Orion's Arm

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For a minor spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, see Orion Arm. For the stars which form the arm of the Orion asterism, see Orion (constellation).
Orion's Arm
Web address orionsarm.com
Available in English

Orion's Arm, (also called the Orion's Arm Universe Project, OAUP, or simply OA) is a multi-authored online science fiction world-building project, first established in 2000[1] by M. Alan Kazlev, Donna Malcolm Hirsekorn, Bernd Helfert and Anders Sandberg and further co-authored by many people since.[2] It was described by Cory Doctorow as "a pretty thoroughgoing post-Singularity thinggum with lots of opportunity for fun noodling".[3] Anyone can contribute articles, stories, artwork, or music to the website. A large mailing list exists,[4] in which members debate aspects of the world they are creating, discussing additions, modifications, issues arising, and work to be done.

A computer game and a role-playing game are being developed by the community, within the OA milieu. There is an ezine for Orion's Arm fiction, art, and commentary, called Voices: Future Tense,[5] add-ons for the Celestia program to displaying Orion's Arm planets, spacecraft and other objects,[6] and additional transhumanist flavored SF illustrations.[7]

The first published Orion's Arm book, a collection of five novellas set within the OA universe, called Against a Diamond Sky,[8] was released in September 2009 by Outskirts Press.[9] The second published Orion's Arm book, called After Tranquility, was released in February 2014.[10][11]

Setting[edit]

OA is set over ten thousand years in the future, and claims to adhere to plausible, or "hard" science fiction; that is, no human-like aliens, no literal faster-than-light travel or other violations of the known laws of physics, and no "naval analogy" space battles. Certain speculative technologies, such as the creation of "negative-mass" (averaged null energy condition-violating) exotic matter and the manipulation of strange forms of matter, such as magnetic monopoles and Q-balls, on length scales much smaller than that of an atom, strong artificial intelligence and artificial life appear in the setting, distinguishing it from "ultra-hard" science fiction (which assumes only technologies proven to be possible at the time it is written).

The denizens of this universe are ruled over by god-like, superintelligent artificial intelligences (AIs), called "archailects", the descendants of humanity's (though not exclusively) early artificial life experimentation. These beings are so powerful that they can create new miniature universes, and are completely beyond the comprehension of normal humans. Their bodies exist as distributed intelligences in networks of planet-sized computer brains; their subroutines are themselves sentient, making an "archai" an individual and a civilization at the same time. Extraterrestrial life exists, but the focus is entirely on the descendants and creations of Earth life, here collectively called "terragen life". Normal humans, called "baselines", are an endangered species. Their genetically and cybernetically enhanced descendants have supplanted them.

There are many types of intelligent life: nearbaselines (enhanced humans), posthumans, cyborgs, vecs (intelligent robots; named for Hans Moravec), aioids (intelligent computers), uploads (intelligences transferred into computers), neumanns (self-replicating robots; named for John von Neumann), provolves (animals with enhanced intelligence, similar to "uplift" - see below), rianths (humans with animal DNA spliced in), splices (similar to provolves, upgraded with human DNA), neogens (life genetically synthesized from non-life) and xenosophonts (aliens). Nanotechnology is common. Ringworlds, Dyson spheres and other "megastructures" exist. Much of civilised space is connected by a network of wormholes.

OA is a part of the transhuman space opera subgenre. The world was influenced by Iain M. Banks' Culture series, Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, and David Brin's Uplift Universe, among others. It takes the concept of the technological singularity directly from the work of Vernor Vinge among others. In Orion's Arm, there is not one singularity but at least six, and they refer not to stages in the technological development of civilizations as a whole, but to different levels of consciousness in individuals. The concept of Toposophics used in this setting is inspired by the work of Stanisław Lem.

Prominent theoretical technologies[edit]

Technologies that feature prominently in the Orion's Arm setting include:

Prominent theoretical artifacts[edit]

Types of megastructure that feature prominently in the Orion's Arm setting include:

Types of nanotechnology-based artifact include:

  • Utility fog (swarms of microscale robots that act as a reconfigurable bulk material).
  • Disassembler swarms (grey goo-like swarms of nanorobots that dismantle hostile craft/objects).
  • Angelnets (nanotechnology-based infrastructures allowing for complete control of the local environment, up to and including mind uploading in the case of severe accidents, that provides functional immortality in addition to its holodeck-like uses).

Other noteworthy artifacts are usually unique items whose principles of operation are unknowable to "baseline" humans (named Clarketech, after Clarke's third law).

Reception[edit]

Orion's Arm has been reviewed in the role-playing magazine Knights of the Dinner Table,[13] as well as on Boing Boing by transhumanist science fiction author Cory Doctorow[3]

References to the Encyclopaedia Galactica have been made in a book on overcoming Librarian stereotypes.[14]

The Orion's Arm website has also been recommended in a children's teaching guide.[15]

The Orion's Arm perspective on wormholes has been discussed in various science fiction forums outside the group's own mailing lists, including mention on hardsf.org[16] and discussion in a paper from UC Davis.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Orion's Arm - The Early Years
  2. ^ M. Alan Kazlev, Voices/Future Tense » Orion's Arm - The Beginning
  3. ^ a b Orion's Arm: CC-licensed, post-Singularity shared world - posted by Cory Doctorow, August 17, 2005
  4. ^ Orion's Arm - Yahoo! Mailing List
  5. ^ Bill Ernoehazy, (ed.), Voices: Future Tense
  6. ^ The Orion's Arm Universe in Celestia
  7. ^ Bernd Helfert, oa art gallery
  8. ^ The Orion's Arm Universe Project, Against A Diamond Sky: Tales from Orion's Arm Vol. 1, Outskirts Press, 2009, ISBN 1-4327-4099-7 ISBN 978-1432740993
  9. ^ Outskirts Press announces Against A Diamond Sky
  10. ^ http://www.orionsarm.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=648
  11. ^ http://www.orionsarm.com/xcms.php?r=oa-page&page=gen_updates
  12. ^ Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering: Open Air Space Habitats
  13. ^ Kenneth Newquist, Plunder Free RPGs on the Web, Knights of the Dinner Table #92, June 2004, p.66
  14. ^ Ruth Kneale, (2009) You Don't Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet Age, Information Today, Inc., ISBN 1-57387-366-7, ISBN 978-1-57387-366-6 p.118
  15. ^ Timothy Tuck, Wonder wits teaching guide, Blake Education, 2006 ISBN 1-86509-917-1,ISBN 978-1-86509-917-0
  16. ^ Morris-Thorne Wormholes
  17. ^ Wormhole Engineering in Orion’s Arm: An Overview

External links[edit]