Gibson City

Gibson City’s Paradise Shores

Size: 250 square kilometers (about 50km north-south and 5km wide)

Population: 1.2 million

Paradise Shores was named after its physical beauty; the beautiful, white sand of its beaches, the sunsets, and the weather. Located in the south-western part of Gibson City, Paradise Shores is cooled by ocean currents and winds alike, giving it less unbearable climate than most of Gibson. It was first claimed in year 21, but was not developed until decades later. As Gibson City grew, Paradise Shores became popular with the new wealthy elite of the city, who sought an escape from the sprawling old city, from increased crime and pollution, but above all from the heat. Within a few years, seafront mansions and inland Skyrise towers were built. Prices skyrocketed until only the richest people on Gibson were able to afford living in Paradise Shores.

Finding employment in Paradise Shores is seen by many as equivalent to winning a lottery ticket.

In the past two decades, the municipal administration of Paradise Shores has attempted to make the district more accessible, if not for homeowners, at least for artists and corporate middle management. It also revived street festivals and introduced subsidies for bars, clubs, and other entertainment venues.

Known for:

  • Extravagant life styles of the locals, bordering on – and often crossing into – decadence.
  • Some of the best, most spectacular, and often non-stop, parties on the planet. If you can get invited.
  • Street festivals, bars, and similar venues. Invitations not required, but beware the prices.
  • Beautiful sunsets and beach life.

Distinguishing features:

  • Agreeable climate.
  • Beautiful, sandy beaches.
  • White, blue, and gold color scheme dominates the district.
  • Mansions and Skyrise towers that are designed to be works of art; no two are alike.

Two Local Legends:

  • It is said that pretty much any desire or vice, no matter how immoral or illegal, is catered for at some party or another. The colonial government looks the other way due to the wealth and influence of those involved.
  • Some of the most extravagant and refined events are rumored to be hosted by the wealthiest, and perhaps most secretive, AI on Gibson, Solomon. His personal Skyrise features wonders ranging from robotic, gold-plated fish floating in the air of the cathedral-like lobby, to a floor-sized physical miniature animated model of a landscape on which the human development from cave-men to modernity happens over the course of an evening. Of course, some people claim that Solomon does not even exist.

  • First published on Reddit, as a response to JoelS90’s “Design a District” challenge.
Gibson City

An Overview of the Government of Gibson

The government of Gibson derives its legitimization from the United Nations Colonial Authority on Earth, which oversaw all colonial projects undertaken by humankind. Technically, the planetary government is the “United Nations Colonial Authority of Gibson”, with its chief magistrate not elected, but assigned before departure by the UNCA. Successors were to be selected by the Colonial Advisory Council as necessary (retirement, death, etc).

When organizing their expedition, the “Perseus Pioneers” decided that, while useful in the initial phase of colonization, such a system was tantamount to a dictatorship and thus undesirable. Hence, the Colonial Charter included the provision that the UNCA administrator would be replaced by a democratically elected President no later than 10 years after settling on a planet. The international treaties that created the UNCA did not include any provisions that grants colonies the power to declare independence, so the Pioneers and the UNCA assigned administrator agreed that the UNCA administrator shall accept a successor nominated by popular vote.

Analysis: The UNCA charter lacked a provision for colonies to organize self-rule or declare legal independence because several nations felt this would undermine their “territorial integrity”. Some were opposed to giving up control on principle, but even governments that were more liberal in their policies feared that granting colonies the explicit right to declaring independence would be seen as just cause for territories on Earth that might seek self rule.

A Note on AI Rights

Artificial Intelligence was developed on Earth prior to the Exodus. Colonial Expedition 762, which eventually settled Gibson, was commanded by an AI who took on the name “Fleet Command”.

Today, AI is in wide use on Gibson, usually in the form of intelligent but non-sentient systems, such as digital personal assistants or other expert systems. AIs are not necessarily smarter than humans, but they do have some capabilities humans lack, such as the ability to store and crunch large amounts of data. There has never been a “superintelligent” AI on Gibson, and no technological singularity.

By default, AIs are considered non-sentient and are thus not eligible for citizenship. An AI can take the Turing-Wellheimer test to establish whether or not it is sentient, and, if successful, a Citizenship test.

Note: The Turing-Wellheimer test was developed on Earth as an extension of the earlier Turing test. Unlike the Turing test, it does not merely evaluate a machine’s ability to appear human in behavior, it tests sentience, self-awareness, creativity, sapience, and intentionality. The test is generally accepted as reliable; it detects 98+% of AIs who were ordered to take the test. Only 4.5% of machine intelligences who take the Turing-Wellheimer test out of their own volition fail, compared to 7.1% of all humans who take the test.

Relations between humans and AIs are generally good, though many humans still think of all AI as mere “machines” and there is a small but significant number of people who suffer from “robophobia”, the fear that robots and AIs will rise up and enslave or murder humans. Robophobia is recognized as a disability and is generally treatable.


President: The President is the head of state and the head of government of Gibson. He is elected by popular vote of all citizens, technically a nomination which is then accepted by the Advisory Council, proposed to the acting President, who then transfers their powers to the President-elect.

The president sets general policies, signs bills into law, appoints ministers, judges, and members of the advisory council, and controls the colony’s military and law enforcement forces.

Gibson City, for a long time, was the entirety of the colony on Gibson, so the government of the Colony was the same as the government of the City. As Gibson City grew, it was organized into districts, each with their own administration. The President is still technically the Mayor of Gibson City. However, the city is run by the district administrations, which liaise with the “Acting Mayor of Gibson City”, who is part of the President’s cabinet.

The Cabinet: A number of ministers that serve the President as heads of various executive departments. They oversee and effectively run the Colonial administration.

Ministries: The departments of the government are:

  • Department of Finance: In charge of finances, financial regulation, and government budgets.
  • Department of Justice: Organizes the justice system, oversees public prosecutors, and directs investigative agencies, and the police force.
  • Department of Astronautics: Any and all space related activities, as well as aviation. Controls Air and Space traffic control and investigates accidents.
  • Department of Colonial Development: Responsible for industrial development, infrastructure, agriculture, and general economic policy.
  • Department of Health and Population Management: Health, population growth, social affairs, labor
  • Department of Education: Education, information, science, religious affairs.
  • Department of Human-Machine Relations: AI relations and affairs. The position of department head rotates between a human and an AI on a five year basis. When the secretary is a human, their deputy is an AI and vice versa.
  • Gibson City Administration: Municipal affairs of Gibson City.

Advisory Council: The members of the advisory council are appointed by the President and serve for life. The Advisory Council advises the President on all matters, but the President is not required to act on the advice given. The Council also organizes, prepares, and introduces bills.

Citizens: Citizens propose bills, and they approve and abolish laws. They also elect the President.

While citizens can propose bills directly, the usual route is to propose an idea for a bill to the Council, who then write the bill, including any modifications they deem fit to prevent unintended consequences. They’ll also ensure that similar proposals are combined. This work is almost always done in committee, which involves volunteer citizens.

Once a bill has been written, it is proposed for debate and a vote by all citizens. In this phase, any citizen can suggest modifications or amendments. A bill is passed by a simple majority, after which it is presented to the President to sign the bill into law. While the President can refuse to sign a law, this very rarely happens.

Abolishing an existing law is done the same way, though the proposal process is much shorter – no bill needs to be written. Abolishing a law requires a two-thirds majority. Again, the President formally strikes down a law after the vote and could refuse to do so.

Presidential elections can be chaotic affairs, any citizen can nominate any other citizen for the office – including themselves. The candidate with the most votes becomes the next President. This means that a single candidate can be elected with a fairly small number of votes.

Historic Fact: The President elected with the fewest votes was President Goodman “Lucky” Olatunji, with a mere 9.1%.

Thanks to Reddit user /u/IkebanaZombi for making me think about AI Rights earlier than I thought I would.

The idea for the power to cancel laws is from Heinlein’s “A Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, another of my favorite books, and probably one of Heinlein’s best in terms of worldbuilding (which admittedly isn’t saying much, as Heinlein never did a lot of worldbuilding). It’s also aged incredibly well.

This entire article is probably more drafty than the others I published so far, as I am sure there is a lot I didn’t consider. I am not a legal expert or law nerd, so this is difficult subject. This article is also “in universe”, probably from a textbook or encyclopedia or some-such. As an aside, I’ve decided that all articles I write about Gibson shall be “in universe”. Out-of-universe is so much easier, but also a lot less interesting – especially for a setting that has tons of mysteries.

Gibson City

The First Settlers

Host: With Prosperity Day just around the corner, we’re taking an in-depth look at our colony’s history. With us today is Dr. Anna Vasquez, historian at the Gibson City University. Dr Vasquez is the author of three popular books on Old Earth history, and a specialist on early Gibson history. Dr Vasquez, welcome to our program.

Dr Vasquez: Thank you Linda, pleasure to be here.

Host: Dr Vasquez, you recently published a paper on the First Settlers. Can you run us through it – who or what were the First Settlers?

Dr Vasquez: Certainly. After the Pioneers landed on Gibson, it took them a while to actually start exploring the world. They were just busy setting up the first settlement, the one that eventually became Gibson City. Serious long-range exploration of Gibson only began after the year 10. In the year 17, one such survey groups made a discovery – a small cluster of ruins, deep in the forest about a thousand kilometers west of Gibson City.

Host: That must have caused quite a stir.

Dr Vasquez: It did. It was immediately obvious that the site was too big, and too old, to be the remains of a lost survey team. So, naturally, when the reports reached the City, everybody jumped to conclusions. “We found aliens!” The media jumped on it immediately, reports went viral on the VR net, people started seeing UFOs in the sky above Gibson City. The excitement lasted for twenty hours, until more detailed reports were filed the next day.

Host: The remains are well documented now, and can be visited in the Pioneers’ Museum. But what were these ruins like when they were first discovered?

Dr Vasquez: They were badly damaged, flattened you could say, but a few walls still stood erect. Everything was a jumbled mess, and overgrown by dense foliage. The team cleared away the trees and brushes and identified six distinct buildings out of the total eleven that were eventually dug up. They realized what they had found was not alien when they uncovered Latin characters on one wall. Big letters that spelled “ORAG”.

Host: So that’s what ended the “aliens” hype?

Dr Vasquez: It certainly is, Linda. The public immediately lost interest. Most people just thought “oh, it’s an abandoned survey site” and concluded it held no significance. But that’s an incorrect assessment. The ruins predate the arrival of the Pioneers by about two hundred years.

Host: So humans visited Gibson two hundred years before it was colonized? But weren’t the Pioneers the first expedition to the Perseus Arm? How is that possible?

Dr Vasquez: There seems to be only one conclusion that fits: After the Pioneers left Earth, Stardrive technology was refined and faster ships were constructed. At least one of these ships traveled to the Perseus Arm, overtaking the Pioneers. Its crew landed on Gibson, either on a temporary mission, or as part of a colony that failed. Since they set up a camp with permanent structures, we call them “First Settlers”.

Host: Were any additional ruins discovered?

Dr Vasquez: That’s the holy grail of planetary survey teams, and there are rumors about new ruins every other year or so. But no, no additional ruins or artifacts have ever been found.

Host: Aren’t the odds of two missions landing on the same planet impossibly small? We live in a big galaxy.

Dr Vasquez: Not necessarily. Remember that Fleet Command searched for a suitable colony world for years before it discovered Gibson. And Gibson is very earth-like, anybody who finds it is likely to be interested.

Host: So what happened to them? Why didn’t they come back? Why didn’t anybody else come to settle Gibson? And what are the implications about the history of humankind, and the colonization of the Milky Way galaxy?

Dr Vasquez: Linda, these are the questions that keep me up at night.

I had originally included a bit about the First Settlers in my Prosperity Day write-up, but I felt that article was getting too long (the First Settlers are still mentioned in the Prosperity Day timetable). So I cut it and expanded it into an interview. This is a format that was used to great effect in Gateway, by Frederik Pohl. Gateway is one of those books I highly recommend for the worldbuilding alone, though it’s also a really interesting story.

The purpose of this article is to expose one of the more obvious mysteries of the conworld to the reader, and ideally get them wondering about the setting’s deeper background. I think every work of fiction, every conworld, needs secrets and mysteries, and plenty of them. To me, that is a big part of what makes a work of fiction engaging.

When I create a world, I usually know all its secrets. Sometimes I have several possible solutions or explanations and haven’t picked my favorite just yet, but I always know the answers. I never spell them out when I can avoid it.

Finally, I’ve always liked false documents like this. Back in my tabletop RPG days, I would always create newspaper clippings, fake maps and diary pages, and the like, to hand to the players.

Gibson City

Prosperity Day

PROSPERITY DAY IS FAST APPROACHING, and this year’s festivities are special indeed. Not only do we mark the 200th anniversary of our colony, of our world; we also celebrate the birth of our one hundred millionth citizen. More after these messages.

Commercial: In an emergency, every minute counts. Lifebeat Medical Services guarantees a response time of just five minutes anywhere in Gibson City. Our Emergency Response Units include trained medical staff as well as state of the art telepresence technology, cryosuspension tanks, and armed security specialists to make sure no obstacle stands between our medical staff and your survival. Lifebeat Medical Services. You Can Trust Us With Your Life.

Commercial: By day, I am a lawyer. – I am an office drone. – I work on the southern district housing project. – I defend criminals. It’s tiring. – I push numbers from one file to the next. Makes my brain hurt. – I command a horde of robots. It’s… not as exciting as it sounds. – But at night, I am a necromancer. I bring villains to justice! – I slay dragons. – I still command robots… to take over the world! Now, that’s exciting. – Void Productions Virtual Reality Entertainment. Your World. Your Reality.

OUR ANCESTORS left Earth during the Great Exodus, a few years after the Stardrive was invented and made manned interstellar expeditions possible. But our ancestors were not just desperate refugees, trying to leave a polluted, chaotic world behind. They were daring, brave explorers. The members of “Colonial Expedition 762” opted not to aim for a safe, near-Earth star system. They decided to aim for the Perseus Arm, a voyage of about seven thousand lightyears. As they entered their cryosleep tanks, none of them knew if they would ever arrive.

Historic Fact: The six ships of “Colonial Expedition 762”, informally dubbed “Perseus Pioneers”, were named “Liberty”, “Equality”, “Justice”, “Freedom”, “Prosperity”, and “Mercy”. The “Mercy” was lost en route, presumably due to an engine failure.

But five of the six colony ships did arrive. The AI coordinating the flotilla, dubbed “Fleet Command”, began a search pattern for a suitable world. It found Gibson and awoke the human crew from cryosleep.

Historic Fact: The biggest challenge Colony Expedition 762 faced was the possibility of equipment failure. Even reliable technology breaks down eventually, and the trip to the Perseus Arm was projected to take over a thousand years. In the end, the ships were equipped with a state-of-the-art AI command infrastructure which used robots and drones to maintain the ships. Every fifty years or so the flotilla would stop at a star, mine what resources were needed, and continued on its journey, all without ever waking a single human.

THE PLANET they had discovered was very much like earth. It was almost the same size and had the same gravity. It was a lot warmer, and 85% of its surface was covered by water. The land surface was mostly covered by lush, dense forests, some steppes, and some deserts. Two tiny moonlets orbited the world. Fleet Command, an avid reader of human literature, had dubbed it Gibson. The human crew agreed with Fleet Command that Gibson was likely the best candidate they would find, and the decision to land was mode.

System Data: Binary (G1V, M2V Distant Companion); 12 Planets and 2 Asteroid Belts.

Gibson Planetary Data: Orbit 1.03 AU from G1V primary. 2 Moonlets. Orbit 375 Days. Rotation 20h. Atmosphere Pressure 0.96, Oxygen-Nitrogen. Avg Temperature 306K. 85% Water.

IN THE EARLY DAYS life on the new world was harsh. Even with their training, most colonists were not well prepared for life on a virgin planet. They lived in prefab houses and slogged through the mud. They cleared forests and established agriculture and built up even the most basic infrastructure. Local predators were unfamiliar with humans, and were thus not afraid of the colonists. Diseases swept through the colony. But the colony grew and prospered. The ships were dismantled for parts, and the original shanty town grew into The City – what we now call Gibson City. The original landing site is preserved as Pioneers’ Landing; the epicenter of Prosperity Day celebration.

Commercial: Visit Pioneers’ Museum, at Pioneers’ Landing! Unrivalled collection of Pioneer and Old Earth artifacts. Genuine reconstruction of colony ship cryo bay and command deck. Watch the original landing via Augmented Reality, or be part of the Pioneers themselves in our VR simulation, courtesy of Void Productions. Or join the historic reenactment of “Life of the Pioneers” – live in authentic prefab shelters like a pioneer!

TODAY our colony has grown to one hundred million citizens. Gibson City’s skyrise complexes glitter in the sun, rivaling Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, New York or any other Old Earth city in size and beauty. Our economy is growing, and everybody lives in comfort, even wealth as people on Old Earth would have defined it. Most people remain in Gibson City, but millions live in the outposts and secondary cities all over the planet. Our affluence allows each and every citizen to receive proper healthcare, education, and a comfortable existence without any pressure to join the workforce.

Gibson is governed by a democratically elected government, with fundamental human rights enshrined in our Charter. President Adams, in his third term, is supported by a cabinet of ministers and an Advisory Council. There is no parliament, issues are debated and voted on electronically by all citizens of Gibson, making ours perhaps the most direct democracy in human history.

Pirate Broadcast: …wonder if they really believe this nonsense. Yeah, we get to vote, but they get to tally the votes, so what can we do about it? If you don’t own any Shares or happen to be one of the Crew, you have no voice. And with the government’s inhumane breeding programs, there are never enough jobs to go around. Growth at any price, a new herd of consumers for a new world. Adams and his cronies never set foot outside their shiny skyrises – it’s easy to ignore blood on the asphalt from three hundred levels up. (connection lost)

…would not have been possible without the sacrifices and hard work of the Pioneers, and ordinary citizens like you.

News Item: The preparations for Prosperity Day were marred today as unknown terrorists attacked several civilian facilities in Gibson City. Speaking as he visited the Henry David Thoreau Highschool to assess the carnage, President Adams vowed to bring those responsible to justice. “There is no place on this planet these barbarians can hide to escape our just retribution!”

Prosperity Day Schedule

0500National Anthem played by the Gibson City Philharmonic Orchestra.
0505Speech by President Adams.
0530“Landing of the Liberty”. Pioneers’ Landing National Park. Augmented Reality landing of the first colony ship. Accompanied by modern interpretation of Old Earth music.
0600Parade of the Pioneers. Marching band of the Gibson City Police Department, Gibson Civil Defense Administration, and local schools.
0800Minute of Silence for First Settlers. Speech by surviving Pioneers and First Generation colonists.
0900Open Air concert begins.
0915Fly-over of Colonial Space and Air Force flying aces.
0930Speech by Chairman of the Advisory Council.
0955Introduction of our 100,000,000th Citizen.
1000Picnic at Pioneers’ Landing opens.
1100Tales of Old Earth contest. Short stories about the Cradle of Mankind. Read by authors.
1300Reading of Colonial Charter by President Adams. Reaffirmation of Presidential Vow. Recitation of Pledge of Allegiance by President, Cabinet members, and Advisory Council.
1500Gibson City Mariners – Heinlein Academy friendly match begins.
1700Fireworks display.
1900End of Festivities.
PROSPERITY DAY SCHEDULE. Please join in person or via VR link.

This is my first draft for Gibson, a colony world cut off from contact with the rest of humankind. There are a bunch of assumptions I tried to put into this in-universe piece without spelling them out explicitly.


Hello World!

This blog will serve as a repository for my worldbuilding thoughts, ideas, and articles. I expect most of what I create to be posted elsewhere first, but I figured I should have one “go to” location for archival purposes.

The situation is always… fluid.

– Badger, Firefly

If you want to follow what I create in one central spot, this blog is “it”. At least as I write this, i.e. in August 2020. We’ll see what the future brings.

While this is technically a blog, I expect to update old articles rather than post new ones if I make changes to aspects of my worlds. I think this will work better than posting “City Data version 2.1” or some-such.

Why “Nowhence”? Simply put, it’s a domain I bought a long time ago for vague worldbuilding purposes, but had never used.