Pan Urban City Planning: 1 – The IMTel Nations

Wayne Clayton's Urban Planning 1

Wayne Clayton put a number of posts up on the Antares IMTel Facebook group related to thinking about Antarean cities and how they might look. The intention was to encourage terrain building for urban conflicts: what does each faction’s buildings look like? Whilst not canon, they do form a really good framework for thinking about such modelling.

The musing that follow started out life as just that, musings,  therefore in some places these thoughts have drifted a little from the beaten track as far as the official guides go. Tim Bancroft kindly came to my rescue to correct my course, saving me from ploughing head first into the nearest supernova at full tilt. So some part have been amended and others expanded upon from the original text so as not to confuse the Antarian traveller.

Imagine presenting an alien with a model of a Sherman tank and asking him to recreate 1940’s America, New York City and its people and their transport system in perfect detail? An almost impossible task, but that is the task any budding Gates of Antares terrain builder finds themselves facing every day. This series of articles is intended to provide some reasonable background, a framework, if you will to help inspire and guide such terrain building.

Wayne Clayton

City Planning and Society: The PanHuman Concord

We are of course given clues to the task with some of the technology breakthroughs, such as Transmats, Drones, Suspensors and Compactors, plus we can’t forget the IMTel. As it is this very machine that has shaped the whole of PanHuman Concord society. But what does that actually look like, away from the battlefield?

In a Facebook post someone asked the question ‘…are there any roads in GOA?’ Given the use of suspensors on vehicles it is indeed a question to be asked. Should we imagine a Fifth Element, or Blade Runner vision of flying cars and aerial traffic jams? I think not. The reason being as Rick Priestley himself put it: the Concord is akin to a near perfect ‘Socialist Utopia’. In such a socialist utopia, the notion of individuals owning their own means of transport doesn’t ring true. Indeed, it seems even more unlikely when the vehicles themselves are intelligent enough to operate without the need of a human at the wheel.

It certainly easy to imagine drone vehicles inheriting the skies, going about their business with IMTel precision, but one would expect the cities of this PanHuman society to be connected by more communal modes of transport, perhaps the monorails, bullet trains and travelators of classic science fiction. Transmats may well be firmly integrated within the homes and workplaces of its citizens, allowing for more free form styles of architecture, banishing the need for stairs, but they seem limited when faced with movements of large groups of people. Just where the citizens of such cities would travel to en masse is another question? In a machine run society what work is left for the human to do?

Indeed in such a world what past times would a machine intelligence think suitable to occupy idle hands? Let us not forget that IMTel is not like other machines. Its programmed purpose is to protect and serve its citizens. Although, it is true part of that programming is geared to assimilate other worlds and bring order to their chaos, however, it is not the Borg, nor does it wish to create an army of Cybermen: it wants its citizens to be content and happy (the impossible dream of any society).

Therefore, one must imagine that the cities of the Concord worlds would shy away from the grey brutalistic concrete visions of a totalitarian state. One would tend rather to envision the blueprints of the garden cities of the 1920’s planners, each city laid out into separate zones of activity. Industrial zones at the heart of the city and its citizens commuting into it from the suburban fringes, rows of identical tower blocks, or 50’s model homes with perfect Stepford lawns with easy access to the centre via the communal transport systems through green belts of public parks, open plazas, no waste and no litter, past the building set aside for its citizens entertainments & sporting pastimes. Beyond that is the countryside, factory farms ripe with the fruits of IMTel’s labours to feed its people.

A socialist utopia indeed, but what of its cultural concepts? What kind of design aesthetic could IMTel possess? In an equal society they would be no need for monuments to fallen heroes, or imperial rulers. Buildings designed by machines would be unlikely to follow the baroque, or gothic flourishes of more barbarian worlds. Form and function would be key. Even the colour pallet would be calculated to the nth degree in order to ‘please’ the citizens. The food too would be tailored to provide the correct nutrition and taste requirements, no more, no less. Every citizen’s diet would be standardized too, with no excess fat. Perhaps public displays of group exercise would be a common sight from the windows of the monorails.

Of course in an equal society people often ponder on what happens to human ambition and aspiration. Here IMTel decides all, the algorithms of the individual citizen never lie, and IMTel will pick you from the masses and provide you with the new home and luxury items to match your new status. And what about relationships? IMTel will be the ultimate matchmaker no doubt as it never makes mistakes. Plus the new citizens produced (when required, to fill in skill gaps and recent vacancies in cities population) will have the finest education and prospects. Although, whether the citizens would be aware of any of these events taking place might be debatable.

But as much as its citizens would be influenced by the machines concept of what it believed was good for the people, one must not forget that when integrating new worlds the process may well be reversed. The cultural past of those societies would not be swept aside if it was deemed useful as the need to explore and assimilate new technologies is at the heart of the IMTel programming. Once IMTel takes root on a new world it’s people may well forget their attachments to any local deities, or pre-shard notions of nationhood, but the architecture and traditions of building with locally found materials would remain intact, albeit adapted through the filter of the new Concord IMTel. Any new cities built may well mirror that of the original Concord homeworld, but it will be blended with elements of the old pre-Concord culture, thus retaining that worlds individuality in the early stages of the new Concord Shard contact, the old butting against the new. Over time the constantly changing fusion of information, from not only that world but others too would all feed back into the Concord and result in constantly updated instruction for city building, in the same way computer updates and patches operate today.   

The adaptability of PanHumans to survive in environments outside the confines of their original home worlds is matched by the IMTel’s need to expand its zone of influence. Planets, moons and asteroids will also be called home by the Concord citizens and such homes will be shaped by those hostile environments. One imagines sealed domes, underground complexes, cities floating on alien seas, or even set adrift in the skies of vast gas giants with the aid of supersized suspensor engines. Even open space will have its man made islands in the void under the IMTel’s watchful eyes.

In conclusion one must acknowledge that in such an ordered society, the city will be equally ordered, roads will indeed still exist and flat, even surfaces will still be required for ease of transport, whether on foot or suspensored above it. The same cannot be said for those other inhabitants of Antarian space, who for some reason seem resistant to the IMTel’s universal vision of harmonious urban living.

The Isorian Senatex

The separation of just the  Isorian and Concord  IMTels  will have resulted in some subtle changes over the aeons, but the influence of the Tsan Kiri integration will have made the changes even more marked. Nonetheless, it is still an IMTel society.

So what influence would this have over the cities of the Isorian Senatex. For a start the most obvious change would be the architectural design of its structures. The bio-silicon technology would give the whole city a more organic look. Appearing to be more grown that manufactured by machine, some aspects would appear to be wholly decorative rather than functional (something no Concord IMTel would create) or might be of some function only a Tsan from a thousand years ago would recognise.

Another change would be found at the heart of the city. Here would be seen a great towering dome, home to those who make up the local Senatex. It’s surface would be punctured by great roundels of coloured glass, aping the lenses of their armour. Creating shafts of coloured light inside, more art deco aquarium than gothic cathedral. But this would be no display of power only a subliminal echo of its function in society. The Isorian Shard and the cities Senatex would bubble up out of the surrounding structures like a blister under a magnifying glass, so too would other buildings of importance. Such as those dealing with decoding the latest scientific discoveries found on new worlds.

It may be surprising to note that the layout of the city may well mirror the blueprints of any of those of Concord society with a few notable exceptions. The first of those one would expect would be the location of the cities themselves. Due to the Tsan influence they would be located in the more wilder places, not on great flat plains, but in the shadow of great mountains, on the floors of vast meteor impact craters, or even appearing to tumble into alien seas like Icelandic lava flows, scenery in which the alien part of the Isori would feel more at home.

Another change would be the need to feel enclosed, surround by a shell, also echoing the armour of its armies. The open areas of Concord cities would be encased, the highways and gardens would be capped by arches and rib like structures, allowing light in but not entirely open to the skies. Also one might note this need may in fact account for a willingness in some individuals to replace their soft flesh with the more shell like bodies of Isorian drones!

The Tsan undercurrents may well affect the entertainments of its citizens. Concert halls vibrating to the sound of strange discordant music and soothing light shows. The muscle memory of an excess of limbs might reveal itself in ‘experimental dance’ like movements on the exercise grounds. One gets the feeling the Isorian citizens would be more tactile, even ‘touchy-feely’, and might invade your personal space more than other civilisations, even with the logical coldness of the Isorian IMTel at work. Indeed the internal clock of the Isorian society might be out of kilter with those of Concord. They might find the twilight hours more to their suiting for the working day to begin. And we can’t forget about the altered diet of its people: a Concord visitor may well turn his, or hers nose up at any dish presented before them as, in some cases, it might prove a little too rare and lively to be enjoyed!

To return to the city at large another visible change would be how the city will match its surrounding in colour, like a chameleon it will blend into the landscape, taking on the natural colour of the rocks, even if not made of the same material.

Like the cities of Concord there would be very little evidence seen of defensive structures, those would be confined to areas well away from the cities as in our societies. The spaceports would also lay on the fringes serving orbital space stations, welcoming visitors and Freeborn traders alike. Both the Concord and Isorian IMTel share a confident belief in their own strength to resist or assimilate intruders long before they reach their home worlds and before a shot is even fired.

By Wayne Clayton

Continued in Part 2 – The Freeborn and Boromites

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