Chapter 8: An Academic Interlude
|Story Type: Original
Content Cautions: None.
Critique: Very, very welcome.
Summary: Leigh has moved from Earth to a station orbiting Mars. But because I haven't managed to finish a whole chapter of her actually talking to anyone in a while, I'm going to give you a chapter of fictional history instead. I don't have a photo for this chapter, either. Ahhh, the power and glory of authorship ... In the 'as-published' version of this work, should there ever be such a thing, the information exposited below will probably be put into the actual mouths of actual characters. So consider this an Easter Egg, only available to people getting to read it in serialized-first-draft format. :->
Introduction to Inside the Outworlds, by Jemma Ford of the History Department of Copernicus University, Luna.
Often we speak of 'Mars' as if there were one unified polity that bears the name, that works as one, that has a single agenda. This overgeneralization is just as sloppy as trying to speak of the 'Terran' opinion of any subject. Not only does Terra have nation-states, each of which may well feel differently on any given issue, but even within those nations there are still smaller factions with opinions of their own.
In the case of 'Mars,' let us begin at the beginning, with the colonization process, because it is there that many of the seeds were planted that later grew to form the complexly-twined political and economic arbor that Terrans and Lunarians often just refer to as 'the Martian situation'. Luna was settled by nation-states, for the most part. Each power landed a mission, made an initial base (and sometimes many smaller ones), and settled it, for reasons of their own. China wished to provide an escape valve for their excess population, and that population's urges to better themselves. The United States wanted to beat the Soviets to it, for the bragging rights and for their national pride; once they were there, they found abundant economic reasons to stay. The Soviets got involved to race the Americans, of course, and then later as the Russians they did it for pride and economics, and the bragging rights that good science brings (remember, they began the enormous Farside Interferometer project). The European Union first and foremost refused to be left out of anything the Americans and Russians were doing, but then found that Lunar gravity allows older, frailer workers to remain valuably productive far into their eighties, which ended up being very helpful in the inversion of the age ratios that most developed countries began to feel in the late 90s and through the turn of the century.
Why was Mars settled? The first expeditions were for science, of course, but even back then NASA had plans for long-term human occupation. For the adventure of it, of course, and for the challenge -- and the Mars missions certainly paid back their development costs many times over in the spin-off technologies. But over and above all that, Luna had proven there was money stuck out there in the vacuum, if you could build the infrastructure to support its extraction. However, the far greater distance, and its commensurate expense (even with the development of the orbital shipyard industries, and Luna's industries to supply the missions), meant that a different method of settlement would be required.
The historic 1999 first manned Mars landing, by Lipschitz, Lilienthal, Vargas, and Anderssen, was of course a standard NASA mission. Lt. Col Brian Lipschitz, like all the early Apollo astronauts, was a former US Air Force test pilot, as was his second-in-command, Captain Gunderson, who remained in orbit with the long-range transport. The remainder of the mission, both those who landed and those who orbited above, were largely civilian scientists, of greatly varied backgrounds, which was NASA's primary method of populating their missions ever since the staggering success of the 1986 Challenger mission, and the remainder of their pilot 'Civilian In Space' programs (the zero-gee ballet composed a year later by Jeanne Robinson had enormous knock-on effects in the arts, to choose only one of many consequences). However, limited budget and political will for expensive long-range projects led to public/private partnerships for the great majority of the Mars settlement missions.
A variety of corporations stepped up to the plate when the project was announced; many were purpose-created wholly-owned subsidiaries or divisions of America's economic powerhouses of the time. Because of widening unemployment and dissatisfaction at home, there was an available workforce willing to relocate; unfortunately, many of them had only a high school education, or some college but not a degree. Many of the positions to be filled in the settlement effort required several years of study to do well, either academic (botany, physics, power plant engineering, geology, etc) or industrial (welding, piloting, operating heavy machinery, and the like). This led to the indentureship programs, which at the time appeared to be a logical and beneficial way of solving two problems at once. It was perhaps impossible at the time to look ahead and see the ticking time bomb we now know it was to cause.
At base, the indentureship contracts were intended to give the corporations a steady, well-educated, predictable workforce, and to give the workers a little adventure, stable employment for the term of their indenture, fair compensation and training that they could use to secure a solid future after their term was up. In retrospect, perhaps better oversight and regulation of the indenturing companies would have led to a more amicable resolution ... but perhaps it was inevitable. The technology does not currently exist to consistently project Terran or Lunar power across orbital distances in any kind of timely fashion, and given the facts on the ground Martian self-rule now seems inevitable and proper, just a part of the ongoing disintegration of tendencies towards colonialism and empire since the late 1800s.
However, between indentureships and the current free, incorporated prosperity lies a dim period in Martian history, where records are slim and few of the individuals involved care to speak candidly about what happened. We know that the indentured rose up (or Uprose, as they prefer to phrase it, a neologism extrapolated from calling the entire period the Uprisings) and threw out their corporate masters, in some cases with bloody force. We know that, in a little more than half an orbit of Mars (about thirteen Terran months), the stations orbiting Mars had settled into a stable, productive new shape. In between lies mainly uncertainty.
This book will attempt to dispel some of the mystery, if not about that lost year, then at least about the current sociopolitical structure of Mars, its stations, and the Belt, with special attention paid to its secretive but economically powerful Magnate Families. It is often taken as fact by anthropological researchers that nothing can be known about the inner workings of such a group, but this researcher has found and befriended several individuals who, though once members of a Family, are now independent, through exile or flight. On condition of anonymity, they agreed to be informants in my research.