Eight colonies on Tau Ceti III

Population & economy
habitability 74%
carrying capacity 5.98 E+9
population 5.91 E+9
development level 8.5
real exchange rate 1.00 ₢/¤
GDP (nominal) 3.4 E+14
GDP/head (real) 58,000 ¤
GDP/head (nominal) 58,000
spaceport class 5T
nearest neighbout Hijra
distance 19.1 LY
sector Central
SHQ Old Earth
distance 11.9 LY


If I understand your astrography correctly, isn’t Tau Ceti the closest inhabited system to the center of the original colonization effort? So it can reasonably claim to be the astrographic center of humanity (if not the Empire; I’m less clear on that) as well.


That’s right. Tau Ceti is pretty smug.


Tau Ceti enjoys a very salubrious environment, and has over 40% as much land as Earth. With DL 5.9 and only 81 million population, already starting to wean its economy off immigrants’ imports, it was well situated for smooth development and population growth. The destruction of Earth was an economic shock, and caused a passing recession, but basically Tau Ceti was primed for growth, with labour shortage and plentiful land disposing for large families and extensive investment. Within a generation excess population from Avalon was migrating to the other colonies, and even after ten generations had raised the population a sixty-fold there was still no serious conflict over any critical shortage. Tau Ceti waxed prosperous, peaceful, urbane, and complacent.

In the 4th Century ab Tellure destructa the land glut began to close, and investment to intensify. The share of global income going to wages fell as rents rose and automation took hold. Class conflict developed between the working classes and the owners of land and capital¹, and there was, scattered, both revolutionary and repressive violence. San Pietro and Gogmagog inclined to state socialism, Avalon and Alcuin to social-democratic liberalism, Ys and Hell to anarchism; there was political intrigue, subversion, clandestine meddling, but no open war.

In 342 ATD Tomitomo Eichberger of Mayflower made Tau Ceti the destination of his first interstellar FTL journey, established a lucrative trade, left it in the hands of employees, and turned his attention to developing other routes. By 370 ADT the accomplished spies of Tau Ceti had learned the technical secrets of the Eichberger Drive, and merchant-adventurers from Tau Ceti were competing with Eichberger at destinations in the direction roughly of Canes Venaticorum and Ursa Major while developing their own markets towards Phoenix and Reticulum. Tau Cetian trade was often exploitative and sometimes coercive; in notable cases armed emigres from Tau Ceti, including fugitives from political repression and criminal justice, immigrated forcefully to other worlds and imposed personal regimes.

During the Age of Piracy the Eichberger Foundation initially enjoyed support in Tau Ceti, where there was a widespread mental disconnect between the vicious pirates in foreign systems and the prosperous merchants locally. The Foundation received donations and accepted volunteers even while many of the worst pirates were Tau Cetian. The governments of Tau Ceti concerned themselves with composing the conflicts among its several colonies and ironing out the economic problems of its transition to post-industrial high tech, and paid no attention to what their merchants, political refugees, dissidents, and emigres were up to in poorly-evidenced other star-systems².

When push came to shove, Tau Ceti’s governments sided with their citizens against the Eichberger Foundation. They collaborated to build an interstellar patrol of their own, ostensibly to regulate but actually to protect Tau Ceti pirates. Tau Ceti was at the forefront of hostilities against the Foundation after Kobayashi’s destruction of Orinoco.

The governments of Tau Ceti seized Eichberger’s depots and factories in their system, interning his employees from other worlds and condemning for treason his local workers. Tau Ceti was one of very few systems to build an FTL fleet for naval operations against the Foundation. Defence co-operation against the Foundation started the process by which the eight colonies of Tau Ceti drew themselves into a mesh of treaties of co-operation and co-ordination that left their separate governments all but integrated. But co-ordination with New Earth and Seeonee⁴ — the other colonies that had built interstellar fleets — was ineffectual, and the Foundation managed to defeat them one by one⁵.

The Foundation defeated New Earth and Seeonee by building enormous, almost immobile, very long-range vacuum-UV laser platforms (“plinkers”), assembling those in the outer reaches of the solar systems, and using them to destroy orbital defences and other orbital assets, reducing the planets to a state of siege without satellites or access to space. The simultaneous effort against Tau Ceti failed because of assets associated with the mining colonies among the moons of Tau Ceti’s gas giants, and the plinkers there were destroyed. Tau Ceti then built similar weapons in orbit to defend itself. Tau Cetian fleets and task forces were routinely defeated in other systems, but the Foundation could not prevent Tau Ceti from building more. Tau Ceti held out while the Foundation secured every other system capable of building FTL fleets, and then succumbed to a gigantic co-ordinated assault. The Foundation swept Tau Ceti’s orbit with billions of small dumb projectiles (rocks) to destroy the defensive platforms, made simultaneous assaults on all the gas giants, used special transports to bring in pre-fab plinkers in condition for rapid assembly, assaulted the surviving space habitats with marines, and bombed the ground spaceports.

Tau Ceti refused to surrender and was besieged.

Tau Ceti was one of the leading participants at the Lunar Conference, and an original signatory of the Treaty of Luna. Or rather, it was eight, since Avalon, San Pietro, New Sunrise, Ys, Gogmagog, Zinfandel, Hell, and Alcuin insisted on separate participation, and on signing as separate colonies with separate representation in the Senate, while successfully insisting on the privileges of a unified world as well.

Tau Ceti was the main ringleader in the Senate of the attempt to destroy the Empire by refusing it of tax revenues, and so a leading light of the early Colonies’ Rights Movement. But as the Colonies’ Rights group came to be more and more dominated by repressive autocracies Tau Ceti has moved basically into the Feds, that faction with aims to establish control of the Empire by a democratic Senate.

Tau Ceti recovered well from the damage of the Formation Wars, and by 537 ATD had essentially rebuilt all its space industry. It has a great deal of orbital manufacturing and extensive mines among the moons of its closer gas giants. The economy of Tau Ceti specialises in devices that exploit and manipulate quantum phenomena and the interaction of light with matter. Tau Ceti exports cutting-edge photonics and quantum computation equipment, hologram rendering and projection apparatus, lasers &c. Tau Cetian firms supply sensor arrays, and laser weapons to the Imperial Navy and components for the assembly of Eichberger devices by the Eichberger Foundation; the Empire’s largest orbital dockyard complex, Brooklyn, is in orbit around Tau Ceti.

¹ In San Pietro the land formally belonged to the Church, an organisation nominally of universal membership and omnibenevolent intention. Here the conflict took the form of a struggle between the ecclesiastical bureaucrats serving the People (on one hand) and families that had enjoyed peppercorn leases for six to ten generations on the other.

² Political collapse and reconstruction in Gogmagog, class warfare in Ys and Hell, the relaxation of state dirigisme in Pietro, parliamentary struggles in Avalon and so forth seemed far more compelling than the alleged misdeeds of private parties and the excesses of the usual unrepresentative minority of isolated bad apples among Tau Ceti’s merchants, emigrants, and private aid programs in alleged other worlds.

³ After mixed early results, this suffered a catastrophe when, following a refusal of political leaders to believe their intelligence reports, it was sent to Chi Draconis with orders to raid Mayflower. The Foundation counter-attacked in force into Tau Ceti, and then ambushed the Tau Cetian war fleet on its bewildered return, outside the range of fire support from the planet’s defences.

⁴ The historians’ saying is that “Seeonee, Tau Ceti, and New Earth built fleets to protect their migrants, their merchants, and their missionaries respectively”.

⁵ Tau Ceti and Seeonee have managed to recover splendidly from the damage they suffered in the Formation Wars, and are now leading economies, components of the Suite. New Earth is not quite doing so well, and complains of victimisation.



The legal fiction is that Tau Ceti III is occupied by eight separate and independent colonies, called the Octants, that are not federated, united, confederated, or in a league, that just happen to have a range of ad hoc arrangements for co-operation and collaboration on various matters. Further, the legal fictions are that the eight colonies have various forms of government. The Independency of Avalon, the Realm of Alcuin, and the Republic of New Sunrise are ostensibly centralised parliamentary republics. The Commonwealth of Hell and the Federated Liberties of Ys are ostensibly federal parliamentary republics. The Republic of Zinfandel is ostensibly an unitary presidential republic, and the the Commonwealth of Gogmagog is ostensibly a federal presidential republic. The Patriarchate of San Pietro is ostensibly a hierarchial theocracy. In actual practice they are all technocratic bureaucracies with unimportant idiosyncrasies. The democratic features, which in San Pietro are officially powerless and in the other seven colonies officially supreme, are in practice sufficiently powerful only to reprimand or discharge individual bureaucrats for cause. In actual practice the corresponding officials in the several hierarchies co-ordinate their efforts and harmonise their polices so thoroughly, and the legislatures are so trammelled by a network of treaties and agreements that their main real function is to guide public discourse towards the acceptance of further treaties and agreements.

Sub-ministerial meetings are conducted frequently and by means of AV communications, each official remaining in his or her own offices in his or her own capital. Bi-annual ministerial meetings rotate among the eight capitals. Biennial heads-of-governments meetings are held amid publicity in different pleasure resorts and tourist destinations each time: well-prepared, they seldom fail to issue a joint communiqué that was agreed beforehand or result in anything else. The only central institutions with their own offices are the Tau Ceti Space Traffic Control and Licensing Agency (which has the obvious functions) and the Permanent Judicial Commission for Arbitration and Conciliation of Disputes Between Octants (which adjudicates disputes between the colonies about the meaning and force of their treaties and agreements).

As far as anyone can tell, no-one is actually in charge.

Armed forces

Each octant has an army, a navy, and a aerospatiale, and these are ostensibly defence forces. they have the form and manner of armed services. In actual practice they function as gendarmeries, emergency services for search, rescue, and disaster response, coast guard etc. The various colonies of Tau Ceti are reasonably generous and prominent in providing military units for Imperial interventions, especially peacekeeping and reconstruction work after wars and disasters.

Each octant also has “global defence facilities”, constructed between the end of the Formation Wars and about 550 ATD. These are supposed to be adequate to fight off an invasion from space, and they include assets that could in theory be quickly converted into things that are forbidden under the Treaty of Luna, including armed spaceships but not Eichberger drives. In practice the global defences enjoy little regard in government circles, and have struggled for budget for twenty years. Effectiveness is doubtless poor.


81 billion on 40% of Earth’s land mass?

Is that water or vacuum navy? If water, is there enough to do to justify them? If vacuum, where is the dividing point with aerospatiale?


Oops! Let’s have a net reproduction rate of 1.5 rather than 2.

The navy is a water navy, or rather a coast guard, lifeboat service, maritime gendarmerie, navigational aids service, icebreaker service, harbor pilotage and traffic control, maritime national park service, fisheries management enforcement, veterinary service for whales etc.

The planet is 81% covered in oceans, and with 6 billion people on 40% as much land as Earth had, the oceans are exploited fairly intensively.

The aerospatiales gendarmerise airports and spaceports and everything above the surface and below escape velocity.


Mode of production

Tau Ceti has a level of economic development high enough, and the level of technology is high enough, that automation both of physical and of cognitive work would have driven the equilibrium wage rate below a level sufficient for subsistence. After a considerable struggle over the issue in the fourth Century, the eight colonies in Tau Ceti have adopted a response to this situation that can be summed up broadly as a social-democratic mixed economy with high taxes, redistributive wage subsidies, and a capital-based pension system.

Significant portions of the economy are conducted by the governments, with publicly-owned capital and publicly-salaried workers providing infrastructure, education, vocational training, health care, public order, civil courts, defence, public transport, and partial provision of food and clothing for children under twenty, free of charge to the users. The majority of economic activity is, however, left in private control and conducted for profit, subject to regulations to prevent abuses and correct market failures. Profits, rent, and interest are heavily taxed (at rates “harmonised” among the several colonies) and the proceeds used both to fund free provision and to pay a subsidy on wages. For each écu that a Tau Cetian earns¹ in wages or salary (not profit, rent, or interest) he or she receives (with his or her pay, but from government funds), three écu to spend and one écu directed to his or her retirement fund² or account. The retirement funds provide capital to business as a mixture of equity and debt. After a worker has received such a wage subsidy for 55 years³ and accumulated at least a minimum fund no more wage subsidies are paid to him or her, but the ex-worker can now start drawing a pension from his or her retirement fund. When the now-capitalist dies the residue of his or her retirement fund (if any) is used to cross-subsidise others who have outlived their savings. Few people save to accumulate bequeathable capital; most inheritances are confined to durable consumer items including sometimes old family homes, culturally significant pieces of art, and generational collections.

The result is an economy with a fairly high employment rate for people between about 25 and 80 years old, with low labour costs but high worker incomes. Capital substitutes for labour where automatics are better but not where they are merely cheaper, unless they are much cheaper. People over about eighty form a leisured capitalist class only after and as a reward for a career as a worker. People are kept busy. The idea is that everyone should feel as though they are contributing usefully to society through work, but many especially of the poorer workers are unable to ignore that much of their work is of little real value.

There is a small class of non-recipients⁵, who eschew work for subsidised pay in favour of various marginal endeavours, in which they support themselves from gifts and donations, fees for irregular services, and support from friends and well-wishers. This includes artists and performers working public places, prostitutes and courtesans in keeping, adventurers and adventuresses, and fortune-tellers and providers of other curious services. This also include beggars and criminals. When they are young they seem raffish and even dashing, but few manage to save for a comfortable and timely retirement; old, they become unfortunate.

There is also a small class of the actual rich, people who inherit significant blocks of land and capital, or amass wealth out of huge celebrity incomes and own it directly rather than in the constrained form of retirement savings. It is very difficult to amass great wealth on Tau Ceti, but families that have it go on having it, sometimes in very large amounts. They often control large and ancient family farms or firms as directors and senior managers, drawing regulated salaries for forms’ sake, and amassing comical pension rights. They often run philanthropic and cultural institutions that their ancestors founded and their families subsidise. They sometimes pursue peculiar family traditions, such as military service or academic careers. Compared with the rich of flamboyant cultures they are surprisingly inconspicuous, enjoying great wealth and comfort but avoiding ostentatious display. Their conspicuous consumption is to be important, influential, powerful, and tasteful, and their preferred audience is one another.

¹ Up to a ceiling, and with elaborate precautions against business owners disguising their profits as family salaries beyond a certain point. Details varing between colonies within limits established by intergovernmental harmonisation agreements.
² Details of how the funds are administered vary between colonies (and in some cases, according to members’ choices, professions etc. within colonies) within limits established by intergovernmental harmonisation agreements. Contributors usually do have individual ownership of identified equities and securities comprising at least part of their account, and have at least some control over the composition of their portfolios.
³ Sometimes a little longer for some types of work or shorter for others, or on the basis of other considerations, varying between colonies within limits established by intergovernmental harmonisation agreements.
⁴ Whether individual accounts are, are not, or may be hypothecated to savers varies within limits established by intergovernmental harmonisation agreements.
⁵ They are more commonly known by many unofficial slang terms and euphemisms, none of which connotes respectability.


Legal system


The laws on Tau Ceti III vary from octant to octant, within limits imposed by various human rights conventions, civil rights conventions, and other standardisation and harmonisation agreements. Ys is a bit more libertarian; San Pietro is a bit more controlling (it permits minor local officials to make community harmony orders). On the whole the law is not very restrictive: there are many standards governing workplace safety and the quality and safety of goods and services, but occupations and trades are not otherwise restricted by arbitrary licensing restrictions. There are no prohibitions creating victimless crimes. Social norms such as conventional gender roles and family structures are not encoded in the law. Lethal weapons (allowed for hunting and sport shooting) and powerful vehicles are strictly licensed and controlled, but not banned.

Civil rights

Tau Ceti’s Convention on Civil Rights establishes a high standard to the protection of suspects and innocent public. Reasonable expectations of privacy are protected from unwarranted observation or private places, interception or communications, or seizure of property or records. Persons may not be arbitrarily detained or arrested, tortured, coerced, or subjected to long or intense interrogations. Interactions between police or investigators and suspects or witnesses must be recorded and the records submitted to the courts for examination by AI. Confessions made under pressure are not treated by the courts as probative. Testimony given for inducement is treated as suborned—a prosecutor offering a plea bargain in exchange for testimony would be guilty of subornment and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Enforcement agencies

The law enforcement model in all eight octants is based on having separate police and investigation services, the one responsible for public safety and public order, the other for investigating crimes after they have occurred. Hell, Ys, and Gogmagog have complicated federal arrangements delegating public order to states, prefectures, and counties; the other octants have national police and national investigators. In no octant are the armed services excluded from law enforcement work—any police or investigators can call in the national army, navy, or aerospatiale to deal with major disturbances, hostage situations, armed fugitives etc.

The police on Tau Ceti are well supported by community services, social workers, and services for the mentally ill. They are well trained, generally firm without harshness, and are widely appreciated as a protection. People rely on the police to protect them and feel little need to protect themselves and deter attacks; Tau Ceti has low rates of violence.


On Tau Ceti civil courts generally use an arbitration (adversarial) model and criminal courts an investigatory one (though Ys has adversarial criminal courts). Hell and Zinfandel have a jury system in theory, though in practice it is seldom used or effective. Decisions are taken by a panel consisting of three, five, or seven judges, which includes an expert in the relevant law, an expert judge, a lay judge representing the community (usually serving for a year immediately after retiring), and sometimes experts in relevant subject matter (e.g. auditors in a complicated financial case, forensic scientists if physical evidence will be important).


The punishments imposed by courts on Tau Ceti include fines and terms of onerous, strenuous, or demeaning community service, periodic detention, home confinement. Only in serious cases, when the convict is deemed to be a danger or has a record of defaulting on punishments, are terms of penal servitude imposed. New Sunrise and Gogmagog use corporal punishment in some cases involving violent conduct.

Involuntary psychiatric rehabilitation is not considered a punishment on Tau Ceti, and courts may not impose it as one. But they may refer convicts to correctional facilities for assessment by psychiatrists when they have reason to believe that their crimes are the result of a mental defect, mental illness, or criminal turn of mind. If the psychiatrists then diagnose a corrigible condition the courts order involuntary rehabilitation, the criminal conviction is vacated and the patient is treated — compulsorily. In practice, most serious violent crimes are treated with mindwipe, and long prison sentences are only a theoretical possibility.


Settlement structure

Tau Ceti III has 5.91 billion people living on a planet 11,112 km in diameter, which is 84% covered by water. That gives it an average population density of 80 persons per square kilometre. The equatorial regions are not excessively hot and there are few large deserts, relief is low meaning few bare mountains, and both polar zones are covered by oceans: most of the land is arable. So Tau Ceti III is densely settled and has little room for wilderness, but should not be understood as a world covered by cityscape.

There are regional variations, but most of Tau Ceti’s population live in medium-sized medium-density cities of 400 thousand to 4 million population, built up to about 3–5 storeys high, with only small high rise cores and little suburban sprawl. High-tech transport and communications afford to such people as do not wish for city life a much more decisive escape from it than to suburbia. Tau Cetians tend to build on hills and rocky ground; level fertile areas are being gradually cleared of construction and returned to agricultural use or converted to parks¹.

Each region of Tau Ceti, and within the regions each city, has its own urban style: a different compromise between formal rigidity and organic chaos in its planning, accommodations to a unique aspect and climate, a local tradition of architectural forms and styles, a local palette of materials and finishes. Some, especially in Alcuin, show the effects of detailed aesthetic specifications in the building code. Others, particularly in New Sunrise, display the work of architects trying to display individual flair in combination with a sensitivity to place and tradition.

Tourists and visitors describe the cities of Tau Ceti as charmingly and fascinatingly varied and full of character; Tau Cetians rather consider each as in keeping with its place. Or not, in the cases of ones they dislike.

Between the cities, and dotted with grand homesteads and small towns, there stretch vast expanses of farms and plantations, intensively cultivated for such perishable and bulk biological products as cannot be imported from other systems.

Tau Ceti III is cool, and its polar regions are cold and little productive. Isolated communities and dwellings are found there, and tracts of almost-uninhabited tundra and taiga, used by some for outdoor sports.

Besides the extensive settlement of its surface, Tau Ceti also has more orbital industry and more and larger orbital habitats than any other colony, and conducts space mining operations on the moons and among the moonlets of its inner gas giants. Chalcophile minerals from Glitter, the sulfur-spewing moon of Blunderbore (Tau Ceti VII) are of particular industrial importance.

¹ This amounts to extending the pattern that was established for San Pietro centuries ago to the other octants. Gogmagog is least compliant with this trend: it tends more to sprawling conurbations with a large high-rise cores surrounded by two-storey sprawl.


Society & culture


Tau Ceti accepted migrants from the widest possible range of races and cultures during the Age of Migration, but it has always had free movement, fast travel, and global communications, and has never significantly segregated. There is great genetic diversity on Tau Ceti, but it is statistically continuous and geographically and socially uniform. There is much physical variation but there are no races.

Tau is likewise culturally uniform, and in fact a strongly conformist culture. Superficial details of architecture and dress, the particulars of local dishes, traditions, and cultural events provide an illusion of regional diversity. The great variety of things that a Tau Cetian is expected to do, wear, and eat in different places at different times, together with the subtle and uncodified norms of dress and conduct, produces an illusion of diversity.

Tau Cetians recognise stereotypes by which people from different octants are supposed to tend to characteristic “national” character.

  • Alcunians are supposedly imaginative and romantic, and often musicians; they play and sing in cozy bars, or gather to play and jam.
  • Avalonians are sophisticated and and chic; they discuss philosophy, drama, and literature in salons, in literary cafés, and in the lobbies of theatres.
  • Gogmans are phlegmatic and reliable, but inclined to be sentimental or pugnacious when drunk; they play pub and parlour games, which often turn out to reward cunning and experience to an unexpected degree.
  • Hellions are vigorous and straightforward; they play team sports and pursue athletic competition, and gather in league clubs and sports bars to watch and discuss tournament games.
  • Newdawners are formal, even staid; they gather at art galleries and art classes, pursue artistic hobbies, and there display in their artworks the flair that they suppress in their social conduct.
  • San Pietronians are ardent and mercurial; passionate lovers and keen dancers, they gather in dance clubs and dance in cafés and restaurants.
  • Ythians are farouche: wild and shy. They congregate in boating and sailing clubs, in hunting and fishing lodges, where they sit in inarticulate silence or sing ancient ballads and refrains.
  • Zinfandelians are practical and persistent, affable but liable to be selfish; they cultivate conversation and comic discourse as an art, gathering in cocktail bars and at cocktail parties. The themed costume party is termed “a Zinfandel party” throughout Tau Ceti.

Adherence to these stereotypes is slight at most, and in any cases the supposed differences of national culture and character are imperceptible to people from other worlds.

Social structure

People on Tau Ceti do normally engage socially with their family and their partners’ family, and with their colleagues from work, and with people with common interests (often by way of network communications). But the main unit of society is the residential neighbourhood. Tau Cetians socialise mainly with their neighbours in local public places and by exchanging visits and engaging in neighbourhood activities. The opinion of neighbours is extremely socially important, and withholding oneself from community activities is resented. It is possible to move to a congenial neighbourhood (at the cost, perhaps, of selling an old family home), but not to find one that is truly permissive, that minds its own business, or that tolerates failure to engage. The feeling of social constraint and tacit blackmail causes widespread angst, and motivates rare but perplexing crimes.

At the age of about eighteen Tau Cetian youths leave their neighbourhood or local school for education and vocational training to about the age of 25. This stage of life affords an important opportunity to make wider social contacts through the educational institution. Many do not return to the neighbourhood of their upbringing.

Household type

The normal household on Tau Ceti considers of a cohabiting couple, perhaps with children up to about 25 years old, occupying a separate dwelling, usually an apartment. Homosexual couples are common and quite unremarkable. Officially and ostensibly there are no rules against celibate and polyamorous lifestyles, but in practice such attract continual adverse comment. By the age of 35 or so a person on Tau Ceti is expected to be living with one other person in a semi-permanent sexual relationship¹. Asexual and bisexual people are supposedly tolerated, but are tacitly denied congenial lifestyles.

Kinship system

Tau Cetians recognise bilateral kinship. According to their notions individuals can be more or less related, rather than belonging or not belonging to a kinship group. Beyond immediate family and direct descent, families are not important to Tau Cetian society.

Sex and gender

Tau Cetian society discriminates very little among the sexes and genders. Neither sex has more authority in the household or family; men and women do the same work for the same pay, political rights and participation are equal.

Advanced surgical body modification and neuropsychological mind alterations are available to people who want to change their sexual characteristics, gender identity, or both, so intersexed and transgender conditions don’t matter to anyone except the person who has them, and can be corrected if and as the person desires.

Social stratification

On Tau Ceti III people aged between about 25 and about eighty make up the working class, and people over the age of about eighty make up the idle capitalist class. But these age categories do not properly constitute social classes (and the capitalists by no means exploit the workers).

Social stratification in Tau Ceti is informal and slight. The range of wages and salaries is not great — the highest salaries are only about sixteen to twenty times the lowest wages — and there are no formal classes, sumptuary laws, or rules of class endogamy. Many Tau Cetians deny that their society is socially stratified at all, dismissing the nonrecipients and the very rich as trivial exceptions to a general egalitarianism. Most Tau Cetians have little awareness of the wealth and power of their very rich, and deny and minimise it.

Social mobility

Social mobility in Tau Ceti is neither easy nor common, and does not occur to any important extent. Citizens’ socioeconomic status is set early by parental example, education, vocation, and training, and in rare instances by the inheritance of wealth. It seldom changes much through the lifetime. But those few entrepreneurs and celebrities who do manage to amass significant wealth in their lifetimes are readily accepted among the rich.



There is no real nudity taboo on Tau Ceti, but Tau Cetians are neither nudists nor exhibitionists either. Tau Cetians are comfortable about being nude with strangers and among mixed sexes in steam baths and during recreational bathing and swimming, or in communal showers and locker-rooms. In fact they feel it is inappropriate to wear anything where nudity is appropriate, and may scold strangers who adhere to off-world modesty standards.

This is one aspect of a general norm for being appropriately dressed for different circumstances, of wearing clothes that are “in keeping” with place, time, and activity. Though denying that there are dress codes in force, Tau Cetians usually own a lot of clothes that are “suitable” to different activities and circumstances, and consider it important to be appropriately dressed and gauche to wear the wrong clothes. The rules are neither explicit nor simple. Visitors can seldom pick an outfit that is entirely right, nor tell what a particular Tau Cetian is dressed for at a given time, and sometimes cannot tell that two Tau Cetians are both dressed for the same occasion. Tau Cetians mistake the variety of their dress for freedom to wear whatever you want.


Tau Ceti has a gourmet tradition that involves eating un-synthesised food prepared by manual craft from parts of actual multicellular organisms, rather than 3-D printed from isolated alimentary feedstocks. Not only is meat from meat-beasts eaten, but quite commonly fish caught wild from the oceans, shellfish, and as an expensive luxury, hunted game. Cooking food by hand is a custom, too common to be considered a mere hobby, and there are conventional forms of gathering in which the hosts will prepare and cook food for their guests to eat. The Tau Ceti diet also includes fermented foods such as beer, cheese, and rollmops, treated as delicacies, which off-worlders except from backward planets tend to find confronting.


Swimming, boating, sailing, and fishing are common outdoor pastimes: Tau Cetians eat fish with relish. Snow sports are common in the higher latitudes and at winter, but Tau Ceti is a planet of low relief, so cross-country skiing is common and downhill an expensive luxury. Handball, football, and water polo, in some places hockey, netball, skittles, betonque etc., are community activities and cultural observances from which abstention is disapproved.

Local customs

Each octant, region, city, and even neighbourhood in Tau Ceti has its idiosyncratic social activities, Washday games and gatherings, treasured local institutions, masterpieces of architecture and public art, and idiosyncratic local style. There are no actual penalties for blowing off a local fête, recital by the choir, stickball game, or annual fishing carnival — but Tau Cetian generally consider it appropriate to attend them all. Appropriately dressed.


As an expensive luxury, some rooms in Tau Cetian homes, offices, cafés etc. have one or more walls entirely taken up with a hologram projector, set to show a view into some spectacular scene, real or imaginary. The tasteful choice and design of the landscapes shown is considered an important expression of individuality; presentation of stock scenes is discreditable.



  • Moderation The most important norm in Tau Cetian society is to exercise appropriate moderation in all things, neither to out-do one’s neighbours nor to fall below the community standard. Work as long and as hard as is appropriate, neither slacking nor striving. Build neither too large nor too small. Dress neither slovenishly nor ostentatiously. Eat and drink neither greedily nor abstemiously. Entertain neither meanly nor lavishly, not too infrequently and not too often. Pursue hobbies keenly but not obsessively. Play sports a just amount. Train to be neither skinny nor too muscular, not fat and not too lean. Practise a musical instrument in moderation: play well enough but not too well. Have an appropriate amount of sex with an appropriate number of lovers, not too many and not too few. Try, but not too hard.

    Excess attracts resentment, slacking attracts scorn. Neighbours who overdo things or under-do things are snubbe and become subjects of malicious gossip. Strivers in particular may be tacitly blackmailed, their embarrassing secrets and foibles exposed, or even maliciously slandered. All this makes it a smart idea to choose a neighbourhood where the standards are such that you will be comfortable keeping pace with.

  • Culture According to Tau Cetian values, every community, every place, every institution is a dialogue between contributors and tradition. To do, make, and build things that are conform with tradition is good, to contribute to the dialogue, innovating “in keeping” with what has gone before, is meritorious. To do or make ill-judged innovations is gauche, but to act and build without consideration of the culture is barbaric. Even appearance and behaviour in public places contributes to their ambience.

  • Luck and talent Outdoing your friends, colleagues, and neighbours by working longer and trying harder excites resentment. But to get lucky, or be gifted, or even to inherit, through no deserts of your own is inoffensive and even admirable because it doesn’t make others feel that they have been out-done.


  • Striving Over-doing things, including work, study, practice, consumption and display, hobbies and recreations, personal adornment, dating, and sex, excites the resentment and jealousy of others.
  • Slacking Laziness, and carelessness attract scorn, especially as they may let down the standards of the neighbourhood.
  • Slovenliness either of place or of person is resented as a form of vandalism.

¹ San Pietro offers trivial exceptions. It has archaic laws on its books that acknowledge and regulate legal marriages, but they are seldom resorted to. The general administrative officers of San Pietran government districts use old Catholic clerical titles and are considered to be “in orders”; ancient notions of the celibacy of the clergy are thought to apply in some way. They cannot be married or marry (not that that matters, since marriage is obsolete), cannot be appointed to or continue in their offices if they have children; but they can, and often do, live without a long-term lover.


Timekeeping and daily schedule

The day on Tau Ceti is 153,254.4 seconds — about 42.6 hours — much too long for a human sleep cycle. The Tau Cetian custom is to divide their day into forty “hours” of 3,831 seconds, and each of those into 100 “attimo” of 38.31 seconds, not subdivided. The timekeeping day starts at midnight and consists of ten Tau Cetian hours of night, ten of morning, ten of afternoon, and ten of evening. Tau Ceti is divided into forty rather narrow time zones.

Tau Cetian custom is to sleep for most of the “night”, rising between dawn and sunrise, and to take the siesta for four and a half “hours” in the early afternoon. Normal business hours are 13 to 18 in the morning and 25 to 30 in the afternoon. Tau Cetians eat up to five meals per day; the main “dinner” is eaten early in the evening and is often a protracted social occasion.

Four Tau Cetian days make up a “week”, of which the first three (Erday, Seday, Winday) are working days and the fourth (Fireday or Washday) is for recreation and cultural participation. There are 120 Tau Cetian days in a Tau Cetian year (six leap days are required per thousand years), reckoned as ten months of three weeks each.


A total of 11 hours seems a little short. On Earth, daily sleep is commonly estimated at 8/24; a similar proportion would give 14/43.

And that 43 hours is close enough to 48 so I might have anticipated splitting it into two complete sleep cycles, functionally two 21-hour “days” out of a rotational day. Though it would be difficult to sleep as soundly with the sun overhead, unless they had blackout curtains in every house.

Having only 5 time zones per octant implies that an octant is a pole to pole slice. I had been visualizing octants in terms of the eight corners of a cube, so that each went from pole to equator. That seems to minimize transportation costs within an octant and make it less likely that a settlement in an octant will be more adjacent to one or more settlements in other octants. I don’t recall your rationale for the orange slices setup.


The hours are “hours”, about six percent longer, and the sleep times are rounded off.

The five hours per octant thing is an error, the result of not catching all the needed changes in a draft when I decided against two-“hour”-wide time zones.

Question: does Tau Ceti seem like a suitable place for PCs to have come from? Does it seem miserable enough, or ought I to emphasise the reasons people want to leave?


I don’t know. On one hand, the taboo against striving, and the attitude that luck or inheritance or natural talent is okay but hard work is repugnant, could drive some people to leave. On the other hand, I could see Tau Cetians as going elsewhere and being obnoxious jerks who spend all their time condescending to the backward people of other worlds, the way Betans condescend to Barrayarans in the Vorkosigan novels.


It seems suitable to me. It is close enough to WIERD culture to be easily graspable, but still be terribly boring to PC type characters. (Clarification: hardly any chaos or strife - sounds good to live in, but not to adventure in.)


No complaint about the adjectival use of “slovenly”?

I’ll revise it a bit in line with your comments, emphasise the social pressures to participate and conform, write up the low value of most “work”, and see if I can make the place a bit more repellant.

I hope that you won’t mind if I revise the text in place rather than posting a new draft. I’d like this thread to be accessible for reference.


“Slovenly” is an adjective. It certainly can’t be used as an adverb; “she kept house slovenly” is not idiomatic. It’s not the only English adjective that ends in -ly, either. “Give us this day our daily bread” is perfectly good English, and so is “Silly rabbit!”


Oops. I meant “adverbial”. Should not post before coffee.


The adverbial use does look bad. But I was more focused on the substantive content than on the language.