Trope-a-Day: Mayfly December Romance

Mayfly December Romance: Mostly averted; in two different ways.  The happy one is that immortagens are now available for just about every species, thus avoiding the tragedy of death.  The less happy one is that… well, while one may well be able to love someone who is doomed to die, inevitably, it’s much harder to go on loving someone who is determined to mortal themselves to death when the price of immortality is a couple of thousand local currency units and a month or so of post-injection fever and chills.

People who prefer suicide to such a relatively low cost of staying with you are not, I submit, very lovable.

At First Glance

We met for the first time on Qechra, the world of forges.  One morning at sunrise, standing on the Bridge of Chalcedony crossing the endless outpouring of Qechra’s ocean into one of its cooling gorges – where the spray of the falling water meets the steam boiling up from the ruddy-glowing depths of the industry below, sharp with the scents of salt and sweetness and hot metal, I looked up and saw her. Pale armor of spun glass and feathered silver gleaming in the dawn; wings as golden as her hair; gliding swiftly on the rising furnace-draught from light-tower to light-tower.

Even then, I knew, and all the clangor of the machinery was not so loud as the pounding of my hearts.

– from the private reminiscences of Octë Cyprium-ith-Avalae

Ethnographical Questionnaire: IV. Questions of Family

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:

III. Questions of Race and Ethnicity
XII. Questions of Sex

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

As many as they can persuade to contract with them; there’s no particular legal or social limit.  One is the social default/assumption for the eldrae, but those species and individuals both who prefer polyadic relationships are on safe and comfortable ground.  (Oh, and it’s not transitive; if A is married to B and B is also married to C, A is not married to C – unless the contract says otherwise, of course.  Make up your own topology – star, line, ring, helix…)

Who decides on a marriage?

The involved parties, and only the involved parties.  Matchmakers may matchmake, it is true, and friends and family may drop broad hints and arrange introductions, but family, parents, society, gods, and everyone else need not think they get to decide anything, here.  Anyone who even thought about inventing the arranged marriage, the shotgun wedding, or other means of forcing someone into such an arrangement would run straight into the culture’s attitudes on Coercion, Evils Of, followed by Slavers, The Righteousness Of The Shooting Of, in the worst possible ways.  Shudder.

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

Well, it’s not called divorce, but a marriage can end in three ways:

1. If it’s written into the contract that defines the marriage.  This includes options to terminate at-will (mutual or individual), automatic termination after a fixed term with option to renew, etc., etc.

2. If both parties mutually agree to terminate the contract, even if such an option didn’t exist beforehand.

3. If one party defaults on the contract.  What exactly this includes mostly depends on what’s written into it in the first place (adultery, for example, counts as default if the contract includes promises of sexual/emotional exclusivity; financial misfeasance may well; domestic violence [see below] always does; and so on.)

Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?

What happens to orphans?

In either case, it’s down to the contract, if the parents saw fit to make arrangements (and, in the event of default, bearing in mind that under any normal arrangement a defaulter on the marriage contract has defaulted on his children, too).  If not, the genarchs of the families (since – see below – children are not necessarily counted in the same lineage) find, bearing in mind this and keeping siblings together and so forth get to discuss matters and find the best place to put them in the families.  Failing such a voluntary arrangement, it will ultimately go to the courts to find the optimal place – but the courts get very ironic if they have to intervene in this sort of thing that people should be able to sort out amicably without making them take it to court.

Doubly so if they have to make these arrangements for young children after a voluntary termination of contract, because parents have contractual responsibilities to their children, and they really do not like people who play silly buggers with those.

How are families named?

Family names generally take the form “House-ith-Lineage”, which can reasonably be interpreted as “clan; family within that clan”.  Where the House and lineage name are the same (meaning the senior family of the House), they can be elided into just “House”.  Family names are neither matrilineal nor patrilineal.  Rather, children take the family name of their opposite-sex parent and are counted part of that family; i.e., siblings of different sexes would be considered members of different families.

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

By and large, they aren’t, except in re biologically or morphologically implied necessities.  See also under VIII, Questions of Labor (when I post it), in which I point out the lack of a distinction between “men’s work” and “women’s work” among sane and reasonable people; well, the universe isn’t kind enough to always guarantee that someone of the appropriately arbitrary sex is there when a job needs doing, so everybody gets to learn to cook and run a forge and make clothes and earn a living and sew embroidery and wrangle balky machinery back into operation and make beer and do science and raise children and shoot and fight if necessary (for “those without swords can still die upon them”) and and and and and…

People are people, and need to learn all the skills needed by people.  The universe also isn’t kind enough to give us the luxury of wasting the potential potential of large chunks of the population by declaring things Not Their Business.  And even if it did, doing so would be pure idiocy.

What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?

The traditional marriage gifts (from the families) are a forge and a fruit tree, in honor of the twin aspects of Medáríäh, eikone of fertility and mass production; in traditional and old families, an exchange with each other (the families) of statuettes of the principals for the family shrines; and weapons for the defense of the new household.  (Only the most formal of the war-temples require the happy couple to use them immediately.)  Those marrying don’t exchange gifts, because they’re giving themselves each other.

Gifts for the newly married from friends and relatives vary widely; they’re usually not household goods, because people tend to marry at a late enough age that they already have everything they need, if not twice as much.  Extra points go to close friends who can slip some sly ribaldry in without letting everyone know they’re doing it.

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

Sufficiently complex machinery – essentially, anything complex enough in behavior, principally meaning vehicles, heavy machinery, computers, assorted autonomous machinery, cities, etc. – is often anthropomorphized sufficiently to be given a name, and having been given the name, is assigned the appropriate gender in speech despite this being a technical solecism.  (For ships, the tradition is that the ship takes the opposite gender to his/her first captain, and most other such namings follow this pattern.)

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?

Absolutely.  They’re a hopelessly romantic lot, and as such have a hard time imagining why else you might want to marry, really, given how many simpler ways there are to arrange most of those other things.

(But, as I said before, where it differs substantially from most of our cultures’ fluffy romantic notions, is that it also emphasizes that marriage and love are also extremely hard work, and that there are no Magic Relationship Fairies who will make it work out for you, or more importantly, keep it working out for you as the years, and decades, and centuries, and millennia roll by. Rather, it makes it very clear that you, newly-minted spouse, have just acquired a whole new obligation and career in making it work, and unilateral quitting is not an option for a gentlesoph, etc. It also, in fairness, tries its best to provide you with the tools to do the job, ranging from those which would be relatively familiar to us, to such uniquely-to-long-lived-species notions as taking ten or twenty years to go off and do your own thing, the theory being that at the end of that, you’ll both have a lot more to talk about, plus the chance to remember all the things that made you fall in love and want to marry in the first place…)

How big are families, typically?

Individual families usually contain, say, the parents and three to four children, but given the eldrae lifespan, those children can be spread out over hundreds if not thousands of years; except for twins, it is extraordinarily rare for your siblings to be within a century of you in age.  That being said, all of these are part of sprawling extended families (the Houses) and almost always interact with their myriad cousins and other relatives.

What constitutes a household? How many people live in one household? How many generations?

Households vary widely in size and structure.  The largest tend to be the home estates of the Houses, which can house hundreds of people over a dozen generations under one (admittedly very large) roof.  Sizes then vary down through the cluster-house (a half-dozen or so houses and private gardens around the inside of a circular wall, sharing common space in the middle), usually shared between an extended farm household or several generational/related/friendly nuclear families in an urban setting, to the single house or apartment-house occupied by a single couple or even single individual; the latter becoming more common in the modern era now the cluster-house’s advantages in defensibility and shared infrastructure are no longer so significant.

Are girls or boys preferred and why?

Neither, except for occasional idiosyncratic personal preferences.  Reasons being much the same as given above concerning them being treated differently.

How common is domestic violence? Is it understood to be a problem, or a normal aspect of family life?  If it is seen as problematic, what is being done about it?

Rare, very rare.  You see, eldrae by nature are very, very self-willed types who are thus disinclined to acquiesce to external self-valuations, and long before you can reduce one to the psychological state in which they’ll accept the way you’re treating them, you’ll pass through the psychological state in which they’ll reach out and gut you like a sturgeon, you lousy Defaulter bastard.  (Or someone else offended by your behavior will, which amounts to pretty much the same thing in the end.)

This ‘solution’ to the problem pleases everybody, and so nothing further seems necessary to do in those cases.  (Although there are legal mechanisms to take care of the rest, usually with a similar conclusion.)

Falling In Love Again

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Trope-a-Day: Free-Love Future

Free-Love Future: Averted, mostly, even though Imperial society has long since built contraception in, made STI cures relatively trivial, and the decoupling of sex and reproduction is close to complete (most people come about either through ectogenesis or digital genesis).

Nevertheless, what is still there is the mental linkage between sex and pair – well, not always pair – bonding, and other emotional aspects, which people have decided not to edit out on the grounds that, well, it would make the whole business so much less fun.  Thus, while such matters aren’t so ridiculously prudishly handled as in the West today, sex is generally expected to exist within the context of some sort of significant emotional relationship (not necessarily a marriage, be it dyadic, star, line, or helix or whatever the sexes involved – they have terms and protocols for a variety of relationships all the way from the most formal marriages down to delesessqámél, loosely translated, “friends-with-benefits”), and such relationships are normally exclusive to one degree or another, and promissorily so (i.e., do not break your word on this point).

Further, while there are no taboos about premarital sex, etc., promiscuity and genuinely casual casual sex – as appropriately defined in the light of the above – is still frowned upon; for one, from the basic propertarian point of view that a product dumped on the market can’t be worth very much, and that they’ll take your self-valuation as you give it, thanks; and for another, that, well, there is the missing component implicit in the name, and if one is just looking to get one’s ashes hauled, there’s any number of Kiss Me, I’m Virtual software packages available with all the fidelity of reality and without the trouble of having to go outside and attempt to connect with someone.

(While this is a common pattern, of course, various other species may feel differently.  Void where alternate instinct-sets apply.)

What Therefore Contract Law Hath Joined Together

[excerpts from]

A Charter to Establish,
Under the Fundamental Contract and the Seal of the Guild of Formal Obligation,
And in Accordance with the Traditions of the Stellar Empire,
A Coadunation Marital,
Between and Among:

Runeth Allatrian-ith-Ancalyx
Diarí Octarthius-ith-Octantis

For the Purposes of Perpetual and Mutual Love, in the Light of Holy Éléia-Líëran…

…with the hope and object of eternity, this Charter shall possess unlimited duration…

…shall be modifiable solely by the mutual option of all spouses, recorded under obligator seal…

…shall be extendable to include further parties at the mutual option of all present spouses, on the same terms as apply to all initial spouses, without privilege or priority…

…property of the coadunation marital shall be recognized as separate from property of the individual spouses, and such properties as are designated marital property at the time of the establishment of the coadunation shall be those listed in in addendum A, while such property as is obtained subsequently shall be designated marital or personal property according to Lodvik’s Rules, unless otherwise specified or mandated by law…

…each spouse shall, inasmuch as their lives are pledged to each other, recognize this by mutual lien, and shall thereby refrain from engaging in voluntary cognicide, mental modification equivalent to voluntary cognicide, or permanent Fusion without the consent of their spouses…

…internal conjugal exclusivity…

…for the satisfaction of mutual obligations in extremity, each spouse shall be deemed to possess powers of medical authority and legal disposition in extremis during the incapacity of another…

…for the satisfaction of obligations to dependents, all dependents of any spouse, including but not limited to children created, shall be deemed dependents of the coadunation marital as a whole…

…while intended to be perpetual, upon the mischance of infelicity may be dissolved by mutual option of all current spouses, each of whom shall be entitled to an equal share of the assets of the coadunation, but shall have no claim upon each other’s private assets; and any spouse shall have the option to withdraw at any time, and in so doing shall be entitled to a proportionate share of the assets of the coadunation or its cash equivalent.  Notwithstanding this, all members of the coadunation shall be jointly and severally liable for all obligations by it incurred, even after its dissolution, save that an individual withdrawing spouse may pay into the coadunation at the time of their withdrawal a proportionate share of the liabilities of the coadunation, and thereafter have no such liability…

No Fate But What We Built

Thread 47.1008.183647.221 did not have a narrative thread of consciousness. It was a mere expediter, unconsciously sapient, originating from the point within the Transcend’s functional soup where certain collected data matched a template laid down by higher level routines – familiar to its constituents as aspects of the eikones Laryssan and Éléia-Líëran, fate and love. But while it lacked consciousness, it did have purpose, and began to run.

The first thing it did, after reviewing its source data, was to plant a request in the local weather control system…

She paused, coming up the escalator from the Sky Valley mag-lev station and out from beneath the rainbow light of its vaulted ceiling, caught by the beauty of the sunset beyond the Quinjano dome; high cirrus illuminated red and yellow from the light of the setting sun below and a few faint stars, the stark shadowed landscape with wind whipping red dust from off the cliffs and rising river mists into fractal patterns.

Raising a hand to halt her luggage at the landing, she reached into her pocket for her camera.

Observing the success of its first gambit, 47.1007.183647.221 reached out to a nearby soul-shard, and inserted an impulse.

He paused, leaving the western locks. Esklav. Yes, a good hot cup of esklav would be just the thing.  Turning, he strode into the mag-lev station tunnel and down the stairs, almost running over the woman paused on the landing, looking at the sky.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Expry Calaris-ith-Calir, and I’ll just get out of your way…”

“Octë Muetry-ith-Galry, and it’s – wait, have I not seen you before? On Baranithil Station, perhaps? About six months ago?”

“I was there then, yes, a contract for Prosperity Nexus.  Hm – ith-Galry? We spoke a few times on the Helix Exchange, I think.”

“A few times, yes.” She smiled. “I used to enjoy our conversations. Would you have time for another one – over esklav, perhaps?”

“I had the same thought myself.” He grinned back. “And was already heading that way.  Would you care to join me?”

Turning, they walked off together down the mezzanine, her luggage trundling after them.

The initial conditions of its creation satisfied, 47.1008.183647.221 dropped back into dormancy.  Had it a consciousness, it would undoubtedly have felt a sense of satisfaction at the missed connection repaired; as it was, it merely updated the higher routines on its success, and saved state against it being needed again.

Meanwhile, another tuple matched in the Transcendent soup, and thread 47. 1008.183647.222 began to run…

Trope-a-Day: Arranged Marriage

Arranged Marriage: Despite the plethora of old families, noble houses, and other outbreaks of hereditarianism, strongly averted in the Empire.  Partly because at least these strong individualist-propertarians can understand each other well enough to grasp the ethical problems here (see Blue and Orange Morality), and partly because they definitely understand each other well enough to realize that Nothing But Stabbings Ensues.

Doesn’t stop the matchmakers from throwing people at each other and seeing if they stick, often for similar purposes, but they know perfectly well that they can’t even hope to require.

Trope-a-Day: Eternal Love

Eternal Love: Played straight – with the proviso that being an entire society of natural immortals, they understand exactly how hard it is to make a relationship work over the longest term, and so invest in cultural features designed to help with that, including marrying late, long and intimate engagements, a degree of cohabitation, short-term contract relationships as “trial runs”, etc., etc., before you even think about putting your seal on an indefinite-term relationship, and also includes a good deal of rather pointed cultural commentary on the obligation to work to make it work in the absence of Magic Relationship Fairies, and so forth, afterwards.