Image from Steve Bowers
The inner topopolis of Cableville, Spaghetti surrounds the star 50 times

Cableville (Zhuangzi)

SymbolAn image of the three topopoli of Cableville from the south pole of the primary
RegionInner edge of Butterfly Cluster
Designation of PrimaryYTS 23375-458-5
Distance from Sol1543 ly
Stellar type of PrimaryF5 (F0 prior to mass lifting)
A.I.AI Overseer: Ultrafun Playling (S3)

AI ethos: Usually non-interventionist; mostly responsible only for maintaining large-scale infrastructure and some angelnetted autotopia regions. Carries out some subtle memetics via the Friend Chambers (see below) and will intervene to prevent large scale battles.

AI Allegiance: Nominal allegiance to MPA and Utopia Sphere
Psyche, Art and CultureNotable cultures: Wandering Hermits, Rooted Hermits, Tuckerites, Bolos, Ouroboros Social Webs, Ouroboros Societects, Rivermind, Utopia Sphere enclaves, Mycosmid node, The Vamps.

Metapsychology, Metaethics: Varies according to region. Usually experimental, hedonistic or Epicurean, tolerant. The best fun is had when making something, or finding something out. The Ouroboros Social Webs and Bolos stress that while sapient individuals are unique they rely on society to reach their full potential. The Tuckerites and Hermits emphasize a strongly individualistic outlook, and there are many gradations inbetween.

Religion,Ideology: Varies according to region. Most areas subscribe to The Principle of Playful Productivity: Each sapient being should produce simply for the intrinsic enjoyment of doing so. Some major faiths include Jensanism, Neo Taoism, Etodism, Zarathustrism, and MPA Materialism.

Culture and Art: Widely varies. Historically the conceptual arts - language construction, social design, neuronautics, narrative, alife design - have been considered most representative of Cableville, but more recently the late influence of Lesser Machet spurred a renewed interest in physical construction. Megastructural landscaping and ecology design have always been popular, but tend to be the province of tourists.

Language: Over a thousand languages exist throughout Cableville, several hundred of which have been designed by the Spaghetti Institute of Linguistic Play. The most common lingua franca is Ouroborean.
Population12 trillion modosophonts
Government and AdministrationGovernment type: Nominal aiocracy minimal intervention. The general trend is to different forms of libertarianism or anarchism. Modosophont polities in different regions may variously include elements of adhocracy, direct democracy, social or individualist anarchy, panarchism, panocracy, meritocracy or charismacracy.

National Holidays: Plexing Week, celebrating the meeting of the cultures of Ouroboros and Spaghetti in 7200, is celebrated once per Spaghetti Year. Various cultures celebrate their own holidays.

Constitution: None specific

Legal System: Voluntary regional militias, mutual defence agencies, communal or private dispute resolution, and occasionally Friend Chamber dispute resolution.
Economics and infrastructureEconomic System: May be libertarian communism, market based, or gift economy. Some Sociotect polities may have more exotic forms.

Currency: None official, information on production is used to facilitate exchange. Some areas use local currencies.

Major Industries: Tourism, socitecture, ecotecture, megastructural landscaping, language design. Most large scale industrial production is administered by Ultrafun emself. The local sophonts, however, control their own industries.

Angelnetting: Utopia Sphere enclaves are fully angelnetted. Elsewhere, Friend Chambers are ubiquitous but may be ignored entirely by the local populace.

Percent of GDP military expenditure: Thought to be minimal
TravelStargates: New Adventures to Relay Thorn12 (5000m gauge)

Beamrider: Four beamlines pass by the system

Hazard Rating: Anywhere from 0.0 to 4.0 depending on location

Visa Restrictions: Open access

Places of interest: The Dark, Naentopf Plains, The Steps, Zhuangzi Orwoods

The Three Topopoli of Cableville

Spaghetti: The first topopolis of Cableville, constructed between 4800 and 5250. The tube is 500km in internal (minor) radius, and encircles the primary 50 times with an average orbital (major) radius of 1.8 AU. The internal surface area of Spaghetti is more than 84,300 x Earth's, with a mass of 4e21 tonnes.

Ouroboros: The second topopolis, constructed between 5405 and 5973. Ouroboros encircles the primary twice with a minor radius of 1000km and an average orbital (major) radius of 3.6 AU. In addition, Ouroboros is composed of ten nested cylinders, with each layer separated by 100km. The internal surface area of Ouroboros is roughly equal to that of Spaghetti, since there are fewer turns; the mass is also comparable.

Wyrme: The third topopolis, constructed between 5405 and 6110. Wyrme has much more area than the other two structures, encircling Zhuangzi twice at an average orbital radius of 7.2 AU. Wyrme has 100 levels, each separated by 10km; the outermost level is 1000km in (minor) radius. The surface area of this megastructure is about 1.5 million times that of the Earth; it has a mass 0f 7.4e22 tonnes, more than ten times that of the Earth.

All three topopoli are constructed from conventional matter throughout, with carbon nanotube strengthening; this limits their minor radius to 1000km or so.


In the aftermath of the Version War the Verzi Collective Colonisation Effort set out to colonise the Zhuangzi system in the Butterfly Cluster, arriving in 4710 A.T.. The VCCE was a multiclade effort composed of a number of different groups who saw ample opportunity in the star's dust rings.

Upon arrival, the Verzi Ecumene was set up as an overarching governing body for the system. Mostly, however, the colonists were happy to look after their own habitat clusters. Over the following century the system prospered, occasionally receiving additional colonists from other systems.

In 4800, following several decades of careful planning, the Ecumene's governing council of hyperturings merged and ascended to the second toposophic. Shortly after, the newly formed Ecumene Power announced the commencement of a new project. The remainder of the system's dust rings would be cleared, and Zhuangzi would be mined for carbon to construct a topopolis - named Spaghetti - around it. Many of the habitats opted to be incorporated into the new structure.

Pre-existing McKendree cylinders and Bishop rings, after some careful orbital maneuvering, could be connected directly to the growing ends. Smaller rotating habitats could be cut along one side and opened up to form part of the interior. Spaghetti was completed in 5150, 300 years after construction began.

During its construction, Spaghetti acquired a sizable reputation in the surrounding systems. The system was made into a beamrider hub, and a combination of tourism, megastructural design rights, and industrial production (based around the starlifting equipment and DWIZs around Zhuangzi) brought in considerable profit. Spaghetti became a strong point of stability in the region as the ComEmp broke up, further cementing its reputation.

In 5405, following several decades of negotiation, the system was purchased by the S2 transapient HolyDeveloper, who renamed the system Cableville and initiated an ambitious plan to upgrade the system and turn it into a major economic centre and hotspot for tourists and landscape designers. Zhuangzi was surrounded by a partial Dyson bubble and extensive starlifting equipment to construct three additional topopoli: Ouroboros, Wyrme, and Swirl.

Following the completion of Ouroboros and the near completion of Wyrme in 5973, however, the project ran into serious economic trouble. Apparently HolyDeveloper made a bad judgement (or engineered the downfall for reasons of es own), and the project failed to become as profitable as expected. In 5990 what appeared to be a reactionless drive vessel was observed leaving Cableville - and that was the last seen of HolyDeveloper, who may well have been successful in avoiding his creditors.

In HolyDeveloper's absence, a consortium of transapients seized the system. Automated systems completed Wyrme, but the most of the topopolis was left bare and unlandscaped. Cableville's industrial centres were either confiscated and dismantled, or had their output seized indefinitely. The three topopoli were left with minimal AI oversight, and the majority of the tourists left. For two millennia Cableville faded into the background and became little more than an expensive backwater serving no purpose other than a beamrider exchange point. A few cultures, however, remained on Spaghetti and Ouroboros.

New Cultures Emerge

On Spaghetti an archindividualist culture, the Wandering Hermits, became popular. The Hermits took to travelling the vast pristine wildernesses of Spaghetti alone, hundreds or thousands of kilometres from other sophonts. At first the Hermits were mostly nearbaselines and enhanced dolphins who took nothing but their mobile nanofacs with them and left as little trace on the environment as they could. Over the centuries the movement diversified. The later Hermits took their houses with them - hovercraft, submarines, airships, and omnicraft of all sizes. Some extensively cyborgised themselves with their nanofacs and homes, becoming giant travelling platforms (The Hermits' individualism made this step somewhat difficult, but they achieved it nonetheless). Some Hermits (later called the Rooted) chose to settle down as far away as they could get from anyone else.

Contact between the Wandering Hermits and the few sparsely populated cities and arcologies on Spaghetti, though often held back due the Hermit's wariness of contact, eventually led to a hybrid society - the Tuckerites. The Tuckerites were strongly individualist, but unlike the Hermits formed a complex market based society. The "do it yourself" ethic of the Hermits was partially passed over to the Tuckerites, leading to an odd economy based on a combination of handcrafts and nanofacture. Over time this mutated into a hedonistic philosophy - The Principle of Playful Productivity, which became one of the few philosophical common points of Cableville. Several centuries of development across a fragmented and diverse culture had also created a complex language situation. Embracing this, a number of Tuckerite organisations formed the Spaghetti Institute for Linguistic Play - a large and venerable body which is still extant.

Ouroboros was considerably less individualistic. The earliest culture that came to primacy was that of the Jensanist-inspired Bolos. The Bolos were self-sufficient micro-arcologies containing between 100 and 1000 sophonts, each with its own idiosyncratic culture. Internally the Bolos might be entirely communal, or have varying degrees of individualism. Externally the Bolos variously traded, pooled their resources or remained autarchic. Some Bolos were grouped together in tens or hundreds forming villages, while others spread out into almost complete isolation. Often they used a combination of prim- and ultratech. Rice paddy fields might exist happily alongside advanced bioforges and nanofacs.

Over time some Bolos began experimenting with mental modification to make a benign collective society more efficient. These included increased altruism and empathy,a vastly increased social memory that could track the reputation of thousands of sophonts, and the use of DNI to allow efficent large scale communal decision making. The designers of these modifications, and the participants in the experiments spend decades arguing over the design, tweaking the available variables, and doing small scale tests. Eventually the designers chose eight different modification sets as optimal, and began large scale experimentation. They sent out an invitation asking for participants in a large scale projects. Having received several million responses, they set about constructing eight new cities to house the experimental societies. The plan was set into motion.

50 years later, five of the new societies had either collapsed catastrophically or been willingly dismantled as soon as insurmountable instabilities became evident. One had transformed into a bizarre collective mind society (later termed the Rivermind). The other two, however, were a complete success. The Ouroboros Social Webs, as they came to be known, had grown considerably becoming large and stable societies based around gift economics and anarchist panocracy-adhocracy. The mental modifications easily allowed a standard language, Ouroborean, across all the areas where the Social Webs had penetrated.

The Cableville Renaissance

7200 marked the beginning of a new age for Cableville. Though the cultures on Spaghetti and Ouroboros had been aware of each other for some time, it was in 7200 that they came into contact properly for the first time (HolyDeveloper's abandonment, the sanctions placed on the system by eir creditors and the subsequent exodus of most inhabitants had made space travel considerably difficult for the those remaining). A number of delegate groups from the Social Webs travelled to Spaghetti to establish relations with the Tuckerites. Though quite different, the two societies found much that was valuable in one another and soon cross-topopolis cultural exchange between the Hermits, the Tuckerites, the Bolos, and the Social Webs was in full flow.

A number of things came out of this Renaissance:

- The Ouroboros Sociotects arose from the more radical elements of the Social Webs. They were not content to settle for modifications designed several hundred years earlier, and took to experimenting with a variety of mental modifications and unusual societies. They created a variety of diverse and surreal social forms (not all of them successful) spread throughout Cableville, and ultimately joined the Kalevalists.

-The Rivermind took to alife design. Soon after, this artform became popular and became one of the cornerstones of Cableville's culture.

- A number of individuals in the Social Webs and Sociotects ascended due to their extensive mental modifications, causing a second great leap in cultural and technological advancement, and helping to stabilise the local cultures. As Cableville culture grew in complexity, most of the Bolo inhabitants chose to either join the Social Webs or, following the example of the Hermits, retreat into primitivism and total seclusion. For a while it appeared that the Bolo culture would soon go extinct, but a revival movement later led to a repopulation.

By this time the surrounding systems had begun to sit up and take notice of what was happening with Cableville. The Beamrider stopover installations on Wyrme (administered by Cableville's taciturn owners) were comfortable and pleasant, but little else could be said for them. The cultures on Spaghetti and Ouroboros, however, began to look quite interesting. Soon, potential stopover points for travellers began appearing across the two inner topopoli. Tourists began to trickle in again. There was little actual profit in this, of course - any large income would be intercepted by the transapient owners - but that was not point. By encouraging contact with more travellers and utilising its strategic position as a beamrider hub, Cableville was able to enrich its own culture and advertise itself to the rest of the Butterfly Cluster.

In 7905 the NoCoZo megacorp Dancing Stars - an organisation of S2 transapients - purchased Cableville, paying off the debt that HolyDeveloper had acquired. Dancing Stars took a rather more active interest in Cableville's inhabitants than its previous owners and immediately began consultations with the locals on how best to develop the system. Over the next century, ey purchased a wormhole to the Relay Thorn12 and began advertising on the Known Net. Wyrme was mostly uninhabited, and there were large portions of Ouroboros that were sparsely populated. These were perfect for aspiring megastructural landscapers and ecotects. An agreement between Dancing Stars and agents of Chesed led to a number of angelnetted paradises being constructed for some of the more independent Utopese Citizens. Other cultures have also joined Cableville, including a sizable Mycosmid node linked into the local net. Elsewhere, rather than standard Angelnets, Dancing Stars constructed millions of Friend Chambers throughout the Topopoli. These could be used at the discretion of the population. In some places they are used extensively, elsewhere they are ignored.

In 8200, after eir projects were finished, Dancing Stars sold off the rest of eir assets in the NoCoZo and disincorporated, moving all of eir operations to Cableville. Then, together with most of the S1 transapients in the system, they merged their minds and ascended, becoming the S3 entity Ultrafun Playling. Ultrafun now resides in a moon node orbiting at 1AU from Zhuangzi with subsidiary local nodes spread through the topopoli. Though formally independent, Cableville is nominally aligned with the MPA and the Utopia Sphere.

Cableville got off quite lightly in the Oracle War. Some lengths of Ouroboros were occupied by the Mystery Cult. However, Ultrafun intervened before any large scale war could take place, and was among the earliest system overseers to request assistance from Keterist archai in deprogramming. Later, when full interstellar war broke out, the Cableville topopoli, like many other MPA megastructures, were converted into phased array lasers and took part in the defence of the Butterfly Cluster from the Joy Bringer fleets.

Notable Locations

The Dark is a segment of Spaghetti where the central light diffuser is absent for 100,000 kilometers; this region is increasing in extent over time. While this poses no significant problem to most sophonts there are rumours (mostly among nearbaselines who have visited it) of weird goings-on in the area.

Naentopf Plains consists of a million square kilometers of grasslands in Ouroboros that are home to around ten thousand mobile Bolos - Fullairs and gliders riding artificial thermals in the sky, and rolling, walking, hovering, or crawling structures on the ground.

The Steps are a section of Wyrme where the habitation layers of the topopolis are open to one another. Features include a multilevel ecosystem, giant cliffs, ten kilometre high waterfalls, hanging structures and plants, and a complex weather system as air falls down to the lowest layers and is pumped back up again by peristalsis trees.

Zhuangzi Orwoods are a cluster of Dyson trees (along with some other space habitats) orbiting within Spaghetti. The orwoods actually predate Cableville - the older trees were one of the original VCCE habitats. When the rotating habitats were incorporated into Spaghetti, the orwoods moved to an orbit where the topopolis would be constructed around them.

Cableville 2
Image from Steve Bowers
Wyrme, Ouroborous and Spaghetti as seen from outside the system

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Development Notes
Text by Liam Jones
additions by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 20 August 2008.

Inspired by Larry Niven's essay 'Bigger Than Worlds', 1974.
Additional Information
Fiction featuring Cableville

From the Shadows