Introduction to the Fanseeth

(image based on an image from the ESA/Hubble Telescope of Proxima Centauri, CC BY 4.0; modifications are all rights reserved)

It shall and may be lawful for the court before whom they were convicted […] if they think fit, instead ordering any such offenders to be burnt in the hand or whipt, to order and direct, That such offenders […] shall be sent as as soon as conveniently may be, to some of his Majesty’s colonies and plantations in America for the space of seven years…

— Transportation Act 1717

The Fanseeth were the first of the great cultures to migrate. The first generation ships to depart. Among the first to colonize new worlds and to remain as a force in galactic politics.

A candidate star was identified: a red dwarf, circled by a gas giant in the habitable zone, with multiple potentially habitable or terraformable moons. There were also bountiful resources on some of the uninhabitable moons; moons that were rich in the resources needed to terraform a planet, to establish a colony, and to get a leg up against one’s competitors back on Earth.

Of course, very few of those original colonists were strictly voluntary.

Many nations had a problem with minor criminals and that early generation vessel provided a convenient solution: Become a colonist. Work for us. You will have increased freedom, more space, a chance to make a living on more-or-less your own terms. Skilled individuals were particularly viable for this. Some people were also sent along to oversee things and look out for corporate interests.

It wasn’t as if they were well liked back at home anyways.

That was a long time ago. Earth is now largely forgotten except in old stories and things have changed, but the Fanseeth remain. Among the fiercest and hardiest of the four major peoples of Temet Nosce, the Fanseeth are well versed in what it takes to survive and in turning the odds around.

Ruled by a monarch who is elected to near-absolute power every 40 years and given the title of Warden—though very few finish living out their term—the Fanseeth are divided into small groups that rule themselves. They have strong notions of honor and strict rules for how to solve inter-group conflicts, but many fewer restrictions on the day-to-day lives of the individuals. Stay out of the Warden’s gaze and you’ll be fine.

Guest rights are considered of extreme importance among the Fanseeth, since in the harsh terrain you never know when you will be dependent on someone else’s hospitality.

Cybernetic mods—emphasizing functionality—are very common while biological modifications and more “frivolous” mods are comparatively rare.

The Four Cultures

There are four principle subcultures within the Fanseeth:

The Vordur

The children and descendants of the original company women and men and the government officials that were sent along to ensure the success of the mission. These are the de-facto rulers of the Fanseeth. While technically anyone can vote under their constitution and everyone who is a descendent of the original immigrants can vote, the Vordur are consistently in the highest positions of power, be it in the government or in the private sector. They often own the land that others work on and have generational wealth to ensure that their children inherit into their high positions.

The Kappi

Pilots. These Fanseeth spend most of their time aboard small space stations and in ships, ferrying other groups between the moons. From tourism to business, the Kappi are there to facilitate. They also run a lot of the stations and mining outposts on the uninhabitable moons, hosting the workers who are there to mine or harvest the local materials. A lot of lower-level government officials also come from the Kappi.

The Hakal

Resource harvesters. Miners, extractors, rig workers. The Hakal often are used to traveling out to harvest resources for a period of time, and then come back to their families and friends. Tough and survival oriented even by the standards of the Fanseeth, the Hakal are good friends with harsh environments and use tools, augments, and culture to keep out the elements.

The Bondi

The opposites to the Hakal in a lot of respects, the Bondi tend to stay put on the habitable worlds and very rarely travel except to other areas of the same moon. They are responsible for keeping things going—be it manufacturing or farming or service or business—and fill almost every level of the private sector.

Writing credit: David Clements

Introduction to the Nurani

(photo credit: modified version of an image produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO) under CC 4.0; modification is all rights reserved).

We found in those early days that as we embraced the stars we became less human. That the words of the ancient philosophers were true: that there was a fundamental connection between seeming and being. That as our bodies were changed, either on a whim or to a purpose, we lost something of ourselves.

— The Ocean of Light, The Book of the Nurani, Attributed to Sepideh Omidzadeh

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
— Mark 8:36, KJV

[Technology] had made nearly anything possible, and so the cultural role in deciding what should be done with it had become far more important than imagining what could be done with it.
— The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson

 

The Nurani started as part of the Etamui. Their roots were there from the earliest days, in the construction of Celestial Station, but they found that as the Etamui adapted their bodies, they lost something. Between the genetic modifications and the physical augments, in the rush to embrace the newest technology, the essence of “humaness” was being forgotten.

They took the generation ships of their ancestors and departed in search of a new star.

They found a set of planets around a binary star. Several of which existed in a stable, circumbinary orbit in the habitable zone of the pairs, along with a few candidates in S-type orbits around one of the stars.

They named the Binary pair “Noor” and called themselves the “Nurani.” They picked the most promising planet and began terraforming it for their own use, leaving the others to future colonies and for experimentation, mining, and trade purposes.

The essence of the society in three points:

  • Any form of technology—and especially any augment—must contribute to what makes us “human.” The pursuit of technology must not be for its own sake, but because it advances our culture.
  • The highest human expressions are things like poetry, art, philosophy, and music.

While the nature of humans is diverse and that diversity of experience should be embraced, it isn’t necessarily a good thing for society to be deeply fragmented *politically* and for everyone to go their own way.

Technology is embraced, but usually only so far as the form of the person. There is a strong attempt to conform with the natural, both mentally and physically, and to fit with the existing forms. To enhance the beauty of something, rather than to replace it outright.

The Nurani society is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. People are eligible to vote after providing 2 years of civil service duty to the government, and the government is obligated to find a role for any who wish to participate. Every member of society will usually participate in this civil service, and it is expected that all of the nobility will do so when they come of age. The succession of sovereigns and most other noble titles is determined via a modified form of ultimogeniture wherein the youngest member who is of age will inherit their parents’ hereditary titles.

Every function of society has religious and spiritual elements, with a strong societal expectation on following the motions. Read as: Regardless of what you personally believe, you still show up at the shrine to register your child and attend the cultural festivals.

The Four Cultures

The Nurani can be categorized into four main subcultures, based on class and region:

The Kazi

The noble houses and noble appointments of the Nurani. They are considered to represent What It Is To Be Nurani and are expected to uphold and show this every day. People become members of this group through birth, adoption, or voluntary appointment after taking an Oath of State. They are also generally part of another subculture, but form an entity unto themselves. Their artistic focus is in calligraphy, mosaics, and geometric patterns.

The Dakalu

These members are part of the archipelago region of the planet. This group of the Nurani is very focused, even by the standards of the Nurani, on group cohension. They tend to be fairly circumspect in what they say, giving plenty of opportunities for others to save face. They focus on poetry, music, and drama as means of expression, and they tend to eschew any form of visible modification.

The Mapiri

From a continental region with mixed terrain, ranging from mountains to more temperate zones with plenty of rivers, these Nurani tend to be the most direct of the Nurani ( still nowhere near as direct as the Etamui). They will ensure that their augments, such as they are, amplify and fit their form—using tattoos to cover the marks and decorative clothing to keep from exposing the circuitry. They tend to use visual artistic mediums such as painting.

The Chipulu

Some resources require extraction and some tests require isolation, and the Chipulu have the structures for them. Living mostly in arcologies out on desert flat, they provide resources and manufacturing for the rest of the Nurani. While they still subscribe to the Nurani views on visible augments, they tend to be more forgiving of things like augment scars and small pieces of augmentation that fit into the form of the individual. For this they tend to be viewed as a bit gauche by the other Nurani. Their art tends to be in textiles and fashion, and they like to incorporate circuitry for decorative as well as practical purposes into their clothing.

Writing credit: David Clements

Introduction to the Etamui

The Etamui inhabit a variety of stations in orbit around the G-type star Etamu, as the five planets (Eena, Isithixo, Lagua, Sharbai, and Hrabanaz) are inhospitable to human settlement, and anyway, who needs planets when you can engineer a perfect living environment on a space station?

That’s the basic Etamui philosophy: Human ingenuity can improve on anything the natural universe has to offer, and the next step in evolution is for the species to take its advancement into its own cybernetically enhanced hands. Human flesh is limited; technology can enlarge the human experience and assist in becoming more than human, evolving beyond the restrictions of meat and bone. This Transhumanist belief that pervades the Etamui applies to bodies, minds, societies, and environment alike – even souls, for those superstitious individuals who believe in such things.

They’ve been working on this evolutionary process for generations, now, and Etamui research produces the most advanced tech of all the settlements. Everyone is modified to better fit their work and lifestyle; trends in cosmetic mods build on top of the functional or occupational mods. This has led to something of a strict class division, where children (organically-born or machine-born) are further engineered for the jobs that best suit their genome makeup; people are encouraged to combine their genes in ways that will produce optimally specialized offspring.

The Four Cultures

The Etamui can be categorized into four main cultures: SciDevs, ProdOps, Gawans, and Glitches.

SciDevs live primarily on Celestial Station (the inhabitants of which are often called “Celests”), specifically on the Research & Development ring that revolves around the central column of the station. They are the intellectual class, doing the research and development work. Some are artists or musicians using or developing technology to express their creative process. Others are medical experts advancing techniques to install cybermods or biomods into human organisms. Still more are virtual reality programmers, cybernetic devs, and engineers.

ProdOps also primarily live on Celestial Station in the Production ring and the Facilities ring. They’re the working class, doing skilled labor and hands-on work. They are technicians, repair, maintenance, and public works employees. They are lab techs, nurses, and can also be artists or performers, though in a more physical or visceral capacity than the SciDev artists.

Gawans live on the Gawa Forge Cluster, a networked series of stations, refineries, and ships at the Gawa Asteroid Belt. They are miners, cargo pilots, laborers, refinery operators, and industry workers. They face more risks to health and safety than the Celests and they know it. The Gawans sometimes view the Celests as soft or self-indulgent or stuck-up, but they all view Celestial Station as an entirely different reality than life in the Gawa Belt. Some of the Gawans operate predominantly on smaller outposts by one of the planets, mining the resources on the mineral-rich planetary bodies, but are still considered Gawans (or “Forgers” as some prefer, to avoid the Belt-centric terminology) and have more in common with the people of the Forge Cluster than they do with any Celest. Gawans tend to be less hyperspecialized than the SciDevs or ProdOps in their modifications, due to the harsher conditions of going out into the Belt and planets.

Glitches are those outside the Etamui social structure. Many of them live on Celestial Station, hidden in abandoned sectors, or areas under construction, or in storage units, or in the lesser-used tubes that connect the rings. Sometimes they are SciDevs or ProdOps or even Gawans who’ve opted out of the role they were assigned by their genetics, and were unable to afford the biomods and cybermods necessary to adapt them to their preferred work. Others are the descendants of those who opted out of the system, born into the cracks and dregs of society without the in-utero modifications or early childhood mods or instruction and training that would allow them entry into Celest society. Some are deliberate rebels, some are criminals, and some are outcasts or rejects from society for any number of perceived “defects” that they didn’t have the funds or willingness to correct. There are biohackers and rogue cybermodders here in the tunnels, so Glitches usually still have mods… they’re just less safe, less polished, and more experimental than the SciDev administered tech.

Of course, not everyone agreed with the extravagant modification of the human form and function. Early on in the establishment of Celestial Station, a number of people left to create their own settlement, preserving their humanity in its more organic, natural state. We’ll talk about them in a later post: the Nurani.

Writing credit: Dani Higgins

Introduction to the Children of Earth

The Children of Earth are merchants first and foremost, traveling in fleets of anywhere from three to fifty ships between human-settled star systems.

Why manned trade ships, when artificial intelligence and automated cargo can make the journey just fine? The problem is that it can take decades for a ship to travel between settlements. Despite generations of research and experimentation, no one has solved the problem of faster-than-light travel, and so the only way to get from star system to star system is at relativistic speed. There are indeed unmanned cargo ships that travel between systems, but it’s a massive risk. Who will buy your goods at the other end, if the ship even makes it? How can you trust that your buyer isn’t lying when they said the goods never arrived, or arrived damaged? Are you willing to wait decades to see a return on your investment?

Trade instead with the Children of Earth. They’ll buy your goods outright, and then choose themselves where and how to sell them. They take on the risk instead, and if you want to make sure something gets to another settlement, well, the Children are rigidly honorable about trade. Everyone knows that. Even if the Children of Earth are very strange.

After all, they live in a different time-stream from the system-bound. They alone of all the people in the universe visit every settled world in their lifetime. When traveling at relativistic speed, time dilates; fifty years may pass for someone on a planet while for the Children in their ship, only thirty years have passed. If you leave your star system and travel at relativistic speed to another system and return, you may return to a completely unfamiliar world, as if the ship were a time machine that took you to the far future.

As such, less time has passed since the departure from Earth for the Children than it has for the rest of humankind, and the merchants have preserved the traditions of old Earth as closely as possible. All the Children (with the exception of systembound people who have been adopted into the Children of Earth after at least a full trade-circuit on board the ship) can trace their lineage back to Earth, with names, births and deaths, and DNA prints stored in the ancestor shrine in every household. Honoring elders and ancestors is an integral part of the traditions, and the beliefs and practices around their ancestors and the family unit is part and parcel of the fabric of every Child’s life. They don’t have a word for their beliefs; it’s just following the traditions of Earth, it’s just part of being a Child of Earth. The system-bound, though, call the beliefs of the Children “Earthism”.

The Children of Earth value long-lasting, quality, heirloom possessions, and own fewer of them due to space constraints. Rich colors and textures are preferred over plain elegance, because the vastness of space is stark and silent enough as it is. Food is flavorfully spiced, because spices keep well and they have access to a huge variety of spices from a diversity of star systems. Tea keeps well, too, and is often a meditative and social bonding ritual. Dance, music, storytelling, and theater are deeply valued, and everyone participates in one of these to some extent or another. You’ve got to make your own entertainment on long trade-routes, after all. Which also means that social harmony is vital, because you’re stuck with these people for a long time with nowhere to go, so you have to get along well enough. Disputes can be often settled over a competition, with both or all parties agreeing to abide by the outcome, but the dispute is never settled through violence.

A Brief History: The Four Waves

While most of humanity settled in one star system or another, seeking planetary resources and a semblance of the Earth they’d left behind, others noted an opportunity in trade between the stars. Large wealthy corporations and rich entrepreneurs established merchant fleets, predicting that the automated, unmanned cargo ships moving at relativistic speed between the colonies would be untrusted and insufficiently secure. Their gamble paid off, and their fleets prospered.

This was the first wave of the Children of Earth, the Great Fleets who founded and enforced mercantile law, and who even today think that they should be in charge. Yet their numbers have dwindled, and their former advantage of being the most organized, structured fleets has come to work against them in the face of the adaptability of the younger Children.

The second wave were smaller, scrappier groups, less wealthy than the Great Fleets but resourceful nonetheless. These were entire communities, extended families, coalitions of smaller companies, religious groups, and villages with enough foresight and cooperation to gather together enough resources to purchase a ship or two, band together in caravans for safety and resources, and begin merchanting. Over time, these Elder Caravans have grown in power and influence, forcing the Great Fleets to cooperate with them for government of the Children of Earth.

As the situation on Earth got more desperate, the Fleets and Caravans “graciously” sponsored the many remnants of humanity on Earth to ships or the colonies, with an expectation (of course) of being paid back. The Fleets were able to sponsor more than the Caravans at the time, though the balance of power and influence has shifted more equal now (and some would argue that it’s shifted more in favor of the Caravans). The Sponsored were essentially indentured servants, and it could take multiple generations to earn their freedom, by which point many were integrated into the Fleets and Caravans that sponsored them, but some managed to maintain most of their individual cultural identity until they could work off their debt and get their own ship. Generations later, there are now small ragtag caravans, and some brave souls who fly solo or in groups of 2-5 ships. The rest of the Children call these minor fleets and minor caravans the Sponsored, but the Sponsored prefer to identify within their specific fleet or caravan rather than a homogenous group.

In time, old Earth passed from living memory into distant fable and its location was lost to time. Many of the younger Children no longer felt connected to the idea of Earth itself. They became disillusioned with the old Earth cultural divide, intergroup and intragroup politics, and wanted a unified Children of Earth cultural identity. They felt alienated from the system-bound and felt they had more in common with one another. Enough of these younger Children had connection and influence to pull together enough ships for some small fleets, which have grown over time in success… but also developed their own pride, clannishness, and cultural divides with the older fleets. They call themselves the United Fleets.

Writing credit: Dani Higgins