About Space

Where do Gratuitous Space Battles take place?

On the face of it, that’s a dumb question, the answer to which is obviously “in Space”. But that doesn’t really answer a thing, because wherever this “Space” is, it clearly isn’t the gravity-less vacuum between stars and planets governed by the laws of Newton (or Einstein). This place shall hereafter be named “Gratuitous Space”.


Newtonian Space is three dimensional, infinite in all directions. Gratuitous Space is compressed and/or severely restricted in the third dimension.

Laser Beams are visible along their entire length. This means there’s something to illuminate between source and destination; dust, smoke, or gas which fluoresces. It also illuminates in the presence of proton beams. This is also probably the reason for what appear to be ridiculously short engagement ranges; the gas (or whatever) must impede both vision and electromagnetic sensors, making targeting extremely difficult.

In Newtonian space, an object’s thrust (force) determines acceleration, and there’s no limit on velocity. In the absence of force, a moving object continues at constant velocity in a straight line. In Gratuitous Space, thrust determines not just acceleration, but also maximum velocity, and a moving-but-thrustless object comes to a halt. These are attributes of movement through a medium; that is, like objects moving in (or on) air or water. Similarly, the trajectories of missiles imply working fin or rudder equivalents which wouldn’t work in a vacuum. (There’s a hint that things move on the Infraspace Energy Grid; there’s a button to make it visible). Nevertheless, Gratuitous Space’s characteristics are somewhat different to known fluids, as the resistance to motion seems entirely related to mass, with no necessity for (visible) streamlining.

Vessels fade-in to Gratuitous Space at the beginning of battles; enemies in endless battles fade-in throughout. They must be arriving there from somewhere else. And, as the philosopher once said, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is”. It’s incredibly unlikely/difficult for two opposing bunches of to ships to arrive in approximately the same place for a battle once without some external constraint, never mind the frequency of observed conflicts.


Gratuitous Space is some sort of interstitial hyperspace on the way between normal space and the beyond-lightspeed realm used to travel across the galaxy(*). These areas are both rare, and well-defined, with just one per inter-star-system route, associated with a named Gravity well - Mexallon II, the Lagoon Nebula, etc. They’re the perfect place for a defence fleet to blockade, as ships from other systems must pass “through” as they travel from Hyper- to Newtonian Space.

So, that’s every battle; the attacking fleet fading in from a Hyperspace trip from elsewhere, to find a defensive blockade fleet waiting for them in the place both sides know they have to arrive.

Anyone got any more observations to add? And do they agree/destroy/amend this hypothesis? Any rival theories?

(*Hmm. A four-stage process would be logical; 3D Normal Space, to 2D Gratuitous Space, to 1D String space, and full 0D Pointspace which allows zero-distance travel to anywhere)

[Author’s note: A theory or post based on some variation “It’s just a game” will be:
A: Correct, yet pointless, and
B: Be posted by a humourless dolt who doesn’t appreciate the sentiment I’m aiming for, and
C: Best left for some other thread]

In GSB, you play the part of the pointy-haired Admiral (see http://www.dilbert.com/). Put an engine in the middle of the ship, sprinkle shields just wherever. It’s the job of your underlings to turn your tortured and ridiculous module placement into a real ship. Once this is done, these ships go off to fight. The fights are recorded, and the details brought back by either victorious captains or fleeing escape pod. They showed raw footage, but you complained the ships were too far away to see, how come you couldn’t hear the weapons work, and you were sure you installed lasers but couldn’t see those either!

What you, pointy-haired Admiral, are seeing is the result of thousands of man hours of careful reconstruction of the fight, with ships blown up to monster size relative to distance, with laser beams painted in and sound effects carefully added and balanced. All this so that perhaps, perhaps, in your next design you’ll include more money in the budget for shields.

Gratuitous Space Battles are in fact a deliberately constrained, almost sport-like battle, a la the Dwellers’ wars from Iain M Banks’ The Algebraist. They are fought using an agreed arsenal of technology with agreed constraints (namely, the restricted third dimension), either as sport/entertainment for bored ultra-advanced beings (much like the Dwellers), or as an agreed low-collateral method of settling disputes between races that avoids the messiness of unregulated war, which due to the physical constraints of real space would be almost unwinnable, with ships trading high-velocity mass accelerator rounds at enormous distances while flying evasive manoeuvres, likely degenerating to gigadeathcrime actions like firing relativistic asteroids at people’s planets or other massively destructive weapons due to the inability to damage their actual warships.

This way, casualties are kept to a few hundreds per battle at most, with, for an ultra-advanced civilisation, little expenditure on materials or technology. Likely, battles are fought in agreed orbits in the gravity wells of uninhabited massive planets or stars that capture the majority of leftover debris. Propulsion systems may be some sort of energy grid based system as postulated by the first poster, or simply constrained by the rules of engagement to low maximum speeds within the restricted orbital battlefield, again avoiding collateral damage and debris.

According to this esteemed reference book,

“Antoinette saw the hard red or green line of a laser precursor beam, caught in outgassing air or propellant from one or other of the ships. (…) she realised that this was a detail that they always got wrong in the space opera holo-dramas, where laser beams were invisible, the sinister element of invisibility adding to the drama. But a real close-range space battle was a far messier affair, with gas clouds and chaff shards erupting all over the place, ready to reflect and disperse any beam weapon.”

Which clearly indicates that the battles are taking place in Revelation Space.

ANSWER TO EVERYTHING IS NEBULA! Maybe a electromagnetically active nebula…

It’s actually filled with gold-pressed latinum. That’s why everyone fights there instead of open space.