House Stevens

Human house in the Federation Era, derived from the Stevens family of Epsilon Indi.

Tierra del Fuego
Image from Steve Bowers
Tierra del Fuego, the original world of House Stevens

SNAPSHOT- The Johnny Stevens

Peter-Swifttop Johnny Stevens introduced me to his household, the Swifttop building (named for being built on top of the hill just outside Swift, typical Stevens literalness). The city beneath looked like a toy model in a shop window in the brilliant cold sunlight. The Swifttops is an uniclone household, consisting solely of Johnnies. A greyed old Johnny was trying to organise ten Johnny children to tend the garden, while three adolescent Johnnies immediately seized upon the chance to speak with a real outworlder (no doubt curious about our reproductive practices). It would have been hard to recognise Peter unless I hadn't memorised his stripes of facial paint. He told me that it was a common game for the children to switch painting and try to trick their parents. Surprisingly often it failed.


House Stevens emerged because of a series of misfortunes and chance event. When the Prudence Foundation colonisation effort was launched in 488 AT towards Epsilon Indi, it was a well-funded and politically supported attempt at setting up a colony in the system. The second planet, an 8000km Arean class world already named Tierra del Fuego was believed to be a good candidate for terraforming. As the chaos of the Nanotech Era escalated, the idea of escaping the solar system took on increased urgency. The autonomous probe Swift was sent before to do initial surveying, construct a preliminary colony module on the surface and prepare the way for a manned mission. A few years later, 499 AT, the main colony ship Sure was launched, somewhat prematurely because of the rising climate of apprehension in the Solar System. It held 53,583 colonists in cryonic suspension, a large complement of robotic servitors, and a small team of turingrade AI advisers.

During the transit a major accident occurred in the cryosuspension system, causing fatal temperature changes and cracking. It was possibly due to nanotech sabotage or infection, but likely simply due to an oversight of some kind caused by rush to complete the departure from the chaotic solar system. Nearly all colonists and much of the frozen livestock embryos perished. When the ship arrived at Epsilon Indi in 621 AT most of the colonists were no longer viable. Only 8,507 people survived, including 249 highly trained crewmembers.

The colonists found themselves in a tricky position: they had access to all the reserve equipment and automation on the now linked Swift and Sure but were less than ten thousand people, probably too few to set up a viable colony. Back home in the Solar System the Technocalypse and the Great Expulsion had thrown the old worlds into disarray; no help was likely to come from that direction.

They settled for an unusual solution. The ship had a full complement of artificial wombs (intended for livestock, but not yet shipped downplanet). The 249 crewpersons used these wombs to clone themselves, with the hope that their innate skills would be perpetuated by their offspring. The non-crew colonists were encouraged to procreate as well, but in the natural fashion.

With the help of the ship AIs, robots and a variety of expert systems they could manage many tasks that would otherwise have been impossible. In the end they succeeded in constructing a small orbital habitat ("Home") and the colonists moved into it and settled down. As time passed, the most capable of the colonists were admitted into the ranks of the crew, and encouraged to use the cloning tanks. A smaller number of crew members were demoted to colonist status, and lost their cloning privileges. Quite rapidly, an elite population emerged in this system, separated by their reproductive strategies.

The initial colony at Home grew quite rapidly, but the fact that the elite population favoured cloning rather than sexual reproduction caused a cultural shift. The crew, who called themselves the Stevens Family after their captain, shunned sex, using anti-aphrodisiacs to reduce desire and promote their detachment from worldly concerns. The Stevens were in many ways conservative people, Earth baselines with an ingrained distrust of superior practices and the wild mores of the Jovian League. After a long period of hot debate the Stevens rejected natural childbirth altogether, and cloning became the only accepted form of reproduction.

In time the colony grew, Home expanded and further habitats were built. Once their colony was self-sustaining, the Stevens persuaded their AI advisers to venture forth to the outer system, where they could prospect for resources among the moons and minor objects, thus allowing the Stevens to shape their own culture without external influence.

In-vitro cloning turned out to be an advantage in many ways: a whole clone of Stevens offspring could be birthed and reared together, minimising parenting time (an important factor during the initial colonisation stage), making planned parenting easier and creating a strong sense of sibling cohesion. The other colonists continued to propagate naturally, and the colony grew ever larger; but they were kept separate from the Stevens elite, except when they demonstrated exceptional ability. A few of the naturally-propagating colonists gained additional privileges, such as access to the artificial reproduction facilities (which they used to bear normally-fertilised children); greater control over the robot servants, and eventually admission to House Stevens as a clone progenitor. Once a colonist joined the Stevens elite, they were no longer expected to reproduce in a sexual manner.

The number of clone clans reached 302, each with dozens of individuals of all ages. The clone groups lived in shared domiciles, where the normal family structure consisted of a few older clones rearing a group of younger versions of themselves, usually three or more at the same time. Some households were single clones, others mixed. The various clone clans developed idiosyncratic cultures based around their personalities, which they preferred to encourage and exaggerate their similarities instead of exploring their differences.

The Clan members were divided between those who wanted to enforce total sexual abstinence, and those who thought that sexual relations between members of the same clan was permissible. Few of the clones wished to permit normal sexual relations between different clans, since they considered that to risk a dilution of their phenotypes. In time the clans allowed and even encouraged sexual relations within a clone, which they called Insex; this practice was entirely separate from reproductive activity, which occurred only artificially. Clans became closer and more intimate, with some clans barely interacting with outsiders at all, and most clans keeping aloof from the naturally-propagating colonists.

On Tierra del Fuego, and in Home (now a rapidly expanding cluster of habitats), the Stevens clones maintained ascendancy over the non-cloned population largely by using the robotic workforce as a form of control. The robots were programmed to obey orders given to them by the clan members, which were identified by biometric markers, but not to respond to orders from the non-clones.

New Arrivals

By 764 AT the population of the Epsilon Indi system, now renamed the Gatlida system, had grown to 18600 persons, mostly from the colonist population, but with more than five thousand clones. It was into this closed, intimate society that the Starlark brought a frozen cargo of 18,000 additional colonists, most of whom survived this time. The refugees from Earth and the Solar System were a sorry lot, and told tales of suffering and strife. The Stevens decided to keep the new colonists separate from themselves, and also kept them separate from the older group of naturally-reproducing colonists. Most of the older group lived in the orbiting habitats, while the Starlark colonists were domiciled on the surface of Tierra del Fuego.

Imhotep 12, 764 AT, Prima Station, Epsilon Indi orbit The oldest of the female Indis moved forward slightly, then stopped. She was attached to a thin dexter-arm, the same silver colour as the walls, which held her in place in the microgravity. Now I noticed that the other clones, about twenty in number, were each held in place by similar equipment. On the other hand we newcomers were drifting and jostling each other, grabbing each other's arms and bouncing off the walls. Not a very impressive sight, it must be said. The woman looked at Ellie and myself, with a small flicker of interest, before addressing us in a loud voice.

"People from Sol, I greet you. I am Barbara-Prima Barbara Stevens, of the Stevens family. Your arrival is unprecedented and unexpected; our family had thought the Old System dead. Still, you are here, and this is as it must be. With your help we can start to make this system into a new home for our people." The plastic membrane she wore vibrated when she said certain words. Something in her manner seemed dismissive, perhaps even hostile, but she seemed to address her remarks mostly towards my clone cousin and myself. Acting Captain Konrad was fretting nearby, apparently unhappy at being ignored.
-From Voyages of the Starlark

For some years the two groups were effectively isolated from each other, with the Stevens stage-managing any interaction. Eventually new, radical elements emerged among the Stevens clans, which favoured more open and equitable relations with the other colonists. A short conflict between the Stevens factions occurred, with casualties both in orbit and on the surface of Tierra. Eventually the radicals prevailed.

The two groups of non-Stevens colonists gained their freedom and decided to set up a separate state on the small world known as Deep Red. Some of the most disaffected colonists, and a few disgraced Stevens clones, left the system in the refurbished Starlark, which departed for Praxis in 775 AT.

The Eridanus League and the First Federation

The new colony on Deep Red made contact with the AI faction, who had set up autonomous outposts on the moons of Neruda and Shiva. Together these factions joined the Eridanus League in 815. A small number of other arkships arrived in the centuries to come, and these newcomers made contact with the League worlds while having little to do with the Stevens clones in Home and on Tierra.

In 951 signals from the Solar System announced the formation of the First Federation. Throughout the early Federation Era the Stevens were involved in a cultural struggle, both internally and externally. Clan values were questioned. The Stevens radicals believed that relations, sex and even marriage outside the Family was acceptable, the conservatives preferred isolationism. The Eridanus League and the Federation were becoming involved in family politics, spreading foreign culture and ideas. It is estimated that approximately a third of the Stevens became "outmarried" and were no longer considered part of the Family; many of these radicals moved to new habitats orbiting Espresso. This had the effect that the remaining Family became increasingly conservative as the most radical disappeared from it.

In the Family Council of 1346 the conservatives achieved a landmark victory. They successfully defined a new constitution that defined citizenship by membership of the Stevens clans and created a strong systemwide government that could deal efficiently with the outworlders. They quickly made a deal with Eridani Vision Inc. where they sold the terraforming rights to Tierra del Fuego in exchange for a sizeable share, and similarly tied economic ties to the Federation but with strong conditions on cultural non-interference. The system came to be divided between the pure Stevens habitats ("The Family") and the outmarried Stevens and outworlders in the rest of the system. The Family grew rich from the economic deals and retained its political power, eventually joining the Eridanus League rather than the Federation.

The Stevens Clones become an Interstellar House

As the Eridanus League began to fall apart in 1900 and the terraforming of Tierra del Fuego neared completion (meaning an even vaster population of non-Stevens in the system) the old system began to crack. The Family realised that in the long run they would not be able to retain their purity and the power over a system where they were no longer a majority. So in 1939 the decision to relocate was made, and 85% of the population began to move to Ridgewell, a system leased from Mao-UbiCol.

Since then the Stevens Family has spread through the Inner Sphere and outwards, but the core of the Family has always been on Ridgewell. The financial power from the Epsilon Indi system helped turn it into House Stevens (sometimes called House Ridgewell) during the Era of Imperialization. It kept on to the stocks in various emerging empires, growing rich and influential at least as an economic entity -- individual clonelines could still be relatively poor despite the wealth of the family as a whole since they did not own many shares in the family fortune.

Over time this led both to that some clone lines withered, their members seeking their fortune outside the Family, and increasing specialisation of the remaining clone-lines. A form of caste system developed based on known talents and dispositions, relative status, wealth and the complex issues of personality.

At the same time the idea of genetic purity became totally fundamental. What defines a Stevens is being a clone of one of the Founders -- any genetic change revokes the family membership. In order to stay ahead the Stevens have instead turned towards extensive cyborgisation, although many of the most extreme conservatives remain revered baselines within the safety of the family.

In 3899 the greatest schism so far occurred: the households of the Akirate system were found to practice "descendant cloning", using genetic material from their own elders rather than the Founders for the cloning. It caused a huge uproar, and in the end led to the Akirate Stevens becoming their own independent family. As the Family Council refused to recognise their claim to the House stocks, Akirate joined the Solar Dominion and later in the Version War helped several raids on Stevens worlds. The Akirate has slowly diverged culturally, growing ever more into a cyborg-AI symbiosis culture.

The Stevens were a significant house during the early Era of Empires, but were more and more eclipsed by the Empires. The Family mainly became a power within the MPA and NoCoZo, with branches in most empires. Their connections and ease of identification sometimes led to persecution or discrimination in opposing Empires or with unfavourable planetary governments. This encouraged the Family to set up extensive diplomatic missions.

During the Empires Wars and the Version War the Family survived, despite the devastation of Ridgewell in 4499, the battles for Epsilon Indi 4489-4501 and the genetic reprogramming of Kejeea in 4529 that made the local family non-Stevens (they were formally adopted by the Family in 4579). The reason was simply the vast dispersion of the Stevens, something that continues to this day.

During the Fragmentation and Current period, some of the Stevens at Cis-Ridwell, Epsilon Indi, Makama, and Beaual factioned into a number of smaller houses, which continued alongside the Family. Among the most important of these are the Mutuostevens, the Hankins Stevens, and the Heliostevens.

The Mutuostevens, who have established a number of habitats in Cis-Ridgwell and Cis-Makama space and on a number of other systems. They are frowned upon by the rest of the Family become they have increasingly enamored with MPA ideology at the expense of their own House purity. Heavily cyborged (to the extent that they no longer even resemble the original baseline template), they are widely viewed as a more benign version of the Akirate, although they have not yet been expelled from the Family.

The Hankins Stevens of Hankins (Chi Herculis VII) who try to recapture (their name is a pun, they "hank after" in Old Earth English slang) the "old style" of clone purity and renounce the use of cyborg technology, and adopt interplanetary (and even pre-space early industrial!) age mannerisms and dress. Totally unable to compete in the complex and superbright society of the modern galaxy, they are looked after by the Family at cis-Ridgwell. Originally living in orbital habitats, they were annoyed by curiosity-seekers, tourists, and sociologists, and the Family established them in floating biospheres in the upper atmosphere of Hankins, where they are given the job of keeping note of the activity of the Family's robot methane processors on the surface (a task so easy that "even a baseline can do it")

The Heliostevens are the result of a successful hybridisation between three Yvonnes and four Welshian (Chi Herculis I) SunMiners, who claim they have "United the two mighty Houses in a higher synthesis that retains the Purity of Each". A small but growing house, they are considered as heterodox schismatics by both the Family and the SunMiners, are widely though mildly persecuted, and have been outlawed in a number of Steven and SunMiner systems and worlds. Their capital is Union, a large habitat in Welsh Geostationary orbit

Although Cis-Ridgewell still remains home to a huge swarm of habitats, old money, and powerful Stevens interests, it is becoming increasingly felt among a growing minority of in-system Stevens that Ridgwell is no longer the environment it was, and more and more members are shifting their operations to Makama, Beaual, and the newly rich or developing Middle Region and Outer Volumes worlds like Rocklake, Chuvaev, New Atlanta, Chonga, and Hinton. The emigrants compare this to the initial migration of Epsilon Indi to Ridgwell, or even of the first colony which departed the Sol system for E Indi, and refer to the stay at home Stevens disparagingly as "House Ridgewell" (a totally different meaning from the one it had during the Integration and earlier). Yet this is not a mass-migration, but simply a diffusion of small groups, usually numbering no more than several thousand. In any case the Ridgwellian Stevens are happy to see them go, as, although they love their siblings, they feel that business can better be conducted without their disruptive attitude.

Society and Culture

The 302 different clone "clans" each have different personalities and styles, even if large individual variations exist within the clans. The Xaviers are known to be somewhat calmer and more creative than the efficient Brendas, the Pauls tend to be conservative, and so on.

Names consist formally of three parts: the personal name, the clone name and the family name Stevens. The personal name often contains a part showing family: Elizabeth-Greenhill Mary Stevens refers to Elizabeth of the Greenhill community of the Mary clan. Normally only the personal name is used. When dealing with interstellar relations the system of origin is often added: Elizabeth-Greenhill-Indi Mary Stevens refers to a Mary from Epsilon Indi.

Overall, Stevens society is fairly conservative, stable and free -- free with the exception of reproduction, which is a somewhat sensitive issue. Genetic modifications and inter-clone breeding are not allowed. Family life is strong, both in and between the households, clones and Stevens. With the exceptions of some loners and eccentrics the Stevens tend to hold together and care a lot for their communities (often with mock arrogance towards other communities).

The Stevens and the Genen have some similarities in their family structure, but do not cooperate much. Both sides have a superiority complex: the Genen regard their genetic modifications as their definition and are happy to self-evole into ever more exuberant forms, while the Stevens regard their unchanging genetics as their true definition. Individual Stevens and Genen have of course had positive relations, and to the chagrin of the Stevens there even exist a small "fallen" clade of Stevens that joined the Genen through genetic modification in 7900's as part of the Gyxhosa Incident.

Today there exist approximately 84 billion members of the Stevens Family, and 3 billion members of the Akirate branch, about a billion Mutuostevens, several hundred million members of assorted minor clades, and 4 million members of the Kejeea Stevens and other adopted groups. Of the individual clonetypes, the largest clones are the Yvonnes (5%), Pauls (3%) and Bernards (2%).

Main systems:

Ridgewell (MPA), Gatlida (NoCoZo), Makama (MPA), Chalawan (Dominion), Beaual (Independent, former Sagittarius Sphere).


Big Brother: Both a honorific to senior family members, and a term for the police (mostly Bernards).

Brood: A group of children reared together, not necessarily of the same clone.

Broodbrother or broodsister: Somebody from the same brood as oneself.

Brother or Sister or Sibling: Greeting to other family members ("Welcome siblings!"). Can be modified to imply rank ("Big brother, this is a sensitive matter")

Caretanker: Somebody maintaining the tanks. A respected profession.

Clonebrother or clonesister: Refers to another of one's clone. Often shortened to clone ("Hi, clone!").

Family: The Stevens family. Has connotations of nationality, shared values, belonging and unity.

Family Meeting: Major convocation of the Stevens. Sometimes local meetings are held, but the true Family Meetings take place at Ridgewell and involve representatives and participants from the entire Family.

Flash season: The periods of increased solar activity on Ridgewell.

Glaxes: Sunglasses and other eye protection, especially stylish ones. Widely used on Ridgewell and hence often a sign of formal status within the Family.

Householders: The people maintaining a household.

House Ridgewell: As now used, those Stevens that choose to remain in the Chi Herculis system, rather than migrate outwards. Used by radicals in the Family has connotations of conservatism and lack of imagination and business acumen

Insex: Sex within a clone.

Outsex: Sex between clones. Generally regarded as abhorrent. Sex with non-members of the House is referred to as outoutsex by those disparaging it.

Mudland: A tidal plain on Ridgewell. During the early (pre-Stevens) settlement and environmental exploitation by Mao-UbiCol, the Mudlands were mined for biomass to be converted into soil.

Nephew: Somebody from the other colonies; a positive term suggesting relationship.

Professor Balthazar: Somebody suffering from sunstroke.

Syngamists: People reproducing sexually. Academic term.

Stripe: One's facial painting.

Tank: The in vitro gestation tanks where children grow. Their maintainers are called caretankers.

Zeros: The first generation in the Epsilon Indi system.
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg, amended by Steve Bowers 2021
Logo-concept by Donna Malcolm Hirsekorn, design by Bernd Helfert. Snapshot by Anders Sandberg. Additional material by The Astronomer.
Initially published on 02 December 2000.

Page uploaded 2 December 2000, last modified 29 September 2007