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Developer's Report: The Planet Gimli

"We give the natives a reservation; we tell them it'll be theirs forever, Terran's word of honor.  Then we find something valuable on it — gold on Loki, platinum on Thor, vanadium and wolfram on Hathor, nitrates on Yggdrasil, uranium on Gimli.  So the natives get shoved off onto another reservation, where there isn't anything anybody wants, and finally they just get shoved off, period."
— Jack Holloway (H. Beam Piper), Fuzzy Sapiens

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Although the planet Gimli is never featured centrally in any of the Terro-human Future History yarns, it is nevertheless mentioned throughout the Future History, appearing in both the Federation and Space Viking eras and surviving even into the era of the first Galactic Empire.  Most intriguingly, Gimli seems to be inhabited by indigenous, non-Human sapients — though Piper does not describe an encounter with a Gimlian in any yarn.

Canon | Apocrypha | Sapients | Chronology | History

Canonical Gimli

In the novel Four-Day Planet, set in the Fourth Century, AE, we learn that Gimli is "the next planet out" from Fenris (away from Terra) on the regular Terra-Odin Spacelines trade route.  There's "a [Federation] Navy base" on Gimli with "always at least a couple of destroyers available."[FDP]

Starships in this period travel "a light-year in sixty-odd hours."[FDP]  It takes "six months" for the Peenemünde and the Cape Canaveral, the two Terra-Odin Spacelines starships "on the Terra-Odin milk run" that includes Fenris and Gimli, to travel between Terra and Fenris.[FDP]  Fenris is "six hundred and fifty light-years to the Galactic southwest of the Sol System."[FDP]  The naval destroyer Simón Bolivar, travelling directly to Terra (with the captured Anton Gerrit), is expected to arrive "at least two hundred hours ahead of the Cape Canaveral," departing for Terra at approximately the same time but traveling the regular trade route.[FDP]  The Bolivar saves more than two weeks of travel time (perhaps because it is not making intermediate stops).

In the Seventh Century, AE, novels Fuzzy Sapiens and Fuzzies and Other People, we learn that there is a "Native Cases Court . . . on . . . Gimli."[FS]  The sapients on Gimli are claimed to believe the human "cocktail hour" ritual "was a religious observance."[FS]

Jack Holloway laments that because of the Terran interest in "uranium on Gimli . . . the natives [got] shoved off onto another reservation, where there isn't anything anybody wants, and finally they just [got] shoved off, period."[FS]  The "Gimli Company got consent to work . . . fissionable-ore mines" on Gimli from a representative "tribal council" of Gimli sapients.[FOP]

The voyage between Terra and Zarathustra on the Terra-Baldur-Marduk Spacelines trade route takes "six months" to travel "five hundred light-years" — a rate of nearly nine hours per light-year (including time spent at intermediate ports of call).[LFFS]  Gimli is "the nearest planet" to Zarathustra: "in two . . . months a ship can" travel to Gimli and back again.[FS]  It's not clear whether Gimli is also on the Terra-Baldur-Marduk Spacelines route — the first stop toward Terra on the route is Volund — or if the travel time between Zarathustra and Gimli is that for a "tramp freighter" that has its "own landing-craft and doesn't use the . . . spaceport."[FS, FOP]  (Using the trade route rate of travel between Zarathustra and Terra suggests a distance between Zarathustra and Gimli of something more than 80 light-years.)

When Extee-Three began to run in short supply on Zarathustra, it was put "on order, but it would be four months till any could get in from the nearest Federation planet."[FS]  The corresponding one-way travel time of two months suggests a distance of approximately 170 light-years to this "nearest Federation planet."  It will also be "about six months, when imported Extee-Three begins coming in from Marduk."[FS]  The corresponding one-way travel time of three months suggests a distance of approximately 250 light-years between Zarathustra and Marduk.  These distances suggest that the Extee-Three is not coming to Zarathustra from Gimli; they also suggest that the distance between Gimli and Marduk ranges between approximately 330 light-years — if Gimli lies in the opposite direction of Marduk — and approximately 170 light-years — if Gimli lies directly toward Marduk.  (The distance of 350 light-years between Gimli and Marduk suggested in Space Viking would imply that Gimli is in the opposite direction of Marduk from Zarathustra.)

In the Space Viking era, Gimli is a trade-planet of Marduk: when marshalling Loyalist forces at Gimli the Mardukan naval commander sent for naval ships "on the other trade-planets."[SV]  Loyalist Mardukan naval forces and their Space Viking allies "assemble on Gimli" before advancing to Marduk to engage Makannist forces and their Space Viking allies.[SV]  The direct distance between Tanith and Gimli seems to be approximately 450 light-years: "Four hundred and fifty hours [and] . . . each hour carried them six trillion miles [— approximately one light-year —] nearer to Gimli."[SV]  It takes "three hundred and fifty hours" to travel from Gimli to Marduk, which suggests a distance of about 350 light-years.[SV]

During the first Galactic Empire, in the 31st Century of the Atomic Era, we learn that there is a "University of Brannerton" on Gimli.[MD]

Apocryphal Gimli

The name Gimli comes from Norse mythology and refers to a great hall with a golden roof which is "fairer than the sun" where the most virtuous humans and gods will go in the aftermath of the final battle — Ragnarök — between the gods; it is a paradise or heaven of sorts.  The Norse name for Gimli suggests it must have been discovered early in the era of Federation interstellar exploration when Norse mythology was the source preferred by the Federation Astrographic Commission for extrasolar planet names.[WC]  Because Gimli refers to a mythical place rather than to a Norse deity it likely was not among the first extrasolar planets discovered by the Federation, instead perhaps being discovered after deity-named planets like Odin, Loki, Freya, and Thor (and perhaps about the same time as Yggdrasil, a planet named for another mythical Norse place).

At least one of the pieces of information in Four-Day Planet about starship rates of travel and the distance and travel times between Fenris and Terra must be in error: it would take more than 39,000 hours — more than 54 months — to travel the 650 light-years between Fenris and Terra at "sixty-odd" hours per light-year.  Because the "six months" travel time between Fenris and Terra is mentioned at least four times, it seems most likely that either the rate of travel or the distance between Fenris and Terra, each mentioned only once, are more likely to be in error.  Intriguingly, if the distance between Fenris and Terra were one-tenth that mentioned, i.e. sixty-five light-years, or if the rate of starship travel were ten times faster than described, i.e. ten light-years in "sixty-odd hours," then the travel time between Fenris and Terra would be about five and half months — or about six months for a ship stopping briefly at several intermediate ports of call.  Five and a half months also just happens to be about the time it takes the Bolivar to travel directly from Fenris to Terra.

Gimli Sapients[Ap]

The indigenous sapients on Gimli, called Gimlians by Terro-humans, are humanoid, warm-booded, live-bearing omnivores, generally about 1.5 meters in height and massing about 100 kilograms, with females generally somewhat larger than males.  The stockiness of Gimlians is a product of the higher surface gravity on Gimli and makes them generally stronger than Terro-humans in Terran gravity.

Gimlians have poor eyesight, an evolutionary product of the limited sunlight which penetrates the perpetual planetary cloud cover.  (In this regard, as with prevailing climatic conditions, Gimli resembles Venus much more than it does Terra.)  The poor eyesight of Gimlians is more than offset by their echolocation sense, similar to that possessed by Terran cetaceans and Venusian ungulates.  There are two echolocation organs located in keratinous, closely-spiraled projections on each side of the Gimilian head.  (These most resemble the horns of Terran bighorn sheep and Venusian nightelk.)

The Gimilian face is somewhat reminiscent of Terran sheep with a mild snout with nose and mouth protruding from below the large eyes.  Gimlians vocal organs are able to forum Terro-human sounds without distortion and their aural organs, located just below their horns, are able to hear Terro-human voices at the surface atmospheric pressure of Gimli.  (Without some artificial modification Gimlian hearing is somewhat impaired at the thinner atmospheric pressure of Terra.)

Gimlians are covered with soft, short fur which ranges in color from black to dark shades of brown and grey on most of their bodies except their faces, hands and feet and with longer and more coarse hair growing from the top of the head down the spine and ending at the buttocks.  Skin coloring generally matches fur coloring.  Gimlian feet are hooved and the backs of their three-fingered hands are covered with a keratinous material which suggests a vestigial hoof.  A clumsily prehensile tail about 500 centimeters in length grows from the base of the spine.

Gimli Chronology


Future Historical Event


Terrans encounter sapients on Gimli.[Ap]


Terran discovery of uranium on Gimli: The "natives get shoved off onto another reservation, where there isn't anything anybody wants, and finally they just get shoved off, period."[FS]  The "Gimli Company got consent to work . . . fissionable-ore mines" on Gimli from a representative "tribal council" of Gimli sapients.[FOP]


Gimli is "the next planet out" from Fenris (away from Terra) on the "Terra-Odin [Spacelines] milk run."[FDP]
"There's a Navy base [on Gimli], and always at least a couple of destroyers available."[FDP]


Constable George Lunt "was stationed [on Gimli] before [he] was transferred to Zarathustra."[FOP]
The "Gimli Company [is working] fissionable-ore mines" on Gimli.[FDP]


Terran relations with Gimli sapients: There is a "Native Cases Court . . . on . . . Gimli."[FS]
The "natives on planets like . . . Gimli" believed cocktail hour "was a religious observance."[FS]

Gimli is the closest settled planet to Zarathustra: "In a month, word [of the discovery of Fuzzies] will have gotten [from Zarathustra] to Gimli, that's the nearest planet, and in two more months a ship can get [to Zarathustra] from [Gimli]."[FS]


System States War begins.[JP]


Gimli occupied by Terran Federation forces.[Ap]


System States War ends.[JP]


Interstellar Wars begin.[SV]


Federation evacuates its naval base at Gimli.[Ap]


Terran Federation ceases to exist.[JP]


Interstellar Wars end.[SV]


Gimli is one of Marduk's "trade-planets."[SV]

Loyalist Mardukan forces marshal at Gimli, along with their Space Viking allies, before attacking Makannists forces in the Battle of Marduk.[SV]


Former University of Asgard (on Odin) physics professor Vann Evaratt is on the faculty of the University of Brannerton on Gimli.[MD]

Gimli History[Ap]

The most advanced Gimlian societies at the time of Terran discovery in 271 AE were in a neolithic stage of development.  Thousands of small, semi-permanent settlements existed across the planet, some of which were linked to others nearby through extended family or "tribal" ties.  These pastoral enclaves were generally surrounded by nomadic mesolithic or paleolithic cutltures which provided limited interaction between the neolithic settlements.  Both the nomadic and pastoral cultures were generally matriarchal and polyandrous.  The typical pastoral family generally consisted of a single female and three males.  (While still matriarchal, family ties among the nomadic cultures were often less apparent.)

Gimli was discovered by the privately-financed Skafloc expedition but the presence of indigenous sapients prevented the formation of a chartered development company.  Indigenous reservations were established under the protection of a colonial government and large-scale immigration from Terra began.  With the discovery of extensive fissionable ores, the financiers of the original expedition formed the Gimli Company to exploit the ore deposits.  The Company gained considerable influence over the colonial government and many indigenous populations were relocated to permit mining on former reservations.  Resentment against the Company (and the Government) stirred among a coalition of non-Company Terran immigrants and indigenous sapients.

Over the next few centuries there was a gradual shift in political power away from the Company and its dependents as exploitation made further extraction of fissionable ores more and more expensive and as interstellar development forced down the export value.  The coalition of non-Company immigrants and indigenous sapients eventually came to control the Government.  Resentment of the Gimli Company and its association with Terra led to an increasing orientation toward Marduk, the nearest "rational planet" in the region.  Rather than traveling to Terra, both Terro-human and indigenous Gimlians began to travel to Marduk for business, tourism and education.

When the System States Alliance attempted to secede from the Federation in 842 AE there was much sympathy for the Alliance cause on Gimli.  This enthusiasm was dampened by the presence of the Federation naval base and the eventual occupation of the Gimli system by Federation forces during most of the System States War.  During the War the planetary Government seized control of the Gimli Company which had been unprofitable for decades.

Gimli was abandoned by the Federation with the evacuation of its naval base in 1036 AE after Marduk declared its independence.  Much of the Terro-human population fled to Marduk or to the Federation interior.  The loss of population and regular contact with other planets led to a general civilizational collapse on Gimli.  The planet was balkanized into multiple, competing regional states.  Some of these states were dominated by indigenous Gimlians, others by Terro-humans, and a few maintained the integrated society of the Federation era.

Because of its low population and declining civilization, Gimli was spared much of the destruction visited upon other planets during the Interstellar Wars.  Only occasionally was the planet raided for fissionables — or even slaves and basic foodstuffs — by one of the many factions which ranged across the Old Federation from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries.  Nevertheless, the decivilization continued and by the end of the Thirteenth Century all of the indigenous Gimlian, Terro-human, and hybrid states had devolved into pre-technological, pastoral societies similar to those which prevailed when the planet was first discovered by the Federation.  Indeed, some of the indigenous and hybrid societies even devolved to the level of the original, nomadic, mesolithic cultures.

With the end of the Interstellar Wars, Gimli was soon visited by starships from Marduk and the planet was quickly brought under its protection.  Mardukan military forces defended Gimli from other emerging interstellar powers in the region, including the Space Vikings.  Traders and fissionable miners from Marduk brought knowledge and technologies which slowly disseminated across the planet.  Under the guidance of the Mardukans a planetary government was once again established.  The decivilization was halted and slowly reversed.  Gimlians, both indigenous sapients and Terro-human descendants, once again began to travel to Marduk for business, tourism and education.

Already established as a Mardukan "trade-planet," Gimli was among the original planets in the short-lived League of Civilized Worlds formed by Marduk and the former Space Viking planets in the Old Federation led by Tanith.  Gimlians traveled to all of the planets aligned with Marduk and to many of the other League planets as well.  When the League collapsed early in the Eighteenth Century, Gimli remained aligned with Marduk.  When King Stevan IV of Marduk was crowned Emperor Stevan I of the Galactic Empire, Gimli was among the original planets over which he claimed suzerainty.

Gimli sources:

HBP: "The Future History," H. Beam Piper, in Zenith #4, May 1964.
JFC: "Terro-human Future History Chronology," John F. Carr, in Empire (with a correction: "The First Interestellar expedition," PIPER-L Mailing List, January 12, 2001).

EK: "The Edge of the Knife," originally in Amazing Stories, May 1957.
OL: "Omnilingual," originally in Astounding, February 1957.
WC: "When in the Course —," originally in Federation, Ace, 1981.
FDP: Four-Day Planet, originally by Putnam, 1961.
UU: Uller Uprising, originally in The Petrified Planet, Twayne, 1952.
NS: "Naudsonce," originally in Analog, January 1962.
LF: Little Fuzzy, originally by Avon, 1962.
FS: Fuzzy Sapiens, originally (as The Other Human Race) by Avon, 1964.
FOP: Fuzzies and Other People, originally by Ace 1984.
OS: "Oomphel in the Sky," originally in Analog, November 1960.
GD: "Graveyard of Dreams," originally in Galaxy, February 1958.
JP: Junkyard Planet, originally by Putnam, 1963.
SV: Space Viking, originally in Analog, November and December 1962, January and February 1963.
MD: "Ministry of Disturbance," originally in Astounding, December 1958.
SS: "A Slave is a Slave," originally in Analog, April 1962.
KP: "The Keeper," originally in Venture, July 1957.

Ap:   Apocrypha — non-canonical material.  See "Newton's Rule."
Sk:   "The Spine of the Knife," David Johnson.
Sa:   "The Satchel," David Johnson.

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