Trope-a-Day: The Future Will Be Better

The Future Will Be Better: Well, obviously. We’re working to improve the present all the time, and we’re fundamentally awesome, so there’s basically no way the future can’t be better. Why would you even ask that question?

(In Earth-relative terms, the Imperial cultural climate successfully blends 1920s-1930s Gernsbackian utopian futurism and 1950s cultural self-confidence into a heady and unshakeable brew powering the Golden Age That Never Ends. Make Way For Tomorrow, Today —

— hold the irony, and banish the cynicism to somewhere beyond the outer rim colonies, m’kay?)

Trope-a-Day: Future Imperfect

Future Imperfect: Generally averted, due to the historical greater continuity of civilization (“It has been 7,921 years since the last interregnum.”), general better record-keeping (thanks to the Repository of All Knowledge, et. al., and a religious climate that favors the burning of book-burners, and so forth), and, of course, people who live a long, long time and don’t forget much.

 

X-anity

2016_X(Alternate words: none. Also, for the avoidance of doubt, I’m assuming you submitted it in the spirit of my single usage of it in this trope-a-day back in 2014, rather than as the more-commonly-seen abbreviation of “Christianity”, because it’s not like there is any of the latter *there* to write about.)

“What is X-anity, you ask?

“(Apart, that is, from a rather ugly portmanteau in Eldraeic that I strongly suspect will not be improved by translation into any of the other languages of the Accord.)

“It’s a general term referring to a different quality for each species: kar mkaeth for the kaeth, lishólen for the ciseflish, ësseldrae for my own species, except that we use that term to refer to an ideal, not a current state, and so forth. As for what those mean, well, it’s six things, and therefore none at all.

“First, and most usefully, in biological terms, it would mean the psychological characteristics that members of that species have in common. So for us that would be things like mélith as a sense and instinct, or for the kaeth, trasered vandthel, or for the dar-e’sevdra, estrus, or for the tennoa, utilitarianism, and so forth. That each species has its own unique essence in this way is undeniable; promoting these unique points of view is much of the motivation behind uplift, for example.

“That being said, most academicians and professionals who might need to reference it go out of their way to find some other term, because secondly, it’s an example of the applied naturalistic fallacy, in which people declare such psychological characteristics terminal rather than instrumental values and insist that they cannot possibly be modified lest they change the X-ane experience and thus destroy X-anity from within. Something that has been invoked to justify the retention of everything from hyperbolic discounting through envy and xenophobia to morbidity and mortality –

(Many loud interruptions from audience.)

“The bioconservatives are out in force tonight, I see.

“Thirdly, in an extension to the first definition, people have used it to define a larger number of common characteristics, which are typically cultural norms – meaning modal averages – for a given species, by reference claiming them as innate to some degree or another. Apart from the inaccuracy of this – any functioning sophont brain is necessarily remarkably plastic, as manifested by the high levels of cultural interchange in polyspecific societies –

(Heckler makes reference to interspecies mating.)

“That wasn’t actually the kind of ‘cultural interchange’ I had in mind, but it does make a good example. As it happens, the Empire does have a high xenophilia rate, as do most polyspecific societies, although I am rather pleased to be able to say that ours is one of the highest. Which is exactly what you would expect, since the way that instincts manifest is shaped by cultural imprinting in all sophonts and even many prosophonts, including what and who they find attractive.

“And biological cultural determinism, therefore, is so much arrant balderdash, despite which evidence, fourthly, this definition is so often misused by authoritarian culture-groups, either as a means to deny another culture-group membership in X-anity, at which point they no longer merit consideration as fellow sophonts, or to equate their culture or their preferences with the optimally X-ane, and use X-anity as a hammer to enforce cultural conformity.

“These multiple definitions, in any case, render X-anity as a concept both controversial,. fifthly, in any context in which it might be even slightly ambiguous, and sixthly, therefore useless in any serious debate.”

– Academician Vallis Archíël, sophontologist,
student’s transcript from a guest speaker session, Academy of Loryet

 

Mind Plagues

cultural contamination (n.): The passage of memes and their sociotypes between cultures, often with associated unrest, due to contact between them.

Attitudes to cultural contamination vary widely across known space. The extreme poles of this are the Voniensa Republic, whose policy is to avoid cultural contamination to the greatest extent possible, to avoid “interfering with the natural development of indigenous cultures”; and the Empire, which considers that any worthwhile, mature culture ought to be robust enough to cope with a few foreign ideas. (And, indeed, where “primitives” and “barbarians” are concerned, often goes out of its way to cause as much cultural contamination as it possibly can.)

It is a truism of memetics that cultural contamination is always bilateral; it is fundamentally impossible to avoid two-way communication of ideas in the course of social contact, and as such each culture involved in contact will always be contaminated by each other culture. Attitudes to this also vary widely, in this case along tripolar lines. These poles are represented by again, the Empire, which not only considers its own culture robust enough to handle foreign ideas, but actively mines cultures it meets for any good ideas it might not have had itself yet; the Theomachy of Galia, whose obsession with theological and ideological purity causes them to avoid foreign ideas at all costs; and the Annik Sodality, which while enjoying foreign ideas from afar, eschews assimilating or any of them lest they offend the imitated or their own sense of disentitlement.

Finally, since this book is one marketed to the cosmopolitan or would-be cosmopolitan Worlds’ traveller, you too, gentle reader, are a vector of cultural contamination.

Try not to let it bother you.

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary

Trope-a-Day: Third-Person Person

(Note: a planet of the day is still coming, albeit not technically today. Just been movieing.)

Third-Person Person: There are a number of languages and cultures in the Associated Worlds that do this.  One notable example is the use of first-third person in Eldraeic, because it lets you cite your attributive name of the moment (see Overly Long Name), and thus reify who you are (or rather, which aspect of yourself you are expressing) right now.

Trope-a-Day: Stay in the Kitchen

(No fic today, sorry… for reasons of pie. Urp.)

Stay in the Kitchen: Averted in the Empire, where Gender Is No Object.  No-one there would think of saying it – and when someone from elsewhere says it, they will have the damndest time trying to get the Imperial to understand what the heck they’re driving at.

And they really won’t like what happens if they succeed.

(“…so, you’re telling me that ‘rip him a new one’ is also a metaphor where you come from?”)

 

Then You Will Meet Your Destiny

So, seeing as we’ve recently considered human cultural artifacts that might prove popular in the Eldraeverse after a hypothetical first-contact-real-soon-now, here’s one for you.

Destiny.

Seriously, it fits perfectly, especially thematically. You’ve got the epicity and idealism, the mythopoetry of things (assuming you read the grimoire cards), the clash of Light and Darkness, technology from Near Future Hard right up to the point of Sufficiently Advanced Techno-Miracles (ontological weapons, even!), Blue and Orange Morality, and the definitive proper attitude towards grimdarkness, namely that it exists to be punched in the face with your space-magic fist of doom. Hell, the Traveler’s even a dead ringer for one of the Transcend’s synapse moons.

(Seriously awesome ass-kicking to the tune of Immigrant Song also doesn’t hurt.)

…seriously, if Bungie *there* were to port this to full-immersion virtuality and sell it on the Imperial market – half a trillion copies sold, easy. At minimum.

(And, I sidenote, if you were to imagine a variant of the game set at the shiniest heights of humanity’s Golden Age, that would probably be about as close to an Eldraeverse video game as there could ever be.)