I've been working my way through C.J. Cherryh's Alliance-Union stories for a few years: in part because I've not been reading as much, in part because some of these stories are a bit hard to get into and only available in paper books, but mostly because I've been hording them. These are incredibly me-type stories, and I've found them really inspiring. I've 'wanted to collect a number of things about these stories and world that I'm quite excited by:
- I really like that it's all so concrete: Cherryh's talked about designing the stories by taking a star chart and drawing out the "map" on stars that are near to Earth. This makes the setting feel both really big, because stars are far apart and also quite small, because there are really a small selection of planets and they're pretty close in relative terms, so it's
- I enjoy the ways that it's a product of its historic moment. The medium of information storage is "tape", and I think if someone was writing this today, there'd be more planets, say. Similarly, While there are computers, the way characters interact with technology is much less ubiquitous and networked.
- The scarcity of planets, and the cost of getting out of a gravity well creates these interesting economic effects which drive a lot of tension in the stories. I enjoy that Earth exists, but that most of the people on Earth are very disconnected from what happens in the world of the stores (either by distance before FTL, or by isolationism.)
- While there is FTL travel, it doesn't 100% throw relativistic effects out of the window, so "ship time" and "station/planet" time (and lives!) move at different paces, and the stories explore the impact of this on culture/society/economics/lives. FTL is also hard on the people who travel this way, so while many of the characters we interact with are spacers it's clear that they're a minority. Also, there aren't ways for messages to pass faster than ships, which has the effect of making the world seem small at the same time.
- These elements of the setting (distance between stars, limited goods from planets, cost of travel, etc) feed back into the imagined economics of the society, with lots of interesting thoughts about taxation policy, and what we'd call "local economies/currency" these days.
Anyway, I read a few dozen pages of the last of the "mainline" Alliance-Union book in my queue (Tripoint). I'm thinking about going back and re-reading Downbelow Station (the first I read) and Cyteen (because I love it), but also am going to enjoy reading other things for a while.