Immortality Blues

“Every year, since I was old enough to read them, more books have been published than I can read in a year. My reading speed has increased many orders of magnitude in the millennia since then – I have a submind which does nothing but read, continuously – and yet the authors continue to not only outmatch my ability to read, but also my ability to keep the gap from opening still wider.

And yet there are people in the universe who claim that they would find immortality boring.

I do not think the problem lies where they think it lies.”

– Esitariel Cyprium-ith-Avalae, unpublished interview

What’s That Soph?

So, I hear you like demographics. Or, at least, the comments on the last post tell me you like demographics.

Describing the constituent species of the Empire can be a mite tricky, depending on exactly how you define things – leaving aside any nasty outworlder prejudices about the status of neogens or uplifts, some species – relevantly, the mezuar and chiril-{n,m}, don’t have identities which lend themselves to headcount, and thus various approximations must be used.

And complicating things further, of course, is that the Empire’s immigration procedures don’t give a lump of species-appropriate excretions what species you happen to be, which leads to, oh, just over 8% of the population being “other”.

But given that, here’s the rough breakdown in a nice, user-friendly pie chart:

And here is the same data in a table, giving you what those percentages translate to in terms of approximate population numbers out of the Empire’s roughly 2.57 trillion sophonts:

eldrae12.54%322,278,000,000
arthálneogen0.31%7,967,000,000
chfsssc2.48%63,736,000,000
chiril-{n,m}unconventional identity0.36%9,252,000,000
ciseflish9.14%234,898,000,000
dar-bandaluplift7.65%196,605,000,000
dar-célmekuplift1.10%28,270,000,000
dar-cúlnóuplift2.26%58,082,000,000
dar-e’sevdrauplift1.83%47,031,000,000
dar-íícheuplift3.36%86,352,000,000
dar-voracuplift2.15%55,255,000,000
digisapience14.56%374,192,000,000
esseli3.31%85,067,000,000
galari7.28%187,096,000,000
kaeth6.74%173,218,000,000
mezuarunconventional identity1.39%35,723,000,000
myneni4.91%126,187,000,000
selyéva2.78%71,446,000,000
sssc!haaaouú3.92%100,744,000,000
temísineogen0.49%12,593,000,000
verviani2.69%69,133,000,000
zal!enneogen0.43%11,051,000,000
other8.32%213,824,000,000

You may note that even the arthál, with the smallest demographic footprint due to their relatively recent creation and source population of fandom enthusiastic enough to change species, still manage to outpopulate Earth.

And that with 173 billion kaeth around… well, let’s just say the Legions don’t have any trouble recruiting.

Cultural Crossovers #18: Black Panther

Okay. A quick preamble.

This is going to be a really hard one for the Imperial audience to understand. Not because it’s not an awesome movie, or anything, but simply because they have absolutely no cultural context for the background – and there’s only so much gnostic overlays can do.

(For those who are haven’t been keeping detailed track of the cultural background elements, here’s your quick summary of the main divergence points in their history:

  • Well, for one thing, there was considerably less phenotypic divergence to go from, because of the limited initial population, slowed divergence, and a couple of bottlenecks, so while people could talk about the six original eldrae races, the two that came later, and the further divergence of cladism, it was never quite so immediately apparent. Which I mention not to explain a lack of racism, but rather to point out why the racial distinctions we make are so non-obvious to them
  • …but even that isn’t particularly relevant, since no-one got around to inventing hierarchical moral racism. At least part of that is down to the various different sets of instincts we’ve addressed in a whole lot of places (starting here) and in particular being too individualist to really grok group identitarianism and associated status games; as for the rest —
  • — well, let’s just say that the civilization whose unofficial motto was always “slavers, die!” never found any particular need to develop copious justificatory bullshit for treating people as property.
  • Colony, and its derivatives, don’t have the same contextual meaning. (See here for more.) A colony is founded out of nothing; if there were people there already, it ain’t a colony, not in Eldraeic.
  • And even if you do get around that problem by translating “colonizer” into traän-rianqármoníë daráv (“conqueror”), you then face the secondary problem that Earth-style colonialism is not how the Consolidation worked. (You can tell that because, y’know, all Earth’s empires fell, and most of them – especially in the “colonial” era – didn’t work very well for the owners even when they were up and running.) There were no metropole-periphery distinctions, no subject peoples versus ruling ones, no mercantilist exploitation (free trade, rather, which enriches everyone – just as planned). Admissions were preferred to forcible annexations, and even forcible annexations became peers with all other constituent nations. And history, naturally, proceeded very differently…
  • The sort of ugly urban ghetto of poverty and its associated vices that Earth cultures like to shove people in to oppress them doesn’t exist there, either. Partly for reasons as given here, but also because of things like the Citizen’s Dividend, eleemosynary organizations, and because the Empire has a pretty firm grasp on its economics and the shit you don’t do if, like the Empire, you hate poor people and wish to solve this problem by enabling them to self-upgrade into rich people.

)

So as you read through the point-by-point below, the thing you need to remember is that – with the possible exception of anyone who’s taken the official Exploratory Service “Barbarians Gonna Barbar: Here’s How” course – while the audience may love this movie, they don’t really get this movie. Earth-style racism doesn’t have anywhere to fit within their cultural context. It just reads like humans decided to arbitrarily pick a subset of themselves to be giant dicks to just because, and who the hell does that?

Who, indeed.

So, anyway, here we go:

  • Vibranium has lots of interesting properties, evidently. But, hey, so does our orichalcium.
  • This, we presume, is not Wakanda.
  • Is that a… glowy lip barcode? Interesting ID mechanism.
  • The Third Directorate approves of your spying on your spies.
  • One of the poorest countries in the world? Oh, this is quite the cover-up, we can tell already.
  • How to get an Imperial audience to stand, cheer, and root for you from then on: introduce yourselves by whacking a bunch of slaving assholes while being awesome.
  • And now we go straight from “my, that’s a gorgeous landscape” to “ah, this is where Earth has been hiding its real advanced civilization all along”.
  • Given the interesting properties of vibranium, one would think someone would have noticed what that was made of. Or at least that it was made of something unusual.
  • Between the post-poisoning conversation and the “spreading out the crime scene”, these guys are into some cold shit.
  • Ooh, cyborg.
  • (For anyone who might have the wrong idea of what the hyper-civilized Imperials might think of the ritual-combat succession and so forth, they have a great deal of respect for a culture that preserves its traditions and authenticity during its advancement, rather than getting all bland as many less respectable cultures do. And they have some interesting succession mechanisms of their own. And, y’know, it’s easily interpreted as a kind of consensual governance mechanism.)
  • ((I’m just going to take a moment to add to my preamble that this was something the Empire positively encouraged during the Consolidation, because having many diverse parts and cultures to draw from was one of the major factors that made the whole effort worthwhile.))
  • Can’t say they’re going to think much of M’Baku’s ideas, but they certainly respect his willingness to put himself on the line for them. And both his and T’Challa’s actions at the end of the fight.
  • There is going to be, I foresee, much speculation about the Ancestral Plane and its relationship with vibranium’s other properties. And that sky. (Comparisons to the Ocean of Souls included.)
  • T’Chaka delivers very good advice. Very hard, indeed.
  • Case in point: both Nakia and W’Kabi are making exceptionally good points.
  • Presumably someone like Klaue is where Howard Stark got the vibranium for Cap’s shield? That seems like something that’ll come back to bite later.
  • Shuri has best lab. And terrible best taste in puns.
  • Nanofabric, bead-tech, a sand table based on utility sand, vector control (!). Awesomeness.
  • It’s a little early in the movie to contemplate sequels, but honestly, at this point the audience is hoping for an entire movie titled Shuri, Tony, and Bruce Do Science To Things. Throw in Hank too, maybe.
  • Oh, gods, it’s a Ross.
  • Well, aren’t you charmingly eccentric.
  • Kicking that much ass in a formal dress, it’s easy to see how Okoye got to the top of the Dora Milaje.
  • Oh, that’s what’s in the arm.
  • A vibranium car. With, presumably, vibranium-infused glass windows. And with that remote-driving system — hell, you could just remote-drive it through anything you didn’t want to be there.
  • Guessing that arm-tool is Wakandan in origin, since it seems able to blast vibranium (a presumably specialized task). And picking up all the pieces of the vibranium ex-car is going to be a hell of a job for some Wakandan-on-the-ground.
  • Diplomacy, I believe, is not her business.
  • Called it!
  • Okay, this Ross may be all right. Also, those kimoyo beads are even cooler than we thought.
  • W’Kabi, you know there’s a difference between “not trying” and “not succeeding”, right?
  • So, between your collection of kill-scars and your expendable girlfriend, we’re guessing you’re a serial asshole. And with that ring, that’s some bad news.
  • Oh, gods, you’re the kid. Who your father just abandoned there. In a “civilization” which is starting to sound like a very unpleasant place. Although we’re guessing “your people” doesn’t mean Wakandan expatriates for assorted reasons, and this is where we’re failing to grok, per preamble…
  • And now we know what Everett Ross’s “have I just been abducted by aliens?” face looks like.
  • Look at all the pretty maglevs!
  • So, the CIA took someone whose “people” – at least on the maternal side – their parent civilization was oppressing the hell out of, and trained them in breaking civilizations. How did that possibly seem like a good idea?
  • Wait, this idiot planet is oppressing people based on melanin levels!? What the hell!? (There are probably not enough emphasis italics in the world to express the strength of this reaction, given that despite all the really dumb-assed things in the galaxy that they’re aware of, this one is even dumber.)
  • …and assuming the facts are as presented, N’Jadaka does have a point. A very good point. But even if his strategy would succeed perfectly, he’s about the least suited person in the world to carry it out.
  • Oh, shit. There is no limit to how badly this could go.
  • One also has to wonder what N’Jobu would have thought of his son’s actions, given how destructive they seem likely to be for Wakanda.
  • …yeah, you’re definitely going to work out as king. Guess that civ-breaking training stuck. On the other hand, especially given how easily the keepers gave in, we frankly disbelieve that that was all of the Heart-Shaped Herb.
  • “And their children”. Oh, the irony. Real seeker of justice you are.
  • M’Baku, you enormous troll!
  • With the note that his subsequent actions only increase our respect for his strength and honor, as well as his enormous trollishness.
  • Assuming, that is, that you want the world to think of you as the architects of a bloodbath everlasting.
  • Really, W’Kabi? Really?
  • …although those shield-cloaks are really cool. Paging a kinetic barrier designer to the engineering courtesy phone.
  • Is that… an armored war-rhino?
  • (On a personal note I really want that sand table.)
  • One day people may figure out that beating on the Black Panther only makes him stronger, but it is not this day.
  • Yeah, that’s your motivations made plain, all right, pretty words notwithstanding.
  • We think that is called battle trolling.
  • Everett is best Ross.
  • Although despite his brokenness, his crimes, and his plan to unleash horrors in revenge, the audience does feel sympathy for N’Jadaka’s tragedy in the end, especially after those dying words. (And, it is very fair to say, considerably less for the entire rest of the planet which allowed the horrors that broke him to happen.) And for the greatness that could have been, had they not thrown him away as a child.
  • And is thus cheering for T’Challa’s new outreach policy.
  • (The similarities here with their own difficulties with trying to do good in the rest of the Worlds, and the problems of trying to do it by force, do not escape anyone.)
  • Ooh, you’re going to feel really dumb for asking that, French guy. As is only right and proper, because as questions go, it was neither courteous nor wise.
  • …and evidently they figured out how to fix Bucky a lot faster than anyone thought. Cover-up wins again!

So. Yes. The audience loved the movie, and Wakanda, and our protagonists, very much.

But, by damn, has their opinion of the rest of Earth (formed, you will recall, essentially from the previous MCU movies) dropped more’n a few points.