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Described as "a space opera for troubled times," The Aetherverse is set several millennia in the future, in a dystopian Milky Way galaxy controlled by the dysfunctional, corrupt Interstellar Convergency. The plot focuses on the dangerous involvement of mega-corporations in government, and the ideological hegemony of the Albian Banking Advancement Conglomerate (ABAC), the galaxy's de facto central bank and propagator of oppressive, failed political policy.
The novel can be described as a satire of modern American politics and society, presenting a number of parody characters bearing resemblance to real-life political figures, and addressing major current events, including the rise of socialism in the United States and the increased prominence of religious extremism.
The novel is prefaced by Aethertales, a series of independent novelettes in four volumes: Warriors of Vega, Bordello della Libertà, A Swarm of Locusts, and A Red Earth Rises, all of which provide a context for the plot and themes of The Aetherverse.
Far into the future in the year 2869 Æx., humanity has settled most of the known galaxy, establishing vast eparchies spanning the Outer Rim to the Deep Core. The majority of these states are members of the Interstellar Convergency, an intergovernmental organization and political-economic union established for the promotion of pan-galactic cooperation and unity. The Convergency functions through a complex set of institutions on a supranational level, operating as a monstrous, inept bureaucracy. The major economic and political power in the Convergency is the highly libertarian League of Arterra, a powerful defense and trade alliance. The League, led by the United Colonies of Acadia, are opposed by the corporatist conglomerate ABAC, which has established itself as the Convergency's de facto central bank, and is the union of collectivist and welfare state interests. This has led to an ideological conflict that threatens to collapse the Convergency from within.
The galactic economy is built on the scarcity of aetherium, a naturally occurring element and only known fuel source for faster-than-light travel. The League of Arterra and its allies universally use an aetherium standard for their currencies, while their opponents do not, rendering the Convergent lira virtually worthless. Aetherium is essential for galactic trade, as it permits entry into the Aether, or Aetherspace, a normally inaccessible pocket of reality in which known physics do not apply; the Aether contains a web of tachyon veins along which spacecraft may travel in currents of high-energy particles. As part of a massive conspiracy, ABAC seeks to seize complete control over the Aether, so that it might become the Convergency's most formidable political and military force.
The Convergent Congress, consisting of Parliament, the Senate, and the Executive Council, is an arena for two major ideological factions: the minarchist objectivist, and corporatist collectivists. There are, however, some unaffiliated or neutral parties.
Championed by the League of Arterra and the United Colonies of Acadia in particular, the minarchist objectivists represent capitalist, individualist ideals. The minarchist objectivist ideology emphasizes the rights and freedoms of the individual and the innate sovereignty over one's own existence without the forced obligation to support and improve the lives of others. It is admittedly inspired by the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand.
Notable minarchist objectivist states
- League of Arterra
- Bhalenjar, a Caspian planet that serves as the seat of the Interstellar Convergency.
- H'jan, a sentient, genetically engineered race renowned for their scientific inquiry and technological advancements.
- Crystallines, a silicon-based species known for their extensive mining industry.
Led by ABAC and its corporate allies, the corporatist collectivists are a statist, authoritarian faction in support of a far-reaching, centralized government and personal dependence on the state. The corporatist collectivist ideology is centered around a vision of totalitarian government and the welfare state, as well as a concept of institutionalized, false altruism.
Notable corporatist collectivist political entities
- Albian Banking Advancement Conglomerate (ABAC)
- Academic Truth and Eliminating Dissent Organization (ATEDO), an institution advocating the censorship of all academic materials that contradict the revisionist history promoted by the corporatist collectivists.
- Communal Entitlement Recipients' Organization (CERO), an organization advocating the rights of the "Children of the Dole" (the left-wing population that receives its livelihood through the rapidly expanding welfare state).
- Convergency Ameliorated Legal Union (CALU)
- Council for Interstellar Shatarin-Related Affairs (CISRA)
- Politically Correct Broadcasting Company (PCBC)
- Gottia, a Caspian system-state.
- Shatarin Empire, a theocratic, warmongering state in the Outer Rim.
- Tellurian Imperium, a polytheistic Inner Rim empire considered to be in financial bondage to ABAC.
- Natharis Ruke, a Colonial marshal investigating a breakout from a high-security corrections facility.
- Livia Nettunaya, a temple harlot undertaking a sacred pilgrimage to Earth.
- Selenia Santiago, a Mithneshi priestess and shepherd of the destitute.
- Selas Smyth, a member of the spacefaring Gameer in search of a permanent home.
- Desh Maru, the Colonial representative on the Convergent Executive Council.
- Tageron Dagonari, a Caspian business owner and entrepreneur.
- Pentakiya Curicon, an Albian physicist working for ABAC.
- Ninotchka Voronova, a Muscovian ZGB operative pursuing a wanted fugitive.
- Silviano Martizo, a Tellurian temple prostitute accompanying Livia Nettunaya on the sacred pilgrimage.
- Artimpasa Curicon, Caspian wife of ABAC scientist Pentakiya Curicon and objectivist academic.
- Brock Dunham, ABAC's corrupt executive councilman and aspiring dictator.
- Panzi Illoszia, the fanatical Lord of Parliament and personal political protégée of Executive Dunham.
- Sir Byron Clay, the Britannic representative on the Executive Council.
- Mireille Leveque, the Federated Republic of Gallia's executive councilwoman.
- Oksana Molotova, the Muscovian executive councilwoman and military leader.