Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Long Dark - ridiculously large vehicles

Last week I talked about Elysium’s towns and cities. One teensy detail I mentioned in passing - the ridiculously large vehicle garages - might have raised an eyebrow or two if anyone stopped to thing about it.

Why would they need garages anywhere up to three hundred meters long?

The answer is, they need to shelter ridiculously large vehicles.

The people on Elysium travel the surface in modular vehicles, that can easily stretch half a kilometer in length. These giant crawlers are made up of alternating cars slung between wheel and power units (called yoops - short for Universal Power Unit). The wheels are lightweight, sprung mesh seven meters in diameter. Think moon buggy scaled up an order of magnitude. The cars they support are giant boxes about twelve meters square and four floors tall.

Of course, these aren’t the kind of vehicles you take out on a jaunt, or drive down to the corner store. These are working vehicles.

The colonists make a living harvesting materials from the depths of the planet-girdling plant mass. During the summer months they can spend weeks out in the field, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest town. Crawlers carry everything they need to support a harvesting crew of fifty, along with climbing, cutting, and hauling machinery, and storage to carry their finds back for processing.

At the turn of the seasons, these same crawlers carry the entire town’s population, belongings, and equipment across the equator to towns in the other hemisphere where they resume work for the next few Earth years.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Long Dark - habitats

Last time I talked about worldbuilding The Long Dark, I mentioned cities and towns made up of enclosed domes. All the centers of population are built from dozens or hundreds of units that follow similar basic designs. From the air, a large city would probably resemble a rumpled sheet of bubble wrap.

All the units share some features in common. They are either circular or oval in plan, with a basin-like rigid base topped by a slightly flexible weather shield supported by ribs. Together they form an airtight bubble to keep Elysium’s poisonous atmosphere out.

The base is sunk into the surface of Sponge. The upper surface doesn’t have to hold in air against vacuum - Elysium’s surface pressure is not too different from Earth’s - but it has to cope with extreme weather including wind speeds in the hundreds of kilometers per hour. Hence the ability to flex (within reason) instead of trying to stand rigid against the storms.

Any internal structures are built onto the base, and stand well back from the weather shield to allow room for it to move. Each dome has its own power supply, air filters, waste treatment etc. so towns don’t need much in the way of centralized infrastructure.

To complete the picture, domes have a series of standardized airlocks evenly spaced around the perimeter. Domes are linked together by a network of semi-flexible tunnels, to allow for the slight movements that come from making your home on the skin of a living organism.

A standard habitat dome is about ninety meters in diameter. It has six airlocks around the edge, and hallways running into the center as well as a walkway between the weather skin and the buildings inside. The buildings form a circular stepped pyramid about ten floors high, containing living quarters, kitchens, and communal dining halls. At full capacity, a single dome can house up to a thousand people.

There are smaller circular domes for workshops, administration, and community spaces - schools, hospitals, entertainment.

Finally, there are much larger oval structures - up to a hundred meters across and three hundred meters long - for warehouses, vehicle garages, and hydroponic farms.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Treat every day like your first

My organization puts on a fabulous learning event each year, where they invite speakers and facilitators to talk and lead sessions. The event took place last week over three days with a variety of sessions to choose from. It’s an opportunity for staff to get out of the office for a day or two and hear some great speakers.

One of the keynote speakers last week was the inspirational Drew Dudley. He talks all over the world about everyday leadership, and his theme was the need to come into work every day as if it’s your first day on the job.

Yes, there’s a funny story behind this about a tour guide who took him out into the desert in a dune buggy, but the guide brought such joy and energy to his work because, as he put it, “I’ve been doing the same job for seventeen years, and every day is my first day.”

And it occurred to me this morning that the same applies in life outside of work.

When we emigrated from Britain to Canada, we expected to have some tough adjustments to make. One of the golden pieces of advice on immigration is to make a list of all the reasons why you chose to move. When things get tough, take out that list to remind yourself why you did this.

That advice is along the same lines of resetting your mental state to recapture the hope and excitement of those early days. Drew Dudley just takes it a lot further.

And it’s true. As I drove to the grocery store this morning, I was struck afresh by my beautiful surroundings. Glorious sunshine, open fields, mountains in the distance, wide and empty roads ... And I could appreciate afresh the unhurried ease of shopping, uncrowded aisles, the friendly staff ... as if for the first time.

So, despite all the people-driven crap going on in the world, take time to look with fresh eyes at the wonder that is the world we live in. The wonder that we all too easily take for granted.
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