Belter (Niven)

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In Larry Niven's fictional Known Space universe, a Belter refers to a resident of the Asteroid Belt around Sol, sometimes known as the Sol Belt to differentiate it from Alpha Centauri's Serpent Swarm.

Rugged and highly individualistic, Belters make their living by mining the ores from the asteroidal rocks. Belters inhabit the main belt, trojan asteroids of the outer planets, centaur planetoids and NEA's.

Transient by nature, the only home they typically own is their pressure suit, and perhaps their singleship. As a form of heraldry, Belters decorate their skintight suits with elaborate (and often expensive) torso paintings. Most Belters, male and female, sport what is known as the Belter Crest: shaving their heads on the sides, leaving a strip of hair down the center resembling a mohawk. However the hair in the back may be of any length, particularly for women.

In lieu of (or perhaps in addition to) a wake for their dead, Belters have a custom known as the ceremonial drunk. When a Belter dies, his or her close friends will typically get intoxicated (either alone or in groups according to one's nature or circumstance) and reminisce about the deceased.

The Belt Government collects a 30% tax on all cargo sold within the belt. However one can avoid paying the tax by smuggling one's cargo to an Earth facility, which collects no taxes. The caveat is that, if one is caught smuggling by the Belt police (known as goldskins due to the color of their spacesuits), one will forfeit all of one's cargo to the Belt Government. To a Belter, smuggling is considered "illegal but not immoral". It is considered equivalent to a parking violation on Earth. If caught, one simply pays the fine and that is the end of it.

According to the novel Protector, the Belt government is a meritocracy; Lit Shaeffer was chosen for a leadership position by aptitude test, and "worked [his] way up".

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