Β Hydri VI: "Navabharata"

colony-description

#1

As I mentioned under a more general heading, Navabharata was one of four colonies founded by great powers in the 2120s A.D. in an unsuccessful quest for national prestige. All four were political failures because of the ~40 year delay between spending public money and getting any news of results. But they were demographic successes.

The planet, Beta Hydri VI, is large, wet, and very warm, and it rotates rapidly. As a result the equatorial zone is uninhabitably hot and the mid-latitudes are swept by fierce hurricanes and intense zonal winds. Pools of cool air are trapped in the polar cells poleward of latitude 60°. Navabharata’s antarctic zone is ~30% continental and is the location of most of the habitation. The arctic zone is 90% oceanic, and was not settled until the Age of Piracy, after c. 400 ATD.

Navabharata was politically and technologically vulnerable during the Age of Piracy, and suffered from a series of invasions. A multitude of local invaders established small tech-enabled oligarchies. Over a century these all adopted the god gambit; since the restoration of interstellar travel the gods of Navabharata have reinforced their divinity with imported tech, off-world technical training, and extensive body-modification.

Politically, Navabharata is comminuted into myriads of small to tiny city-states, each with a god-gambiting technocratic aristocracy. Global government consists of an annual ceremonial assembly of ruling gods, a great council, and a shahranshah elected for life, but their only functions are to qualify Navabharata as a unified colony and to appoint the senator and justices of the Imperial district court.

It is a conundrum what the nivasees (commoners) of Navabharata mean when they agree that their technocratic rulers are gods, able to do miracles, and deserving of worship.

The logic of the divine kingship on Navabharata revived or re-evolved features of the sacred kingship as copiously described by Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough. When a god whom everyone depends on for essential miracles ails or fails the community is at terrible risk: the god must be immolated¹ and replaced. The custom is thus that ageing, failing, or reviled gods immolate themselves, or are sacrificed by a successor, or torn apart by a mob, with a new god taking over. Some communities have fixed terms of rulership, or regular ceremonial tests of fitness for their senior gods. Almost all turn on a god in times of public calamity. The old god’s body may be eaten, broken up for lucky charms, or used as a miraculous fertiliser.

The gods of Navabharata have responded by developing such ploys as sneaking or fleeing off-world, substitutory sacrifices of symbolic successors, defeated enemies, representative animals, or even cake. But the ruling gods cannot persuade their pantheons to support abolishing the logic of the divine king (a) because of its memetic power, and (b) because it creates the main avenue for the ambition of cabinet-ranked gods.

Inspirational reading

Frazer, Sir James G. The Golden Bough, chapters XXIV (“The Killing of the Divine King”), XXV (“Temporary Kings”), and XXI (“Sacrifice of the King’s Son”)

Zelazny, R. Lord of Light


¹ Gary Gygax’s misapprehension notwithstanding, immolate means “kill, as a sacrifice”, not “surround with flames”. It is derived from the participle immolatus of the Latin verb immolo, which means “I sacrifice”. It referred originally to sprinkling victims with flour.


#2

Beta Hydri system summary page

Stellar data

spectral type: G0 V position Equatorial co-ords
mass: 1.1 M☉ R.A: 0:25 hours X: 0.6 LY
luminosity: 3.19 L☉ dec: -77° Y: -23.7 LY
age: 5.3 Ga dist: 24.3 LY Z: 5.3 LY
diameter: 0.015 A.U. constellation: Hydrus

Table of planets and moons

ID# orbital radius world type size mass g. atmosphere oceans mean surface temperature climate solar day habitability
(A.U.) (10,000 km) (D♁) (M♁) (g♁) (°C) (hours)
I 0.15 small rock planet 1.01 0.71 0.7 none 651 infernal infinite
II 0.3 standard chthonian planet 1.32 2.21 1.27 none 386 infernal infinite
III 0.46 small rock planet 0.76 0.33 0.57 none 254 infernal infinite
IV 0.75 standard greenhouse planet 0.84 0.53 0.75 superdense corrosive 6% water 1080 infernal 165
V 1.1 standard greenhouse planet 0.97 0.79 0.85 superdense corrosive 520 infernal 15.6
2 moonlets 68 infernal
VI 1.7 standard garden planet 1.06 1.08 0.96 dense breathable 80% water 38 very warm 12.9 29%
VII 2.9 small rock planet 0.45 0.07 0.36 none -64 frozen 12.6
VIII 4.8 standard ice planet 0.55 0.18 0.6 very thin mildly toxic -106 frozen 27.5
7.4 asteroid belt -140 frozen
IX 12 medium gas giant 11.54 400 3 superdense corrosive 17.2
6 moonlets -170 frozen
IXa 94 small ice moon 0.43 0.03 0.17 standard mildly toxic 64% hydrocarbons -167 frozen 126
IXb 108 standard ice moon 0.43 0.07 0.37 thin mildly toxic -154 frozen 156
IXc 128 tiny sulfur moon 0.26 0.01 0.12 none -191 frozen 200
IXd 145 tiny ice moon 0.17 0 0.07 none -181 frozen 243
1 moonlet -170 frozen
X 19 small gas giant 2.88 10 1.21 superdense corrosive 128
10 moonlets -190 frozen
Xa 28 small ice moon 0.32 0.02 0.2 very dense mildly toxic 76% hydrocarbons -185 frozen 128
Xb 33 tiny ice moon 0.1 0 0.05 none -200 frozen 168
Xc 40 tiny ice moon 0.14 0 0.07 none -200 frozen 223
Xd 50 tiny ice moon 0.13 0 0.08 none -200 frozen 312
1 moonlet -190 frozen
XI 31 small gas giant 2.88 10 1.21 superdense corrosive 162
7 moonlets -209 frozen
XIa 28 small hadean moon 0.31 0.01 0.13 none -229 frozen 129
XIb 33 small hadean moon 0.35 0.02 0.16 none -229 frozen 162
XIc 37 small hadean moon 0.35 0.02 0.15 none -229 frozen 194
XId 43 tiny sulfur moon 0.25 0.01 0.09 none -222 frozen 244
XIe 48 tiny ice moon 0.18 0 0.06 none -216 frozen 294
2 moonlets -209 frozen

#4

Just as some people find it difficult to believe in FTL, I find it difficult to believe in life-controlling religions in SF settings. Things that people believe that give them comfort and an ethical code, sure. Things that force them to say “this person can tell me to do anything, and I will obey”, rather less so. Traveller’s religious dictatorships never quite felt plausible to me unless they were really conventional dictatorships with some religious trappings. (And Torg’s Cyberpapacy is basically the result of a reality collision, and absolutely not viable in the long term. I see that Torg Eternity has changed that bit of lore…)

All of which is to say that a model such as you’re proposing, which I assume develops out of “we give all the shiny tech to a few people so that they can fight off the invaders”, is one of the few that I feel can work to produce religion-like effects on a large scale.


#5

I had it more in mind that the invaders conquered and kept all the shiny tech to themselves, using it to rule, and posing as gods to justify their rule in the way that many oligarchs have posed as priests. Think of how the Roman Empire got taken over by bishops and priests pretending that they alone could dispense sacraments; think in that way of conquerors from the stars with a real monopoly on high-tech kit and weapons.

It is really very far from clear that the nivasees (commoners) on Navabharata mean god when they call their rulers “gods”. A lot of pundits assert that “god” is Navabharatese for “technocratic aristocrat”, that “miracle” is Navabharatese for “high-tech”, that “blasphemy” is Navabharatese for “sedition”, and that “sin” is Navabharatese for “capital crime”. The nivasees don’t recount myths about their “gods”.

C. Northcote Parkinson argued (in The Evolution of Political Thought, ch. XII “The Theocracy of Communism”) that modern ideological governments have profound similarities to “agricultural type” sacred kingships because a similarity of their justifications for rule gives them similar political problems to solve. What I am suggesting with Navabharata is that monarchies or aristocracies that justify their rule by dispensing technological blessings will find similar solutions to the similar problems that the divine kingships recorded by Frazer, which justified their rule by pretending to dispense divine blessings.


#6

Beta Hydri VI “Navabharata

Planetology
class of star G0 V
mean distance 1.74 A.U.
perihelion 1.74 A.U.
aphelion 1.74 A.U.
obliquity 36°
local year 2.18 a.
1484.1 local days
local day 12.9 hours
standard garden planet
diameter 1.06 D♁
13,554 km
density 0.90 × Earth’s
5.0 g/cm²
gravity 0.96 g♁
9.4 m/s²
escape velocity 11.3 km/s
period of low orbit 89 minutes
volcanism none
tectonics none
Climate very warm
mean temp. 38 °C
perihelion temp. 38 °C
aphelion temp 38 °C
illumination 108% × Earth’s
Oceans
coverage 80 %
composition water
tidal range 0.15 m
Atmosphere
main gases N₂, O₂
traces &c.
class breathable
pressure 1.5 bar
(dense)
Population & economy
habitability 29%
carrying capacity 1.57 E+9
population 1.37 E+9
development level 3.7
real exchange rate 0.21 ₢/¤
GDP (nominal) 700 E+9
GDP/head (real) 2500 ¤
GDP/head (nominal) 510
equality
spaceport class 2G
nearest neighbout 7 - Paraíso
distance 6.7 LY
sector Central
SHQ Old Earth
distance 24.3 LY

#7

Yeah. I don’t see that working if you’re starting from a modern society with a lot of secular people in it, or even modern religious believers who for the most part don’t regard miracles as part of their world-view.

On the other hand, as you say, you can have things that look quite like it.


#8

I get to be artfully silent about whether Navabharata had a modern society with lots of secular people in it 350 years after it was cut off by the destruction of Earth, especially as the disaster of its privatisation might have led to very limited contact with and supply from Earth for 200 years before that.


#9

When I do diameter 1.06 x density 0.9 I get surface gravity 0.954, which rounds to 0.95.


#10

Yeah, the diameter and density figures themselves are rounded from 1.062521004 D♁ and 0.904111211 ρ♁. Surface gravity works out to 0.960637151, which rounds to 0.96 g♁.


#11

In another place, I wrote:

I expect all sorts of Vancean shenanigans with the royal sacrifices. I have — or any GM has — the entire Golden Bough to crib for that. There will be places where the king abdicates for a day every year and provides a son, chosen and anointed peasant boy, acephalic bioroid, fatted ox, or very large cake as a substitutory sacrifice. There will be kings who make a bolt for the border when they see the writing on the wall. places with a ceremonial “flight of the king” (pursued by potential heirs), with varyingly real chances of his being caught and fed to the mob: perhaps in some places this will be an annual ceremony, with the king reigning as long as he is fleet enough to maintain his lead. In some places the pretence will be overt, the symbolism recognised. In others the king or the aristocrats will be trying to deceive the populace. I’m trying to work out who if anyone has the incentive to roofie the king and get him to sacrifice himself.

Thinking about this, I realise that there must be at least one entrepreneurial pantheon on the planet that has the machinery to make “stunt doubles”, i.e. biofabricated fake corpses. It’s a macabre sort of food synthesiser used to make the hosts for a very peculiar sacrament.


#12

For what it’s worth (which isn’t much), a previous description of Navabharata had the following to say about the history:

History to Imperial contact

Navabharata was settled by an undercapitalised program of the Indian government, and suffered early economic collapse. Struggling to recover, in 2205 it was conquered by a mercenary force paid by the tycoon Dewan Daresingh, who made himself Kaisar. Population spread, technology declined, and the colony split up into a bewildering jigsaw of maharajates, rajates, nawabies, and aristocratic republics.

Reintegration

An Eichberger ship visited Navabharata in 297 PDT but found little of commerial interest. From 310 or so adventurers from Tau Ceti and other advanced colonies began using their technological edge to make themselves kings on Navabharata. The most notorious was Sekandar Dev, who attempted with mercenary troops and imported weapons. to conquer the whole planet from 317. In 328 Sekandar Dev was murdered and supplanted by a group from Orinoco who used advanced medicine etc. to pass themselves off as gods. This ploy was widely imitated, and from 346–380 Navabharata was racked by wars between rival oantheons using high-tech weapons. 1–2 million people were killed with fusion weapons, besides nearly 100 million dying in accidentally-introduced plagues, and 50 million in famines resulting from war and the introduction of plant diseases and pests.

Intervention by the Eichberger Foundation from 375 cut off the importation of weapons and mercenaries and the further immigration of would-be gods. Navabharata was isolated during the Formation Wars, during which time the ‘gods’ settled down to form a patchwork of aristocratic states, and attempts at global conquest more-or-less ceased.

Recent history

Each of the major pantheons on Navabharata was represented at the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Luna, but they were persuaded to form a federation and sign as one colony. On the delegates return to Navabharata in 461 it took fifteen years to settle the terms on which the various pantheons would be represented on the Council of the Realm, and on which the chairmanship should rotate. The upshot has been a very weak central government, with few powers beyond appointing the Imperial judges. As far as colonial jurisdiction is concerned, 17 maharajahs, 119 rajahs, and 229 nawabs are virtually independent.

The idea there was that Navabharata de-modernised for 450 years before the conquerors started carving out petty kingdoms for themselves with high-tech gewgaws, and that the god gambit was a ploy by one group that was successful for tactical and logistical reasons but that were imitated. Perhaps the other ruling groups had to apotheose to resist, perhaps it was just a fad. It doesn’t matter which.


#13

Beta Hydri VI “Navabharata

Planetology

class of star G0 V
mean distance 1.74 A.U.
perihelion 1.74 A.U.
aphelion 1.74 A.U.
obliquity 36°
local year 2.18 a.
1484.1 local days
local day 12.9 hours
standard garden planet
diameter 1.06 D♁
13,554 km
density 0.90 ρ♁
5.0 g/cm²
gravity 0.96 g♁
9.4 m/s²
escape velocity 11.3 km/s
period of low orbit 89 minutes
volcanism none
tectonics none
Climate very warm
mean temp. 38 °C
perihelion temp. 38 °C
aphelion temp 38 °C
illumination 108% × Earth’s
Oceans
coverage 80%
composition water
tidal range 0.15 m
Atmosphere
main gases N₂, O₂
traces &c.
class breathable
pressure 1.5 bar
(dense)

Population & economy

habitability 29%
carrying capacity 1.57 E+9
population 1.37 E+9
development level 3.7
real exchange rate 0.21 ₢/¤
GDP (nominal) 700 E+9
GDP/head (real) 2500 ¤
GDP/head (nominal) 510
equality 0.32
spaceport class 2G
nearest neighbout 7 - Paraíso
distance 6.7 LY
sector Central
SHQ Old Earth
distance 24.3 LY

Government

world unity comminuted*
type aristocracy
succession hereditary*
structure occupational
features ruling class of body-modified “gods”

Law & enforcement

source customary
enforcement bailiffs & investigating magistrate
powers & resources 3/10
judgement magistrate
procedure investigative
protections 1/10
penalties death for major felonies
flogging, hard labour for lesser felonies
caning, fines for misdemeanours
peculiar laws death penalty for “blasphemy”
telecoms strictly licenced
high-tech vehicles restricted
serfdom
“unnatural” sex prohibited
body-mods restricted

Society

diversity strictly conformist
social unit guilds & co-operatives
household type extended (matrilocal)*
kinship system matrilineal
gender authority patriarchal*
sex roles discriminatory*
stratification extreme
social mobility marital
customs pervasive ceremonies
elaborate etiquette
clothing proclaims status & social mode
extortionate obligation system
amok
ritual/symbolic cannibalism of failed rulers
values beauty
sensual pleasure
flamboyance
deference
taboos disrespect
slovenliness
sexual perversion

#14

Surely one person’s flamboyance and sensual pleasure is another person’s sexual perversion?


#15

Yes, and just as surely people have guilty secrets.

(“Values” and “Taboos” need a bit of polishing. I’m not happy that I am expressing myself effectively in describing Navabharata’s other shames. A Navabharatan becomes ashamed/angry if he is made to give something without getting a quid pro quo, or if he has been trespassed against without retaliating.)


#16

Glancing over those statistics, I’m curious: What is the measure of “equality” and how is it applied game mechanically, if it is? Just looking at the matter narrativistically, I’m seeing a planet where a small elite portray themselves as literal gods (or maybe not, depending on translation!) and rule their petty theocracies with near-total autonomy being rated as 0.32, and I’m not sure that an equality of, say, 0.032 would look like.


#17

In “On the Genealogy of Morals,” part II, Nietzsche attributes the origins of justice to the early generalization “Everything has its price; all things can be paid for”—with the price of injuring someone being that other people will make you suffer.


#18

“Equality” is one minus the Gini coefficient of household income per household member after taxes and transfers. A value of 0 would represent an infinitesimal proportion of people getting all the income, and 1 would represent everyone having the same income. 0.32 is a very small value: the most unequal countries on Earth these days have values of about 0.38, and those are very undeveloped countries in Africa, in the South Africa to Botswana range.

It is strictly an economic measure, hence its placement in the table. It does not (directly) take social or political inequality into account (though those do of course produce economic inequality, which does get included).

P.S. It looks as though the USA has an “equality” of about 0.62. So the get the equivalent of Navabharata you could take half of the income from every family in America and give it all to whomever currently has the most income.

Suppose that 99% of the population all had the same income, and that the remaining 1% each had 200 times as much. The Gini coefficient of income would be 0.34.


Scope and format of system and world data sheets
#19

On one hand, I’m not surprised to see you using the Gini coefficient; it’s one that an economist would naturally think of. On the other hand, I’m curious as to how you arrived at that rating for Navabharata and more generally how “equality” is determined when you’re creating inhabited planets. On the gripping hand, I’m even more curious about whether you’ve worked out a way to apply the index game mechanically.


#20

At the moment the whole procedure is very unsatisfactory: I look at sorted a list of countries and pick a value that seems about right.


#21

Well, eyeballing it might easily be as accurate as most game mechanical approaches.

What I kind of would like now is maybe something akin to the GURPS CR system, with “equality” scores from 0 to 6, and sketches of the resulting societies. So for example ER 4 would be a country like the United States. Of course the extremes would be more Platonic ideals than actual social patterns: a godking served by a vast army of destitute servants, or a hivelike communism, maybe. (Though you could turn the first into the second very easily by removing the godking, or replacing them with the collective personality of The State or The People.)

Addendum: Dividing the percentages up at 91.67, 75.00, 58.33, 41.67, 25.00, and 8.33, I see that the world basically splits up into three groups: Southern Africa, the less developed world, and the more developed world. Iceland and Ukraine almost make it over the edge into a fourth group. On the other hand, the US Census Bureau gives the US a much higher Gini, with only two states falling into what I’m calling the “developed countries” range: Utah and Alaska. It’s curious that the World Bank and Census Bureau estimates are so different; I wonder how their methodologies differ?


Scope and format of system and world data sheets