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Frequently Asked Questions

Section 2: The Tai-Pan fanzine project and the universe



What is the Tai-Pan fanzine?
Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe is the fanzine (a magazine produced by fans) for the Tai-Pan writers/artists shared science fiction universe. It is set in an alternate future where anthropomorphic Terran species and ETs adventure in a balkanized interstellar society. This universe—the universe of the Tai-Pan, Quantum Lady, Iktomé, and Ramanujan—was first created in a hotel room at the 1988 NorthWest Science Fiction Convention. The fanzine is published twice a year. All of the material published in the fanzine is created by contributing members. All stories and artwork depict characters and events inside the fictitious universe which has been created by the members. We aim for a PG-13 (or milder) rating in the fanzine. Occasionally we publish special editions which contain material which we deem to cross into the R-rated arena.

Where can I get it?
If you are in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, the easiest way is to subscribe directly with us. The fanzine is also available through Rabbit Valley and Second Ed. Finally, you can pick up issues from members of the editorial board at various conventions we attend.

What are the submission guidelines?
All artwork and stories published in the fanzine must be set in the Tai-Pan universe or depict characters or events within the Tai-Pan universe. If your story includes a character created by someone else, then that person must approve the character's appearance (including the character's dialogue and actions). All stories will go through the editorial review. There has never been a story accepted for publication in which we did not require at least one re-write, usually more.

We do not accept unsolicited characters. Unsolicited stories (stories by someone who has not been accepted as a contributor) will be placed in the "slush pile" and reviewed when and if time permits.

Stories may be submitted either electronically or hard copy. If submitted electronically, please send as plain text or rich text format. Hard copy must be typed or computer printout in a legible font, double-spaced on white paper.
In any case, we only accept stories and artwork which are set within the Tai-Pan universe.

What's the difference between a subscriber and a contributing member?
A subscriber plunks down his or her money and receives the fanzine, an annual newsletter and occasional additional materials. Contributing Members are subscribers who write and illustrate the stories published in the fanzine.

How do I become a contributor?
First purchase at least one issue of the fanzine, then submit a portfolio of your work as an application for contributor status.

If you wish to become a Contributing Writer, the portfolio must include at least one complete story. Please do not write a story set in the Tai-Pan universe before being accepted as a contributor. Instead, submit any story you have written for another fanzine, a writing class, or any other forum as your portfolio.

If you wish to become a Contributing Artist, the portfolio must include several pieces of artwork. Do not send originals! We cannot be responsible for portfolios lost in the mail. If you wish to have your portfolio returned, include return postage.

In both cases, portfolios can be submitted via the post or electronically.

What's the universe like?
It's the 36th Century. The four ships spend most of their time in the Gold Road sector, on the fringes of Known Space. Most of the worlds in the Gold Road and neighboring sectors are former colonies of the Terran Confederation. The region is balkanized (that means there is no central government). Many of the worlds are completely independent, others are members of small alliances of three to twelve star systems. Interstellar law is governed by sometimes contradictory trade agreements and mutual protection treaties with no single interstellar police force or military to enforce them. (Sorry, no Galactic Patrol or Starfleet.)

What's the technology of the universe like?
Starships travel between the star systems through "jump points," taking a month to get from one system to the next nearest star. This means that it takes between 10 years and 15 years to get from Earth to the Gold Road, and over a year to get from one end of the Gold Road to the other.

The fastest means of communication is to send messages on starships (Sorry, no subspace radio). Many governments maintain systems of "infopedoes"ósmall unmanned vessels that zip from system to system, beaming messages to outer stations, receiving messages, then zipping to the next system. This high-tech pony express service can get messages across civilized space about ten times faster than people, who can't be radioed to the next torpedo. That means it's barely possible to get a message from Earth to the Gold Road in a year. (Sorry, no Galactic News Service)

Almost all ships are equipped with artificial gravity. They use reactionless drive to travel from planetary surfaces and within star systems. They use repulsar fields to deflect tiny asteroids and micro-meteors. The most common inter-ship weapon is missiles. The starships are powered by fusion reactors.

Computers are ubiquitous. Most people own small pocket or wrist terminals, which function as watches, cellular phones, electronic books, information retrieval systems, note pads and personal organizers. Most computers can accept at least some verbal commands. Computers are seldom equipped with physical keyboards, but rather have a single touch-sensitive surface on which a virtual keyboard can be projected, allowing for the wide variety of hand sizes and shapes in Known Space. The smallest terminals, such as those the size of a wristwatch, would instead project a series of menus.

Who lives there?
Most of the worlds in the Gold Road sector are inhabited by anthropomorphs - beings who are the descendents of genetic constructs. Most anthropomorphic species were engineered by adding a small amount of animal genetic material to a basic human chromosomal template. A few species (dolphins, gorillas, pandas, for example), are the result of another sort of genetic manipulation known as uplift. There are a small number of non-terrestrial intelligent species in this region of space. Most are on friendly terms with their terrestrial neighbors. The exception is the Zylithian Empire. The Zylithians bear a superficial resemblance to reptiles. There have been numerous wars between the Zylithians and the terrans over the last several centuries. There is usually some skirmishing going on along the borders of the Devildark sector at any given time.

What is the social/cultural background of the universe?
Some of the planets in the sector are backwater worlds with pre-industrial societies. Others are medium-tech worlds with enough resources and manufacturing capacity to purchase higher tech goods from other worlds in vast quantities. And, of course, many are high-tech worlds with multiple space stations, an interstellar navy, and mining and manufacturing colonies throughout their star system.

The governments on the various worlds range from republics, to constitutional monarchies, to dictatorships. They include theocracies, autocracies, and democracies. The societies themselves range from oppressive to permissive. In short, all of human culture is represented somewhere among the worlds of the Gold Road.

Are there telepaths or mages in the universe?
No. There are no psychic characters or psychic races in the universe. There is also no magic. This is simply a ground rule of the universe, like a law of physics.

What are the project ships and how do they figure into stories?

Stories in the fanzine focus on the four project ships: Tai-Pan a medium-sized free merchant, Iktomé a larger merchant/pirate vessel, Quantum Lady a large luxury ship (resort city in space), and Ramanujan a training/science vessel (a small university campus in space). The four project ships ply the Gold Road, a sector on the far reaches of Known Space, approximately 300 light-years from Earth.

Virtually every story published in the fanzine either takes place aboard one of the project ships, or stars crew members from one of the project ships. Each project ship is very different. The typical crew member of the pirate ship, for example, would likely be out-of-place aboard the science vessel. Because the crew members are so different, the types of story which occur on each ship varies. See Sections 3-6 for more details.