Ethnographical Questionnaire: III. Questions of Race and Ethnicity

So, I’ve recently been working on answering the “Ethnographical Questionnaire” set of worldbuilding questions for my conculture – not quite this version, but another version by the same person, I think – in the interest of, by so doing, expanding on all sorts of areas and possible unconsidered lacunae in my current imaginings. I thought I’d share each section with y’all as I got it done.

Previously answered:

XII. Questions of Sex

What are the chief races in the region?

Among the eldrae, the original races – for values of original equal to “once the original (limited) population had spread out and settled down enough for these to appear” – were the eseldrae, lumeneldrae, seleneldrae, vereldrae, azikeldrae, and kireldrae, with the alaereldrae and telireldrae appearing later.

Of these, the most common are the first three, the eseldrae, lumeneldrae, and seleneldrae, who together make up about 75% of the population.  The eseldrae [“star people”] are stereotypically eldrae-pale, with nearly-white cream skin tone, dark brown to black hair, and eye colors generally brown, gold, hazel, or amber.  The lumeneldrae [“sun people”], by contrast, are the darkest of any of the eldrae races, being golden, darkening to rosy-copper, with eyes of deep blue and green, and hair colors ranging from a pale silvery-white [“sunrise”] through a deep, burnished gold into shades of deep, dark red [“sunset”], although both extremes are rare.  The seleneldrae occupy the middle ground, being paler than lumeneldrae copper but darker than eseldrae cream, with hair ranging from deep gold to dark bronze and auburn, and eyes of almost any color, merely avoiding the extremes of light and dark.  The seleneldrae are also distinguished by curly hair; while not unknown in other races or found in every seleneldrae, it predominates among them.

Among the less populous races, the first is the vereldrae [“forest people”], a chiefly forest-dwelling offshoot of the seleneldrae, sharing a similar skin tone although somewhat more golden in hue, with hair and eyes both lightened; the former to light gold, brown, and red, and the latter to sea- or sky-blue, or pale green-grey.  Occasional mutations have given some vereldrae hair shot through with green tints, or even plainly dark-of-verdant green.

The second is the azikeldrae [“stone people”], descended from those who moved underground to avoid the Winter of Nightmares and stayed there thereafter.  In hair and skin color, they resemble the eseldrae, but tend to be shorter and more powerfully built (which is to say, by our standards they’re still tall and slender).  Their eyes, however, may be grey-almost-black, dark blue, or even violet.  The azikeldrae also contain a minority subrace who acquired a silverlife infection/symbiosis during their time underground, the “silvertouched”, who are distinguished by metallic “flecks” in their eyes’ irises and sclera (known as “star-flecked”, metallic strands (of actual metal, copper, silver and gold being most common) appearing in their hair, or skin colored gold, copper, gray, or blue from metallic deposition, even sometimes to the extent of acquiring a slightly stony texture or actual freckle-like inclusions of crystal or stone.

The third, and the rarest, are the kireldrae [“first people”], throwbacks to some of the original engineering that made the species in the first place.  Their skin is even paler than that of the eseldrae, to the point of near-translucency that gives it an almost bluish tint from the blood beneath.  They have either very pale or very dark eyes, never in between, often grey, sometimes even silvery, black, or purple.  Their hair is usually dark, although occasional kireldrae of unusually unstable breeding manifest very unusual hair colors – vivid scarlets, dark blues, indigos and purples, even ashen white.

Later, although most unusual offshoots created by genetic engineering either come in all racial varieties (the spacer mods – ignoring, for the moment, the ebony-skinned people who live outside habs, directly in space – for example, look merely like four-armed examples of any of these races) or have morphology determined by other aspects of their clade design, two new races appeared – designated so for numbers, unique appearance, and ability to breed true.

The first of these are the alaereldrae [“ocean people”]; modified to live underwater, with amphibious skin, slightly webbed fingers and toes, and full-body gills, they otherwise have pale skin similar to that of the eseldrae, but marked by a faint turquoise tinge, as is their hair, whether it is dark, blonde, or the mid-blue, ocean-green or jade-green shades also common among the alaereldrae.  (Red hair is unknown among them.)  Their eyes are universally a shade of liquid blue-green.

The second are the telireldrae [“sky people”]; a winged clade designed to fly unassisted on lower-gravity worlds and habitats, they combine seleneldrae skin tone with pale eyes and hair, although not quite as pale as the sunrise hair found among the lumeneldrae; very occasionally dark hair shows up among them, but this is a rare exception.

(By the way, just in case you think it’s kind of racist that no-one here is darker than a Native American, you can find the reason why under “Trope-a-Day: But Not Too White“.  Essentially, the same Precursor genehackery that upgraded their immune systems as part of the whole immortality thing broke the mechanism that releases melanin when cells are damaged by exposure to UV light; they don’t tan, they don’t sunburn, and there’s no evolutionary advantage to spending the energy to make melanin in the first place, which is half the reason that white people evolved *here* in the first place; the skin tones they have are essentially a leftover.

And, also by the way, they did re-invent dark skin later on, per that reference to the ebony-skinned chaps who live in space and can use the radiation protection, and no-one has a problem with that.  So.)

What are the chief ethnic groups of each race in the region? How are they distributed in place?

Well, originally, the chief ethnys around in the Old Empires were the Corones of Upper Cestia and the Alaelaes of Alatia (eseldrae); the Stanné-lin of Selenaria and the Daen-lin of South-East Cestia (lumeneldrae); the Querach-lin of the Crescent, who were also a minority in Selenaria and Cestia (seleneldrae); the Verthraen of Veranthyr and Chielraen of the forests of central Cestia (vereldrae); and the Azikraen of Azikhan (azikeldrae).  The kireldrae were around, but were too rare to form any sort of actual ethny, and neither the alaereldrae nor the telireldrae existed yet.

How do they differ by language, appearance or ancestry?

By appearance, not very, in terms of inborn characteristics, compared to other ethnys of the same race; they didn’t have enough prehistoric time to diversify further in. In habits of dress or culture, it was substantially easier – you could pick out the Querach-lin, for example, by their habit of wearing their armor everywhere but bed or bath, and sometimes even there, and always carrying a damn great axe around; the Daen-lin by not wearing very much at all when they could get away with it; the Verthraen by their movements, shaped by spending much of their life at treetop-height, and dressing to allow them; the Stanné-lin by their elaborate hairstyles and even more elaborately folded clothing; the Alalaes by the seawater in their dress, speech, and movements, and so forth.

In language, things had started to merge by the time of the Old Empires – the Corones, Alalaes, Daen-lin and Chielraen all spoke dialects of Old Cestian, for example, as did the Querach-lin minority there, albeit one flavored with loan-words and formations from the Crescent’s language.  Likewise, the Stanné-lin of Selenaria and their Querach-lin minority also shared a language, one that acquired some flavor from their northern neighbors in Veranthyr, who, along with the Azikraen, kept their own unique ancestral tongue.  Post-Empire, of course, everyone officially spoke Eldraeic, but most of those older languages still exist to one degree or another, if only to add flavor to life.

(There are also, of course, more elsewhere on the world — but I think that’s enough for now.)

What jobs do the chief ethnicities primarily occupy? Are any groups denied work because of racial or ethnic heritage?

Pretty much the same jobs as everyone else, even back in the day, and almost certainly not.

The eldrae are really too innately individualist to really get the hang of racism.  Culturism, that they can manage, and goodness knows more than a few people who were too attached to the bad old days and their coercive ways of doing things found themselves on the wrong end of the swords, rifles, and flame-belching giant mechanical spiders of the Freest of the Free — but if you live and let live and stand by your word, oppressing you or excluding you just ’cause of what you look like or where you came from?  How stupid is that?

What are typical attitudes of the native (or majority) ethnos to immigrants and other ethnicities?

The Empire claims to be generally welcoming to immigrants of essentially any ethny, clade, or species, as the above might suggest, and by and large, it lives up to it – once the immigrants arrive.

That being said, the Empire has always reserved the right to be rather picky about which immigrants it permits to join up.  As an ideological state with an explicit social contract, the Empire is essentially structured as a mutual-benefit corporation of its citizens, and so any prospective future immigrants are expected to show the same sort of deep attachment to the core principles of the Fundamental Contract and Imperial Charter as the original members.  And to put together enough assets to purchase one citizen-share, under most circumstances, by way of demonstrably not being a parasite.  And the Empire also makes no secrets of its broad libertist-technepractic consensus or the Great Imperial Melting Pot, and isn’t exactly interested in recruiting people who aren’t willing to go along with those, in the interests of not setting itself up for ghettoization or future internecine strife.

But, hey, once you get through that gauntlet, you can be a three-eyed nine-armed trilaterally symmetrical soph from a cold-slush planet no-one’s ever heard of, with more cultural quirks than you can perform a situationally appropriate ritual at, and Imperial society will take you to its bosom.  And try and figure out how to make a methane-snow pie to welcome you with.

In short, mind matters; meat doesn’t.  No offense intended to the infomorphs in the audience.

How has any variety of ethnicity in the region changed the society’s culture?

It’s tricky to say in any depth – to cover the listed ones above and the obvious contributions, the Alaelaes brought a nautical tradition and an exploratory urge, the Stanné-lin brought the notion of popular assemblies and sortation, the Querach-lin brought their warrior tradition, the Verthraen brought the best silviculture anywhere, the Daen-lin brought some desperately needed urge to relax occasionally, and so on and so forth.

But it’s safe to say that they all did, and even to the modern day, any new ethny/culture/species turning up in the Empire can expect to be welcomed by lots of enthusiasts wondering “What have you got?  And can we have some?”, culture-wise.

3 thoughts on “Ethnographical Questionnaire: III. Questions of Race and Ethnicity

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