The following is set in a particular SF setting of mine. FTL travel is possible, and even cheap, but is also very slow.
Ah, seductive, decadent, cloud-veiled Venus, mankind’s second home! World of romance, recklessness and revolution! Venus may be dwarfed by her older sister, Earth, and overshadowed in the popular imagination by the gaudy exoticism of the extrasolar colonies, but the Queen of Planets remains – or, more accurately, as of the last decade or so is once again – the world with the second-highest population of humans (she has overtaken Degama, thanks to her superior birth-rate).
Venus is, of course, not strictly speaking a habitable world – the surface is hot enough to melt lead, and the air is thick with sulphuric acid. As a result, it is not listed as an official Colony World by the Fleet – unlike 0 Earth or III Degama, it has no number to its name. Its inhabitants don’t mind – they rather like being unique. Not that Venus is the only planet to bear human city-ships in her atmosphere – but where other skyworlds are home to a few lonely homesteads, Venus is crawling with humanity.
One point four billion. That’s more or less how many people live on Venus in 2532 (it’s actually a little more – let’s say 1.41bn for convenience). People tend not to fully realise just how many people there are here. When the Revolution came, there were probably not many more than eighty million Venusians; when the Fleet began to compel migration to the planet in the aftermath of the Invasion, a little over a century ago, there were were still fewer than two hundred million of them. Now there will soon be one and a half billion; the demographers warn that there may be two billion in only a few decades. A few more centuries, and Venus may well be humanity’s homeworld – if the Battutans don’t overtake them.
But rather than sit through a long lecture about this or that element of Venusian (and as will be explained later, even that’s a problematic word) culture, let’s just take a brief look at the lives of a couple of the people living on this planet.
Meet: George and Zylogrius
George Angkor Umbenhauer and his wife, Zylogrius Dragon Nguyen, are two ordinary middle-class, middle-age inhabitants of Venus. George Angkor is sixty-four, while Zylogrius Dragon is fifty-eight.
The couple have five children – more than the norm, though not uncommon. Peter Dragon Umbenhauer is twenty-four, and his sister, Titus Angkor Nguyen, is twenty-one; Miki Zylogrius Nguyen is thirteen, while her twin brothers, Minh Kazpar and Kazpar Minh Umbenhauer, are ten. It is common on Venus to find children born in this ‘pairing’ fashion – children without siblings are rare, as this is seen as cruel, and liable to lead to disturbed personalities.
As can be seen, although George Angkor and Zylogrius Dragon are married, they do not share a surname – instead, Zylogrius Dragon continues to take her mother’s surname, while George Angkor takes his father’s. There is therefore no simple collective name for the family – they are not ‘the Umbenhauers’, and neither are they ‘the Nguyens’. Instead, people will just refer to them as (depending on formality) George and Zylogrius, George Angkor and Zylogrius Dragon, or Umbenhauer and Ng.
Zylogrius Dragon, as her names suggest, is an old-blood Venerean, whose ancestors took part in the Revolution – her surname correctly identifies her maternal line as having been of lower-class stock before the Revolution (a large percentage of the original worker population was drawn from Viet-speaking areas, and Nguyen is one of the most common names on Venus). Specifically, Zylogrius considers herself a Kiprisian by ethnicity, though she herself was born on Pilot III of Vanadia, and the couple now lives on Vanadia VI.
George Angkor, on the other hand, struggles a bit when asked about his ethnicity. He explains that his paternal grandfather migrated from Essen during the Exodus, and that he is, in some sense, a Venusian, and he’s not ashamed of that – but he doesn’t have time for hardline Venusian politics. His parents, both born Venusians (though his mother’s mother was a Venerean, born during the war), decided to distance themselves from Venusianism by adopting an overtly Venerean identity, but George feels that’s a bit disingenuous – in any case, it’s not as though there’s anything wrong with being Venusian! George was born on Armada VI of Ctesiphon, but he doesn’t really consider himself ‘a Ctesiphonian’ (more importantly, Zylogrius doesn’t either, or else she probably wouldn’t have married him!). He’d be more likely to say he was of European ethnicity. (Zylogrius, by contrast, would never say she was of Viet ethnicity – that was centuries ago, and by now she probably has the blood of half the nations of old Earth in her).
The children find it all a lot easier. Peter Dragon and Titus Angkor both call themselves ‘Cytherean’, an identity that can embrace both Venusians and Venereans; more specifically, they call themselves Vanadians, though Titus takes a little more after her mother and calls herself a Vanadian-Kiprisian. These days ‘Cytherean’ has come to be used as the closest thing to a neutral adjective there is, although both Venereans and Venusians do sometimes object to it, either for attempting to bridge a gap that must not be bridged (though in practice there are few hardline pure-blood Venusians left anymore), or because it was once, before the Revolution, the chosen adjective applied by the hated Cytherea Corporation. But, for want of a better word, it’s what we’ll try to use here.
George and Zylogrius do not live with their parents. Many people do, or at least many people live in an apartment very close to the one their parents live in – typically the elderly follow one of their children or grandchildren. Nursing homes also exist, but these are only for the very old or infirm – although few people live beyond 120, great strides have been made in inabling most people to remain healthy and mobile until relatively near death. As it happens, none of the parents of Zylogrius and George have chosen to live with them – although some of Zylogrius’ relatives do live in the same city, including most importantly her bed-sister, Minh Rezarxis Nguyen, and her family, whom Zylogrius sees every few days. Nonetheless, extended family remains important, especially on Zylogrius’ side of the family (Venereans tend to care more about family, and indeed about group affiliations in general), and it’s rare that more than a few months go by without a visit by an aunt or uncle, or brother or sister or parent. George and Zylogrius and their children typically visit a relative at least once a year (not counting weekly visits to Zylogrius’ family in the city). Inter-city travel of course requires a shuttle-flight, but travel times are immensely reduced through the expedient of moving the cities themselves. Cities orbit Venus with the winds, but vary their exact latitude according to complex formulae that result in periodic ‘conjunctions’ of different cities over time, where two cities draw unusually close, enabling cheaper travel between them. In any case, all the cities move in approximately the same part of the atmosphere.
To be Continued…