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Writing Vena's Tale

Continuing the discussion from Idea for a Fractal Cosmos story: Vena's Tale:

It’s been around 6 months since I first came up with the idea for the story called Vena’s Tale, which would be the very first story to be set in the Fractal Cosmos universe.

I conceived it as a coming-of-age adventure story about a solitary young girl who grew up in the clouds of Venus and unexpectedly found her destiny connected to that of all transhumanity.

I was excited to get this on paper from day one, but I ended up postponing the actual writing for several months, nevertheless. I wanted to have a clear and detailed idea of the story in my head before I started, mostly because I was afraid to do shit and be forced to start everything again. And then I started college and basically stopped doing anything at all except for pretending to study.

I did have a unexpected surge of inspiration in mid-november, which resulted in me writing the first few pages of the story, but that ended once I saw the exams were approaching.

Despite not having written for a while, I’ve been thinking about the story a lot, and I think that I’m now ready to resume the writing process.

Fractal Cosmos has been a colaborative project of this community since the beggining, so I think it makes sense for me to talk about the story with you guys while I’m writing it. I’ll post frequent updates in this topic and you are wellcome to give your opinion and help me with any advice you are willing to offer.

Since the story will be set on Fractal Cosmos’ Venus, we’ll have to enrich our worldbuilding in order to make this place feel a real one. We don’t have enough detail yet.

So, with no more delays, let’s get started!

A few changes

  • I had originally intended for the story to be set in the late 2090’s but now I feel like I should set it a little bit later, like the 2110’s. I changed my mind because I realized that the story would work better if the tensions between the cloud-lords and the hell-creeper had been going on for a little more time. I think that would make everything more meaningfull. Of course this means that system V will emerge a little later than we had thought, but I think this will actually make things more plausible and interesting, since this way we would be giving system D more time to enter in a stated of decay.

  • I had originally thought that Vena would transfer a conscioussness to some kind of super resistant robot body in oder to survive on the surface of Venus, but now I’m more inclined to have her go in a sort of mech-suit. I think this will help to keep the character more relatable and appealing to the general audience, and we can blame it on the cloud-lord’s fear of uploading (if Vena renounced her organic body she would never be accepted again in her floating city). The life.support system for the suit will be a tricky thing to devise but I think it can be pulled off.

  • I had originally intended for Vena’s Tale to be a relatively short story, but now I feel like it deserves to be explored in a novel-lenght story, so i think I’m gonna try it, even thought it may take me a lot longer to finnish it that way.

Cloud-lord Society

As I said, we need some deeper worldbuilding, so here it goes:

  • Venus was colonized by nations from all parts of the world with very different kinds of cultures and political ideologies, but the biggest share went to Brazil, which means that brazillian culture and system D are dominant in the cloud-tops. Portuguese is the lingua franca in most of the planet and the dominant religion is roman catholicism (the catholic church has underwent signifficant changes in the second half of the 21st century which reduced it’s hostility to progress, thus allowing it to survive the change of times and mentalities).

  • The colonies are still formally part of the Brazillian republic but they now mostly rule themselves as The Commonwealth of Nós-nos-Céus (We in the skies). The still powerfull but stagnating economy of the Commonwealth is facing serious challenges due to the crisis of system D.

  • Due to the fact of living in the most earth-like environment of the solar system (apart from earth, of course) the venusians want to make their floating cities look as much like earth cities as possible. Once the economic conditions allowed it, they started importing a large variety of terrestrial plants and animals as possible and now most cities have extensive parks and green spaces. Zoos and animal reserves are major attractions and the cloud-lords even maneged to use genetic engineering to bring a few extinct species back to life. The construction style of the buildings is also remarkably terrestrial and even a bit old-fashioned, the cloud-lords are generally ashamed of their more “space-looking” buildings which remain from the early colonial era.

  • The cloud-lords have been performing extensive genetic engineering on their children for several generations and they have developed a form of biological immortality through regenerative medicine. As a result, althought the older generations are still mostly baseline humans, the younger ones are heavily augmented, exhibiting remarkable intelectual and physical skills from a very early age. Eidetic memories, heightened senses and the capacity to perform complex mathematical calculations in a matter of seconds are among the most popular augmentations. A form of telpathy through biological radio-like devices is emerging.

  • The cloud-lords are biological chauvinists and feel revulse when confronted with the idea of cybernetic augmentation. This attitude is parcially motivated by the Catholic Church’s fears of “excessive dehumanization”, by the earth-like pride of the venusian colonies and by hostility towards the fully mechanical hell-creepers.

  • The only major geopolitical player in Venus which doesn’t fall under the Brazillian sphere of influence is the Empire of New Nihon. The empire, formally a continuation of the now-deposed Japanese monarchy on Earth, achieved prominence for it’s technological expertise and expansionist policies (they assumed control of most of the former chinese colonies after the downfall of system C). They have a very different culture from the Commonwealth, not being so hostile towards the non-biological. In fact, a large portion of the nihonese population is cybernetically enhanced and happened to be ruled by the Tokugawa AI, which was invited by the Emperor to assume the role of Shogun. The nihonese are known for their extensive telepathic net and for their ubiqutuous use of virtual and augmented reality. The most popular videogames (mostly VR videogames) in the solar system are develped in Nihon, and they can be generally played either through head-gears either through neural implants.

Hell-creeper society

  • Being among the most politically, socially and culturally diverse peoples in the solar system the hell-creepers often enter in conflict with each other. Being used to function as a single mind in their everyday lives, the solid collectives are terrible team players and have difficulty finding understandings with entities which are not part of them. Despite this, some collectives are quite peacefull and make a serious effort to live in harmony with every one.

  • Wars between different collectives frequently occur. Since Venus’s extremely thick atmosphere and highly unreliable metereological conditions make ballistics quite tricky, melee combat has reemerged as the primary way of war (I have to research this better, but sounds plausible). Most wars are merely intended to drive the enemy out of a certain territory, since destroying a whole collective is extremely difficult. However, some of the most powerfull and genocidal collectives have managed to perform hive-kills, which means that they managed to completely wipe other collectives from the face of the planet.

  • There are 3 main types of collectives: the imperialist-militarists (IM-cols), the nihilistic-hedonists (NH-cols) and the philosophical-rationalists (PR-cols). The IM-cols consider dominance over land and people to be their primary goal, the NH-cols reject the idea that they need to have in life and dedicate themselves to the quest for new and intense pleasing sensations and the PR-cols are interested in the deep truths about the universe through the ways of science, philosophy and rationality. The K’phlor collective, to which our deuteragonist belongs is a PR-collective.

Vena’s Augmetation

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is the process through which Vena aquired her posthuman abilities. I thought I might add some detail to make the story more interesting.

I thought that she could have been injected with a solution containing nanomachines and pluripotent stem cells. The nanomachines would scan the brain and the rest of the nervous sytem and then place markers in the adequate places for the pluripotent cells to install themselves and grow new neurons. Another type of nanomachines would also build several different types of para-neurons (made of non-organic new materials) which are faster and more effective than normal neurons. Finally, there would be a third type of nanomachines which would installs small computer (with traditional von-neuman architecture) in speciffic parts of the brain so that Vena could instantly perform calculations and other processes which would be extremely slow and unreliable when done a brain or some kind of “neural machine”

Other things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Vena’s characterization and her posthuman mind-set. This will be a challenge because I want to make her simulataneously relatable and superhuman.

  • Lor’s personality and posthuman mind-set. How does the K’phlor collective think and how does a part of it develop when separated from the rest?

  • A few plot details.

I’ll write more tommorow. Let me know what you think

3 Likes

I think that’s an excellent start and I really love most of your ideas. I will write a more extensive reply tomorrow. Just writing this to let you know that I definitely appreciate your efforts! :smiley:

1 Like

Ok, let’s get down to business

These are complex issues here. We are dealing with the evolution of systems we don’t know very much about. It’s hard to guess when, where, and how system V will emerge. Also, the transition between system D and system V will probably be a very gradual one, probably taking make decades. I think it’s most likely that system V would emerge out of the collective efforts of all of humanity – or at least those parts of humanity who are interested in such a system. Perhaps interest in system V will rise dramatically due to a systemic crisis of system D. I think it won’t be an economic crisis, but more of a political and philosophical crisis. Perhaps something that has to do with posthumanity diverging so much in their morphologies, cultures, and philosophies that relations between different groups become increasingly problematic. System V would act as unifying framework for those groups who adapt it. Over the course of many decades, the system D groups should eventually recognize the advantage of that and transition to system V. By the end of the 22nd century, almost all groups should have deeply integrated system V into their culture. The rest will be seen like the Amish are seen today.

In some sense, it seems plausible that the hell creepers will develop system V, because they are mired in a state of costly and traumatic conflicts with other collectives. The collectives could be seen as analogue to the ancient Greek city states. Progress flourished under those conditions. Also, since the hell creepers are basically radical colonists, they are less likely to be slowed down by cultural baggage from Earth’s long history. They will be able to create something better from scratch.

However, I think it’s too early to say whether the 2090s or the 2110s or some other decade would be the best to settle the story in. We probably need to work more on the timeline, first.

Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I think the suit should have an advanced AGI. So, we have one more character in our story that could spice things up a bit. :slightly_smiling: I guess the cloud lords would have less problems with having AGI assistants who can swap avatars than uploading their own minds and controlling avatars. They’d probably send down AGI drones down to the hell creepers, if they want to gather information about them, if at all. Going down there on their own would most certainly seem quite crazy. I assume that Vena therefore would have to go to New Nihon to get such a suit and travel down to the surface.

The thing about Roman catholicism adapting to the changes in the 21st century is not quite implausible. But I think it would make sense to add in some schism between Terran and Venusian “catholicism” to make things a bit more interesting. Perhaps the Venusian might want to have their own pope. A pope who lives in a totally different culture would probably not be accepted as spiritual leader.

I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to have the colonies even formally be part of a Terran nation. It’s just totally inappropriate. It may work for a few decades, but at least the first generation growing up on Venus will revolt against being governed by a distant point in the sky.

Also, as I said above, I think it’s unlikely for the economy of the cloud lords to face a serious crisis, unless it’s a relative crisis that’s caused by their bioconservatism.

Haha, I can really imagine that this kind of Terran retro culture could take off. :smile:

Ok, seems fitting the general theme. They might settle for organic nanobots for neural enhancements and telepathy.

Yes, that fits the general theme, too. Though it’s a bit weird that they accept deep intrusion with “organic” methods, but reject “inorganic” forms of enhancement. Well, let’s just say that humans still haven’t managed to be rational and logically consistent around the turn of the 22nd century. I guess that’s more believable than I’d like to admit. :unamused:

I think it’s good that you added the Nipponese. They Terran Japanese have a very interesting culture, and it’s interesting how that would be fitting to an environment like Venus, and how that culture might adapt and evolve in such an environment.

Ok, so you say the hell creepers have difficulties understanding the mentality of other collectives? That seems to be rather plausible, especially when considering their large cultural diversity.

The idea about melee combat is interesting, but I think even on Venus it would only play a minor role. Let’s consider a bullet: It’s basically a dumb drone that punches a hole through you. If you replace the dumb with smart, and add some steering capabilities, then you’ve got a smart missile with ballistic payload. That’s still much better than and short ranged melee weapon. So, I’d rather assume that using smart projectiles would be the primary way of waging warfare. Perhaps even nuclear (or even antimatter) weapons would be used. Compact fusion warheads wouldn’t even cause a lot of nuclear fallout. However, with such kinds of weapons there would of course be the threat of mutually assured destruction which is effectively preventing direct wars between the Terran nations who have those weapons. I don’t know how to reconcile the idea of large scale wars on the surface on Venus with advanced nuclear weaponry. It would seem that an collective with an advanced nuclear arsenal should be pretty immune against being attacked directly. Terrorism might still happen, inflicted by marginalized groups, just as we currently have some terrorism on Earth.

I think designing the different kinds of collectives needs more work. They should be so diverse that they are even hard to categorize.

Yes, makes sense. Everything except the para-neurons and the von-Neumann computer would probably already be the status quo in the cloud lord society, though.

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Thanks for replying. As usual, your thoughts were very helpful

The story must be set on a time that meets the following criteria:

  • The tensions between cloud-lords and hell-creepers must have been going on for a while. Since the first hell-creepers would only land on the surface in the early 2080’s, or, with luck, late 2070s, the two cultures wouldn’t have had the time to develop true hatred for each other by the 2090s. Ten years are just not enough to build that kind of tensions.

  • A significant portion of the population must be fed up with system D and willing to leave it behind. Of course, the solid collectives will probably hate the system since the moment they wake up, so they will certainly start experimenting with new social systems as soon as possible. Examples of proto-V Systems will probably have been in existence for decades by the 2110’s, but these will probably be fringe phenomenoms, restricted to the surface of Venus and a few more awkward places. As you said, the main cause for the decline of system D will probably be the transition to posthumanity (although I’m not sure economic crisis wouldn’t happen, I mean, no system is perfect), so I guess that the rate at which human augmentation progresses will be the thing to determine the deadline of system D. But still, it takes time for most people to even start considering turning their backs on a system, especially if that’s a system for which they thought in the past (even if for some reason immortality isn’t invented, and in our timeline it is, many of the early defendents of system D would probably still be alive by the end of the century). When system D starts to crack society will react in three stages: first, it will deny the crisis, secondly, it will try to reform system D in order to make more suitable for the new times, and finally it will painfully choose to adopt system V. So, I don’t think it’s very likely that the Big Change could still happen in this century. We must consider basic human psychology when we speculate on the evolution of societies.

Yeah, that may be a good idea. I think I might make the AI non-sentient at first, so that I can focus on the ralationship between Vena and Lor and than make it gain sentience as the story progresses.

I actually thought that she could build it herself, you know, being a transhuman genius girl and all. She could get the parts she needed from nipponese traders and download a few technical expertise programs into her mind, and then let her intellect do the rest of the job.

Maybe, schisms have happened before in the catholic church after all.

I don’t think that way. The original colonists will probably be (in large part) patriotic Brazillians, and they would try to pass that patriotism to their children.

The european colonies in America and Africa took centuries to revolt agains their sovereigns, and many of them did that somewhat reluctanctly. I know that the distance between Earth and Venus is a lot bigger than the distance between Europe and America, but the transportation difficulties are comparable (considering the different stages of technology), and communication will probably be easier (since information now travels at the speed of light).

You make a very good point by mentioning smart projectiles. Maybe warfare in 22nd century Venus would be comparable to warfare in 17th century Earth. You know, when people used mostly rifles and cannons but still reverted to swords and spears in some situations.

There will be a few complications with smart bullet warfare:

  • Smart bullets will have a complex structure and require their own propulsion engines and fuel.

  • Unless each bullet has its own AI (which would be impracticable, I think), their programming will have to be regularily adjusted accordingly to the metereological conditions.

I think it’s plausible to assume that, when the collectives run out of bullets they may just throw themselves at each other and start fighting with their bodies.

Nuclear and antimatter weapons would be used mostly for hive-kills

Yeah, you’re right, I did that kind of in rush. I actually think that we should start a topic about this.

Yeah, but I think those things would probably be enough to make Vena stand-out quite a lot.