History and Politics

Do these stories take place in “our” universe?

The short answer is, no. The Starmasters arose in a universe where psionics became reproducibly useful. This situation allows me to explore what might have happened if the charismatic communities like the one in which I spent my teen-age years became mainstream, along with the New Age healing movements, like therapeutic touch and reiki.

Where do the two universes diverge?

The sharpest divergence is with the 1980 election. Reagan wins in the Starmasters universe, but Jerry Falwell fails to gain the prominence he had in our universe. Thus, Reagan’s landslide is not as complete. The second divergence is that in the Starmasters universe, the Challenger had a near disaster but didn't blow up. NASA was persuaded to embark on a more sustainable shuttle program, and the space effort proceeded much more vigorously than it did in our universe.

What lottery did MaryEllin Holmes win?

She won a ride as a test passenger on the first tourist shuttle to be sent into orbit. Such shuttles still served scientists, so the experiment that sent the shuttle off to Alpha Centauri was aboard, along with the mission specialist required to run it.

How were Starmasters recruited in the beginning?

There was the scientific method, which involved a genome-wide association study of the variations associated with Starmastery, which was only moderately successful. Eventually, the aura-seers got into the act and became the primary recruiters of Starmaster candidates. Beth Kramer was found genetically first and then confirmed by aura-seeing.

How did the Sodality arise?

In a world weary of asymmetrical warfare and mass shootings, gifted people who could predict or prevent these events by use of their gifts became very valuable. Eventually, the right to telepathic probing at trial was enshrined, and the result was a decrease in terrorist attacks and mass shootings that was good enough that the public allowed judicial telepathic probing to continue.

Who are the Councilors and the Ethical Arbiters

As the number of colony worlds grew, a need arose for two groups of people to become cultural “glue.” One was a group of troubleshooters who eventually held the power of life over the people and, in groups, over themselves. The other was a group of people who, when exceptions to the rule of law seemed desirable, could judge whether these exceptions were in fact ethical.

Legal and Laws

What sparked the development of the Kramer Convention?

Two events. First, Beth Kramer killed a crew member by moving her ship when he was outside it. This act caused outrage among the spacer community and necessitated the imposition of an appropriate censure on Beth, who, like any Starmaster, could not be grounded. The second event involved a technology transfer between humanity and a non-Starmaster-bearing race in search of habitable worlds to colonize. Beth agreed to find five worlds for them in return for the gravity-manipulation technology that allowed ships to have their own internal gravity. The contract she outlined with this race became the outline for the conditions of alien service that form the second major bulwark of the Convention. In concept, the Kramer Convention has the spirit of its predecessor, the Geneva Convention

What are the Vocation laws?

The vocation laws are a set of Imperial rules intended to protect the employment rights of people whose physical or mental constraints limit the jobs they can reasonably undertake. In addition, they protect autistics with perseverant interests which rise to the level of a “practice” to forgo treatment that might negatively affect their practice of that interest. The original precedent was set in case law by Erania, a woman who, though seriously autistic, could judge the quality and type of any seed or other inert stage of anything that could be called a “plant.” Erania was allowed, at her request, to remain autistic so that she could continue in this work.


How is the Starmaster ability inherited?

It is a complex quantitative trait involving several component phenotypes whose measurement is somewhat straightforward but whose biology remains obscure. Clearly, traits such as pattern recognition skill, directed focus or attention, and intuitive creativity all play a part. In addition, kinetic, artistic and musical aptitude are strongly associated with the more skilled Starmasters.

Why is the maternal line so important to Starmasters?

One of the major activation factors involved in Starmastery is inherited mitochondrially. It can pass from mother to both daughters and sons, but does not pass from the father to his descendants. Thus, in “Mother,” Sabra, herself a Starmaster, conceives a child by a man known to carry multiple component phenotypes of Starmastery hoping that the resulting child will herself be a Starmaster. Both Caryssa’s father and her surrogate mother are paid handsomely for their participation in this scheme. Such arrangements are an accepted norm of Sodality culture and embraced by all involved.

Teaching and Training

With each pilot having a flight cycle, how does flight instruction work?

With difficulty. Using a training ship, which allows instructor and student to share the visualization of the Beyond, isn’t sufficient to satisfy flight need. So an instructor will take periodic solo flights to satisfy his need and keep up his ratings. Instructors drafted to training duty eventually tire under this stress. Jai Patrik More of “A Man Called Twenty–three” was the first instructor for whom this was not true

At what point are Starmaster recruits sent through basic training?

Any recruit discovered to have the Starmaster talent is sent to flight school first, where he or she remains until the flight rhythm is established and some groundside balance is determined. Only then can the basic training objectives of a Starmaster be achieved.

What's the Gauntlet?

The Gauntlet consists of 27 randomly drawn Jumps, nine per series, with a one-cycle stay between each set of three Jumps. Three service flights are completed between each series of nine Jumps. At the end of each Jump, the candidate takes his or her registration chip to the portmaster's office and exchanges it for another. The isolation and endurance requirements of the Gauntlet make it lonely and exhausting—and expensive

What are the objectives of basic training for a Starmaster?

There were three:

  1. Determination of flight parameters

    The military needs to know how long they have to find and rescue a Starmaster before intelligence is considered compromised. The first thing an enemy would do to a captive Starmaster was run out the flight clock.

  2. Teach them the entire Kramer Convention

    This teaching is ruthlessly enforced, with demerits and punishment inflicted every time the trainee fails to recite a section properly. The idea is that any Starmaster sent to the losing side as part of war reparations will know his or her rights right down to the bone.

  3. Ship-finding

    Starmasters are notorious for losing their orientation on the ground near the end of their flight cycles. The Navy's thought was that a few good long marches with the Starmaster leading would help this problem...

Career Path and Vocations

What career paths were available to the Starmasters?

Starmasters serve in both the civilian merchant service and the Navy. In general, the Navy offers a wider variety of flight opportunities, and most Starmasters spend at least part of their careers in military service. In merchant service, Starmasters are both employees of freight companies and owner-operators.

What's the difference between a Starmaster and a star pilot?

All pilots who can use the Schmidt-Kokorov drive start out as star pilots. About 1 in 1000 star pilots have the ability to see into the higher dimensions of the Beyond. These pilots form a middle tier of flight professionals, with ratings such as “blind jaunt” that make them faster and more efficient than their more casual counterparts.

Of the middle tier of pilots, one in 1000 have the native talent and perseverance to become Starmasters. Once a pilot becomes a Starmaster, he or she must either fly at that elite level a certain percentage of the time or do a mini-Gauntlet. As a practical matter, most Starmasters manage to keep their rating current by choosing the right service.

Who serves under the Kramer Convention?

Star pilots of the low and middle tier can serve under the Convention if they need to do so for health reasons. Only the Starmasters, though, have the full privilege and burden of Convention service. They are required to maintain as many flight skills as they can If there was a war, the Kramerite Starmasters would be called upon to replace lost Starmasters on the losing side as part of war reparations. Such service lasts 30 years, approximately 1/5 of an average adult life under rejuvenation.

Because of their unique ability to find habitable planets quickly, Starmasters' flight time is divided and sold as securities, there to become the basis for Galactic exchange. Thus, a middle tier star pilot with superb talent and special needs is encouraged if at all possible to pass the Gauntlet.

In the time of “Sojourner” and the other stories that take place in the same time frame, extreme efforts were made to help even young or special-needs pilots pass the Gauntlet so that the Empire would have access to their full flight potential and so that they themselves would gain a Starmaster's rights and privileges.

The Scarf

Why is the scarf so important? It seems an odd article of adornment for spacers.

Gail and I originally thought of the scarf as a throwback to the days of early aviation. But I thought it had more significance, and Melinda Lee was absolutely convinced of that fact. So in “Sojourner” and “Ballad of the Windsong,” it is very apparent that the scarf has real power.

What power does the scarf have?

The scarf reflects the way in which the individual Starmaster visualizes the Beyond. In “Sojourner,” Zephaniah can tell what kind of flying the Starmasters outside the All-Time do by how their scarves look. That story doesn’t say, but I suspect there is some component to the fabric of the scarf that is sensitive to a Starmaster's thoughts, especially when it comes to flight visualization.

Is the scarf a weapon of self-defense?

Starmasters—and the blind jaunters—have one major asset. They have access to enough energy to put a ship into the Beyond. Most of that energy is psychic energy and, like other forms of psychic or psionic endeavors, requires a focus. In flight, this focus would be the ship. On the docks, in a spaceport brawl, it would be the scarf for a Starmaster. This requirement for a focus is probably why the blind jaunters don’t do more odd psionic work off their ships.