Two pages about the colonies


#1

Here’s what I have written about the colonies in general for Flat Black in ten pages of tiny type. I wouldn’t mind being able to cut about 150 words (14%), so tell me what you think is obvious or redundant.

The colonies

There are a thousand inhabited worlds with a total population of 842 billion humans and parahumans. Far fewer than a billion people live in space habitats.

The thousand worlds are physically diverse. Their stars range from K5 to F0 with outliers to M0 and B9. Average surface temperatures range from -12°C to 60°C. Gravity ranges from 0.45g♁to 1.58g♁. Atmospheres range from 0.24 bar of 40% O2 to 11.4 bar of 85% He. The driest world is 8% covered in water; the three wettest have less than 1% dry land. Apparent days vary from 10.4 hours to 48 hours, and about a hundred worlds are tidally locked to their stars so as to have no day and night.

The societies on these worlds are also madly diverse. The oldest is 856 years old; ten new ones were established last year. Population density ranges from 0.044 to 132 people/km2, population from 9.9 million (not counting new worlds with only a few thousand recent arrivals) to 21.5 billion.

Different colonies have every known form of government: monarchy and dictatorship, oligarchy and aristocracy, ochlocracy and isocracy, direct and representative democracy, feudal and bureaucratic hierarchy, theocracy, plutocratic kleptocracy, anarchy, chaos, and civil war. Many worlds have several colonies on them, each with a separate government and sometimes a distinctive society. The laws vary. Their enforcement varies. Courts vary, and in some colonies none exist. The punishments for crimes vary.

Different colonies employ every known mode of production: hunting and gathering, swiddening horticulture, nomadism, corvée agriculture, slave labour, agricultural and industrial manorialism, market capitalism, distributism, social-democratic redistribution, technocratic dirigism, bureaucratic collectivism, syndicalism, post-labour communism and post-labour pure capitalism.

The degree of economic development varies tremendously. No world is truly low tech—all have at least high-tech crops for their primitive farms, and the materials and medicines those crops produce—but some amount to extremely poor parts of the ultra-tech economy. The ten poorest colonies can only manage a division of labour comparable to Iron Age craftsmen’s workshops, and struggle to afford critical imports. The six most developed worlds (“the Suite”) achieve a division of labour that is only possible with markets of a hundred billion consumers, and make products more sophisticated than Old Earth ever managed.

The colonies’ social structures are madly various. Families may be nuclear, or if extended may be matrilocal or patrilocal, polygynous, polyandrous, based on line or group marriages, have different structure in different social strata, or not exist at all. Households may consist of a single family or contain many, or they need not be family based at all. Some societies have individual households or barracks-style households. Some have different household types for different social strata, life stages, occupational castes, or genders. In some societies the main social unit through which people participate in social life is their family or clan, in others their neighbourhood, their workplace, their age association, their guild, or a more-or-less formal club with or without an ostensible main purpose.

Along with all this structural variation, colonies also have distinctive quirks and social features. Some have dress codes. Some are nudist. Many have nudity taboos of various strengths and extents—it may be required (and perhaps sufficient) to wear a veil or mask. Body modification has an important social significance in some cultures; on some colonies it is used to effect a metamorphosis between life stages. Many societies have distinctive sports, crafts, performing arts etc., which may be pervasive. Some colonies have religions, or ritual and ethical systems effectively equivalent to religions. Some have an elaborate system of formal manners. Some have important gift-giving customs. Some have duelling codes. some practice ahimsa. Some practice cannibalism. The variety is bewildering.

Each society has different values and taboos, which are often unstated. In many it is expected that people will try to get ahead materially, and this ambition attracts sympathy: it is a social value. On others it is discreditable to outdo one’s peers or to exceed one’s proper station: material ambition is a taboo. Among the huge variety, societies value achievement, career, conformity, creativity, ebullience, fame, grandeur, love, modesty, popularity, power, progeny, reputation, “respect” (deference), sex, wealth wisdom, a “whole” life, a “good” death, a grand tomb. People seek their societies’ values, they interpret others as seeking them. They disguise and hide breaking taboos.

Perhaps the one universal is parochiality. Almost everyone feels that the customs of their people are human nature and their taboos, moral law. Most aren’t unaware of other worlds and societies—they learn about them at school and view sensational media. But most people never take an interstellar trip in their lives and few travel frequently. Other worlds don’t seem important or even feel real, accounts of their customs are mentally filed as trivial exoticism.

Colonial sovereignty

Each colony is sovereign over its own territory out to the “edge of Space”, the altitude where aerodynamic flight is barely possible below orbital speed. The Empire has power to meddle only where FTL travel, weapons of mass destruction, and massacres are at issue. Colonies that control a whole world, or that are at peace and co-operate with their neighbours well enough to conduct effective orbital traffic control, may conduct orbital operations and place satellite and orbital habitats within their worlds’ Hill spheres and below escape velocity, but these are supervised by the Imperial Navy. The Empire may issue charters for operations and habitats in deep space to be conducted by colonial enterprises, but these remain subject to Imperial sovereignty.

Each sovereign colony appoints senator to represent it at the Imperial capital, an Agent to represent it at the Imperial sector HQ, and the justices of an Imperial District Court to issue warrants and try cases under Imperial criminal law. It also receives an Imperial Resident Minister as quasi-diplomatic representative of the Imperial government and supervisor of Imperial activity.

Where a world or colony has no effective government, or is politically comminuted into tiny states beneath Imperial notice, the Imperial Senate appoints a Protector to exercise its rights against Imperial encroachment, but this does not extend to such a Protector appointing a Senator.


#2

“He is a barbarian, and thinks the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” (Caesar in Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, quoted in Robert A. Heinlein’s Glory Road, which is where I first encountered it.)


#3

I read The Complete Plays and The Complete Prefaces of George Bernard Shaw before I read Glory Road. My father had them on his bookshelves.


#4

I learned of Shaw from Heinlein; he seems to have been one of Heinlein’s big influences, along with Carroll, Twain, Kipling, Baum, Cabell, and possibly Swift. That led to my reading a lot of Shaw’s plays in my teens. I still have Man and Superman on my shelves.


#5

The colonies

There are a thousand inhabited worlds with a total population of 842 billion humans and parahumans. Far fewer than a billion people live in space habitats.

The thousand worlds are physically diverse. Their stars range from K5 to F0 with outliers to M0 and B9. Average surface temperatures range from -12°C to 60°C. Gravity ranges from 0.45g♁to 1.58g♁. Atmospheres range from 0.24 bar of 40% O2 to 11.4 bar of 85% He. The driest world is 8% covered in water; the three wettest have less than 1% dry land. Apparent days vary from 10.4 to 48 hours, and about a hundred worlds are tidally locked to their stars and have no day and night.

The societies on these worlds are also madly diverse. The oldest is 856 years old; ten new ones were established last year. Population density ranges from 0.044 to 132 people/km2, population from 9.9 million (not counting new worlds with only a few thousand recent arrivals) to 21.5 billion.

Different colonies have every known form of government: monarchy and dictatorship, aristocracy and oligarchy, isocracy and ochlocracy, direct and representative democracy, feudal and bureaucratic hierarchy, theocracy, plutocratic kleptocracy, anarchy, chaos, and civil war.[NOTE: I’m not suggesting a change—but is the preceding list meant as Aristotle’s six forms of government, with “isocracy” being the just form of rule by the majority?] Many worlds have several colonies, each with a separate government and sometimes a distinctive society. The laws vary. Their enforcement varies. Courts vary, and in some colonies none exist. The punishments for crimes vary.

Different colonies employ every known mode of production: hunting and gathering, swiddening horticulture, nomadism, corvée agriculture, slave labour, agricultural and industrial manorialism, market capitalism, distributism, social-democratic redistribution, technocratic dirigism, bureaucratic collectivism, syndicalism, post-labour communism and post-labour pure capitalism.[QUERY: Are there any colonies that rely either on high-density fishing or on pelagiculture?]

The degree of economic development varies tremendously. No world is truly low tech—all have at least high-tech crops for their primitive farms, and the materials and medicines those crops produce—but some are extremely poor parts of the ultra-tech economy. The ten poorest colonies can only manage a division of labour comparable to Iron Age craftsmen’s workshops, and struggle to afford critical imports. The six most developed worlds (“the Suite”) achieve a division of labour that is only possible with markets of a hundred billion consumers, and make products more sophisticated than Old Earth ever managed.

Social structures are madly varied. Families may be nuclear, or if extended may be matrilocal or patrilocal, polygynous, polyandrous, based on line or group marriages, have different structure in different social strata, or not exist at all. Households may consist of a single family or contain many, or not be family-based. Some societies have individual households or barracks-style households. Some have different household types for different social strata, life stages, occupational castes, or genders. In some societies the main unit through which people participate in social life is their family or clan, in others their neighbourhood, their workplace, their age association, their guild, or a more-or-less formal club with or without an ostensible main purpose.

Along with structural variation, colonies also have distinctive quirks and social features. Some have dress codes. Some are nudist. Many have nudity taboos of various strengths and extents—it may be required (and perhaps sufficient) to wear a veil or mask. Body modification has important social significance in some cultures; in some colonies it is used to effect a metamorphosis between life stages. Many societies have distinctive sports, crafts, performing arts, etc., which may be pervasive. Some colonies have religions, or ritual and ethical systems effectively equivalent to religions. Some have an elaborate system of formal manners. Some have important gift-giving customs. Some have duelling codes. Some practice ahimsa. Some practice cannibalism. The variety is bewildering.

Each society has different values and taboos, which are often unstated. In many it is expected that people will try to get ahead materially, and this ambition attracts sympathy: it is a social value. In others it is discreditable to outdo one’s peers or to exceed one’s proper station: material ambition is a taboo. Societies value achievement, career, conformity, creativity, ebullience, fame, grandeur, love, modesty, popularity, power, progeny, reputation, “respect” (deference), sex, wealth, wisdom, a “whole” life, a “good” death, a grand tomb. People seek their societies’ values; they interpret others as seeking them. They disguise and hide breaking taboos.

Perhaps the one universal is parochiality. Almost everyone feels that the customs of their people are human nature and their taboos, moral law. Most aren’t unaware of other worlds and societies—they learn about them at school and sensational media. But most people never take an interstellar trip and few travel frequently. Other worlds don’t seem important or even feel real; accounts of their customs are mentally filed as trivial exoticism.

Colonial sovereignty

Each colony is sovereign over its own territory out to the “edge of Space”, the altitude where aerodynamic flight is barely possible below orbital speed. The Empire has power to meddle only where FTL travel, weapons of mass destruction, and massacres are at issue. Colonies that control a whole world, or that are at peace and co-operate with their neighbours well enough to conduct effective orbital traffic control, may conduct orbital operations and place satellite and orbital habitats within their worlds’ Hill spheres and below escape velocity, but these are supervised by the Imperial Navy. The Empire may issue charters for operations and habitats in deep space to be conducted by colonial enterprises, but these remain subject to Imperial sovereignty.

Each sovereign colony appoints a senator to represent it at the Imperial capital, an agent to represent it at the Imperial sector HQ, and the justices of an Imperial District Court to issue warrants and try cases under Imperial criminal law. It also receives an Imperial Resident Minister as quasi-diplomatic representative of the Imperial government and supervisor of Imperial activity. Where a colony has no effective government, or is politically comminuted into tiny states beneath Imperial notice, the Imperial Senate appoints a Protector to exercise its rights against Imperial encroachment, but this does not extend to such a Protector appointing a Senator.


#6

On one hand, a lot of this is repetition of "The colonies are madly various in , " and it seems redundant in a document of limited scope.

On the other hand, slightly varied repetitions on a theme are a good way to fix something into someone’s memory, and this does that well. I think “The colonies are madly various” is something you want as a critical core value of the setting that everyone understands intuitively.

Also- the world data is still very technical - your player base is very refined, but refined enough to understand stellar classes without reference? Perhaps colloquialize it a tad.


#8

Yes, and you’re right about the parallelisms.

Yes. Should I mention it here?

“Social unit” is a technicalism (from sociology), and I’d like to keep it despite the redundancy. I’ll replace “societies” and maybe cut “main” rather than excise “social”.

Thanks again for doing this. I feel a bit bad about bludging your professional efforts without compensation; can I send you a box of gluten-free cookies or something?


#9

On the gripping hand, it’s almost useless to say things vary if you don’t indicate the range of variation. “Gravity ranges from 0.44 gee to 1.58 gee” is a great deal more informative than “gravity varies”. And my players are mostly STEM graduates with a smattering of lawyers. Even the guy whose BA was in philosophy has a PhD now in signals processing in the neurones of the retina. They aren’t anthropologists or sociologists, only a couple are even economists. They don’t even know what the dimensions are that social structure can vary in. Which is why I list out form of government, mode of production, family structure, social unit, and values and taboos and indicate the range in each of those dimensions.

My player base has higher degrees, or decades of professional experience in quantitative fields. My rule of thumb is that it would be patronising to explain to them anything that I learned in a compulsory class in high school. Harvard classification of spectral types was in 8th grade Science*, it is mentioned even in general-circulation newspapers, and is very easy to look up if you know that it is a system of classifying stars. Furthermore, all my current players have BScs are their first degrees. Two of the three are SF fans and have been playing SFRPGs for decades. The third is an ecological engineer rather than a hard sciences type, but he did name one of his sons after Tycho Brahe. I am the science ignoramus in this group.

My dirty little secret is that I write the way I speak†. My colloquies are like my writing, larded with postgraduates’ vocabulary, allusions to Themistocles and G.K. Chesterton, Castiglione and Marvin Minsky, fleeting segues through colour theory and the development of parliamentary democracy. The chances are very strong that a person who doesn’t like my writing isn’t going to like my GMing anyway‡.


* Taught by Mr Haskell. I was sitting at the right end of the second bench on the left as you face the dias, next to Clare Holberton. “Oh! Be A Fine Girl. Kiss Me Right Now. Smack!” (We do brown dwarfs instead of carbon stars these days, but it won’t matter for Flat Black.)

† Yes, in paragraphs.

‡ I come across as an arrogant son of a bitch because I assume that you are smart and know things. If I talked down to you as though you were a tenth-grader, that would be modest.


#10

Really it’s not that sort of situation. I spent less time on tightening your prose than I would spend on examining your game mechanics, and figuring out game mechanics is also something I do professionally. But I don’t have any feeling of being exploited; I’m doing it for relaxation in between editing academic papers. I really would rather stop providing this small favor than have you treat it as imposing obligations on you!


#11

I’ve revised the material on the colonies and extended it to two and a half pages.

The Colonies

There are a thousand inhabited worlds with a total population of 842 billion humans and parahumans. Far fewer than a billion people live in space habitats.

The thousand worlds are physically diverse. Their stars range from K5 to A9 with outliers to M0 and B9. Gravity ranges from 0.45g♁to 1.58g♁. Average surface temperatures range from -12°C to 60°C. Atmospheres range from 0.24 bar of 40% O2 to 11.4 bar of 85% He. The driest world is 8% covered in water; the three wettest have less than 1% dry land. Apparent days vary from 10.4 hours to 48 hours, and about a hundred worlds are tidally locked to their stars so as to have no day and night.

The societies on these worlds are also madly diverse. The oldest is 856 years old; ten new ones were established last year. Disregarding new worlds with only a few thousand recent arrivals, population ranges from 9.9 million to 21.5 billion, population density from 0.044 to 132 people/km2.

Different colonies have every known form of government: monarchy and dictatorship, aristocracy and oligarchy, isocracy and ochlocracy, direct and representative democracy, feudal and bureaucratic hierarchy, theocracy, plutocratic kleptocracy, anarchy, chaos, and civil war. Many worlds have several colonies on them, each with a separate government and sometimes a distinctive society. The laws vary. Their enforcement varies. Courts vary, and in some colonies none exist. Punishments vary.

Different colonies employ every known mode of production: hunting and gathering, swiddening, nomadism, pelagic fishing, corvée agriculture, slavery, agricultural and industrial manorialism, market capitalism, distributism, social-democratic redistribution, technocratic dirigism, bureaucratic collectivism, syndicalism, post-labour communism and post-labour pure capitalism.

The degree of economic development varies tremendously. No world is truly low tech—all have at least high-tech crops and the materials and medicines those crops produce—but some amount to extremely poor parts of the ultra-tech economy. The ten poorest colonies can only manage production methods comparable to the workshops of Iron Age craftsmen, and struggle to afford critical imports. The six most developed worlds (“the Suite”) achieve a division of labour that is only possible with markets of a hundred billion consumers, and make products more sophisticated than Old Earth ever managed.

Social structures are madly varied. Families may be nuclear, or if extended may be matrilocal or patrilocal, polygynous, polyandrous, or based on line or group marriages; they may be different in different social strata, or not exist at all. Households may consist of a single family or contain many, and they need not be family based at all. In some societies everyone lives in barracks, or alone. Some colonies have different household types for different social strata, life stages, occupational castes, or genders. On some worlds the social unit (in which people participate in social life) is the family or clan, in others the neighbourhood, the workplace, the age association, the occupational guild, or a more-or-less formal club with or without an ostensible main purpose.

Along with structural variation, colonies also have distinctive quirks and social features. Some have dress codes. Some are nudist. Many have nudity taboos of various strengths and extents—it may be required (and perhaps sufficient) to wear a veil or mask. Body modification has an important significance in some cultures; in some it is used to effect a metamorphosis between life stages. Many societies have distinctive sports, crafts, performing arts etc., which may be pervasive. Some colonies have religions, or ritual and ethical systems effectively equivalent to religions. Some have an elaborate system of formal manners. Some have important gift-giving customs. Some have duelling codes. some practice ahimsa. Some practice cannibalism. The variety is bewildering.

Each society has different values and taboos, which are often unstated. In many it is expected that people will try to get ahead materially; ambition attracts sympathy: it is a social value. In others it is discreditable to outdo one’s peers or to exceed one’s proper station: ambition is a taboo. Societies value or disparage achievement, career, conformity, creativity, fame, grandeur, love, modesty, popularity, power, progeny, reputation, “respect” (i.e. deference), sex, sporting prowess, vigour, wealth, wisdom, a “whole” life, a “good” death, a grand tomb…. People seek their societies’ values, and interpret others as seeking them. They disguise and hide breaking taboos.

One universal is parochialism. Almost everyone feels that the customs of their people are human nature, and their taboos, moral law. Everyone knows that other worlds and societies exist—they learn about them at school and in sensational media. But most people never take an interstellar trip in their lives, and few travel frequently. Other worlds don’t seem important or even feel real, accounts of their customs are mentally filed as trivial exoticism.

Colonial sovereignty

Each colony is sovereign over its own territory out to the “edge of Space”, the altitude where aerodynamic flight is barely possible below orbital speed. The Empire has power to meddle only where FTL travel, weapons of mass destruction, and massacres are at issue. Colonies that control a whole world, or that are at peace and co-operate with their neighbours well enough to conduct united orbital traffic control, may conduct orbital operations and place satellites and orbital habitats within their worlds’ Hill spheres and below escape velocity, but these are supervised by the Imperial Navy. The Empire may issue charters for operations and habitats in deep space to be conducted by colonial enterprises, but these remain subject to Imperial sovereignty.

Each colony appoints a senator to represent it at the Imperial capital and in the legislature, an “agent” to represent it at the Imperial sector HQ, and an Imperial District Court to issue warrants and try cases under Imperial criminal law in its territory. It also receives an Imperial Resident Minister as quasi-diplomatic representative of the Imperial government and as supervisor of Imperial activity.

Where a world or colony has no effective government, or is politically comminuted into tiny states beneath Imperial notice, the Imperial Senate appoints a Protector to exercise its rights against Imperial encroachment. Protectors appoint non-voting observers in place of senators and agents.

The Suite

Six colonies are so rich and highly developed, have institutions so favourable to industry and trade, and use interstellar trade so effectively to reach vast markets that they have been able to exploit economies of scale wider than were achievable on Old Earth. They make and export products and components that were never commercially available before. Pundits call them “the Suite”.

Aeneas specialises in power generation and storage. Iter makes special materials, such as those with micro-electro-mechanical surfaces. Seeonee specialises in molecular biology as nanotech. Simanta does ecological engineering and innovative artificial organisms. Tau Ceti makes cutting-edge photonics: things that emit, absorb, and detect radiation. Todos Santos specialises in artificial sapience, neurotechnics, and pychoengineering. The Empire is sometimes considered to be “the transport sector of the Suite”.

The Suite has no institutions nor formal membership.

Languages

99% of people speak comprehensible dialects of Standard, a language that evolved as a global language on Earth. A few languages that were regional standards in the 23rd century have roles on certain colonies of that early vintage (Arabic on Hijra, Putonghua on Xin Tian Di, Malay on Persatuan) or have clear influences on the dialects there (Hindustani and Bengali on Navabharata, Spanish on Paraíso, Malay on Fureidis, Hebrew on Covenant).

Religions

Neuroscience having had a complete explanation of cognitive phenomena for 800 years, belief in spirits or souls is no longer intellectually respectable, and this leaves nothing for gods or ghosts to be. Traditional religions are things of the past, and very few people admit to being religious.
However, a majority of people now adhere to moral causes, ethical systems, programs of self-improvement, and ritual and congregational practices that, though they draw their authority from economics, sociology, psychology, medicine, or love of sports rather than from supernatural revelation, nevertheless discharge the social and emotional functions of religion.

Money

Most colonies have their own currency, though some do without and some use commodities as money (e.g. silver by weight). Most money is digital, even on quite backward worlds, but cash does survive.
The interstellar standard for prices and settlements is the Imperial crown, which is issued by the Universal Bank. The purchasing power of ₢ 1 in the Suite or Imperial Direct Jurisdiction is 1 SVU (ForeSight)—about $4 in GURPS or A$9 at current prices, but real exchange rates vary with development; a crown is worth much more in poor colonies.

Imperial crowns have value because traders, travellers, and migrants need them to pay freight and fares, and buy land on new worlds.


#12

Many years ago, when I was at Elsevier, in the group that copy edited physics and chemistry journals, one of my co-workers liked to come to weekly meetings and read off her desk calendar the names of notable figures whose birthdays were on the date of the meeting. After a number of these, I commented that her list seemed to be almost purely literary; I mentioned James Clark Maxwell as an example of the sort of figure who wouldn’t turn up, and it turned out that only one of my co-workers recognized the name. I said something like "Wow, that’s like not recognizing the name ‘Mozart,’ and one of the more senior people said, “Bill, don’t be elitist.”

I let it drop, but you know, it perplexes me that thinking of Maxwell as part of the common cultural heritage that everyone ought to share was described as “elitist.” If I’d said, “Oh, well, never mind, Maxwell is above you,” would that have been “egalitarian”? It seems an impressive example of C.P. Snow’s “two cultures” thesis. . . .


#13

I can see two possible exceptions here:

  1. It seems to me that strict Theraveda Buddhism does not depend on belief in spirits, souls, or gods, being quite agnostic, and in fact is ultimately very little different from David Hume’s worldview. It could very well survive the rise of neuroscience, though more as an askesis than as a “religion.”

  2. Are there people who believe that the empirical universe is a simulation in which they are embedded? The entity running the simulation, and perhaps the entities that set it up to do so, seem effectively to be “gods” of a different sort. Or is that hypothesis rejected as meaningless?


#14

It’s a fairly Western view of religion. And even in the West, I think, a lot of people now regard the supernaturalism as an embarrassing trapping that goes along with a sensible guide to behaviour in the real world.


#15

I intend some of these cases to be covered by not “admitting” they are religious, as in “yes, I’m Buddhist, but the Theravada is not a religion, it’s an empirically-based course of ethical and psychological self-improvement, like Stoicism”, and others by “very few”. There are whole planets where it is practically compulsory to profess a religion. It’s just that 100 billion people are “few” in Flat Black.

I don’t use “few” as code for “none” nor “most” as code for “all”.


#16

I don’t think I was suggesting that you did. Rather, I was questioning a couple of conceptual points:

  • You said that “Traditional religions are things of the past” BECAUSE the belief in souls, spirits, or gods is no longer intellectually credible. I was pointing out one belief system that is commonly called a religion, and has a longer tradition behind it than Christianity or Islam, that seems to “have no need of that hypothesis.”

  • You say “this leaves nothing for gods or ghosts to be.” It rather seems to me that if people take seriously the idea that our physical uniform is a simulation, then the entity that is simulating it could be something for a god to be. Indeed, the theologically orthodox definition of “creation” offered, for example, by Thomas Aquinas seems to be almost exactly a description of the cosmos as a divine simulation.

I don’t mean to propose that you need to revise your text to cover these cases. They’re probably marginal qualifications and your players may not have any interest in them. I’m just playing with the ideas by looking for counterexamples.


#17

My first exposure to Buddhism was in the pages of H.G. Wells’ Outline of History, which presented a very-much de-mythologised, almost Euhemerist, version of Western Theravada. I found that completely consistent with my physicalist monism. But most readers suppose that the central doctrine of Buddhism is the transmigration of souls, and they would be gobsmacked to hear me discourse on my interpretation of the doctrine of anatta*. The current project is a super, super brief introduction to Flat Black, which I am trying to keep under eight thousand words with thumbnail sketches of two dozen colonies. It would not be the place for such a discourse.

I will revise the text to avoid getting into doctrinal disputes with other Buddhist atheists, but I really can’t afford to amplify the explanation any further, and I have to resist the danger of become enigmatically vague and oblique.


* I have in the past met self-described Buddhists who thought anatta was a food dye.


#18

No, of course you should not discuss those philosophical nuances. Much too arcane for an audience wanting to know how to create characters. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise, and I regret having seemingly done so. I just got interested in the topic and couldn’t resist commenting on it.


#19

I, too, find these speculations fascinating, to the point where I am far too easily and thoroughly distracted by them.

I’m going to return my attentions to the business of writing thirty thumbnail sketches of colonies. When you read them you may decide that Flat Black is a transhumanist setting after all, just tainted by a Cabellian cynicism about the charms of most transhumanist suggestions.

Are the parahuman occupants of Simanta and Beleriand transhuman? The genderqueer gunslingers on Nahal? The god-gambitting aristocrats on Navabharata? The multiply-over-written mental palimpsests on Todos Santos? The mink-kits? Android slaves on Ritho?