“Comfort Zones” Annotations

Page numbers are for The Arachne Omnibus. The story also appears on Patreon.


The title is a double meaning, referring both to planetary habitable zones (specifically the rarity of a truly Earthlike, livable planet like Cybele existing in one close enough to reach) and to the characters’ personal comfort zones as discussed in the story.

Scene 1

Pg 1

Hayakawa City is named for a character in my first, never-sold spec novel, the leader of a Martian colony expedition. While that novel no longer fits into the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe’s timeline (indeed, it began around 2020), I still consider some characters and elements from it to be loosely part of the universe’s backstory.

The depiction of Cybele is, of course, consistent with “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” available in my collection Among the Wild Cybers as well as The Arachne Omnibus.

Madeleine Kamakau has previously appeared only in “Twilight’s Captives” (also reprinted in ATWC), but she’s a major figure in the ATU’s history, and the longest-lived human to appear in its canon thus far. This story picks her up at a much earlier point in her biography.

“Augreality” is short for “augmented reality.”

Algal mats are one of the oldest forms of life found on Earth, colonies of algae growing on sea beds. “Pluricellular” is just a variant word for “multicellular,” but I use it here to suggest a colony of single cells that’s evolved cooperative behavior on a path toward becoming full-fledged multicellular life.

Pg 2

“Alpha C” is Alpha Centauri, of course. GJ 411 is a shorter name for the nearby star Lalande 21185, about 8.3 light-years from Earth.

Pg 3

Martian culture in the ATU is polygamous, due to the need of a small, growing colony to breed prolifically and the benefits of sharing the burdens of child care among a large group. At the time I originally developed the idea, it felt “futuristic” to me, but as the current generation of young Americans is becoming more open to polyamory, it seems a less daring prediction than it once was.

Pg 4

The al-Khwarizmi Institute and the Vanguard habitat were established in Only Superhuman. Soujikyuu is the Japanese name for the Gemini constellation, and is an indirect nod to one of my favorite tokusatsu characters, the space-loving Yuki from Kamen Rider Fourze.

Director DeMarais is Ekundayo DeMarais, who debuted in “Conventional Powers” as the Cerean superheroine Doctor DeMeter and joined the Troubleshooter Corps at the end of the story, with more appearances to follow, I hope. The Solar Security Bureau is probably a later evolution of the Troubleshooters, or perhaps their replacement, depending on how I end up developing their saga. In any case, it’s the more organized systemwide law enforcement agency whose absence in earlier decades required the Troubleshooters to fill the void. Originally, I conceived the Troubleshooters as a special division of the SSB, but eventually I realized they worked better in the absence of such an institution. Here I’ve “recanonized” the SSB as an eventual outgrowth of their work.

Pg 6

The theory of human survival that Madeleine and Stephen present here is the “generalist specialist” model proposed in 2018 by archaeologists Patrick Roberts and Brian Stewart, discussed here:



I previously referenced this model in Star Trek: The Original Series—The Captain’s Oath.

Scene 2

Pg 8

It was a bit on-the-nose to have Stephen and Cecilia’s first meeting be the event that crystallized Stephen’s decision to launch the Arachne expedition, but I loved how it enriched their relationship.

The other expedition to Achird is only briefly alluded to in Arachne’s Crime. We can presume it arrived safely at its destination.

Pg 9

Stephen is just the sort of influential, visionary leader that Madeleine is prone to collect as spouses. I presume the reason it didn’t happen is because they were on different planets, and because he was already busy pursuing his own world-changing ambitions. It makes sense that they’re allies, though.

Scene 3

Pg 10

Athena is another cameo from the wider ATU, introduced in “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad.” Her debate with Tarik foreshadows issues that will arise in “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (and that would have been avoided if Arachne had made it to Cybele on schedule).

Scene 4

Pg 11

My first thought was to give a 57-year-old Emerald Blair a cameo as one of the arguers here, possibly in conflict with “one of her ex-wives,” but I decided I didn’t want to limit my options for her in future Troubleshooter stories.

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