What is Dead Space?
Dead space is a misnomer in several aspects. While it is true that there is no air, and therefor no sound in space this only applies in the audio band. There is plenty of ‘noise’ in space. Most of this noise is in the form of radio waves, gamma radiation and a variety of other high energy particles. The real portions of dead space are really the vast gulfs of nothing between the galaxies, but that isn’t very interesting because there is quite honestly nothing there. The real Dead Space pertains to areas that are isolated from the constant noise of human civilization.
Contrary to how it is portrayed in the movies, when a starship dials up a starbase for the captain to make a vital call to the admiral, there really isnt an unbroken signal from the ship’s communication array back to the starbase transmitters. Rather there is an array of communication bases, satellites, and other pieces of equipment that bounce subspace signals around from place to place. The afore mentioned call from the starship might be routed from an automated comm array to the sector comm hub, and then sent to the communications reciever at the starbase many lightyears away. Real time communication could very expensive in terms of energy and bandwidth.
There are places where the network doesnt go. These places are what is deemed dead space. Most of the time there is a valid explanation for why a region of space is isolated from the constant stream of human noise. Nebula can obscure signals, as can extreme distances. An array or satellite needs to have a stable body to orbit, not just be left to drift aimlessly through space. Without this fixed position, getting any sort of signal would be weak at the very best.
Dangers of Dead Space
Breakdown - Ships tend to have mechanical problems, the Millenium Falcon was a step above a tempermental 20 year old muscle car, while the Enterprise D was a bit like a Lexus, nice but regularly having all sorts of odd problems. In a region of dead space, a ship that breaks down cannot call for help. If it is a well prepared ship, they might have a communications torpedo that can be loaded with data and fired back towards the nearest reciever. a broke-down ship in a dead region can expect to wait a long time before a rescue is mounted.
Space Madness - This broad terms covers a huge variety of mental afflictions that come from extended isolation. Most ships have some sort of library of books, magazines, and whatever passes for the current form of mass media (TV, tri-d, Holodecks) but there is a limit to what the ship can carry. Most will dedicate a certain amount of bandwidth to incoming entertainment media, as well as downloading books, and other forms of media. Cut off from this data trunk, it doesnt take too long to blow through the ship’s library. Then, people start to get a little… iffy.
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse - With extended periods of time alone or isolated to a small group of people, alcohol and drug use are a major problem. Drunks and addicts can be dealth with, usually through confinement and detox. As such, most ships will have some sort of alcohol on board, but will be a bit more firm on the no drugs policy. It’s hard to run a ship when the crew has a heroin problem.
Paranoia - listen to silence long enough and you will start hearing things that arent there. In dead space, there isn’t anything to hear, or usually anything to see. In this bubble, with a limited crew of people, paranoia is among the most common of space psychoses.
Ripley’s Complex - This form of space paranoia revolves around a fear of contamination and xenophobia. The afflicted believes that one or more other crew members have become infected with aliens. The only way to secure their personal safety is to kill the infected and isolate themselves from the rest of the ship, where there are other aliens. Ripley’s is a dangerous complex as it doesnt become readily obvious until a crewman starting trying to kill other staff.
Sensory Depravation - As above, looking into the same monitor day after day and seeing the same thing, the same nothing is boring. This long term depravation can lead to the idea that ‘Nothing Looks Back At You’. Unlike paranoia, this sort of madness is rarely violent, but is much harder to diagnose and later treat.
Bowman’s Syndrome - The afflicted is in a mental ‘hyper reality’ usually noted by audio and visual hallucinations. this can range from catatonic fugues, to surreal optic hallucinations. There have been some cases where the patient believed that they had contacted long lost loved ones and the ghosts of the dead on the ship’s communication array. Some patients refuse to be cured of this condition, while others require regular medication and psychiatric treatment.
Technophilia - After being surrounded by a ship for a long period of time, a crewman can start having an unhealthy relationship with machinery or even the ship itself.
Agoraphobia - after spending months in an iron womb, being outside on a planet can leave a patient feeling dangerously insecure. In fact, a large room like a gynasium can leave the person feeling exposed. Most such life-spacers tend to avoid going planetside and spend their time on ships or stations.
Fear of Doors - Opening a door on a ship can in rare cases lead to being sucked out into space for a quick and brutal death. Some personel will gain an almost dibilitating fear of doors, even common wooden doors. This can extend to seeing them, or even touching them.
Weir’s Syndrome - This is a rather rare neurosis. The key component is that the patient has the belief that the ship they are on is alive. This is considered an atavistic responce as the patient will regard the ship as a place of safety and will refuse to leave it. Attempting to force them can be problematic and dangerous. Most such patients will have made a sort of nest for themselves in a hard to find and confined location. Rehabilitation, thankfully is easier than most forms of space madness.
A few spacers will become affected with long term alterations to their behavior and personality due to the long periods of isolation in space. This will generally tend towards two extremes.
Personal Introversion causes the spacer in question to become a hermit, disdaining the companionship of other humans. These spacers become painfully awkward and uncomforatble in social situations, and cannot deal with more than one or two people at a time. This phenominon was also common during the advent of the Virtual-Cyber-Realm.
Personal Extroversion is popularized and misunderstood by the body of the media. It is amusing to show sailors going bananas in port chasing prostitutes, and the ship disgorging the all female crew for a multi-hour orgy is considered one of the three basic pornographic plots. These are both wrong. A person with Extroversion requires constant attention to prove not only their self worth, but that they even exist in extreme cases. Nymphomania is just as likely as self mutilation, pranking for attention, or other violations of basic behavioral ettiquette.
Most dead space is caused by two things, giant nebulae and so called stellar gulfs. Both of these two tend to be unexplored regions as one is nothing more than clouds of dust that obscure signals, and vast reaches of absolutely nothing. Space Nebula are hazardous for hiding larger pieces of debris as well as sometimes being a haven for pirate ships.
The gulfs, rifts, drifts, and expanses are more likely to harbor some sort of anomaly. Each anomoly tends to be unique, and most have some hand in creating the vast empty space around them.
Abridged List of Anomaly classes