Thursday, March 31, 2011

Social Stuctures in The Black Desert III

         Apologies for not posting before now...I have spent this week either in the doctor's office, on the road to the doctor's, or just plain sick and wishing that the fantastic meds in my setting were available now.  I just want a new pancreas, is that too much to ask?

           Anyway, as I mentioned in the last post on this subject, there are other unconventional models for society available besides tribalism.  While the general assumption among SF authors is that in order to keep a habitat or spacecraft running in space one must adopt the military model of organization, I am forced to wonder if another naval model would also work. 

            I am referring, of course, to the piracy model.

            Not the crime of piracy itself, to be sure; I agree with Rick Robinson that the lack of stealth in space will make barratry much more lucrative and that all hijackings will be brazen and in the open.  What I want to look at today is piracy as a system of organization, as codified in the many Articles of Piracy used in the golden age of high-seas mayhem in the Caribbean.

             While I am well known for my pro-Air Force stance on space military debate, it is a fact that spacecraft are similar to navel vessels in that both are not only weapons platforms, but homes for their crews.   Given the necessity of having every major system on a spacecraft in working order (or you all die), it would seem that a suitably disciplined system of organization would have to be adopted.  That being said, a look at some actual Articles of Piracy and historical context yield some rather surprising information.

              First of all, the famous Captains of the golden age of piracy were only in command of their ships during raids; the rest of the time, the ship's chief navigator was boss.  Also, the crews of pirate ships voted on who was to be Captain in between raids.  Pirates also created the first - as far as I know - retirement system for wounded seamen.  The details of Articles of Piracy varied from ship to ship; a couple of extant copies of the Articles can be found here.  Since for our purposes these Articles are only useful if they can be used in space, let's see if they can be adapted for use on a spacecraft, and go from there.

Ship's Articles (stolen adapted from Bartholomew Robert's Articles of Piracy): 

I.  Everyone gets a vote on current events, and an equal share of any fresh provisions until such provisions run out.

 II.  Anyone who tries to take more than their fair share of profits and provisions will be expelled from the ship's company as soon as possible.

III. No person to gamble for money or resources among the ship's company.  Fleece the passengers all you want.

IV. All of the ship's company will keep their personal gear, weapons and equipment in working order.

V. Relationships among the ship's company are not permitted.
VI. Desertion or dereliction of duty during combat or other disaster will be punished by expulsion.  If the desertion results in the death of another of the ship's company, the offender will be executed.

VII. Interpersonal conflicts will not be tolerated; two who are quarreling will submit their grievances to the Captain, or other superior.  If a resolution cannot be reached, both will be expelled from the ship's company.

VIII. Contracts will be made among the ship's company for a specified period (usually two years).  Any member of the ship's company who choses to break their contract will forfeit all back pay and be expelled.  Any who must retire early due to illness or injury may leave the ship's company with back pay and a special bonus based on donation from the rest of the company.

IX. The two Flight Commanders receive two shares each out of all resources above what is needed to maintain the ship.  The Flight Engineers receive one and a half shares and all other crew receive one share apiece.  These shares are over and above the 75 LSU/day minimum expenditure.

           Keep in mind that the above is an extremely rough draft; any comments or suggestions will be appreciated.



  1. Arr.
    We can be providing a pancreas, if you can tell us the name of someone with the right blood type and ye aren't too fond of. And ask no questions.

    Black humor aside, sorry you're ill and I hope you feel better soon.

    Interesting bit about piracy and I hope you follow it with a bit about Port Royal in space. I'm curious as to who would live in a habitat or asteroid where the writ of the Martians doesn't go. Or the other governments.

    As always, a link to Charles Stross thoughts on interstellar space piracy. I doubt its 100% applicable, but the idea of a pirate gang that also plays the commodities market has some interest.

    Get well soon.

  2. Thanks for the link; pirates of the commodities markets is one more original takes on the Brethren of the Coast I've seen.

    As for Port Royal in space...The pirate model was only supposed to suggest an way to organize a ship/stations population, not imply that there are good-ole-fashioned-pirates. That being said, one of BD's central points is that half of the asteroid colonies have been cut off from the rest of the system for decades. I imagine the surviving colonies will look a bit like either Stalin's Soviet Union, or Tortuga. Or both- which is really scary...


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