It has happened to you too: a sudden flash of inspiration.
Like, “What if space, the final frontier, wasn’t populated by those Wild West American libertarian types but the people of a different frontier?”
Oymyakon (SSE), a godsforsaken place between the Empty Mountains, known for humankind’s sole loss in the war on the space penguins, and for nothing else. Population ten thousand normies, three mores, I think.
Oh, and two magic penguins.
It’s better than Shemya, though. There there’s nothing but wind, fog, and pieces of frozen colonists. Shemya’s the uttermost arsehole of all being.
Shemya (USR), no inhabitants. A White Alice communications pin on orbit, inhabitants a few dozen. A part of the United Systemic Republic.
United Systemic Republic, no capital planet; the governmental hub is on orbit above Boswell Bay.
- major: Boswell Bay (“Alaska Central”), White Mountain, Polar Night
- minor: Flat, Livengood, Deadhorse (giant disgusting statue next to spaceport; weird sense of humor), Nenana (name means “good place to camp between two rivers”; it’s all a lie), Ptarmigan
- incidental: Shemya, Tofty (has potential, and really a bad road to it), Ophir (on the bank of the Innoko Field)
“Why do these people call them mountains? They’re full of rocks and stuff.”
“What, that big hill down there?”
“Yes, the locals call it a ‘mountain’. Stupid grav-weller stupidity. Everybody knows mountains are the dark empty spaces between concentrations of stars.”
“Was just saying, anyone using a word like ‘grav-weller’ for planetary inhabitants hasn’t got much leg to criticize nomenclature on.”
“Ah, discrime you.”
Note to self: An adventure taking place in the future would need to be translated in many ways: the habits as well as the language. For example: if you have a society where sexual licentiousness has no stigma — hold on, Gor! In! Space! — then people don’t say “Fuck you!” to each other. Rather, they wish for the other to be discriminated against, because That Would Be Horrible, about as icky all around as dropping trou and doing it on the street is now.
Or would “Fuck you” be interpreted as “[You go] fuck you[rself, because your are an undesirable person and nobody would do this casual nice thing with you, not even a relative of yours]”?
Other independent entities
- Bishopry of Partenia (a religious relic buried under sand; hey, pick obscure dog-forsaken places from Wikipedia and you get better results than with the usual way of using obvious allusions! It’s enough that the name sounds good — it’s not required that the reader gets the lame joke.)
- Rockall 1955 (a British remnant)
- Socotra-Ieodo-Suyan Rock Research Station
- Okinawa Reversion (est. by Takeshima Liancourt and Hinomaru Liancourt; current Governor Shannon Boyd-Bailey, vice gov. Tei Tatsu Tsuda; capital city Akamon “Red Gate”); includes the titular planet and Nanasanmaru (“730”, lieut. gov. Kudaka Houshiki); has research stations at Shinjitai, Koroshi and Juku (other pieces of rock are usually something-jima or -shima (island))
- Dagen H, Swedish-Finnish remnant, right next to the Peltzman Effect
- Mohingka (the ex-dictator Saw Win Win was not a nice guy, and the name is accidentally descriptive)
- Lake Shore Drive, ex-Americans (also called the Denver Colony, also the First To Eat, also the Donner Planet, or the Donner Party Planet — initiating a now universal habit tends to leave a few nicknames)
- the minor league: Gaillard, Kutcher, Manson, Hirano (which would be a case of naming a planet Smith and then expecting the reader to somehow guess which one), Gaddafi, Gaga (“All we hear is… Planet Gaga…”)
- the “Scots Empire” of very wee planets: Inchcape (cap. Luxter; 90% of capital and 95% of planet pop is palace), Big Scare, Stac an Àrmainn (climber’s place; reputed amazon home), Clach Mhòr na Faraid, Eilean nan Ròn (“island of the seals”, seals are not the animals in this instance but megalithic archaeological remnants; cap. Mol Mòr “big pebble beach”), Gannet Skerry/Sula Sgeir (cap. Blessed House/Taigh Beannaichte; has a very grumbley White Anglo minority)
Apanasenko, capital planet of the Siberian Star Empire
Malenkov, capital of the planet Ust-Kamenogorsk; plague by restlessness, ostracism and assassinations between the Irtysh and Ulba political factions of the Zaysan (the parliament) — look, you can take words mentioned in the Wikipedia article and whoomph they sound like they have a meaning and a history! Plus, any Russian reader will be confused as heck and angry for not getting “the joke”.
- major: Tyuratam-Baikonur, Apanasenko, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kishinev
- minor: Oymyakon, Kushka (the hothouse), Golovnin (on the USR border; cap: Zagoskin), Kamchatka (likewise, but larger pop)
- incidental: Trotsky Icepick (prison planet)
Tshaktogmyut/Shaktoolik — the former name is used in SSE, the later in USR; disputed and at the moment uninhabited.
- ancient ruins (apparently from civilizations that did not get off their planets of origin; some are millions of years old and everyone has the uneasy suspicion every planet has them; time just has obliterated the most)
- penguin droppings (the best-known pre-human interstellar civilization; much like humans in being aggressive, possessive, vindictive little shits)
- remnants of 1st wave of human colonization (c. 22nd cent)
- remnants of 2nd wave of human colonization (c. 23rd cent)
- continuous (i.e. modern) colonization (25th cent onwards)
One would not think two too much similar sentient species could coexist, when their similarity lies in them both being aggressive, possessive, vindictive little shits.
So it is with humans and penguins.
To the poor sods stuck on oohing over the glories of lost Home, let it be first said that these penguins are not avians of the order Sphenisciformes, but aliens not of Home. And the Sphenisciformes were not aliens. The name is one more bad joke of our all too human precursors.
In the beginning, humans and penguins did not coexist happily; but one of the few good aspects of interstellar war is that, unlike with planetary conflicts, all destruction is limited. There is no weapon that can taint empty space, or reach out to snuff out any significant fraction of the stars above — notwithstanding wild stories told by those living next to the toxic emptiness of the Peltzman Effect — so though planets were made uninhabited, or uninhabitable even, the war did not threaten the existence of sentience itself.
And in time, as with humanity’s own divisions, the division between human and penguin was bridged. Indeed, the war was destined to end the moment the combatants understood the other side was not alien space locusts, but people; which is not to say, benevolent creatures of pure goodwill and candy substance, but creatures that love comfort more than war, and that had evolved beyond the frothing subordinate-slaying omnicidal warlord stage of government.
That was enough to doom the war; and to end it, there was a pair of natural disasters some still say were a bit too convenient.
Home, also, Earth, Erde, Terra. Uninhabited. Current estimates say the surface temperature may fall to levels that do not require protection in 3000 plus-minus 50 years in the least affected areas.
Home-Moon, Home’s natural satellite. Special independent non-military territory unaffiliated with either USR or SSR. Several research stations, and the operations of Earth Rescue. ER’s Garden of Earth is recommended to all visitors who want to see genuine Home artifacts.
(Note: Some of the “genuine” artifacts are actually replicas constructed with the help of digital recordings; the original Mona Lisa is a charred scrap of cloth and not so good for viewing purposes. And as for that giant statue of a woman, does anyone really believe they lifted it to the orbit and then to the moon? It’s a nice replica, but the original “Motherland Calls” it ain’t.)
(Note to the note: That is true, but irrelevant. The Mona Lisa copy is micro-printed from the 2021 microscope recordings, which means it is to unaided human eyes indistinguishable from the 2021 original. Which, one hastens to add, was in much better condition that the original was; it still had several centuries to go before being reduced to its current partly heat-damaged state. Since the original was already famous and old by 2021, and only deteriorated since, one could argue the current copy is “better” than the original, even without the heat damage, could be! As for “Motherland Calls”, a fair cop; the other alternative was to compact the thing and then reconstruct it at leisure, which was an… unsatisfactory solution. Mind you, it was tried with “Mother Motherland” of Kiev; repairing that tangled capsule of steel took decades and the sanity of two borderline-obsessive people.)
Space is cold.
What do I mean, you ask. Space is nothing, nothing has no temperature, space cannot be cold. Where there is something, it is a star which is not cold.
What I mean is this: look in the universe for places real people can live, set a foot down in muck, build a cabin in. Those places are cold. Back in Home, Siberia was a cold place, a place where your piss tinkled. Guess what, fun accident of universe, there are no Home planets except one, and it is no more. All other places are death, or cold.
Apanasenko is the great capital of the beneficent and beloved Siberian Star Empire: there is no place, no night, there when you might sleep a night under the stars, the stars your blanket, and wake up healthy. If you wake at all. And is not because Apanasenki are knife-happy loonies; is because Apanasenko, the jewel of the star empire, the happy planet which is not very cold as compared to some of the Satanic frozen arseholes of the beneficent and beloved star empire, is still cold.
There are planets of poison, planets of crystal, planets of fire and flame… but the places where a woman might walk, a man throw down his seed and get a crop… those places are all too cold for comfort.
“Did you see the Trade Delegate? What was he, she, ne, de or xe like?”
“Typical brown Alaskan.”
The kid frowned. “What do you mean, brown?”
The captain sighed, rubbed his forehead. “Well, as compared to the typical Siberian.”
“What, Siberians are snow white?” the kid asked, with apparent sincerity and ignorance.
“That, and beyond that.” The captain thought for a while. “Look, this shithole you crawled out of—”
“Nanasanmaru?” the boy offered.
“Na nana-whatever, what kind of an ethnic makeup did it have?”
“Skin color, eye color, face shape, things like that. Anything more common than others? Are you typical?”
The kid shrugged, slight frame quick, bird-like, red-and-blue-diamonded skin taut over the bones beneath. The kid’s androgynous face was full of incomprehension. “I was typical a month ago. Now, I don’t think so.”
“Jobs”, the captain swore. “How do I explain this… look, all planets and societies don’t practice body-mod. Some are just born looking one way and, except for functionality fixes, stay that way.”
“No, they just are boring that way. That’s called culture. Siberians have a culture which adores white skin, so in birth or before or after they bleach themselves, skin, eyes, hair, all, so that they look like the ghosts of a chalk cliff. As for the Alaskans, a very long time ago they came mostly from a place called Alaska on Home, an ancient kingdom with pyramids and stuff, so as a consequence of that ‘mostly from’ they had a bottleneck in their natural genetics, and are a bit darker in skin than most other people.”
“They don’t have culture?” the kid asked; the captain slapped his forehead and grimaced.
“They do; theirs just doesn’t go for intricacies in skin color, though I understand the males sew their scrotal sacks back in because of the cold.”
The kid nodded, absorbing this; the captain slapped his forehead again.
“That was a joke. You know, an outrageous statement meant to elicit— ah, never mind.”
CAPTAIN’S LOG — THURSDAY
It just struck me that profanity is a profound subject. I tried explaining this to Yorgenson, but she was not interested. In the dim old years of Home, I have read people used religious terms as profanity; I do not understand how shouting “Pope!” was dirty enough, but then again I do not really understand those times. Similarly, in which way is “girl” a profanity or a pejorative? Was there some cultural factor which made prepubescent women particularly unclean or disliked?
What I have read, has contained one gem of insight: for there is one profanity that has endured through all of mankind’s history, from Sumer to Mongolia, and from Rome to Rhudania: cack! Mankind has ever been as repelled by excrement as it continues to be, implausible as that might seem considering the hygienic conditions of Home. If one wished to communicate insult to all members of mankind, all ages and cultures, a flag with the dark star of the human arsehole would do.
I shall instruct Yorgenson to prepare such a flag; sometimes diplomatic missions go bad.