.

Phlebotinum Monopoly

When there's only one source of Immortality Drugs, Dilithium Crystals or Spice, and everybody needs it. Whoever controls this world can control the galaxy. Anticipate this world to warrant fleets or warships and armies to protect it, and many fights over it.

"When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will."
Frederic Bastiat

Nearly every conflict in human history has been over a resource of some kind. Land, water, food, oil, mineral rights, timber, livestock, labor... something other than national pride or honor and glory is usually lurking around as subtext whenever man kills man on the field of battle.

The local Unobtanium, Green Rocks, Spice of Life, Minovsky Particles, Vespene Gas or Imported Alien Phlebotinum are all naturally rare and valuable, so much that everybody wants to get their hands on it. Quite naturally, this can lead to world- or galaxy-wide wars over the damn stuff. Caught up in the middle are the usual tragic bystanders, for whom your magical miracle substances are Worthless Yellow Rocks. Things will get... interesting if the resource in question turns out to be Aesoptinium that decides it doesn't want people fighting over it and sets up a No MacGuffin, No Winner scenario.

Compare and contrast Fantastic Nuke, when the phlebotinum creates a situation of Mutually Assured Destruction.

(ed note: see TV Trope page for list of examples)


      It had begun as far back, almost, as she could remember, because she had always been in love with kyrt, whereas most people took it for granted. Kyrt! The king, emperor, god of fabrics. There was no metaphor strong enough.
     Chemically, it was nothing more than a variety of cellulose. The chemists swore to that. Yet with all their instruments and theories they had never yet explained why on Florina, and only on Florina in all the Galaxy, cellulose became kyrt. It was a matter of the physical state; that’s what they said. But ask them exactly in what way the physical state varied from that of ordinary cellulose and they were mute.

     She had learned ignorance originally from her nurse.
     “Why does it shine, Nanny?”
     “Because it’s kyrt, Miakins.”
     “Why don’t other things shine so, Nanny?”
     “Other things aren’t kyrt, Miakins.”

     There you had it. A two-volume monograph on the subject had been written only three years before. She had read it carefully and it could all have been boiled down to her Nanny’s explanation. Kyrt was kyrt because it was kyrt. Things that weren’t kyrt, weren’t kyrt because they weren’t kyrt.
     Of course kyrt didn’t really shine of itself but, properly spun, it would gleam metallically in the sun in a variety of colors or in all colors at once. Another form of treatment could impart a diamond sparkle of the thread. It could be made, with little effort, completely impervious to heat up to 600 degrees Centigrade, and quite inert to almost all chemicals. Its fibers could be spun finer than the most delicate synthetics and those same fibers had a tensile strength no steel alloy known could duplicate.
     It had more uses, more versatility than any substance known to man. If it were not so expensive it could be used to replace glass, metal, or plastic in any of infinite industrial applications. As it was, it was the only material used for cross hairs on optical equipment, as molds in the casting of hydrochrons used in hyperatomic motors, and as lightweight, long-lived webbing where metal was too brittle or too heavy or both.
     But this was, as said, small-scale use, since use in quantity was prohibitive. Actually the kyrt harvest of Florina went into the manufacture of cloth that was used for the most fabulous garments in Galactic history. Florina clothed the aristocracy of a million worlds, and the kyrt harvest of the one world, Florina, had to be spread thin for that. Twenty women on a world might have outfits in kyrt; two thousand more might have a holiday jacket of the material, or perhaps a pair of gloves. Twenty million more watched from a distance and wished.
     The million worlds of the Galaxy shared a slang expression for the snob. It was the only idiom in the language that was easily and exactly understood everywhere. It went: “You’d think she blew her nose in kyrt!”

     When Samia was older she went to her father.
     “What is kyrt, Daddy?”
     “It’s your bread and butter, Mia.”
     “Not just yours, Mia. It’s Sark’s bread and butter.” (the government of planet Sark owns the planet Florina, and has a monopoly on kyrt)

     Of course! She learned the reason for that easily enough. Not a world in the Galaxy but had tried to grow kyrt on its own soil. At first Sark had applied the death penalty to anyone, native or foreign, caught smuggling kyrt seed out of the planet. That had not prevented successful smuggling, and as the centuries passed, and the truth dawned on Sark, that law had been abolished. Men from anywhere were welcome to kyrt seed at the price, of course (weight for weight), of finished kyrt cloth.
     They might have it, because it turned out that kyrt grown anywhere in the Galaxy but on Florina was simply cellulose. White, flat, weak and useless. Not even honest cotton.
     Was it something in the soil? Something in the characteristics of the radiation of Florina’s sun? Something about the bacteria make-up of Florinian life? It had all been tried. Samples of Florinian soil had been taken. Artificial arc lights duplicating the known spectrum of Florina’s sun had been constructed. Foreign soil had been infected with Floririian bacteria. And always the kyrt grew white, flat, weak and useless.

From THE CURRENTS OF SPACE by Isaac Asimov (1951)

Throne World

The capital of the interstellar empire. Examples include Trantor and Coruscant. Both of these have cities covering every square centimeter of ground since you can never have too many bureaucrats when you are trying to administer a freaking galactic empire.

The Imperial Capital will be the biggest, and generally located in the center of the empire. Remember that Imperial reaction time limits the radius of the empire. The radius can be expanded by establishing secondary throne worlds called "sector capitals" near the limits of the central capital's sphere of influence.

Since throne worlds are the only thing maintaining control over the sector of the empire within the world's reaction time radius, they are targets for hostile action. Eliminate a capital (or even better, capture its bureaucracy), and you are well on the way to capturing an entire stellar sector. Since the Empire is not totally stupid; throne worlds are guarded by huge armadas of miliary spacecraft armed to their little pointy teeth, orbital fortresses bristling with weapons, extensive planet-based defenses, watchdog outposts, and far-flung combat scouts.


Political center of an interstellar government and a place of intrigue. The apex of culture and power, but also of decadence and corruption. Highly valued, expect the world to be well protected...unless no ships are available for whatever reason. Capitals of various space Empires tend to be highly urbanized. Also the center of the vast bureaucracies governing the stars.

Way Planet

Way Planets are habitable worlds located at the crossroads of interstellar cargo and passenger traffic. If the traffic is mostly cargo, the planet is a Transport Nexus.


      Zurzal checked once more the carry bags. The labels were firmly attached. “We shall transship at Wayright,” he said. “Luckily that is a refit planet and sooner or later a trader bound for Lochan will planet there. Then we shall have cramped quarters for the rest of the trip.” He looked at Jofre. “You are not space wise—some cannot adapt to such confinement. On the passenger transport it is another matter. But a trader is built first for cargo and only takes passengers on reluctant sufferance.”

     (PLANET) WAYRIGHT WAS A CROSSROADS for the star lanes. The many differences between races, species, sentient beings, which Jofre had been introduced to at the spaceport hotel on Asborgan, were here set forth even more plainly. He had to keep tight rein on himself not to turn and gape after the passing of what might be a vast lump of dough riding on a small antigravity plate and putting forth now and then eyestalks to survey something which caught the fancy of that particular traveler. Even an imagination honed and trained by issha teaching could not supply an idea of the world from which THAT had come.

     Though the humanoid form was the more prevalent, there were also insectoids, some scuttling along on six legs, others, taller even than the Zacathan, progressing on powerful hind legs alone, using their upper and middle limbs in quick gestures to augment their click-clack talk. He caught a glimpse of one of the crested males of the bird people and, next to him, a warty-skinned, broad-bellied creature which resembled one of the pond dwelling amphibians of Asborgan. What passed here began to be like a nightmare in which eye refused to accept what was to be seen. Jofre fell back on an issha’s refusal to be tricked even by his own senses.

     The street was divided down the middle by a board rail of what gleamed like metal. Down that glided seated platforms which picked up or dropped passengers along the way. But Zurzal had chosen to walk. The Zacathan was apparently absorbed in his own thoughts. He had not spoken since they left their quarters.

     This thoroughfare was lined on either side by many-storied buildings of an architecture new to Jofre. The first floors were square, as were those above; however, each was smaller as the structure rose floor by floor. And that larger section so left as a balcony surrounding each floor was occupied by potted and tubbed vegetation interspersed by seats and tables of different sizes and shapes to accommodate very dissimilar bodies.

     This was a way planet, a meeting place for several of the major star lanes. Its principal industry and the livelihood of its natives was based almost entirely on serving the needs and desires of travelers en route to hundreds of different worlds. Beyond the inner city there were parks, carefully landscaped to catch the eye and tastes of a very mixed lot of visitors and there were amusements in plenty to fill any idle waiting hours.

From BROTHER TO SHADOWS by Andre Norton (1993)

Forge Worlds

In the Warhammer 40k game, "Forge World" is the colorful term for a planet that is wall-to-wall factories, totally devoted to manfacturing machines and other goods. In other fiction such planets are usually devoted to the military-industrial complex, cranking out weapons, ordinance, and combat spacecraft.

Forge Worlds usually do not exist outside of space operas, since it is a one-product planet. In reality a planet with a bit of industrial capacity will often accept a few military contracts. If the planet is owned by a corporation it is also a Company Planet.


Center of mass production. Presented as industrial nightmares, with polluted skies and large crowded cities. Its products can include technology, but it's often less than state-of-the-art. Focused more on production/engineering rather than research. Often ruled by tyrants or a corporatocracy.


A world, or another large area, dedicated wholly or primarily to industry, fabrication and construction. The landscape, from here to the horizon, is a mass of machinery and factories. The sky is choked with smoke, the streets are filled with grime, and every building is filled with churning pistons, rumbling conveyor belts and frantic assembly lines. No one really wants to live here, but it's the only place within light years that they can. Expect to see robots and machinery everywhere.

These places will usually be horribly polluted and exploited as a consequence of the immense industrial activity. Air and water pollution are likely to be rampant, smog will cloud the sky, and the surface will be torn by immense mines when the planet's mineral reserves haven't been entirely exhausted. Little trace of natural life can be expected to exist, save perhaps for urban pests.

In a setting where most worlds are dedicated to one activity and one activity alone, expect to see a lot of these worlds as the planetary equivalent to cities' industrial districts.

An excellent place for a Wretched Hive to grow and fester, in the deep underbelly of the few parts that actually have housing. Settlements on these places will generally be either mass-produced prefab housing or grime-covered Industrial Ghettos.

When this is a standard video game setting, that's Eternal Engine. When it's a Planet Ville, it might cover entire sections of the planet. This is different from a City Planet, but they commonly overlap as it's rare to see factories without cities. Subtrope of One-Product Planet. For a specific planet that is often given this treatment, see Industrialized Mercury.

Compare Agri World.

(ed note: see TV Trope page for list of examples)

Company Planet

This is a company town written large. The planet does not have a settlement on it so much as it has a corporate-owned factory, mine, or other installation complete with spartan housing complexes for the workers. Generally the planet is located at some distance from the civilized regions of the galaxy, and inside regions that are either uninhabited or least developed regions. There the corporation can manufacture things without being bothered by pesky laws or environmental regulations. If the corporate planet is devoted to factories, it may be a Forge World.

If the corporation who controls the site is not careful, a boomtown might spring up on the outskirts. A boomtown can relieve some of the anger felt by the oppressed workers, but might also destabilize the situation.

Often the employees living on a company planet were not paid in money, but instead in company scrip. The company scrip could only be spent in the company store. Due to this Truck system, the employees more often than not wound up owing their soul to the company store.

If the employees become oppressed enough and angry enough, a Corporation Revolutionary War might break out.

Examples can be found in Birth of Fire by Jerry Pournelle, Badge of Infamy by Lester del Rey, BattleFleet Mars by SPI, and Gallagher's Glacier by Walt and Leigh Richmond.

Penal Colony

A Penal Colony or Prison Planet occurs when somehow it is cheaper or more politically expedient to ship prisoners to an interstellar colony instead of putting them in local jails. The technical term is penal transportation. In theory the transported can return home when their sentence is up, in practice that never happened.

Penal colony planets are usually miserable hell-holes. The prisoners may or may not be forced to perform hard labor (often mining), if no labor is required the government thinks that the hardship of simply living on the planet is punishment enough. The morality become questionable if the prisoners start to have children, who then are being punished for the sins of their parents.

Sometimes colonies are less a "prison for those convicted of a crime" and more a "dumping grounds for undesirables." From 1788 until 1868 Great Britain shipped over 200,000 criminals and the bankrupt to the 13 colonies in North America (surprise!) and Botany Bay colony in Australia. Virginia and Pennsylvania passed laws to prevent England from dumping the convicted in the 13 colonies, the King of England condescendingly told them where they could stick their pathetic little laws and kept dumping. The dumping only stopped after the American Revolution, which is why England started sending the convicted to Australia.

Occasionally the planet is not a cheap or politically expedient nor a dumping grounds for undesirables. Instead it is an ultra top security planetary prison for very dangerous felons. Sometimes the felons are so dangerous that there are no prison keepers on the planet. Instead the planet is interdicted by armed spacecraft, no spacecraft landings are allowed, inmates are dropped onto the planet via a flimsy one-use reentry capsule, and the prisoner's sentence is for life. To avoid bad publicity prisoners may be sterilized to prevent any non-guilty children being born. Such planets usually have names along the lines of "the planet of no return." An example of a mild version of this is the planet Crematoria from The Chronicles of Riddick. "Mild" because there are actually guards stationed on the planet.

If the inhabitants are political prisoners instead of criminals, this might be called a Gulag Planet.

In Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion novels, initially quite a few nice planets had nice settlements established by idealistic settlers. But the mounting population on Terra threatened collapse of civilization. So the Terran Bureau of Relocation (BuRelock) would periodically perform sweeps through the welfare island districts and ship all the undesirables off to dump in the colonies. Whether the colonies wanted them or not. The nice colonies became not quite such a nice place to live, trying to cope with the unexpected flood of undesirables. But Terra has all the guns so shut your mouth. The point being that the planets did not start out as Penal colonies, but was turned into one by Terra using it as a dumping ground.


Dumping grounds for "discontents". Expect these worlds to be unpleasant at the very least. Can range from orderly communities to work camps to lawless wastelands. If these worlds export anything, it's products of slave labor. If governed, it would be by the prison administration (authoritarian by necessity).


      A good many dealers in the SunSpot (casino) had come to sudden and sometimes messy ends. At least three had been delivered to the Emigration men.
     “The E-men are out . . .” That was a whisper from beyond the table light. Joktar glanced up from his pile of counters. Hudd, the banker from the one-two table, stood there.
     “They’re sweeping?” he asked Hudd as if it did not matter in the least.
     “The growl is that they’re going to make a big pull.”
     A big pull. And the news passed to him by Hudd. Joktar added one point to the other. Could this be an oblique warning? Why? Hudd was no friend of his. So why did this newcomer wish to pull any of Kern’s men out of an E-net . . . unless he had a future use for him.
     (Kern said) “Well, boy, so this growl is that the E-men are out? Set up the house warning.” Joktar went to the panel of switches on the far wall, pulled three. Throughout the SunSpot now the general alert would go up. Not that Kern should have anything to fear from an E-raid, he paid in enough each quarter to equip fifty colonists and that was a matter of official record.
     He (Joktar) wondered about Kern’s guess that Norwold would be netted. You could buy your way out of the E-pens, but the price was so high only a vip (Very Important Person) or a vip’s favorite could unpocket enough. The E-men raided to obtain the cheap labor needed to open up a frontier planet. Colonists volunteered, passed rigid tests; emigrants were dispatched by force: neither ever returned. To be caught in an E-raid was the most blighting fear which overhung the streets: processed, drugged, sent out in frozen sleep from which some never awakened, to endure slavery on an alien world.
     Colonists were heroes. To be an emigrant one merely had to be alive, reasonably healthy, and in possession of an undamaged body—undamaged that was in the sense that one had the proper number of arms and legs. A good many men on happy-smoke went out in deep freeze.

(ed note: there is an E-raid, and Joktar is shot by a stun-ray and captured)

     Joktar did not open his eyes at once. He let the senses of hearing and smell relay the first information of his new quarters to his brain. He knew he was not alone; a moan, a grunt, a querulous mumble to his left, assured him of company in misfortune. The smell of closely packed and none-too-clean humanity backed up that deduction.
     He concentrated on his last clear memory; he had burst through the proper bolt hole, straight into the arms of a reception committee. So, now he must be in the E-pens. For a moment, wild panic shook Joktar’s control. Then he forced himself to open his eyes slowly, to lie still, when every inch of him, mind and body, clamored for action. But his first lesson on the streets had been the need for patience—that and the folly of fighting against overwhelming odds blindly and without plan.
     Time was one factor which must be reckoned with. Joktar tried to remember whether there had been E-ships waiting in port. But then such a raid usually occurred only when there was a ship ready. No use housing and feeding emigrants at government expense.
     A man might escape from a planetside prison. However, as far as Joktar had ever heard, there was no escape except a buy-out from the E-pens. Unless you could prove that you were an honest citizen in good standing with a job. They were careful on that point nowadays, ever since the big stink when they had swept up the son of a councilor who had been doing some sight-seeing on the streets and shipped him off to the stars. Now there was supposed to be a double-check on the status of emigrants and that was when a buy-out could be arranged. But for that a man had to have someone working from the outside.
     The E-men had all the props. But then, why shouldn’t they? The Galactic Council was solidly behind this emigration policy which worked two ways. First it got rid of the drifters and those outside the law on the civilized worlds, and second, it helped to open new planets. Thus both problems were settled to the satisfaction of all but the victims, who had no political power anyway.
     “They freezes you, don’t they?” the quavering voice asked.
     “Sure thing,” the ex-runner responded with a ghoulish relish. “No room in an E-ship to have you sittin’ round eatin’ your fat head off. Stick some needles full of goop in a fella, make him stiff as a board, and bed him down in a hold. He’ll keep ’til you get planetside again.”
     “Only I heard as some don’t make it to wake up again.”
     The ex-runner leaned forward on the bench. “Sure, a man’s luck may be run out all the way. They gets enough of ’em through to make a trip pay. Maybe them machines they had us in and out of tell ’em which can make the big jump and live.”

From SECRET OF THE LOST RACE by Andre Norton (1959)

(ed note: in this dystopian future there are two classes: Citizens and Taxpayers. Citizens are the poor with no jobs and on welfare. Taxpayers are those lucky few who actually have jobs. The rising population of Citizens is threatening to collapse civilization on Terra. So the Bureau of Relocation {BuRelock} is tasked with periodically raiding the welfare areas, capturing undesirables who have no jobs, and shipping them off to the interstellar colonies to be dumped. This is also destablizing the colonies but they have no say in the matter.

If nothing else, the hope is that the colonies might become large enough to become self-supporting. So at least the human race will not become extinct when the inevitable nuclear war breaks out on Terra between the United States and the Soviet Union. They are currently "allied" in the so-called CoDominion, but the alliance is crumbling.)

      An oily, acrid smell assaulted him, and the noise was incessant. Hundreds of thousands had passed through the spaceport. Their odor floated through the embarcation hall to blend with the yammer of the current victims crammed into the enclosure.
     The room was long and narrow. White painted concrete walls shut out bright Florida sunshine; but the walls were dingy with film and dirt that had been smeared about and not removed by the Bureau of Relocation's convict laborers. Cold luminescent panels glowed brightly above.
     The smell and sounds and glare blended with his own fears. He didn't belong here, but no one would listen. No one wanted to. Anything he said was lost in the brutal totality of shouted orders, growls of surly trustee guards in their wire pen running the full length of the long hall; screaming children; the buzz of frightened humanity.
     They marched onward, toward the ship that would take them out of the solar system and toward an unknown fate. A few colonists blustered and argued. Some suppressed rage until it might be of use. Most were ashen-faced, shuffling forward without visible emotion, beyond fear.
     There were red lines painted on the concrete floor, and the colonists stayed carefully inside them. Even the children had learned to cooperate with BuRelock's guards. The colonists had a sameness about them: shabbily dressed in Welfare Issue clothing mixed with finery cast off by taxpayers and gleaned from Reclamation Stores or by begging or from a Welfare District Mission.
     Ahead of him was a family of five, three screaming children and their apathetic parents — or, possibly, he thought, not parents. Citizen families were never very stable. BuRelock agents often farmed out their quotas, and their superiors were seldom concerned about the precise identities of those scooped up.
     The disorderly crowds moved inexorably toward the end of the room. Each line terminated at a wire cage containing a plastisteel desk. Each family group moved into a cage, the doors were closed, and their interviews began.
     The bored trustee placement officers hardly listened to their clients, and the colonists did not know what to say to them. Most knew nothing about Earth's outsystem worlds. A few had heard that Tanith was hot, Fulton's World cold, and Sparta a hard place to live, but free. Some understood that Hadley had a good climate and was under the benign protection of American Express and the Colonial Office. For those sentenced to transportation without confinement, knowing that little could make a lot of difference to their futures; most didn't know and were shipped off to labor-hungry mining and agricultural worlds, or the hell of Tanith, where their lot would be hard labor, no matter what their sentences might read.

     The forward companionway opened, and the convicts came out. Officially they were all convicts, or families of transportees who had voluntarily accompanied a convict; but when we'd gone recruiting in the prison section of the ship, we found a number of prisoners who'd never been convicted of anything at all. They'd been scooped up in one of Bureau of Relocation's periodic sweeps and put on the involuntary colonist list.
     The prisoners were ragged and unwashed. Most wore BuRelock coveralls. Some carried pathetically small bundles, everything they owned. They milled around in confusion in the bright sunlight until ship's petty officers screamed at them and they shuffled down the gangway and along the pier. They tended to huddle together, shrinking away from the bayonets of the lines of troops on either side. Eventually they were herded through the big square gates of the prison building. I wondered what would happen to them in there.
     There were more men than women, but there were plenty of women and girls. There were also far more children than I liked to see in that condition. I didn't like this. I hadn't joined the CoDominium Armed Services for this kind of duty.
     "Heavy price, isn't it?" a voice said behind me. It was Deane Knowles. He'd been a classmate at the Academy. He was a short chap, not much above the minimum height for a commission, and had features so fine that he was almost pretty. I had reason to know that women liked him, and Deane liked them. He should have graduated second in the class, but he'd accumulated so many demerits for sneaking off bounds to see his girlfriends that he was dropped twenty-five places in class rank, which was why I outranked him and would until one of us was promoted above the other. I figured he'd make captain before I did.
     "Heavy price for what?" I asked.
     "For clean air and lower population and all the other goodies they have back on Earth. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it."
     "But what choices do we have?" I asked.
     "None. Zero. Nothing else to do. Ship out the surplus and let 'em make their own way somewhere. In the long run it's not only all to the good, it's all there is; but the run doesn't look so long when you're watching the results."

     Arrarat was discovered soon after the first private exploration ships went out from Earth. It was an inhabitable planet, and although there are a number of those in the regions near Earth, they aren't all that common. A survey team was sent to find out what riches could be taken. There weren't any. Earth crops would grow, and men could live on the planet, but no one was going to invest money in agriculture. Shipping foodstuffs through interstellar space is a simple way of going bankrupt unless there are nearby markets with valuable minerals and no agriculture. This planet had no nearby market at all.
     The American Express Company owned settlement rights through discovery. AmEx sold the planet to a combine of churches. The World Federation of Churches named it Arrarat and advertised it as "a place of refuge for the unwanted of Earth." They began to raise money for its development, and since this was before the Bureau of Relocation began involuntary colonies, they had a lot of help. Charity, tithes, government grants, all helped, and then the church groups hit on the idea of a lottery. Prizes were free transportation to Arrarat for winners and their families; and there were plenty of people willing to trade Earth for a place where there was free land, plenty to eat, hard work, no government harrassment, and no pollution. The World Federation of Churches sold tens of millions of one-credit lottery tickets. They soon had enough money to charter ships and sent people out.
     There was plenty of room for colonists, even though the inhabitable portion of Arrarat is comparatively small. The planet has a higher mean temperature than Earth, and the regions near the equator are far too hot for men to live in. At the very poles it is too cold. The southern hemisphere is nearly all water. Even so, there is plenty of land in the north temperate zone. The delta area where Harmony was founded was chosen as the best of the lot. It had a climate like the Mediterranean region of Earth. Rainfall was erratic, but the colony thrived.
     The churches had very little money, but the planet didn't need heavy industry. Animals were shipped instead of tractors, on the theory that horses and oxen can make other horses and oxen, but tractors make only oil refineries and smog. Industry wasn't wanted; Arrarat was to be a place where each man could prune his own vineyard and sit in the shade of his fig tree. Some of the Federation of Churches' governing board actively hated industrial technology, and none loved it; and there was no need, anyway. The planet could easily support far more than the half to three-quarters of a million people the churches sent out as colonists.
     Then the disaster struck. A survey ship found thorium and other valuable metals in the asteroid belt of Arrarat's system. It wasn't a disaster for everyone, of course. American Express was happy enough, and so was Kennicott Metals after they bought mining rights; but for the church groups it was disaster enough. The miners came, and with them came trouble. The only convenient place for the miners to go for recreation was Arrarat, and the kinds of establishments asteroid miners liked weren't what the Federation of Churches had in mind. The "Holy Joes" and the "Goddamns" shouted at each other and petitioned the Grand Senate for help, while the madams and gamblers and distillers set up for business.
     That wasn't the worst of it. The Federation of Churches' petition to the CoDominium Grand Senate ended up in the CD bureaucracy, and an official in Bureau of Corrections noticed that a lot of empty ships were going from Earth to Arrarat. They came back full of refined thorium, but they went out deadhead . . . and BuCorrect had plenty of prisoners they didn't know what to do with. It cost money to keep them. Why not, BuCorrect reasoned, send the prisoners to Arrarat and turn them loose? Earth would be free of them. It was humane. Better yet, the churches could hardly object to setting captives free. . . .
     The BuCorrect official got a promotion, and Arrarat got over half a million criminals and convicts, most of whom had never lived outside a city. They knew nothing of farming, and they drifted to Harmony, where they tried to live as best they could. The result was predictable. Harmony soon had the highest crime rate in the history of man.
     The situation was intolerable for Kennicott Metals. Miners wouldn't work without planet leave, but they didn't dare go to Harmony. Their union demanded that someone do something, and Kennicott appealed to the Grand Senate. A regiment of CoDominium Marines was sent to Arrarat. They couldn't stay long, but they didn't have to. They built walls around the city of Harmony, and for good measure they built the town of Garrison adjacent to it. Then the Marines put all the convicts outside the walls.
     It wasn't intended to be a permanent solution. A CoDominium Governor was appointed, over the objections of the World Federation of Churches. The Colonial Bureau began preparations for sending a government team of judges and police and technicians and industrial-development specialists so that Arrarat could support the streams of people BuCorrect had sent. Before they arrived, Kennicott found an even more valuable source of thorium in a system nearer to Earth, the Arrarat mines were put into reserve, and there was no longer any reason for the CoDominium Grand Senate to be interested in Arrarat. The Marine garrison pulled out, leaving a cadre to help train colonial militia to defend the walls of Harmony-Garrison.

     "I don't understand any of this," I said. "The Governor sent for a regiment, but nobody's told us what that regiment was supposed to do."
     "Clean up the mess we've made of this planet," Irina said. "And I really thought they'd do something. The CoDominium has turned Arrarat into sheer hell, and I thought they'd have enough . . . what? Pride? Shame? Enough elementary decency to put things right before we pull out entirely. I see I was wrong."
     "I take it things are pretty bad outside the walls," Deane said.
     "Bad? They're horrible!" Irina said. "You can't even imagine what's happening out there. Criminal gangs setting themselves up as governments. And my father recognizes them as governments! We make treaties with them. And the colonists are ground to pieces. Murder's the least of it. A whole planet going to barbarism, and we don't even try to help them."
     "But surely your militia can do something," Deane said.
     "Not really." She shook her head, slowly, and stared into the empty wineglass. "In the first place, the militia won't go outside the walls. I don't suppose I blame them. They aren't soldiers. Shopkeepers, mostly. Once in a while they'll go as far as the big river bend, or down to the nearest farmlands, but that doesn't do any good. We tried doing something more permanent, but it didn't work. We couldn't protect the colonists from the convict gangs. And now we recognize convict gangsters as legal governments!"
     Donnelley came back in and went to the bar. Deane signaled for refills.
     "I noticed people came out to cheer us as we marched through the city," I said.
     Irina's smile was bitter. "Yes. They think you're going to open up trade with the interior, rescue their relatives out there. I wish you could."

     The Maryland countryside slipped past far below as , the Cadillac cruised on autopilot. A ribbon antenna ran almost to Grant's house, and he watched the twilight scene with as much relaxation as he ever achieved lately. House lights blinked below, and a few surface cars ran along the roads. Behind him was the sprawling mass of Columbia Welfare Island where most of those displaced from Washington had gone. Now the inhabitants were third generation and had never known any other life.
     He grimaced. Welfare Islands were lumps of concrete buildings and roof parks, containers for the seething resentment of useless lives kept placid by Government furnished supplies of Tanith hashpot and borloi and American cheap booze. A man born in one of those complexes could stay there all his life, and many did.
     Grant tried to imagine what it would be like there, but he couldn't. Reports from his agents gave an intellectual picture, but there was no way to identify with those people. He could not feel the hopelessness and dulled senses, burning hatreds, terrors, bitter pride of street gangs.
     Karins knew, though. Karins had begun his life in a Welfare Island somewhere in the Midwest. Karins clawed his way through the schools to a scholarship and a ticket out forever. He'd resisted stimulants and dope and Tri-V. Was it worth it? Grant wondered. And of course there was another way out of Welfare, as a voluntary colonist; but so few took that route now. Once there had been a lot of them.

     "We may all see the inside of one of those," Falkenberg said. "And be glad of the chance. Tell me about the situation here, Banners."
     "I don't even know where to start, sir," the lieutenant answered. "I — do you know about Hadley?"
     "Assume I don't," Falkenberg said. May as well see what kind of estimate of the situation the President's officers can make, he thought. He could feel the Fleet Intelligence report bulging in an inner pocket of his tunic, but those reports always left out important details; and the attitudes of the Presidential Guard could be important to his plans.
     "Yes, sir. Well, to begin with, we're a long way from the nearest shipping lanes — but I guess you knew that. The only real reason we had any merchant trade was the mines. Thorium, richest veins known anywhere for a while, until they started to run out.
     "For the first few years that's all we had. The mines are up in the hills, about eighty miles over that way." He pointed to a thin blue line just visible at the horizon.
     "Must be pretty high mountains," Falkenberg said. "What's the diameter of Hadley? About eighty percent of Earth? Something like that. The horizon ought to be pretty close."
     "Yes, sir. They are high mountains. Hadley is small, but we've got bigger and better everything here." There was pride in the young officer's voice.
     "Them bags seem pretty heavy for a planet this small," Calvin said.
     "Hadley's very dense," Banners answered. "Gravity nearly ninety percent standard. Anyway, the mines are over there, and they have their own spaceport at a lake nearby. Refuge — that's this city — was founded by the American Express Company. They brought in the first colonists, quite a lot of them."
     "Volunteers?" Falkenberg asked.
     "Yes. All volunteers. The usual misfits. I suppose my father was typical enough, an engineer who couldn't keep up with the rat race and was tired of Bureau of Technology restrictions on what he could learn. They were the first wave, and they took the best land. They founded the city and got an economy going. American Express was paid back all advances within twenty years." Banners' pride was evident, and Falkenberg knew it had been a difficult job.
     "That was, what, fifty years ago?" Falkenberg asked.
     They passed a wagonload of melons. A gaily dressed young couple waved cheerfully at them, then the man snapped a long whip at the team of horses that pulled thir wagon. Falkenberg studied the primitive scene and said, "It doesn't look like you've been here fifty years."
     "No." Banners gave them a bitter look.
     "No, we're not much industrialized," Banners continued. "At first there wasn't any need to develop basic industries. The mines made everyone rich, so we imported everything we needed. The farmers sold fresh produce to the miners for enormous prices. Refuge was a service industry town. People who worked here could soon afford farm animals, and they scattered out across the plains and into the forests."
     Falkenberg nodded. "Many of them wouldn't care for cities."
     "Precisely. They didn't want industry, they'd come here to escape it." Banners drove in silence for a moment. "Then some blasted CoDominium bureaucrat read the ecology reports about Hadley. The Population Control Bureau in Washington decided this was a perfect place for involuntary colonization. The ships were coming here for the thorium anyway, so instead of luxuries and machinery they were ordered to carry convicts. Hundreds of thousands of them, Colonel Falkenberg. For the last ten years there have been better than fifty thousand people a year dumped in on us."
     "And you couldn't support them all," Falkenberg said gently.
     "No, sir." Banners' face tightened. He seemed to be fighting tears. "God knows we try. Every erg the fusion generators can make goes into converting petroleum into basic protocarb just to feed them. But they're not like the original colonists! They don't know anything, they won't do anything! Oh, not really, of course. Some of them work. Some of our best citizens are transport-ees. But there are so many of the other kind."
     "Why'n't you tell 'em to work or starve?" Calvin asked bluntly. Falkenberg gave him a cold look, and the sergeant nodded slightly and sank back into his seat.
     "Because the CD wouldn't let us!" Banners shouted. "Damn it, we didn't have self-government. The CD Bureau of Relocation people told us what to do. They ran everything ..."
     "We know," Falkenberg said gently. "We've seen the results of Humanity League influence over BuRelock. My sergeant major wasn't asking you a question, he was expressing an opinion. Nevertheless, I am surprised. I would have thought your farms could support the urban population."
     "They should be able to, sir." Banners drove in grim silence for a long minute. "But there's no transportation. The people are here, and most of the agricultural land is five hundred miles inland. There's arable land closer, but it isn't cleared. Our settlers wanted to get away from Refuge and BuRelock. We have a railroad, but bandit gangs keep blowing it up. We can't rely on Hadley's produce to keep Refuge alive. There are a million people on Hadley, and half of them are crammed into this one ungovernable city."
     A contingent of uniformed men thrust their way through the crowd at a street crossing. Falkenberg looked at them closely, then at Banners. "Your troops?"
     "No, sir. That's the livery of Glenn Foster's household. Officially they're unorganized reserves of the President's Guard, but they're household troops all the same." Banners laughed bitterly. "Sounds like something out of a history book, doesn't it? We're nearly back to feudalism, Colonel Falkenberg. Anyone rich enough keeps hired bodyguards. They have to. The criminal gangs are so strong the police don't try to catch anyone under organized protection, and the judges wouldn't punish them if they were caught."
     "And the private bodyguards become gangs in their own right, I suppose,"
     Banners looked at him sharply. "Yes, sir. Have you seen it before?"
     "Yes. I've seen it before." Banners was unable to make out the expression on Falkenberg's lips.

From FALKENBERG'S LEGION by Jerry Pournelle (1977)

Twelve years before, when I was ten years old, they had discovered the collapsar jump. Just fling an object at a collapsar with sufficient speed, and out it pops in some other part of the galaxy. It didn't take long to figure out the formula that predicted where it would come out: it travels along the same "line" (actually an Einsteinian geodesic) it would have followed if the collapsar hadn't been in the way—until it reaches another collapsar field, whereupon it reappears, repelled with the same speed at which it approached the original collapsar. Travel time between the two collapsars…exactly zero.

It made a lot of work for mathematical physicists, who had to redefine simultaneity, then tear down general relativity and build it back up again. And it made the politicians very happy, because now they could send a shipload of colonists to Fomalhaut for less than it had once cost to put a brace of men on the moon. There were a lot of people the politicians would love to see on Fomalhaut, implementing a glorious adventure rather than stirring up trouble at home.

From THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman (1975)

      Tycho Purple Penal Station had started out centuries before as the Soviet Lunar base, and had passed to the United Nations’ control with the final Soviet breakup. In the bad old days when UNLAC—the United Nations Lunar Administration Council—ran the Moon, Tycho had been made into a U.N. penal colony, and had rapidly devolved into the final dumping ground for the human refuse of the Earth, the Moon, and the Settlement Worlds.
     Tycho Penal was specifically intended to be not only escape-proof, but reprieve-proof. No prisoner was ever sent there under any sentence except life without parole.

     When the Lunar Republic was declared, eighty years before Marcia was born, the Lunar Colonists—the Conners—were very careful not to lay claim to the Tycho Penal Colony and environs. They were quite happy to let the United Nations administer the nightmare it had created for itself.
     Even after the Republic, the United Nations let Tycho Penal stagger along a few years as a prison, until a resolution passed the General Assembly banning the placement of any more prisoners at Tycho. UNLAC was stuck with the bills for a prison populated with old men and women too mean to die. The costs of running the place rapidly got out of hand—until it dawned on UNLAC that it would be cheaper to declare the place a separate republic, and announce that all current residents were naturalized citizens.
     The Lunar Republic promptly decreed that any bearer of a Tychoean passport found in the Republic would be escorted back to the Tycho border—with or without a pressure suit. Every nation on Earth, and all of the Settlement Worlds, refused to honor Tycho passports.
     So the convicts—and, by this time, their descendants—were technically free, but legally they couldn’t travel.

     Tycho was still tough to get out of illegally, for that matter. But the convicts could write their own laws, and own their own property. The Lunar Republic did allow some amount of legitimate trade, which provided ample cover for smuggling operations. It gave the convicts a window on the outside world.
     All in all, it wasn’t much of an opening. But it was enough for the smart cons to get rich, while the dumb ones starved. After a while, the inevitable happened, and one of the smartest, meanest convicts managed to muscle everyone else out of power and set himself up as the King of Tycho: Redeye Sid the First.

     That much was history—confirmable facts. The rest was half legend, half outright lie. Marcia had never quite decided which was which. The story went that Redeye Sid won the last open tract of Tycho in a poker game. A crooked game, some whispered. But no one could be sure, as Redeye was the only player to survive the game. Unless that tale was circulated by Sid to keep enemies in line.
     And then, in the tenth year of his reign, Redeye Sid dropped dead (or was poisoned) and left it all to his idiot (or perhaps mad genius or political malcontent) son Jasper, who listened to off-planet broadcasts a bit too often. More particularly, Redeye Jasper listened to the Purple Voice beaming down from NaPurHab (Naked Purple Habitat). He got religion. Or philosophy. Or paranoid delusions. No one could ever decide which.

     Whatever the Purple was, it had earned itself a prominent place in any history of the irrational. What the Purps were for, what they were against, what their goals were—all those issues were meaningless to the Purps. Alienating themselves from society, offending the world and then protesting the world for taking offense, that was the Purple way. The Purples drenched themselves in anger, anger for its own sake, absurdity as an art and a political policy, the overturning of any and all existing forms. That was the closest the Purps came to a goal, a Naked Purple ideal.
     Marcia thought back to the allegory that named the movement: Get naked, paint yourself purple, and walk down the street. If people were surprised, shocked, offended, or merely amused, rail at them for their small-minded, bourgeois ways. If they accepted you and let you be, despise them for being blinkered, too narrow-minded to see the special and the marvelous in this world. Any reaction, all reactions, or no reaction at all were grounds for contempt.
     It was a formula for attracting the ostracized, ensuring that recruits would feel left out, rejected by the world. And it gave Purps a way to feel superior to the hidebound, workaday world, making sure they could be accepted only by fellow Purps.

     It was the sort of anger at everything that might appeal to the irrational heir to a mad kingdom. Like Jasper.
     As with all converts to the Naked Purple movement, Redeye Jasper was required to sign over all his worldly goods to the movement. Such goods and property included the Kingdom of Tycho. So the Naked Purple movement came into possession of its own country.

     By the time the Purples moved in, Tycho hadn’t, strictly speaking, been a prison for decades, but the Lunar Republic’s government still held to the same Tycho policy it had retained for generations: Anyone could go into Tycho Penal, but no one could come out. Even after a hundred years, there were mighty few loopholes in that rule. In effect, it was still a prison. The Republic was not in the least bit willing to change that policy for the sake of a bunch of habitat crazies.
     The Naked Purples declared themselves liberators anyway. They moved in, took over, and officially renamed the place Tycho Purple Penal Station. They made much of all the contradictions and tensions bubbling in that name—and in the city itself.
     The Naked Purples and a mob of former convicts living cheek by jowl inside a former maximum security prison was a sure formula for confrontation. The murder rate spiked high, even for Tycho, that first year. But, surprisingly, mostly convicts were dying. The Purples swiftly demonstrated their talent for survival and control, and the situation settled down a bit.

From THE RING OF CHARON by Roger MacBride Allen (1990)

     I took Trans-Crisium tube to L-City but did not go home; Mike had asked about a meeting that night at 2100 in Stilyagi Hall. Mike monitored concerts, meetings, and so forth; someone had switched off by hand his pickups in Stilyagi Hall. I suppose he felt rebuffed.
     I could guess why they had been switched off. Politics—turned out to be a protest meeting. What use it was to bar Mike from talk-talk I could not see, since was a cinch bet that Warden's stoolies would be in crowd. Not that any attempt to stop meeting was expected, or even to discipline undischarged transportees who chose to sound off. Wasn't necessary.
     My Grandfather Stone claimed that Luna was only open prison in history. No bars, no guards, no rules—and no need for them. Back in early days, he said, before was clear that transportation was a life sentence, some lags tried to escape. By ship, of course—and, since a ship is mass-rated almost to a gram, that meant a ship's officer had to be bribed.
     Some were bribed, they say. But were no escapes; man who takes bribe doesn't necessarily stay bribed. I recall seeing a man just after eliminated through East Lock; don't suppose a corpse eliminated in orbit looks prettier.
     So wardens didn't fret about protest meetings. "Let 'em yap" was policy. Yapping had same significance as squeals of kittens in a box. Oh, some wardens listened and other wardens tried to suppress it but added up same either way—null program.
     When Mort the Wart took office in 2068, he gave us a sermon about how things were going to be different "on" Luna in his administration—noise about "a mundane paradise wrought with our own strong hands" and "putting our shoulders to the wheel together, in a spirit of brotherhood" and "let past mistakes be forgotten as we turn our faces toward the bright, new dawn." I heard it in Mother Boor's Tucker Bag while inhaling Irish stew and a liter of her Aussie brew. I remember her comment: "He talks purty, don't he?"
     Her comment was only result. Some petitions were submitted and Warden's bodyguards started carrying new type of gun; no other changes. After he had been here a while he quit making appearances even by video.

     After discussion opened, some sense was talked. One shy little fellow with bloodshot eyes of old-time drillman stood up. "I'm an ice miner," he said. "Learned my trade doing time for Warden like most of you. I've been on my own thirty years and done okay. Raised eight kids and all of 'em earned way—none eliminated nor any serious trouble. I should say I did do okay because today you have to listen farther out or deeper down to find ice.
     "That's okay, still ice in The Rock and a miner expects to sound for it. But Authority pays same price for ice now as thirty years ago. And that's not okay. Worse yet, Authority scrip doesn't buy what it used to. I remember when Hong Kong Luna dollars swapped even for Authority dollars— Now it takes three Authority dollars to match one HKL dollar. I don't know what to do… but I know it takes ice to keep warrens and farms going."
     He sat down, looking sad. Nobody whistled but everybody wanted to talk. Next character pointed out that water can be extracted from rock—this is news? Some rock runs 6 percent—but such rock is scarcer than fossil water. Why can't people do arithmetic?
     Several farmers bellyached and one wheat farmer was typical. "You heard what Fred Hauser said about ice. Fred, Authority isn't passing along that low price to farmers. I started almost as long ago as you did, with one two-kilometer tunnel leased from Authority. My oldest son and I sealed and pressured it and we had a pocket of ice and made our first crop simply on a bank loan to cover power and lighting fixtures, seed and chemicals.
     "We kept extending tunnels and buying lights and planting better seed and now we get nine times as much per hectare as the best open-air farming down Earthside. What does that make us? Rich? Fred, we owe more now than we did the day we went private! If I sold out—if anybody was fool enough to buy—I'd be bankrupt. Why? Because I have to buy water from Authority—and have to sell my wheat to Authority—and never close gap. Twenty years ago I bought city sewage from the Authority, sterilized and processed it myself and made a profit on a crop. But today when I buy sewage, I'm charged distilled-water price and on top of that for the solids. Yet price of a tonne of wheat at catapult head is just what it was twenty years ago. Fred, you said you didn't know what to do. I can tell you! Get rid of Authority!"

     "You! You're a wheat farmer—going broke. Do you know how much a Hindu housewife pays for a kilo of flour made from your wheat? How much a tonne of your wheat fetches in Bombay? How little it costs the Authority to get it from catapult head to Indian Ocean? Downhill all the way! Just solid-fuel retros to brake it—and where do those come from? Right here! And what do you get in return? A few shiploads of fancy goods, owned by the Authority and priced high because it's importado. Importado, importado!—I never touch importado! If we don't make it in Hong Kong, I don't use it. What else do you get for wheat? The privilege of selling Lunar ice to Lunar Authority, buying it back as washing water, then giving it to the Authority—then buying it back a second time as flushing water—then giving it again to the Authority with valuable solids added—then buying it a third time at still higher price for farming—then you sell that wheat to the Authority at their price—and buy power from the Authority to grow it, again at their price! Lunar power—not one kilowatt up from Terra. It comes from Lunar ice and Lunar steel, or sunshine spilled on Luna's soil—all put together by loonies! Oh, you rockheads, you deserve to starve!"

     She was trembling. Shorty patted her hand; she threw him a glance of thanks, then whispered to me, "How did I do?"
     "Wonderful," I assured her. "Terrific!" She seemed reassured.
     But I hadn't been honest. "Wonderful" she had been, at swaying crowd. But oratory is a null program. That we were slaves I had known all my life—and nothing could be done about it. True, we weren't bought and sold—but as long as Authority held monopoly over what we had to have and what we could sell to buy it, we were slaves.
     But what could we do? Warden wasn't our owner. Had he been, some way could be found to eliminate him. But Lunar Authority was not in Luna, it was on Terra—and we had not one ship, not even small hydrogen bomb. There weren't even hand guns in Luna, though what we would do with guns I did not know. Shoot each other, maybe.
     Three million, unarmed and helpless—and eleven billion of them… with ships and bombs and weapons. We could be a nuisance—but how long will papa take it before baby gets spanked?

     "You are right that the Authority must go. It is ridiculous—pestilential, not to be borne—that we should be ruled by an irresponsible dictator in all our essential economy! It strikes at the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace. But I respectfully suggest that you erred in saying that we should sell wheat to Terra—or rice, or any food—at any price. We must not export food!"
     That wheat farmer broke in. "What am I going to do with all that wheat?"
     "Please! It would be right to ship wheat to Terra— if tonne for tonne they returned it. As water. As nitrates. As phosphates. Tonne for tonne. Otherwise no price is high enough."
     Wyoming said "Just a moment" to farmer, then to Prof: "They can't and you know it. It's cheap to ship downhill, expensive to ship uphill. But we don't need water and plant chemicals, what we need is not so massy. Instruments. Drugs. Processes. Some machinery. Control tapes. I've given this much study, sir. If we can get fair prices in a free market—"
     "Please, miss! May I continue?"
     "Go ahead. I want to rebut."
     "Fred Hauser told us that ice is harder to find. Too true—bad news now and disastrous for our grandchildren. Luna City should use the same water today we used twenty years ago— plus enough ice mining for population increase. But we use water once—one full cycle, three different ways. Then we ship it to India. As wheat. Even though wheat is vacuum-processed, it contains precious water. Why ship water to India? They have the whole Indian Ocean! And the remaining mass of that grain is even more disastrously expensive, plant foods still harder to come by, even though we extract them from rock. Comrades, harken to me! Every load you ship to Terra condemns your grandchildren to slow death. The miracle of photosynthesis, the plant-and-animal cycle, is a closed cycle. You have opened it—and your lifeblood runs downhill to Terra. You don't need higher prices, one cannot eat money! What you need, what we all need, is an end to this loss. Embargo, utter and absolute. Luna must be self-sufficient!"

From THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein (1966)

(ed note: Criminal mastermind Bull Coxine was captured and sent to the Prison Asteroid. But his flunky Gus Wallace managed to avoid capture. Coxine devises an escape plan, covertly creates tapes explaining the plan, and manages to smuggle them outside to his pathetic flunky Wallace. Who implements the plan with the help of his own flunky Simms, somebody even more pathetic.)

      "Lissen," interrupted Wallace, "I'd rather try it and take the licking if we mess it up, than not try it and take that licking. I know which side of the space lane I'd better be on when the time comes!"
     Simms hesitated and then sighed, "Yeah, I guess you're right."
     "Come on. Let's listen to that story spool again."
     "Oh, no," moaned Simms. "I know that spool by heart! We've heard it at least fifty times!"
     "One slip-up," said Wallace, sticking his finger in Simms' face, "just one slip-up and we're finished! We've got to be sure!"
     With a reluctant shrug of his shoulders, Simms poured another cup of coffee and sat on the side of his bunk while Wallace inserted the story spool in the audio playback.
     They settled themselves and listened as a deep voice (mastermind Bull Coxine) began to speak in a loud whisper.
     "…The operation will take place on the night of October twenty-ninth at exactly twenty-one hundred hours. You will make your approach from section eleven, M quadrant—"
     Simms jumped up abruptly and switched off the playback. Turning to Wallace, he pleaded, "I can't listen to it again! I know it by heart. Instructions on how to get to the time capsule; instructions on what to take, and how to build an adjustable light-key after we get the plans; instructions on how to hijack the first ship and what to take. Orders, information, instructions! I'm sick of listening. If you want to, go ahead, but I'm going to work on the ship!"
     "O.K., O.K.," said Wallace, getting up. "Don't blow your jets. I hate the thing as much as you do. Wait a minute and I'll go with you."

(ed note: Captain Steve Strong and the three space cadets travel to the Prison Asteroid to ask questions of criminal mastermind Bull Coxine. Mainly questions about the crime wave of Wallace and Simms.)

     "Stop your ship and be recognized!"
     The rasping voice on the audioceiver was sharp. A command to be obeyed.
     Tom turned away from the control board and looked at Strong who was already reaching for the ship's intercom.
     "Full braking rocket thrust, Astro," he yelled into the microphone, "and make it quick or we'll all be blasted into protons!"
     Tom and the captain gripped their chairs tightly as the ship bucked against the deceleration force of the powerful braking rockets. Gradually the freighter Dog Star slowed and came to a dead stop in space.
     "Hey!" yelled Astro over the intercom from the power deck. "What's going on up there?"
     "We've just entered the outer circle of defense on the prison asteroid, Astro," replied Strong. "We have to stop so they can sweep us with their radar and identify the ship."
     "But I sent them a message in Solar Guard code that we were coming," interjected Roger who was listening from the radar bridge.
     "They still have to make sure it's us," said Strong.
     "Identify yourselves!" commanded the voice over the audioceiver again.
     "This is space freighter Dog Star under temporary command of Captain Strong of the Solar Guard," answered Strong.
     "What's your business here?" demanded the voice again.
     "Interrogation of one of your prisoners. We have sent a coded message, under code Z for Zebra to your prison commandant, Major Alan Savage. If you'll check with him, you'll find everything in order," said Strong.
     "Very well," replied the voice crisply, and then added, "Remain where you are. Do not move from your present position or attempt to send any messages. If you fail to comply with these conditions you will be blasted!"
     "Very well," said Strong, "conditions are understood."
     "Boy," chimed in Roger, as he climbed down the ladder from the radar bridge, "they sure don't want any company here."
     "And for good reason," said Strong. "The most vicious criminals in the whole universe are confined here. Every one of them is capable of committing any crime in the solar code. And most of them have. The men here are the worst. They have refused psychotherapeutic readjustment to make them into new men."
     "But I thought they had to go through it, sir?" said Tom.
     "No," replied Strong. "Even criminals have certain rights in our society. They can either remain criminals and stay here, or be psychoadjusted and given new personalities. The ones that refuse are the ones on this Rock."
     "You mean," gasped Roger, "that the men on this asteroid deliberately chose to remain criminals?"
     "Yes, Manning," said Strong. "Rather than become healthy citizens of the system, they prefer to stay here and waste their lives in isolation with no hope of ever returning to society."
     "Can they change their minds after they get here?" asked Tom.
     "Any time. But when they get this far, they usually stay here. The men on Prison Rock didn't surrender easily. They are the toughest, most ruthless men in the universe."
     "Attention! Freighter Dog Star! Attention!" the audioceiver rasped into life again. "You have been given temporary clearance. A space launch will ferry you to the asteroid. You are warned that any weapons discovered on your person, or acts that may be construed as providing aid and comfort to the inmates of this prison, will be considered treason against the Solar Alliance and you will be subject to immediate disciplinary action."
     Tom and Roger glanced at each other, a worried look in their eyes. Strong just smiled. "Don't worry, boys. That little speech is read to every visitor to the asteroid."
     "Just the same, sir," said Roger huskily, "I would prefer to remain aboard the Dog Star and give you, Tom, and Astro the pleasure of the visit."
     Strong laughed. "They won't let you, Roger. They'll send up a crew of guards to search the ship. And the way these boys search makes a customs inspection look like a casual glance."
     "Attention Dog Star!" A younger voice suddenly came in on the audioceiver. "This is Lieutenant Williams aboard the space launch. We are approaching your starboard catapult deck. Please open the air lock and take us aboard."
     "They sure don't waste any time," commented Tom as he turned to the audioceiver. "Freighter Dog Star, Cadet Tom Corbett to Lieutenant Williams," he called, "the air lock is open and the catapult deck is ready to receive you." At the same time, the young cadet turned the valve that would open the outer air lock to the jet-boat deck.
     Five minutes later, the ship was swarming with tight-lipped enlisted Solar Guardsmen, who spoke to Strong and the cadets with cool courtesy. These were men who signed up for two years as guards on the Rock after competing with thousands of other enlisted men. A guard on the Rock was mid triple wages for the two-year isolation. But more than anything else the right to wear the bright white patch with a paralo-ray gun in the center denoting their service as guards on the Rock was prestige envied even by commissioned officers of the Solar Guard.
     After what Tom thought to be the most thorough search he had ever seen was over, Lieutenant Williams reported to the control deck where Strong and the cadets had been politely but firmly detained. He informed them that they were now ready to blast off to the Rock, adding that a more detailed search of the area between the ship's outer and inner hulls would be conducted after they had gone.
     "You mean," said Tom, amazed, "that you actually search the four inches between the two hulls? What in the universe could we possibly hide in there?"
     "I don't know, Corbett," replied Williams. "We've never found anything there." He turned to Strong and smiled. "But there's always a first time, isn't there, sir?"

     In a few moments the space launch was blasting away from the freighter and heading for a tiny planetoid in the distance. As they drew near, Strong and the cadets peered out of the ports to get a view of the prison, but were disappointed when Williams ordered the ports covered.
     He smiled apologetically at Strong and explained, "All approaches are secret, sir. We can't allow anyone to see where our defenses are located."
     "You fellows certainly believe in keeping prisoners in and visitors out!" commented Strong.
     "Anyone interested in coming to the Rock, sir," said Williams, "is under natural suspicion."
     The three cadets gulped, duly impressed with the severity of the prison routine.
     Soon they felt the unmistakable jar and bump of the small space vessel touching the surface of the planetoid. The jets cut out suddenly and Williams stood up.
     "Please follow me. Do not speak to anyone, and do not stop walking. Keep your hands in front of you and maintain a distance of ten feet between you and the man in front of you."
     He walked through the open hatch where a hard-faced enlisted guardsman stood rigidly, holding a paralo-ray gun at the ready.
     With a quick nod to the cadets Strong followed Williams through the hatch. At ten-foot intervals they followed him out of the hatch, with Tom bringing up the rear and the enlisted guardsman behind him.
     As Tom stepped out onto the surface of the asteroid he wasn't quite sure what he expected to see, but he certainly wasn't ready for the sight that greeted his eyes.
     As far as he could see, there was grass, spotted with small one-story buildings. To the left was a single towering structure built of Titan crystal and on top of it was the largest atomic blaster he had ever seen. He turned to ask the guardsman about the gun but was motioned ahead with a curt, "No questions. Keep walking." (the asteroid has some sort of handwavium paragravity and artificial atmosphere)
     Tom continued to walk. He noticed that they were heading for the tower. As he drew nearer, he could see men walking around a narrow catwalk at the top. They all carried paralo-ray rifles with miniature grids mounted on the barrel. Inside the rifle was a tiny radar direction finder. It was a simple but effective control against escaping prisoners. Each of the inmates of the Rock wore small metal disks welded to a thin chain around their waists. The disk was sensitive to radar impulses, and with no more effort than snapping a thumb catch on the rifle, the guard could locate and paralyze the nearest disk-wearing inmate.
     Tom was so full of questions it was necessary for the guard to warn him again, only this time in sharper tones.
     Entering the tower, they were scrutinized and cleared by an electronic beam that passed through their bodies and indicated any metal they might carry. Once through this last barrier, they were escorted to a slidestairs, where Williams left them.

     "Er—may I ask a question, sir?" asked Tom.
     The major smiled. "Go right ahead, Corbett."
     "It's about this whole setup," explained Tom. "I was expecting fences and prisoners and—well, most anything but green grass and small white buildings!"
     "The little huts you saw," replied the major, "are as much of a prison as we have. Each hut holds one prisoner. He has all the necessary furniture, in addition to audioceivers and story spools which he can change once a week. He also has basic garden equipment. All prisoners grow everything they eat. Each man is dependent on himself and is restricted to the hut and the area around it. If he comes within two miles of the tower, the guards will pick him up on radar and order him back. If he comes within one mile, they fire without further warning. Only one man has ever escaped. Coxine. And that was because we had a sick man on guard duty, or he never would have made it. He overpowered the guard, took his uniform, and stowed away on a supply ship. We caught him a year later."
     "Didn't your radar pick up the disk he was wearing, sir?" asked Roger.
     "That method of protection was only installed a few months ago," said the major.

(ed note: Strong questions Coxine at his little hut but gets no answers. Coxine still holds a grudge over Strong capturing him and throwing him into prison. But the interrogation is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Wallace's heavily armed spaceship, carrying out Coxine's master plan)

     Then, as if the space and sky overhead had suddenly been torn open, there was a flash of light followed by the roar of a tremendous explosion. The ground trembled. The air seemed to moan in agony. Strong and Astro wheeled around and looked toward the tower that shimmered in the light of the late afternoon sun. To their horror, they saw the unmistakable mushrooming cloud of an atomic blast rising in the synthetic atmosphere behind it. (the novel is a little nonchalant about atom bombs and nuclear mushroom clouds, but in its defence it was written in 1953. They hadn't quite realized how serious nuclear fallout could be)
     "By the craters of Luna—" gasped Strong.
     A second flash and explosion rocked the prison asteroid and suddenly the tower disappeared. Almost immediately, a spaceship appeared over the small planetoid and began systematically pounding the surface installations with atomic blasters.
     "Captain Strong," cried Astro. "Tom and Roger—they were in the tower!"
     "Come on," yelled Strong, "we've got to get back!"
     "You ain't going nowhere, Strong," snarled Coxine behind him. "I've been waiting a long time for this!" He suddenly struck the Solar Guard officer with a heavy rock and Strong slumped to the ground unconscious. Before Astro could move, Coxine smashed him to the ground with a blow on the back of the neck. They both lay deathly still.
     Then, as the atomic bombardment of the penal asteroid continued, the giant space criminal jumped into the jet car and sped away.

     The spaceship, which had somehow managed to penetrate the tight radar warning screen around the prison, had struck with merciless precision. Again and again, its atomic blasters had found the most important installations and had wiped them out. The first target, after the tower had been shattered, was the underground launching ramps for the asteroid's small fleet of rocket destroyers. But even after a direct hit, the guards were able to ready two ships to fight the attacking spaceship. The first was already diving in, her small one-inch blasters firing repeatedly (but was quickly shot down).
     Then the young cadet saw the invading spaceship move away from the area around the tower toward the horizon not too far away on the small planetoid. He followed it with his eyes and saw it suddenly land near a cluster of white prisoner huts. Tom gasped as the reason for the attack became clear.
     "But—but the prisoners are getting away!" yelled Tom.

     "I don't know who manned that ship, sir," said Williams, "but I can tell the reason all right. Every prisoner on the asteroid has escaped!"
     "Yes," mused Strong. "I thought that would be the answer. But how did that ship get through your defenses?"
     "Captain Strong," said Williams grimly, "I don't think there is any question about it. Someone broke the asteroid code. The attacking ship identified itself as the regular supply ship."
     "A Solar Guardsman?" asked Strong.
     "No, sir," said Williams. "I'd bet anything that none of our men would do that!"
     "Then who?" asked Strong.
     "Only one man would be smart enough to get the code and break it, and then sneak it off to the attacking ship!
     "Who?" asked Strong.
     "Bull Coxine!" answered the young officer through clenched teeth.

(ed note: Meanwhile on Coxine's ship, packed to the gills with hard-bitten prisoners. )

     Coxine's eyes narrowed into slits. "Get this, both of you!" he snapped. "What I said to those crawlers down below goes for you too. I'm the boss of this outfit and you don't even guess about what we're going to do, until I say so!"
     "But, Bull—!" whined Wallace.
     "Shut up!" roared Coxine. "And when you talk to me, you call me captain!"
     Wallace and Simms looked at each other. "O.K., Captain," muttered Simms.
     "Yes, sir!" corrected Coxine.
     "Yes, sir," said Simms quickly.
     "That's better," growled the giant spaceman. "Don't get the idea that just because you were able to follow orders that it makes you smart. Because it doesn't! It took me two and a half years to get the information collected onto these story spools and smuggle them out to you. Everything, from where to buy this spaceship to getting the light-key out of the time capsule, was my idea! My brains!"
     "Sure, Captain," said Wallace, "but we took the chances!"
     "Yeah," sneered Coxine. "You took chances! The only chance you took was in not paying attention to what I told you to do. I gave it all to you. Where to hold up the first freighter passenger, what to take, how to mount the atomic blasters, what code to use in getting through the prison defenses. The whole works! And I did it while sitting on the toughest Rock in the system. I smuggled it out right under the noses of those Solar Guard space crawlers. So forget about being smart, or you'll wind up with that scum below decks!"

From ON THE TRAIL OF THE SPACE PIRATES by Carey Rockwell (1953)

      AS THE tiny, star-like disk of the Sun sank behind the bleak rock plain, a whistle shrilled harshly through the chill dusk.
     "Attention!" barked a tall Saturnian guard.
     The hundreds of convicts in gray uniforms who had been excavating beryllium ore from the rock pits, stopped work. They shuffled sluggishly into columns and then stood waiting in sullen silence. These prisoners were a motley lot, representing every world in the Solar System. There were red-skinned Martians, brutal-faced Earthmen, sulky Neptunians with gray skins, and sly-looking white Venusians.
     This dreary, forbidding little world was Cerberus, one of the three moons of the planet Pluto. Here was located the great, escape-proof Interplanetary Prison, the living tomb of the most dangerous criminals of all nine worlds.
     “March!” snapped the guard. And the columns of convicts shuffled toward the distant, frowning mass of Interplanetary Prison.
     A prisoner in the last column glanced furtively at the guards. Then he whispered to the convict marching beside him.
     “Tonight,” he murmured meaningly. "All of you be ready."
     The other convict, a rugged, hard-eyed Earthman, gasped in astonishment.
     “It's crazy, Ul Quorn! ” he muttered tensely. “I don't know what your idea is, but you'll just get us all killed if you try it."
     Quorn made no answer, but there was a smile of confidence in his hooded eyes.
     Ul Quorn was different from the other convicts. He was a slender, small man who had the pallid red skin and high forehead of a Martian. But the fineness of his wrists and ankles, the handsomeness of his features, were Venusian. And his sleek black hair and black eyes were those of an Earthman. Ul Quorn was a mixed breed, the most dangerous convict that Interplanetary Prison had ever harbored. (this was written in 1940 and is disgustingly racist)
     Quorn’s hands were calloused from the months of harsh prison labor in the beryllium diggings. No one would have recognized in his silent, shuffling figure the criminal genius who had once terrorized the System by sheer scientific mastery and cunning — the half-legendary Magician of Mars!
     Quorn and his comrades marched silently on through the chill twilight, between vigilant guards armed with heavy atom guns. The dusk was deepening into darkness. In the starry sky bulked the great white sphere of Pluto, the ice-sheathed outpost world of the System. Beyond it gleamed its two other moons, Charon and Styx. (ed note: Pluto actually does have moons named Charon and Styx, discovered about 40 years after this was written. The fourth moon would have been named Cerberus but that name was already taken. So they used the Greek form of the name instead: "Kerberos")
     The black, massive walls of Interplanetary Prison loomed in the planet-light ahead. The great doors of inert metal were now open. Bright krypton-lamps cast a white glare on the sullen convicts as they passed across the main court of the prison to the massive cell-houses. Overhead droned fishlike Planet Patrol cruisers, keeping watch upon the moon.
     Ul Quorn’s column trudged into its own cellhouse, down a bleak cement corridor lighted by krypton bulbs. The hard-eyed guards watched as each prisoner entered his own little cell.
     “ Lock up! ” barked the captain of guards.
     The guards came along the corridor, flashing the tiny ray of their vibration-keys on each door-lock, thus sealing it electrically.
     "Aura on! ” came the final order of the officer.
     A soft glow filled the corridor, emanating from flat plates in the ceiling. This glow was a photo-electric aura which would instantly actuate alarms if a prisoner should somehow emerge from his cell into the corridor. (this is total technobabble, apparently some super-duper electric eye alarm)
     Quorn heard the guards depart. Two would remain on guard at the cellhouse entrance where the aura-alarms were located, he knew. The mixed breed sat down on his bunk and waited. The cellhouse grew quiet. There was soon no sound except the soft beat-beat of the ventilation system.

     UL QUORN finally rose softly and went to the ventilator-shaft of his cell. It was a six-inch opening covered by a barred grating. Deftly, he removed the grating and drew up four objects suspended in the shaft by cords.
     One of the hidden articles was an amazingly compact televisor set. The second was a stubby metal tube with a quartz lens in its end, the third a small glass globe mounted on a little cubical case, and the fourth a tiny, crude-looking atom-pistol. Quorn looked at the things with pride.
     “And they believed they could keep the Magician of Mars locked up here forever! ” he breathed to himself.
     Ul Quorn had achieved the almost incredible feat of secretly constructing these four instruments. For more than two years he had worked, cunningly smuggling in bits of metal and mineral from the mine-workings, and shaping them to his needs by sheer scientific wizardry.
     He touched the call-button of the tiny televisor and waited tensely. The instrument had no visi-screen. But soon a voice came from it.
     "Ul Quorn?” whispered a silky feminine voice, taut and thrilling. "I'm ready with the ship.”
     "Good, N’Rala!” murmured the mixed breed. “This is the night. Be here at the third hour, exactly."
     “I've memorized all your instructions," reassured the tense feminine voice. “I won't fail."
     Quorn turned off the televisor, thrust it into his jacket. He moved to the door of his cell. In his hand was the second of his instruments — the quartz-lensed metal tube.
     The tube was a makeshift vibration-key, similar to those with which the guards locked and unlocked the cells. It had taken all Quorn’s scientific genius to make this thing, and to compute the exact frequency of vibration to which it must be set if it were to unlock the cell doors.
     He peered out into the corridor, illuminated by the soft glow of the alarm-aura. There was no one there. Quorn thrust his improvised vibration-key out through the little barred opening in his cell door. Then he turned its tiny ray of tuned electric waves upon the lock.
     Click! The door was unlocked. Silently, Ul Quorn slid it open. But he did not venture out yet into the corridor. The moment he entered the soft glow of the aura out there, alarm bells would ring.
     Quorn took his third instrument, the cubical case crowned by a little glass globe. He touched a switch on its side. The glass globe emanated a spray of fine white radiance several yards around him. Quorn now stepped boldly out into the glow of the corridor.
     There was no clanging of distant alarms. The glass-globed mechanism he carried was radiating a "counter-aura.” This refracted the beams of the alarm-aura around him and thus prevented a break in the photo-electric warning circuit. (more technobabble)
     Quorn moved down the corridor toward the cellhouse entrance, as softly and stealthily as a Martian sand-cat. He peered around the end of the hallway into the guard-room at the entrance. Two uniformed guards sat chatting, their atom guns across their knees, relying on the aura-alarms on the wall to warn them if any prisoner should escape his cell.
     Quorn raised his crude little atom-pistol. One of the guards, a quick-eyed young Venusian, suddenly looked up.
     The tiny, needle-like ray of Quorn’s weapon drove instantly between his eyes. The other guard fell dead a second later.
     “Easy killing,” muttered Ul Quorn coolly. He went to the wall and switched off the aura-alarms. Then he picked up the atom guns of the two slain guards, hastened back along the corridor.
     The criminal used his makeshift vibration-key on the lock of a cell. The door slid open. The hard-faced, rugged Earthman in the cell gasped aloud.
     “Quorn! How the devil did you get a key? "
     “No time now to talk of that, Garson," rasped the mixed breed. "We've got to unlock the others, without rousing all the prisoners."

     THE two convicts went into silent action. Gray Garson, the Earthman, helped unlock ten other cells along the corridor. In them were the convicts with whom Quorn had previously discussed escape. They gathered silently in one of the cells.
     Quorn studied their hard, tense faces. Besides Gray Garson there was one other Earthman a grossly fat criminal promoter named Lucas Brewer. There was also Thikar, a giant, brutal, green Jovian space-pirate; Lu Sentu, a cunning-eyed, wizened Mercurian thief; Athor Az, a drowsy-looking Venusian murderer; Xexel, an old Saturnian criminal with a wrinkled blue face and filmy, evil eyes; two somber Martian killers; a sullen-looking Neptunian; and a hairy, towering Plutonian. (in Captain Future's solar system, all planets are somehow habitable and inhabited by their own peculiar species)
     "What's your plan, Quorn?” hoarsely whispered Lucas Brewer, his fat face quivering. “You've got us out of our cells but I don't see how we’re to escape from the Prison."
     “Sure, the Planet Patrol keeps watch around Cerberus night and day,” muttered Gray Garson. “No ship can land to take us away.”
     “We’ll get away despite the stupid Patrol," rasped Ul Quorn. “But before we start, I want one matter clearly understood. Once out of here, I give the commands, and the rest of you obey.”
     He read sulky dislike on their faces.
     “You fools!” he hissed. "Without me to lead you, you’d be tracked down and recaptured quickly."
     Lu Sentu muttered a doubt… "But what if they put Captain Future on our trail? ”
     At mention of that name, a lightning-flash of hate seemed to pass across the faces of the other convicts. There was a somber fire in Ul Quorn's black eyes, and his voice was harsh as he answered.
     “I hope they do — I’ve an old score to settle with Captain Future! And so do you all, for it was he who sent most of you here. Well settle with him, after we’ve won freedom and the treasure I'm after."
     “Treasure?” whispered Lucas Brewer, his small eyes sparkling. "What treasure?"
     "The greatest treasure in history!" Ul Quorn told them. “And once we’re free, I can lead you to it. We'll be rich, powerful, invincible!”
     Avarice was plain on every face in the vicious, motley group.
     “What is this treasure? Jewels, precious metals?" Gray Garson asked.
     “Something far greater than that," Quorn retorted. “Something so tremendous that it staggers the imagination. It won't be easy to secure, for it's in a well-nigh inaccessible place. But we can get it, if you obey me." (it turns out to be the Secret of Invisibility)
     Garson answered for them all.
     “We'll follow you, Quorn! But how are we going to get out of here and away from Cerberus?"
     “It’s almost the third hour,” muttered the Magician. “If my plan works, well be out of here soon.”
     He handed one of the atom guns to the big green Jovian.
     “You're a good shot, Thikar. Now follow me, all of you, and make no sound."
     They were starting down the corridor toward the entrance of the cellhouse when they heard a wild clangor of alarm cells suddenly vibrating through the night.
     “They've discovered our break! " cried Gray Garson.
     Quorn's black eyes blazed. “They must have had a secret spy-plate in that guard-room, blast them! I was afraid of that. Quick, out of here! ”
     Quorn knew now that somewhere in the guard-room had been hidden a spy-plate, an electric eye by which the chief of guards in the administration building could glance into each cellhouse at periodic intervals. Such a glance had probably revealed the two slain guards.
     The clangor of alarms was increasing and there was a sound of running feet out in the main court. As Ul Quorn and his band raced down the corridor toward the entrance, the convicts in all cell-houses awakened. They started to shout in bewildered excitement.
     Quorn and his companions burst out of the cellhouse into the night. The gray planet light of Pluto fell on a group of guards running toward them.
     “Get them! " snapped Quorn to the giant Jovian beside him. At the same moment he fired his own heavy atom gun from the hip.
     The ripping blasts from the two weapons flashed across the court and scythed down the oncoming guards before they were aware of attack.
     “We're done for! " wailed old Xexel behind Quorn. "We've not got a chance in a billion of getting out of here now! "

     ANYONE less iron-willed than Ul Quorn would have been unnerved. Alarm bells were still clamoring, more guards were running out of the administration building, and the roar of aroused convicts was growing in volume.
     Blue beams of krypton searchlights swung down from the guard-towers on the wall, searching the main court. And there was a far-away, increasing droning sound as black cruisers dived on the Prison from high above.
     “Patrol cruisers coming! " Gray Garson yelled.
     A blue beam bathed their group in its radiance as a searchlight found them.
     “Get that light, Thikar!” cried Quorn.
     Thikar’s atom blast snuffed out the light. But other beams swept toward them, and now the guards across the court were coming toward them on the run and firing as they came. Lu Sentu staggered in his stride as a flashing atom-blast grazed his shoulder.
     Ul Quorn paid no attention. His black eyes were intently sweeping the court. Then he saw what he was anticipating.
     In a dark comer of the great court, a small, torpedo-like rocket-ship suddenly appeared magically out of nothingness. It poised there, its flaming keel-jets keeping it a few inches above the paving.
     “Come on! ” cried Ul Quorn, plunging toward the craft.
     “Gods of Saturn, where did that ship come from? " gasped old Xexel, his filmy eyes bulging. "It just appeared out of nothing —” (a knowledgeable but naive scientist invented a ship that can travel in the fifth dimension, vanishing and appearing at will. Quorn had femme fatale N’Rala beguile the secret out of the scientist, murder him, and steal the ship. )
     Guards were sprinting to intercept the band before they reached the mysterious little craft. Quorn shot as he ran, with uncanny sureness of aim, and three of the foremost guards fell in scorched heaps.
     The door of the little ship opened. A lithe Martian girl appeared in it, tense and beautiful, her dark eyes blazing excitedly.
     “Good work, N’Rala! ” Quorn cried to her. “Quick, you men! ”
     His criminal followers tumbled into the little ship after him. Searchlights and atom blasts directed themselves at the craft. But then, as magically as it had appeared, the little ship suddenly vanished!
     The Planet Patrol cruisers that roared down over Interplanetary Prison began a frantic search. But though they searched all around the prison moon they found no trace of the mysterious little craft in which the fugitives had disappeared.

From THE MAGICIAN OF MARS by Edmond Hamilton (1969)

Pleasure Planet


Places for tourists to visit and relax, often paradise worlds or something akin to Las Vegas in space. Mostly, it is a place for the protagonists to relax, especially if there's beaches. Not likely to be a major target, unless it's a strategic location or attacked for symbolic reasons.

Does interstellar stress have you down? Can't perform like you used to? Time for you to take a break. Time for you to treat yourself nice. Time for you to take a Flexor V. The only Delta resort in the Erogenous Zone. Open all solar time. Come to Flexor V. Because what happens on Flexor V, stays on Flexor V.
Alien Adventure: The Adventure by John Freda

One of the many Planets of Hats where the theme of this entire planet is to enjoy yourself. This usually means sandy beaches and women in revealing outfits. This can also qualify for a planet that is "paradise", for which it's so good that no one would want to leave. If that is the case, then it may double as a Lotus Eater Planet.

Expect either the Busman to take his Holiday here or a Forced Prize Fight to ensnare our heroes. If this planet gets angry when anyone tries to leave, it may be a Possessive Paradise. Compare and Contrast Paradise Planet, which doesn't necessarily have to have an industry based on relaxation or even a civilization at all.

If you're looking for Treasure Planet, then you probably just hit a few different letters on accident.

(ed note: see TV Trope page for list of examples)


      If, from a distance of seven thousand parsecs, the fall of Kalgan to the armies of the Mule had produced reverberations that had excited the curiosity of an old Trader, the apprehension of a dogged captain, and the annoyance of a meticulous mayor — to those on Kalgan itself, it produced nothing and excited no one. It is the invariable lesson to humanity that distance in time, and in space as well, lends focus. It is not recorded, incidentally, that the lesson has ever been permanently learned.
     Kalgan was — Kalgan. It alone of all that quadrant of the Galaxy seemed not to know that the Empire had fallen, that the Stannells no longer ruled, that greatness had departed, and peace had disappeared.
     Kalgan was the luxury world. With the edifice of mankind crumbling, it maintained its integrity as a producer of pleasure, a buyer of gold and a seller of leisure.
     It escaped the harsher vicissitudes of history, for what conqueror would destroy or even seriously damage a world so full of the ready cash that would buy immunity.
     Yet even Kalgan had finally become the headquarters of a warlord and its softness had been tempered to the exigencies of war.
     Its tamed jungles, its mildly modeled shores, and its garishly glamorous cities echoed to the march of imported mercenaries and impressed citizens. The worlds of its province had been armed and its money invested in battleships rather than bribes for the first time in its history. Its ruler proved beyond doubt that he was determined to defend what was his and eager to seize what was others. He was a great one of the Galaxy, a war and peace maker, a builder of Empire, an establisher of dynasty.
     And an unknown with a ridiculous nickname had taken him — and his arms — and his budding Empire — and had not even fought a battle.
     So Kalgan was as before, and its uniformed citizens hurried back to their older life, while the foreign professionals of war merged easily into the newer bands that descended.
     Again as always, there were the elaborate luxury hunts for the cultivated animal life of the jungles that never took human life; and the speedster bird-chases in the air above, that was fatal only to the Great Birds.
     In the cities, the escapers of the Galaxy could take their varieties of pleasure to suit their purse, from the ethereal sky-palaces of spectacle and fantasy that opened their doors to the masses at the jingle of half a credit, to the unmarked, unnoted haunts to which only those of great wealth were of the cognoscenti.

From FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE by Isaac Asimov (1952)

      Tikil was really three cities loosely bound together, two properly recognized on the maps of Korwar's northern continent, the third a sore—rather than a scar—of war, still unhealed. To the north and west Tikil was an exotic bloom on a planet that had harbored wealth almost from the year of its first settlement. To the east, fronting on the spaceport, was the part of Tikil in which lay the warehouses, shops, and establishments of the thousands of businesses necessary for the smooth running of a pleasure city, this exotic bloom where three-quarters of the elite of a galactic sector gathered to indulge their whims and play.
     To the south was the Dipple, a collection of utilitarian, stark, unattractive housing. To live there was a badge of inferiority. A man from the Dipple had three choices for a cloudy future. He could try to exist without subcitizenship and a work permit, haunting the Casual Labor Center to compete with too many of his fellows for the very limited crumbs of employment; he could somehow raise the stiff entrance fee and buy his way into the strictly illegal but flourishing and perilous Thieves' Guild; or he could sign on as contract labor and be shipped off world in deep freeze with no beforehand knowledge of his destination or work.
     The War of the Two Sectors had been fought to a stalemate five years ago. Afterwards, the two leading powers had shared out the spoils—"spheres of influence." Several major and once richer planets had to be written off entirely, since worlds reduced to cinders on which no human being dared land were not attractive property. But a fringe of frontier worlds had passed into the grasp of one or the other of the major powers—the Confederation or the Council. As a result, the citizens of several small nations suddenly found themselves homeless.
     At the outbreak of the war ten years earlier, there had been forced evacuations from such frontier worlds; pioneers had been removed from their lands so that military outposts and masked solar batteries could be placed in their stead. In this fashion, the Dipple had been set up on Korwar, far back from the fighting line. During the first fervor of patriotism the Dipple dwellers met with good will. But later, when their home worlds were ruined or traded away across the conference tables, there was resentment, and on some planets there were organized moves to get rid of these rootless inhabitants…

     …Sixth Square lay on the outer fringe of the business district, which meant that Kyger was engaged in one of the upper-bracket luxury trades. Rather surprising that such a merchant would have need for a C.L.C. hireling. The maintenance force and highly trained salesmen of those shops were usually of the full-citizen class. And why animals? Horan swung on one of the fast-moving roll walks, his temporarily tattooed wrist held in plain sight across his wide belt to prevent questions from any patroller.
     Because it was early, the roll walks were not crowded, and few private flitters held the air lanes overhead. Most of the shutters were still in place across the display fronts of the shops. It would be midday before the tourists from the pleasure hotels and the shoppers from the villas would move into town. On Korwar, shopping was a fashionable form of amusement, and the treasures of half the galaxy were pouring into Tikil, the result of stepped-up production after the war.

     …Any pets offered to the wife of Var suk Sark would indeed be the most exotic as well as the most expensive obtainable. Suk Sark was of one of the Fifty Noble Families on Wolf Three. But the Gentle Fem San duk Var was not accepted in that lineage-conscious assemblage. Gossip was undoubtedly correct in ascribing the present residence of the Var household on Korwar to that fact. One could not buy one's way into the Fifty, no matter how limitless was the pile of credits one could dip into. But there were other circles one could impress with one's importance—many such on Korwar (the planet Tikil is on).
     Troy wondered how suk Sark enjoyed running his autocratic government of the Sweepers from so far away. The Sweepers in the galaxy as a whole were small fry, a collection of six minor solar systems, and they never ventured too far into the conflicts between the real lords of space. But sometimes even such small organizations had moments when their allegiance or enmity could tip the scales of an uneasy balance of power. Suk Sark was only one of the "powers" who, for one reason or another, made Korwar their residence, apart from their official headquarters.

     …Tikil was a luxury port. And the luxuries were not always within the bands of legal imports. Troy could name four forbidden drugs, a banned liquor, and several other items that would never arrive openly on the planet but would promise high returns for the men or man reckless enough to run them through port scanners. If Kyger had activities outside the port laws, however, that was none of his cage cleaner's concern.…

     …The merchant pressed a button. A small viewing screen moved outward from the wall at a comfortable eye level for the woman in the foreseat of the party. She was older than Var's consort, and far more elaborately dressed, affecting the semitransparent robes of Cynus, though they were not in the least flattering to her emaciated figure. Her voice was a shrill caw, but as Troy caught sight of her sharp-featured profile, he knew her for the Grand Leader One from Sidona. That was a matriarchate in name only now, a cluster of three small planets about a dying sun. But it still occupied a strategic point on an important star lane, and what power the Grand Leader Ones might have lost in battle they still possessed in alliances.

From CATSEYE by Andre Norton (1961)

Henning’s Roost was renowned throughout the solar system. Its reputation stretched from the intermittently molten plains of Mercury to the helium lakes of Pluto, from the upper reaches of the Jovian atmosphere to the subterranean settlements burrowed deeply into the red surface of Mars’ dusty plains. Wherever men and women worked at hard or dangerous jobs, wherever boredom and terror were normal components of life, The Roost was a standard subject of conversation.

Henning’s was a pleasure satellite, the largest ever built. Its owners had placed it in solar orbit ten million kilometers in front of Earth. There was a story told of a spaceman who had arrived at The Roost with a year’s accumulated pay in his pocket, stayed ten days, left flat broke, and pronounced himself well satisfied. It was a testimonial to the diversions provided by Henning’s management that the story was widely accepted as completely reasonable. Besides which, it was true.

Be that as it may, Chryse Haller was bored.

Chryse had arrived at The Roost two weeks earlier for her first vacation in three years. She had plunged immediately into the social whirl, sampling most of the diversions that were not ultimately harmful to one’s health. She had played chemin de fir, blackjack, poker, roulette, and seven-card stapo on the gaming decks. Later, she had enlisted as a centurion in a Roman Legion on the Sensie-Gamer deck and slogged for two days through the damp chill of a simulated Gaul. Her first battle convinced her that the difference between ancient warfare and a modern butcher shop is mostly a matter of attitude, and she began to cast around for new diversions.

     She let her gaze slip from his angry face and move to the viewscreen at the end of the small restaurant. The view was from a remote camera somewhere out on the hull. It showed a jumble of I-beams, pressure spheres, and hull plates framed by the black of space. “Let’s change the subject before we have an argument. I have been staring at that thing all morning. What is it?”
     He turned to follow her gaze. “Just an old worker dormitory used during The Roost’s construction. It’s abandoned now, of course.”
     “I would think the owners would keep local space clear of all such hazards to navigation. Wouldn’t be very good publicity for a shipload of tourists to run into that heap on approach.”
     He shook his head. “It isn’t as ramshackle as it appears. Look closely. See the thruster cluster jutting out near the airlock? There are twenty more scattered over the hull. That hulk and a half dozen others are slaved to the Roost’s central computer.”
     “Sounds like a lot of trouble to go to for a junkyard,” Chryse said.
     “It’s part of the service. The hulks make good destinations for clients with a yen to explore the mysteries of space.”
     “The what?”
     He laughed, his pique suddenly forgotten. “Haven’t you ever skin dived on a sunken ship?”
     She shook her head.
     “How about going up to Zeta Deck then? They have a near perfect simulation of the Esmeralda there. That was a Spanish galleon that sunk off Key West in the Sixteenth Century. They took sixty million stellars worth of treasure out of her back in the thirties.”
     Chryse shook her head. “I’m tired of simulated adventure.”
     He smiled, turning on the boyish charm. “That’s the reason for the hulks. They are the real thing. We could check out two vacsuits at North Pole Terminus and make a day long picnic of it if you like.”


The New Moon was really new—a glittering creation , of modern science and high finance, the proudest triumph of thirtieth century engineering. The heart of it was a vast hexagonal structure of welded metal, ten miles across, that held eighty cubic miles of expensive, air-conditioned space.

Far nearer Earth than the old Moon, the new satellite had a period of only six hours. From the Earth, its motion appeared faster and more spectacular because of its retro­grade direction. It rose in the west, fled across the sky against the tide of the stars and plunged down where the old Moon had risen.

The New Moon was designed to be spectacular. A spinning web of steel wires, held rigid by centrifugal force, Spread from it across a thousand miles of space. They supported an intricate system of pivoted mirrors of sodium foil and sliding color filters of cellulite. Reflected sunlight was utilized to illuminate the greatest advertising sign conceived.

But the rising sign, as it had been designed to do, held his eyes. A vast circle of scarlet stars came up to the greenish desert dusk. They spun giddily, came and went, changed suddenly to a lurid yellow. Then garish blue-and-orange letters flashed a legend:

Tired, Mister? Bored, Sister? Then come with me—The disk became a red-framed animated picture of a slender girl in white, tripping up the gangway of a New Moon liner. She turned, and the gay invitation of her smile changed into burning words: Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want. Caspar Hannas has it for you. Find health at our sanatoria! flamed the writing in the sky. Sport in our gravity-free games! Recreation in our clubs and theatres! Knowledge in our museums and observatories. Thrills, and beauty—everywhere! Fortune, if you're lucky, in our gaming salons! Even oblivion if you desire it, at our Clinic of Euthanasia!

The first New Moon had been the battered hulk of an obsolescent space liner, towed into an orbit about the Earth twenty years ago. The charter somehow issued to the New Moon Syndicate in the interplanetary confusion following the First Interstellar War had given that gambling ship the status of a semi-independent planet, which made it a convenient refuge from the more stringent laws of Earth and the rest of the System. Caspar Hannas, the head of the syndicate, had defied outraged reformers—and prospered exceedingly.

The wondrous artificial satellite, first opened to the public a decade ago, had replaced a whole fleet of luxury liners that once had circled just outside the laws of Earth. The financial rating of the syndicate was still somewhat uncertain—Hannas had been called, among many other things, a conscienceless commercial octopus; but the new resort was obviously a profitable business enterprise, efficiently administered by Hannas and his special police.

His enemies—and there was no lack of them—liked to call the man a spider. True enough, his sign in the sky was like a gaudy web. True, millions swarmed to it, to leave their wealth—or even, if they accepted the dead-black chip that the croupiers would give any player for the asking, their lives.

The salons of chance occupied a series of six immense halls radiating from the private office of Caspar Hannas, which was situated at the very hub of the New Moon's wheel. The walls of the office were transparent from with­in, and Hannas, from the huge swivel chair within his ring-shaped desk, could look at will down any one of the halls.

They were huge and costly rooms. The walls bore ex­pensive statues, expensive murals, golden statues set in niches. And their polished floors were covered with thou­sands of tables of chanpe.

Beneath each hall ran an armored tunnel, unsuspected by most of the players above, where their losses were swiftly examined for counterfeit, counted, tabulated, and dispatched to the impregnably armored treasure vault be­neath the office of Caspar Hannas. A continuous tape, fed through a slot in the circular desk, revealed minute by minute the New Moon's gains and losses. The losses all appeared in red but that color was rarely seen.

"The laws of probability," Caspar Hannas always in­sisted, smiling his fixed and mindless smile, "are all I need. Every game is fair."

And cynics, it had been suspected, were apt to find their doubts very unexpectedly terminated in the Hall of Euthanasia.

"It would serve you right, Hannas, if I played all the night. Ah, so! Even if I broke your New Moon, and made you beg for the black chip of admission to your own Euthanasia Clinic!"

"He's still a fool." Caspar Hannas spoke to Jay Kalam, not troubling to lower his contemptuous voice. "A pathological gambler. I've seen thousands like him—egotistical enough to think they can invent some lunatic system to cheat the mathematics of probability. They never know when they've had enough, until they finally come begging for a free black chip. Davian probably will tomorrow, when he has lost what he wins tonight."

"They're all alike," he said. "They lose everything, and the syndicate pays their way home. But they aren't content. They never learn. They've got to get even. They sell their homes. They break their relatives. They borrow from their friends, until they have no friends. They live in squalor, and scrape and beg and steal—and keep coming back out here to try again to break the bank."

"But the syndicate doesn't encourage such patrons. The personal disasters they bring upon themselves tend to reflect on our establishment, and too many of them finally become bitter and desperate enough to create unpleasant public scenes by killing themselves at the tables, or even sometimes attacking our own people, instead of decently requesting that free black chip." He sniffed derisively.

From ONE AGAINST THE LEGION by Jack Williamson (1936)

The authority of the Solar System Government and its laws shall extend to every celestial body that revolves around the Sun.

THE framers of the Constitution of the Solar System Government supposed that that provision would insure the reign of order on every speck of matter in the System, be it planet, asteroid, moon or meteor. But they reckoned without the devious, subtle ingenuity of a certain Jovian named Bubos Uum. He saw in that paragraph a gaping loophole.

Bubas Uum was a notorious interplanetary gambler whose semi-criminal activities had already won him a term in the dreaded prison on Ceberus, the moon of Pluto. He had started a hidden gambling resort in the jungles of his native world. But after the Planet Police raided it and he was convicted, he had decided not to defy the law. Evading it was more profitable and less wearing.

Through a dummy company, Bubas Uum bought sole title to a small asteroid lying on the extreme outer edge of the asteroidal zone. He had it fitted with air and water creators, and built on it gambling palaces and pleasure gardens — all quite openly. The Planet Police had watched, ready to raid him as soon as he started operating.

Then Bubas Uum had sprung his surprise. Secretly he had had the little asteroid fitted with rocket tubes of gigantic power, enough to move it in space like a great ship. He turned on those tubes. Their blast impelled the little world against its normal orbit. Instead of moving on in its orbit, the little planetoid remained stationary in space — relative to the Solar System

Thus the Pleasure Planet, as he called it, did not revolve around the Sun but remained in one position in space. And thus, according to the Constitution, the law of the Solar System Government did not extend to the Pleasure Planet. The Planet Police had no authority there. The only authority was the word of fat, wily Bubas Uum, its owner.

The Pleasure Planet was, in fact, a lawless little world in the very heart of the System. Gambling flourished there on a lavish scale. Illicit interplanetary drugs could be purchased openly. The only restrictions were the discreet ones imposed by Bubas Uum's yellow-uniformed guards. From all the nine worlds came the rich, the bored, the dissipated, to enjoy themselves without restraint on the Pleasure Planet.


Cult Colony

Cult Colonies happen when a group of fanatics actually manages to form an Extremist Settlement. By definition the colonist's culture is outside of Empire societal norms. They can be quite uncomfortable places to visiting outsiders. Meaning the settlers will either try to convert you, or burn you at the stake for being a heretic.

An Imperium-imposed Colony Educational Service team can try to prevent things from going too far downhill. Good luck with that, such a team is by definition "outsiders."


The space hippies want to found a hippie colony on Eden, it only lasts a few hours.
McANDREW CHRONICLES by Charles Sheffield
One of the high-tech generation starships heading out to found a colony is populated with Amish hoping to live a low-tech life. I'm sure the irony was intentional.
DUNE by Frank Herbert
Arrakis was settled by a Zensunni sect escaping persecution
GAEAN TRILOGY by John Varley
One of the protagonists comes from The Coven: an L5 space colony inhabited by neopagan lesbians who procreate by artificial insemination.
The Church of Latter Day Saints hires Tycho Station to build a generation starship intended to found a religious colony at a nearby star.
LUCIFER'S STAR by C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus
The Archduchy of Crius is a cult colony founded by Prophet Stephen Allenway. He and his followers were exiled from another cult colony who thought Allenway was too extreme even for them.
CHILDE CYCLE by Gordon R. Dickson
With the advent of interstellar colonization, humanity naturally fragments into one planet for each universal personality trait. These are called the "splinter cultures". The Dorsai value courage, and supply elite mercenaries to the other colonies. The Exotics value philosophy, the Friendlies value faith and fanaticism, Newton values hard science, Ceta values mercantilism, Cassida values engineering, etc.

Lost Colony

A Lost Colony is when somehow a colony loses all of its technology, and Terra loses all record of the colony's existence. The colony reverts to whatever technology is supportable (probably about pre-Industrial Revolution), and may even forget that they are not native to the planet. In pulp science fiction, writers were fond of using the shocker that Terra itself was a lost colony from somewhere else (a couple of such pulp stories also threw in a gratuitous "Adam and Eve" theme). This fell out of favor when evolutionary science had advanced to the point where it could demonstrate that mankind almost certainly evolved on Terra.

The part about Terra losing all records of the Lost Colony can happen many ways:

  • Terra can suffer a nuclear war (which the lost colonists might have been fleeing) thus destroying all the records
  • The colonists are founding a Cult Colony and carefully destroy all records of their destination before leaving
  • The colonists use a sleeper ship aimed at random which after a few thousand years happens upon a random habitable planet which is of course totally unknown to Terra
  • The colonists use an experimental faster-than-light starship which malfunctions and lands them in a random location unknown to them or Terra
  • Or any combination of the above

When contact is reestablished with Terra, what happens next is influenced by which of the two has the higher technology.

An amusing twist is when Terra is the lost colony.


Location is no longer accessible or has disappeared. This could be due to a variety of reasons: The local Gate has been destroyed, the wormhole that connected the location is now unstable, or something happened to the settlers. In either case, no one knows were it is and may become myth. Explorers may find these places again.


Good news! Kepler data suggests there could be three hundred million or more potentially life-bearing worlds orbiting sunlike stars in our Milky Way. Sure, some small-minded people might point out the gap between “potentially life-bearing” and “actually life-bearing”—see Mars and Venus—and that just because a world has native life, it does not follow that it will support our sort of life—see deep-sea hot vents—but pshaw to that! Those of us raised on a heavy diet of SF novels know that superluminal travel is merely only one diagram-defaced napkin and a single busy weekend away, and that any vaguely Earthlike world can be settled with sufficient force of will.

Three hundred million is kind of a big number. To put it in universal terms, it is about as many Lego pieces as would be in a tightly-packed cube ten meters on a side. It’s more than enough worlds for one or two to slip through the cracks. Which brings us to that ever-popular trope, the lost colony.

It seems reasonable to distinguish between worlds that were lost by accident and those that were misplaced on purpose. Similarly, one can distinguish between worlds that have since been recontacted and ones that are still on their own. Thus, four basic flavours.


Accidental, found

Rim World stories by A. Bertram Chandler feature quite a few lost worlds, thanks to the peculiarities of the once-popular Ehrenhaft Drive. Under the proper conditions, an Ehrenhaft Drive-equipped starship could be flung across many light-years, to end up at its destination drained of power and unable to return. Habitable worlds are common in this setting, many of which have been involuntarily settled. (By the era in which most Rim World stories are set, Ehrenhafts have been replaced by the time-manipulating Mannschenn Drive. Ehrenhafts can maroon you on the wrong side of the Milky Way. Mannschenn Drives can land you in the wrong universe while turning you inside out. Progress!)

The Survey Service has considerable expertise where lost colonies are concerned. Reintegrating such worlds back into galactic society is a well-practiced art. As young Lieutenant Commander John Grimes discovers in 1972’s The Inheritors, the lost colony on Gamma Argo Four—called “Morrowvia” by its settlers—presents unique challenges. Uniqueness can be an asset, but in the case of the Morrowvians, theirs may leave them vulnerable to a form of brutal but entirely legal slavery that Grimes could be powerless to prevent.

Accidental, lost

C.J. Cherryh’s long-running Foreigner series (twenty-one books since 1994) begins when the starship Phoenix makes a startling discovery: their star-drive had a previously unsuspected failure mode that could—and in the case of the Phoenix, did—send them so far off course that no identifiable stars were visible. Return home was impossible.

A solar-type star with an Earthlike world was within reach. Inconveniently, the world had a native civilization of sufficient technological sophistication that humans could not hope to dominate. Having failed to conquer, humans reluctantly embrace accommodation. They are confined to their station and an island. All human contact with the atevi is funnelled through one man, the paidhi. It falls to paidhi Bren Cameron to navigate the dangerous world on which his people are trapped.

Deliberate, found

The hidden worlds of Kristin Landon’s eponymous series—The Hidden Worlds (2007), The Cold Minds (2008), The Dark Reaches (2009)—are hidden for good reason. Hiding on habitable worlds concealed within a nebula is humanity’s best hope to elude the machine intelligences that took Earth for their own.

Having led survivors to freedom, the Pilot Masters of the Line established a brutally hierarchal, patriarchal society with—surprise, surprise—themselves at the very top. Their monopoly on starflight made their position unassailable, save for two minor details: they didn’t actually have the monopoly on piloting skills they claimed, and the hidden worlds are not in fact hidden from the Cold Minds.

Deliberate, still lost

Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite (1982) introduces readers to Geta, a desolate, hostile, metal-poor world setting. It was settled by humans in a distant past. Geta’s native life is biochemically incompatible with terrestrial lifeforms, which in turn means the only food available are the eight sacred plants—Earth crops presumably imported by the original colonists—and humans themselves. These constraints have shaped the settler culture into one any avid Social Darwinist would adore.

Oelita the Clanless One is a heretic who believes humans did not descend from the sky as legend says, but rather evolved from local lifeforms; she disapproves of murder; she frowns on eating human babies. The Gaet group marriage would never consider courting the bright young woman had they a choice. Thanks to political machinations by a rival, they are commanded to marry Oelita. They test her (death if she fails); she wins.


(ed note: Warning: spoilers for Starfog.

the Commonalty is contacted by an odd starship with a human crew. They are from the lost colony of Kirkasant. Over the thousands of years they managed to rise from medieval tech to starship tech. The Makt is their first FTL starship, but unfortunately it has gotten lost, and cannot find its way home. Laure, an agent of the Commonalty travels in his advanced starship along with the Makt to see what the problem is.)

      “Let me recapitulate,” he said, “and you tell me if I’m misinterpreting matters. A ship comes to Serieve, allegedly from far away. It’s like nothing anybody has ever seen, unless in historical works. (They haven’t got the references on Serieve to check that out, so we’re bringing some from HQ.) Hyperdrive, gravity control, electronics, yes, but everything crude, archaic, bare-bones. Fission instead of fusion power, for example . . . and human piloting! (instead of computer controlled)
     “That is, the crew seem to be human. We have no record of their anthropometric type, but they don’t look as odd as people do after several generations on some planets I could name. And the linguistic computer, once they get the idea that it’s there to decipher their language and start cooperating with it, says their speech appears to have remote affinities with a few that we know, like ancient Anglic. Preliminary semantic analysis suggests their abstractions and constructs aren’t quite like ours, but do fall well inside the human psych range. All in all, then, you’d assume they’re explorers from distant parts.”
     “Except for the primitive ship,” Jaccavrie chimed in. “One wouldn’t expect such technological backwardness in any group which had maintained any contact, however tenuous, with the general mass of the different human civilizations. Nor would such a slow, under-equipped vessel pass through them without stopping, to fetch up in this border region.”
     “Right. So . . . if it isn’t a fake . . . their gear bears out a part of their story. Kirkasant is an exceedingly old colony . . . yonder.” Laure pointed toward unseen stars. “Well out in the Dragon’s Head sector, where we’re barely beginning to explore. Somehow, somebody got that far, and in the earliest days of interstellar travel. They settled down on a planet and lost the trick of making spaceships. Only lately have they regained it.(a duntDaDUHHHH! Lost Colony!)

     Laure hastily asked: “Have you no knowledge of what happened?”
     “No,” said the girl, turned pensive. “Not in truth. Legends, found in many forms across all Kirkasant, tell of battle, and a shipful of people who fled far until at last they found haven. A few fragmentary records—but those are vague, save the Baorn Codex; and it is little more than a compendium of technical information which the Wisemen of Skribent preserved. Even in that case”—she smiled again— “the meaning of most passages was generally obscure until after our modern scientists had invented the thing described for themselves.”
     “Do you know what records remain in Homeland?” Demring asked hopefully.
     Laure sighed and shook his head. “No. Perhaps none, by now. Doubtless, in time, an expedition will go from us to Earth. But after five thousand trouble-filled years—And your ancestors may not have started from there. They may have belonged to one of the first colonies.”

     In a dim way, he could reconstruct the story. There had been a fight. The reasons—personal, familial, national, ideological, economic, whatever they were—had dropped into the bottom of the millennia between then and now. (A commentary on the importance of any such reasons.) But someone had so badly wanted the destruction of someone else that one ship, or one fleet, hounded another almost a quarter way around the galaxy.
     Or maybe not, in a literal sense. It would have been hard to do. Crude as they were, those early vessels could have made the trip, if frequent stops were allowed for repair and resupply and refilling of the nuclear converters. But to this day, a craft under hyperdrive could only be detected within approximately a light-year’s radius by the instantaneous “wake” of space-pulses. If she lay doggo for a while, she was usually unfindable in the sheer stupendousness of any somewhat larger volume. That the hunter should never, in the course of many months, either have overhauled his quarry or lost the scent altogether, seemed conceivable but implausible.
     Maybe pursuit had not been for the whole distance. Maybe the refugees had indeed escaped after a while, but—in blind panic, or rage against the foe, or desire to practice undisturbed a brand of utopianism, or whatever the motive was—they had continued as far as they possibly could, and hidden themselves as thoroughly as nature allowed.
     In any case, they had ended in a strange part of creation: so strange that numerous men on Serieve did not admit it existed. By then, their ship must have been badly in need of a complete overhaul, amounting virtually to a rebuilding. They settled down to construct the necessary industrial base. (Think, for example, how much plant you must have before you make your first transistor.) They did not have the accumulated experience of later generations to prove how impossible this was.
     Of course they failed. A few score—a few hundred at absolute maximum, if the ship had been rigged with suspended-animation lockers—could not preserve a full-fledged civilization while coping with a planet for which man was never meant. And they had to content themselves with that planet. Once into the Cloud Universe, even if their vessel could still wheeze along for a while, they were no longer able to move freely about, picking and choosing.
     Kirkasant was probably the best of a bad lot. And Laure thought it was rather a miracle that man had survived there. So small a genetic pool, so hostile an environment . . . but the latter might well have saved him from the effects of the former. Natural selection must have been harsh. And, seemingly, the radiation background was high, which led to a corresponding mutation rate. Women bore from puberty to menopause, and buried most of their babies. Men struggled to keep them alive. Often death harvested adults, too, entire families. But those who were fit tended to survive. And the planet did have an unfilled ecological niche: the one reserved for intelligence. Evolution galloped. Population exploded. In one or two millennia, man was at home on Kirkasant. In five, he crowded it and went looking for new planets.
     Because culture had never totally died. The first generation might be unable to build machine tools, but could mine and forge metals. The next generation might be too busy to keep public schools, but had enough hard practical respect for learning that it supported a literate class. Succeeding generations, wandering into new lands, founding new nations and societies, might war with each other, but all drew from a common tradition and looked to one goal: reunion with the stars.
     Once the scientific method had been created afresh, Laure thought, progress must have been more rapid than on Earth. For the natural philosophers knew certain things were possible, even if they didn’t know how, and this was half the battle. They must have got some hints, however oracular, from the remnants of ancient texts. They actually had the corroded hulk of the ancestral ship for their studying. Given this much, it was not too surprising that they leaped in a single lifetime from the first moon rockets to the first hyperdrive craft—and did so on a basis of wildly distorted physical theory, and embarked with such naïvete that they couldn’t find their way home again!
     All very logical. Unheard of, outrageously improbable, but in this big a galaxy the strangest things are bound to happen now and again. The Kirkasanters could be absolutely honest in their story.

     “Yes,” Laure said, “but I do need to know a few things. It’s not clear to me how you found us. I mean, you crossed a thousand light-years or more of wilderness. How did you come on a speck like Serieve?”
     “We were asked that before,” Demring said, “but then we could not well explain, few words being held in common. Now you show a good command of the Hobrokan tongue, and for our part, albeit none of these villagers will take the responsibility of putting one of us under your educator machine . . . in talking with technical folk, we’ve gained various technical words of yours.”
     Demring said with care: “See you, when we could not find our way back to Kirkasant’s sun, and at last had come out in an altogether different cosmos, we thought our ancestors might have originated there. Certain traditional songs hinted as much, speaking of space as dark for instance; and surely darkness encompassed us now, and immense loneliness between the stars. Well, but in which direction might Homeland lie? Casting about with telescopes, we spied afar a black cloud, and thought, if the ancestors had been in flight from enemies, they might well have gone through such, hoping to break their trail.”
     “The Dragon’s Head Nebula,” Laure nodded.
     Graydal’s wide shoulders lifted and fell. “At least it gave us something to steer by,” she said.
     Laure stole a moment’s admiration of her profile. “You had courage,” he said. “Quite aside from everything else, how did you know this civilization had not stayed hostile to you?”
     “How did we know it ever was in the first place?” she chuckled. “Myself, insofar as I believe the myths have any truth, I suspect our ancestors were thieves or bandits, or—”

(ed note: As it turns out, the Kirkasanters are the descendants of the McCormac rebels, who fled the Terran Empire at the end of The Rebel Worlds. Five thousand years elapse. By this time the Terran Empire has declined and fell, and a Long Night has passed.)

     “Daughter!” Demring hurried on, in a scandalized voice: “When we had fared thus far, we found the darkness was dust and gas such as pervade the universe at home. There was simply an absence of stars to make them shine. Emerging on the far side, we tuned our neutrino detectors. Our reasoning was that a highly developed civilization would use a great many nuclear power plants. Their neutrino flux should be detectable above the natural noise level—in this comparatively empty cosmos—across several score light-years or better, and we could home on it.”

From STARFOG by Poul Anderson (1967)

(ed note: The person talking is the chief of an interstellar law-enforcement agency. The "Enemy" is the interstellar organized crime syndicate)

He paused and indicated a chair. "Do sit down, make yourself comfortable." He sat down facing them. "As you know from history, four hundred years ago, there was a war of independence among our stellar colonies. During that war, four recently colonized planets were completely cut off. Vessels carrying vital equipment failed to arrive and, in the hundred-year combat which followed, the colonists on these worlds lost their technology. Superstition replaced knowledge. They slipped to a period roughly approximating sixteenth-century earth which was pretty good considering that they had only memory, records, and the clothes they stood up in with which to build. Every time someone died, knowledge died with them, you get the picture.

"It was felt, when the first cautious surveys were made, that it would be in the interests of these cultures generally, if they climbed to a period roughly approaching the twentieth century before being united with the Empire. The experts felt that too early a contact might have dangerous repercussions on these cultures. Further, with the growing strength of the Enemy they would undoubtedly be exploited, turned into side-shows and perhaps perish as individual and vital off-shoots of mankind's climb to the stars.

"Warning monitors were therefore placed in orbit round these planets and regular patrols instituted. It was known, needless to say, that Cisterine, the planet in question, was rich in Cuderium and here precautions were doubled.

"The Enemy, however, has some ingenious scientists on its payroll and they managed to by-pass the monitors and evade the patrols without triggering the alarms. Judging by figures to hand, they had mined and ferried out a couple of billions worth of Cuderium before they were discovered.

"While this was going on, the executives in charge became bored. They therefore decided to amuse themselves, playing God.

"The peoples of the planet's two continents, if not friends, had never been overt enemies, so the executives drummed up a little war to make their stay more interesting. It was then that some bright spark had the idea of making a profit out of it. Why not hook up some cameras? Make a good spectacular and profit out of indulgence appealed to them greatly.

"The spectacular (a popular TV show), as you did not see all of it, is worth mentioning. It depicted an heroic spaceman marooned on a primitive planet. He falls among a noble race whose lands and seaboards are being constantly ravished and plundered by the brutal Royal fleets of the adjacent continent. Out of love of the people and, incidentally, unlikely local materials, he builds a quick-firing gun and sallies forth in their only available ship to do battle for them. Needless to say, the battle scenes were impressive and the backgrounds so skilfully disguised that, but for your 'dream' we should never have put two and two together."

From BUTTERFLY PLANET by Philip E. High (1971)

Garbage World


"This must be the junk capital of the universe."

Daniel, The Transformers: The Movie

In Speculative Fiction, one will sometimes find that entire planets get used as interstellar landfills. Implicitly this means that it is somehow worthwhile to launch refuse into space and take it to another planet, possibly one that is located in another solar system, in order to dump it there, rather than give it a push towards the nearest star, dump it on a nearby worthless, uninhabitable rock, or just recycle the stuff (not to mention massive and cheap energy sources that make such launches worthwhile in the first place— just getting into space in the first place is a lot harder than most people think).

In many cases, the landfill-planet will even be habitable, if only barely, for the convenience of the protagonists who will naturally end up spending time there at some point. Hobo cities built out of scrap optional.

For this trope to work at all, the setting must have very Casual (and VERY CHEAP) Interstellar Travel. There are, however, ways to harden this trope: make the planet in question a useless dwarf planet in a nearby asteroid belt, Ceres-like (delta-v to reach such a planet could be really low), used only to dump garbage of space origin from the same system, and equipped with dirty recycling industries that make it more efficient to fling refuse there, rather than into the star. Rarely will it ever be a recycling planet of some kind, which would justify moving massive amounts of junk there. For this trope in a smaller scale, see Down in the Dumps.

(ed note: see TV Trope page for list of examples)


      The few stands of original timber towered above the second growth like hills; those trees had been there when the planet had been colonized.
     That had been two hundred years ago, at the beginning of the Seventh Century, Atomic Era. The name "Poictesme" told that—Surromanticist Movement, when they were rediscovering James Branch Cabell. Old Genji Gartner, the scholarly and half-piratical space-rover whose ship had been the first to enter the Trisystem, had been devoted to the romantic writers of the Pre-Atomic Era. He had named all the planets of the Alpha System from the books of Cabell, and those of Beta from Spenser's Faerie Queene, and those of Gamma from Rabelais. Of course, the camp village at his first landing site on this one had been called Storisende.
     Thirty years later, Genji Gartner had died there, after seeing Storisende grow to a metropolis and Poictesme become a Member Republic in the Terran Federation. The other planets were uninhabitable except in airtight dome cities, but they were rich in minerals. Companies had been formed to exploit them. No food could be produced on any of them except by carniculture and hydroponic farming, and it had been cheaper to produce it naturally on Poictesme. So Poictesme had concentrated on agriculture and had prospered. At least, for about a century.
     Other colonial planets were developing their own industries; the manufactured goods the Gartner Trisystem produced could no longer find a profitable market. The mines and factories on Jurgen and Koshchei, on Britomart and Calidore, on Panurge and the moons of Pantagruel closed, and the factory workers went away. On Poictesme, the offices emptied, the farms contracted, forests reclaimed fields, and the wild game came back.

     Coming toward the ship out of the east, now, was a vast desert of crumbling concrete—landing fields and parade grounds, empty barracks and toppling sheds, airship docks, stripped gun emplacements and missile-launching sites. These were more recent, and dated from Poictesme's second hectic prosperity, when the Gartner Trisystem had been the advance base for the Third Fleet-Army Force, during the System States War.

     It had lasted twelve years. Millions of troops were stationed on or routed through Poictesme. The mines and factories reopened for war production. The Federation spent trillions on trillions of sols, piled up mountains of supplies and equipment, left the face of the world cluttered with installations. Then, without warning, the System States Alliance collapsed, the rebellion ended, and the scourge of peace fell on Poictesme.
     The Federation armies departed. They took the clothes they stood in, their personal weapons, and a few souvenirs. Everything else was abandoned. Even the most expensive equipment had been worth less than the cost of removal.
     The people who had grown richest out of the War had followed, taking their riches with them. For the next forty years, those who remained had been living on leavings. On Terra, Conn had told his friends that his father was a prospector, leaving them to interpret that as one who searched, say, for uranium. Rodney Maxwell found quite a bit of uranium, but he got it by taking apart the warheads of missiles.

(ed note: and the people of Poictesme are poverty stricken. Because they have no starships, they are at the mercy of the merchant ships who show up. The merchants pay the people of Poictesme pennies on the dollar for their salvage, ship the salvage to other planets, then sell it for outrageous prices.)

From JUNKYARD PLANET by H. Beam Piper (1963)

Other Thoughts


An interstellar domain can have no definite borders; stars are scattered too thinly, their types too intermingled. And there are too many of them. In very crude approximation, the Terrestrial Empire was a sphere of some 400 light-years diameter, centered on Sol, and contained an estimated four million stars. But of these less than half had even been visited. A bare 100,000 were directly concerned with the Imperium, a few multiples of that number might have some shadowy contact and owe a theoretical allegiance.

Consider a single planet; realize that it is a world, as big and varied and strange as this Terra ever was, with as many conflicting elements of race and language and culture among its natives; estimate how much government even one planet requires, and see how quickly a reign over many becomes impossibly huge.

Then consider, too, how small a percentage of stars are of any use to a given species (too hot, too cold, too turbulent, too many companions) and, of those, how few will have even one planet where that species is reasonably safe. The Empire becomes tenuous indeed.

And its inconceivable extent is still the merest speck in one outlying part of one spiral arm of one galaxy; among a hundred billion or more great suns, those known to any single world are the barest, tiniest handful.

From "HUNTERS OF THE SKY CAVE" by Poul Anderson

Sergeant Imoto: Some years ago, my country chose to fight a terrible war. It was bad, I do not defend it, but there were reasons. Somehow those reasons are never spoken of. To the Western world at that time, Japan was a fairybook nation: little people living in a strange land of rice-paper houses... people who had almost no furniture, who sat on the floor and ate with chopsticks. The quaint houses of rice paper, sir: they were made of paper because there was no other material available. And the winters in Japan are as cold as they are in Boston. And the chopsticks: there was no metal for forks and knives and spoons, but slivers of wood could suffice. So it was with the little people of Japan, little as I am now, because for countless generations we have not been able to produce the food to make us bigger. Japan's yesterday will be the world's tomorrow: too many people and too little land. That is why I say, sir, there is urgent reason for us to reach Mars: to provide the resources the human race will need if they are to survive. That is also why I am most grateful to be found acceptable, sir. I volunteer.

General Samuel T. Merritt: Thank you, Sergeant Imoto. You're not a little man.


Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the molds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

[ --- the harsh bright soil of Luna ---
--- Saturn's rainbow rings ---
--- the frozen night of Titan --- ]

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

from THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH by Robert A. Heinlein (1947)

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