Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective

Y’know, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this article on here before, and I really should have.

Because – as a simple matter of contract law – marriage in the Empire and other Societies of Consent does, in fact, permit all the difficult concepts mentioned here and a few more besides, including all of reflexive self-marriage (mostly pointless as it is), really complicated notions of “sex” and “gender”, polygamy, people being simultaneously involved in multiple distinct marriages, the marriage of non-natural persons which can potentially include marriages marrying each other as a distinct concept from multiple marriages merging, intransitive marriages, double-marriages, and asymmetric marriage. Welcome to the bleeding-edge postsophont universe, although for the good of everyone’s sanity, most people stick to the simple options and don’t try and make use of all of these at the same time…

But it gives you an idea of just how eye-wateringly difficult the job of the DBAs over at the Central Office of Records and Archives can be, sometimes.

Trope-a-Day: Overly-Long Name

Overly-Long Name: Played quite straight among the eldrae, and other people prone to use relevant bits of the same name-format. Fortunately, most of it is optional – of course, that’s optional at the discretion of the name-bearer, so those wishing to use the diplomatic stalling gambit of demanding to be known by all 580 syllables of their name and storming insulted out of the negotiations at the first mispronunciation still have that open.

To cite a relatively mild example:

Miran Esitariel Prime Cyprium-ith-Avalae isil-Claves Linlethar ion-Atiran iel-Calandra mis-Eliera-en-Kiriv Leir

That’s a mere nine components, of which technically only the second, fourth, and sixth are absolutely compulsory, but this nine-component version works nicely on letters and such. The components are:

  • miran: That’s a status indicator, which takes the place of our “Mr.”, etc. Miran means “citizen-shareholder”… well, okay, it means “ordered one”, but that means “citizen-shareholder”; you can also use leran, which, if expanded, would mean “understander of civilities”, and can be glossed “decent chap”, or darav, which simply means “sophont” and implies nothing.  Really hard, sometimes.
  • Esitariel: Personal name. Do not feel free to shorten it. Nicknames work differently here, and that’s an insult that will hurt you.
  • Prime: Persona identifier. This one means that you’re talking to the primary version of a multiply instantiated person, not one of their forks (usually identified by ordinals, and if necessary sub-ordinals and sub-sub-ordinals). More complicated toposophies have their own entire systems that can be used in this place. (Note: Terrans and other primitives that don’t even have backup copies get to insert “Singular” here.)
  • Cyprium-ith-Avalae: Family name – specifically, for eldrae, House-ith-Lineage name. Comes in a few variants – for people who’ve been formally disinherited, for one, or the form for young children (i.e. Cathál i-sered-Ríëlle), which means “of the blood of the House, but not Accepted of the House”.
  • isil-Claves: Spouse’s House-and-Lineage name (and here’s another variant; she gets to abbreviate it in this form because she’s a Claves-ith-Claves), which is reciprocal; they include each others’. If you happen to be married to more than one person, yes, you get to include all of them here. (If this gets too unwieldy, you may include the name of your coadunation marital instead; essentially a company name.)
  • Linlethar: an attributive name (which does the job of formalized nickname, wish-name, title-name, court-name, office-name, child-name, friend-name, pen-name, art-name, field-name, lover’s-name, generalized epithet, and any one of a dozen other things – and who you are right now is indicated by which one you choose to use, by the protocols of valessef). They can also get quite long and flowery. And, depending upon the circumstances, you may include only the most relevant one, all the relevant ones, or simply all of them, of which you may have many, if not lots.
  • ion-Atiran, iel-Calandra: Patronymic and matronymic (“fathered by Atiran, mothered by Calandra”, or if you prefer, “out of Calandra by Atiran”). Traditionally, people preferentially cite the one of their same-sex parent, because equally traditionally they inherited their House and lineage from their opposite-sex parent, but since there’s no guarantee that you’ll have one parent of each sex, or two parents for that matter, it’s not a hard and fast rule; just cite whatever is most useful for identification. And, of course, anyone can cite both if they feel like it. They’re also recursive, so if you want to go back up your lineage to the nth generation, you can do that; just be aware that exponential growth grows exponentially, m’kay?
  • mis-Eliera-en-Kiriv Leir: Loconymic. Identifies the location that you’re associated with – estate, home town, etc. Not necessarily origin – there’s another particle for that, if you want to specify it separately, but this should not be assumed to be the case. It used to be just mis- and a location, but in these days of extensive multiplanetary polities…

And there are lots more optional components. Origin, as mentioned. Species and clade, for the body you’re currently walking around in, which is handy on invitations and RSVPs so people know what environment to expect/you’ll need. Mindstyle (similar to persona, but defines the whole person, not just this instance; usually used together with the persona identifier for those more complex toposophies). Era of personality formation (generation, essentially, and quite handy given how long people can live for). And associations – oh, yes, you can include as lengthy a list of associations as you want: philosophies, branches, corporations, academies, etc., etc.

And we haven’t even started on titles, qualifications, and awards yet…

How much of it you drag out on any particular occasion depends upon relevancy (most importantly), the formality of the occasion (if it’s your debut at the Court of Courts, be prepared to have every last syllable recited, for example), how much of a hurry you’re in, and just how much you want to be able to browbeat your hapless audience with how awesome you are and, for that matter, the terrifying prospect of having to repeat it correctly.

(Also, business cards have hypertext.)

I Now Pronounce You Trust And Trust

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators, to Sens Dal Shen, Kar Riette, and Tir Ledeen, greetings.

With regard to your communication of the 20th inst., we have undertaken a preliminary legal investigation into the commercial contractual arrangements between the specified parties, Sentir Industrial Products and Nen-Palan Environmental Atmospherics.

As you may be aware, within the Imperial jurisdiction, the institution of marriage is for the most part legally undefined and constitutes a subset of contract law, operating within the same boundaries as other contract law. As such, a marriage may be contracted between an arbitrary number of contracting parties, provided that each of those parties is both legally competent, and a legal person. While not a common practice, it should be noted specifically that neither statute nor case law confines marriage contracts or the creation of coadunations marital to natural persons, rather than legal persons. As such, the marriage between the Imperial subsidiaries of the specified corporate parties possesses full legal standing under Imperial law, although the precise interpretation of the marital contract has not yet been tested sub judice.

However, inasmuch as any judicial interpretation of this contract will take place under the general principle el ulé an-úvaer an-jílquelár, what is not prohibited is permitted, and inasmuch as the Curial courts have, as a rule, decided in favor of independent legal innovations that do not contradict standing law, we would expect any such interpretation to uphold the fundamental validity of the contract and its distinction in law from a merger of coadunations.

As such, and in the light of a general climate that has proved highly unsympathetic to attempted extra-antitrust actions of this kind in the past, we would not recommend that you or your clients proceed with litigation to such effect at this time.

Lorcis Quintus Vianath-ith-Vianne, obl.

for and on behalf of

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators

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.)

Linguistic Oddnesses

In official Eldraeic, there is a single word – not hyphenated, even – which means ‘one who creates a forced-growth cross-gender clone of him/herself, imprints the brain of said clone with an animus/anima-inverted fork of his/her own mind-state, and then proceeds to marry his/her new duplicate’.  (There is also a parallel word that refers to following this same procedure with a same-gender clone and a non-a/a-inverted fork.)

Having established this, we can now make the following four deductions:

1. That when you put over a trillion sophonts together, even the most weird people and socioforms get their own words.

2. That however weird you might think yourself to be, you’re almost certainly weak beer in comparison with what is, statistically, quite a large number of people.

3. That Eldraeic, as a language, is more agglutinative than any language has a right to be.

4. That it’s probably a good thing that it’s quite a long word.

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.)