Category Archives: Voyagers 2

Building a Better Star Map

I like my star map – but I recognize it’s not “perfect”. For one thing, since Earth is off-center and then the entire development of human space is kind of biased towards Trailing (where the Empire expanded), human space occupies the center and right part of the map, leaving the left part empty. The reason is simple – it wasn’t planned out when I started to build it.

So I thought I’d do a draft of what human space “should” look like. I’ll take the written history as a basis – but I will fix what needs fixing.

Some data points:

  1. The first FTL mission was in 2174, to Alpha Centauri
  2. Hyperdrive speeds continually improved over the course of the history of the Federated Nations
  3. “Leapfrog 2”, launched in 2278, founded Eureka in 2308, circa 1100 light-years towards Center and Spinward.
  4. Regular explorers from the FN arrived at Eureka in 2390 – meaning that human space had expanded less than 1100 light years by 2390; let’s say 1000 light years maximum.

Do note that the galactic disc is “only” about 1000 light-years thick. At this point, it’s safe to assume that human space covers the disc’s entire width in at least the center 500ly radius.

Human Space in 2380AD
Human Space in 2380AD

Ignore the second set of circles “south east” of Earth – I added them just to have a second set, roughly in the direction of Empire.

In 2547, the System States Alliance secedes from the Federated Nations. They are located on the “outer Rimward fringe” of human space. But how big is human space 160 years later?

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Hyperdrive Technology

Hyperdrive technology is probably the most essential aspect to the Science Fiction setting’s balance. I’ve always had a rough idea of what I wanted, but it took me a long time to work out the details. In recent weeks, I’ve done just that – and produced a ~15 pages document over the course of my brainstorming.

I think I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  • “Modern” Hyperdrive speed is 2 hours per light-year, plus a jump prep time of 8h, not counting time it takes to charge up capacitor banks. This results in approximate travel times of 84 days from Terra to the Federation border – one way. As an aside, the FN – before the break down of interstellar society – was able to build ships twice as fast.
  • The actual course a ship takes is longer than the point-to-point distance because gravity wells en route need to be avoided.
  • Range: There is no theoretical limit to the distance of a single hyperdrive jump. Longer jumps require better astrogation equipment and better astrogational data, or they become more prone to error over distance. Practical jump distance is still on the order of hundreds of light years, at least, which means there are no fixed, defensible borders.
  • No FTL communication and no FTL detection – this isn’t a new decision of course.
  • Ships in Hyperspace can, in theory, abort a jump prematurely. To do so, however, carries a high risk – the ship is likely to be severely damaged or even destroyed.
  • There is no limitation on entering or leaving hyperspace in a normal gravity well; ample safety margin to any object in real space is advised especially on re-emergence; the margin of error means it’s fairly easy to crash into a planet. Extreme gravity wells (singularities) are a different matter, and could knock a ship back into real space.

As you can see, I opted for the simple approach. For example, I just could not come up with a reasonable way to limit jump range so I eventually decided to just go with the easy default – after all if I can’t justify a limitation before myself, nobody else would believe in it either.

The biggest implication of all this for the setting is that there is no border a nation can easily defend. Important systems will be heavily fortified, scout ships will patrol systems for signs of intruders, but in the end your enemy can jump right past your defenses to your homeworld if they want. Of course, such an invasion might leave their own systems undefended and if their enemy can out-think them what was intended as a surgical surprise attack could end up as a disaster.

These decisions also mean that human space contains a lot of worlds that are simply bypassed – maybe never even visited. In a way, this is good – it means “the frontier” is never far away from a civilized system; but unfortunately there’s really no way to have the players or protagonists stumble across anything they did not intend to visit.

I may yet change my opinion on some of these points… but since I really need to move on with the design, I will only do so with very good reason. And yes, as always, if anybody has feedback or good ideas, I’d love to hear it!

Additional Insignia/Symbols for SF Setting

I created these last night – all of them are very quick & dirty; it was, so to speak, an insignia brainstorming session.

Insignia for minor nations
Insignia for minor nations

Some remarks:

A+B: I like these, but I feel they scream “Sweden in space”. That may be acceptable for a colony that was established for the Swedish, but I am not entirely sure I’d want it as a symbol for one of the interstellar nations. Still, a candidate for actual use.

C+D: Color variations. C is the Finnish version I guess. 😉

E: Not too fond of this, perhaps it could be used for a corporation, very small nation or an individual colony.

F: I like this one. Perhaps for the Thousand Worlds nation.

G+H: I also like this one. Colors could be changed, and perhaps the entire thing could be on a circular background or something. Definitely a candidate for actual use.

J+K: Not too fond of these.

M: Turkic/Islamic feel to this symbol. Could be used – I don’t hate it – but it doesn’t have a cool factor.

N: Sword impaling a planet – planet obviously would need work. I kinda like it, need to see how this comes out.

O+P:  Two slight variations; I prefer the aligned version (O) rather than the one with the stars at an angle. Again slightly Islamic/Turkic feel. Another candidate for actual use.


Here are some additional variants as suggested by Realmwright:

Relative density of human colony worlds

Another map of Human Space. This time, showing the relative density of human colonies. The darker the blue, the more colonies are there in a given volume of space. The darkest blue is basically the “most marginal world was settled and terraforming projects were launched on most of those”; the lightest shade of blue is the “human colonies are like needles in a haystack”. Everything else is, of course, something in between.

Science Fiction Setting – Historic Map & Timeline Preview

It’s been quiet. Too quiet – but I’ve actually been working quite frantically on my science fiction setting. The fake advertisement was just something I felt like doing as an aside; mostly, I’ve been working out a detailed timeline and history from all the notes, brainstorming documents, and abortive world books I’ve written in the past. Just to give you an idea of the scope: We are talking about a 40-page document.

I thought I’d give you a bit of a sneak preview. There are some possible spoilers of future material… you have been warned.

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Milky Way Galaxy in Black and White

I decided to release the following image under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Please credit me with a link back to – Happy mapping!

Click on the thumbnail above to get the original size at 4096×4096 pixels; it’s 6MB as a PNG file.

The image is based on a NASA image of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Poster-sized Star Map print

Got the A1 version of my star map. Again, as with the small test version, the photos simply don’t do it justice, but I had to post some anyway.

You can see some dice in one pic, and the small test print in two others, to compare the size. And, yes, I really need better lighting in this apartment.

But I’ve also learned two lessons more to the subject matter:

  1. I am very happy I did not edit the image – the test print seemed dark and the labels hard to read; on the A1 map both the color and the readability of the labels are absolutely perfect in my opinion.
  2. It was an excellent choice to go with matte photo paper, over the glossy stuff.

I’ll get two A3 matte versions printed in a few days (Saturday) as well. One is going to go to Lex Mosgrove, because he claimed that he wanted one.