Category Archives: Beta Prime

The City as a Character

Have you read a hard boiled detective story set in the countryside? Watched a classic crime noir film set in a rural area?

Probably not.

Crime noir stories are set in a city. Not just any city, a large, crowded, gritty city. It’s inhabitants range from the innocent to the most evil criminals an author can imagine.

Not just any city will do.

Most often the cities used in these stories are Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, and sometimes Chicago. Sometimes the city is fictional, often bearing no name.

A well written noir makes the come alive for the reader. So much so the city itself can seem to be one of the characters.

Capital City on Beta Prime is meant to be a character of sorts. It is a cold and inhospitable place, dangerous, dirty, and crowded.

It is also a diverse city. It’s humble beginnings were that of a mining colony using the shipping containers used to bring necessary supplies to the planet. In the better parts of town the architecture is modern and elegant. Suburbs for the middle class have sprouted up. Bad neighborhoods can be found adjacent to middle and working class areas.

Transportation is a mess. Just what you would expect from any large urban city. It ranges from individual hovercars to old fashioned but modern subways. Taxis can be found to take you anywhere.

What makes Capital City unique is the people. Spread throughout the millions who inhabit the futuristic city are characters who make the city what it is.

Joe Maynard for example. The proprietor of Joe’s Place, an Old Earth comfort food joint with great ambiance and music. A place to eat, relax, and do business, legal usually but not always.

There’s the crooked (bent) cop Markeson. A strange duck if you ask me. Markeson’s as bent as they come but he’s a skilled detective who periodically takes great offense to other criminals breaking the law in his city.

Weather makes a city unique. Chicago is the Windy City. It rains in San Francisco and the fog rolls in. Capital City is the frozen city. The fog in Capital City is a bit different though. When it’s a bluish green, evil lurks.

Everything necessary for a thriller can be found in Capital City. Transportation to get away, goods and property to steal or smuggle. Innocent people to be murdered and plenty of not so innocent people to do the killing. Corruption is everywhere and so are people who hate it. Most of all, there are plenty of people who just want to take care of their families and live their lives.

Capital City is also home to many who wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It is more than just the backdrop for a story. It’s integral to it.

Why Is The World of Beta Prime Not As Futuristic As Most SciFi Worlds?

If the movie or TV rights to The Predator and The Prey were purchased, would Capital City look like some fantastic, futuristic vision of urban life?

Probably not.

Parts of the Capital City would certainly appear as if they came from the wildest dreams of architectural fantasy. Certainly the Northwest Quadrant, where the wealthy and politicians make their homes, would appear to be futuristic. The Northeast Quadrant, with its industry, upper middle class and the SpacePort terminal would look futuristic.

But what about the Southern Quadrants? Where the poor and working class live?

Picture the tenements of North American industrial cities, where instead of brick and mortar, the buildings are converted containers left over from colonization with plastisteel facades. Buildings would have the same design and construction as the poured concrete buildings built in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Ugly, cheap to build and made for those considered beneath the ruling elite.

Hovercars require some type of fixed path to travel on requiring roads to be constructed. Perhaps the only advantage of a hovercraft over a wheeled vehicle is the roads will last longer.

There is very little that is truly new. Ideas are recycled all the time. Joe’s Restaurant, with its cliche neon lights, Classic Rock decor and North American comfort food, plus whatever the locals consider solid fare, is an example of retro styling and architecture some 500 years in the future.

Besides, Joe’s is home away from home. It’s an interesting place like Rick’s Cafe American of Casablanca fame is. The locals gather at Joe’s as do all sorts of interesting denizens of Capital City.

Old technology that works fine will be used on many Alliance worlds. As they say, if isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it. Railroads as we know them today, steel wheels on steel rails, are still used on many worlds where issues of climate and expense of construction and maintenance prevent the successful use of more “modern” technologies like Maglev Trains.

On a world like Beta Prime, a visitor would find a curious mix of the old, albeit updated, technology with the new. Soldiers and police would carry modern energy weapons with a variety of capabilities. Some soldiers and police prefer old school projectile weapons. As Inspector Sullivan constantly tells the pup Josephson, “a big exit wound is one way to make sure the perp stops shooting back.”

Fashion is one area where futuristic designs do make sense on a world like Beta Prime. But then again, what has come before often makes its way back through the fashion world. A tourist could expect to see the miners and industrial workers to be dressed in typical coveralls, designed both to protect the worker and keep the worker warm in the freezing environment of Beta Prime.

White collar workers, particularly the so-called elite and politicians would be those more inclined to wear the more daring fashion designs. Middle and working class fashions on Beta Prime tend to resemble those found in the 1940s and 50s with updates in materials. Life is dreary for many on the planet and the dark browns, blacks and blues of clothing reflect this aspect of life.

Classic styles, such as pin stripe suits, tailored to fit perfectly, never go out of style, regardless of the century, planet or city.

Other worlds, with different climate or life support needs, will have different levels of technology. Life on a moon, such as the two moons of Beta Prime, Serenity and Persephone, with no atmosphere, requires a more futuristic vision of the structures. The same is true of a colony on an asteroid of the space station serving as the terminal for large starliners and space freighters.

Why is the world I created for Inspector Sullivan and his companions to inhabit a mix of such commonly found items from today and the hoped and dreamed for technology of tomorrow? Because it is the way man does things.

We still make furniture from wood don’t we?

Still, if you look around, there is plenty to find that is not what one would expect to see in a city today.

Take Sarah. When was the last time you saw a human clone?

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