Before GURPS Transhuman Space (THS), there was GURPS (Space) Terradyne.
Terradyne was written in 1991, so it is interesting to observe how the period it was written in has influenced the future depicted. For example, the USSR still exists on the Earth of Terradyne, although the book does predict a number of republics will have seceded, and problems with ethnic unrest.
The most obvious difference with Transhuman Space is much less biotech. Genetic engineering is used, but it is mainly for food crops or terraforming organisms. The latter are fungi, lichens, algae and microbes. There are bionics, but no biomods; robots, but no bioroids.
Terradyne is more dystopian than Transhuman Space, but also a somewhat more realistic, grittier hard sci-fi setting. Terradyne is set in 2120, rather than the 2100 of THS. Tech-level of Terradyne is lower than THS, however. Off-world, and the more prosperous nations or social groups of Earth are (early)TL8, but many Earth nations are TL7, with some communities as low as TL6, TL5 or even TL2. This is using the Classic/3e Tech-level scale, not the 4e. On the Classic/3e scale THS was high TL9 with TL10 biotech (GURPS THS 3e p.140).
Some of the technology later seen in THS sourcebooks is present in Terradyne. Some of the predictions that miss are rather charming. The book suggests use of the web will be charged by the minute, implying much less constant use of it is made than in THS or IRL. For monetary transactions people carry a keypad device resembling a small calculator.
“Have you ever ridden a conveyor strip before?” Gaines inquired. “It’s quite simple. Just remember to face against the motion of the strip as you get on.”
“The Roads Must Roll” by Robert Heinlein.
Similar advice is given in Heinlein’s book, “For Us, The Living”. Both stories indicate that some trips include seating and protection from weather. Unlike THS, slidewalks are a common means of travel in the cities of the UPOE and Terradyne. The slidewalks of fiction (and some real world examples), use several parallel strips, each moving two to three yards per second faster than its neighbour. By this means high speed slidewalks are boarded. The real world ThyssenKrupp Express Walkway is composed of pallets that can vary their individual speed. Rules for slidewalks are given in GURPS Ultra-tech 4e p.222. I also like the idea of cable cars being used within the craters of the Moon.
Inevitably, some of the scientific facts in the book are out of date. Still up for grabs in 2120 is a massive prize for finding water on the Moon. We now know there is quite a lot up there!
It is a standard trope in near-future sci-fi for big corporations to own virtually everything. Economically, this seems somewhat unrealistic and impractical. Terradyne has a more credible structure, and revolves around the interaction of two large organizations, only one of which is a corporation.
The United Peoples of Earth (UPOE) is a league of nations organization that is effectively the world government. It has an Assembly of Nations, where each member nation has one representative, and a Peoples’ Assembly where each nation has a vote for every 20 million of population, or part thereof. The latter system does not provide much of an incentive for nations to curb their population growth!
Terradyne is an off-world corporation based in Luna City. Its mission is the colonization and exploitation of the rest of the solar system. Currently its primary project is the terraforming of Mars. To this end, it has taken the bold but controversial action of crashing Saturn’s moon, Phoebe, into Mars. This impact has created several deep oceans and seas, and a thick, but as yet unbreathable, Martian atmosphere. Terradyne employs 90% of off-world personnel and sees itself as a de facto nation. Rather than raising money by taxing its population it does so by the sale of exports. Terradyne also owns and operates the solar power satellites that provide a significant proportion of Earth’s energy needs.
An interesting dynamic exists between these two organizations. The UPOE would like to bring Terradyne to heel, but is dependent on Terradyne for energy and high-tech goods, many of which can only be made in orbit. Terradyne, on the other hand, resents the UPOE’s attempts to control and influence it, but needs the population of Earth as a market.
“The Mall in Washington, D.C. is flooded and the government has moved to higher ground. Tourists can visit the Oval Office and the second floor of the old Capitol Building by boat.
New York: City was also hit hard. About 20% of Manhattan is under the Atlantic, including the Upper West Side to Amsterdam Avenue, and nearly all of the East Village.”
Nations remain politically significant. The USA is a major food producer and has Earth’s largest armed forces. It would very much like to regain its status as a world leader but it is beset by considerable social problems and unrest. The poverty gap remains a problem, with many Americans living at TL6 even within TL8 cities. China is a major player on the world stage, but somewhat held back by its antipathy to Terradyne. Japan is significant economically, but hindered in some circles by its close association with Terradyne. Not all the nations of the world are members of the UPOE. There are also a number of Earth-based corporations and zaibatsu that wield considerable political power.
The book includes some material that may be useful for THS and similar scenarios. Rules for man-powered flight under lunar gravitry are on page 57. “Mayflies” I have dealt with in a previous blog.
GURPS Terradyne uses a different armory to THS. TL8 weapons may be drawn for GURPS Space 2e, Ultra-Tech 3e, and presumably, Ultra-Tech 2, Cyberpunk and Cyberworld 3e. Much of the technology, including weapons, is TL7 so GURPS High-Tech may contribute many items. Firearms of any kind are very strictly controlled in domed and pressurized environments such as on Mars and the Moon. This may lead to characters or NPCs making greater use of melee weapons, LLW or martial arts. Chemical slug-throwers are widely used on Earth and on Mars outside of the domes. Laser pistols and rifles are used in the colonies, but may be encountered on Earth too. Gyrocs are another armament weapon option, although civilians may be unable to legally use certain ammunition types. Military, police, paramilitaries, militia, mercenaries and criminals may have access to such weapons as military lasers, gauss-needlers, grenades, missiles, rocket launchers and needle guns. On Earth most military units will be TL7, with elite, special forces or well-funded units having better access to TL8 gear. In areas such as the Kasmir, one might encounter infantry platoons mainly armed with TL7 rifles, but having an infantry support laser (UT-2 3e, p.55) and/or automatic rocket launcher (gyroc: UT3e p.47) and an electromag grenade launcher or mortar (UT 3e p.45-46) as their main firepower. The officers would probably carry heavy laser pistols as a sidearms.
I have a few minor gripes about the book. The description of the Lowell space station is rather confused: The hub shifts position to alter spin rate and vary the perceived gravity, but won’t this increase the spin rate of the other end module? Is only one module used for accommodation? The role of the Lowells is described under the entry for UCLA Cycler on this page.(Cyclers are also mentioned on THS 3e p.13) Page 111 of the Terradyne Sourcebook talks about “the lone combat soldier” where clearly the intended meaning was “the individual”. Theodore Sturgeon did not write “The Thing”! All of the movies were based on “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr. Anthrax is a bacterium, so it is unlikely a virus (p.125) would be developed from it. Ranges for communicators are typically unrealistic. A microwave communicator will only have 10,000 mile range if it has line of sight.
The book could have used a map of the terraformed Mars. One can be found here, and also includes the artist’s take on the Terradyne Earth and Moon too. Personally, I think Israel would be in the UPOE, but would probably have a rough time with the Arab and Islamic voting blocks. I do like the idea of the Alawatie Christian Republic appearing in the Middle East. One issue I have with this map is the inclusion of space elevators. The tech-level of Terradyne makes it seem unlikely that the necessary high-tech materials for such constructions would be available. Additionally, Terradyne (the company) relies heavily on that it can ship goods down the gravity well to Earth much more cheaply and easily than materials can be moved up to orbit. Even if technically possible, building space elevators would be counter to Terradyne’s interests.