I am a member of the Constructed Culture Mailing List. As such I have made posts describing various aspects of the various cultures involved in my fiction. These are slightly edited versions of the sections of those posts (and at least one post to the Constructed Languages Mailing List) which deal with the Nmusysy culture, which is gladifer, and the Paradisan culture, which is human but strongly influenced by its relations with the gladifers.
I also have a similar page for several 23rd century cultures.
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Nmusysy is a gladifer culture. Gladifers are an extraterrestrial species whose nearest physical analog in terms of what would be familiar to this list is centaurs. See the Appearance page.
In order to understand gladifers you must understand their life cycle and family life. A gladifer goes through three stages in life: child, female, and male, in that order. The basic unit of all gladifer cultures is the family. A family typically consists of twenty to sixty members. A gladifer will stay with her birth family through her child and female stages and leave to join another family when he becomes male. Different gladifer cultures have different ways for joining a new male with his new family, but it is universal that children and females stay with their birth families and males do not. In the Nmusysy culture a new male will be recommended by one of a prospective family's existing males, and then that family's females will decide whether or not to accept him.
Gladifers first developed space travel about 800,000 years ago. Not long after they developed ports. A port is a warping of the topology of space which results in what is effectively instantaneous transportation across any distance. However, the two ends of a port are manufactured together and then must be separated. You can, with some restrictions, send a port end through another port, but to set one up where none exists you have to transport one end of it on an ordinary much slower than light spaceship.
The gladifers have explored much of the galaxy. Life is a fairly common phenomenon, but intelligent life is not. The gladifers have only discovered six (The exact number might change.) other intelligent species, the most recent of which is humanity. Gladifers are by far the most technologically advanced of any of them, as well as the most populous and widespread.
One of the first things that the gladifers did upon contact with humans is to give us some planets, which are now known as the "gift planets". Which brings us to Paradise.
The first or second gift planet to be settled (depending on how you define "settled") was Paradise. It was originally settled by adherents of the Resumptionist religion, which had received a big boost in credibility when its prediction of immanent alien contact came through. They now are the largest religious group on Paradise, but not a majority. Conflicts between the Resumptionists and the rest of the population form a key part of my uncoming story A Diamond Found on Paradise.
Paradise has three major regions, the Resettlement Bay region, which is mostly Resumptionist, the New Uruguay region, which is mostly Emmist and Blue Catholic, and the Channel region, which is mixed. Our heroine, Soupy Callidardin, comes from the latter. All the planet speaks English, more like the English of our time (which is called "Modern English") than that of most planets. (Despite its name, the New Uruguay region has few Spanish speakers.)
Paradisan culture is very much influenced by gladifer cultures. (Almost) all humans look up to the gladifers and the Resumptionists do more than most. One practical effect of this is that government is decentralized, not so much geographically as functionally. The equivalent of the president does not have the authority to overrule the equivalent of a cabinet secretary unless he can prove in a juristictional court that the matter is general enough to require a cross-departmental decision. (This decentralization is not carried as far on Paradise as it is among the gladifers themselves.)
Being gladifers, members of the Nmusysy culture have two major life transitions.
The change from child to female is accompanied by a ceremony called hmnasa. It takes place after the horn is fully grown. It culminates in the new female losing her virginity to the oldest male in the family (oldest in the sense of being a member of the family the longest). If the eldest male is too feeble to have sex this is just a symbolic mating. It is in view of the entire family in either case, even though (unlike other gladifer cultures) Nmusysies usually have sex in private.
The change from female to male is accompanied by two ceremonies. The first is the hreasa, or departure ceremony, with the birth family, and the second is the rozo, or arrival ceremony, with the joined family. The hreasa's central ritual is the removal of clothing marked with the family's name, and the donning of clothing only worn by new males. The rozo involves the exchange that clothing for clothing marked with the new family's name, and culminates in sex with the new family's oldest female.
Paradisans become adults at 24 Paradisan years of age (about 16 terrestrial years) and become full citizens at 36 (about 24). An adult can, and usually does, live away from her parents. She can also carry legal weapons (usually a sword) and is free from childhood restriction on sexual and drug activity. The major things withheld until full citizenship are the right to vote, hold certain offices, and enter certain contracts. Paradisans mark each of these transitions the way they mark most major transitions, with a feast. These feasts are really just bigger versions of the annual birthday feast. Typically they are "open", i.e. the general public is invited.
Different religious groups also have their own coming of age ceremonies. The Resumptionists, for instance, have their own version of the Nmusysy hreasa and rozo ceremonies. Emmist have Outsending.
Gladifers, at least in the dominant cultures in the 29th century, do not section the sky into constellations the way humans do, but into parts of the gladifer body, based on the direction relative to a gladifer facing due south (or maybe north, depending on several decisions I still have to make regarding Gladilatian geography) at midnight at the winter solstice during the period of history when this method was invented. Explored planets are named with the region of the sky they're in and a number, based on order of exploration. (Actually it's the region of sky that the chain of voyages which ended in its exploration started out in.) Settled planets typically have an alternate name. Suns of named planets are named after the planets. This is why my story 126 Kisses mentions "Left Ear Thirty-seven", which in Gladilatian is Rna Fetsymy Zmrzlazno Marena, literally "Thirty-seventh Planet with Respect to the Left Ear". Its sun is Rna Fetsymy Zmrzlazno Memarena Esnekar.
Most gladifers of any culture believe that they are the most superior species ever to evolve, but they're usually too polite to point this out when dealing with one of the inferior species (such as humans).
Paradisans, especially members of the Resumptionist religion, also believe that gladifers are the most superior species ever to evolve. They tend to ignore other human civilizations. Even the usual colonial fascination with Earth is less on Paradise than most planets. Intraparadisan conflict tends to be religious and regional. While Paradisans are very aware of the cultural differences between the regions, to an outsider they would seem trivial.
Before first contact with other sentients the gladifers' conception of God only existed as a philosophic theory that the universe was created and/or designed by an intelligent being. Acceptance of this theory was never very widespread, especially after the Big Bang was discovered, but it persisted and was familiar to those gladifers with an interest in philosophy. However, it never occurred to its proponents to worship this being.
When gladifers came into contact with other species with human-like gods some of them adopted the alien religions. They remain a minority, but for every major human religion there are gladifers who profess it, albeit sometimes in ways strange to their human coreligionists. These ways differ according to the specific gladifer culture involved. Nmusysies who are Christian, for instance, would never admit that they are moral because of the promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell, while members of some other gladifer cultures would have no such problem.
Paradise was originally founded by members of the Resumptionist religion. Resumptionism is a religion which arose in the 24th century and which taught that humans were created by an alien race. The Earth was intended to be a nursery for humanity, while the aliens were preparing another planet which would be a new, better home for humanity when we were ready. When the development of humanity was almost done, though, the aliens became involved in a great war with another alien race and had to abandon the project temporarily. That war was winding down, and the aliens would soon return to resume (hence the name) the development of humans.
This religion was only moderately successful at first, but then contact was established with the gladifers. Although in some ways the gladifers did not match the Resumptionists' aliens (e.g., the closest thing to a war with another species ended hundreds of thousands of years ago) they were close enough to greatly swell the religion's ranks, especially when it became clear that the gladifers would be giving us some livable worlds, the gift planets.
While the major nations of Earth, as the Unified Human Representative Committee, were still deciding how to go about settling the gift planets the Resumptionists bypassed them and moved en masse to one they called "Paradise", claiming it for themselves. The UHRC rejected their claim and sent non-Resumptionists, mostly Blue Catholics, White Catholics, and Emmists, to also settle the planet. This almost led to war, but instead led to a sharing of power called Paradisan United Law, which established a federated democracy in which Resumptionists have priveledged status.
A Nmusysy name takes the following form: sa Given_name sa Family_name sa Clan_name we Nmusysy. ("Sa...we" is a conjunction.) Males also have hreBirth_family_nameot preceeding the family name. (That's the birth family name with the preposition "hre" and the suffix "ot".) Nmusysies do not have honorifics, although they will often (more often than English speakers) refer to someone by her title, profession, or office.
An example, from more to less formal, is:
Paradisans have one or more (usually one or two, but sometimes more) given names followed by a family name. A woman will add her husband's surname to the end of her name after marriage, so she will have a double surname. A child will take her father's surname.
The default honorifics are "Mister" for males and "Miss" for females, including married females.
An example, from more to less formal, is:
Being gladifers Nmusysies do not have marriages. The closest equivalent is when a new male leaves his birth family and joins a new one. Upon leaving his birth family he performs the hreasa, or departure ceremony, wherein he removes all his clothing and dons clothing worn only by new males. He then goes off in search of a new family, visiting families for short periods of times until one invites him to join and he accepts. Often this visiting is just for show, because he's already decided where he's going to end up. A male of the new family then recommends him to his family, and the females of that family then vote on whether to admit him. This voting, and the discussion accompaning it, are done in secret. If accepted he performs the rozo ceremony with the joined family. This involves the exchange his new male clothing for clothing marked with the new family's name, and culminates in sex with the new family's oldest female.
There is no equivalent of divorce, at least not officially. If a male finds he's made a big mistake and can't stand his new family he may make an extended (i.e. multiyear) visit to another family.
Although not universal, for some communities on Paradise, including the one in the story I'm now writing, courtship centers on the couples' list. The couples' list is, at heart, just a list of couples. In order to be listed both members of the couple must agree to be listed and neither may be listed as part of another couple. A couple is removed from the list if either member requests it or if either member dies. The list has no legal standing and the maintainers of the list will go to court to challenge any claim that being listed implies any legally enforcable commitment. Socially, however, it does imply a commitment, roughly equivalent to what we would call being boyfriend and girlfriend (which Paradisans call "oneboy" and "onegirl"). Sexual fidelity is assumed, as well as spending a great deal of time together.
The actual wedding ceremony, when a couple decides to marry, varies depending on the couple's religions. It usually includes a big feast in which a great many friends are invited, followed by a wedding procession. In a wedding procession the couple are seated in an open chair, which is carried by some of their male friends, adorned with wreaths of flowers and other bright objects, and carried through public areas, such as streets or parks. Strangers who see a wedding procession generally cheer and shout good wishes. Children will follow a wedding procession, partly because the friends of the newlyweds will be passing out candy.
Paradisans typically get married when their Paradisan age is in the 30's, which would make them in their 20's by Terrestrial years.
A couple will often live together well before marriage. If not, they will after marriage. They could use either one's premarriage home or get a new one. (Neither is likely to be still living with parents at the time of marriage.) Often the former homes are retained anyway. Multiple residences are not uncommon among Paradisans.
Polygamy is legal in most areas, but all of the major religions of Paradise either disallow it or allow it only in special circumstances. Polyandry is technically legal some places, but very rare.
Homosexual marriages is legal in some areas but not in others. Every Paradisan community is obligated to recognize marriages performed in another, however.
Divorce is not as common as in modern America, but not rare either.
Nmusysies do not have prostitution, although other gladifer cultures do. However, even in gladifer cultures which do have prostitution it's not as prevalent as in many human cultures.
For the most part prostitution is performed by pseudos (short for pseudohominids, a.k.a. androids). It is illegal in some communities, but usually that just means that residents of those communities have to travel farther to find a brothel. If one is not in a romantic relationship or if one's partner is away for an extended period of time visiting a prostitute is not something to be embarrased about.
Men are more likely to visit prostitutes but the ratio is more even than in most cultures.
There are a few human prostitutes in Paradise, mostly women servicing men. This is a high prestige and high paying job, requiring several years training. These prostitutes are considered artists.
I haven't settled on the number of days in the Gladilatian year yet. I do know that the Nmusysy, and gladifers in general, do not have months; they have a separate name for every day of the year, whose order they memorize as children.
Nmusysies who live off planet will still memorize the order of Gladilatian days, but will use a system designed for that planet in day to day life. Other planets' systems are usually more systematic than the home planet's, having subdivisions which are equivalent to months.
There are almost exactly 231 and a third Paradisan days in a Paradisan year. The Paradisan calendar goes through a 21 year cycle, 20 years of 231 days each followed by a year of 238 days. Every 231 day year is divided into 11 months of 21 days each. Each month has three seven day weeks. The months' names are (starting at about the northern hemisphere's spring equinox):
Nmusysies usually eat with their hands. Food which would otherwise be too messy to eat that way is put in edible wrappers. Each type of food has its own style of container. The food is usually laid on the floor, and the diners "sit" down in front of it. By "sit" I mean tuck all four legs underneath themselves.
Paradisans eat seated at tables for regular meals, and standing at tables at feasts. They eat with foodsticks and spoons usually, although forks and knives are also known. A foodstick is a centimeter wide cylinder with an end which will sense the proximity of food and automatically extend prongs to secure it, so it looks like the diner is simply touching the foodstick to the food and it magically adheres to the stick. Most foodsticks can also be used as knives, depending on how the other end is held.
Nmusysies can, at times, be less than tolerant of other gladifer cultures' customs. Other species are generally considered inferior.
A community dominated by one religious group can be very intolerant of a nonmember, especially one who resides there. This is far from universal, but is a well known phenomenon.
None, although it is considered "ye" (proper) to wear certain symbols on certain occasions, usually a word or sentence (such as the name of one's family) in Gladilatian glyphs.
None, really, although Paradisans can develop firm attachments to pieces of jewelry which have personal significance.
Nmusysies do not generally wear shoes. Gladifer feet can be comfortable in rougher conditions than human ones can.
In the Channel region, at least, men wear shoes and women wear sandals. Men's shoes are loafers, which are made of leather or (more likely) synthetic materials resembling leather. They sometimes have intelligence built in which will cause them to mold themselves to the wearer's feet when put on. The women's sandals usually have multiple straps holding the sandal on securely. These also sometimes have intelligence built in to adjust themselves to the wearer automatically when put on.
Nmusysies do not only not have a holy book, but have trouble understanding the whole concept of holy scripture.
The Resumptionists' holy book is The Resumption of History by Richard Stillman, which lays out his theories on history and religion. It was written in the late 24th Century.
Being gladifers and not humans the distinction between full and partial nudity does not apply. Nmusysy adults cover the sexual organs in public, except for during certain rituals. "Public" means in the presence of nonfamily members. Often the only clothing worn is an apron. Children are usually nude.
Paradisans do not appear nude in public, even though in most communities it would be legal to do so. Nudity is not uncommon in art works, though, including the theater and their equivalent of movies.
Gladifers do not sleep in the same sense that humans do. They do periodically (generally once every couple of days) go into a trance-like state called hykot (which is usually translated just as "sleep"). The length of this state can vary greatly. During it the gladifer is aware of his surroundings, but won't react to them. She may hallucinate, in such a way that she is aware that she's hallucinating. A hallucination of this sort is called a slaxva (which is usually translated just as "dream").
Paradise's day is longer than Earth's; it's about 26 hours. Paradisans have no trouble adjusting their sleep/wake cycle to its day, however.
Paradisans have a fairly sophisticated neurological explanation for dreaming, but that does not stop them from deriving pleasure from the cases when a dream carries significance for their waking lives. They tend to view dreaming as a sort of involuntary art work.
There is a lot of difference between the rights of females and males, and gladifers have different ideas on whether and how those differences should be adjusted, but there is no feminism per se. For one thing, being female is a stage of life, and not a permanent condition, and thus wherever the dividing line between female and male rights is set, everyone will at different times find his(her)self on both sides of it.
Although sexual equality is usually guaranteed by law (although not by their equivalent of the constitution) there are a lot of differences in practice. There are organizations devoted to making sure people (both male and female) who want to go against the cultural norms (for instance in choice of profession) are better able to do so. It is not as big an issue as in our world, though, because the economic positions of the sexes are more equal.
Nmusysies do not play many physical games, although they like to run, and sometimes race. One game they do play is hramonyk. It involves running around a field and gathering combinations of objects before one's opponent does. In hramonyk none of the players know in advance where the objects will be placed or what the required combinations will be, so they have to plan strategy as they're running around. Physical games are played mostly, but not exclusively, by females.
There are a number of abstract strategy games played by Nmusysies, most of which are similar in concept to human chess games, but involve many more pieces and are played over a period of several days (sometimes without breaks). These games usually are not win/lose/draw either, they will have a sliding outcome with a much finer granularity. Often they are not even zero sum games. The most popular of these is called fyenet, which involves moving certain pieces to a certain positions before your opponent does the same. Some pieces yield points even if not in the correct position, though, provided they haven't been captured, so the total score of both players may be greater or lesser depending on how intense the battle for the choice positions was. Abstract games are played mostly, but not exclusively, by males.
Paradisan children, and sometimes adults (especially young adults) play a number of physical games, the most popular being "football", which is similar to soccer. They also play "golf", which is very similar to frisbee golf. They also play a number of virtual reality games, some of which involve full body feedback and are thus very physical. Many of these games involve racing from one point to another which avoiding various hazards.
Paradisans also play a number of abstract games, especially Western chess, shogi, and various gladifer games. Cheating is even easier for them than it was for Celestials, but it's not considered as big a problem, as these games are usually played for amusement and not for high monetary or personal stakes. Besides, the ability to detect cheating has also improved, and so the minority who want to engage in serious competition may do so.
A Nmusysy family typically has around 40 members, and they all live together, usually in one building. Every Nmusysy house has a se, or storeroom. This has the mundane purpose of long term food storage, and is symbolically (and usually physically) the center of the house. There will be at least one separate room for each gladifer, as well as a number of common rooms for various purposes.
A Nmusysy house is usually surrounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of acres of open or partially open land. There are a few cities, though. None of these cities have the population density of human cities. They will have one family per building, each of which will be several stories high.
MeNmusysyot Smava, the original homeland of the Nmusysy, has had paved roads since antiquity (which for gladifers means close to a million years ago). Nmusysies travel by air more than humans, though, even for short trips.
Paradisan urbanization differs by region. Large parts of the planet are still sparsely settled. Some parts are heavily settled, with multi-million person cities. Some parts are inbetween, with a fairly high average density but no large concentrations usually associated with cities.
Many Paradisans have more than one residence, although often none of their residences are very big.
Paradisans have paved roads which were first put down by the original colonists. (No one drives on them; they are for automatically driven cars which serve as public transportation. If you want a car you just call for one to pick you up.)
Nmusysies have robots to periodically clean and redd up their homes. These operate on demand, i.e. they sense when they're needed. Nmusysies also keep small animals which are trained for (and genetically engineered for) cleaning up food scraps and dirt.
Paradisans also have robots to clean and/or redd up. However, unlike the Nmusysy equivalents, the Paradisan robots are as unobtrusive as possible, operating when they sense no one is home or everyone is asleep, so a Paradisan can go for years without ever actually seeing one in action.
Nmusysies, being gladifers, do not react to the same drugs in the same way as humans. Alcohol, for instance, only makes them ill, without making them drunk. They do have their own drugs, which are all synthesized. They do not, however, make the sharp distinction between medicinal drugs and recreational drugs that humans do. They do not see why (for instance) depressing physical pain is fundamentally different from depressing psychological pain.
Paradisans have a wide range of synthesized drugs. Some of them have implants which can deliver different doses of different drugs on subvocalized commands. Usually, however, a drink or candy which has been laced with the drug is taken. Different communities have different laws on the legality of different drugs, but in general there are no restrictions after someone reaches 24 Paradisan years (about 16 terrestial years).
Paradisans also take alcohol and caffeine in the forms of wine and tea respectively, but for these the drug is considered a side effect, and not the main reason for drinking.
Nmusysies do not have addresses. Every place has a name, and the robots which deliver mail or transport people know every name and what location it corresponds to. If need be, a map showing a place's location can be created easily enough.
Nmysysies do have roads, although they are less dense relative to a given population density than human roads generally are. These roads are all named, and often a place name will incorporate the name of a road which is near it, but not systematically as with human addresses.
Paradise mostly follows the Nmusysy example in terms of naming. However, in the cities numbered addresses are sometimes used. Within a large residence hall (essentially an apartment building) the different residences will sometimes be labeled systematically, but such labels are seldom used except for leases and such. If you were going to visit Soupy Callidardin and only knew that she lived in the Edwar Halls you wouldn't ask her the residence number; you would have your node (essentially a pocket computer) display a map of the Edwar Halls with her residence marked.
Nmusysies are advanced enough that no natural occurance is catastrophic. Their buildings (at least the essential ones) can withstand any wind which might occur, and those built in flood plains can withstand any flood which might occur well enough that the flood would be only an inconvenience. The Nmusysy region of Gladilatia is fairly stable geologically, and has no earthquakes or volcanos.
Paradisan buildings are almost as advanced as Nmusysy ones, so they do not worry too much about natural disasters either, but Paradise is a fairly active planet geologically, so they do sometimes have earthquakes and volcanic eruptions which are severe enough to cause problems.
When an adult Nmusysy dies his (or her) horn is removed from his body. The horn is inscribed with the dead gladifer's name and kept in the family se (which is usually translated "storeroom", although metaphorically it's similar to the English word "hearth"). For a child a symbolic horn will be made for this purpose. (Children do not have horns.) The rest of the body is then buried in the family's burial ground. Individual graves are not marked in a burial ground, but it will be surrounded by either a wall or a row of posts, on which will be inscribed the names of all of the gladifers buried there.
There are ceremonies for each step in this process, with the placing of the horn in the se the main one.
Most Nmusysies do not believe in an afterlife.
Paradisans usually mummify their dead, although there are a lot of other customs practiced in different communities, including individual graves, cremation, and Nmusysy style common graves. Mummified bodies are usually kept in a crypt. Each body is in an casket which usually contains various personal items of the dead person (such as jewlery, books, swords, etc.) The art of mummification has advanced so much that a common joke is that you can tell a mummy from a sleeping person by the fact that the mummy generally looks healthier.
Paradisans will have a funeral procession, where the casket is carried (from where it's prepared, if that's not to far away) to its crypt by the dead person's male friends and relatives. Everyone will wear black.
The different religions on Paradise have different ideas about the afterlife. Resumptionists (members of the most popular religion) believe in reincarnation.
There are thousands of beauty contests on Paradise, but only a handfull of prominent ones, the most prominent being the Paliser contest (named after the city of Paliser, which is known mainly for this contest). Most of the contests are for women, although there are a few for men.
A woman enters a contest by having a series of three dimensional images made of her. The contest will specify the pose and clothing to be used for each image. The level of detail in these specifications varies among the contests, but typically will be something similar to this one for the Paliser: "sitting in an armless chair wearing an ankle length black dress with black shoes and a pearl necklace, hands folded on lap". Some contests, including the Paliser, require some nudity among the poses, others do not. The number of poses varies. The Paliser has 12, but 6 is more typical. The number of entries varies greatly among the contests, but the top ones will have several million entries per contest (which is run once per Paradisan year).
The contest is judged by volunteers, usually the opposite sex of the contestants, although that is not a requirement. There are usually more judges than contestants. Each judge is given a groups of contestants to rank (i.e. he's sent their images). In the early stages the contestants are essentially chosen at random (at least as far as an individual judge is concerned). Some contests will require each judge to assign a score to each contestant, but others, including the Paliser, will have the judges rank a group of contestants from first to last. Each judge will judge a number of these groups. As time goes on the contestants who consistently score low are dropped from the judging. Finally, after several months, a group of finalists is chosen. Typically there will be twelve. Every judge then judges the finalists.
A big feast is held when the winner is formally crowned. The winner usually has a title which includes the word "queen", such as the Paliser Queen. This feast is the only step in the process which takes place in public. Everyone involved in the contest is invited to the feast, although except for the winner, the other finalists, past winners, and a few other celebrities the guests have to pay their own way.
There is usually a monetary prize, but not very large. The real advantage of winning a major beauty contest is in the fame which comes with it. A Palisar Queen can live off of the modeling fees from sculptors alone. Many beauty queens have converted their fame into careers as models, actresses, newscasters, etc.
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