Crimes of the Hub Annotations

Warning: contains spoilers

The Concept

For notes on the basic background of the Hub concept, see my Hub Space Annotations page, covering the first collected volume of Hub stories.

The Time

My Hub Space annotations were vague on the chronology, but I’ve now worked it out more precisely:

  • May 2058        Hub contact with Earth
  • Jan 2059          Nashira Wing Wai-hing (Nashira 惠慶) born in Hong Kong
  • Mar 2065        David LaMacchia born in Lafayette, Indiana
  • c. 2070             Nashira’s family flees flooded Hong Kong
  • c. Sep 2083      Nashira (age 24) smuggled to Hub, becomes scout (c. 9 y before HONR)
  • Mar 2092        “The Hub of the Matter” (duration 9-10 dy)
  • Apr 2092         “Home is Where the Hub Is” (6 wks after David arrives; duration 2-3 dy)
  • Jun-Jul 2092    “Make Hub, Not War” (2 mo after last; duration several weeks)
  • Sep 2092         “Hubpoint of No Return” (2 mo after MHNW end; duration 2-3 dy)
  • Oct 2092         “…And He Built a Crooked Hub” (1 mo after last; duration 2 dy)
  • Nov 2092        “Hubstitute Creatures” (2 wks after last; duration 4-5 dy)

Spoiler Notes: Crimes of the Hub

These updated notes cover the revised, collected edition of the second trilogy of Hub stories, including the changes and additions to the original tales. Page numbers are for the Mystique Press trade paperback edition, with the original Analog page numbers in parentheses. The e-book edition has no fixed page numbering.

COUNT ONE: “Hubpoint of No Return”

Because of the “Crimes” theme, I titled the individual stories like “counts” in an indictment.


Scene 1

pg 3 (Analog pg 48)

In a bit of symmetry, this story begins by answering a question raised at the end of the previous story, “Make Hub, Not War”: Why Hub scout ships need living pilots instead of being drones. There, the punch line was “to keep the quantelopes company,” and I left it at that; but in my annotations for MHNW, I suggested, “if quantelopes are only willing/able to repeat the sounds made by organic beings, that would explain why Hubdivers and other starships need living pilots, since quantelopes are the only way they can communicate with the Hub or request retrieval. But of course it’s funnier without that explanation. Maybe I’ll clarify it in the next story.” And so I have, right off the bat.

Of course, since quantelopes are bioengineered creatures, it doesn’t make much sense that nobody’s been able to breed a strain that will respond to nonliving beings. Perhaps the genes for that behavior are too closely intertwined with the genes that enable their entanglement communication in the first place.

To write David’s telemarketing script, I did a web search for various real telemarketing scripts to get the gist of them. I’ve never really bothered to listen to a telemarketer, and fortunately I’ve never had to be one, so this wasn’t something I had prior knowledge of.

The Ipqo Rosette was first mentioned as premium real estate in one of the in-universe documents presented as interstitial content in the Hub Space collection. The name suggests it’s something akin to a Klemperer rosette, a theoretical configuration of multiple planetary bodies circling a common center of mass.

“How did you mate your quantelope to this bloodline?”: I actually did have an answer to this question in the first draft, but I deleted it because it wasn’t funny:

David supposed he couldn’t blame the call recipient for her confusion. Ansible communication was only possible among quantelopes who had shared bodily fluids directly or through mutual partners, and some species interbred more promiscuously than others. Higher-grade ‘lopes needed to replenish entanglement through physical contact more often, limiting the number of other ‘lopes they could connect with; but the lower-fidelity breed used here could sustain links longer as well as breeding more prolifically, making it good for less targeted communications such as cold calling. And the administrators of Hubcomplex call centers like this one had ways of arranging cross-breed mating to tie their quantelopes into theoretically more private networks.

One thing I didn’t adequately figure out is how a quantelope “dials up” a particular entanglemate. I suppose a quantelope is always aware of the presence of all its entanglemates, but can choose to signal for the attention of a specific one, like addressing one person in a crowded room, with the others simply not listening, or at least not bothering to reproduce what they hear. Although that would seem to create a lot of potential for eavesdropping. People who want secure quantelope networks would have to keep close watch on their breeding to make sure nobody, err, taps the line.

Scene 2

 pg 4 (48)

Quantelope maintenance, day care, and telemarketing were the most plausible menial jobs I could think of for David. Other candidates in my notes included masseur (humans have pretty good manual dexterity) and street performer (“stupid human tricks”).

The first trilogy presumed a standard capitalistic system in place in the Hub Network, but I’ve come to think that a civilization as benevolent as the Network is supposed to be would surely offer a universal basic income. Luckily, the premium on space at the Hubcomplex itself provided a good rationale for it to be an exception.

pg 5 (48)

The paragraph beginning “Although the fact that Nashira cared at all” combines paragraphs of exposition from both “Hubpoint of No Return” and “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” to avoid redundancy. The moved/rephrased portion begins with “David had become an unlikely friend”.

pg 6 (49)

Victoria Peak is the highest mountain in Hong Kong, Nashira’s hometown.

Art, a Fishy Intelligence is a character I’ve been trying to work into the series since “Home is Where the Hub Is,” but haven’t found room for until now. After I came up with quantelopes, it followed logically that the Network would use bioengineered organisms for other purposes, such as computing and AI.

pg 7 (49)

As I mentioned on the discussion page, Tsshar was a comic-relief character I salvaged from an earlier draft of a spec novel set in my primary SF universe, although I’d had the character in mind for years before that. (An excerpt from that draft is available on my Patreon page at Longtime followers of my work and my websites may recall that I used to have a brown-and-orange tabbycat named Tasha, who is very much the inspiration for Tsshar. My father and I were in the habit of calling our cats “wadgies,” a nonsense word my father coined, and that’s where “Mrwadj” came from.

The first few paragraphs of Nashira’s interaction with Tsshar are salvaged and reworked dialogue from the abandoned spec novel draft. While the character was named Tssharw there, and was a bit more restrained since she was serving the main antagonist’s agenda rather than her own appetites, she’s otherwise essentially identical. The fact that the Mrwadj were conceived for my default universe is the reason they’re less humanoid than most aliens in the Hub series.

“Murieff” and “Miifu” are both derived from my favorite nickname for Tasha, “Tigermuffin.” This was also the name of one of Emerald Blair’s childhood pets in Only Superhuman. “Tigermuffin” originated when I was trying to call Tasha a tiger and a ragamuffin at the same time and I got tongue-tied. Over the years, it evolved into “Miger tuffin” and then “Moogy foofin,” which was then elided into “Meefoo.” Somehow “Murphy” ended up in the mix of nicknames as well.

pg 8 (50)

Art’s explanation of how gravity works in the Hub universe is based on ideas I discussed in my blog post “Musings on quantum gravity” from December 7, 2013. I said at the time that those ideas might be adaptable to the Hub series, and as you can see, I followed through.

Scene 3

pg 10 (51)

The two paragraphs from “Six months ago” to “Of course it was.” are new to Crimes of the Hub (CotH). Originally, Nashira’s fellow Hub scouts were not introduced until “Hubstitute Creatures,” but since I was approaching CotH as a single fix-up novel, I decided I needed to establish them earlier, and use the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into Nashira’s thoughts.

Scene 4

No notes.


Scene 5

pg 14 (52)

The “middle ground” description of the Hubstation’s central office is a deleted line originally written for “Crooked Hub” and restored here to help set the scene more clearly. I also clarified Zilior’s interim status in the next paragraph, since I expect that most readers of CotH will be picking it up after reading Hub Space, whereas I wrote the original story to be more self-contained.

pg 15 (52)

Although I wanted these stories to stand on their own in Analog, it was hard to introduce Rynyan’s new status quo without recapping the events of “Make Hub, Not War” to an extent. Hopefully I made things clear enough for new readers. For CotH, though, again, I decided to refer back to Hub Space’s events more explicitly, adding the paragraph beginning “It had been Rynyan’s arrogance”. Aytriaew’s full name was given in HS as Hwaieur-7 Aytriaew, but that was an unnecessary detail here.

Nashira’s mention of the news coverage is a reference to the final in-universe article in Hub Space, which spun the events the way Nashira described here. That actually caused a problem for me, since its pro-Rynyan spin clashed with the setback in reputation I needed Rynyan to experience. Hence, the discussion of the news coverage is an attempt to reconcile this story with something that was never actually in the Analog versions of the previous Hub stories.

pg 16 (53)

Looking back on Rynyan’s pursuit of Nashira in the first three stories, I realized that I was making a joke of something that really wasn’t funny, namely sexual harassment. Even though I made it clear that Rynyan had never attempted to do anything more than flirt verbally with Nashira, and that it was a matter of conflicting cultural standards and worldviews rather than anything predatory, I realized that it would still be deeply uncomfortable for Nashira and for many female readers, especially given the power imbalance between them. If he became her actual boss, that would compound the problem even further. So before I could take that step, Rynyan needed to become a little more enlightened and lay off his pursuit. It’s a good thing I had that realization when I did, given that the #MeToo movement happened between the writing and publication of this story.

Rynyan’s new enlightenment helps advance his character as well, a nice progression from the rude awakening he had in MHNW. It shows he’s learned a bit of humility and introspection and is finally starting to grow, and it opens the door for a tentative improvement in Nashira and Rynyan’s relationship, a good counterpoint to David “breaking up” with Rynyan and being drawn into a new circle. The trick was to keep it funny and not lose Rynyan’s basic clueless egotism.

“A consummation devoutly to be wished” is a line from Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy, referring to the potential end of suffering through suicide (before he decides he’s more afraid of what might lie beyond death). Nashira, of course, is thinking of “consummation” in a more sexual sense.

Scene 6

pg 20 (55)

The main thing that crystallized this story for me was a paper I read in February 2016, “Homopolar artificial gravity generator based on frame-dragging” by Martin Tajmar (Acta Astronautica, Volume 66, Issue 9, p. 1297-1301). It proposed a complicated mechanism using a pair of ring-shaped arrays of massive spinning discs to create artificial gravity via a gravitomagnetic field within an annular volume between the rings. It was intriguingly plausible, but the mechanism seemed rather convoluted. I realized that it was based on the same physics as the Forward catapult, as proposed by physicist and science fiction writer Robert L. Forward. The Atomic Rockets site discusses the Forward catapult on their Antigravity page. As described, Forward proposed the device as a starship launcher, but I realized it could be used as an artificial gravity generator in the same way Tajmar proposed for his homopolar generator. And that gave me what I needed to pull off my tentative idea of a story about David getting himself trapped on the wrong side of a Hubpoint. I needed an obstacle massive and dense enough to be utterly impenetrable, and the superfluid of a Forward catapult was just the ticket. So I’m grateful to Martin Tajmar for giving me the last piece of the puzzle so that I could finally begin writing the new trilogy.

One problem with the idea is that superfluids (materials that flow with zero friction, analogously to how superconductors let current flow with zero resistance) tend to lose their superfluidity above a certain velocity, much as superconductors lose their properties above a certain temperature. So a “high-velocity superfluid” would be the equivalent of a high-temperature superconductor, something specially engineered to keep its superfluid properties at higher velocities than normally possible. I assumed this would be the result of some arbitrarily advanced future science, but it turns out that a method for restoring superfluidity at high velocities was proposed in a 2017 paper: “Superfluid flow above the critical velocity” by Paris-Mendoki et al., Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 9070 (2017).


Scene 7

pg 25 (57)

The thruster sequence fudges things somewhat for the sake of slapstick. Realistically, the thrusters would probably accelerate the archive very slowly at first, not abruptly enough to knock people over or to move the archive by a significant distance before they had a chance to shut it down. But we’re dealing with unknown alien tech, so maybe the builders just had a way to make really powerful thrusters.

Scene 8

No notes.


 Scene 9

No notes.

Scene 10

pg 32 (60)

“UWI St. Augustine” is the St. Augustine, Trinidad branch of the University of the West Indies. I chose to make Julio Trinidadian because I had a friend in 12th grade who’d been born in Trinidad. Although I didn’t intend it (at least not consciously), I realize now that my friend had some qualities in common with Julio, in that she was gregarious, confident, and aware of her sexiness.

Aside from the velocity thing, superfluids generally need to be extremely cold to maintain superfluidity. So heating the superfluid above its transition temperature with a laser would theoretically revert it to a normal fluid with nonzero friction.

Scene 11

No notes.


Scene 12

pg 41-2 (64)

David’s bisexuality is another detail I added in Hub Space, as discussed in the “Home is Where the Hub Is” annotations. At the time, it was just a minor patch to correct the inadvertently heteronormative assumptions I’d made in the original story. But once I’d established that David was bi, I realized I couldn’t just leave it as a token reference. I’d always planned to introduce a love interest for David as a rival for Nashira, assuming it would be female, but after the Hub Space revisions, I decided that he should have a male love interest instead. While I’ve had a handful of gay or bisexual male characters in my fiction (including Arkady in Only Superhuman and “Aspiring to Be Angels,” Ranjea in Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations, and Grev in Star Trek: Enterprise – Rise of the Federation), I’ve never actually portrayed any of them engaging in an “onscreen” romance like I’ve done with numerous heterosexual and lesbian characters. So I felt that I should remedy that omission, for the sake of being inclusive for my readers and expanding my horizons as a writer.

COUNT TWO: “…And He Built a Crooked Hub”


This entire chapter is new to CotH.

Scene 1

pg 48

While both David and Nashira have had sexual partners of more than one gender, that doesn’t mean they have the same orientation. I’m certain that Nashira has never sought out a tryst with another woman, just occasionally said “Sure, what the hell” when a woman came on to her while she was in a receptive mood. What we see later in “Crooked Hub,” where she rebuffs Mayte’s repeated sexual advances, would be more typical. Nashira would consider herself heterosexual with rare exceptions, while David is fully bisexual or even pansexual.

Scene 2

pg 50

Tsshar’s “putting myself in a box” strategy was originally part of her theft of Art, a Fishy Intelligence in the first draft of “Hubpoint of No Return.” I cut it for length, but I thought it was fun, so I cannibalized it when I needed new material for this bridging chapter. The victim was originally Yolien, the desk clerk of David’s hotel, which is why the cashier here is another Jiodeyn.

pg 51

In the first draft, I had Julio explain the nature of the museum right away, which left me without a good punch line for the scene. I finally realized I could have fun with the ambiguity of the term “museum heist.” I was unsure about the closing line, since I already have a later punch line revolving around a double meaning of the word “into,” but it worked otherwise.

Scene 3

pg 53

Mansura wants to relocate to “the next ring inward” because the Hubcomplex’s habitat rings get classier and more upscale the closer they are to the Hub (location, location, location!). I realized there was some ambiguity in the stories about how easy it was to “get out” of Hub scouting vs. the Hubcomplex as a whole, so I wanted to clarify just what it was Nashira was working toward.

Evdrae originally debuted in “Hubstitute Creatures.” Naturally, I moved her introductory description here.

Nashira’s joke about drinking to forget is a reference to an old joke from The Jack Benny Program. When Jack’s bandleader Phil Harris, whose character’s heavy drinking was a part of his standard schtick, told Jack “I only drink to forget,” Jack asked, “What are you trying to forget?” Phil: “All the years I went around sober.” Nashira’s line isn’t as witty, but it’s more aggressive, which is in character for her.

Scene 4

pg 54

The L’myekists were introduced, and implied to be religious scammers, in the expanded opening scene of Hub Space. That makes them a recurring element that’s never appeared in Analog, only in the collected volumes.


Scene 5 (Analog Scene 1)

pg 56 (80)

The original “Crooked Hub” begins here, with the line about the address list rephrased to be less recappy. Several recap passages are deleted from the following scene, or relocated (see Ch. 1 notes above).

Scene 6 (Sc. 2)

pg 56 (80)

Nashira’s disdain for American beer reflects the Australian part of her upbringing.

Rynyan’s folding of his tapering fingers is a nod to his pose in Vladimir Bondar’s illustration for the Russian translation of “The Hub of the Matter” (titled “В Гуще Событий”/“V Gushche Sobytiy,” meaning “In the Thick of Things”) in the December 2010 Esli Magazine. I’ve always liked how well that illustration captured the leads’ personalities.

pg 58 (81)

Rynyan jumping Nashira’s claim on “Rynyan’s Rings” was depicted in “The Hub of the Matter.” An ad for the Rings as a holiday spot appears as interstitial material in Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy.

pg 59 (81)

The running gag of Tsshar’s compulsive pickpocketing is the first Marx Brothers element in this story—it was a trademark of Harpo Marx’s nonverbal comedy—but it won’t be the last.

pg 60 (82)

The Ziovris incident occurred in “Home is Where the Hub Is.”

This scene was complicated to structure, and was originally two scenes that delayed getting to the fun parts. Hub stories take me a lot of time and effort to write, because it takes trial and error to find the best comic timing. Having business like Nashira and Tsshar’s pickpocketing war going on during the exposition is a good way to maintain the pacing and humor. So I sometimes write different discussions and interactions separately and then realize I need to blend and overlap them, playing them off each other for comic effect and faster pacing. The scenes with David’s family in “Make Hub, Not War” required a similar creative process.

Scene 7 (Sc. 3)

pg 61 (82)

Opmlqh, named here for the first time, was introduced in the opening scene of “Home is Where the Hub Is.”

pg 62 (83)

Rynyan’s partnership with the fanatics was seen in “Make Hub, Not War.”

pg 63 (83)

“Octacube” is one of the less common names for a 24-cell 4-dimensional solid, essentially the 4D equivalent of a tetrahedron in the same way that a tesseract is to a cube. But I thought it was the best-sounding name out of the options. I was originally just going to make the safe another tesseract, but a bit of research revealed there were other 4D shapes I could use.

pg 65 (84)

I’ve noticed a tendency in a number of TV shows that include LGBT characters to be more evasive about showing physical intimacy between same-sex male lovers than female ones. For instance, Arrow gave Sara Lance and Nyssa al Ghul a fair number of makeout scenes, but Curtis Holt and his husband Paul never seemed to touch at all or even look like they wanted to. If I was going to write a romance between two men for the first time in my career, I knew I had to approach it exactly the same way I’d approach any other romance. And for me, that means being fairly frank with the nudity and sexuality. If anything, I probably overcompensated a bit later on in the story, presenting David and Julio in a way that would feel too indulgent of my own fantasies if I’d done it with female characters.


Scene 8 (Sc. 4)

pg 66 (85)

I modified the description of Nashira’s route for CotH (originally “The route from Hubstation 3742’s scouting complex to the residential area naturally took her past the central office in between”), since I realized she would live in the pilots’ dorm rather than the residential area of the Hubstation.

Morjepas returns from “Home is Where the Hub Is,” which is where Nashira made her deal to end the Dosperhag’s “accident” attempts.

Scene 9 (Sc. 5)

pg 69 (86)

I only vaguely described the Qhpong in “Home is Where the Hub Is.” My description here is influenced by John Allemand’s illustration for the story in its original Analog publication (Dec. 2010, pp. 70-71), though not precisely based upon it.

The Sarlacc, of course, is the toothy and tentacled monster that gobbled up Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

pg 70 (87)

“But it was lovely getting to talk to you about something other than a male for a change!”: Here I’m poking fun at my own inadequate success at passing the Bechdel test in my previous Hub stories. Though Nashira and Opmlqh did have a conversation in HIWTHI (passing Bechdel parameter #2), only one of them was named at the time (failing #1) and their conversation was exclusively about a man, namely David (failing #3). In fact, the Qhpong wasn’t even identified as female until after their conversation.

pg 71 (87)

“Have you met Yldai?”: The story’s second Marx Brothers nod, an anagrammatic reference to a line from Groucho Marx’s famous ribald song “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” written by Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen and appearing in the 1939 MGM Marx Brothers film At the Circus.

pg 73 (88)

It was around this point in writing the story that I realized the flaw in my plot logic: If the characters could see through an open door, they’d know where it led before going through. So I had to concoct the blurry effect to make the story work. Although it’s still not a perfect fix. Nashira would’ve naturally missed noticing the blur the first time, when she fled the frozen room, but she had her eyes wide open the second time. Then again, she was also in quite a hurry, so she might not have stopped to notice the effect. Similarly, Rynyan steps through with confident haste, not stopping to look first. Later on, Mayte and the partygoers are probably chemically impaired enough not to notice or care, and David jumps through a door in haste his first time. After that, everyone in the suite is probably aware of the phenomenon, and newcomers from outside apparently can’t see the effect.

pg 73-4 (88)

An “unfolded” tesseract, or tesseract net, looks like this: As you can see, there’s one cube that can’t be accessed directly from the center cube. I never recognized that issue before I wrote this story, so my prior references to the suite having seven rooms had to be fudged a bit to mean five single rooms and a double.

pg 74 (88)

Pizza delivery fantasies are apparently a mainstay of porn, for some reason. Or so I gather.


Scene 10 (Sc. 5 cont’d)

pg 78 (89)

In the original story, there is no scene break after “…this kind of party!” But that made for too long a chapter in the collected version, and I realized a chapter break worked perfectly here.

pg 79 (90)

Originally, I had David and Nashira pass briefly through the frozen room before ending up in Chojieg’s, requiring Nashira to massage David’s nude body to warm him up. That was one of the bits in the first draft that went a little too far and almost got the story rejected.

The restored paragraphs from “How long?” to “that limber” are the only actual alteration in the flow of dialogue and events between the two editions, though they can be treated as a moment the Analog version merely skipped over. I was reluctant to make a change that actually altered events within a scene, as opposed to elaborating beyond or between existing scenes, but it was necessary to set up the later restored passage at the end of Chapter 9.

The towel incident on Renziov is from “Home Is Where the Hub Is.”

Scene 11 (Sc. 6)

pg 84ff (92ff)

And it’s all been building to this. By now it should be clear why I’ve been referencing the Marx Brothers—the climactic scene is an homage to the classic stateroom sketch from A Night at the Opera, first and greatest of the Marxes’ MGM films. It’s a great opportunity to go all-out with the zaniest comedy scene I’ve ever written professionally, with the bonus that it’s a situation of genuine, escalating peril for David, Nashira, and the rest. Rynyan basically ends up playing Groucho, while Tsshar continues to reflect Harpo once she shows up.

pg 87 (94)

Yolien seems to have gotten a promotion since his introduction as the front desk clerk in “The Hub of the Matter.” Good for him.

pg 88 (94)

For the record, the rooms of Suite 47 are numbered and occupied as follows:

  • Room 1: Chojieg
  • Room 2: Vacant (frigid), with cleaning robot
  • Room 3: Yldai
  • Room 4: David LaMacchia
  • Room 5: Opmlqh, aka “Millie”
  • Rooms 6/7: Anya, Mayte, and conventiongoers/partiers from Sol

Nashira’s path through the suite: Room 2 => 5 => 3 => 6/7 (with abortive forays into 1 & 2) => 4 => 1 => 5 => 3.

The full tally of occupants in Room 3 at its most crowded, in order of arrival:

  • Chojieg
  • Nashira, David, Julio
  • Yldai
  • Mayte, 2 other partiers
  • Rynyan, Anya, 1 other partier
  • Hevhuo
  • 3 partiers
  • Millie
  • Hevhuo’s assistant
  • Tsshar
  • Yolien
  • 4 bellhops (assuming 2 trays each)
  • Cleaning robot (partway)

Total: 23 people, 0.5 automata

pg 88-9 (94-5)

The last touch I added to the first draft of the story was the detail about Yldai and the safe, which let the subplot of identifying the spy work as an honest mystery that the reader could solve if they were attentive enough—one more genre piled into the stateroom of this story along with the Marx Brothers, Heinlein, and bedroom-farce influences. Originally, I just made a joke of it, with Rynyan citing the made-up clue no reader could possibly know as if it were obvious. But I wasn’t satisfied until I came up with a genuine clue on top of that.

pg 90 (95)

The closing three paragraphs about the playback being left on are another deleted scene restored here for the “author’s cut.”


Scene 12 (Sc. 7)

pg 91ff (95-6)

As I mentioned in my “Hubpoint of No Return” notes, I realized that Rynyan’s constant pursuit of Nashira felt too much like sexual harassment, especially if he was going to be her boss, so I had him become enlightened and lay off of her. But I thought it might be funny to reverse the dynamic—to have Nashira start desiring Rynyan while Rynyan rejected her, to make her the aggressor for a change, which seemed a more appropriate role for her.

Although that runs up against the problem that Rynyan is right: It would be inappropriate for Nashira to seduce her boss, and that might not be the greatest position to put her in on an ongoing basis. So she probably won’t go after Rynyan as persistently as he went after her, but it does change the dynamic between them in an interesting way. Mainly because it’s the last place Nashira ever imagined herself being—not only in bed with Rynyan, but feeling more trust and respect for him while being at odds with David.

pg 92 (96)

Nashira’s thoughts about Rynyan’s sexual performance are a bit more detailed here than in Analog.

COUNT THREE: “Hubstitute Creatures”

My original title was simply “Hubstitutes,” but once the fuller title occurred to me, I couldn’t resist the pun.


Scene 1

pg 96

This scene is new to CotH. I’ve tried to give a slightly larger role here to Morjepas, whom I neglected to include in the original edition of “Hubstitute Creatures.”

I also tried to clarify exactly what happened with Yldai, what she remembered, and so forth, since I left that a little vague originally. Ditto with clarifying how Rynyan’s status has fallen again after recovering previously. Blending stories into a single narrative really calls attention to those little inconsistencies that slip through.

I’m not sure the joke about Rynyan being “scrupulously honest and forthright” with his prospective sexual partners comes through, since that includes being graphically flirtatious in ways that the targets of his flirtation (especially Nashira, in the past) would not appreciate as much as he imagines. It was hard to make that clear while I was writing from his own oblivious POV.

Scene 2 (Sc. 1)

pg 100 (84)

Vivek Dhawan’s name means “knowledge messenger,” appropriate for his role in the story.

pg 101 (85)

I thought it was high time I started exploring more of Nashira’s life as a Hub scout, including some of her colleagues. I would’ve liked to feature more of her fellow scouts, but I had to keep things compact and still work in the necessary recaps and story setup.

pg 101-2 (85)

“Attempted claim fraud” is Evdrae’s interpretation of the events of “The Hub of the Matter” (where Rynyan stole Nashira’s claim, though Evdrae clearly didn’t believe Nashira’s protests to that effect) and “Home is Where the Hub Is” (where Nashira was manipulated into repeating a pre-existing discovery). The bioweapon incident was in “Make Hub, Not War.”

pg 103-5 (86-7)

In the first draft, Nashira did sleep with Vivek in an attempt to distract herself from the memory of her night with Rynyan. The conversation with David happened in the doorway to her quarters while Vivek was eavesdropping from her bathroom. But I decided it would be bad pacing to follow a story ending in a Nashira sex scene with a story that more or less began with one, and that it made more sense for Nashira to find sex with a human uninteresting after her revelatory night with Rynyan. Also, giving Nashira a sex scene here would undercut the more important one later on.

David, of course, is recapping the events of the past two stories, conveniently for the reader and for the eavesdropping Vivek. Although a few earlier lines of recap narration have been cut or streamlined for CotH to avoid redundancy.

Scene 3 (Sc. 2)

pg 106 (87)

Puk gai is Cantonese slang for an annoying person, a creep (literally “falling into the street”). “Gob” is Australian slang for “mouth.”

David’s “to tell me you weren’t alone” line is a holdover from the original sex-scene version of the previous scene. I kept it because it’s funnier in this version.

pg 108 (88)

“Rooted” is Australian slang for “screwed.”

pg 109 (88)

I couldn’t resist the pun of having Tsshar literally hang from a lampshade while “hanging a lampshade” on the contrived coincidence that she has exactly what the story needs. (For those who don’t know, the phrase refers to calling attention to an implausible or absurd story point that you can’t really justify, winking at the audience and acknowledging awareness of the problem.)


Scene 4 (Sc. 3)

pg 112 (89)

Much as Tsshar is based on my old cat Natasha, so Dr. Grriassh is based on a gray tabby who used to visit my apartment balcony, and whom I nicknamed Gracie.

pg 113 (90)

When Nashira says “It’s nothing we haven’t all seen before anyway,” she’s overstating a bit. She’s only been seen nearly nude by David and Julio at this point, and I think Nashira and Tsshar are the only ones who’ve previously seen Rynyan nude (at the end of “Crooked Hub”), though it’s possible that David has at some point between stories (or while they were confined in the hotel suite in “Home is…”).

Scene 5 (Sc. 4)

pg 114 (90)

I wasn’t sure if I wanted female Sosyryn to have permanently engorged breasts. On Earth, other primates’ breasts only fill out when they’re nursing young and are otherwise flat. (The leading theory is that human breasts are permanently engorged to facilitate the flat-muzzled shape of the human head; the tapering of the breasts enables infants’ nostrils to remain clear while they nurse. There’s another theory that permanent breasts evolved as a sexual display to attract mates, but that one’s more controversial.) In the end, I decided to keep Nashira’s Sosyryn anatomy fairly close to human for simplicity’s sake. She had enough changes to adjust to as it was.

Phantom limb syndrome is the tendency to continue feeling an amputated limb as if it were still present, because the neurons that transmitted its sensations to the brain are still firing, so the brain still perceives it as present. Similarly, Nashira’s brain is still receiving neural inputs that are translated into normal patterns, so it feels to her like she’s still in her own body, until she looks at it.

The neural intepreter software is itself a bit of lampshade hanging, a shortcut for what I’d think would be a very lengthy process of learning to move in a new body. Physical therapy, relearning how to use your body after a long period of inactivity, can take weeks or more, so you’d think adapting to an alien anatomy would take much longer. The justification here is that it’s an extremely advanced and ancient technology, so the designers have had thousands of years to solve all the problems and streamline solutions. Implicitly, the system also has language translation built in, though it can be overridden with effort.


Scene 6 (Sc. 5)

pg 118 (92)

“Corona of Mass Transaction” is supposed to be a pun on “coronal mass ejection,” a phenomenon related to a solar flare in which a star erupts some of its atmosphere into space. It’s not a very good pun.

Scene 7 (Sc. 6)

pg 121 (94)

The name equivalents, just for clarity:

  • David LaMacchia: Zyvyz Lymasa
  • Nashira Wing: Nysyra Vynyn
  • Rynyan Zynara ad-Surynyyyyyy’a: Dame Hruhnjihn Sanafh
  • Julio Rodriguez: Ghuiru Idroknel

I skipped coming up with Sosyryn clan names for David and Nashira, since I couldn’t figure out how I wanted them to work and whether a formation like Rynyan’s six consecutive Ys (the third is silent, remember) would be typical.

“Intermammary fossa” is a faux-medical term for cleavage. Literally, it’s the “between-breast hollow.”

pg 122 (94)

Drawing mass out of a star to extend its lifespan is a theoretical process called “star lifting.” It would also provide abundant hydrogen fuel for fusion, and possibly other elements as well.

Scene 8 (Sc. 7)

No notes.

Scene 9 (Sc. 8)

 pg 127 (97)

While I’ve always imagined the Dosperhag as being cephalopod-like and flimsy-bodied to explain their refusal to leave their low-gravity world, the idea of them being brachiating cephalopods was no doubt inspired by the 2002 TV special The Future is Wild and its companion book by Dougal Dixon, which postulated the far-future evolution of life on Earth. The conjectures for 200 million years in the future included land-dwelling cephalopods, notably a brachiating, intelligent one called the “squibbon” (squid + gibbon).


Scene 10 (Sc. 9)

 pg 131 (98)

I found it surprising that Analog’s editor Trevor Quachri felt the first draft of “Crooked Hub” needed rewriting to trim some of its sexual references—mostly pertaining to voyeurism, sexually frank flirtation, and fondling—while he was fine with this scene directly depicting sexual intercourse. The latter seems much more graphic to me. Perhaps it was because the descriptions here are mostly abstract and emotional, or because the bodies involved are nonhuman. Or perhaps it was because the deleted references in “Crooked” were less essential to the story and thus came off as gratuitous.

Scene 11 (Sc. 10)

 pg 133ff (99-101)

All the lines about Morjepas in this scene are added for CotH. If I’d remembered to include him in the original story, I could’ve given him a larger role.

pg 134 (100)

Nashira’s scout number was previously established in “Home is Where the Hub Is.”

pg 135 (100)

When I started writing this scene in which Nashira’s official file was read, I realized I needed to give her a full Chinese name at last. Typically, people from Hong Kong (and increasingly in Mainland China) have both a Chinese given name that follows their surname and an English/Western nickname, sometimes chosen at birth and sometimes later, that precedes it. “Nashira,” which is the Arabic name for the star Gamma Capricorni and means “bringer of good news” or “fortunate one,” isn’t even pronounceable in Cantonese, so she definitely needed another given name.

I’d established in my online character notes and in the Hub Space collection that Nashira was born the year after Hub contact, and her parents had chosen her name to express hope about the prosperity that contact could bring. I wanted her Chinese name to reflect that same idea. But the actual Chinese name of Gamma Capricorni, 壘壁陣三 (Lěi Bì Zhèn sān), “Third Star of the Line of Ramparts,” was too cumbersome. So I searched for something similar to “Nashira” in meaning and hopefully in sound. It proved easier to search online for Mandarin names than Cantonese ones, so once I found Mandarin candidates, I looked up the Cantonese pronunciation of their characters, then double-checked to make sure that the resulting name was actually used by Cantonese speakers. This last step ruled out at least one promising candidate.

I settled on the name 惠慶, which means “kind fortune” or “generous good luck.” In Cantonese, this is pronounced Wai-hing, with the tones wai6 (low-level flat) and hing3 (mid-level flat). In Mandarin, this is Huìqìng, sounding somewhat like “hwey-ching” with a falling tone in both syllables. Nashira’s surname is , pronounced “Wing4” (low-level falling tone) in Cantonese, “Róng” (rising tone, somewhat like “zhong”) in Mandarin. It means glory/honor or to flourish/prosper. (Pronunciation guides with audio: Cantonese, Mandarin)

So her full legal name would be Nashira Wing Wai-hing (Nashira 惠慶), and it basically means “fortunate” and “prosperous” several times over, the irony of which must really grate at Nashira. Among Cantonese speakers, she’d go by Wing Wai-hing (though people outside her family wouldn’t use her given name much), but since she lived in and around Australia from age 11 onward, she got in the habit of going by Nashira Wing. She probably thinks of “Wai-hing” as akin to her middle name, something she has but rarely uses, which is why it’s never been mentioned until now. In any case, the Hub Network computers probably turned up the fact that 惠慶 is pronounced Róng Huìqìng in the more widely spoken Mandarin dialect, and the suspicious Kmugnik misinterprets this as an alias. (Just for the heck of it, those same characters would represent Yeong Hye-gyeong in Korean and Vinh Hue Khanh in Vietnamese. In Japanese, the first character can represent the surnames Mie, Takaei, or Sakae, while the latter two characters spell the male given name Ekei.)

“Bringer-of-Good-News Airfoil” is a journalistic mistranslation that appeared in the interstitial material of Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy, making its Analog debut here. Clearly whoever did that translation assumed her name was “Wing” in English rather than . (That, of course, was because I hadn’t yet looked up the Cantonese meaning of her name at the time. I’m lucky it even exists in Cantonese.)


Scene 12 (Sc. 11)

 pg 139-40 (102)

My original long-term plan was to get David and Nashira together as a couple after facing various obstacles and romantic rivals, in the standard romantic-comedy formula. Once I hooked David up with Julio, my first thought was that in this story, Julio would get arrested on Dosp, sacrificing himself to allow David and Nashira to get away and clearing the board for them to get together (though with Nashira getting her own competing love interest first). But I realized that would perpetuate an unfortunate cliché of doomed gay relationships in fiction, and it risked implying that David’s same-sex relationship was a mistake on the path to his true heterosexual destiny. Once I questioned that, I realized I’d been mistaken to assume that David and Nashira were meant to end up together at all. That was just the clichés talking. Once I really thought about it from Nashira’s perspective, I realized that David meant more to her as a best friend than he would as a lover. I’ve long believed that close friendship between men and women is a relationship that carries real meaning but is undervalued in fiction due to the reflex to portray every male-female relationship as a romance. That’s less the case now than it used to be, but it’s still common, and I’ve always wanted to tell a story like this, of a man and a woman on an emotionally complex journey to a deep and meaningful relationship that turned out to be a friendship rather than a romance (which is a process I went through with my best friend in college, so it has personal significance to me). I can’t believe it took so long for me to realize this was my chance to do that.

pg 140-1 (102)

The possibility that Hub vectors could be initially random occurred to me fairly late in the game. I hesitated to use it, since it basically invalidates David’s entire mission, but it was a good way to wrap up the second trilogy, plus it gave Tsshar’s role in the story some payoff. Anyway, as Nashira says, it isn’t necessarily the final word on the question.

pg 141 (103)

David LaMacchia’s surname was always a nod to Don Quixote de la Mancha (while his first name is a nod to David and Goliath), but I never thought I’d come right out and reference that in the text. It fit the moment, though.

pg 142 (103)

As I mentioned in the opening notes, I almost forgot the punch line I’d originally had in mind for this story. My original closing line was much feebler: “Oh, well, there is an upside,” Rynyan mused. “It means I get to try on the rest of my lingerie while it still fits!”

As it turns out, ending with a pun makes the final scene work essentially like a feghoot, a short (generally SF) story written for the express purpose of setting up a terrible pun in the last line. Isaac Asimov was a particular master of these. It’s amazing that the final business sets up the line so well when I didn’t even remember I’d wanted to end on that line. Especially since my original idea was that “until someone loses an I” was a reference to the loss of self and identity that the body-swapped characters went through. It has a totally different meaning in this context, but it still works perfectly.

Well, almost perfectly. It’s a bit contrived that Rynyan is the one to make the English-language pun, considering that “The Hub of the Matter” established that he relies on a translator implant to speak English. But it’s possible that Rynyan understands enough English to have figured out the pun, and knowing him, he’s probably been waiting for days to have the right opportunity to use it.

For archival purposes, here are links to the original annotations for the Analog editions of the stories:

“Hubpoint of No Return” Annotations

“…And He Built a Crooked Hub” Annotations

“Hubstitute Creatures” Annotations

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