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23 August 2011 @ 05:57 pm
Fictional Facts of the Phoenix Empire Part three - Economy  
Long time coming, here's the third part of the 'Fictional Facts' - highlighting money and the ways of gaining it in the Phoenix Empire.


Fictional Facts of the Phoenix Empire Part three - Economy


Basics

The three castes of the Phoenix Empire - nobles, commoners and slaves - create three distinct and co-dependent economic layers.

In this context it is important to remember that the three castes have vastly different and consciously segregated lifestyles. While slaves live in what can basically be called medieval circumstances, commoners of the Phoenix Empire enjoy all amenities of a comparable 20th century lifestyle. Nobles, at the same time, live in what can only be described as high-science-fiction setting, with all the borderline magical technology that implies.

Both an effect of and reason for those different lifestyles are the professions the different castes usually take up, or rather, are allowed to take up.

Slaves are considered unfit to do anything beyond simple menial labour, be that at a farm or in a factory. On many planets, even the ability to read and write, for a slave, is punishable by death.

Anything remotely calling for any level of education (that is, anything beyond knowing how to write your name) is the domain of the commoners. Commoners are the ones running the trade of the Empire. They own the factories, the ships and the guild-enforced patents that protect their intellectual property. Also, commoners run the public finance and banking system of the Empire and own the vast majority of the slaves that are not serfs.

Nobles, in general, do not have jobs, they have titles. No noble would ever sign anything as demeaning as a long-term work contract, or even admit to being in need of a regular income. Nobles own the very ground slaves and commoners work on, they control the military and hold the monopoly on taxes, last of which is their only official source of income. As all real estate property belongs to the nobility, only nobles can own serfs.

Also notable in this context is the fact that merely 1 percent of population is commoners, and there is roughly only one noble per 1000 commoners.
This steep decline in numbers is balanced by an equally steep increase of available knowledge and technology. This creates a great surplus of very cheap if relatively unskilled labour, and in consequence only a tiny fraction of the income of the lower strata has to be skimmed to create immense gains for the ones above.

This situation leads to a very interesting pricing and purchasing power structure that in part is responsible for the relative stability of the Phoenix Empire.


Currency, Denominations and Coinage

The official currency of the Phoenix Empire is the ‘credit’, with ‘millas’ as 1/1000th part of a credit. Any attempt over the last centuries to stick a more colourful name to the currency have faded away or failed outright.

Minting is the monopoly of the Emperor. Coins minted range from one milla to one credit in an abundance of steps. The most common coin by far is the simple credit, followed by the 10, 100 and 500 milla coin.

Names for coins vary with location, and often historic local currencies live on, i.e. the Habichtswald ‘Groschen’ for a 10 milla (sometimes 100 milla) coin on former Habichtswald planets. Also, among people who’ll probably only ever deal with millas, they often refer to them as ‘credits’ as well.

So while there is only one currency in the Phoenix Empire, the names can (and will be) confusing.

Depending on the prevalent level of technology on a given world, transactions above ‘a handful of credits’ are either paid by credit-card, IOU’s or the literal ‘chest of gold’. Transactions below one milla are generally solved via barter.


Prices and Purchasing Power

Due to the social structure of the Empire (and part of the reason for the very same) is the vastly disparate purchasing power of the three strata.

Basically, all goods produced by slaves and needed to uphold their negligible living standards (further referred to as ‘slave goods’) have become ridiculously cheap. This applies to simple food, simple housing, simple clothing.
‘Commoner goods’ encompass diverse food, general health care, diverse housing, mass-produced entertainment and clothing and some level of travel and technology.
‘Noble goods’, unsurprisingly, are over-the-top expensive, and encompass any kind of luxury items and services and any access to technology beyond, say, a cell-phone.

So, for the sake of illustration, one can assume that ‘slave goods’ only cost 1/1000th of the price they would demand in an unbiased economy, while ‘noble goods’ command a thousand times the price. Please note that the differentiation between ‘noble, commoner and slave goods’ is not consciously made within the Phoenix Empire, but is visible through all transactions and silently enforced by all those who sufficiently understand the mechanisms.

Example:
As this kind of biased purchasing power is hard to explain without a lot of big words, I will try to give a comparison with prices we know.
Imagine buying a pair of decent denims here in our world today. It will probably cost you about 100 EUR/$/whatever, but the actual amount is not important. Whatever the price, the same amount of money would roughly buy you fifteen simple meals or a fifth of a really nifty mobile phone or a simple laptop computer.

Transferring the example to a commoner buying goods in the Phoenix Empire:
Buying a pair of decent denims will pretty much ‘hurt’ his wallet as it would ‘hurt’ ours, so, his purchasing power towards ‘commoner goods’ is pretty much the same as ours.
But for the same price, this commoner would be able to buy him enough simple food (i.e. junkfood, gruel, local & seasonal vegetables) to supply him for a little less than fourteen years.
Buying a laptop, though, would set him back the price of 5.000 denims, or as much as a solid two-family-house with garden in our universe.


So, while buying goods of a level higher than your status is generally possible, it will always be a once-in-your-lifetime purchase.

This immense inequality of the Phoenix Empire, oddly enough, creates several mechanisms that enforce and stabilize the very structure that created them.

The most obvious one is that it cleans ‘contraband’ technology from those castes it doesn’t belong to. Almost every slave finding a handgun, or commoner finding a piece of nanite healing potion, will rather try and sell those then keeping it. From the point of view of the slave, one gun is less useful and more dangerous to him than the fact that he and his family will never go hungry again if he sells it. Also, the commoner will rather exchange one nanite potion against a life-long medical insurance for himself and his family, even if this will only cover ‘normal’ medical technologies.


Inflation

Due to the fact that the Phoenix Empire is a vast, mostly isolated system with only one currency and has so far been carefully steered by people valuing sustainability over short-term profitability, inflation is hardly a problem.

Also, there are several prices that are historically ‘fixed’ and will not be undercut or overpaid and consequentially add further fix points to the pricing structure. For example, the minimum price for a slave will always be three credits, see upcoming story of the same name for details.

The current increase of trade with external systems (Coron, Aliaerean, Youh’Kai’Nor, etc) does pose a significant threat to the stability, and it remains to be seen how the Empire will be able to adapt.


Taxes

Taxes are only collected by the nobility and form their most important and only ‘acceptable’ source of income.

Taxes can only be collected from other nobles within your fief and from guilds running businesses there. Commoners and slaves are never taxed directly, though they may be tolled at gates, bridges or special roads.

A special form of taxes is the income ‘harvested’ from serfs. Usually, serfs support their ‘direct’ (lowest ruling, most local) noble in form of a share of their produce and products. Often, guilds are charged by a noble to collect and sell those shares in return for a percentage of the sales. Occasionally, in times of war (or empty coffers), a percentage of serfs can be sold as slaves to both reduce the population as well as bring in some additional cash.

As taxes are the lifeblood of the nobility, tax evasion is a crime that is rarely dared and swiftly and harshly punished.

As a sidenote, ‘being exempt from all further taxes for the rest of his life’ is a status the Emperor hands out as highest honour only. It is reserved to those whose deeds for the Empire could not possibly be repaid and symbolizes that the Emperor and thus the Empire is forever indebted and will not dare to make any further demands.


Guild Fees

Guilds collect fees from their registered members, which basically is a euphemism for the protection racket the guilds are. Non-guild-members are either forbidden and / or violently discouraged of doing business on guild territory.


Artists, Artisans and ‘artisan technology’

One very interesting oddity of this system is the fact that talented commoner artists and artisans end up cherished, well paid and afforded luxurious and coveted lifestyles.

Most commoners have little to no interest in or money for live entertainment or custom made goods.
On the other hand, nobles with their constant need to show off are willing and able to spend a lot of money on real talent, hoping to be able to show them off as ‘their’ discovery. Logically, they can not possibly afford to have their latest darling become commonplace, that is, their ‘pet artist’ taking on commissions from other people or appearing on stage at some other noble’s court.

So, as soon as an artist / artisan reaches a certain renown, a ‘bidding war’ between interested nobles begins, with each one of them trying to coax the artist into some kind of long-term agreement of exclusivity. This can lead to nobles making staggering promises of patronage to an artist, with all those nobles who had their offer rejected keeping a very close eye on them actually being met.

In this context it is important to note that very high-level technology is so rare and those skilled in development and maintenance of such machines are so few that high-tech specialists and tinkerers are treated as artisans in the Phoenix Empire.

 
 
Current Mood: happy
 
 
 
BerthaBlueberthablue on August 23rd, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
In the first section: "Also notable in this context is the fact that merely 1 percent of population is commoners, and there is roughly only one noble per 1000 commoners."

Should it be 1 percent is *nobles* instead of 1 percent is commoners? Because if 1% of the population is commoners, and .1% of the commoner population is nobles, that means that there would have to be, like, 100,000 slaves for every noble.

Fascinating explanation of the economics - I love the way the system perpetuates itself!
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on August 24th, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
You are right, it IS a damn lot of slaves per noble. I've crunched a few numbers, and this is the relation I ended up with that is both halfway credible, reflects the tech increase and seems sustainable. Maybe we'll have to adjust the number of commoners at some point in time, but I think with about 2 million nobles all over the Empire, we have more than enough.

Also, most of the slaves are serfs (say, 80% of the overall population) and live pretty much unsupervised as long as they pay their tithe (or tenth, or whatever the local noble calls his share these days). So the number of slaves that have to be 'actively yoked' is much less and the numbers much more in favour of the controlling elites.

Sorry to give this information only now, but I am constantly struggling to keep unnecessary information and ramblings about historical sidenotes out of the Fictional Facts. I thought it would be not that vital here while writing the entry, but now I agree that this part would have helped, after all.

Thanks for taking the time to read at all and comment!

Edited at 2011-08-24 06:30 am (UTC)
BerthaBlueberthablue on August 24th, 2011 06:49 am (UTC)
Ahh, that makes sense. I presume the serfs are relatively content with their lot in life? Because a 100,000 to 1 noble + 1,000 commoner revolt would seem imminent - although, it does seem that the upper castes have technology on their side.
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on August 24th, 2011 06:57 am (UTC)
Yes, the serfs are relatively content and apart from the 'taxes' and the fact that they are not allowed to move out of their fief, they live quite happily. Not as happily as the commoners, though, but still.

Also, taking into account the numbers above and the fact that most proper slaves are owned by commoners, the relations would be
1 noble to 80.000 (relatively peaceful) serfs
1 commoner to 20 (relatively volatile) slaves



Edited at 2011-08-24 06:57 am (UTC)
BerthaBlueberthablue on August 24th, 2011 06:59 am (UTC)
Ahh, that makes more sense, then. The volatile ones can be a bit more difficult!
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on August 25th, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
Interesting divisions – and I like the way you've qualified it. I'm sure you get a few spoiled young nobles running away to join the circus or the stage, or some other glamorous lifestyle (I suppose a lot less join the church now that it's insisting on piety and probably a certain level of austerity as well), though I doubt that would last terribly long once they realized how much work that was.

What would happen – what does happen – when a noble educates his (or her? Women's place in this world is an interesting unknown and one that appears to vary between cultures) slaves to take what are usually commoner's jobs? Obviously highly trained courtesans like Wes are at least a partial exception, but looking at Leesha's household: his housekeeper, secretary, and bed-warmer are all slaves, but the guards around the palace are all free, and there have been indications that some of the castle servants are also. How many commoners have positions as servants to nobles, or are they more likely to be owners of their own businesses etc.?

I'm especially interested in the graded levels of technology. Medieval for slaves – assumes a reasonable grasp of technology but no mass-production etc. What part of the 20th century are you focusing on for the commoners? Since that was after the industrial revolution in our time, can we assume mass-production and factories with lots of pollution, or do most commoners utilize their slaves to create a more medieval production line where items are crafted more slowly but with more care, and often last longer?

You talk about the different levels of goods selling in different price ranges. How does this show in staples such as the wheat that can be ground into flour, that is then either bleached and refined for white flour or left more coarse for wheat flour? At what point would the prices diverge, and would the white flour or the wheat be more expensive there? After all, both of these are used in different kinds of bread and baking for the tables of both the lowest commoners here and the highest strata of society. How different are the foods (both in terms of ingredients and preparation) that nobles and slaves eat, both every day and at nobles' feasts? Or do nobles and commoners simply never have to think about food prices because everything is so cheap?

Ooo, and you're promising stories now? I can't wait to find out more about the varying degrees and prices of slavery. For instance, serfdom sounds rather comfortable, spending one's whole life in a stable job with your family, while a life like Roberts, traveling often, never certain how long you'll be in one place or what precisely you're meant to do, is most definitely not. And yet I think that Robert would be much further up in the hierarchy than any of the serfs, no matter how little any of them would want to be him.
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on August 25th, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
Part 2
Tax dodging is rare, but how common is tax fraud? It's difficult to tell just how detailed the records of each place are, but they appear to be much less inclusive than ours, where our governments would find it pretty easy to discover exactly where we are and what we're doing at all times unless we're specifically trying to avoid notice. So while guilds may be too afraid to cheat nobles out of their share of their profits, how often do they do things like demand more than the official tax when legally collecting their shares from serfs, at toll booths etc.? Are the tax collectors hated as much as they historically have been?

And – I actually wonder a little about where and how the system of trade works. Are guilds composed entirely of commoners or do they include nobles, and do these guilds encompass trade, shipping, etc? How does the system of transport affect the economy – and therefore how do these instant teleporters work and how fast are most ships? Do you have a “lightspeed” where travellers experience time differently than the rest of the word or is transportation fast enough that this is not an issue?

On artists, what types of art are valued currently in vogue? I mean, the types of art that have gained such patronage historically are visual and literary, so we'd have poets and novelists and playwrights and actors and then painters and sculptors and architects and people who designed fancy dinnerware etc., but in different time periods different branches and styles have been in vogue. For instance today people patronize painters, sculptors and poets but not so much attention is given to playwrights and actors – and popular music is much more lucrative than private (speaking of which, do your commoners have gramophones? I forget when they were first invented.) whereas in the reign of Queen Elizabeth much more attention was paid to playwrights – and to architects who designed temporary sets for the stage. On the other hand, artisan technology makes perfect sense and has a long history. Kings and queens have had astrological sets etc. set up in court to show off their pet artisans.

On the information in the comments: I assume that either some of these serfs have positions as overseers and have organized into general village structures. And I rather suspect that some of the serfs are happier than the commoners. Research has suggested that increased levels of technology and “equality” may have had a detrimental effect on overall happiness levels, since a lot of happiness is being content with what one has rather than having more, and people with fewer prospects are usually less afflicted with the kind of ambition that makes them miserable and jealous all their lives.
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on August 25th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
First of all, I have to repeat how much fun it is for me / for us to have you bombard us with questions. It gives us a lot of insight on what to explain further, and every time you guess something right it confirms that we got it right and believable in at least some regards. So thanks a ton, keep on asking!

Runaways
Sure there are runaways, both for real and more romantic reasons, and rumours abound on who is actually a noble in disguise. The current mood of the church may deter some potential novices with their newfound spirituality and yes, austerity, but exactly the same reasons are pulling in a new generation of believers.

Slaves in commoner jobs
Slaves in commoner jobs are rare but not uncommon (npi). Commoners frown on this practice as it takes away well-paid jobs from them, but as there are only relatively few nobles, those numbers are never going to pose a real threat and are generally dismissed as eccentricities.
Slaves serving in noble households are called ‘householders’ and form a special group of their own. Often, long-serving families of householders somehow migrate from serf to slave to commoner status over the generations, and being allowed to carry the name of the estate they served on as their surname is a badge of high honour among householder commoners.

Role of Women
The role of women in society (or men, for that matter) strongly depends on the convictions of the local ruling house on the matter. So while Dracon and van der Meer environments can be considered perfectly equal places, other houses differ significantly. Castella have to adhere to a certain decorum according to their gender, but are still considered equal in skills and rank. Cournicova men are considered too emotionally fragile to be trusted with anything but breeding. And Jehanni women, alas, are just marginally better off than slaves.

Grades of technology
Of course, what is appropriate technology for each strata depends on the place you’re at. Generally, though, you can assume at everything up to and including a complex loom is considered ‘medieval’ and fit for slave use. Anything using clockwork gear, steam or electricity is considered commoner tech up to simple electronics and computers. One can assume mid 20th century tech for most commoners (no electronics but, yes, grammophones), end of 20th century for high-tec worlds (electronics, computers and basic, informative (as opposed to communicative) internet services).
Everything above can only be safely owned and used by the nobility.

Style of the economy and emphasis on sustainability and quality depends mostly on the local preferences: While i.e. Del’Morad is renowned for its sturdy, low-tec and high-quality products, Yaiciz has a name for cheapest, sweat-shop produced, occasionally toxic wares.

Grades of goods and food
The ‘grading’ of goods into slave/commoner/noble goods depends more on the location and the local possibilities than on the product itself.
Refined white flour, to stick with your example, would be slave goods on Yaiciz (high-tec, low-income), whereas it would be at least commoner goods on Triticum (a basically tech-less agricultural planet). Fresh strawberries, on the other hand, would be slave goods on Triticum (commoner goods if out of season), but noble goods on Guild Central (high-tec, no ecosphere).

The descriptions in the post above were deliberately picked this nebulously - slave food is plain and simple food, whatever that means in the local context, commoner food is varied and of good quality but not exotic for the given location, etc.

To give some illustration, I’ll add a few examples, beginning with the planet, then a typical slave meal, a typical commoner and then a typical noble meal.
Triticum: gruel, an apple or a hard-boiled egg / chicken stew and bread, fruit, local wine / salad, pheasant, roasted potatoes, buttered vegetables, cakes and candied fruit, shirazan wine
Yaiciz: ‘bread’, ‘coffee’ and one cigarette / pizza, caffeinated soft drink, ice-cream and a bag of chips / salads from Triticum, shirazan fowl and wine, Leichnam lobster with Aliaerean spices, local coffee and brandy
P2 (capital world): cold fish and rice / blob-on-a-stick, a hot kebab wrap and a muffin to-go / *off the charts*
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on August 25th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
Food availability
As you rightly assumed, neither commoners nor nobles will probably ever have to wonder if they will have enough food as food is all but ubiquitous, at least at the lowest level of refinement and quality.

Promised stories
Hmm... *looks at his little box of stories-to-write* Well, aside from ‘Three Credits’, you’re probably also looking forward to ‘The demon-witches of Leichnam’, which will give you a perfect view into a rural community where serfs and commoners are hardly distinguishable and (relatively) happy. Maybe ‘The Kebab Killer’, too, as it will highlight the commoner/noble dynamics nicely, though maybe you’re just into the slavery … ^^

Tax fraud
Of course, everyone is trying to rip off the Emperor a little. And given the fact that hardly any kind of organized documentation exist, it is well possible to do so.
Tax fraud on a large scale, though, requires a significant amount of criminal energy and, like tax evasion, is hardly ever considered worth the trouble. Especially among commoners and nobles, there is a nice network of peer control in effect, as everyone ensures his ‘neighbour’ pays at least as much taxes as one self, and sometimes quite violently so.

Tax collectors.
Generally, taxes are levied by yearly decree of the profiting noble, as opposed to a fixed and publicly known system of percentages. So while this may be absolutely unfair and inviting any kind of abuse, it is also a system that can instantly be adapted, changed, or skipped all together for one year. So while a ‘bad’ noble can and will use this to mercilessly drain his fief, most others will use their privilege of decision and only take what their subjects can give without cutting too deep.
As many harsh and obvious disadvantages a system of hereditary absolutist nobility is, one (rare) advantage is the general emphasis on sustainability over short-term profits.

As with so many things, the public view on tax collectors varies with the houses they collect the taxes for. While Dracon collectors are free to make the occasional coin on the side by whatever means they like and are accordingly despised, the dry-as-bones bureaucrats of House van der Meer are disliked at worst, sometimes even silently pitied.

Guilds and tolling / taxes
To put it shortly - Guilds try to cheat on everyone at everything and succeed about as often as not.
But, as already mentioned with tax fraud, this is true only for small ‘inaccuracies’. Big rip-offs usually end up with a lot of dead people on all sides involved and thus are considered bad risk-to-reward ratios.

Guilds and their jobs
Guilds consist exclusively of commoners and do basically everything that brings money - production, transport, trade, banking and all kinds of services.

Interplanetary Transport
The only means of interplanetary transport are the jumpgates, giant constructs that connect with each other and allow almost instantaneous travel between them. Due to the harsh spatial shockwaves these gates produce with each jump, they are almost always located on the fringe of the system, usually about two weeks flight away from the main inhabited planet. Human ships travel at high sub-luminal speeds but way below the critical mark to incur mentionable relativistic effects. So far, the only human ship known to posses supra-c capabilities on its own is the the Imperial flagship, the Excalibur.

Up until the foundation of the psions’ guild, the spacers’ guild held the monopoly on interstellar travel. After some violent initial disagreements, the two guilds have settled their differences and now have clear niches defines for each other: While the spacers conduct mass- and low-cost-transport, the psions’ guild covers luxury goods and perishables as well as noble travellers with too little time and too much money.
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on August 25th, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2
The arts
Since the reign of Emperor Hyperion I (the first Dracon Emperor), opera has been the cultural ‘battlefield’ of the great houses. Mainly singers, but also composer and directors are vied for and live pampered lifestyles as long as they ‘perform’.
Popular music and filmed entertainment on the other hand is firmly in the hand of the commoners and thus considered a little vulgar to meddle.

Apart from that, each house has its own special pet subjects, and I’ll try to list the most obvious ones following:
Dracon: cybernetics, couturiers, cosmetic surgeons
Jehanni: calligraphers, dancers, silk-weavers, jewellers
Castella: weaponsmiths, novelists, ‘serious’ actors
van der Meer: painters, scribes, architects, book-binders
Cournicova: hunters, weaponsmiths, architects

Serfs, village structure and happiness
Damn, A+!
Actually it makes me (us) proud to see that with the tiny bits we have described so far you can come to the perfectly right conclusion. Apparently, we’re getting the basics right here.
So yes, the serfs form village structures with elders or mayors running the local community. If this smacks a little of the hautgout of democracy, that is purely coincidental and of course never true.
And yes, as long as they are not prodded with a stick, serfs and commoners a rather happy with their lot. After all, desire begins with what you see daily, and there is little day-to-day contact between the varying lifestyles. And finally, yes, serfs over all are probably happier than the commoners, even though either one of them would be hard pressed to believe it.

Cherry on top
As a funny last bit, the average lifespan of a slave is about 30 years, the average lifespan of a commoner about 80. And even though single nobles are known to have lived several centuries, the average noble doesn’t get older than 65 years.
Life’s a bitch, isn’t it?
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on August 26th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2
Oh, not suggesting that the church is suffering due to its new policies – just that it's no longer among the glamorous alternate lifestyles for young and feckless idiots to dream of. I actually think it would be doing much better, especially among the commoners and those nobles who don't really like all the politics and backstabbing that come with power. Does the church get slave novitiates? Is it allowed to take novitiates from among the slaves or would that be theft again?

Your tech levels are pretty much what I was thinking – very much late 20th century rather than early. Little surprised at the “informative not communicative” Internet, since for us, at least, the communicative function came first and is therefore arguably less complex. Is this a 'publishing anything is controlled by the nobles' thing, or a restriction of communication?

These stories you're promising sound wonderful. And I will admit to being more fascinated by your slavery than some of the other aspects of your world (the nobility, for instance, may provide us with some fascinating stories but they're not – at least so far – particularly engrossing to study the economic and daily life of) primarily because it's the most surprising part of the world. I mean, almost-magical sci-fi is pretty common (and I read a lot of it) and I'm quite familiar with the European system of nobility and politics on which your nobles are based.

Your commoners are slightly harder to get a handle on, since they're an interesting blend of Victoriana (and I love Queen Victoria. I tend to think of her as the last great English monarch, although I'm sure the later rulers are interesting too.) and modern 21st century tech. It's a bit difficult to figure out their mental stage in there and how far they are on the sliding scale of monarchy to democracy, since in our world, the majority of the changes that have been made socially, politically, and philosophically since the Victorian age are the result of the growing tendency of men to declare themselves equal. Unfortunately for our current discussion, that's the kind of thing that comes out much more strongly in fiction than in these lovely Fictional Facts.
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on August 26th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2
Your system of slavery, on the other hand, is pretty much entirely new. There seem to be less slave rights than there have been in any slave-owning nation that I can remember. Rome's slaves officially didn't own property and were at their master's disposal, but they were often as well or better-educated than their masters, took the sort of casual liberties that we associate with servants up until the rigid Victorian ages, and often bought themselves free from their masters. American slaves tended to be less educated than Roman slaves, but there were still quite a few slaves who bought their freedom, and they never managed to settle into a stable society. There was always an undercurrent of stark terror on the part of the slave-owners from the very beginning of plantation slavery to the end of the American Civil War. Your society manages to be both more rigid (and perhaps I should be comparing it to the Hindu caste structure) and more stable, and I'm really interested in how you've managed to do that.

A completely arbitrary levy of taxes makes documentation a lot less necessary – and is probably maintained in part for just that reason. Can you imagine nobles trying to wade through as much paperwork as we produce for the population of an entire planet? This way, they can get a general notion of how each village or area is doing and alter taxes based on that, which makes lovely sense.

Interesting transport system. It ends up with a lovely naval system this way, doesn't it? And the gateways must be huge prizes whenever it comes to war. How were these invented? Are they one of those “it happens really really rarely in nature, but we saw it once and so tried to replicate it” things or are they entirely the product of someone's imagination? And what kind of tech or special materials are needed to build or maintain them? I'm interested in how the psions guild interacts with this also. Is this a matter of psionic ability to transport matter (I'm thinking of Anne McCaffrey's later Pegasus books, if you've read them)?

Lovely artistic structure there. I wonder how much repetition of plays and operas they get (with the plays that perform nearly every season because they're just that popular, like Shakespeare today) and how financially dangerous it is to put on new and daring performances. I expect that there are comparatively few political plays and films? Those tend to disrupt the stability that this world seems to prize so highly. Do they have something like the 18th century censor of plays (which office was actually created primarily in order to suppress the political plays of Henry Fielding) or the more modern cinematic censors (although most of the world I've seen so far seems much less sexually prudish than we are as a culture) in order to keep plays and films at the proper “bread and circuses” level?
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on August 26th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2
On lifespans, I completely understand the average slave lifespan – about right for the Middle Ages – but why is the commoner lifespan longer than our average today? Do they have access to better medications – as one major exception to their average tech level – or are we talking about some sort of genetic component that stops them from getting some of the diseases we have today? I mean, it's not a large difference (I think we're around 75-8 depending on country, gender, etc) but it is interesting. And the noble lifespan makes me laugh. Killing off the competition indeed. I wonder how much longer you live if you're completely nonthreatening (that silly younger brother/sister who's only interested in their art and who fills your house with pictures that you can't politely burn).

I love reading these Fictional Facts and building a better picture of the world in my mind. It's so much fun to properly situate everything and to imagine different scenarios and how everything fits together. I do wonder about the relation of this world to ours. Is it meant to be our world that diverged at some point in the timeline, or a completely separate set of universes. Is there a Terra anywhere?
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on August 26th, 2011 11:28 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2
Slave Novices
Generally, the church can take novices from whoever they damn well please. Being ordained is one of the few official ways to get out of slave status (the others are being married or adopted by a noble or a commoner or being knighted).
But of course, if the novice in question is a slave (and not a serf), the owner can demand recompensation for his loss, and will often enough even receive some.

Informative Internet
There is no such thing as censorship or restricted posting rights on the few planetary nets existing. It just happens that any kind of social networking sites or personal mail services tend to work very unreliable and suffer from constant technical problems. Apparently, the technology used to build those networks just isn’t cut out do deal with such kind of data structure. A shame, really.

Stable Caste Society
Admittedly, we’re not that sure how we managed it either. But it felt consistent from the first moment we were working in this universe, and as we (including you) continue tugging at the seams, it just seems to confirm our first impression.
Perhaps, I think one difference of the society of the Phoenix Empire to those in our history is that while the different castes are firmly hard-wired into everybody’s mind, those who are unhappy or plain enterprising do have chances to move up. Very hushed-up chances, though, but still. Taking the cloth or marrying a noble are just the legal ways - a serf could very well slip away unnoticed, take up a surname and become a commoner in another town. Such lies are dangerous and have to be planned very carefully, but the mere possibility is what deflects a lot of malcontents from the idea of an all-over revolt.

Jumpgates
All the general population knows and cares to know is that the jumpgates were build by humans before the Fall and the Dark Ages and are using nothing but ‘mundane’ technology, as do the ships of the spacers’ guild.
The teleportation powers of the psions’ guild are unrelated to the jumpgates.
All else is still classified information, I am sorry.


Psion’s Guild
Yes, we’ve read and loved the Pegasus novels. The head of the psions’ guild on any given planet is named a Prime, as a tiny tip-to-the-hat to a great author.
But that’s also where the similarities end. The Guild is a guild, with all the complications this implies, and much less an enterprise. Also, the way the psychic powers work, especially where they pull their energy from, is different and subject of another post, as is the internal structure and the political entanglements of the guild.

Repeating Plays, Risks
Plays (or movies, for that matter) are repeated as long and as often as they are popular, as simple as that.
Just as the plays range from two-man-shows from the back of an ox-cart to lavish productions with a cast of hundreds, their own orchestra and exotic animals, the risks range from negligible to neckbreaking.



Edited at 2011-08-26 11:29 am (UTC)
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on August 26th, 2011 11:29 am (UTC)
Re: Part 2
Censorship
Censorship in the way we know it does not exist in the Phoenix Empire.
Outright insulting plays and speeches are considered slander and are dealt with accordingly - usually by beheading the writer, director and a part of the cast, end of story.
But witty, subversive plays, on the other hand, are actually encouraged. No better way for the nobility to get a feeling for the problems of their subjects than to listen to what’s being played this week on the market square.
Much more importantly, nobles have been in the business of manipulating the public opinion so much longer than some commoner upstart. Plays, movies and TV series, all kinds of popular entertainment are a true cornucopia of propagandist works, with each house, faction, Temple and what not vying to win the hearts and minds of the people.
Remember ‘I believe in miracles’? - Church propaganda or at least advertising.
Or take ‘Even Nobles Cry’, the longest running and most popular soap opera / holonovela of the Empire - pure pro-aristocracy propaganda (And a darn good tear-jerker, besides.)
And of course, the Phoenix Knights - the personal buddy Knights of the Emperor, travelling the Empire, saving the day, stylized to super-heroes with their own movies, plays and merchandise empires.
Any kind of obvious cencorship would look positively petty in this kind of competition.

Lifespans
Well, in my eyes ‘75 to 78 years’ is pretty exactly included in ‘roughly 80 years’. ^^
No, honestly, I just wanted to say ‘basically the same as ours’ and rounded up rather generously. They might actually do live a little longer than us due to the simple fact that rich commoners have access to significantly better medical equipment than us (remember the ‘once-in-your-lifetime-purchase’) but that wouldn’t change the overall life-expectancy much.

Divergence from the ‘real world’
Well, there is not much of a divergence from our world to the one of the Phoenix Empire, it is just about 3.000 years in our future. Earth exists and is the best known holding of the Imperial Church (I think I mentioned that in the according Fictional Facts somewhere... I hope... I should have...). And if there are actual differences between their history and our history so far, well, I don’t think anyone in the Phoenix Empire is sufficiently versed in pre-history to tell the difference.
Maybe we’ll find out together.