Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Shén -Transporter Wars

At first the Shén were neutral to man, but they soon determined that if they remained passive, the aggressive human worlds would expand and envelop their region and stiffly resisted human attempts to push them off. A series of small engagements resulted, and both sides suffered losses.

Eventually men and Shén came to realise that this was a fruitless enterprise—the logistics of interstellar war are too difficult to make it profitable—and the Treaty of T’kru (the Shén world capital) was signed. Trade developed, and mutual respect also came into being. Although ferocious in battle, the Shén had never been needlessly cruel—and fortunately at this time in human history the forces fighting the Shén were followers of the Transporters, a highly moralistic, authoritarian, almost prudish sect. Neither side thus committed atrocities, and peace came easily once war was done.

from the Splendour of Shényu by M.A.R. Barker

Transporters? It seems likely that the Transporters were a human faction or pocket empire in the Beyond at the fringes of Shén space. Why were they known as the Transporters? Perhaps they were attempting to transport something or someone (themselves, a substance, an entity, a star, an ancient device?) through the Shén Star Empire toward the Galactic Core. Or...were they known as the Transporters because they had the power to transport? Or....

Any ideas? 


  1. Perhaps by "transport" they mean to evangelize: "transporting" their faith to the stars.

  2. Before they were known as the Transporters, members of this sect was called the Travellers. Some scholars suggest this name was the abbreviation of the longer name for some sort of mutual-aid group, the Travellers' Aid Society, whose origin is lost in the mists of pre-history.

  3. My first thought was an army of Jason Statham clones.

    Upon reflection, however, it sounds like some sort of religious sect. Though why would the humans only have a single religous sect fighting their interstellar war? That sounds like something that would require the full mobilization of multiple worlds.

    Maybe its the human-space equivalent of the Spacing Guild?

    Ed Green

  4. @School Master I considered this the most likely interpretation of Prof. Barker's intent. Evidently there is an passage in the Qur´an that references al na´qala-tul-lah, meaning the she-camel or transporter of Allah. As I understand it, the idea that extreme hardship, sacrifice, and faith are required to be a transporter.

    @Desert Scribe They were clearly in the region placing red zone beacons in orbit around Tekumel, Dorsum, and Pelagus...

    @edowar39 That may have been my first thought too...

    Prof. Barker definitely identifies the Transporters as a sect...they must have been an extremely powerful religious group...

  5. 'Sect' does not necessarily imply a religious cult - as someone who is (by American standards) on the far left politically I've belonged to multiple sects dedicated to various interpretations of Marxism - and we freely use sect (or more damningly 'micro-sect') to describe each other.

    And 'sectarian' is used quite commonly to describe political activities that you happen to disagree with.

    And religious cults are generally not noted for fighting wars without atrocities and easily coming to terms with their enemies.

    So I'd also suggest something similar to the Spacing Guild as well - an organisation which has gained a quasi-monopoly of interstellar transport in at least part of Humanspace and over thousands of years of years become hierarchical, reactionary and dogmatic.

    In terms of what they transported clearly it was primarily humans - the problem is that humans are aggressively expanding into Shen space and this suggests to me great Seedships full of frozen or stasis-bound colonists and of the massive engines needed to terraform new worlds.

  6. @Leviathan Ultimately, you are correct, that the term sect does not necessarily imply a religious group in modern usage; however in the given context, a text written by M.A.R. Barker in the mid 1970s and possibly based on ideas formulated earlier in the 20th century, I find it likely that a religious implication is present.

    Also, Prof. Barker, as a Muslim, may not be quite as fatalistic in his view of the capacity of religious groups to war without atrocity as you or I (for the record I'm a devout atheist and a lefty too...).

    This is something to think about. My assumption that the Transporters were a religious group may have led to a an inflation in my mind of the importance of religion in Humanspace. I don't believe there are many canonical scraps to look to for guidance here...

    Again, considering the source, I would expect Humanspace to tend toward religiosity (think Dune or Faded Suns) rather than near atheism of, for example, Traveller...


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