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ADAHGA 10 - Ancillary Documentation: UMC - A Brief History

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2020 6:07 am    Post subject: ADAHGA 10 - Ancillary Documentation: UMC - A Brief History Reply with quote

This relatively short chapter outlines the rise of the United Mining Companies from a public perspective.

It introduces the chapter by asking how the UMC became so big; how humankind's activities in space were directed and policed by the UMC; how they came to be the sole bargaining agent and sole defence between humankind and the Amnion. How did they become responsible for the fate of the human race?

The answer is: economic muscle.

The rest of the chapter describes how this happened. It was a period of "political and economic" stagnation on Earth. I like how SRD touches on timeless issues in this passage:

Without enough fossil fuels to make energy cheap (except in space, fusion generators were prohibitively expensive to build and maintain); without enough trees to recycle the atmosphere; without new raw materials to replace the old; without any adequate way to make productive use of garbage; or to dispose of it in a nonpolluting fashion; without frontiers or wars to provide the sense of excitement or urgency which inspired creative problem solving: Earth had become a seemingly endless list of things her people had to do without. The planet appeared to have outrun its own future.

And so, in apparent desperation, some commercial enterprises put up space stations primarily for research to see what resources were out there, and therefore restore the future of humankind. The result was to completely drain the resources and send Earth's economy into free fall.

Because of this, these enterprises became vitally important to Earth. It was a last ditched effort - they needed these conglomerates to succeed, and thus these conglomerates became very powerful. So, by the time the gap drive was discovered, SpaceLab Inc (the company that Juanita Estevez worked for) was so necessary that no government could take control of its products. SpaceLab Inc (which became Sagittarius Exploration) licensed the gap drive patents for a royalty, which made them supremely rich and powerful.

So when SagEx discovered a rich asteroid belt, they needed resources to be able to mine it. Enter Space Mines Inc, a fairly small ore-smelting enterprise. SagEx initially tried to absorb SMI, but eventually a partnership was formed instead. Their wealth increased exponentially through the SagEx belt. Since SMI were previously quite small, none of the Earth's governments had given it any support. This played to their advantage, because it meant that there were also no governmental restrictions. And with wealth comes muscle.

Using that muscle with both vision and cunning, SMI soon became one of the primary players in the exploration and development of space.

The final part to this story is that despite all this, Earth's growth was slow. Opportunities for wealth could only grow in proportion to the expansion of the species, which happened in the stations around Earth. Contact with the Amnion changed all this.

SMI acquired Intertech, the research and development company that was trying to understand humankind's first encounter with an Amnioni mutagen. This research caused the Humanity Riots and left the company devastated. SMI realised the potential of acquiring Intertech, putting them in the unique position of being the only enterprise to be able to communicate and respond to the Amnion, and therefore pursue trade.

Suddenly a door of vast opportunity opened, and SMI held the knob in one hand, the key in the other. Intertech owned everything humanity knew about the Amnion: SMI owned the ships and facilities needed to take advantage of that knowledge. And Earth had a nearly bottomless hunger for new resources - as well as new markets. Rather than risk failing to gain the benefits offered by the Amnion, Earth's governments rechartered Space Mines Inc. as the United Mining Companies and gave it the mission of developing Amnion trade for the sake of humankind.

I like the way SRD makes logical steps that transform a small player into the powerful entity that is the United Mining Companies.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2020 9:24 pm    Post subject: A Dark And Hungry God Arises 10 - AD / UMC: A Brief History Reply with quote

It seemed odd to me, upon my first reading of the Gap, that a private entity like the United Mining Companies could become THE negotiator between the human and Amnion parts of the galaxy. As Stevie G has (quite correctly, I believe) observed above, Mr. Donaldson puts forth how it happened through what sounds like logical steps.

One hundred fifty or so sovereign nations had become so interdependent that warfare was no longer viable as a means of economic and political revitalization. By the same token, mutual interconnection compelled each nation to share the deterioration of its neighbors. In other words, the inhabitants of the planet were being killed by precisely the same thing that kept them alive.

This is an example of why I enjoy reading the works of Stephen R. Donaldson. He is good at showing paradoxes, at demonstrating that a single situation can produce two seemingly very opposite outcomes. I find that aspect of his imaginative ability (along with other aspects of that ability) to be a pleasure to behold.

The idea that space stations were deemed necessary to create and launch to save Earth from its resource depletion crisis seems both inspirational and counterintuitive. Inspirational because if Earth had its resources tapped out, of course it needed to explore space to find more mineral (and other) resources to process and use! Counterintuitive, because if the Earth is becoming poorer, then budgets will be further depleted by the gargantuan expense involved in station construction fuel for travel, and for space exploration, especially when there's no guarantee that the resources sought can actually be found in space. The narrative voice of this AD chapter openly acknowledges this is another paradox.

Paradoxically, the more these commercial and quasi-commercial adventures cost, the more necessary they seemed and the more powerful they became. Earth didn't simply need them: it needed them to succeed.

Now, it started to get easier for me to see how United Mining Companies could become such a powerful galactic player.
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