Life in Villa Straylight

Tessier-Ashpool is a fictional family appearing in William Gibson‘s Sprawl trilogy. The family owns Freeside, a space station shaped like a spindle Bernal sphere constructed in high orbit. The family resides in the Villa Straylight, which occupies one end of the spindle.

The family is organized and run as a corporation, Tessier-Ashpool S.A.. Family members are kept under cryogenic stasis and thawed out periodically so that governance of the family is cycled between members. According to “orbital law” they are legally dead while cryogenically preserved.

The Tessier-Ashpool family owns the mainframe to which one of their two artificial intelligences, Wintermute, is attached. As the computer hardware is located in Bern, Switzerland its resident AI thereby has limited Swiss citizenship “under their equivalent of the Act of ’53”. The other AI, Neuromancer, is housed within another family-owned mainframe located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Tessier-Ashpools were founded with the marriage of scions of two powerful families: Marie-France Tessier, who was Swiss and John Harness Ashpool, an Australian who inherited a Melbourne engineering company. After the two were married, Ashpool began construction of Freeside in high orbit due to the relatively relaxed laws governing construction.

The family became extremely successful financially, developing the attached space station, sponsoring human colonization of space, and acquiring a number of other firms which subsequently flourished. By the time of Neuromancer, an ownership search on one of their subsidiary firms required tracing through four larger corporations, although a share of their common stock had not been traded on the open market for more than a hundred years.

Tessier and Ashpool had two children: “Jane” and “Jean”. Due to less-stringent orbital laws they were able to clone their remaining family from these two. Their children are known by a combination of their first name and the generation of clone they are (i.e., “3Jane” or “8Jean”). In Mona Lisa Overdrive, it is revealed a batch of 20 clones was made: 10 Jeans and 10 Janes. All have the hyphenated last name “Tessier-Ashpool.”

However, following the death of Tessier, the family became extremely reclusive. Family members, including Ashpool, tended to place themselves in cryogenic sleep. At any one given time, only one or two of the children would be awake. They are also known for cloning their own assassins, “vat-grown” ninja who follow their orders without question.

“And the Flatline aligned the nose of Kuang’s sting with the center of the dark below. And dove. Case’s sensory input warped with their velocity. His mouth filled with an aching taste of blue. His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sounds of trains, suddenly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine spines. The spines split, bisected, split again, exponential growth under the dome of the Tessier-Ashpool ice.” ― William Gibson, Neuromancer

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