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  • Mevwan Culture

    Mevwan Culture

    Postby Alicorn » Sun May 22, 2011 6:34 pm


    The most distinctively Zaee cultural features one observes when one visits a community of them in Mevwan are the following: their near-complete decoupling of procreation and romance; fostering (or "wing-parenting" or "memetic adoption"); an insistence on the consistent use of full, unadulterated names for all purposes; and their religion, "Zwerise", which has not percolated significantly into human populations.

    Zaee marry, exclusively monogamously, but this is a decision made without a view towards whether they are interested in having children with their spouse - accordingly it is not uncommon for marriages to be same-sex, and Zaee are by and large open to the possibility of marrying humans. Childbearing decisions are made independently, by women, who select without particularly privileging their husband (if they have one) a male Zaee, who may or may not be elsewhere married, with whom to attempt to have a child. (In practice, about 1/3 of Zaee are the genetic offspring of a married couple, since the qualities that make someone seem like a good spouse correlate rather well with the qualities that make someone seem like a good father.) The selected male is under no obligation to invest anything other than his genetic material in the process, although it's good form to make contact information for himself and his relatives available for the child's use should it be desired later. Some fathers prefer to be more active in their children's lives, especially if they're married to the mother (this is usually worked out ahead of time if they want anything more than occasional visitation, and fathers have approximately no grounds for complaint if the mothers of their children choose to exclude them). Procreation (by either sex) is the only purpose for which sexual non-exclusivity is widely permitted, but it is permitted with a blandness that can bewilder a human unused to Zaee - the rapidity with which an enraged spouse suspecting infidelity can be calmed by the clarification, "No, you don't understand, I was trying to get (her) pregnant" is the subject of a number of Mevwani jokes circulated among humans. (It is in fact customary to inform one's spouse ahead of time.)

    Mothers (and, if participating, fathers) retain custody of their children only until they're about to learn to fly. At this point it is considered morally reprehensible to keep the child, and a foster parent or family must be located. This is often a friend of one of the parents (and may be either gender) but can never be a spouse of either - the fosterage must involve moving the child to a residence that doesn't contain their mother or father. Zaee parents who find themselves without adequate fosterage prospects from among their acquaintances often swap children with others in similar states. It's permissible to reject a request of fosterage, but one is rarely asked if one's acceptance isn't strongly anticipated. After the transfer is made, the new family is solely responsible for the child - even if they die and the child needs a new home, the will of the foster parent(s), not that of the biological parent(s), is used to determine where the kid goes. It is not uncommon for biological siblings to share a foster home, but nor is it particularly normative that they do so. Biological parents typically visit and write regularly, but suspicions of actual cohabitation with their flying children are looked upon with great dismay. One's foster-parent(s), and anyone related (in either fashion) to them, are considered one's memetic relatives or "wing-family" (as are the memetic relatives of one's biological family), whereas biological relatives are reckoned normally and constitute one's "eye-family" (because eye color is highly heritable). Zaee languages have a great many words to quickly convey relationships like "my eye-mother's wife's wing-sister" or "my wing-father's eye-brother". Some of these terms made it into Ekoin as loanwords, but otherwise such relationships are summed as, for instance, "aunt" and "uncle" when brevity is more needed than precision.

    Zaee have one name apiece. To use anything other than this exact name in its entirety (a nickname, a shortening, a mispronunciation, etc.) is deeply offensive: one's name is considered the most significant symbol of one's eye-mother's love, and mangling the name is an insult to said mother. Zaee are likely to refer to humans by full name as well, but can eventually be induced to use other appellations if this is greatly desired.

    Zaee children are usually educated by a series of temporary apprenticeships/shadowings, wherein they follow experienced practitioners of miscellaneous careers until one of these careers strikes them as something they'd like to go on doing. At that time they would normally be enrolled in a school devoted to that career on a Zaee planet, but their low population in Mevwan means that they often attend human trade schools or continue apprenticeships past the trial period instead.


    Mevwani humans are - and have been since the invention of the printing press in year -189 - a culture of writers. Specifically, a majority of Mevwani human adults routinely publish articles in one of the thousands of periodicals that circulate throughout the country. Some of these periodicals are local newsletters, some are topic-specific magazines, some are expert summaries of what goes on in consensus-collection meetings, some are packaged presentations of coupons and advertisements by affiliated groups of businesses, some are product catalogs, some are gossip rags or heavily fictionalized tabloids, some are packed with nothing but advice columns, some are distribution mechanisms for fiction or art, some are newspapers on current events in any of several dozen spheres - the proliferation of the format means that they tend to be highly specialized. Most people subscribe to some scores of periodicals, although only a fraction of them put new issues out on a very frequent basis. The most popular of these is in fact a meta-periodical, The Mailings List, which distributes a regularly updated list of what mailings are available in what localities and how to subscribe to them. Many municipal governments (in places that have arranged to have such things) distribute each new Mailings List to each household automatically without requiring them to subscribe. Subscription fees are usually low - enough to cover printing, the editorial staff, and (if any) the staff writers. Few periodicals compensate irregular contributors except with prestige.

    The urge to write, print, and spread news required the development of a sophisticated and efficient postal service, which has been part of the impetus behind the development of a nationwide system of railroads, including several tracks that go across bridges between the island and the mainland. (The trains are equipped to run on steam generated by burning agricultural waste, but when possible, it is preferred to have a strong perturber aboard to make them go without expending fuel.) For particularly urgent missives, it is possible to buy access to a Zaee computer and transmit information electronically; over a shorter range, telepaths often provide the service. All the printing that's necessary to get everyone their news requires a great deal of paper. Mevwani make a cheap newsprint out of the pulp of native whitegrass, a cold- and mowing-tolerant plant. They have also recently learned to recycle this paper to make even cheaper newsprint.

    The populace of Mevwan, as a rule, places a great emphasis on academic scholarship - as a hobby. It is quite encouraged to learn an obscure dead dialect of Cosash or study the differences between mainland and island poetry from the negative third century, but as a rule people aren't paid to do it and are rarely paid to teach it after they've educated themselves. It's almost, but not quite, as uncommon to be paid to write - it's generally expected that people write because they have things to express and hope to get them to an audience, not because they're hoping to make money out of it. It would not be at all uncharacteristic to meet a Mevwani human who has an unskilled day job at a recycling plant and then goes home to research and write and publish careful articles on contemporary philosophy of religion. Libraries - filled more with back issues of periodicals than with hardbound books, and sometimes equipped with a precious loan of a computer peripheral allowing access to the Koeen - are present in nearly every concentration of human habitation.

    Humans have a focus on athletic competitions that baffles their more gracile, cerebral Zaee neighbors. Regional and municipal teams have formed leagues for national favorite sports prel-stik, okta, nishash, eng-mi, and daroatan, among others. The professional players are paid, although only in the form of a cut of ticket prices - individual players are very rarely idolized to the point where they can earn significant money for celebrity appearances or endorsements. Competitions of other skills - music, dance, drawing accurate freehand circles, cultivating oddly-colored flowers or giant squashes, quilting, anything - are also common, but usually have entry fees and small prizes if any. However, the physical products one is judged on (if any) are more likely to find buyers if they have performed well in contests.

    In terms of education, there is little nationwide regularity. Many people are self-taught through the mail on the subjects of their choice and have no formal education at all. Others attend trade schools or learn as apprentices. There are a few colleges scattered around the country, where enclaves of full-time academics support themselves through the distribution of high-subscription-fee journals and ludicrously expensive speaking engagements; these take in new, junior members as students.

    Mevwani humans have at least two names. One is generally brought into the world with a personal name (most Ekoin names are gender-neutral, although Cosash ones are not) and a family name inherited from either parent (parents' choice, usually based on their relationship with the respective families). One does not take on a spouse's family name, but it is reasonably common for humans to mutually adopt each other as siblings as adults when they form strong friendships, in which case they take on each others' personal names as middle names. (This confers no relationship between the adopted sibling and the other's blood relatives or other adopted siblings as memetic relationships do in Zaee; it's a purely one-to-one connection.) This can be done an arbitrary number of times, but most people perform no more than four or five such adoptions. It is not unheard of for humans to adopt Zaee in this way, especially if they're from mixed families of some kind and were raised as though siblings with a Zaee in the first place, although the Zaee don't alter their names in turn. Zaee usually don't add middle names when addressing humans, as they weren't conferred by the human's mother, but they do use both first and last.
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    Re: Mevwan Culture

    Postby Alicorn » Sun Jun 26, 2011 2:09 am

    Culture test for Mevwani humans

    If you're Mevwani (the human kind)...

    - You think the laws on the books are okay. If you didn't, you'd have to go all the way to where the government handles things and complain, and you've got stuff to do.
    - You're familiar with Kayo T. Kem, Delin M. R. Meik, Seldrash I. W. C. O. Risht, Dwarizase, and Pal V. E. B. N. Soor.
    - You know the rules to prel-stik, okta, nishash, eng-mi, and daroatan. You can argue intricate points about the regional rule differences for at least one of these sports, more if it's a hobby of yours or you subscribe to The Mevwani Athlete.
    - You're not sure why anyone would take a job that didn't offer six weeks of vacation a year.

    Share the Light and pass the soup

    - You're most likely Haphengko, although you might not be very observant of Law yourself, and if you're not Haphengko, you're a Follower or Elehaithi. You might be more than one of those, in a sort of wishy-washy jumbled sense. You think the Thtoi are a cult.
    - You think of going over to your neighbor's house for dinner uninvited as cheap, convenient food. You'll help wash dishes.
    - You might have either a telephone or a radio, but probably not both.
    - Your place is heated in the fall, winter, and spring, and also in the summer if you live in Ice Tip. Your place has its own bathroom, which contains a bathtub but no shower, a sink, and a toilet. You have hot and cold running water, but the "hot" part sometimes works barely well enough to keep your pipes from freezing come wintertime.
    - You pay someone to do your laundry; it has to be done by hand and there's economy of scale at work.
    - You might kill your own food, if you want to eat meat regularly on the cheap and you're from Mainland. You don't have a dirt floor unless you're from the sticks of Phariscal.
    - As a general rule, animals might be food; the only way to tell is to try them and see if they are good. Unless you're a really strict Haphengko.

    My other power plant is a fifteen-year-old boy

    - It seems natural to you that the telephone systems, railroads, power companies, and plumbing systems are privately run. The government probably wouldn't do a very good job, although it might be able to make the fare system for crossing province lines by rail less of a headache.
    - You expect that if you have a phone, it will work, but who would you call with it? Getting a new phone is expensive.
    - The train system is amazing. It is the best train system in the world. You love it and you take it everywhere that's not close enough to walk (or fly, if you're a perturber and you can do that).
    - You find a consensus-driven adhocracy natural. It doesn't block necessary actions with excess bureaucracy and really it's better at the ideals of democracy than democracy is. You expect whoever is in charge lately to listen to you and people like you if you bother to speak up, because if you bother to speak up, you might bother to make a fuss about things not going your way. But you often don't bother.
    - Besides Cosashi, Mainlander, and Islander, there are no other races - well, there's the Zaee, but do they even count? Someone who's half-Cosashi will look Cosashi to you, unless you're Cosashi yourself. Half-Mainlander half-Islander people look Mainlander even if you're Mainlander.
    - You think most problems could be solved if everyone gave more time and money to those nice charities that get so much done.
    - You take your municipal arbitration system for granted. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to arbitration unless they fled the province, so you'd prefer to deal with people who aren't likely to flee the province. People with roots put down are trustworthy.
    - You'd respect someone who spoke Cosashi (unless they're Cosashi, in which case you take it for granted) or a foreign language, but you probably don't care enough to learn one yourself unless that's a hobby of yours. There's no reason to learn Iozwe; the Zaee all speak Ekoin. You'd hire an interpreter if you wanted to travel abroad, but who wants to travel abroad? You can always vacation on Island if you're from Mainland or Mainland if you're from Island, isn't that enough?
    - You think an income tax rate of 10% is scandalously high. You have no idea what the sales tax rate is unless you own a business, because it's written into the prices in stores, but you sometimes suspect that it might be scandalously high.
    - School for children is free in Reone and Bright Shore, and free with a scholarship in Kensedo. If you don't live in one of those places you just learn to read from your family members and then subscribe to educational magazines. Trade schools aren't free but you can get loans for that. University? Do you look like a pretentious snoot?

    Let me set you up with my cousin Nira

    - You expect marriages to be made for compatibility, with suggestions but not outright arrangement by friends and family. Anybody can legally perform a marriage ceremony as long as you gather the witnesses and have a certificate for them to sign, but you'll probably go to your local revelator for the purpose even if you're not Haphengko, because they have such nice churches and they'll do it for free and they keep good records if you have to prove it later. You can have one spouse unless you're in Phariscal or Lesser Cosash, where you are allowed two or three; everybody will recognize your extra spice if you travel between provinces, but they will consider you a hick.
    - If a man has sex with another man, he's probably bisexual or homosexual. He can get married to the other man, but not in a Haphengko church and not in Greater or Lesser Cosash. Same with two women, except Greater Cosash will let them marry.
    - Once you're introduced to someone, you can call them by their first name. You will probably call people by first name even if you haven't been introduced, unless you're referring to them in press, where the standard is: first name, middle initials, last name, then last name unless there are others of the same surname in your article. If you meet a Zaee, you will be too nervous about offending them to call them by name at all until you are very, very sure you have it right.
    - You don't go to the beach topless. In fact, you probably don't go to the beach except to go fishing, in which case you wrap up in lots of wool. It's cold there! But you might just wander around half-naked in the summer to celebrate it being warm enough, unless you're a strict Haphengko.
    - A hotel room shares a bath with one adjoining room, and the hotel will assign you times of day when you should expect to have it to yourself. The room has its own toilet.
    - You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes. You also expect to benefit from nepotism, but would be indignant if you suffered from it.
    - If a politician has been cheating on their spouse, well, you wouldn't really question their ability to govern, but you might quietly voice uncertainty, and a lot of people voicing uncertainty breaks consensus, so they're gone anyway.
    - Just about any store in your province will take a check issued by the locally dominant bank. Outside your province, you need cash.
    - A company can fire just about anyone it wants, as long as they want to live with that person's entire extended family being pissed off at them.

    I used to subscribe to a newsletter about this...

    - You count on decent medical treatment for anything common, but you may be screwed if you get something rare. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties, as long as there's not an epidemic going around and not enough doctors. You think dying at 70 would be a tragedy.
    - You know your history from magazines, and learned whichever countries you felt like learning.
    - You're not entirely sure Mevwan has a military, but if it does, it certainly shouldn't be involved in politics. If you're between 25 and 55 and reasonably healthy, though, you're in your provincial militia in case of emergency. And you can be in politics all you like.
    - Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation.
    - You expect to have two or three choices for most things you buy.
    - You might be a farmer, especially if you're from Phariscal, Sedsesh, Vith, or Greater Cosash.
    - Comics are little captioned woodcut prints in some magazines. Newspapers don't carry them.
    - If you listen to the radio, you never know who the heck they're going to interview next.
    - If you have a reindeer to ride around, you might ride on the right or left side of the road, but pedestrians always have right of way wherever they care to walk. If you hit one, it's your fault unless they were antagonizing your deer and a third party witnessed them doing it.
    - The police are armed, but not with firearms. The ones who aren't carrying any weapons at all are the most dangerous.
    - If a woman is plumper than average, it might improve her looks or not, depending on her other features.
    - The biggest meal of the day is in the early afternoon.
    - There's neighborhoods you'd rather avoid at any time of day.

    Welcome to beautiful Delo-Kyan

    - You feel that you must be being listened to enough in Delo-Kyan, because if you weren't, you'd have to go complain, and that would be annoying.
    - You care whether someone is from your family or not, but don't care what other family a non-relative is from.
    - The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their children, siblings, and favorite nieces and nephews to get shares of various sizes.
    - You don't go to many professional theater productions, but you are an avid follower of your local amateur players.
    - You don't think having a state church would be a good idea, even if you're Haphengko or think they are very nice people.
    - You could not name the capitals of the other countries on your continent, let alone others, unless you have a geography hobby.
    - Train schedules by train companies other than the one dominating your town are impossibly difficult to read, but a local will probably help you.
    - You think charity for people who are having trouble is just lovely, and it would be terrible if anyone abused those charitable contributions by taking them when they weren't needed.
    - If you want to be a doctor, you need to convince somebody to let you doctor them. The best way to do this is to subscribe to Medical Practice and Theory for three to six years and do what it says, and then get a certificate for taking a test and a practical exam at the nearest teaching hospital.

    Clocks and bridges

    - If you have an appointment, you'll apologize if you're ten minutes late. You don't expect the other person to be there anymore after an hour, but you'll explain next time you see them.
    - If you're talking to someone, you'll get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about a foot and a half. And if you're from Mainland, you don't want one of those spooky Zaee to get any closer than three feet.
    - You bargain for everything if you're buying from someone you know. If you don't know the seller, you take the printed price. So, you try to buy from people you know all the time.
    - You can show up uninvited to any house in your neighborhood, but you have to leave if nobody you know is home. You'll make plans if you want to visit someone farther away.
    - When you negotiate, you are nice to your friends and relatives and cordial to strangers, where "cordial" means "sneakily, but without overt hostility, scheming to trick the other into giving you a favorable deal".
    - If you have a business appointment or an interview with someone, you'll probably have them to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than an hour and a half. You wouldn't be all that surprised if they had to babysit someone and brought them along, or had an assistant in the room, and you wouldn't write home about it if the business ran to three hours. You certainly would not take offense.
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    Re: Mevwan Culture

    Postby Alicorn » Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:50 pm

    Mevwan has two national personifications, Erio and Nanthi. Erio represents Mainland, Nanthi Island; it's customary to refer to one's home personification as a sibling ("Sister Nanthi" or "Brother Erio") and the other a cousin - the two are presented as having adopted each other as siblings, but this sort of adoptive relationship is non-transitive, so if Nanthi is your sister, Erio remains your cousin in spite of his brotherhood to Nanthi. Both "Erio" and "Nanthi" are used as real - and unisex - names, but they're not particularly common.

    Nanthi is depicted as a pretty, petite Islander, with large green eyes, and black hair worn up with distinctive bone pins decorated with white feathers. She wears a heavy, concealing fur cloak, mostly white rabbit fur with a pattern sewn in (long diamonds of gray seal pelt along the hem). The cloak's voluminousness usually means that she's not depicted as wearing anything in particular underneath it and artists with cause to show the underlying outfit have no consistency in what garments they draw. Sometimes, she is given one double iris (red and gold), usually in her right eye, to represent the Zaee population of Island. Nanthi's image is most commonly drawn on for public service announcements, admonishments, and helpful reminders. ("Sister Nanthi says: Don't play on the train tracks!" "Sister Nanthi reminds you to keep the streets of Delo-Kyan beautiful by not littering!" "Cousin Nanthi reminds you to treat our Islander friends with respect when you depart this ferry." "Sister Nanthi does not print libel. Do you?" "Did you check for consensus before moving forward with your plan? Sister Nanthi wants all of us to agree and work together." "Sister Nanthi is on her way to Delo-Kyan to make her opinion heard. If you don't participate, don't complain.")

    Erio is a Mainlander, although some people (especially Cosashi) like to draw him as though he's half-Cosashi. He has green eyes, or sometimes one green and one brown eye, and is shown wearing his black hair in a ponytail tied with a green streamer. He goes dressed in leather (including a style of boots known commonly as "cousin boots", which Nanthi often wears too if her feet are shown). He wears train-track bracelets (little wood crosspieces on long linked bits of iron) on each wrist, and is most often shown with a broad grin, wide stance, and crossed arms. Although Erio is sometimes deployed in public admonishments like Nanthi (or is shown with her in such things), he's more likely to be a representative of an everyman character in anecdotes, examples, and other cases where someone generic is called for. If these cases call for a full name, his is generally given as "Erio N. [Province]" (where any province's name may serve as his surname). ("A witness who gave his name only as Erio N. Sedsesh said..." "In this instructional pamphlet, Brother Erio will show you how he buys a train ticket." "So I was walking to the train station, and Cousin Erio runs by, knocks me over..." "If they have an ID, let them in, but if it's just Brother Erio, send him away." "Let's tone down the jargon, make this stuff accessible for Cousin Erio, okay?")

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    Re: Mevwan Culture

    Postby Scott Alexander » Sat Aug 13, 2011 7:22 pm

    The guy on the left is sort of terrifying.
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