Populous Middle-tech system in the Outer Volumes

Savannah Cityscape
Image from Steve Bowers
A large fraction of the population of Savannah lives in high-density housing

Savannah - Data Panel

PrimaryJackson, YTS 9088166-9661-A
Luminosity0.94 x Sol
Distance from Sol2958 ly
CompanionsTwinsy (M3V and M4V close binary; orbit Jackson at semi-major axis 107.5AU)
PlanetsColumbus (0.28AU, 0.8 terrestrial masses, Cytherian)
Sted (0.56AU, 0.3 terrestrial masses, Herminian)
Savannah (0.8AU, 1.5 terrestrial masses, Gaian)
Dust Belt (1.35 to 1.9AU asteroid belt)
Camder (2.6AU, 253 terrestrial masses, MesoJovian)
Wilmeton (5.1AU, 37 terrestrial masses, CryoJovian)
Frost Wall (8.9 to 24AU, icy asteroid / Kuiper belt)
AI EthosSemi-Sophilistic
PolityFederal Imperium of Savannah
PopulationSavannah surface: 61 billion;
orbital and moons: 1.7 million
Wilmeton moons: 58,000
TravelNo stargate or beamrider links
Major SpaceportsAstril Sumner Memorial Spaceport is a large, middle tech spaceport supporting Savannah's space program. It is rarely accessible to outsiders, if the local Caretaker AI and government approve. Interstellar visitors generally won't find maintenance or fueling facilities in the system.
Hazard Rating3.5 in Savannan urban areas, 8-9 through the system if the Caretaker AI does not approve of the visit

Jackson is a life-friendly, unassuming yellow dwarf of 4.2 billion years age, a slightly smaller twin to Sol. Its planetary system is fairly compact, but appears to have worked out any major stability problems that would threaten Savannah. Though it lacks an Oort cloud (due to Twinsy), it has two thick debris belts that apparently were never scattered in the fashion of Sol's Late Heavy Bombardment. Zodiacal light is fairly strong on Savannah because of Dust Belt and Frost Wall.

Twinsy is a pair of red dwarf stars that orbit about 30 degrees from Jackson's ecliptic with an elliptical orbit of 95 to 120AU. They circle each other at 0.09AU, and have two MesoJovian planets orbiting both stars at 2.3 and 3.9AU. The General has converted one of these planets to a J-brain, around which orbit the shipyards and moons that e uses to build autowars and other system defenses. A link by comm gauge wormhole keeps The General in touch with eir assets on Savannah, which is thought to include some S2-equivalent processing nodes.

Savannah is a large terrestrial planet of somewhat lower density than Earth. After terraforming, it is an idyllic world of 73% ocean cover and 25-degree tilt with a stable environment that should not require terraforming corrections. The terraformed ecosystem is mostly terrestrial. Except for food crops, the imported plants and animals only have modest genetic engineering. Its continents are between the arctic circles and have convoluted topographies that keep most land near water, so there are few deserts and arctic wastes (the icecaps are sea ice anchored by surrounding continents.) Savannah has a fairly normal distribution of mountains, forests, jungles, and other terrain, but has decided large amount of arable plains, prairies, savannahs, and other flat lands. Its numerous metropoli are compact, towering, and mostly located on undesirable terrain like the few deserts or land reclaimed from the sea. The highly urbanized population (approaching 99%) and advanced agriculture leaves most of the land undeveloped and in its native state, which suits the nobles who have stake it out into enormous estates.


Timeline Table

6935 ATArrival of transapient AI 'Swift'
7117 ATArrival of Savannah colonization mission
7118 AT'The General' subsumes Swift, ending the arrival conflict
7412 ATTerraforming of Savannah complete
7423 ATGreat Cygexpa Sell Off, de facto independence and isolation of Savannah
7434 ATGehenna event in M50, 78 ly away. Many nearby systems damaged or evacuated; economic collapse in Hellfire volume
7512 ATWavefront from Gehenna event arrives over a ten year period; ozone layer damaged, nitrous oxides formed- The General starts to effect repairs
c. 7550 ATFirst 'Great' Houses of Savannah begin mass-producing human subjects
c. 7600 ATBeginning of inter-House conflicts on Savannah
c.7620 ATUrban civilization of Savannah and space habitats of Jackson have collapsed
7627 ATThe General disables advanced technology across Savannah; great die off of population
c8000 ATNation-states re-established on Savannah as primitive, iron age kingdoms
c10100 ATSavannan age of exploration begins to reunite the planet; intercontinental empires are born
c10300 ATSavannan steam age begins
c10400 ATSavannan industrial age begins
10403 AT to 10441 ATThree global 'unification' wars are fought
10441 ATPersonal union of major kingdoms' families, ending Third Global War
10456 ATSavannah legally united under the Federal Imperium of Savannah
10463 ATSavannah resumes infrequent and desultory crewed space flight
10516 ATSavannah's 'Space for Living Space' space colonization program begins. It is a slow, over-budget, rambling disaster of a space program
10537 ATEarly settlement of Littlebuck, construction of first 'Space for Living Space' habitat begun
10563 ATFission power strictly regulated on Savannah, adoption of conversion power plants begins
10567 ATGrand Duke Astril Sumner assassinated, beginning of the Sumner Purge
10569 ATGrand Duchess Regena Sumner recognized as Empress
10571 ATAggressive population control plans commence
10582 ATFirst O'Neill colony completed
10593 ATIntroduction of high tech medical clinics and standard genetic engineering packages
10595 ATSavannan birth rate reaches near-replacement levels

Colonization and Conflict

Savannah was the target of an Age of Crisis-era long-range colonization mission. Speculative acquisition of Argus Array information on candidate planets had yielded a promising candidate system near NGC 2335. The system, named Jackson, had both plentiful non-stellar mass and a terrestrial planet in the life zone. The colonization project dispatched a displacement drive vessel via the wormhole network into the region of Verifex's future experiments, and then traveled across the remaining light-years to Jackson. The ship arrived in 7117AT to find it was not the first expedition to the system. An older, anti-biont hyperturing with a toposophic level of S2 had fled the Inner Sphere during the Second Consolidation War and arrived some hundreds of years earlier.

This AI (later named Swift by Savannan historians) was actively hostile to the new arrivals and did not give colonial expedition an opportunity to flee. Swift’s decision to attack was poorly selected, though, as the transapients in the expedition were able to buy time and deploy ‘The General,’ the colony’s S3 transapient administrator who had been in storage for lack of computronium capacity on the colony ship. Within a few months, Swift's progeny had been memetically subverted; its satellite processor cores infiltrated; and most defenses undermined. Some centuries later, it became clear that Swift's defeat had not been so total. Swift's attempts to hack The General had not been truly successful, but a plan by Swift to be subsumed by The General would have resounding effects. Essentially, The General was contaminated (though not completely subverted) by Swift’s anti-biont memes and lost most empathy for the nebs e was supposed to engenerate. Abundant failsafes were in place, but a complicated set of circumstances in later centuries would lead Savannah to become (more or less) a lost colony.

Early Colonial Development

After the brief struggle to secure Jackson, The General set about developing the star system. E unleashed terraforming von Neumanns throughout Jackson to convert Savannah into a gaian world. Savannah was a somewhat larger world than Earth and had convoluted continents that kept most of its land within reach of water. During the terraforming process, The General kept busy preparing the system for advanced, space-based industry.

After several centuries of methodical terraforming to change the atmosphere, produce preliminary soil, fill oxygen sinks in the oceans, and stabilize a terrestrial ecosystem, The General considered Savannah ready for human colonists. The first biont colonists were engenerated uploads from the NoCoZo and Cygexpa.

Trouble in Paradise: Isolation and Collapse

Several problems befell the Jackson colony. During the journey to Jackson, Cygexpa had its great sell off. A large portion of the Jackson colony's owners became unclear and disputed, much as happened in the Hosoko Hegemony. In due course the great Cygexpa sell off caused the cancellation of the linelayer and the promised delivery of a wormhole link.

Jackson was still coming to grips with this matter - which might mean the colonists could claim ownership of the colony planet - when the Gehenna event occurred and severed key wormhole links between star systems near Jackson and inhabited space. Unlike several nearby systems, Jackson avoided the numerous gamma-ray beams emitted by the 154 supernovae in this event, but the ozone layer was damaged, and levels of NOX in the atmosphere spiked.

The Jackson system had no great need for imports, and the atmosphere was repaired relatively quickly, so the event was a minor problem for the colonists. It did, however, lead the colonists to decide they were truly on their own. Meanwhile, The General responded oddly by mothballing some of eir larger space industrial projects and seemingly retreating from day-to-day administration of the system. To this day, The General seems to be stuck in a meditative loop (or sophilisim) and only responds infrequently to Savannan inquiries. E has been noted to respond rapidly to starfaring visitors.

Civilization did not collapse on Savannah, not at first. The initial colonists staked out territories and made grandiose claims of ownership to the planet. They formed "pocket Houses" and, somewhere around 7550AT, someone hit upon the idea of creating large numbers of colonists with exowombs and parentalvecs to increase their manpower. (These "factory baby" colonists were deliberately almost baselines in their genomes so the original Superior colonists retained an edge over their subjects.) This produced very rapid population growth, but the younger colonists were unruly with their subjugated lots in life. This led to a series of revolutions and balkanization of the planet beginning in the 7550s. By 7600AT, small-scale conflicts attempted to cripple opponents by attacking their industry, space-based resources, Angelnets, and so on. The attacks were successful, so successful that most nations utilized them. Savannah collapsed into barbarism, though not low technology. Nanotechnology industry could be very independent and each village and hamlet could turn a Pocketboy Pocketfab into a new factory, given some time.

The period of high-tech barbarism lasted barely a decade before some warring villages attempted to produce synsect warswarms and khaki goo. In 7627AT, The General abruptly disabled infosystems and nanotech industrial capacity, which included a lot of cybernetic and nanoborg implants used by the Su "ruling castes." Over half of the population died in next two years, including all Sus on the planet and anyone remaining in space habitats. By 7700AT the population was barely 1 million. That would, however, be the low point for Savannah's humans.

The Savannan Dark Ages

Savannah gradually recovered. It only spent a brief period in a hunter-gathering stage; enough survivors had studied agriculture and retained some literacy (if few non-nanotech books) to quickly move to agriculture. Hobbyist blacksmiths had formed nuclei of iron age civilizations. But beyond that small amount of retained knowledge, Savannans were lost without their computer libraries and nanotech and so had to reinvent lost technology the hard way. From c 8000 to c 10,300 AT, Savannah passed through an iron age and age of sail.

The General stayed in contact with the greatest monarchs of the turbulent Savannan polities using an avatar in the form of a human military leader. Eir aid was negligible, apparently only visiting to monitor human politics and technological development. The few times The General acted was to provide superior agricultural knowledge and some industrial advancements, both of which had the result of lowering human damage to Savannah's ecosystems. Sometimes these changes required conflict with cultural and/or religious groups resistant to the new ideas, and so The General would directly lead armies. The General was thus bequeathed eir current name by the polities with whom e dealt. These interactions also had the benefit of keeping Savannans aware that there was a larger human civilization beyond Jackson, though the colony appeared to be forgotten.

Except for the "raiders and pillagers" who occasionally visited "to threaten Savannah." Such falsehoods were how The General explained the infrequent visits to Jackson by outsiders. The drive flares of conversion vessels could be visible on the surface of Savannah, which baffled the primitives there. Some visitors were destroyed if they insisted on contacting Savannah or pressing some ancient legal claim to the planet. Not all were destroyed; peaceful and curious visitors were encouraged to depart as soon as possible. (In later centuries, the General appeared to tolerate peaceful visitors and allowed limited commerce between the visitors and Savannans.)

It is thought that damage from the battle with Swift left The General enacting policies to protect the ecosystem of Savannah and to defend, as E understood it, the claims of the colonists to the world. However, for the most part The General could not have cared less about the actions of the Savannans.

Industrial Age and Unification

As Savannah entered the eleventh millennium AT, its population was becoming quite sizable. The planet was a lush, gaian world that had vast, fertile steppes, prairies, grasslands, and savannas. (The original colonists had come close to outlawing puns about Savannah and its savannas. The terrain was monotonous enough without puns adding to the misery.) With genemod crops leftover from the initial colonization, communities either required excessive bad luck or excessive laziness to starve. It had 2 billion inhabitants when it began its steam age c10,300AT and 4 billion when it began its great Industrial Era global wars c10,400, the "Unification Wars."

Savannah's polities were most similar to the European monarchies of the early 1st Century BT, with significantly less suffrage among commoners than even ancient Earth. The landed wealthy of old noble families held the most sway. With such a cozy group of leaders, the Unification Wars were fought differently than the World Wars of Earth. While the tactics and weapons were little different than the Earth's World Wars and the casualties among commoners similarly devastating, the Unification Wars were usually fought with very narrow political goals aimed at convincing a very small group of people that the balance of power had shifted, or that war as no longer the least expensive option for settling a dispute. Obviously, any human war has political goals, but the leadership of Savannan nations were abnormally divorced from the patriotic and emotional aspects of the war that shaped the actions of many other human wartime leaders.

To the perspective of Savannan commoners, the resulting conflicts were bizarre. Offensives were halted when total victory was in reach; costly defenses of vital cities squandered when the cities were suddenly ceded to opponents; bloody attacks made to seize worthless terrain; and so forth. What the commoners rarely witnessed were the negotiations occurring between opposing nobles based on these military "gestures."

On the other hand, Savannan nobles would not order defenses to be fought to a nation's last breath, as in the case of Germany and Japan in Earth's Second World War. And battles were rarely fought in populated areas, nor were cities often leveled. The gruesome casualties of the Unification Wars happened at sea or in the wilderness.

The General had intervened in two of the three unification wars, supplying intelligence and strategic advice to differing sides. The goal of the high transapient appeared to be backing the kingdoms most amenable to strict environmental regulations.

The "Third Unification War" was a global conflict that killed millions of soldiers but ended seemingly mid-conflict when the various alliances had maneuvered into advantageous positions. The war was settled by intermarriage of ruling dynasties to form a global personal union in 10,441AT. This was followed by a carefully-negotiated union of governments that produced a global federal government in 10,456AT with distinct separation of powers to avoid unduly stepping on the prerogatives of various kingdoms' noble families.

Ecological Regulation and Autocracy

The General's desired environmental regulations were applied over the subsequent decades. The crass and hasty industrialization driven by the Unification Wars gave way to great infrastructure projects that supported a technological life style without 1st Century AT pollution. Sewers were diverted to treatment plants; power planets based on coal and oil (synthetic deposits created as a terraforming byproduct) were replaced by fission power; electrification replaced combustion in cooking and illumination; electrification of ground transport (trains and mass transit) replaced a burgeoning hydrocarbon-based automobile industry; and incipient suburban sprawls were halted with zoning regulations. Many of the changes were favored by the ruling families as they consolidated much of the infrastructure and housing into easily managed urban centers.

The giant armies that had fought for the monarchies in the Unification Wars had brought home ideas of empowering the peasantry because many nations had had to glorify and reward their militaries to hold their loyalties. And, for a while, the new global government, the Federal Imperium of Savannah, did superficially grant more suffrage. This did not last long before the ruling families found ways to reduce the clout of the low and middle classes. The masses had been clamoring for better standards of living and benefits like health care, housing, pensions, unemployment, and food. The Federal Imperium granted those with grand, socialist welfare programs that gave the government control over many aspects of the citizen's lives.

Free and low cost housing were supplied as part of ongoing urbanization projects and "de-ruralification." Health care and pensions came with strings attached requiring votes for government-favored politicians. Many citizens found work in the ever-growing government bureaucracies, meaning their employment depended on good behavior and voting correctly. (There were no secret ballots on Savannah unless it involved the nobility.) The development of proxy laws, where citizens could grant their Parliamentary electoral votes to nobles in exchange for some benefit (typically tax reductions or a monthly dole), largely eliminated the lower classes as a power.

Savannah entered an Information Age in fits and starts. Some of its control techniques, like limiting free public education to 8 years of schooling (ages 5 to 13), left it with a literate but undereducated population that was unsuited for creating a wild and fast-paced Information Age of the sort Earth experienced. More advanced schooling was available, but from private institutes. Generally, only the modest middle class of higher-ranked government workers and prosperous business owners could afford to send their children to secondary and university educations.

The ruling class was also more interested in using telecommunications and computers for control than anything else. Television programming was almost exclusively the province of the government. Telephones were limited to land lines and apartment buildings would rarely have more than one per floor, in a public area. Computers were mainframes with dumb terminals and used either for big businesses (accounting and inventorying) or the government (for tracking the behavior of citizens). In other areas, technology grew more easily, driven by government programs or the capitalist interests of nobles. Savannah redeveloped space travel on its own, though it would quickly utilize bits of technology from The General to ease space travel. Ancient records retrieved from the ruins of early colonial habs elsewhere in the system also spurred technological growth.
Savannah and Littlebuck
Image from Steve Bowers
The densely populated world Savannah and its carbonaceous moon Littlebuck. Savannah holds sixty billion citizens, mostly in dense, compact cities. Much of the land surface is covered in nature reserves with restricted access

Population Explosion

Despite The General's interest in protecting Savannah's environment, population growth did not ebb in the 105th Century. Instead, the proxy laws had granted nobles clout in elections depending on how many proxy votes they could gather. When the population was fully divided among nobles, the sure way to get more votes was to grow the population of a district. Savannah entered the 10,500s with 9 billion inhabitants. Population growth finally began to slow in that century with a combination of clumsy memetic engineering to discourage larger families, penalties for large families, mandatory birth control, and the ever-popular program "Rewarding Sterilization." By 10,600AT, Savannah's growth was just above replacement levels - on Savannah. It's over budget, behind-schedule space habitats were filling up rapidly. However, reaching replacement growth levels occurred when the total population on Savannah was 60 billion.

The 10,500s were a turbulent time for Savannah as it grappled with its soaring population. Its infrastructure had not been ready for the task of feeding, clothing, and housing a population that grew by 1 billion humans every 2 years (averaged across the century). The population was also restive because of chronic underemployment, hunger, political powerlessness, and enormous wealth inequities. Cults, gangs, organized crime, and political rebellions kept the Imperium's security services occupied. The machinations of nobles didn't help. A revolt or crime wave in a rival's district was an excellent way to demonstrate a rival's incompetence and drive them from power. The civil service was a bloated jobs program for the most part, but it was also about the only means for an ambitious commoner to climb to power and fighting between civil servants with different noble patrons helped paralyze its operations. About the only thing the civil service could do effectively was put down a revolt when it came to involve more than 100,000 participants or several urban districts, and it did so with brutal efficiency. (Where "efficiency" is defined as "timeliness and effectiveness in ending the revolt," not "avoiding collateral damage and innocent victims.")

Turbulence to Purge

Beginning in the 10550s, a noble house - the Sumners - began reaching some global prominence and pushed for reforms. Grand Duke Astril Sumner, patriarch of the family, used patronage to consolidate control over three useful departments in the Federal government: Transport, Energy, and Defense. (Defense was the small, poor cousin to the Security, Justice, and Intelligence Departments.) In addition, he centralized hundreds of millions of proxy votes held by the House in himself, giving him the largest single say in electing House of Commoner parliamentarians. And the Sumners directly or indirectly held a sizable voting bloc in Parliament's House of Nobles that was almost a party unto itself.

With this clout, he began a series of modest reforms to improve the standard of living of commoners. Not coincidentally, the reforms filled the Sumner family vaults. For example, deregulating the fission-dominated nuclear industry to allow introduction of conversion reactors (acquired from The General, who was developing a dislike for Savannah's poorly-run fission industry) benefitted Sumner companies, which were positioned to roll out conversion power plants. Forcing the disposal of accumulated fission waste both penalized Sumner rivals (who had to pay for the disposal) and profited the Sumners (who had companies operating transmutation facilities). The Transport Department handled not just vehicles, but also pipelines, including water and sewer pipelines. The Sumners earned popularity with the masses by rebuilding water and sewer networks, which were becoming decrepit and polluted. The Defense Department was seemingly a victim of favor trading as it lost entire subdepartments, bureaus, and administrations to Security, but what was left was the professional, if small, core of the Savannan military no lingered burdened with enormous bureaucratic bloat. And it was getting advanced weapons with recovered technology.

The success of the Sumner family drew jealousy and came with some trampled rivals. The plan that was hatched was elegant in its simplicity and breathtaking in its shortsightedness. Grand Duke Astril Sumner was assassinated in 10,567AT by the simple expedient of blowing up the arcology in which he lived (incidentally killing over 10,000 close servants and commoners). A convenient rebel group was framed, and the conspiring nobles and Emperor waited for things to return to normal.

It was at this point that the nobles involved in the assassination discovered that the Sumners had been cultivating not just the Departments of Justice and Intelligence, but also the entire Cabinet (which consisted of the heads of the various Departments.) Cabinet members all had their patrons in various noble families, but the Sumners had reached a position where they could offer Cabinet Secretaries something new: more power. For powerful men and women at the peak of the planetary government, the offer of new rungs to climb was more attractive than the wealth offered by their other noble patrons.

With his assassination, the Grand Duke's heir apparent, his seemingly flighty daughter Duchess Regena Sumner, returned from her offworld training as an interplanetary navigator and construction worker to be the family's matriarch and launch the largest purge in Savannah's history. It was later discovered that the late Grand Duke had been able to afford at least neb genetic enhancements for his daughter, or some Superior enhancements, negotiated from one of the infrequent interstellar visitors. In either case, she proved orders of magnitude more capable than expected by her father's opponents and masterfully exploited his assassination.

The Grand Duchess worked with the Intelligence Department to quickly find proof of noble meddling in the assassination (though the rebel group was still impaled en masse, because they were rebels), which led to a lot of finger pointing and shortsighted attempts by nobles to get rid of rivals during the investigation. What many noble houses did not realize was that Grand Duchess Regena was not just a vengeance-seeking daughter, but also aiming to take power. Every falsified claim against a noble in her path was enough to get that noble rounded up; every falsified claim was a potential excuse to round up the accuser for filing false reports. The fast-moving purge wiped out many of the competing heirs to the Imperial throne, after which real evidence of the Emperor's collusion in the assassination was discovered at a convenient time. The surviving Parliament held its first and only successful vote of no-confidence in an Emperor, who abdicated to a luxurious space habitat with the understanding he and his surviving family would never meddle in politics again. The most immediate surviving heir to the throne, once the lines of succession among all the executed and abdicated nobles were untangled, was Regena Sumner. The purge of 37% of the nobles on a planet with then 49 billion citizens freed an enormous number of proxy votes.

Predictably, the purge had fallen on senior nobles with larger numbers of proxy votes and closer family ties to the Imperial family. In a summary ruling sweeping the courts clean of thousands of suits, the Justice Department decided that the votes should default to the Empress.

Empress Sumner began winding down the purge after the Justice Department's proxy ruling. This took some effort, since the public and many lower ranked members of the government had taken a liking to executing nobles. The Cabinet and Empress worked together to suppress the unrest across Savannah, which did necessitate a lot of public impalings, and built an element of trust as the Empress honored the promises of her and her father: the Cabinet gained more de jure authority as the de jure powers of the noble families were restricted. No longer did the Departments have to waste so much of their budget to provide jobs for friends and allies of nobles, and the rights of noble houses to have private militaries was removed. This impacted the Sumners, too, but a great deal of industry and real estate was being awarded to them as the estates of executed nobles were redistributed so most of the Sumner family toed the line. The Empress, meanwhile, had no difficulty making these concessions since she was now commander-in-chief of the military, which was acquiring a trickle of advanced weaponry from reverse engineering programs, and held over half of Parliament's seats because of the sheer number of proxy votes she controlled.

Modernization and Improvement

In the subsequent 30 years, Savannah has moved toward stability and better standards of living. The government could not be called efficient in 10,600AT, but the major restructuring is complete and 30 years have been spent shedding excess workers into the growing private sector. (This has been a slow process to avoid the sudden unemployment of billions of people, which would undoubtedly lead to a major rebellion.) The civil service has improved its professionalism, reduced corruption, and eliminated many redundant bureaus so that citizens find dealing with the government merely agonizing, not impossible.

Imported technology has allowed cities to be rebuilt into cleaner, healthier, safer environments (which keeps huge numbers of commoners employed in construction). Imported and recovered biotechnology and autodocs are being spread to the population through rapidly-proliferating free clinics, giving even the poorest commoners access to decent and quick health care. Imported biotechnology has also reduced the size of farmland (to The General's approval) by improving crop yields and reducing the requirement for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Space development is moving at rapid pace and the infrastructure to build large habitats is gearing up. A handful of foreign ships visit every few years under the watchful eyes of the Security and Military Departments. The public mood has been ebullient for years, seeing nothing but a bright future.

Pink Goo or Not?

Some terragen observers have described Savannah as a pink goo outbreak and suggested remedial Sephriotic action should be taken. However, Savannah differs from a true pink goo outbreak in three respects. First, Savannah never had a particularly high growth rate, only briefly exceeding 2.5% growth per year in the early 10500s. Second, the growth was self-limiting and has come under control. Third, Savannah’s growth mostly stayed within available resources. An examination of Savannah’s growth over the years is instructive:

Population minimum at 7700 AT ~1 million n/a
10300 AT 2 billion 0.29% (per year from prior date)
10400 AT 4 billion 0.7%
10500 AT 9 billion 0.93%
10525 AT 18 billion 2.8%
10550 AT 36 billion 2.8%
10568 AT 49 billion 1.8%
10575 AT 54 billion 1.5%
10595 AT 60 billion 0.6%
10650 AT 65 billion 0.1% (est)

Savannah largely followed the same growth curve as Old Earth, before Tranquility. The population grew slowly during the primitive millennia and began an upward J-curve near the beginning of its steam age (10,300AT). Savannah had a population in the low billions (2 billion) at this time, much like Earth at a comparable technological era (1 billion in 200 BT). The difference in populations at this point may be accounted to Savannah’s superior crops and larger amount of arable land.

In the next two centuries of increasing industrialization and improving medicine, Savannah and Earth saw similar four-fold growth. At 0AT, Earth’s population was just under 4 billion, while Savannah’s population was about 9 billion in 10,500AT.

The last century of large population growth seen by both planets differed slightly in growth rates. However, in compound growth situations those small differences have significant impacts. Earth’s population increased 250% in the first century AT, reaching about 10 billion in 100 AT. Savannah’s population increased almost 7-fold in the equivalent period.

The difference seems to be cultural. While Earth largely reached a state by 100AT that favored smaller families, there were still social, financial, and political benefits to having larger families on Savannah circa 10,500 AT. The political benefits were, as noted earlier, that nobles held more votes and thus power if they had more commoners under their thumb. Large families were also financially useful. In a society lacking child labor prohibitions, children soon earned their keep as laborers, much as in Earth’s rural areas in pre-Tranquility times. The political and financial factors combined to produce social pressure toward large families. And with a higher starting population, Savannah’s population soared to 25 billion (in 10,537) before its leadership broadly accepted that the growth rate needed to change.

The necessary cultural changes did not happen on Savannah immediately, nor were the first, fumbling memetic campaigns and birth control programs very successful despite huge drops in the numbers of children per mother. Part of the problem was medical: advancing medicine had lowered commoner infant mortality below 0.1% and extended commoner lifespans beyond five decades. In the early 10,500s, a 2.8% growth rate could happen with families smaller than 6 to 10 children. Indeed, the average mother only needed to have barely more than 2 or 3 children to sustain a 2.8% growth rate. Every few years of limited success brought billions more people to Savannah.

Decades of efforts began taking hold in the mid-105th Century and had a sharp effect in the 10560s to 10580's when growth rates dropped by a percentage point. That the Sumners came to prominence in this period is not unrelated to changes in the growth rate. Empress Regena’s early initiatives included widespread, mandatory deployment of birth control implants and financial rewards for sterilization, which is seen in the growth rate drop after 10,575 AT.

Surveillance society
Image from Steve Bowers and Bernd Helfert


Contrary to the understanding of its commoners, Savannah is not a great place to live even after decades of reforms. It is a world of carefully managed memes, thought police, and work camps for dissidents. (And commoners consider the world to be much better because so few people are "disappeared" anymore.) Movement is monitored and controlled; few commoners ever travel outside their birth city, and most will only travel by foot, bicycle, or light rail. (And commoners consider the world to be much better because the trains now run on time and have smoother suspensions.) Access to infosystems is rigidly controlled. The government prefers to keep information flows monitored, filtered, and approved, so despite the availability of information systems equal to those of the 2nd Century AT Earth, most Savannans will only have televisions. (And they consider the world to be much better because the televisions now have 100 channels of [government] programming with excellent computer-generated graphics.) Telephones remain scarce. (Commoners think the world is much better because middle class families can now be awarded wired telephone service from the Communication Department.) The limited educations most Savannans possess leave them with few tools to question the status quo, but have plenty of ways to reject foreign notions. For example, demanding more access to information is likely to get government-supplied benefits cut, if not taken to a work camp for reeducation.

Social benefits are another control mechanism for the government. Savannah is a middle tech welfare state that provides housing, food, entertainment, health care, pensions, and many other services to the public, and ensures they understand their benefits depend on good behavior. A solid 15% of the labor force is unemployed. About 7% of that is due to market conditions or honest disability, while the balance subsists there because they get an adequate standard of living from welfare and have no motivation to work. Savannah steers undesirables and the restless into the ranks of the permanent welfare recipients where they are deliberately plied with recreational pharmaceuticals to keep them docile, or they can be quickly punished by retraction of services.

Another new control mechanism is increased social mobility. The streamlined (to use the term generously) government is now less corrupt and talent is better rewarded. Corporations formerly dominated by nepotistic noble families have had their management ranks opened up by the Sumner Purge. The Education Department now monitors the progress of students to identify bright and/or driven individuals and offers them scholarships for secondary education, and even for college. (Empress Sumner has recognized the need for more technically literate citizens than were being generated by the old system of purely private higher education.) Commoners are correct in thinking they now have more potential for advance, just like all the successes stories in the (government-generated) television programming.

All of which led one visitor to note, "Savannan commoners are treated like mushrooms: kept in the dark and fed [manure]."

Perhaps most grimly, the new clinics that are replacing the aging, unhealthy giant hospitals of the old regime are implementing a program of genetic engineering in the next generation that will make most commoners into a docile underclass. The standard "alpha upgrade package" so touted in (government-generated) news programs does include much improved health (because that lowers the government's health care costs). It does eliminate mental illnesses like schizophrenia and anger disorders that plague Savannah's lower classes (which eases the government's policing burden). It does include perfect teeth, perfect vision, and an elimination of arthritis and heart disease. It does keep Savannans in good health for almost a century, nearly twice as long as preceding generations of commoners could expect to live, though there's a sharp decline at the end (because that lowers the government's pension burden). It does include some nearbaseline enhancements, like tolerance for radiation and zero-gravity (which makes the next generation ideal workers for the government's space habitat projects). But the mental changes include a propensity for staidness, acceptance of authority, and the ability to focus on dull tasks for hours. This is nothing so dramatic as genetic slavery, but rather traits found naturally in some humans.

Despite all these controls, a commoner now has a surprising amount of freedom if they stay within the rules. Savannah does not have a despotic, fickle government (anymore). It has an authoritarian government interested in keeping the peace in a world with an oversized population. Default travel authorizations allow commoners to easily reach concerts, sporting events, or just have a walk in the park now with almost no worry of being accosted by Security or Intelligence personnel demanding papers and bribes. The stabilized political environment means a commoner is less likely to be dragged away for supporting the wrong noble (and everyone agrees the Sumners are great). With their limited educations and constantly groomed diet of information, a commoner is unlikely to even know to say something that will get them in trouble when talking with their friends at a bar, so they have a sense of freedom. Working conditions are better, living conditions are better, and the vast nets of informants and club-wielding Security thugs are gone (from public sight).

Regarding the gangs of government thugs, Savannah's government has been using advancing technology to implement a panopticon, stable society while superficially relaxing the brutal controls of the prior regime. Powerful (Information Age) computers now easily track citizens' movements, activities, and communications in an impartial manner.

Citizens can obtain additional freedom, such as more lenient travel passes or home telephones. This usually comes from increasing rank within the government, though wealthy citizens may purchase these, too. Nobles are born with such privileges.

Nobles, predictably, live in a world apart. Even before the Sumner Purge, they were a rare breed (less than 1 in 1000.) Most had education to university levels; traveled widely to exclusive resorts and House gatherings; and could (can) get away with murder of commoners. Most have access to government libraries imported from the Known Net and thus a much broader perspective than commoners. All these things had prices (sometimes beyond reach - not every crime could be paid off, especially if a noble had enemies), but nobles sat at the peak of concentrated wealth with ownership of arcologies, infrastructure, and most businesses (which were often government-backed monopolies.) The new Sumner government has not exempted them monitoring, but grants them vast freedom so long as they don't cause the government trouble. Its health clinic machinations extend to nobles, whose children are being engineered into bright and superbright nearbaselines with mentalities suited for even-handed rule. (This extends to most of the Sumner House, but the Imperial heirs are Superiors.)


Savannah's government (and The General) has been very cautious about technology introduction. The General seems to be functioning as an aloof Caretaker God in recent decades, attempting to protect the planet's ecosystems while not micromanaging the humans, which E doesn't seem to care much about until they're pests (but is also amazingly tolerant of them, which might be a holdover from his colonial directives). Allowing more advanced technology into the system might destabilize the predictability of the humans, or lead them to sudden, ecosystem-ravaging technological explosions like the Technocalypse.

The Federal Imperium is also cautious about new technology, especially information systems. One of its greatest fears would be a group of rebels acquiring some wireless computer network and copies of works from revolutionaries like Lincoln or Lenin. (Though a group of rebels with a nanoforge and a Warchive costs many Security and Intelligence personnel sleepless nights.) There is limited cooperation between The General and the Federal Imperium in regards to technology control, which entails closing monitoring visitors. A visiting ship or two are tolerated every few years and trade tours and virch recordings of Savannah for trinkets of technology (assuming the occupants tolerate The General's scrutiny and oversight throughout their visit). Savannah has no plans to build beamrider links or wormholes (transversable or comm gauge) in the near future.

The resulting society is a hybrid middle tech reserve.

The government is utilizing high tech in limited ways, especially in its space program and military. It spends enormous resources (for a middle tech society) supporting isolated industries and skilled workers who produce the high tech goods that are not shared with the population and economy at large. This advanced technology has been acquired in several fashions:

First, there is native development. Savannah has been a technological society again for some centuries and has a large total number of technologically skilled individuals, even if they make up a proportionally small part of the population.

Second, The General occasionally hands out technology when asked nicely, and a case is made that it would reduce humanity's impact on Savannah. Or just when e feels like sharing the technology. Or when the when align correctly.

Third, interstellar visitors are more common and, since they aren't trying to claim the colony, aren't destroyed so often anymore. Savannah's unusual society is popular on the Known Net, so ships visit to acquire more information. In turn, Savannah requests modest examples of advanced technology (including blueprints, industrial knowhow, etc.).

Fourth, Savannah recovers some technology from the ruined space industry of the original Jackson colony.

The centralized computers and surveillance networks used by its Security and Intelligence Departments range from late Information Age to early Interplanetary Age in capability, though they have curious limits. Most programs are hardwired and data storage is write-once, something done to discourage hacking. (Especially foreign hacking - the government understands there are large numbers of terragen cultures that would not like Savannah's authoritarianism and the thought of some transapient viruses getting loose in its infosystems led to the current, sharply restricted computers.) Except for dedicated turings and hyperturings in certain situations when human input is inadequate (e.g., conversion reactors), Savannah makes almost no use of AIs. With huge amounts of available, cheap labor, Savannah has little incentive to utilize bots and vecs.

Other isolated elements of high technology include conversion reactors, which Savannah used to bypass a lot of environmental headaches, and military vehicles. Elements of Security and Intelligence use high tech, even ultra tech, to counter foreign activities. Except for some modosophont rights activists, Savannah has yet to be bothered but The General apparently wants Savannah to be prepared. E is not infallible and some eyes on the ground are useful.

The majority of Savannah utilizes middle-tech, albeit middle tech benefiting from hi-tech and even ultra-tech knowledge. (Savannah has no difficulty accepting ultra tech science in space habitat ecological engineering, agronomy, or sewer waste treatment so long as the resulting hardware is implemented with middle tech industry and managed by humans. On the other hand, importers of high tech infosystems get a quick trip to the impaling fields.)

The 60 billion inhabitants of Savannah live in high-density, high-efficiency urban regions covering less than 5 million square kilometers of the planet, where conversion-generated electricity supplies all transport, heating, and lighting needs with negligible pollution. High-productivity farms, aquaculture, and vertical farms leave most wild lands untouched. Commoners are stuck with largely vegetarian diets, but simulated meats are common. Nobles and the wealthy have easier access to meat, vat-grown or factory-farmed. The bountiful oceans of Savannah are sustainably fished and whaled. Sewers (storm and septic) are designed to contain urban runoff and provide compost for farms. Recycling handles most garbage and industrial waste. Overall, the 60 billion inhabitants of Savannah have remarkably low impact on the planet, much less than 9 billion humans of early Interplanetary Age Earth.

Most of the above middle tech is exceedingly dumb. Simple mechanical or electromechanical controls regulate automatic equipment (e.g., air conditioning and elevators). Telephone networks are governed by automatic switchboards similar to those of 0AT Earth, though the Intelligence computers monitoring the switchboard are far more advanced. Televisions are advanced middle tech items: thin, printed, large screens often meant for public viewing (the government prefers commoners watch TV in communal centers where informants can monitor behavior), but have simple, receive-only controls. Transportation systems use controls on par with 0AT Earth, too: airships and aquatic freighters may use simple autopilots able to hold a heading while trains have in-cab signaling, but none are self-piloting. The private airplanes and helicopters of nobles are completely dependent on human pilots. The annual death toll from crew error in transport is impressive.

Wireless, receive-only alphanumeric pagers are the rage among merchants who can afford them. Sending alphanumeric messages requires either using a government service (calling special operators in the Communications Department), or a special landline phone only issued to respectable businesses after lengthy approvals. As might be imagined, such phones are continuously monitored. But merchants and lesser nobles may now get stock quotes, headlines and sport results, and text notifications to call the office (via the normal, government-monitored phone network.) Such handheld "computers" and their ability to store dozens of names and phone numbers have revolutionized the Savannan business world in their two decades of service.

Commoners know they are truly entering the future because they now have access to "computers" like the rest of terragen space. That is, if they're rich enough, and if they get approvals from the Communication, Security, and Intelligence Departments. The most common are "readers" and "viewers," simple-minded tablets that only display books or movies, respectively. (The truly wealthy, or lesser nobles, may acquire combination reader-viewers.) Both tablets utilize curious technologies: images are stored holographically in transparent, written-once media cards and displayed by passing light beams through the images for projection onto the screen, a sort of solid state microfiche. The solid state, flat optics and battery verge on high tech, but the controlling analog electronics are hardwired and incredibly simple. Each tablet is assigned to specific user and will only work with cards assigned to that user. Of course, the government issues the tablets and cards (thus controlling content), and tracks their movement and usage carefully.

The Savannan civilian space program has been blundering along for several decades. Like many large Savannan projects, it is far over budget and far behind schedule. The government doesn't mind too much because the space program is a new jobs program, too. The civilian space program is one area where Savannah regularly uses high tech, at least for propulsion and large habitat environmental control. The program is intended to develop some space-based industry (mostly complete for current needs) and build space habitats to house billions of people (far from complete). Savannah's carbonaceous moon Littlebuck hosts mines and processing facilities that are launching the requisite gigatons of materials for large habitats at the Savannah-Littlebuck L4 and L5 points. To date the program has put several million Savannans in orbit, most of them construction workers and their families, and completed several trial habitats up to 5 kilometers in diameter. (There are also a few private habitats owned by nobles.) The construction efforts use incredible amounts of manual labor and have appalling death rates in the harsh environment, which the Savannan workers take in stride. The long-term government plan is to establish several bean stalks and a Clarke Ring of O'Neill (or McKendree) cylinders, but Savannah is currently improving its engineering expertise and considers itself decades from attempting a beanstalk or Clarke Ring.

At this point, the Savannan economy is still scarcity-based and uses physical money. The burden of all the social services and environmental controls reduces free spending money available to most Savannans other than nobles, wealthy merchants, and higher government officials. Though in the last case, most government officials' base wealth comes from job-related perks like government transport and government housing. It requires years of graft and bribes to become wealthier, and the latter has become harder to acquire in the past few decades as the Sumners slowly reduce corruption.

Savannah, like most middle tech (hybrid) reserves is in an unstable situation. It would only take a little burst of creativity or an overlooked importation of nanoforges and Encyclopedia Everythingiana to suddenly turn technology and society upside down. Savannah's elaborate control mechanisms give it more stability and durability than the typical middle tech reserve and it is slowly moving toward a high tech society, but the system has its fragile features.


While The General has higher toposophic industrial assets throughout the system, these are rarely shared with Savannans and are mostly concentrated around Twinsy. The Savannans have been left on their own to develop reclaim space travel and settle the rest of the Jackson system. With advanced technology acquired from interstellar sources and, in some cases, The General, the Savannan government has high tech spacecraft available to it but, for reasons given above, keeps those away from the general population. Instead, a majority of its space program utilizes early Interplanetary Age technology, but this has been enough to put over two million Savannans in a long-term space colonization project.

Littlebuck is the moon of Savannah. It is a large carbonaceous body of 2700km with a composition significantly different than Savannah's but an orbit suggestive of co-formation. It currently has over a million workers living on it, staffing the mines and mass drivers that are delivering raw material to the habitat projects at Savannah's L4 point. They live in hastily-built tunnel warrens, which are being expanded as fast as the aluminum and graphite "tin can" modules can be churned out of Littlebuck's factories. Some public areas utilize inflated, regolith-covered domes. There are no spin habitats on Littlebuck, and most areas are deficient in radiation shielding, fire suppression systems, and basic amenities.

At the L4 point is a mass of construction shacks, freefall warehouses for processed materials from Littlebuck (Savannah's managerial science is not up to the task of just-in-time material usage for habitat construction), swarms of worker ferries, two complete Stanford toruses (of 2 and 5km diameter), a complete pair of O'Neill cylinders (5km by 25km, lit with an internal sunline), and an incomplete pair of O'Neill cylinders (sunline variants) that will be 25km by 125km. Each hab is a stepping stone for the next, providing worker housing for the next, larger hab. As noted earlier, Savannah is accomplishing these huge engineering projects with primarily human labor. While large construction equipment is used to maximize productivity, bots and vecs are all but absent. The designs behind these middle-high tech structures are not new, but rather derived from the Known Net and adapted to Savannan needs (like a low-quality labor force). Savannah wanted to avoid the missteps with large habitats and closed ecologies that plagued the early Interplanetary Age in the Sol system and its leadership was cynically certain that its engineers would miss problems if asked to develop the designs from scratch. The resulting habitats have suffered some issues with quality control and required various remedial repairs (ranging from repairing critical welds to dredging entire watersheds), but the habs were designed with such enormous margins of safety that there have been no catastrophic failures. Savannah is getting more confident with the logistics, engineering, and management processes required for large space construction projects and hopes to build a trial beanstalk in the 10,650s. (The Savannan space program plan was to begin building a beanstalk in 10,598AT. The Imperial leadership, however, had a more realistic estimate for Savannah's ability to accomplish large, high tech projects.)

Image from Steve Bowers
Wilmeton Spacefleet Base, Launch Portal One

One of the smaller moons of Wilmeton, an icy world similar to Enceladus, hosts the main Defense Department fleet base. This holds the conversion drive warships and satellite tenders that the Savannan government uses to deter non-existent space threats and deal with anticipated rebel groups who somehow get into space. The buried base, which does include rotating habitats, holds tens of thousands of personnel and fabrication units. This facility is not just a hangar and shipyard, but also a critical source of high tech components of all forms utilized by the Defense Department, as well as key components for other advanced technology (e.g., monopole systems for conversion reactors). The government prefers to keep these isolated from most of the Savannan population.

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Development Notes
Text by Mike Miller
Initially published on 14 April 2014.