I need some help tracking a story that I thought I had on the shelf but didn't. Let me outline the plot, and some details I recall really well, I think it was called Trader's Oath but my google search came up empty.

The Plot: a man who is a Trader is sent to a space station in Low Earth Orbit to negotiate a deal with a government official. The problem is the Chipponese, who run the space station and live in orbit, are setting up an operation to grow food on the moon, and that means they won't need Earth anymore, upsetting a delicate balance of power. The trader meets up with the government official's wife who tells him about this project; he has to decide if he is "a human being first and a Trader second" because if he proceeds as ordered it could mean war on Earth.

The world: Earth has suffered war and a lot of destruction, the USSR collapsed (this was written when it still existed). China and Japan went to war and the Chinese got nuked.

The world is divided into several power blocs; one is called the Chipponese, who are the "re-united" Japan and China and have space stations in LEO. (Evidently a giant cloud of radioactive dust forced them to accelerate plans to colonize LEO and the warring nations decided fallout was the greater common threat). Then there are the Americans who grow a lot of food. The Chills are people who live in polar regions and make high-technology products. The traders manage the commerce between them.

Some technologies are Trader Recording Spheres; they are used so traders can keep diaries and logs.

I am pretty sure the story dates from 1987 or so; certainly before 1990 and after 1985.

1 Answer 1


This is one of Charles Sheffield's Traders stories; there were 4 published in Analog in the 1980s, but apparently never re-published:

Thanks to @user14111 the specific story in question is "Trader's Secret":

Suddenly we were looking down on a vast, geometric pattern. Endless kilometers of Farside lunar plain carried a regular, rectangular grid. And within each grid cell, beneath the soft blue-gray sheen of a continuous plastic canopy, I saw the bright green of growing plants.

Fields. We swept on over the surface, mile after mile after mile, and the pattern continued.

"First harvest in four months," said Li. Her voice was dreamy. "A generation's work. Twenty years, to prepare the surface, to modify the plant genetics, to drill for water, to add the protective canopy. And in four months we will see. the first full harvest."


"Self-sufficient," she repeated. "And now, some of us must ask the question: what will happen to Earth? Are we destroying Earth, to make a garden of the Moon? That must not happen. That is why I called on you for Trader's Oath, to tell us what will happen when the Yankees learn that we have our own food—and they have nothing to offer us in exchange for energy."

Analog, August 1985, p. 43

(Note that the "Yankees," being among the regions that have suffered most from the war, have little to offer the blocs other than food.)

The protagonist is Mikal Asparian, a junior trader in the first story (who is handed a mission the Traders expect to fail, so it doesn't look bad on a more senior trader), who gains experience as the series progresses.

The world is divided into 4 power blocs after a nuclear war; the Chipponese (Japan+China/Korea), the Chill (Antarctica), the Strine (Australia) and [forget the name] (South America: Peru/Chile). Each of the power blocs has a jealously-guarded specialty (e.g. biotech for the Strines) and the traders exist separately, surviving as neutral negotiators.

The stories were fixed up into the novel Trader's World (1988).

The story you're asking about isn't "Trader's Partner"; in that one Mikal is sent to South America (specialty: recreation/pleasure) with a female partner to investigate a report that South America has managed to turn a VIP from another bloc. They are shooting needles into people's brains to hook them on direct stimulation of their pleasure centre; his partner saves him, but dies.

  • Thank you both so much!
    – Jesse
    Jul 26, 2020 at 16:36
  • It seems to have gotten lost, but I'll try again: thanks to both @DavidW and user14111 - this was a huge help
    – Jesse
    Jul 27, 2020 at 13:10

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