What Is Alexandria Station?

You’ve heard me talk about it as a place, a concept, and a universe.  Figured I’d cover all three and let everyone have a brief look inside the weirdness that is my head.

First: Universe. In my notes, I have four different sets of “worlds” i want to write Science Fiction in. So far. Like, today before lunch. Ask me again tomorrow and the number has probably gone up. It does that. The key signal to Alexandria Station, as I talked about last week, is the total lack of alien species that have been discovered to be interacted with. Humans, today, and for at least the next 13,500 years, are alone. Who knows what happens after that. I haven’t gotten that far in my notes.

This universe contains several characters and arcs. Javier Aritza. Doyle Iwakuma. Henri Baudin. Jessica Keller. But most importantly, Suvi. The AI whose name means Summer. She was Javier’s Probe-Cutter, Mielikki. She was The Librarian. She is the Provost of the University of Ballard. She will be the Last of the Immortals. When I talk about Alexandria Station, I mean one of the many stories with one of these characters, and several others I plan to write one of these days.

Next: Concept. Historically, there was a great center of learning located in ancient times in the city of Alexandria, Egypt. It is known to have been “destroyed” at some point, although nobody agrees when or by whom, with blame alternatively being placed on Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor Aurelian, the Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria, or Caliph Omar. While no one knows the truth at this point, we do know it was gone by some point in ancient history.

When Doyle rescues Suvi at Kel Sdala, she had already become a librarian, but on a world that had fallen into utter bronze-age barbarism. On the way to Ballard, she decides that she wants to continue to be a librarian, since she has the collected knowledge of the lost Homeworld, and because they will never allow her to be a starship again, after what the AI fleets did.

Finally: Place. The University of Ballard is a school of higher-learning, located aboard a station orbiting the equator of Ballard. It is contained in a larger facility, known as Alexandria Station. Suvi is the Provost of the University, wired directly into most of the learning spaces and at home in the library, which is a mix of electronic books stored in her core, and physical books, roughly half of which are printed from her core, and half of which were brought here and scanned in afterwards.

Like any university, it is an eclectic mix of professors and students, with the addition that Suvi, as an AI, can appear in many places at once, both as a student and a guest lecturer. She no longer teaches students directly, unless it is on a topic that is so obscure that nobody else knows, including many facets of human history where she was actually there to witness it, or at least heard things first hand. Henri Baudin, in the upcoming novella, The Story Road, studies astrophysics while teaching music.

The station itself is a large sphere in orbit. It is not Geo-synchronous with the ground, moving much faster. This was important when it was built, because the university it houses is for all of Ballard, and not just Ithome, Doyle’s home city. It has come to represent all of the planet, simply because everyone can look up at night and see it passing overhead, if they are far enough from the bright lights. Ballard certainly has other universities and colleges, but Alexandria Station is preeminent.

In time, it becomes one of the jewels on the Story Road, because people travel there to discover, bringing with them their own culture and stories, and transmitting back what they have learned. Think of the Silk Road that once bound the city-states of the Mediterranean Sea with what we know today as China. Exotic things traveled that road in both directions, letting radically different cultures communicate.

In Jessica’s time, the Story Road has faded in importance, past by as technology, culture, and humans have moved on to different wants, different needs. Other worlds have risen and become more important. The Republic of Aquitaine has absorbed the four worlds that originally made up the Story Road: Ballard, Pohang, Saxon, and Zanzibar; and they are now in a quiet, somewhat forgotten corner of the galaxy.

Originally, this remoteness, this isolation from the key travel corridors, is what caused these worlds to survive, when so many others fell after the Homeworld was destroyed. They had to be self-sufficient almost from the moment they were colonized. And each of the four descended from Homeworld cultures with strong maritime traditions: Scandinavia, Britannia, East Africa, and Korea. Thus, they survived two thousand years of darkness, until they could return to space, starting with Zanzibar, and accelerating with the help of the Provost from the University of Ballard.

So when I talk about Alexandria Station, I mean many things, but all of them rotate around the universe that contains it. (As a contrast, Rick Pine, in The Shipwrecked Mermaid, and the upcoming novel Imposters, exists in a universe known as The Collective. There are aliens. They live among us, trying to understand us so they can eventually help us become the sort of sentient species that they could welcome into the broader galactic civilization.)

But Alexandria Station is special. Suvi lives there.