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In A Deepness in the Sky, the OnOff star and the spider's planet both exhibit unusual properties. The star itself spends most of its time essentially dark; while the planet contains minerals which seem to have antigravity properties.

These are not characteristics typical of the slow zone, and seem like they could result from the system being located in a higher zone of thought. However the human fleets which reach the planet are clearly comprised of slow zone ships.

What zone of thought is the OnOff system in?

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It's been a while since I read it, but my memory is that within the Deepness in the Sky setting, there are no zones other than what is later referred to as the "Slow Zone" in Fire Upon the Deep. That is:

-There is no mention of the Zones, let alone of the characters being aware of them.

-All of the travel is sublight speed.

-At the end of Deepness in the Sky, Pham Nuwen embarks on a journey to the center of the galaxy. It is later revealed in Fire Upon the Deep that this put him in the "Unthinking Depths". If humanity had been aware of The Beyond and how the Zones work, surely Pham would have wanted to go to The Beyond, not the Unthinking Depths.

We also have the Emergents using people as makeshift AI, and if there were in the Beyond, they would just use actual AI.

wikipedia has this to say:

A Deepness in the Sky takes place in the Slow Zone, though Vinge does not explain the connections, and the characters in the story remain unaware of the zones' existence. The sun's inexplicably strange behavior, the unusual planetary system (with only a solitary planet and several asteroid-sized diamonds), and the discovery of "cavorite" on the planet may indicate the system originated in the Transcend, though it is currently moving outward from the Unthinking Depths. Vinge's characters speculate that the Spiders descend from an ancient star-faring civilization, and that the anti-gravity material and other strange artifacts have connections with that civilization. Unfortunately, they guess the structure of the Zones (though not the actual properties) backwards, coming to the conclusion that the bright center of the galaxy is the most likely location for advanced civilization. This leads Pham on his path inwards to the Unthinking Depths, and his eventual resurrection.

So the implied sequence of events is this: The Spiders' planet was originally in the Beyond, on the other side of the galaxy from where the Qeng Ho and Emergents found it. It then traveled into the Slow Zone, eventually passing through the lower portion of the Slow Zone and possibly the upper edge of the Unthinking Depths, causing a collapse of the civilization. It then came out the other side, continuing on back toward The Beyond. Eventually, its increased distance from the galactic core, along with time for its inhabitants to rebuild, resulted in the Spiders reaching a 20th century Earth level of technology, and the radio emissions of their civilization alerted the Qeng Ho and Emergents to their presence. Pham Nuwen, seeing that the planet had signs of previously advanced technology, and observing it traveling away from the galactic core, incorrectly surmised that the galactic core was a region of advanced technology.

  • The quote from Wikipedia appears to be unreferenced, it may just be an assertion by some Wikipedia editor. – DaveInCaz Jun 3 at 22:24
  • @DaveInCaz Yes, but it's corroborated by the other points that I made. – Acccumulation Jun 3 at 22:26
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    "later revealed" Er ... previously revealed. At least in the Earth sequence. It comes later in Pham's timeline, of course. – dmckee Jun 4 at 2:29
  • I believe it is mentioned (or implied) towards the end that the On/Off system is right on the edge of the border to the Beyond and might be within it in a few decades/centuries. – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Jun 4 at 7:37
  • @KlausÆ.Mogensen something gave me that impression also – DaveInCaz Jun 4 at 10:04
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The Qeng Ho fleet was first to arrive at the OnOff star. That might not matter. For the last fifty years of their voyage, they had watched the torch-plumes of the Emergent fleet as it decelerated toward the same destination.

A Deepness in the Sky, Chapter One, opening sentence

and

... S.J. Park was smiling, too, probably with as much sincerity as Tomas Nau. Fleet Captain Park had not been popular with the Triland Forestry Department; that was partly because he cut their pre-Flight time to the bone, even when there had been no evidence of a second fleet. Park had all but fried his ramjets in a delayed deceleration, coming in just ahead of the Emergents.

A Deepness in the Sky, Chapter One

Both fleets, especially the Qeng Ho, using ramships to get there despite the immediate attraction is required by the target system being in the Slow Zone.

  • Humans were still using ramships when they first left the Slow Zone (else how would they have gotten out?); Deepness seems to be set before humanity found its way out. There's more evidence of this in A Fire Upon the Deep. – Zeiss Ikon Jun 3 at 18:41
  • @ZeissIkon I didn't think it was clear that humanity had never left the Slow Zone at that point. I thought that the Qeng Ho at least had traded across the boundary already by this point, and could have routed a faster expedition that way if the OnOff system had been in the Beyond. I've only just found my copy and browsed the first chapter so far, so I could be mis-remembering. – DavidW Jun 3 at 18:50
  • As I recall from the two books, humanity was exploring the wrong direction -- hence why Pham Nguyen was found, during Fire, at the bottom of the Slow Zone, near the Unthinking boundary -- he'd never have gone there if he'd had word from Beyond first. – Zeiss Ikon Jun 3 at 18:53
  • @ZeissIkon right. And how would they even know if they had crossed the boundary when they didn't know such a thing even existed? – DaveInCaz Jun 4 at 10:06

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