In trying to convince people I encounter on the internet to read this story for critiques, I always run into the same problem at the beginning: how to pitch it. Not necessarily what to say about the plot, because “space lawyers” seems simple enough. Rather, it’s how to fit it into a subgenre that doesn’t sound like the genre fiction equivalent of what’s happened in metal music, where something like “blackened pagan technical death metal” has become a laughable but still accepted descriptor. As much as I think that’s silly for bands, I’m stuck between trying to avoid that extreme while not giving anyone the wrong impression of where the story goes.
So here’s the deal. First Instance, at least to me, sounds and feels to me like something Heinlein would’ve written sixty or seventy years ago. Now my reading list of his works is fairly limited but what stuck out to me was the tone he adopted in works like Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. The characters, no matter what weird situation they were put in, were facing something new and exciting and terrifying all at once but were able to maintain some sense of composure and even humor in the face of it all. He’d drop in technology that seemed like a logical progression from what he had at the time, but that technology was ultimately just a tool in moving along a plot that was deeply focused on the characters and how they adjusted to their surroundings, whether it was Martians with telekinetic powers or giant space bugs.
And so we follow a handful characters who are waaaaay out of their league on a trip to the Moon. Corporate entities already exist there under the aegis of international laws and flag states (where they’re headquartered), mostly for mining, scientific research, or even building resorts. I see this as a logical outgrowth of the kind of questions we’re dealing with today, only with the added twist of how to fit these entities into laws regarding the Moon. Current laws forbid nations from militarizing celestial bodies or extracting resources for their own benefit, but I could see these restrictions getting manipulated when a way to do them becomes profitable, which it currently isn’t (sorry, Elon). But in, let’s say, a hundred years, when the cost of launch and recovery (thanks, Elon) drops to within the reach of more than just a few nations, then we’ll start to see a shift take place.
In my mind, at least, this shift would allow private companies to take out UN contracts to mine or construct mass drivers to move mined resourced back to Earth, while still operating under the laws of their home countries. Basically, it was easy to put up these laws in the 1950’s and 60’s, when breaking them wasn’t something the two largest space powers of the day couldn’t afford. But once the bar to entry drops enough that money can be made, it’ll likely be a different story. Maybe even my story, but who knows. That’s the funny thing about putting this sort of story out there that won’t occur in my lifetime, barring some unforeseen scientific advances. 2154 is still a long way off, and I don’t know that humans will change all that much before we get there, for better or worse.
But hey, this is sci-fi. I get to do what I want.