Used Spaceship for Sale: missing Szyxcnik rotor Qewst engine

Or something like that.

I was car shopping a while back, and had joked on Facebook that hundreds of years in the future, not much would have changed about the process, only how DO you test-drive a starship? I mean, if you hit foldspace and just… Disappear into a cloud of scintillating dust, the used ship salesman will just tuck your stack of credits deeper in his pocket and turn his attention along with Brillo-Ray enhanced smile onto the next suckers in line.

Of course, the fact that I was shopping on a very small cash budget which limited me from even having to deal with Smarm, the purple alien dude, you know, the one with the tentacles on his upper lip? Anyway, that meant I was dealing with the jokers who advertised a car at one price, knocked a grand off it when I showed up to drive it, then when I got back from the test drive, had another guy there, who informed me he was selling the car for his dear old Auntie. Then he offered to call a friend who was a notary, as I’m looking at the name and feminine signature on the title, and cocking an eyebrow at the wall of testosterone in front of me. No, he wasn’t willing to meet me at the BMV to have it notarized, or at my bank… I’m not sure how I got away with a straight face, but the dude was quite disappointed when I texted him later saying my husband wouldn’t let me buy that car. Handy thing, that husband card. Playable even when not married, if you’re dealing with strangers.

But I am married. Married with kids, which is why up until yesterday we were house hunting. I was reminded of the scenes in Rolling Stones (the Heinlein book, not the band!) where the family was checking out the ships. In that future, like the one I’m working on for my nascent Tanager series, house shopping and vehicle and storage and trailer are all wrapped up into one package deal. Which has pros and cons if you think about it. I drove home yesterday towing a trailer for the first time in my life. It was a little bitty trailer, but no one died, so achievement unlocked – and it got me thinking. What happens to people like us in the future?

I’m not a big believer in the post-scarcity world of Star Trek, where everyone is happy with a cubicle in a ship, no windows, no choices (unless you are the Captain and even he got orders although following them was not his strong suit). Where are the tinkers, the tailors, the peddlers? The roving ship like the Serenity, carrying what cargo it can and making ends meet with a budget and a plan? The Rolling Stones, meeting new friends and working hard to feed the family?

I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of people like me, like my family, who work hard, earn our way up, and sometimes have to go car – er – ship shopping on the cheap. And I’m betting that shade-tree mechanics will morph into dark-side of the asteroid garages, long after the origin of ‘garage’ is lost in the mists of the Milky Way.

But to go back a bit, when we were looking at houses we weren’t necessarily looking for what the ‘average’ (you know, normal is just the high point on the gaussian curve. Us, the Odds, we’re on that steep slope off to the side, slipping happily down shouting Wheee! As we go) people want in a house. We need room for books. But not a TV, because we don’t own one. We want a big kitchen and space in the dining room for a table we can game on. We eyeball the windows and think about the light coming in, in terms of lighting for photography and art. And we do the normal stuff, too, like wanting a place in the country rather than in town, and googling to find out how close the local library is… Oh, well, maybe not that last. I mean, I do, but I can’t speak for normal.

All this is fun to think about in terms of story. Regular folks, making their way in life, and the plans they make to keep house and hearth warm. Then, we throw rocks at them, metaphorically, as authors. What happens when you scrimp and save and put down a deposit on that spaceship, only to have the broker disappear? What happens if a war breaks out and soldiers are quartered on your ship? Or if alien fungus starts spreading and you’re under quarantine?

I’ve got to do something to distract myself from the prospect of packing and moving, after all.


    1. We’re renting until I’m solidly settled into a job after graduation. Then we’ll do it again, only that time with an eye to buy. We needed a place that was big enough for the kids while we get through this transition.

  1. Or your family spaceship is the only ship with the “muscle” in the right time/place to rescue a passenger ship and you earlier signed an agreement with the people you suspected caused the “accident” to the passenger ship.

    [Reference to Jerry Pournelle’s “Tinker”] πŸ˜‰

  2. What happens when you scrimp and save and put down a deposit on that spaceship, only to have the broker disappear?

    Charles Ingalls type, real version: Sighs and does what most would: try something else to make the best out of a bad situation.

    Charles Ingalls type, NBC version: Assures his family everything will be fine, then takes a dangerous job to make back the money.

    Teddy Roosevelt type: Goes off looking for him because you don’t rip off a Teddy Roosevelt type. Ever. Brings him back to the authorities.

    John Wayne type: Goes off looking for him because you don’t rip off a John Wayne type, either. Brings him back to the authorities only if he feels like it.

    Seinfield type: Goes around complaining “Have you ever put down a deposit on a starship and had the guy skip out? What’s up with that?”

  3. “Where are the tinkers, the tailors, the peddlers? The roving ship like the Serenity, carrying what cargo it can and making ends meet with a budget and a plan? The Rolling Stones, meeting new friends and working hard to feed the family?”

    Paging Cyrano Jones.
    Paging Harry Mudd…

    1. I think their ears were forcibly enlarged, their teeth were filed into points, and they were denied orthodontia.

            1. “Mudd’s Women” was probably the closest that ST ever got to good “cerebral” science fiction. Roddenberry wrote the story – but you would almost swear that Rod Serling did it instead.

    2. Semi-seriously, I get the impression that Gene’s original idea precluded them. The *Enterprise*(tm) was supposed to be a typical upper-end starship–more speed and firepower, but not orders of magnitude bigger or more expensive.

      Which is to say, REAL ships were beyond any merely private ownership. Cargo shipping was a service of your Benevolent Government.

      Then somebody came up with “Mudd’s Women,” and the tone of the place went down so bad… πŸ™„

    3. ST:TNG season 2, I think Ep. 4: The Outrageous Okona
      Character is caught between two planets – one demanding her return the Crown Jewels, the other demanding he marry the Crown Princess – who is pregnant. And Picard has to decide where the truth is.

  4. For a while I moved every year and a half (ah, the pilot’s life) or so, and I ended up “box ranching.” I collected really, really good cardboard boxes and kept them under the bed. Some of those boxes made 6-7 moves before giving up the ghost. because once you find a box that is just right for packing X, you never, ever want to let go of the box. You’ll never find another one. πŸ™‚

    And I got really good at packing. Just my stuff, mind, and if you pack books and label the boxes as “heavy,” you might want to warn the movers that you lift weights. The guys thought I was joking, because I’m just a petite woman. Then they saw the weight set in the next room.

    1. I tend to look for boxes – liquor boxes are perfect – that can be filled with books and not break backs. I’m hoping we don’t have to move far, this move is only a few miles and we can make it a slow move since we own this house and aren’t planning to sell soon.

      1. Printer paper boxes. Paper being paper, they’re about perfect for books. Check with your university’s IT department. Since you’re moving mid-semester they can probably oblige.

          1. You won’t get them for free, but Em and I always use bankers boxes for books. Standard size and they hold up reasonably well under stacking.

            1. My favorite boxes for paperback books are Totino’s Pizza cases. You can put paperbacks in upright and get two rows in it. The fun part is in finding a store that sells Totino’s in sufficient quantities to get enough. Wal*Marts usually although if you watch sales flyers other stores might have major quantities on Saturday night.

  5. Moving is an acquired taste, like Hungarian pear brandy or retsina. If I ever move it is a house full of furniture, hundreds of shelf feet of books, close to two dozen filing four-drawer filing cabinets, and five and a half thousand board wargames. And there is one of me to do the packing.

    1. we are moving out of an owned space that is very, very small, into a rented space that is large enough we’re not going to trip over one another when we turn around. After a while of that, and depending on where my work takes me/his work takes him, we’ll buy. But there’s a transition period and it makes no sense to buy now.

    1. Never forget that with Enterprise you’re dealing with a universe retconned after Gene’s original vision was proven unworkable.

      1. And the Boomers were the new writers’ answer to the quite reasonable question: What do you DO with a ship that takes a year to get to Alpha Centauri?

        Answer: You treat it like a town.

        So they stole the Free Traders from Heinlein and went on.

  6. > We need room for books. But not a TV, because we don’t own one.

    That puts you so far out of the “normal” demographic that you might as well be living in a mud hut and eating bugs. I’ve talked to people who believed not owning a television was actionable as child abuse, and others that simply refused to believe a household could lack even *one* TV.

    You don’t even have to write science fiction to describe a household that’s alien to most of your readership…

    1. At least now that TVs are thin, the huge TV consoles are no longer a design feature in houses. I’m not sure what people will do with those huge built-in caverns (there were some McMansion style houses that “featured” huge niches that aren’t good for much of ANYTHING but a TV console. Maybe you could built in a double-layered bookshelf…)

    2. Well … we have a TV, but it’s just a monitor for the DVD player/PC. Gave up cable 16 yrs ago, haven’t had time to watch regular programming since. (OTOH, we read novels to each other…)

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