Continuing the discussion from Scope and format of entries in "Forty Exotic Worlds":
Here’s the first draft of my explanation of the entries in “Forty Exotic Worlds”. It’s 2,261 words out of a budget of 2,000, but I’d be okay with adding another three hundred if they would be helpful.
About the Entries
Each of the descriptions that follow starts with a column of data in a standard format, and follows it with several columns of running text.
The main section of the running text particularises the geography, society, economy, and government indicated by the tabbed data, roughly in that order. Most of the worlds have some peculiarity that will not fit into or allow a strict structure to the text descriptions. These work their way in where they fit. The second section of the running text is headed “Attractions”, and describes a handful of remarkable or well-known places on the world that might interest visitors or reveal something about the locals. The third section gives an example of the typical content of popular media in the main culture, indicating the social concerns in the stories that the culture tells itself. Finally, there is a paragraph on the scale and nature of Imperial activities on the world.
Key to the tabbed data
This entry gives the an identifier for the star that the world orbits. That’s usually one of its common names if it has any, otherwise a Bayer-Flamsteed designation, or failing that a catalogue number. That’s followed by the star’s spectral type (Harvard spectral type and Yerkes luminosity class). Next the star’s distance from Sol in light-years and approximate direction (i.e. the constellation that it appears in seen from here). Finally, in parentheses, the administrative sector that it is in Flat Black .
The ordinal number of the inhabited planet, counting outwards from the star it orbits, as a Roman numeral. In the case of an inhabited moon the ordinal number of the planet that it orbits followed by a letter (“a”, “b”, “c” etc.) indicating its ordinal position in the planet’s system of moons.
The mean diameter of the inhabited world, in kilometres and as a proportion of the mean diameter of Earth, D♁.
The acceleration due to gravity at the surface of the world, in SI units (m/s²) and as a proportion of Earth’s surface gravity, g♁.
The duration in hours of the world’s apparent day, i.e. from noon to noon according to the apparent motion of the sun. In the case of a tidally locked world that rotates in synchrony with its orbit, “not applicable” is listed.
The period of the world’s orbit around its sun, or in the case of an inhabited moon the period of the orbit of the planet that it orbits. The figure is given in locals days (or hours if the local day is undefined) and as a proportion of Earth’s year a♁.
The first figure is the total barometric pressure at mean sea level (or other datum elevation), and the second is the partial pressure of oxygen. Both figures are given in bar, i.e. as a proportion of Earth’s barometric pressure. 1 bar is approximately 101 kPa.
Note that humans need at least about 0.1 bar of oxygen in the air they breathe, and suffer toxic effects when breathing more than about 0.4 bar.
This is the increase in altitude that reduces the barometric pressure by a factor of 1/e (i.e. to 37%). It determines the altitude limits of breathable air and aerodynamic flight.
This figure is the percentage of the world’s surface that is covered by water, including oceans and lakes that are frozen over or frozen through.
The range (not amplitude) of the equilbrium tide in deep water at the equator, total for all tidal components, in metres. The figure for Earth is about 1.78 m. Note that this is a theoretical figure that gets modified by local resonance effects, which are large. It should be treated as an indicator of tidal forcing.
The figure is the average surface temperature of the world, in Celsius. The corresponding figure for Earth is a little over 15 C. Note that the temperature in the tropics (or at the subsolar point of a planet in synchronous rotation) is warmer (15 C warmer, on Earth) and that the polar regions (or on the night side of a tidally locked planet) are colder (by 20 C or more, on Earth). Human settlement is practically confined to areas with annual average temperature in the range 0 C – 30 C.
As for the description in parenthesis, the meanings are as follows. “Very cold” describes a planet with isolated regions of unfrozen territory near the equator. “Cold”: a belt all round the equator is free from ice. “Cool”: there are large polar ice-sheets. “Temperate”: there are small ice-sheets at the poles. “Mild”: there are habitable temperatures from pole to pole. “Warm”: a band around the equator averages above 30 C. “Hot”: a wide band of low latitudes is too hot for human settlement. “Very hot”: only the polar regions have average annual temperatures below 30 C.
This is the brightness of full sunshine on the world, in the visible band, as a proportion of the value for Earth. High figures suggest a need for sunglasses and shady hats, but the human visual system is so good at accommodating to low light that people would not notice low values: no inhabited world his sunlight as dim as in TV studio lighting. It’s more important that low light limits the effectiveness of photosynthesis and hence the productivity of ecosystems and agriculture.
Note also that colour correction in the human visual system is so aggressive that no-one would notice even the redness of the sunlight of an M-type sun nor the blueness of an A-type sun. They are not so red as a “warm white” nor so blue as a “cool white” fluorescent light.
In the spaceport code, the number indicates the total volume of traffic at the planet’s spaceport or spaceports, on a logarithmic scale. A scale 0 spaceport handles less than one cargo container per 24 hours. Scale 1 indicates at least one but less than ten cargo containers per 24 hours, and so on. A scale 5 spaceport handles thousands of containers per 24 hours, a scale 6 port would handle myriads.
The letter N indicates that there are no service facilities for orbital lighters. Landing craft may be stored in orbit and fuelled and serviced by crew of the starships that use them, or starships must carry their own lighters.That makes orbital launch and landing expensive. G indicates that there are service and fuelling facilities for lighters on the ground, and that lighters in steady use, based on the world, rendezvous with ships in orbit. O indicates the presence of an orbital port facility where passengers and cargos can be assembled for quick loading, unloading, embarkation, and disembarkation. T indicates some sort infrastructure for non-rocket launch to orbit, such as a rotorvator or launch loop, allowing very cheap freight to orbit.
The delta-vee required for a rocket to climb from the surface and escape the world’s gravity, disregarding the contribution of planetary rotation, air drag, steering losses, waste from low thrust, etc. The minimum orbital speed is 0.707 times escape speed.
The first value is the altitude above sea level of the lowest practical circular orbit (that in which a satellite will not face excessive air resistance), in kilometres. The second is the period of such an orbit, and thus the shortest possible period of an observation satellite or spaceship making rendezvous with orbital lighters.
This is the human and parahuman population of the world. Worlds in Flat Black seldom have significant populations of AI robots or sapient aliens.
The figure is the average density of population in inhabitants per square kilometre of land surface. Land surface that is not arable is included, so in the case of a very hot, hot, cold, or very cold climate a low figure can represent a moderate or high density of population in a small inhabited area, balanced enormous tracts of uninhabitable ice-sheet or sauna-like tropical waste.
A phrase on the following line gives a brief description of the settlement structure.
This is a brief description of the groups of people that typically occupy a dwelling together. In cases where there are several distinct modes a few may be listed, but the focus will be on the lives of working-age adults. There are sometimes elaborate differences according to occupation and stage of life; these will be treated in the running text.
This is a brief description of the groups of people that typically socialise together other than in the workplace and the home. There are usually details complexities that require treatment in the running text.
A summary of the peculiarities of the cultural mainstream of the world, as a list of succinct but somewhat telegraphic phrases that indicate highlights of the running text.
A society’s values are the accomplishments and goals that it admires people for achieving and (at least tacitly) approves of people pursuing. Locals are inclined to approve or at least condone acts done in pursuit of their society’s values.
A society’s taboos are the acts or motives for which it scorns people and of which it expects them to be ashamed. Locals act desperately to conceal any taboo acts or impulses that they do or feel, and to attribute taboo acts and motives to their enemies.
A phrase describing the colony’s mode of production and means of allocation of goods and services, the type or structure of its economy.
No world in Flat Black is truly low tech, but degree of economic development varies a lot. The DL of a world indicates how specialised its workers and equipment are, the methods of production in general use, and how sophisticated its products are. Highly-developed worlds are usually wealthy, under-developed ones poor.
The scale runs from 0 (indicating that households are autarkic) to 8.5, and is logarithmic. Each +1 DL requires ten times as many specialised workers and ten times as many consumers to support the degree of specialisation involved. DL 8 or higher usually requires access to interstellar trade.
The methods of production in general use are indicated in parentheses.
An informal, qualitative description of economic inequality in the colony.
The name of the principal unit of the local currency, with indications of its purchasing power for buying local products and its exchange value for buying tradable goods.
The “PPP” figure is the purchasing power of a unit of currency, i.e. its value when purchasing local services, perishable goods, non-movable property, and bulky goods with low value for their mass. PPP is given is standard value units, where one SVU is the price of a prepared meal at a cheap eatery: say, a Big Mac, regular fries, sundae, and regular orange juice at MacDonalds.
The “exchange” figure is the value of a currency unit in Imperial crowns, used for purchasing imports and tradable goods. ₢ 1 has a purchasing power of SVU 1 in Imperial orbital habitats.
This item describes the actual form of government on the world, and disregards such pretences as a dictatorship’s insistence that it be described as a democratic republic. The terms used are sometimes obscure, but they are standard. One exception is that “theocratic” is used to describe any state governed under a doctrine that the highest rulers claim to interpret but dare not deny, even if the doctrine is not a frankly religious one.
Many worlds are divided into multiple states, and it is usually impractical to list each separately. The general situation will be briefly described.
Head of state
This item gives the official title of the head of state in the colony. Where there are several or many colonies with separate governments, but one title is widely used by the heads of several states, that may be given, or alternatives may be listed.
Some entries have a note in parentheses, which may briefly qualify the nature or powers of the office when the title gives an unclear or misleading impression. These notes are not part of the title, and sometimes indicate a fact that is not officially acknowledged.
Where the head of state is a figurehead, or has only formal or ceremonial functions, or where a confederacy or amphictyony has central state to be legal head of, this entry indicates what person or group has effective control of the government or co-ordinates the co-operation of governments.
Unusual laws, means of enforcement, methods of trial, and punishments are noted here. The assumed default is that weapons are available for sporting and hunting (perhaps requiring licences), but that permits are required for routine carry. Laws against harming or threatening a person or public interest, and against stealing or damaging property, are assumed; other prohibitions or requirements will be noted. Significant deviations from the existence of uniformed police keeping order and separate detectives investigating crimes will be noted here. Trials are assumed to be conducted by a magistrate or a panel of judges following an investigative procedure: alternatives such as jury trials and adversarial procedure will be noted. Unless other penalties are listed here, the default is fines for minor offences and terms incarceration for crimes.
The name of the colony’s official capital, if any. Where actual administration is conducted at some place other than the ceremonial capital, or remotely from scattered offices etc., that will be noted in parentheses.