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H. Beam Piper's Sword-Worlds

"He had gotten the spaceport completely cleared of rubble and debris, and he had the woods cleared away from around it. . . .  The locals called the city Rivvin; a few inscriptions found here and there . . . indicated that the original name had been Rivington."

— H. Beam Piper, Space Viking

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Space Vikings

Image - Space Viking, Analog, November 1962

Space Viking, illustration by John Schoenherr (from Analog, November 1962)

The Sword-Worlds are those twelve planets settled by the descendants of System States Alliance refugees who fled Terran Federation space with the remnants of the Alliance navy at the end of the System States War.  The planets' "names were a roll-call of fabulous blades of Old Terran legend."  Eventually, the Sword-Worlds gave rise to the Space Vikings who returned to raid the worlds of the Old Federation, the remnant of Terran Federation civilization which remained after a series of insurrections and conflicts known as the Interstellar Wars.

In Piper's novel Space Viking, the planet Excalibur is identified as the original Sword-World: "at the end of the Big War . . . [ten] thousand men and women on Abigor, refusing to surrender, had taken the remnant of the System States Alliance navy to space, seeking a world the Federation had never heard of and wouldn't find for a long time.  That had been the world they had called Excalibur."

The grandchildren of those who had settled Excalibur went on to colonize the planets Joyeuse and Durendal and Flamberge.  Additional Sword-Worlds were colonized in the next generation, including the planet Haulteclere, colonized from Joyeuse.  Settlers from Haulteclere went on to colonize the planet Gram.  Only four additional Sword-Worlds—Colada, Curtana, Morglay and Tizona—are mentioned by name in the novel.  (An eleventh Sword-World, Quernbiter, is mentioned in Piper's novella "A Slave is a Slave," set in the time of the Galactic Empire which followed the Space Viking era.  The name of the twelfth Sword-World remains unknown.)  At the time of Space Viking, there are "three and a half billion [Sword-Worlders] spread out on twelve planets."

In "A Slave is a Slave," the Sword-Worlds are remembered as having been "settled by refugee rebels from the System States planets.  Mostly they had been soldiers and spacemen; there had been many women with them, and many were skilled technicians, engineers, scientists.  They had managed to carry off considerable equipment with them, and for three centuries they had lived in isolation, spreading over a dozen hitherto undiscovered planets."  In Piper's later Empire-era yarn "Ministry of Disturbance," the historical Sword-Worlders are remembered as having "lived in isolation, spreading over a dozen hitherto undiscovered planets."

The Sword-Worlders, venturing from Space Viking base-planets like Dagon, Hoth, Jagannath, Nergal, Xochitl and Tanith—established in Space Viking, are not the only interstellar wayfarers in the Old Federation.  The Old Federation may have fallen largely into barbarism but there remain less than "a dozen and a half planets . . . that still have hyperdrive [and] which had maintained the culture of the Terran Federation uninterruptedly."  Among these "civlized planets" are Marduk—which figures prominently in Space Viking, Aton, Baldur, Ishtar, Isis, Odin and Osiris.  At least two other planets, Gilgamesh—home of an abscure religious sect—and Ithavoll—a former colony of Marduk, have managed to recover from the barbarism which engulfed the Old Federation.

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