I started an experiment on Facebook over the past few days where I solicit ideas, and let my friends and families have some fun with their imagination. In this session I asked:

My next group effort on collaborative world building. Where do the people of the asteroid belt go for furniture? Do they have a space equivilent of "Ikea". Is there a magical catalogue and delivery service (aka some mashup of Sears and Roebuck's and Amazon)? Are mass produced items assembled to order by androids? Maybe they don't have mass produced furniture at all, and everything is build like a brick sh*thouse, and old as the hills. Maybe all of them?

The feedback was spectactular. My mom started a thread:

My Mother

There is a graveyard of discarded items that are used as scrap to build new ones. Furniture, clothing, vehicles all have a steam punk look from patching together pieces of worn out items with metal harvested from nearby asteroids. And because EVERYTHING has to be recycled, don't ask too many questions about the source of the leather in your new handbag.

My Sister Claire

I envision like a Tardis graveyard


I can see it now. Each colony has a "cave of wonders". Part attic. Part scrapyard. Part museum. And because some of the items are magical, outright disposal might be a little difficult, and it is really important that they have a librarian on hand to track what is there, it's material condition, and what sort of magic do future applications need to be aware of.

I'm seeing an entire order of monks who are basically curators/ scrap men. And what sort of magical/artificial beings protect the area?

This led to a promise to my sister (who is a librarian) to develop the character of the librarian in her image.

A friend of my from highschool (Tom) suggested:

Tom F

When they first settled, everything had to be hand-made (more like hand-welded) and was fairly rough. Once they became more established, furniture factories were built, so more recent settlements are very cookie-cutter. Due to low gravity, broken parts are a hazard, so damaged pieces are scrapped, smelted, and refabricated.


I am seeing a market for that old hand crafted stuff. Partly for historical value. Partly because they really were made of sterner stuff. But mostly because there is a limited supply and you know how collectors are...

Robert L

How are ship pieces built? They have a fab area that makes support beams, starship hull pieces, tables, chairs, bed frames. And another fab area for clothing, bed mattresses, jumpsuits, etc.


The ship pieces are a very interesting problem. On Psyche, they end up using a variety of Maraging (high nickel) steel, because trying to remove the nickel that is naturally present in the ore would be cost prohibitive. It's not quite the same as stainless steel, because it lacks the chrome. It doesn't rust as easily as the mild steel we are used to working with, and it maintains its strength over a really wide range of temperatures hot (and especially important for deep space) cold.

By this time in their development they have farms illuminated by fusion power. So they can grow trees and crops like cotten, and even maintain flocks of sheep for wool and cattle for leather.

Because trees take a while to grow, they often substitute bamboo.

What they lack are major sources of hydrocarbons. So any plastic they produce has to be generated from organic waste. It's present in their culture, but not nearly as prolific in ours. Everything in our culture ended up being made of plastic because it's essentially a byproduct of the oil industry.

Gravity is required for many industrial processes, particularly steel making, so material has to be hauled up from the asteroids to be refined and fabricated into parts like steel beams. Industrial lines are most efficient making one kind to thing at a time, thought.

So you tend to see, for instance, the same thickness of plate used everywhere. They probable have a standard I-beam like we have a 2x4. (That is actually a real phenomenon in modern shipbuilding.)

Ships themselves are fabricated in modules that can be put together by robots and workmen inside a space station with atmosphere and gravity. These modules are then connected together inside of a graving yard (or air dock) to produce major sections of a hull.

The hero ship of the story was actually assembled at 5 different shipyards. The propulsion and engineering section came off of the same line the ISTO Spacey uses for their battle carriers. Each of the three habitat spheres was actually assembled more or less as its own ship. These parts were then towed in orbit to the upper section of the primary hull, and integrated as one ship.

(In the story, each of those sections still retained its own compartment numbering system.)

Robert J

Sean, I think you’re asking a strategic/social question rather than a technical one. How is production run in this society as a whole? Is it personal (if you want it, you make it), craft based (ie, local blacksmith), or industrial? Are company stores a feature in the economy (mining nickel for X-Corp, and they send up bread, jam, and chairs)? Once you answer these sorts of questions, the smaller answers will present themselves in a consistent manner.


Damn straight. But, in my defense, I am only realizing that. ow that I've asked the question.

One answer is that I have to establish some kind of plausible economy that can not only sustain itself and its people, but be able to also manufacture these giant spacecraft.

Ship construction I have worked out: there is a massive planned economy for major projects. In fact, in ISTO, privately owned vessels are unheard of. Every vessel is leased from the manufacturer. And the federal government has a majority ownership in the ship construction monopoly conglomerate.

(Krasnovia, their rival, is a flat out Empire in the style of the British/Japanese/Russian empires. The spacecraft, the colonies, etc are technically property of the Emperor. At least before the revolution. Now it's all owned by "the people" but there is a remarkably Emperor like guy in charge of overseeing their interests.)

A third faction, the Circle Trigon, is run my mafia-like families. And while they can produce ships, they are limited in size and capability to what one family can sustain as far as a factory. Or at best a handful of families can cooperate to control.

Consumer goods are different economy all together. There are some entanglements with the planned economy. The economy is limited in capacity and capability to the ships on hand. But within those limits, it operates on the standard supply/demand driven chaos we are familiar with.

In ISTO and Krasnovia, there exists a third market: Essentials. Pure supply and demand in a space environment is an invitation for some faction to game the market and drive up prices by exploiting natural monopolies.

ISTO outright buys out any industry that starts to exert monopoly pressure on an essential good or service. If you make it big with your new widget, and everyone has to have one, they go out and buy a 51% stake. This puts their economic planning commission on the board of directors. This also ensures than any excess profits get poured back into the planned economy.

In Krasnovia, if you get to be too much of a disruption to the market, the Empire will simply confiscate your business and its profits. In practice they simply enact the 101% tax. There is a progresssive tax system than punishes those whose business model is making obscene profits for no expense in labor, material, etc.

In Circle Trigon, if you are making exploitive profits, a don of a bigger family is going to make you an offer you can't refuse. Even when that doesn't happen, the son of your own family has to wet his beak.

For our characters in ISTO that basically translates to every major corporation being run like the post office. And there are constantly new competitors popping up who are hoping to make a short term killing with a disruptive new business model, with the eventual government buyout if they succeed. They don't have to worry about anyone undercutting their costs because everyone is guaranteed food, medical care, housing, education, etc from the socialist government.

They do get a lot of cheap imports from the Circle Trigon, where they can be a bit more exploitive with their work force. The Circle Trigon can also get past Krasonvia's blockade around Earth.

However, Earth is primarily an exporter or raw materials and immigrants. Pollution from magical warfare and large scale industry has poisoned most of the previously inhabited areas. Once space became a viable place to colonize, the undeveloped regions of Earth were declared a nature preserve. For the last 100 years, every new factory has been built on the moon, or out it space.

Osedax O

SLS printing except a person is holding and guiding the laser by hand.

Aaron D

I am thinking a plastic/resin. As 3d printers are becoming a thing so is recycling old or miss prints into new spools. Possibly nanotechnology they build like a 3d printer and reuse or recycle old items.

Gerald L

Printed on site.


I do have androids in this world (called quins) that are designed to mimic the range of human motion. They could be paired with an expert system to replicate specific designs. Over and over. And Over. Of course the damn things are so complex the parts the end up making the most of are replacements for their own joints.

My wife's best friend's husband asked:

Another friend from high school raised a very good point.

I had several technology suggestions

I hadn't considered how much people fantasize about being able to translate imagination into form. More or less directly. I'm going to have to seriously work this into Tegic.

I did reply to Gerald

So, thank you everyone. My credits, acknowledgments, and thank yous section is going to be long for this book.

So... the big things I'll be adding/reinforcing in the story: