There are currently six major science-fiction settings that I have done a significant amount of speculative spaceship designs work in. They vary from each other in the levels of star-faring technology depicted and how fanciful spaceship designs presented are. In order of most sober to most exuberant, the settings are as follows:
1. Interplanetary / Interstellar / Galactic Exploration Corps: This is my most sober science-fiction setting. It starts out with the most plausible speculative spaceship design I have ever done and presents the attainment of ever higher levels of star-faring technology by Humanity using my most conservative design assumptions for starships. It includes what has become my signature design among fans of fan work, Starship Leviathan, as well as a single star-faring sentient species encountered by Humanity during the five eras depicted.
2. Space Opera: This is my most warlike science-fiction setting. It depicts the star fleets of four space-faring powers possessing modest levels of star-faring technology. This setting is focused on a single era where the three of the space nations have entered into an uneasy alliance to ward off the fourth space nation determined to rule over then entire expanse of known space.
3. Star Vessels: This is a Human-centered science-fiction setting with the physically smallest spaceship designs of all the major spaceship families I have created. In this fictional environment, Humanity has managed to stay united during the beginning eras of interstellar exploration. It uses star-faring technology somewhat more advanced than that of the Space Opera setting.
4. Galactic Gargantuans: This is another Human-centered science-fiction setting with star-faring technology very similar to that of the Star Vessels setting. Unlike that former setting, in the Galactic Gargauntuans fictional environment, Humanity has split into three major space nations.
5. Deep Space Exploration Group: This is my Star Trek-like science-fiction setting. It centers around a handful of star-faring sentient species including Humans. In this setting, the various sentient species work together but mostly use their own starships with just a small number of representatives serving on the ships of fellow Deep Space Exploration Group members. This fictional environment depicts the first three eras of star-faring technological development after Humans have joined the Deep Space Exploration Group.
6. Galactic Travelers: This is my most exuberant science-fiction setting. It depicts a series of far future starship designs populated by multi-sentient species crews including Humans. The star-faring technology depicted in this setting is the most advanced and fantastic of any of the fictional environments I have created.
Interplanetary / Interstellar / Galactic Exploration Corps Setting
The Exploration Corps setting consists of five fictional eras that range from the late 21st century to the early 26th century. In this fictional environment, our galaxy has only a few sentient species with star-faring technology. The first era begins in the late 21st century with the formation of the international Interplanetary Exploration Corps. During the 22nd century, a federation of democratic continental governments emerge bringing world peace and prosperity. By the end of this century, faster-than-light vessels appear and the Interplanetary Exploration Corps becomes the Interstellar Exploration Corps. Over the next 150 years, the Human presence in local interstellar space expands. In the mid-24th century, major improvements in faster-than-light drive result in Human space exploration efforts ranging much deeper into the galaxy. The Interstellar Exploration Corps grows in size and capability to become the Galactic Exploration Corps. The Exploration Corps setting is inspired by the science fiction Arthur C. Clarke, Jack McDevitt, and James White. I consider it my most sober portrayal of Humanity equipped with maturing faster-than-light technology combined with equally maturing societal development.
The Nimrithi are sentient undersea creatures that vaguely resemble an octopus. They have four main limbs that divide into two smaller limbs each. They are water breathers and have male and female sexes. The typical lifetime of a Nimrithi is around 100 years. They evolved in shallow waters along the coastline of their homeworld’s oceans. They are very human-like in their curiosity and emotional range and the closest star-faring sentient species to Humanity. It took centuries for Humans and Nimrithi to learn to trust each other, but they eventually joined forces to explore the galaxy together using Tech Level 7 star-faring technology. Starships Depths of Dream and Dawn of Discovery are joint Human-Nimrithi designs. This sentient species is inspired by the aliens depicted in the 1944 short story Arena by science fiction author Fredric Brown.
Space Opera Setting
The era of the starships depicted in the Space Opera setting occurs perhaps five centuries from the present. This fictional environment centers on the four major tech level 5 star-faring powers in the 300 light year sphere of known space centered on Sol system. Two of these, the Humanasol League and the Kruegarian Protectorate, are run by Humans. The other two, the Ventronian Interstellar Consolidation and the Klolodian Empire, are run by carbon-based, oxygen breathing aliens.
The Humanasol League is the smallest, poorest and weakest of the four major powers. It occupies a 100 light year diameter sphere and consists of Sol system and its first generation colonies. The 1000 warship Humanasol League Fleet is primarily defensive and has the smallest ships of the major powers.
The Ventronian Interstellar Consolidation occupies a 100 light year diameter sphere directly spinward from the Humanasol League. Like the Humanasol League Fleet, the 1200 warship Ventronian Interstellar Consolidation Fleet is primarily defensive with a significant portion devoted to interstellar exploration. The Ventronians posses slightly most advanced star-faring technology than the rest of the major powers.
Bordering the Humanasol League on its coreward and anti-spinward sides is the expansionist Kruegarian Protectorate, consisting of Human colonies established by the first generation colonies. These second generation colonies broke away from the Humanasol League about fifty years ago to form their own interstellar government based on the colony world Kruegar. The 2000 warship Kruegarian Protectorate Starfleet is primarily engaged in holding and expanding its territory.
Bordering the Kruegarian Protectorate, Humanasol League, and Ventronian Interstellar Consolidation along their rimward borders is the expansionist Klolodian Empire. The Klolodian Imperial Starfleet boasts almost 4000 warships and is bent on expanding its influence into the territories occupied by Humans and Ventronians.
The still occasionally antagonistic Kruegarian Protectorate and Humanasol League, along with the neutrality seeking Ventronian Interstellar Consolidation, must work together to thwart to expansionist ambitions of the Klolodian Empire. The Kruegarian Protectorate Starfleet is powerful and well-equipped but spread out. The Humanasol League Fleet is concentrated but lacking in economic resources. The Ventronian Interstellar Consolidation Fleet has the technological edge but is hesitant to aid the ever-squabbling Humans. Finally, the Klolodian Imperial Starfleet is large with plenty of resources, but may face other foes in parts of space beyond the range of Human exploration. Its ability to maintain an extended campaign against the three other major powers, should they present an united front, is unknown.
The Space Opera setting is my most pessimistic fictional environment. I have used a fictional font for the Human ships in this setting to indicate that I believe that our actual future will be brighter than this. The ships of the Humanasol League Fleet are inspired by the Colonial Fleet as depicted in Sci-Fi Channel’s TV show Battlestar Galactica and the Terran Confederation Fleet as depicted in the scienceifiction film Wing Commander. The Kruegarian Protectorate Starfleet vessels are inspired by the Imperial ships of Star Wars.
The Klolodians are sentient carbon-based oxygen breathers. They are shorter than Humans, have shorter life-spans, and a comparable star-faring technology. Klolodians have six limbs: three-arms and three-legs. Their skin colors range from light gray to dark gray. The Klolodians are the most aggressive of the various fictional sentient species I have concocted. They are militaristic and xenophobic. The look of the Klolodians is inspired by Martians as depicted in the 1957 version of film War of the Worlds produced by Geore Pal. Fellow speculative spaceship designer Jeff Robb created the illustration of a Klolodian seen above. The style of the Klolodian starships is inspired by miniatures from the 1970’s tactical space-combat game Stardate: 3000.
The Ventronians are sentient carbon-based oxygen breathers. They are taller than Humans, have longer life spans, and a slightly more-advanced star-faring technology. Ventronians are vaguely cat-like in appearance with a wide variety of fur colors. The Ventronians are generally more pacifistic than Humans, but they will vigorously defend themselves when attacked. They are wary partners of Humanity; only working alongside side humans to fight off the imperious Klolodians. The Ventronians see themselves as refined and cultured and consider Humans to be uncouth barbarians who must be tolerated. The look of the Ventronians is based on cats and the illustration of them seen above was created by Jeff Robb. The style of Ventronians starships is inspired by a UFO design by Brick Price for the 1970’s TV series Project UFO.
Star Vessels Setting
The Star Vessels setting exists in a fictional era centuries in the future where Humans have achieved a moderate level of star-faring technology with a noticeable variety of shapes for their spaceships. In the Star Vessels fictional environment, Human starships have been around for about 200 years.
The Star Vessels setting is one of my more romantic science fiction universes, especially in its use of whimsical spaceship hull forms. Other features that set this setting apart from my other setting are smaller ship sizes, smaller crews supplemented by lots of robots, more colorful color schemes for the vessels, and almost all designs being landable on planetary surfaces.
The major inspirations for the Star Vessels setting are spaceship illustrations from the late 1970’s / early 1980’s by Jim Burns, David Egge, Peter Elson, Chris Foss, Colin Hay, Paul Jacquays, Angus McKie, Chris Moore, and Tony Roberts. There is also a bit of the computer game Homeworld thrown in.
Galactic Gargantuans Setting
The Galactic Gargantuans setting is a fictional era over a thousand years in the future where Humans have achieved a moderate level of star-faring technology with a noticeable variety of shapes for their spaceships. In the Galactic Gargantuans fictional environment, Human starships have been around for a few centuries. During that time, Humans have not discovered any other sentient species with star-faring technology. The three major Human staring-faring powers in this future era are the Solarian Federation, the Klotharian Concordat, and the Veerklun Protectorate. The Solarian Federation is the oldest and is centered on Sol system. The Klotharian Concordat was formed by a group of second and third generation Human colonies. It is almost as large as the Solarian Federation and the two powers maintain an uneasy peace. The Veerklun Protectorate is the smallest of the three and jealously protects its handful of star systems that are rich in resources.
There are two major inspiration sources of inspiration for the Galactic Gargantuans setting. The first is science fiction spaceship designs of the 1970’s and 1980’s. The second is the Commonwealth of Man universe created by a number of science fiction artists who display their work at www.deviantART.com. The sphere of Human star-faring activity is much smaller in the Galactic Gargantuans setting than the Commonwealth of Man universe, ranging thousands of light years instead of tens of thousands of light years.
Deep Space Exploration Group Setting
The Deep Space Exploration Group (DSEG) setting consists of three fictional eras that range from the mid 24th century to the late 25th century. In this fictional environment, our galaxy has perhaps 100 sentient species with star-faring technology. The DSEG is a modest fleet of exploratory vessels run by a number of sentient species at a variety of levels of star-faring technology. The DSEG is focused on interstellar exploration rather than the colonization or defense of galactic territory.
The first era begins in the mid 24th century when Human tech level 6 starships join the Deep Space Exploration Group. The second era starts in the late 24th century with the introduction of Human first generation tech level 7 starships. The third era starts in the middle of the 25th century when Humans develop second generation tech level 7 starships.
The Human component of the DSEG consists of a small number of large exploration vessels, called Deep Space Explorers, supported by a much larger number of smaller-sized Deep Space Scouts. Other starship types in the DSEG include Deep Space Freighters, Deep Space Tugs, and Deep Space Drydocks. Human DSEG ships are serviced at huge Deep Space Stations located throughout Human-explored space.
The Deep Space Exploration Group setting is inspired by elements of Star Trek and Babylon 5. It has the widest variety of sentient species of any of my fictional environments.
The Cybernethi are sentient robotic life-forms that evolved from sentient sublight-powered space probes sent into deep space by a sentient species that destroyed itself tens of millennia ago. The Cybernethi have a plethora of sizes and shapes and often physically join together to form gestalt beings; their ability to function both as individuals and as mass-minds is one of the major tensions in Cybernethi psychology. The lifetime of an individual Cybernethi varies widely. Some live for only a few years and cease to function after a particular task has been performed, others can live for centuries. Some have been known to live for millennia. Cybernethi have developed bodies that roughly mimic those of organic species they are willing to interact with. Such artificial bodies are said to not only have the same physical senses as those of the species they are based on, but also have a variety of other senses that only the Cybernethi enjoy.
The Cybernethi relationship with Humans is ambiguous. They are not an united species; some groups will work happily and closely with Humans; others remain aloof and interact with Humans only in a crisis situation, and yet others are actively hostile. The Cybernethi claim to be able to transfer human consciousness into artificial bodies much better suited to live and thrive in deep space. It is unknown whether any Humans have taken them up on this offer to actually find out if having a Cybernethi body is preferable to remaining fully Human. The Cybernethi present Humanity with the challenge of deciding if such a tranformation is indeed the next stage in human evolution.
The Cybernethi are inspired by a cyborg concept presented by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry at a Star Trek convention. It is included as a bonus track on the Inside Star Trek with Gene Roddenberry CD; part of the 20th Anniversary Collectors Edition of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack. The cyborg concept given here by Roddenberry was much different and more positive than that of the Borg as seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation and related movies. Two other influences are a cyborg concept presented by science fiction author James White in his final Sector General series novel Double Contact, and a race of artificial life forms called The Consensus of Parts from the science fiction TV show Andromeda.
The Nyoshahl are large (up to 14 meters in length), lithe, four-legged, and bi-winged sentient vertebrates that somewhat resemble dragons of Human legend. The folding wings, smooth skin, and toned musculature of the Nyoshahl give them to ability to perform astounding feats of running, leaping, and flying within the gravity and atmosphere of their home planet. The Nyoshahl have sizable brains accustomed to three-dimensional movement, paired with retractable “arms” within the forelegs for intricate physical manipulation. These features have enabled them to embark upon and maintain a remarkable pace of technological development across their recorded history. The Nyoshahl are oxygen-breathers and have an omnivorous diet. They are asexual with most adults able to produce children via an egg-laying process. Nyoshahl body coloration consists of smooth, silvery skin with subtle, individualized streaks and spots. The fibrous areas of a Nyoshahl body, such as wings and feet, range from medium blue to dark gray. The typical lifetime of a Nyoshahl is around 80 years. Some Nyoshahl have their wings removed to extend their lives about ten years and improve their mobility in cramped spaces. Many of these Nyoshahl serve aboard space vessels.
As a larger than average sentient species with a high level of technological achievement, the Nyoshahl have developed strong feelings of natural superiority. This has led to strained relations between them the sentient species nearest them in interstellar space, Humans and the T’lar. The Nyoshahl yearn to discover a sentient species physically comparable to themselves, a natural peer they could finally respect. This innate pride of the Nyoshahl exhibits itself in a callous and aloof attitude towards most other sentient species. It has led most Nyoshahl to limit their interactions with Humans. Only the most eccentric Nyoshahl will participate in cultural exchange activities with other sentient species. The majority of Nyoshahl military actions consists of rival groups of Nyoshahl fighting each other.
The Nyoshahl are a creation of fellow speculative spaceship design Jeff Robb. I do not know what his inspiration was for them but they remind me of dragons as depicted in Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series of science fiction novels.
The T’lar are sentient carbon-based chlorine breathers. They are smaller than Humans and have shorter life spans, usually around one hundred years. T’lar have eight squarish limbs, four arms and four legs. Each leg has a four-toed foot, with two toes in front, two toes in back; and each arm ends in four fingers. The upper pair of arms tends to be stronger than the lower pair, but the fingers on the lower pair of arms are capable of more delicate movements than those on the upper arms. T’lar walk in a kind of galloping motion. They have two eyes that can see to the side and up, as well as forward. Breathing gills on either side of the head also contain speech organs; the mouth in the center of the face is used only for feeding. Two auditory organs with hair-like projections are located on the upper left and right sides of the head. Their skin colors range from light pink to dark purple.
The T’lar have somewhat more developed psionic powers than Humans, with some telepathic and empathic abilities used on a regular basis, but no telekinetic skills. They are bisexual; two T’lar must mate to produce offspring, but either partner can bear and suckle the children. T’lar are quite gregarious and have a psychology somewhat similar to Humans. Their emotional reactions resemble those of Humans but the T’lar usually don’t exhibit as powerful mood swings. It has been suggested that their lack of division into separate, strongly defined sexes has been a factor in this greater emotional control than that exhibited by most humans. The T’lar have a warm relationship with Humanity that developed relatively peacefully. They are Humanity’s closest friends of the sentient species.
The look for the T’lar was inspired by an unnamed alien race featured in The Aliens, a bonus feature included in the back of some Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. comic books from the late 1960’s. The psychology for the T’lar is a mix of that used by Ursula LeGuin for the bisexual Gethenians presented in her science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness and that used by Alan Dean foster for the insect-like Thranx in his Humanx Commonwealth series of science fiction novels.
The Ventasians are sentient silicon-based life-forms averaging about four meters tall. Their bodies consist of multi-faceted crystal plates and pillars with electrical charges constantly flowing within them. They have a three-sided core pillar from which a trio of three-sectioned overlapping cape-like plates emanate. These “capes” absorb certain wavelengths of energy radiated by external sources such as sunlight and local chemical processes; this absorbed energy is then used as sustenance. Energy absorbed that is not immediately needed for functioning is stored in battery-like organs in the central body stem. All body surfaces of a Ventasian are divided into smaller facets, with a variety of bluish and greenish opaque hues that start out pale in youth and grow richer with age over some four and a half centuries, the typical lifespan of a Ventasian. Fine, fingerprint-like individualized etchings can also be seen across the facets.
Ventasians move themselves and objects in their environment using highly developed telekinetic powers. They usually float their bodies near a floor-defining surface but they can also fly further away from a ground plane for a period of time. They move inanimate objects in a similar fashion. Ventasians use telepathy for private conversation as well as communicating with other sentient beings. They also communicate by illuminating various plate facets on their “capes” in a variety of patterns and can project holograms that float in the space surrounding their heads to express complex ideas. The plates forming the “capes” can also subtly change shape and this is the main form of Ventasian body language. A Ventasian’s body constantly emits a musical hum which can be controlled only partially as it reflects a Ventasian’s general mood. Each Ventasian’s hum is unique. Ventasians have the ability to transfer their consciousnesses for a period of time into artificial bodies for use in environmentally hazardous conditions. They use such artificial constructs instead of spacesuits.
Ventasians adults live in triads and reproduce via a long, arduous process that requires the combined physical and mental efforts of all three and takes years to grow a new Ventasian ready to separate from one of their bodies. While adult Ventasians reproduce voluntarily, they normally find this arduous process ultimately rejuvenating; Ventasians who reproduce usually life longer lives than those who have chosen not to. Each adult Ventasian in its triad usually takes its turn as the parental body once during its life. A Ventasian adult triad normally produces three children during their collective lives.
Once born, a Ventasian takes from sixty to ninety years to fully mature. The parental triad monitors the child’s growth and trains it how to control its visual and auditory forms of communication. The parents also instruct the child in the use of its telepathic and telekinetic powers. This adult family triad usually finishes their education of the child by taking it on a psychic and sometimes even physical multi-year tour of a portion of the galaxy. Once this ritual is complete, the newly matured Ventasian typically leaves the parental triad to make a life for itself, find two other single Ventasians to form a new adult triad with, and eventually initiate a new reproductive cycle.
In millennia past, the Ventasians were a proud and arrogant star-faring race, supremely confident in their extensive technological abilities. Unfortunately, a number of their experiments with space-time became horrendous disasters that destroyed not only their own home star system, but those of several others sentient species as well, with a tremendous loss of sentient life. Deeply shaken by such catastrophes and the responsibility they bore, the Ventasians made profound changes in how they perceived themselves and their role in the galaxy. They scattered themselves throughout the Milky Way galaxy to serve as traveling teachers promoting peace and goodwill among the galaxy’s numerous technologically advanced sentient species. They also serve as guardians for sentients species who are as yet incapable of faster-than-light communications or travel, keeping aggressive sentient species with faster-than-light travel from encroaching upon star systems occupied by lesser-developed sentient species.
Ventasians have been the mentors of Humanity. The Ventasians are sometimes stern but usually wise and helpful guides as Humanity grows into a full member of the community of star-faring sentient species. As one of the oldest sentient species still working with younger ones, the Ventasians are held in awe and respect by most of the other star-faring sentient species in the galaxy.
The Ventasians are a joint creation or Jeff Robb and myself. The psychology for this sentient species is inspired by the numerous super-advanced alien species presented in a number of science fiction novels by Arthur C. Clarke, and the Vorlons as seen in the earlier seasons of J. Michael Straczynski’s science fiction TV show, Babylon 5.
Galactic Travelers Setting
The Galactic Travelers setting exists in a far future era millennia from the present where Humans are working together with a handful of other sentient species to peacefully explore the galaxy. In this fictional environment, a variety of sentient species including Humans live and work together in advanced starships and star-faring habitats run by sentient computers. These sentient vessels are members of Galactic Travelers, a loosely organized mutual aid society and collective security pact. The star-faring technology of the Galactic Travelers fictional environment borders on the fantastic with capabilities akin to those displayed by The Culture in the science fiction of Iain M. Banks. The other main source of inspiration for this setting is the science fiction novel Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. The Galactic Travelers science-fiction environment is the most exuberant of my fictional settings with what I hope is an awe-inspiring vision of our far future.