Gender in the Four Worlds

Cultural norms around gender vary wildly among the four major peoples in the Temet Nosce setting.


The Fanseeth do not use a particularly descriptive nor prescriptive methodology of gender. They do not concern themselves with it overmuch as a theoretical concept; individual Fanseeth may have one or another gender identity, but all anyone really cares about is how well you can do the work of surviving on their harsh world.

Their sense of gender is largely dyadic, though they have some allowance for variation on the theme, and they mostly use he or she, with some people choosing to use Spivak pronouns because they do not feel that they fit either category.  Singular they is used, but “she” is considered the default gender for the purposes of written text and is considered correct in formal settings.

Clothing has frequently had gender markers, but the specifics of what clothing has gone with what gender changes over time with what is fashionable.

Children of Earth

Gender among the Children is truly a genre, descriptive rather than proscriptive, roles that are chosen rather than assigned. These are very rigid roles that the Children believe date back to ancient Earth, with specific expectations around behavior, ship and household responsibilities, and clothing. However, the roles are chosen regardless of physical sex. Minors are considered genderless and referred to with singular “they” pronouns until they come of age and indicate their gender (though the coming-of-age ceremony varies by culture). The various religions, fleets, and caravans have different allowances, stigma, and rituals for changing your gender later in life.

    • Woman: She/her, active/projective, action/protector, family “hands”; tends to be choleric temperament.
    • Man: He/him, passive/receptive, caretaker/nurturer, family “heart”; tends to be phlegmatic temperament.
    • Androgyne: Zie/zir, balanced/both, mediator/negotiator, family “head”; tends to be melancholic temperament.
    • Neuter: They/them, neither/neutral, passionate/play, family “gut”; tends to be sanguine temperament.


The people of the Etamui believe themselves to have evolved beyond gender, and view gender as an antiquated, primitive concept. They typically use singular “they” pronouns instead.  There are certainly still people who identify as gendered and use a gendered set of pronouns, but among the Etamui there’s a lot of stigma about this; it’s seen as rustic, backwards, or unevolved.

Gendered pronouns are most commonly used by Gawans and Glitches, when used at all; the SciDevs and ProdOps most commonly eschew gender.


One of the things that the Nurani observed in splitting away from the Etamui was how rounding out the pronouns entirely ended up erasing identity in the process. They kept the bones of the Etamui system, but have more significant variation in private.

Thus in public settings and formal documents they will use “they” has a singular, but individuals frequently have other genders that they express in private and that are the purview of close friends. It is very fashionable in written text that takes the omniscient third person perspective to provide genders for the characters that the readers may know and the characters do not, to create a more intimate feel.

All genders wear the same clothing and makeup.

There is no expectation that the private gender of individuals won’t change.

The most common pronouns for this private use are he, shexe and thon.


Writing credits: Dani Higgins and 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