This is an overview of world civilisation of Æthereal Sun in general. For the analysis specific civilisations, see Cultures.
- 1 Overview
- 2 States, politics and warfare
- 3 Economics and finance
- 4 Science, education and communication
- 5 Exploration and the new frontiers
- 6 What we DON'T have
While in many aspects the people of Æthereal Sun are similar to humans, in others they are quite divergent. This is caused by many factors, ranging from historical coincidences to highly deterministic biological predispositions. There's also a fact that the natural laws of Æthereal Sun's world differ somewhat from ours, thus enabling various alchemical and exotic energy technologies, while simultaneously preventing others (such as nuclear weapons and power).
States, politics and warfare
Etera never had political superpowers. Currently there is only one state (a very tight confederation of many fraternal states, actually) numbering more than 50 million people.
Borders, customs and passports
Having never experienced a conflict comparable to either of our Earth's World Wars, the political scene of Etera is perceived as somewhat less prone to suspicion. It is relatively trivial to cross most borders, and personal identification isn't checked as rigidly as in our world. Democratic states are somewhat more identity-conscious, and have state-wide standards of personal identification due to issues related to voting. Mercantile states, on the other hand, almost never have state-wide standards, and instead rely on a network of mutual recognition and certification organized by guilds, many of which don't even necessarily operate within the state's limits.
Customs, on the other hand, can be rather rigid. Imports and exports among the small states of this world are common, and governmental taxation relies a lot on the border taxes and fees. Smuggling, of course, has its place in such a situation.
Politics and alliances
Where there's politics, there are alliances for mutual interest. Alliances are common and varied, being anything from a joint powergrid agreement to a fully consolidated confederation. Still, they are dynamic and small enough that there are no huge power blocks.
An interesting note is that since the purpose of mutual defence agreements is in large part deterrence, they are never made in secret. They also commonly have a degree-of-separation limit that prevent dominoes-like effects of pulling more and more states into a conflict. In fact, these two principles are considered the unwritten international law, to the point that not following them will result in worldwide reactions ranging from scorn to unified aggression.
And of course, where there are politics and conflicts, occasionally there will be war. Most Eterian wars are small-scale, relatively short, and moderately humane. The scale is due to even alliances being unlikely to number more than a hundred million people (most are much smaller). Short duration is because wars typically lose money - an objective should be achieved as fast as possible; otherwise between the expenses and the malcontent population, it is often wiser to pull out of it while you can. Finally, harming civilians always causes more problems down the line, and thus is avoided.
Standing armies, especially large ones, are very rare. Justicariate's 240,000 Zemplari Troops are seen as a monster of a military even before people find out just how Élite they are. Other states typically employ militias combined with a small national guard. If the need arises and the economy is allowing, some employ mercenary guilds.
Economics and finance
Unlike Earth, Etera's guilds never fully declined. Instead, they gradually reformed into something halfway between the medieval guilds and modern-Earth corporations. They are not seen as 'financial persons' the way they are on Earth, but still have a series of advantages mostly coming from greater unity than ad hoc groups of entrepreneurs. In Mercantile states, they essentially phased out princes and parliaments as the governing body, leading to oligarchies where money equals power. In other states, they fused with the government, but retained the interest of its lower- and mid-level members as the primary focus, leading to the flourishing of the middle working class.
Overall, guilds can be powerful, but are not treated consistently across the many jurisdictions of the world. Also, so far none of the guilds has managed to maintain a scale comparable to Earth's megacorporations. Associations of guilds might come close, but they are too diverse internally to form any sort of monopoly.
With so many states around, there was originally very many currencies. Eventually, some ended up being more important than others. Also, in addition to government-issued banknotes, there are currencies coined by large associations of guilds, which are commonly backed by some kind of good, typically a metal or other raw substance. Specie coins also still exist, though they are not as common as they used to be.
See Currencies for more data.
On average, a 33-day month's income is GURP$ 3600. For places where daily payment is customary, pay per day is about $110 for employed workers (but weekends and holidays are paid too) or about $150 for freelancers (who get paid more per day, but don't have paid days off). For per-hour jobs, Average income is $18.75 per hour.
Science, education and communication
Universities and the Net
In the world of Æthereal Sun, universities are more tightly connected to R&D centres. This, in turn, means that universities tend to have the world's largest computers, and serve as communication centres.
This resulted into a Net that is somewhat different from our Internet. For one, hosting dominated by R&DCs and universities means that there is pressure towards Net users to be educated and civil (as the local moderators are less tolerant of ignoramuses using their hardware as a soapbox, and software focus on making stuff do important stuff and do it good, not be accessible to the lowest denominator).
The Net has something of a late 80s/early 90s feel: Usenet-like groups, hacking that has much to do with knowing hardware (like the +++ATH0 trick), cheap terminals connecting to servers with much larger (rented) processing power to solve problems, CLIs, very little advertisements, open email servers, very little commercialization of sites, streaming or downloads as opposed to embedded/catching, little enforcement of copyrights on an international level, intelligent and sophisticated trolls.
Journalists and media
Journalistic, publisher, writer and other media guilds and associations are actually pretty influential. They come a close second after universities/R&DCs as Net centres, and have some other forms of influences. Most notably, as long as the media does not fall under libel and fraud accusations, it can publish information relatively freely. Most jurisdictions' laws have been historically legislated in such a way, that a journalist can get away even with publishing a guild secret (though it is not without risks). Also, in most jurisdictions journalists cannot be compelled to disclose an anonymous source, even by court ruling. This is mostly the result of interpretations of laws protecting freedom of speech and information.
This, however, is a two-edged sword. Media guild associations are picky about whom they give officially recognized journalistic licenses, out of fear that a flood of extremely disruptive or fraudulent journalists will cause the legislators to reconsider the status quo. They need to protect their freedom, but simultaneously care that abuses of this freedom will not ultimately result in the loss in said freedom. It is a fine balance.
Exploration and the new frontiers
While there is no immediate need, nonetheless people explore the places previously unknown. The outposts are relatively small and few, and account for very little population, but they exist and are viable. Perhaps there will be more as technology advances.
Underwater bases and the Kostoshi movement
It is perhaps predictable that with Nariyása coming from an arid land, their dreams would turn to the oceans. The first, and still the majority, of underwater bases are exclaves of various Nariyása states. However, they seem to gradually be forming an association, even a culture of their own. They are collectively referred to as the Kostoshi movement.
Some of the bases are crazy projects of rich enthusiasts, but many have taken to ensuring self-reliance through such activities as geothermal power generation and exotic biology research (the depths have their share of secrets).
Orbital habitats and the XKORB movement
By contrast, the Khæn and Wejít looked more towards the stars. Orbital power stations are a reasonably cheap alternative to alchemical power plants, and can rival geothermal, hydroelectric and wind power in the long term.
While the Khæn eventually fell back to doing actual flights as opposed to habitat-building, the Wejít remained a majority behind the orbital industry. Some of the Tebríthan joined the movement too (few in absolute terms, but in greater percentages than the Nariyása). The movement is referred to by an acronym with a now-obscure meaning - XKORB.
Aside from planetary orbits, some XKORB members try expeditions further towards the outer orbits. There is some profit in mining of alchemical materials in the asteroids and on other planets, but they are too unpredictable to attract a consistent 'gold rush'.
What we DON'T have
It should be pointed out in a separate section, that for all the wonders of technology and civilisation in general, some things humans would take for granted are absent on Etera:
Nuclear technologies. Ætheric technologies provide ample methods of power generation, but there is nothing that would resemble a nuclear weapon.
Microprocessors. Mnemocrystals are the only form of computers in this world.
Genetics. While tissue engineering is advanced, genetics retain a Classical level of development.
Large corporations, national superpowers and other huge organisations. Eterian mentality tends to shy away from such groups, and they fall apart before they manage to gain sufficient 'critical mass'.
Terrorists. Targeting innocent civilians as a way of inciting terror is unheard of. Wars tend to be soft on the civilian population, but incidental collateral damage does happen. It's just never intended.
Ford-style assembly lines. The invention of the Neoforge, combined with the typical Eterian mentality, pretty much doomed the assembly line to nonexistence. While the Neoforge is not as good as an assembly line for mass production, it comes pretty close, so there is not much incentive to change the way things work (after all, the forge gives more opportunities to customise one's work).
Standard National Passports. Few states require their citizens to obtain a specific document for identification purposes. There isn't a unified standard for international IDs either. The Justicariate is a notable exception, which maintains a register of citizens and residents, and issues standardised IDs.