Inversion Fests

Every long-lived civilization has some form of venting mechanism for the frustrations incurred by daily life in a stratified society. One form, the “inversion festival”, has remained popular throughout the history of Western society under a variety of names: Saturnalia, the Feast of Fools, Mardi Gras, Halloween…

The Noospherists took the meme, like many others, to its’ exaggerated logical extent. Catharsistalia is held on the last day of the Centauran year, once a decade it gets prolonged to the full 19-day month. During this time there is only one rule, “nothing permanent,” no deaths, no ruinous financial damage, no conceptions. Whatever happens during Catharsistalia, stays there. By custom the civil police and even the Bureau of Memetic Health  cannot do anything about the various petty thefts, fights, orgies, or satirical rites of Death worship that may occur during the festival. That said, some token effort at a disguise is customary, most of the costumes worn won’t stop a serious investigation if you commit murder but it’s the principle of the thing.

Many local governments will organize events to limit the damage, especially for the decennial fests. The most common involve designating a park or arcology block as the fair grounds. Residences and storefronts in the area secret away anything of value and lay out cheap snacks or toys someplace they can easily be grabbed. Some places will shell out for a security drone programmed to give chase when something is “stolen” but let them go. Other areas are set up as fighting arenas, in disciplines ranging from wrestling to swordfights with live steel, medichines making even decapitation survivable. Still other spaces are set aside for parties, generally with STD and contraceptive screenings ahead of time. And usually there’s a small space for the minority of pre-pubescents in the population to have fun safely.

Some reform movements, particularly within fringe sects of the Noospherist Church, try to discourage or ban Catharsistalia. Which invariably results in the decennial festival happening early, on their property, courtesy of the local Kitsune skulk.

Transparahumanism

Aside from pantropic modification, negligible senescence, and brain implants there are some parahumans who desire to become even more:
  • Distributed Consciousness: Sharing of memories and thoughts is possible via intensive implants and broad-spectrum signals with AI mediation, but only between bioprinted clones, the brain patterning between individuals is too different. This path is held in particular suspicion after one movement was declared nihilus following an internal war, their descendant forming the Outworlder polity of the Emilia Collective.
  • A variant is the telepathic collective, in which the original undergoes radical hemispherectomy and grows a clone around the removed half of their brain. As with identical twins the original and clone usually share enough natural QEParts to form a telepathic link. By replacing the removed hemisphere with a bioprinted clone organ this process can be repeated, but bandwidth diminishes with subsequent iterations.
  • Cybernetic Expansion: First, the potential posthuman has a digital simulacrum of their brain made, these are not considered sentient by Federation law but are typically used as a sort of “interactive memorial” for the dead. Then they load the simulacrum into a quantum supercomputer capable of running multiple instances of the program, and wire the machine directly into their brain implants. The simulacrums vastly increase the user’s multitasking capability while plugged in but they tend to retreat from the external world as time passes. Their meat bodies lying in hibernation while they mentally explore countless simulations and calculations.
  • Pseudobiological Growth: In it’s simplest form one removes the genetic limiting factors on their growth, allowing their body and brain to continue growing until their mass requires cybernetic reinforcement or a microgravity environment to support itself. However, many end up embracing radical bodysculpting into a body shape more capable of supporting its’ bulk, with many drawing inspiration from mythology. Dragons are frequently popular.
  • Soul Merger: While conventional techniques of recording and saving brain-states don’t allow different individuals to “share memories”, there are translation programs that can attempt to extract a holo-audio sequence that another brain can view through conventional senses. Some people have tried to convert that translation into direct memory information they can use, and either voluntarily or coercively take the brain states of others and add them to their own.
  • Ghul Liege: The “Ghul liege”, unlike most of their kin, is not satisfied with one hard-to-kill body, they have to have several. Along these lines they modify their VN microbots to not only maintain their bodies indefinitely, but to convert other bodies into clones of the original host. At first, the VN bots install a remote puppeting system so the liege can prevent their minions from wandering off, but over the course of several months the minion’s brain is reformatted into a copy of their liege’s brain, connected by microwave network. If the liege is killed or otherwise disconnected their minion may become an ordinary ghul if the process is less than half complete, they may even have the VN bots removed from their system in Fed-space, but if the mind-cloning is near finished they become a new vector for the ghul liege to spread.

Pantropic Modification

In certain environments the Parahuman Baseline actually proves disadvantageous. Technological tools can mitigate most of the discomfort but for long-term inhabitation, or an embargo on certain technologies, bodysculpting and gene therapy to adapt to the environment can be worthwhile. Several “templates” are in fairly common use.
Spacer: The original baseline, retained by the Centauri population but vanishing from the Cetan and Eridani gene pool between Exodus and Contact. Those born without this mod can choose to take it through nanosurgery, as well as plating their bones with titanium to prevent degeneration in zero-g.
Aquaform: The oxygen concentration of Terran water is insufficient to sustain an endothermic metabolism, but it can supplement it. This mod adds gill slits to the sides of the neck and between the ribs, while closing off the alveoli of the lungs with sphincters while submerged, along with extending the webbing between digits. With this mod alone most can go fifteen minutes or more between breaths of air, combined with Spacer mods this time can be extended to two hours.
Arid: Amplified renal system combined with subdermal water sacs to prevent water loss. On hot worlds enlarged ears with veins for heat radiation are popular as well.
Heavyworlder: Gravities between 1 and 1.5 gs can be handled with some simple bone reinforcement and hard body training. If you want to live on a planet with 2 gravities or more you need far more drastic modifications. Over the course of several months in a healing vat at steadily increasing gravity (usually in a specially designed Bernal sphere) synthetic muscles and bone are layered on until the subject looks somewhere between a gorilla and an elcor from Mass Effect. All heavyworlders are quadrupedal, relying on waldos or occasionally lifting a hand-foot to grab something.
Low-Oxy Atmo: A lighter version of the oxygen retention modifications included in the parahuman baseline intended for thin planetary atmospheres or high altitudes. So modded parahumans have their ribcage expanded to accommodate larger lungs along with slightly elevated hemoglobin and myoglobin levels. Spacer mods function just as well in thin atmospheres as any, but they require a much heartier diet and many Cetan or Eridani colonies, as well as Outworlds, favor this mod.
Polar: Adapted to icy planets with very low surface temperatures. Usually patterned after polar bears or arctic foxes with small ears, expanded nostrils, thick fur, blubber and frequently black skin with transparent fur.
Cytoran suite: Designed specifically for the heavy metal rich environment of Cytoran, the entire population of this savage Outworld can tolerate downright toxic levels of lead, aluminum, and osmium in their diets, and they need to. During growth their system deposits these metals in their bones in the form of metallic glasses, making their skeletons extremely hardy but on the off hand that they do break the ingestion of a decent amount of native meat can accelerate the knitting process. Once this bone mass is grown their digestive tract simply stops absorbing the metals and excretes them harmlessly.

Created Deities

The Noospherist religion is distinguishable from most faiths in that it does not believe in a divine creator or an immortal soul, rather they believe in emergent phenomena from the primordial chaos. Balls of acid and lipids form cells, cells join together into biofilms, specialized cells in films form organs, complex biofilms become multicellular organisms, a central nervous system enables communication between organs, these impulses invoke responses, responses become reflexes and behaviors, behaviors become memes, memes and reflexes and impulses all meet together in a sufficiently complex CNS to form the cacophony known as “consciousness”.

 

Noospherists believe that the interaction between conscious beings forms a sort of superconsciousness similar to Jung’s “collective unconscious”. Within this collective stray bits of parahuman brainpower and sets of memes form into entities known as egregores. Early humans, so the narrative goes, attempted to deal with these entities by wrapping them around fictional and/or historical characters, allowing them to be addressed and theoretically negotiated with. Initially known as “gods” and “spirits”, later societies added their “emblems,” “founders,” and “mascots” to the morass. 

 

The Church of the Noosphere makes no secret of the nature of these entities or that their acts of worship are attempts at negotiation with them. While most Noospherists don’t believe egregores have any direct control over the physical world, they can influence the people who host their component memes and that’s enough to worry many people and organizations.

 

The Church tends to describe archetypes rather than naming specific egregores, allowing converts to slot their existing gods and national heroes into them. The “One True SecLand Church” tends to name notable members of the House of Silver as their egregores for instance.

 

Some Archetypes:

 

Imperator:

Names: Ra, Caesar, Selkd the Uniter

The source of authority, they who provides guidance and direction for society. But whose power must be tempered lest the populace be reduced to cogs in a machine.

 

Justice:

Names: The Blind Lady, Lirdrill

They who bring punishment to wrongdoers and recompense to those wronged. Kept separate from the Imperator as a check to their power.

 

Weaver:

Names: Prometheus, Argentum

The force that knits order from chaos. Societies, lifeforms, and celestial bodies alike. Tends to be a favorite of the SecLand Church as the progenitor of the genus they revere was a genetic engineer.

 

Trickster:

Names: Coyote, Loki, Florida Man, Kumiho

The necessary agent of chaos that prevents institutions and entities from becoming too stagnant and set in their ways. Commonly mistaken for a creation of the Kitsune secret society rather than its progenitor.

 

Death:

Names: Thanatos, Azrael, Jack

The prospect of death is nothing but pure terror to the near-immortal parahumans of the Federation. They expect to live for a very long time, if not forever, and the possibility of their eternity being cut short is horrific. Death represents the self-destructive impulse, the decay of all things unmaintained, the ultimate punishment. Their worship is almost exclusively focused on holding them off, much as medical micromachines hold off personal death. But some Destroyer cults borrow from the official cult of Death.

 

Fortune:

Names: Fortuna, “the Dice”

The randomness inherent in life is clearly apparent in the Federation’s clan-based economy, where the circumstances of one’s birth can decide one’s entire life path. The cult of Fortune tends to be one of the most “magical”-thinking deific cults in Noospherism, thinking that the egregore can influence quantum wave collapses in the supplicant’s favor.

The Janssen Incident

The Janssen incident of 1534 Post Exodus is widely believed to have popularized the “Para-Imperium” nickname for the Federation of Parahuman Species.

Janssen is a carbon world with eight times Earth’s mass inhabited by a few thousand miners with extreme pantrophic modifications to withstand the planet’s gravity. For the first couple centuries of the system’s occupation one of the Houses of the inhabited moon of Janssen IV avoided taxes for planetside operations by disguising their cyborg workforce as AI-driven robots. Their attempts to maintain this ruse culminated in the death of the system’s Emissary, drawing the attention of the Federal Guard.

While most would agree that the House’s Exile was justified, many felt that the Guard’s heavy-handed approach, in particular their use of ortillery, was unjustified. This had the unintentional effect of giving many in the Rim Worlds the impression that they were more subjects than members of the Federation.

Political Parties in the Federation

The names, ideologies, and memberships of the various factions in Federation politics tend to change once or twice a century, but in general they tend to fall somewhere along two axes of political stances. Agorist-Oikist, and Centralist-Localist.

Oikists favor laws and legal protections for the institution of the House, in general this means a preference for allowing Houses to police their own instead of involving the Civil Police, but the more extremist forms want to institute penalties for anyone leaving their House of birth without the primus’ permission.

Agorists on the other hand hold the individual’s ability to market their own skills or produce themselves to be sacrosanct. They prefer laws that make it easier for House members to seek gepatronoj outside their House, as well as infrastructure projects to aid commerce. Some extremists have attempted to establish colonies with no government or Houses, but they’ve inevitably collapsed into feudal anarchy as members’ tribal identities coalesced around their gepatronoj.

Centralists and Localists, sometimes known as Federalists and Confederalists, are pretty straightforward. The former favor the central Federal government in Alpha Centauri and its Emissaries filling more of the functions their party wants; while the latter want to leave it to the planetary, habitat, or continental government. Their primary concern, though, has been the wormhole network and monopole distribution. Wormholes enable regular commercial links between star systems but they also bring the system into the fold of the Federation, rather than the Federation simply having a presence in system via the Emissary and their garrison. In addition wormholes are incredibly expensive to produce, requiring the output of a small star to open. Monopoles allow irregular commerce between star systems via conversion drive and can be produced by planet-side particle accelerators, but the Federation has maintained a tight grip on the technical details behind their creation and has been slow to proliferate the necessary plants.

Houses and Patronage

The clan-based economic system implied by the Federation’s profit-sharing schemes  bears further elaboration.

 

Imagine if your great-aunt or great-great-grandfather signed the lease on your home and could revoke it if you refused to join the rest of the family on a colony mission or didn’t want to mate with a member of a family they wanted to form an alliance with? And upon refusal you not only find yourself homeless, but nobody else will rent to your Houseless ass? Now imagine that you manage to find an employer who will vouch for you, but your contract with them requires you to do whatever they request, up to and including enlisting in the military or committing crimes? That’s what it means to live in a clan-based society like the Federation.

Continue reading “Houses and Patronage”

Book Launch: Tales of the Para-Imperium

tales_of_the_para-imperium_cover_22-jan-2019

The compilation of the first three years of Para-Imperium stories and worldbuilding articles is finally available in both print paperback and ebook formats. For those who find it easier to read on an e-reader or phone, or on paper, than on a website. I can confirm that to be the case for myself at least.

Featuring a cover by Norman Rafferty of Ironclaw, Farflung, Myriad Song, and other RPG fame.

Amazon Kindle (ebook): https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Para-Imperium-Joel-Kreissman-ebook/dp/B07N298CY6/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548455580&sr=1-3

Amazon Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1794638458

Smashwords Ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/919898

Includes such stories as:

Dandelion Seeds: The voyage of a seed ship carrying the legacy of Sol System, gone horribly wrong.

Family Ties: A detective story ala Altered Carbon, except with legal continuity identity.

Anthrophagy: The horrific account of the results of rampant nanotechnology, previously published in Thurston Howl’s Seven Deadly Sins anthology.

And FATE Core rules for roleplaying in the Para-Imperium universe.