Gemini Revisited: Twins In Space

Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly

A pair of identical twins, NASA astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, are to be the “guinea pigs” in research on how long-term space trips affect the human body. Both have served on Mir and the International Space Station and Scott is now scheduled to stay in orbit for a year. The purpose of the investigation is to learn how a crew can better cope with weightless during a trip to Mars.

Read more here — link >>>

Space 1889: Schutzgebiet Westdioscuria

Germany is a dynamic actor in the late 19th century, a new great power that wants to establish its place among the old ones. There is little canon
Space 1889 material on the German presence on Mars, so this article is an attempt to rectify that shortcoming.

The Germany military became interested in establishing a presence on Mars at the end of the 1870s, when they saw what advantages the British had gained from the Red Planet, like liftwood airships that could topple the military balance in Europe. The General Staff wanted bases close to the Astusapes, an area with the precious liftwood.

Western Dioscuria with the cities of Dioscuria, Protonilus, and Ismenilus seemed to be a proper place in which to place troops and airships. It was reasonably close to Astusapes, while it at the same time did not belong to the sphere of influence of some other major political actor. In the mid-1880s Bismarck offered the three sergals (city princes) protection against foreign enemies together with domestic autonomy in return for German base rights, control over the cities’ foreign policies, and trade advantages. The three cities were relatively weak and their sergals feared that they would involuntarily drawn into the triangular power struggles between the Boreosyrtis League, Great Britain, and the Oenotrian League. They saw advantages with the German offer and accepted it (how gratefully is hard to say though); in 1887 the Schutzgebiet Westdioscuria was formally established by the signing of three protectorate treaties.

Each city, headed by its autocratic sergal, handles its own internal matters, but the jurisdiction is limited for human residents. For instance, German citizens are not subject to local penal codes, but only to German. The cities are similar in culture and share a common language, the sibilant Dioscurian. The German Foreign Minister appoints the senior German official, der Reichskommissar, residing in Dioscuria, with responsibility for military matters of the protectorate and its relations to other political entities on Mars. He has of course also a significant influence on domestic matters and the three sergals usually listen carefully to his advice. The current Reichskommissar is Curd-Friedrich Graf von Wartburg, appointed in 1888.

Kaiser Wilhelm II is young, restless and ambitious, a man determined to prove his mettle as the ruler of a rising empire. So he has a personal interest in Germany’s acquisition of colonies in faraway places. The Germans are attentive to what uses their industry may have for the resources found in their colonies. Like the United States, Germany is right now in a period of explosive industrial expansion at home. No other European country has a faster growth in GNP. The Kaiser’s goal is to overtake Great Britain as Europe’s biggest industrial power soon after the turn of the century. The resources of Venus and Mars are important in this process.

The military and political establishments in Germany are dominated by the Junker nobility so ambitious individuals of the rapidly growing bourgeoisie find too few opportunities there. Instead they can make careers in the colonies, where the emphasis is put on competence rather than on heritage. Every year, the Foreign Ministry picks the best from the multitude of applicants that want to go abroad. This has given Germany the most well-run colonial administrations in the solar system, be it in Africa, on Mars or on Venus. The Germans treat their foreign dependencies in a broadminded manner compared to most other European nations. The purpose of these possessions is to make Germany stronger and richer and assure her of “her rightful place in the sun”. The German colonial service claims that the best way to achieve it is by treating the natives decently and provide them with, e.g., clinics, schools and a sensible administration.

Archaeology is a major field in the German academia. Many scholars have earned great fame for excavations in Mesopotamia and the Aegean. Martian archaeology is a growing field at Germany’s universities and many young men and women venture into the ruins of the Red Planet in search of explanations why its ancient advanced civilization declined so badly. (The unspoken corollary is of course whether Earth, too, could suffer such a fate.) They also believe that their efforts prove the greatness of German science and culture to fellow western countries. Once again, the emperor cannot resist to interfere personally, e.g. by economic support and more or less appreciated advice.* Hence Germany’s plans for Mars entail extensive geological and archaeological surveys; government surveyors turn up in the most unexpected locations.

The Germans have chosen to deal with natives in local languages. The official language of the German East Africa administration is Swahili and in Westdioscuria it is Dioscurian. All officers and NCOs of native units and all civilian officials must possess adequate language skills. They are also expected to learn about native cultures and how Canal Martians think, simply because such knowledge makes it much easier to rule the protectorate. Some causes for the Sepoy mutiny in India in the 1850s were due to the lack of understanding the British had for their Hindu and Muslim subjects and the Germans do not wish to repeat that error.

Such flexible attitudes should, however, not be mistaken for softness. The Germans deal harshly with any attempts to destabilize or threaten their presence on Mars. Since they have guaranteed armed protection to the cities of Westdioscuria, such will be provided in doses strong enough to deter potential trouble-makers. The Hill Martian tribes around the protectorate learned that lesson in the second half of the 1880s, when their raids on outlying Canal Martian villages were avenged with impunity by German forces. The vicious Karshekoat tribe was hunted almost to extinction in 1888 and its remnants had to flee to the Syrtis Lapis area to survive.

A Schutztruppe detachment skirmishing with a band of Hill Martian marauders.

Each of the Westdioscurian cities has a locally raised militia battalion, led by German officers and armed with modern rifles. (The Germans use the African designation Askari for their native Martian soldiers, too.) Each city also contains one detachment of the 1. Schutztruppe Westdioscuria and one of the 1. Marsianisches Husarenbataillon, both exclusively human units.

1. Schutztruppe Westdioscuria: This battalion-sized infantry unit was organized to serve German interests om Mars already in 1882, before the establishment of the protectorate. The field uniform is sand-colored and includes an Australian style bush-hat. Soldiers and officers carry a zivios, a Dioscurian blade, as their special mark of recognition. The unit contains a sprinkling of Austrians, Swedes, Finns and Norwegians who have been lured to Mars with the prospect of adventure. All artillery pieces and machine guns of the colonial forces belong to this battalion.

1. Marsianisches Husarenbataillion: This light cavalry unit, mounted on gashants, was established in 1887. It is trained for long-range reconnaissance in the wilderness. The hussars’ field uniform resemble that of the 1. Schutztruppe.

The Marsgendarmerie is a company-sized mounted constabulary charged with upholding law and order in the wilderness between the protectorate’s three cities. It is commanded by German police officers and the gendarmes are a mix of humans, canal martians and hill martians. It reports to the Reichskommissar. The gendarmes get paramilitary training and are armed with army carbines and revolvers. Their dark green uniform is designed on the Schutztruppe pattern.

The Martian flotilla of the Imperial German Navy is led by Kapitän zur See (navy captain) Diedrich Fritze. The cruiser Hamburg (commanded by Fregattenkapitän (commander) Lothar Berger) and the gunboat Marienburg (commanded by Kapitänleutnant (lieutenant) Johann Prien) are based in Dioscuria. The kites of the three cities are also under German command. Since there is no naval infantry in the German navy on Mars, Schutztruppe detachments are assigned to the ships when necessary.

The Marienburg is a brand new ship. She is small, unusually fast and look somewhat like the British Aphid class. There are rumors that her steam engine is of a novel design.

The German army and navy units on Mars are organized together in the Wehrkommando Mars under major-general Helmut Schulmeister in Dioscuria. He takes his orders both from the Reichskommissar and from the General Staff in Berlin, something that has caused friction both between the General Staff and the Foreign Ministry and between Graf von Wartburg and Schulmeister personally. Further, the navy officers dislike being commanded by an army officer and that has also been the source of some troubles.

Germany’s colonial venture on Mars attracts not only Germans. Of the several thousand Red Men living in Westdioscuria in 1890, only half are Germans. Businessmen of all terrestrial nationalities are welcome, few questions asked, as long as they contribute to the well-being of the protectorate and profess a reasonable loyalty to the Kaiser: Armenian shopkeepers, Hasidic jewelers, Swedish engineers, Dutch traders, Persian caravaneers, American arms merchants, etc. Also, many of the German officials here served earlier in the African colonies and therefore they often have arrived with African servants.

Mars is such an overwhelming place that most off-world immigrants feel a need to bond with fellow humans. Therefore inter-human prejudices grow weaker because they pose a danger to communal survival in this utterly alien environment. The Red Men live together closely in certain city districts and keep wary eyes on their Canal Martian neighbors. Intolerance is here mainly between species, and not so much between human nationalities.

The Germans have serious long-term plans for improving the economy of their protectorate. The canal between the three cities dried out thousands of years ago and since then a lot of inter-city transport is by caravan, a method that the Germans consider inappropriate for the 19th century. Faster and cheaper transports would encourage trade and promote growth. The corps of engineers of the German army have begun preparations to build a railroad along the dry canal between the cities. During 1889, various suitable routes will be surveyed and facilities to make tracks will be established. The construction is scheduled to begin in 1890. The engines and the cars should also be built on Mars, since it would be expensive to transport them from Earth. Several engineers are currently working on solving that problem.

The airship flotilla will increase in size during the next few years; emperor Wilhelm does not want Germany to lag behind Great Britain and France. The main limiting factor is the lack of liftwood and major-general Schulmeister therefore plans to send expeditions into the Astusapes to deal with the High Martians and to secure a good supply of the precious timber.

*A period German joke: “The Lord knows all, the Emperor knows best.”

Copyright © 1996-2014 Anders Blixt
Space: 1889 is Frank Chadwick’s registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring

Gold in Hyberborea: A Space 1889 Campaign Setting

My previous Space 1889 blog post described Hyperborea, the region around Mars’s north pole. I will here conclude the excursion into that part of the Red Planet by presenting a campaign outline.

Introduction: The Maariti Gold Rush in Hyperborea
Suddenly the rumour is all over Mars: gold has been found in the Trans-Polodaari hills at the sources of the Maariti creek, northeast of the city-state of Polodaar. Many adventurous individuals journey to that part of Hyperborea to test their luck, thereby turning it into an ill-administered and turbulent place for about five years (after which the gold is depleted). This is the background for a campaign in which the PCs attempt to strike it rich in a lawless land.

The Maariti Area
The Trans-Polodaari hills are low and undulating with poor soil that discourage farming. The climate has a distinctly arctic quality (see the previous article for climate facts), so there is a lot more humidity here than further south, particular during the melting season when the retreating snowcap generates a lot of water. Hardy low plants with occasional thorny shrubberies and copses of trees cover the hills. The fauna is fairly varied. Narrow streams flow in the hills, gradually merging to creeks which eventually enter the canal going from the icecap to Polodaar.

The Maariti is one of these creeks, originating about one hundred miles east of the canal. It and some of its tributaries contain auriferous sand, which can be washed from the water by the traditional manual pan process. The streams are rarely more than two feet deep and six feet wide whereas the Maariti itself is equally shallow, but up to twenty feet wide.

The Common Gold-washers
Gold offers an irresistible lure for many, especially for poor people who see it as an opportunity to escape a dreary life. However, those dreams of wealth usually turn out to be just dreams, because few gold-washers are lucky enough to become wealthy. Most just spend some tough years in the hills and then return home as poor as when they arrived — unless they join the really unlucky ones in shallow graves outside the hill encampments.

The average gold-washer is a sturdy but poor Canal Martian lad. He heard the tales of gold northeast of Polodaar, spent his savings equipping himself and trekked the long way to the Maariti. He arrived a bit naïve but soon learned the basic skills of his new trade and the need to work long hours in cold water to avoid starvation. He also learned the necessity of cooperation. A solitary person has slim chances of survival in a place where there are no effective authorities. The common gold-washers therefore band together for mutual benefit; they build palisade-encircled encampments and jointly maintain some semblance of law and order. It is important for them to properly delineate land claims and to find methods of settling disputes without resorting to violence. For those purposes they have adapted the legal traditions of Polodaar to a set of common law regulations fitting their needs.

There is a sprinkling of non-Canal Martians here, too: rough Red Men of many nationalities and young Hill Martians.

A Typical Encampment
The gold-washers prefer to live in sturdy canvas tents, which are easy to transport from one location to another. An ordinary encampment has a population of 20 to 100. It is encircled by a log palisade to keep scavenging animals and unwanted visitors out. Inside, the encampment is divided into distinct sections for tents, for cooking, for artisans’ workshops, for latrines, and for keeping pack animals. Wagons must usually be parked outside the palisade. Usually, the most important joint facilities in the encampment are the latrines and the stable; both arranged to improve the general hygienic standard and avoid epidemics.

The Artisans and the Entrepreneurs
The people that really make money out of the gold rush are those that provide the gold-washers with vital goods and services — like tools, intoxicants, and women — at exorbitant rates, the pricing being by traditional methods of supply and demand.

In an encampment there is always a steady need for blacksmiths, wainwrights, tent-makers, and tailors to maintain and repair the gold-washers’ possessions. Due to the generally inflated price levels, a skilled artisan is able to charge twice or thrice as much as in the cities. However, his costs are equally inflated. Often, an artisan is a part-time gold-washer as well. Since he provides essential services while usually being a fully integrated member of the gold-washer community, he is generally accepted by everyone.

The gold-washers are able to provide much of their own food by hunting and cultivating small garden plots inside the encampments. However, the common man’s skills are not enough to produce items like spices or tasty beverages. The entrepreneurs supplying such merchandise earn well, and are often the subjects of the gold-washers’ dislike and envy, forcing them to employ bodyguards for protection. Many entrepreneurs are criminals from Thoth or Alclyon, sent here by their bosses to make a quick profit.

The Strongmen
Another group of winners are those strongmen who, with the help of their henchmen, exclude others from rich areas and let their underlings exploit their gold with the most sophisticated methods available. Since the corrupt warden Taarir heads the only local Polodaari authority, the strongmen are able to run most of their businesses unhindered as long as they grease his palm. However, Taarir does not accept too blatant a criminal behaviour, so even the strongmen have to clothe their activities with fig leaves of legality.

The Player Characters
Various occupations and pursuits suitable for player characters in this environment, ranging from ordinary gold-washers to artisans to mercenary guards. The two latter categories can more easily move around in the Maariti area in search of jobs and income; hence, these may be more preferable pursuits for the PCs.

The Polodaari Presence
Taarir the Warden
Polodaar’s ruling prince has taken some measures to monitor the situation at the Maariti and to try to curb the worst disregard for law and order. He has organized the Maariti area as a separate subdistrict of the North-East District and appointed Taarir, an officer of the Polodaari army rangers as its warden and judge.

Taarir received a company of fifty soldiers to assist him in his less than envious task. Taarir accepted his mission with dark pleasure in his heart, since he realized that this was good chance to make a small fortune through corruption. Being the only permanent representative of Polodaar in the area, there is nobody to oversee him and discover that he accepts bribes. However, he is not stupid, so he is careful to maintain a surface of respectability and honesty. The best way of satisfying those that bribe him while keeping an aura of credibility is to be elsewhere when something critical happens and to bias the judicial process by an excessive use of petty technicalities to achieve the desired results. Already after one year as warden, Taarir is thoroughly disliked by the gold-washers, but they cannot accuse him of any substantial wrongdoings. Most of their complaints against entrepreneurs and strongmen founder on technicalities, while their opponents are far more successful when they bring their cases to the warden’s judgement.

The Warden’s Soldiers
The Polodaari Army Rangers is a light infantry warband recruited from the rural districts of Polodaar. It has been trained for independent anti-bandit operations in the wilderness. Its soldiers are skilled frontiersmen, which is why they were chosen to accompany Taarir on his mission.

Fifty soldiers cannot keep complete control of several thousand gold-washers scattered in dozens of wilderness encampments. Their main task is to prevent outbreaks of anarchy and banditry, and so far they have managed well. However, they have occasionally been ordered to enforce Taarir’s unjust decisions against gold-washers. This has caused a lot of resentment among these people who no longer fraternize with the soldiers. The two groups become more and more estranged.

The soldiers really dislike going against their countrymen. They think that their main task is to fight bandits and High Martians, not to evict ordinary gold-washers from disputed land. There is therefore a growing discontent among them with Taarir’s policies.

The Hill Martian Natives
Many local Hill Martians disapprove of the influx of greedy strangers who — intentionally and unintentionally — disrupt their traditional way of life. Some natives also want the gold for themselves since they see themselves as the “property holders” of the area (though it was some Red Men that found the auriferous sand). For these reasons there is occasional Hill Martian banditry and the gold-washers’ encampments face intermittent raids. The newcomers have learned the hard way to always travel in well-armed groups.

On the other hand, a lot of Hill Martians earn money by selling supplies to the gold-washers. There is a steady demand for flour, meat and hides, goods that the natives produce themselves and exchange for gold at a good rate. The precious metal is then used to buy tools and weapons from the city of Polodaar.

Hence there is no united Hill Martian front against the gold-washers. Instead, there has already been strife among the natives when antagonistic groups have tried to settle their conflicts by force. (This is fortunate for the Canal Martians; should the natives unite, the newcomers would have little chance of surviving in the hills.) So far, few Canal Martians know of these incidents, since there is so little communication between the two ethnic groups.

The Trans-Polodaari High Martians
There are some High Martian tribes stalking the Trans-Polodaari hills. However, their number is small at this time so raids are very rare. The High Martians have a healthy respect for the Hill Martians, whose hunters have displayed great skill in dealing with their raiding parties.

The High Martians have little information on the events in the hills and do not understand why there is such a sudden influx of Canal Martians. Occasionally, a group attacks a gold-washer encampment to steal food and weaponry, but there is no organized warfare due to the absence of a strong leader to take command over the squabbling savages.

Searching For Gold
A gold-washer is a stationary person, spending long boring days sifting sand in the stream where he has staked his claim. He searches for small nuggets that have been eroded out the Trans-Polodaari rock and transported by water down-stream. The nuggets are, small weighing just a few grams, and pretty hard to spot unless one possesses the proper experience.

It is suggested that the Gamemaster uses the following simple method to determine how much gold a player character discover during a day in the stream. Since this is a fairly boring task, it should be burdened by too much arithmetic.

The Formula For Success
Roll 1D6. Subtract 3 if the stream is of poor quality, 2 if the stream is a good one. Subtract another 1 if the character has worked less than a month as a gold-washer.

The result is the amount of gold, measured in “steps” of 1/16th of an troy ounce (one such “step” is approximately 2 grams), that the gold-washer has found. If the final result is zero or negative: too bad, you did not find any gold today.

If you roll a 6, roll again and add the result; if you roll another 6, roll again, etc. It is an open-ended series of rolls, making it possible, though extremely unlikely, to find quite big lumps of gold.

Example: The experienced Xaanak, who has staked a section of poor quality stream, works hard a sunny day; his player rolls 6, and hence rolls again, another 6, and again, 3, giving 15-3 (poor quality stream) = 12/16th troy oz. So Fred Brown really struck it lucky when he found a gold lump weighing about 25 grams.

His buddy Quoon in the adjacent stake is less lucky, his player rolling a 2, giving a zero result. No nuggets found today. However, he expects Xaanak to make a small celebration with his buddies tonight.

The Seven Mercenaries: A Maariti Adventure
Orthaad is a local strongman in the Maariti area, originally being a crime-lord from Alclyon. He claims a large rich area for his henchmen. However, it already contained some gold-washer encampments, including one settled exclusively by a group Hill Martians from Cebrenia — and their inhabitants showed no inclination of moving out. The conflict between the gold-washers and Orthaad’s henchmen gradually escalate. Eventually the boss sends for seven notorious Hill Martian mercenaries (originating in Karkarham) from Alclyon, giving them the task of cleaning the area of its unwanted occupants.

The PCs, living or staying in one of the encampments, face the choice between fighting the injustice or leaving. Their fellow gold-washers are tough frontiersmen, but not warriors. The seven mercenaries are competent and merciless and plan to kill or scare away the undesirable gold-washers with terror, leaving false clues implicating local Hill Martians as the perpetrators. The mercenaries’ presence is initially unknown, but the PCs have the opportunity of uncovering the true story behind the fearsome events. However, putting them permanently out of action will be a major accomplishment.

Day 1
The seven mercenaries arrive by foot in the area and establish as small hidden camp in a copse some distance from the disputed area. After sunset, the mercenaries’ spokesman walks to Orthaad’s camp to discuss the strongman’s plans.

Day 2
From dawn till after sunset, the mercenaries scout the area to learn what it looks like and how their adversaries work and live.

Day 3–4
A few hours after sunset, the mercenaries capture two gold-washers, who are doing maintenance on their wagons, from the PCs’ encampment. The prisoners are brought to a secluded spot by the mercenaries, interrogated brutally and the situation in the encampment and its surroundings and then killed and buried in hidden graves. The kidnapping is executed with no obvious traces, so the victims’ friends are unable to find out what has really happened. The culprits are skilled frontiersmen and know how to hide their movements. This is a part of the mercenaries’ plan to strike terror in the gold-washers’ hearts, since an unknown foe is always more frightening than a known one.

The disappearances are discovered after a few hours but nobody is able to understand what exactly has happened.

Day 4
During day 4, the mercenaries stalk some gold-washers who work alone and kill and rob three, one of which is Kwaliwi the Cebreni. (None of the victims belong to the PCs’ encampment.) The Karkarhamis do not leave any genuine clues to who did it. Instead, at one murder site they drop a typical local Hill Martian dagger.

The rumours of the killings spread like wildfire in the area. The stories become more and more distorted and frightening as they travel by word of mouth. Soon a lot of gold-washers are convinced that Hill Martian vampires and other terrible creatures stalk them.

Day 5 Onwards
The mercenaries continue their terror campaign, killing and robbing gold-washers. Since nobody dares working alone, the killers have to deal with groups of two and three adversaries, but that will pose no major problem. Fear spreads among the gold-washers and many prepare to depart for other areas. The Cebrenis get angry and decide to hole up in their encampment, while trying to find out who killed their friend.

If the PCs do not successfully deal with the mercenaries, the area will after two weeks be empty of gold-washers, apart from the stubborn Cebrenis. Orthaad’s henchmen will gradually take over the abandoned encampments, while the mercenaries depart from the area. The crime lord has then achieved his plans.

While all this goes on, the Warden and his men will be on patrol in another part of his area of responsibility. He has been bribed to stay away for at least three weeks.

Copyright © 1996 Anders Blixt
Space: 1889 is Frank Chadwick’s registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring

Space 1889: Martian Hyperborea

I wrote this piece for Space 1889 role-playing game in 1996, during a period when my game group was very active “on Mars”. However, the game is timeless so the content is equally relevant today.

My next blog post will outline a Hyperborean campaign setting, inspired by some legends of the Old West.

When you say Mars to a human, he will immediately think of vast steppes or deserts intersected by canals and with pastel cities scattered here and there, or of dry hills haunted by savage High Martians. But Martian geography is varied. The polar regions are very different from the rest of Mars with distinct climate, topography, flora, fauna, and other factors that affect human or Martian visitors.

This text deals with Hyperborea, Mars’s northern polar region. The southern polar region, called Noteremia by terrestrial mapmakers, has a similar climate, but its flora and fauna are completely different. After all, evolution in the two polar areas has run separate courses for eons with no opportunities for creatures to migrate between them. Look at the dissimilar animals of Earth’s Arctic and Antarctica to see the magnitude of the differences.

Mars’s current polar caps are recent in a geological perspective. During the Brifanoon era, the average temperature on Mars increased and all the snow and ice of the poles melted and formed the seas of Mars. When Mars entered the naBrifanoon era, the polar caps re-formed and gradually grew until they contained almost all free water. Something similar also happened on Earth during the Pleistocene Ice Age, though our oceans did not dry out; their level “merely” sank hundreds of feet.

Both Hyperborea and Noteremia can be subdivided into two distinct areas: a central glacier zone encircled by an outer border zone.

The glacier zone is covered by a permanent ice layer. The temperature never rises above +30°F and during cold spells it may fall to -60°F (i.e. comparable to the conditions on central Greenland). The ice layer is of unknown thickness, at least 1000 feet, since no human scientist has yet drilled down to the underlying soil. There is little precipitation here, since the winds coming from the south loose their humidity as snow above the border zone and the glacier edge.

The Hyperborean border zone extends 150-200 miles south from the glacier edge. It is covered with snow and ice during parts of the year. There are only two seasons there: the snowing, when the snowcap grows, and the melting, when it shrinks. During the climax of the snowing, the snowcap will extend past the northernmost cities, e.g. Saardaar, Panthes and Propontis. During the melting season, the temperature is usually +30°F to +50°F, and during the snowing season -20°F to +30°F.

Mars’s axis of rotation has an inclination of 24°, which places the Hyperborean Polar Circle at the 66th parallel. Above it, the sun will never set during parts of the melting and never rise above the horizon during parts of the snowing.

In Hyperborea’s center lies the huge Kong Christian range, consisting of high and steep mountains of volcanic origin. Some of its snow-covered peaks penetrate the ice and reach 15,000-20,000 feet above the main glacier surface.

There is almost no life in the glacier zone, since there there is very little sunlight, extreme cold, and no fertile soil. Instead, Hyperborean plants and animals are mainly found in the border zone. Here, the conditions for life differ considerably from the deserts farther south. For instance, water is abundant, at least for Mars. When the melting begins, the upper layers of the soil are soaked with water, sparking the growth of seeds and eggs that have hibernated underground during the snowing.

During the first half of the melting season, the snow-free land turns into shallow swamps, teeming with plants and animals. However, the permafrost is always present deeper down in the soil, which prevents plants from growing deep root systems and burrowers from get more than a few feet below the surface. The swamps gradually get drier during the second half of the melting and when the snow starts to fall, the soil is once again compact and solid. During this drying phase, animals and plants prepare for the coming winter. Many small creatures hibernate in burrows in the soil, whereas larger species migrate south ahead of the advancing snow.

When venturing into the Hyperborean border zone, travellers may encounter some of the following notable animals and plants.

Boreopard: This rare, slim carnivore has four long legs with wide, clawless paws that provide support on snow or in swamps. It is about five feet long, excluding two feet of tail, four feet high, and weighs 100-150 lbs. Its fur is reddish grey during the melting and purely grey during the snowing. The name alludes to its feline look. It hunts in pairs, stalking grazers. It usually tries to sneak up on the prey and attack it with a short, vicious burst of speed (reaching 50-60 mph during 30-40 seconds), much like the steppe tiger. The boreopard can be domesticated and they are not uncommon as hunting beasts among the border zone nomads.

Brunk: The big brunk is a hulking, furry, six-legged beast, with a ursine shape. Its weight may reach 1500 lbs. Its most interesting feature is the head, which is has a huge, sharp beak, not unlike an eagle’s, but far bigger and far stronger. The brunk is omnivorous and its main diet is dendronix branches, but it also feeds on carrion and can readily crush bones. There are no reports that it hunts actively. However, a brunk will defend itself viciously when feeling threatened.

Dendronix: The vegetation of the borderzone consists mainly of hardy, grass-like plants, but there is also the family of the dendronix bushes, containing several similar species. The dendronix is a compact coniferous plant, about four feet high with rust-colored needles, which do not fall off during the snowing season. It grows in extensive, dense copses with interconnected root systems. These copses may cover several square miles and become the homes of many small animals that occupy ecological niches equivalent to Terrestrial rodents, shrews, small felines, and sparrows. The plant is sturdy and it is quite a task to hack a path through a copse.

Northern gashant: This herd animal is a close relative to the common steppe gashant. It has adapted well to the northern cold and has thicker fat layers under the skin.

Hyperborea’s border zone is populated by several nomadic gashant-herding Hill Martian tribes. They adjust their wanderings to the advancing and receding snowcap. During the height of the snowing, many tribes take winter quarters in partially abandoned northern cities, where they trade pelts, beautiful fur clothes, rare herbs, and gashants with the city dwellers for such tools and weapons they cannot make themselves.

The Hyperborean Hill Martians are shorter and stouter than their southern brethren, having a more favorable ratio between body mass and skin area, giving less radiation of body heat. The tribes are distinguished by language (dialects of Tempes or Ruugoraant), customs, and clothing. The attitude to strangers range from suspicious to friendly, though humans, being unknown to most Hyperboreans, are usually greeted peacefully and with curiosity. However, following the Russian expedition in 1886 the attitudes towards humans became noticeably more cautious, which might imply that the Russians came into conflict with some tribes. The details still remain unclear, though, since the Russians’ exact route is unknown.

The Canal Martians of the north tell many stories of the hostile lands around them. Human visitors will not find it easy to sift facts from fantasies.

The Lost Cities of Hyperborea: During the Brifanoon era, the climate of Hyperborea was hospitable and many Canal Martians settled here and built cities. When the snow and ice returned, they migrated south to survive, abandoning their homes. The cities gradually became covered with snow and ice and their locations and names faded into oblivion. However, among today’s Canal Martians there are still legends of lost cities nested in ice caves in Hyperborea, thousands of feet below the surface. They are said to be untouched by time and hiding fantastic machines and long lost secrets of the advanced Brifanoon culture. Some of the legends speak of evil savants, who caused the coming of the ice by vile science, and whose buried knowledge should better remain forgotten. Other stories claim that the ancient Hyperboreans were cursed by the gods for their blasphemous pride and insolence.

The Ice Burrowers: The Hyperborean nomads have many legends of monstrous creatures that burrow though the ice layer of the eternal snow zone. These monsters have been spawned by the evil gods of the cold wastes and they actively search for warmblooded beings to devour their body heat. Some burrowers are described as white serpents with grotesque heads, while others are said to look vaguely crablike with innumerable sharp pincers. The Hill Martians rarely venture into the glacier zone out of fear of the ice burrowers, but the existence of such creatures has not yet been confirmed by any humans.

The Dancing Snow Demons: Other nomad legends talk about the snow demons. These creatures are said to look like small whirlwinds of snow crystals that dance erratically over the eternal snow of the glacier zone. The Hill Martians claim that the demons are a race of malignant spirits that were invoked a long time ago by wizards then living in the Hyperborean mountains. The wizards tried to enslave the snow demons as servants, but the spirits managed to break the bonds, slay the wizards and escape into the wilderness, now hating all Martians alike. Human scientists guess that this legend originates from observations of small tornadoes on the snow cap.

The human exploration of the polar regions has so far been limited. Mars is such a vast place to explore and there are other more alluring places that men want to investigate first. The polar regions also have a hostile climate which poses extra dangers to humans.

The Canal Martians have paid little attention to the poles for thousands of years, so there is little reliable knowledge to be extracted from canal city libraries. Often it is impossible to separate facts from fancies and therefore going into the snowfields means going into an unknown land.

Earthmen’s investigations of Hyperborea began in 1882, when experienced Danish explorers, using the skills they had acquired on expeditions to Greenland and the Arctic Icecap, ventured into the snowy wastelands. Both the Germans and the Russians became interested when they read the Danes’ reports and they soon sent their own teams into Hyperborea. During the 1880s, there has been five major expeditions.

1882 The First Danish Expedition: This expedition, sponsored by Copenhagen University and led by the famous Arctic explorer Dr Poul Hartwigsen, consisted of ten scientists and ten Eskimo frontiersmen from the Danish territory of Greenland. The Danes arrived in Syrtis Major, travelled by canal to the small city of Polodaar and established their base there. The purpose was to conduct an aerial survey of Hyperborea and make large-scale topographic maps. Since Denmark did not have any steam flyers on Mars, the expedition chartered an armed Polodaari merchant kite. For ground work, the Danes brought dog-sleighs, driven by the Eskimos and pulled by huskie dogs, a combination that proved to be a success on the Hyperborean snow cap. Among the discoveries were the Kong Christian mountains, named in honor of the reigning Danish monarch. The Danes also established good relations with Prince Nodoon XXIX of Polodaar and the scientists were granted the status of “court scholars” as a favour for educating the Prince’s children about Earth.

1883 The Second Danish Expedition: Only three of the Danish scientists returned to Earth when the first expedition was finished. The others, including the Eskimos, stayed in Polodaar and prepared the second Hyperborean expedition. Its purpose was to survey the flora and fauna of the region. The team was augmented by four zoologists and botanists arriving from Earth in early 1883. The major animals and common plants became properly classified. When this expedition was finished, the Danes returned to Earth, carrying gifts from Prince Nodoon to King Christian IX of Denmark and preserved species of the flora and fauna. Dr Hartwigsen was awarded the Order of the Dannebrog in recognition of the scientific success of the team. The findings of the two expeditions were published as a series of books in German by Copenhagen University in 1884-87, immediately gaining the attention of scholars worldwide, even though the coverage of Hyperborea was far from complete.

1886 The Russian Expedition: It is said that the Russian expedition surveyed the mineral resources of of the Kong Christian range, but very little has been made public about its composition or mission. Transport was by a zeppelin from the Russian navy and, as far as can be judged from independent reports, the military escort was remarkably big. The findings were never published.

1887 The German Expedition: The German expedition was led by Dr Eberhard Franke from Heidelberg University and had its base in the German-dominated city of Dioscuria. It consisted of twelve scientists and 20 Bavarian mountaineer soldiers. Unlike the Danish, who had relied on traditional Eskimo ways to survive in Hyperborea, the Germans had a technological approach to the polar environment. The expedition was equipped with new-fangled devices, whose capabilities would be tested in the exacting climate, such as petroleum-powered electrical generators, a steam-driven snow-crawling vehicle (also using a petroleum derivative as a combustible), and various glaciological tools to investigate the thickness and composition of the Hyperborean glaciers. Air travel was by a Dioscurian armed merchant kite. The expedition was an total disaster and returned to its base after only a few weeks in the wilderness. Somewhere in Hyperborea the Germans encountered a hitherto unknown foe, which slew at least 13 humans and eight Martians under circumstances that have not yet been made public. The German governor in Dioscuria has done his best to put a lid on the matter. However, a rumor talking of a terrible “Boreal Hound” haunting the icy wastes of the glacier zone has spread among humans. Whether the Germans plan to go back north is not known at the present.

1888 The Third Danish Expedition: Dr Hartwigsen and his Eskimo frontiersmen returned to Polodaar with a group of anthropologists to study the nomadic Hill Martian tribes roaming the outskirts of Hyperborea. The Danes were gladly received by Prince Nodoon. After extensive preparations, they went into the wilderness in mid-1888 and returned to Polodaar in early 1889. There the scientists are compiling their data and planning for their next journey in early 1890. The Danes have recently published some articles in the English newspapers of Syrtis Lapis, mentioning, among other things, Hill Martian rumours of human, probably Russian, atrocities against Hyperborean nomads. The Russian charge-d’affaires in Syrtis Major calls these reports “baseless slander originating from ignorant savages and propagated by sensationalist, irresponsible journalists”.

Hyperborean weather is unpredictable. On a clear and sunny day, you may suddenly be hit by very bad weather. An explorer must therefore prepare for the worst possible circumstances.

There is rarely snowfall in the glacier zone. Instead, hard winds may whip up surface snow, creating a “fog” known as a white-out: the air is filled with miniscule snow particles and vision is limited to a few yards. During a white-out you can get lost even though you are within 50 feet of your camp. For that reason, explorers travelling on foot prefer to have everyone connected by rope, so that no one unintentionally strays away during a sudden white-out.

Proper clothing is essential, because when the temperature falls below freezing, an unprotected human or Martian will perish quickly. An experienced polar traveller dresses like an Eskimo: boots, pants, mittens, and a long cloak with hood, all made from the furs of Arctic or Hyperborean animals, e.g. polar bear, wolverine, or brunk. Under this, he wears several layers of wool clothes to minimize heat loss through radiation or convection.

Native guides are equally essential, since they are the only people that know Hyperborea well. The local Hill Martian hunters are skilled and reasonably honest.

The experiences of the 19th-century explorers of Earth’s polar regions, e.g. Nordenskiöld, Amundsen, Perry, Scott, Nansen, and Shackleton, have been well documented. There are many books, both by the explorers themselves and by scholars, about their travels and research in the Arctic and Antarctica. Such books will be excellent sources for the moods and hardships of Hyperborea.

Copyright © 1996 Anders Blixt
Space: 1889 is Frank Chadwick’s registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring

Review: The Forever Engine

In 1989, Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW) launched Space 1889, a science fiction role-playing game dealing with the Victorian Era as pulp science fiction: jungles on Venus, canals on Mars, Verneian and Wellsian superscience, and a plentiful supply of bowler hats, derring-do and stiff upper lips. It was a labor of love by designer Frank Chadwick, but despite GDW putting a lot of supplements on the market in just one or two years, the game failed commercially and was discontinued. A pity for us enthusiasts, but Space 1889 remained alive on a smaller scale, with articles and supplements getting concocted on a fan-basis.*

Frank Chadwick is nowadays also a science fiction author and recently I got hold of his steampunk novel The Forever Engine. I read it in a week during my metro journeys between home and office. So, what did I discover? Well, this is not a story belonging to the game’s canon universe, even though there are numerous similarities; that quickly became obvious by references to the Confederacy having survived the American Civil War and the Revolutionary Commune ruling France since 1871. However, this “revisionist” approach is probably an advantage, because Chadwick gets free hands with making an exciting plot without having to pay too much attention to whatever facts have already been published.

Story Overview with Hopefully no Significant Spoilers
in 2018, history professor and Afghanistan veteran Jack Fargo of Illinois gets involved with a British time-traveling project. The endeavor backfires badly and Jack gets involuntarily catapulted back in time to the 1880s. However, it is not the Victorian Era “as we [or Jack] know it”, but another one with interplanetary ether flight, airships, Martians and other peculiarities. The puzzled Jack is arrested as a spy, but presents credible evidence for being an American scholar and a time traveler. The British powers that be therefore recruit him to a scientific investigation/undercover operation, in which the participants are about to face a James Bond villain. Jack joins the team with the hope of finding a way of returning to his beloved daughter.

Jack Fargo is, however, no Bond protagonist; he is a widower with a daughter, and he is scarred by war experiences and family tragedies. He has a sharp mind and good military skills, but he gets shot up quite badly during the investigations. His sidekick, Communard spy Gabrielle Courbiere, may look like a Bond girl, but she has a serious case of Asperger’s syndrome and a troubled past. Their adventures in London, Bavaria and the Balkans are portrayed in a gritty, almost noir manner.

Covert operations easily go awry in reality, and in this story they do, too; I appreciate Chadwick’s realistic approach to what nightly skirmishes are like and how gruesome it is for a human to kill or maim other humans. The final confrontation between Jack and the boss villain is cleverly set up and Jack must use wits rather than brute force to resolve an extremely dangerous situation. Nuclear bombs are our destroyer of worlds, but this place has other equally frightening weapons.

The expression “forever engine” refers to a machine built by the master villain with Martian technology, a contraption that appears to be a perpetuum mobile. The British scientists in the novel know that such devices are impossible and Jack, using his 21st-century science knowledge and clues accumulated during the adventure, manages to figure out how it really works and what threat it poses to humanity.

The villain is also a more complex character than one would expect, and despite being a brilliant scientist, it turns out that he is short on manpower and that he is a poor schemer. Ergo, he has high intelligence, low wisdom, to speak in role-playing terms.

My Verdict
I enjoyed The Forever Engine. Sometimes I was thinking faster than the protagonists and sometimes not. It is nice to be surprised when reading a spy/action story; at my age I have read so many that I am familiar with many tricks of the genre and its clichés therefore bore me. Here I was rarely bored, though at two-thirds of the running time, the story got sluggish for a while.

The supporting cast was a pleasantly diverse lot: a British army officer with courage issues, an tough and competent Afro-American sergeant of the Ottoman army (a former slave from South Carolina; all of it makes sense in context), a not-too-efficient Bavarian feldwebel, and an unpleasant Royal Navy commander. Plus an assorted collection of Britain’s brightest physicists.

Also, the Tolkienian ending was to my taste. (“It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”) The hero’s cup is filled with a bitter draught — Jack Fargo has to empty it before the ordeal is over.

My main disappointment was the absence of Mars and Martians. I hope Frank Chadwick will compensate for that shortcoming in future stories about professor Fargo: I want trans-planetary canals, teeming bazaars, eery temples, ancient conspiracies, and foul horrors beneath the two moons!

My verdict: four red planets out of five.

* My gaming group started a Space 1889 campaign in 1990 and we still keep it running, visiting its Mars for some adventures once a year or so. In the 1990s, I also wrote a few Space 1889 articles for Swedish gaming magazines such as Rubicon and Sverox. Read some of the texts in English here >>>