The World of Starglass

Notes on the Asherah

(for worldbuilding nerds and other interested parties)

Like a lightning bug, the Asherah has a long, round body–and it’s lit up from inside, lit by the light of the forests and pastures and fields, by the life that stirs inside. The head is where the labs and the Captain’s stateroom and the Command Center are. The insidious brain of our little ship. But the true light lies in its body, where the people live.

-From the journals of Frances Cohen, Summer, 460 Years Till Landing


The Asherah is essentially a rural/suburban society jammed into a spaceship. The main deck is where this is most evident. Under the large central dome, there are fields of corn and wheat and soy, as well as pastures. In the central sheep pasture, the clock tower reaches toward the honeycombed glass. This is also where the Asherati bury their dead. Low buildings–granaries, which hold crops to sustain the passengers through their increasingly-long winters–line the edges. Pathways encircle the open spaces, and many paths include cut-away areas through which the inhabitants can view the treetops of the level below. This is the most populous deck of the ship and, at the far fore end (in the “head” of the ship) includes the hospital, the hatchery, the botanical and biological labs, the genetic engineering labs, the greenhouses, the main lift between decks, the library, and the school.

At the aft end of the main deck, we have the bustling districts. This area is not part of the open space of the dome, but is rather covered and lit by artificial ceiling panels (like the lower decks). The busy commerce district is where the pubsbutchergreen grocerydelicatessens, and bakeries are located, all waiting for the citizens to spend their rations and their gelt. Some areas of the commerce district are a bit more ramshackle (think dusty flea market), but most feel closer to a ’50s-style downtown. The street where Rachel’s clothing shop is located is particularly stylish, filled with small competing shops where citizens can purchase non-uniform clothes.

The main neighborhoods can roughly be divided into quarters. The official division is between “port” and “starboard.” The port district is inhabited by academicsspecialists and their families. The starboard district is inhabited by merchantsfieldworkers, and laborers. However, a rougher unofficial class division also exists between the fore and aft sections of these districts. The lower in rank a family, the closer they tend to live to the commerce districts and the fore of the ship. The higher in ran a family, the closer they live to the ship’s aft, and the aft district itself, which is inhabited entirely by Council members.

On the surface, the houses in the aft district look the same as all the houses on the ship. Each block consists of 8 concrete townhouses, two stories tall. Each house has a large front window and a small yard or garden with a fence. In the main districts, the interior of these houses are identical and fairly modest: small entryway, a kitchen area (called a “galley“) with an electric stove, cupboards, icebox, and table. A staircase at the rear of this main room leads upwards, to an L-shaped hallway. Two identical children’s rooms wait inside, as well as a larger master bedroom near the front of the house (the only bedroom with a window). Each room has metal dorm-style furniture built into it: a bed, a desk, a dresser. There’s also a closet. The master bedroom has a double, as opposed to a single, bed.

Though everything looks the same from the outside, the homes of the Council members stretch back twice as deep. On the main floor, there’s a larger entryway. The appliances in the galley are newer. And beyond the central stairwell, there’s also a living room. Bedrooms upstairs are likewise larger and lack the built-in furniture. It’s not uncommon for Council members to pass their fine wooden furniture down through generations.

Beyond the districts, at the far aft of the ship, is the rear lift.

This lift takes passengers down through three lower levels. They are as follows:

  • Second deck – filled with meadowsforests, a few more crop fields, and twisting brooks. Paths line this level and it’s a favorite place for passengers to go to unwind. A few grain and salt silos ring the edges.
  • Lower deck – edged by the reservoir bays, this deck is mostly filled with meadows and marshland, though there are also water processing plants here. A direct path bridges the space between the main and rear lift. At the aft of the ship are the engine rooms, twisting and complex and now-abandoned. The rear lift sits at the center here.

Both the second and lower deck are also accessible from the main lift. However, there’s one more level only to be reached by the rear lift, the 00 level. This is where the shuttle bay waits, unused for the bulk of the 500 year journey.

If we return to the fore of the ship, within the ship’s head there are upper decks accessible through the main lift, though these are rarely used by average citizens. They are:

  • The Upper Deck – This is where the Captain’s stateroom is located, used mainly for ceremonial purposes. This o-shaped room has mostly open glass-ceilings which are never lit to simulate daylight. At either side of the stateroom are small additional chambers–the Council antechamber, and a Portrait Gallery.
  • The Command Deck – Through the lift and up at the stern of the ship, these rarely-utilized rooms are where the ship is piloted, where communications messages are received, where the thrusters and reverse thrusters are activated, and so on. Because the ship has been coasting for the last half of its five hundred year journey, most citizens aren’t even aware that this deck exists.

Below the main deck and accessible through the main lift at the ship’s “head” are the gravity generators (powered through applied phlebotonium), oxygen cleaning station, and other areas I avoid thinking about lest I get the science wrong.

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A note on language

In the twenty-third century, an asteroid was detected on a collision course toward Earth. In the five years before the Earth’s forecasted destruction, generation ships funded by private corporations, government groups, and wealthy special interest groups began to chart courses for distant worlds in the hope of ensuring humanity’s survival. The Asherah was one of these ships, funded by the Post-terrestrial Jewish Preservation Society–a secular group committed to the continuation of Jewish culture after the destruction of Israel. With an initial manifest quota of seventy percent passengers of Jewish descent, the Asherah took off for Epsilon Eridani S/2179 D, colloquially known as “Zehava.”

Though the initial passengers predominantly spoke English, many found themselves turning to the Yiddish and Hebrew of their forefathers as a reminder of the wider culture they’d left behind. Today, as arrival on Zehava is imminent, the passengers speak Asheran–a mish-mosh of English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. Here is a glossary of commonly used terms:

abba: father

Bar Mitzvah: a coming-of-age ceremony for teenage boys.

dreck: (vulgar) feces

gelt: gold, money

Giveret: “Lady.”

kaddish: a mourning song

l’chaim: literally “to life,” used as a toast or to an individual’s health or well-being.

Mar: “Sir.”

mazel tov: congratulations

mitzvah (pl. mitzvot): good works

rebbe: teacher

talmid: student

tikkun olam: to repair the world

verkakte: (vulgar) screwed-up


Be excellent to each other!