Continues on from this post here, describing the lives of a family on Venus in the early 26th century.
Like most people, George and Zylogrius have light brown skin – Zylogrius is a little darker than George, closer to the norm, while George still has a little of the old European pallour. Old-blood Venereans are almost all the same colour as one another, while later Venusian immigrants may be lighter or darker. Zylogrius has the normal black hair, while George’s is a dark brown. Both George and Zylogrius are around 6’5 – men are usually taller than women, but Venereans, having adapted to centuries of slightly lower gravity, are usually a few inches taller that Earthicans and Venusians. Like most Venereans, Zylogrius is also slightly but noticeably more gracile than the average Earthican woman – her legs and arms are proportionally a little longer and thinner, though this thinness seems perfectly healthy for her, a matter of underlying proportion rather than lack of food, and it has not stunted, for instance, the width of her hips. In fact, to an Earthican she would appear unusually beautiful – some ancestral genetic manipulation has probably helped along the way (a benefit of working for the Cytherea Corporation on old venus was that one’s children were often gene-polished to improve appearance, as befitted customer-facing employees in what was, essentially, a resort town).
Dress on Venus is unisex in plan, though not in the details of implementation. Both George and Zylogrius dress in form-fitting leggings, tall boots, and a loose smock that nearly reaches the knee – in theory, more or less the same clothes worn by Zylogrius’ ancestors in the Revolution, and quite recognisable to any peasant of the later twenty-second through to later twenty-fourth centuries on Earth. Zylogrius’ smock narrows at the waist to emphasise her femininity, aided by a broad belt; George’s narrower belt intentionally hangs loose, and his smock emphasises the breadth of his shoulders instead.
The chief difference between the costume of George and Zylogrius and that of the revolutionary workers two centuries earlier is the individuality. George and Zylogrius have their clothes hand-made by one of the local guildhalls of the Guild of Tailors (not too local, of course, lest all their neighbours have the same designs!). For special occasions, they wear clothes by a Master Tailor Zylogrius knows back on Pilot. This isn’t really a matter of quality – after all, robots can make clothes just as technically ‘good’ as hand-made work – but one of art, and interest. The basic form of their clothing is decorated – not too ornately, but strikingly – in a way that merges general fashion trends with local customs and individual tastes… and perhaps more importantly in a way that can stimulate interesting conversation at dinner parties. The same is true of their jewellery – but not particularly true of their hairstyle, which is cut extremely short for both of them (a style that originated as a good revolutionary worker’s hairstyle, but that has been perpetuated by its closeness to the shaven heads of Fleet sailors).
Their older children dress somewhat scandalously, as they did themselves when they were younger – their smocks are actually a little longer than their parents’, but the cuts made in the skirts of respectable smocks to add a little interest are for the younger generation long slashes designed to show off as much leg as possible, and sometimes even a little bare skin above the top of their leggings, when they move in the right way.
When seen without their clothes, the Cytherean tattooing patterns can be seen. Tattoos on Venus – other than a few cheap back-alley tattooists in Venusian ghettos – are not a matter of putting ink into the skin; instead, skin cells are infected with microbes that re-engineer the genes of the skin cells to produce pigment. This has the advantage of being able to produce vivid colours that do not fade, and of being (mostly) reversible and changeable, but it has the disadvantage of being somewhat stochastic – it’s hard to reproduce finely detailed designs. In any case, the fashion on Venus has long ago turned away from elaborate tattooing that draws attention to itself rather than the wearer. Instead, Cytherean tattoos are usually a few lines, blocks and dots positioned so as to emphasise the natural physique of the wearer – Zylogrius’ curving tattoos (in purple and cream) emphasis her breasts and hips, long limbs and narrow waist, while George’s are strong lines (black and blue) that reinforce the perception of a powerfully-built male. Like their clothing, their tattoos are personalised – very personalised in this case, since Zylogrius happens to be a tattooist herself. She even did the tattoos for her three eldest children, which follow the same principles but in the case of the older two do rather obsessively emphasise their genitals, in much the same way that some flower petals are designed with markings to direct the visiting bees. That’s just how younger, more energetic (or less secure) Cythereans decorate themselves, she knows, and if she didn’t tattoo them somebody else would. They’ll tone them down as they get older.
However, because skin pigmentation is now reversible, it has lost some of the function of traditional tattooing. For the purposes of perpetual marking, hypertrophic scarification is fashionable, though the scars (which are usually pigmented as well) are usually relatively small. Zylogrius bears two scarified guild marks on her left flank, her husband’s monogram on her right buttock, and the marks of Pilot of Vanadia and Kipris on her upper arms; George has his guild mark and Zylogrius’ monogram on his back, but has never seen the need to bother with city marks.
Finally, a third form of skin mark are the old House gene-tattoos. These are much like the genetic skin patterns of Earthican archons, though much more common, implanted into the gene pool by rich Venerean families before the Revolution. They are very common in certain families, and sporadically show up elsewhere. Zylogrius has none herself, but Titus and the twins have them, as did two of Zylogrius’ brothers (the genetics involved are complex and difficult to predict). They take the form of ornamented bands around the upper arm – their design is entirely unfashionable now, and their politics questionable (it is prestigious to come from such old blood, but not prestigious to boast about it), so many people have them removed by tattooists, but Titus so far appears to be keeping hers (they are certainly becoming more popular with younger generations).
Titus has a nose-ring; Zylogrius doesn’t entirely approve. Piercings are extremely rare among the older generation, outside of hardline Venusian families; some of the younger generation, however, have taken to piercing their nose or lip or ear as a way to ‘embody the reclaimation of Venusian and Earthican cultural heritage’, or possibly (as some sociologists have suggested) to look bad-ass.
George and Zylogrius keep a clean, tidy, simple home. Guests in their apartment enter from the communal hallway into a tall hallway – there is no need for them to dispose of hats and coats and outdoor shoes, because there is no outside on Venus – there is little mud and nowhere is cold. Instead, they simply peel off a layer of plastic film from their boots to keep from bringing too much dust into the apartment. The entrance hall is mostly open and plain, but a few items have been placed on table or on niches, all hand-made by guild crafstmen. After greetings, guests pass into the dining room – but rather than sit at a table, they lounge on couches, with food provided on small side-tables. Venus’ fashion is for meals of many small courses, ideally that can be eaten with chopsticks, or better yet by hand. Food is prepared in the kitchen – and ‘prepared’ is a better word than ‘cooked’, since most of the food is made edible by chefs of the Culinary Guild and shipped out to individual households. The kitchen is merely a place where food can be stored until needed, warmed or chilled at the right time, and perhaps garnished – although many hosts do like to show they can make their own food by assembling a salad or a house dessert or the like. When not entertaining, main meals are still mostly ordered in, but simpler food can be prepared quickly by the family by heating and/or wetting the appropriate zymocubes. In fact, George and Zylogrius rarely eat their main meals in their apartment – like most Venusians, and increasingly many Venereans, they usually eat (along with their children) in communal food halls. Life on Venus can become a little isolating, and communal meals are a good way to meet people and get some much-needed human company – particularly for the children. The couple eat at home when entertaining guests (every few weeks), or when ill or otherwise not feeling up to public appearances, or for some special private occasion.
In addition to the hall, the dining room, and the kitchen, there are four additional rooms: the bedroom, the living room, the library, the washroom, two lavatories, and the shrine.
Venereans are not religious people. Indeed, they are firmly opposed to religion, and to secular delusions that may take the place of religion (in particular, to the metaphysical excesses of secular Communionism). All such traditions are merely tools to maintain the oppression and manipulation of the people by a ruling elite, and only an idiot would be taken in by them. The only religious practices found (to any extent) among Venereans are the old ‘circlehouse’ traditions, dating back to the foundational days – syncretic and anti-theological cults that focus on communal living, elaborate ritual, and absolute personal devotion to a supreme being – and these are practiced only by a very small minority. Venusians, on the other hand, are more prone to religion – perhaps a third are outrightly religious (the Cathodox are even more numerous, proportionally, than on Earth, the local forms having largely distanced themselves from the anti-Fleet theology of Dominic IX, and having entirely rejected the Pauline antipapacies), and there are also many strongly dedicated Communionists
However, Venereans (and most Venusians) have no objection to harmless superstition – a few old rituals that people follow for unclear reasons but that they feel better about, but that nobody really believes in. This explains why George and Zylogrius have a shrine in their house, as all but the most hardline Venusians do. The shrine holds altars dedicated to the six gods of Venus: Birth (who also oversees fertility in general, and prosperity, and plant life), Death (whose altar is hidden in a cabinet that is only opened in case of life-threatening circumstances), Love (and the mind), Beauty (and infatuation, and physics), Ecstasy (and lust, and art) and Luck. The family make regular offerings and devotions to the gods, sometimes in quite complicated and demanding rituals. Outsiders often fail to distinguish between Venerean ‘harmless superstition’ and the much-derided ‘religion’ that other people follow.
The living room is, as the name suggests, where the family lives most of the time. In this case, it is an open mezzanine above the entrance hall. This is where the family relax, talk, play, sit around, persue hobbies. The library, likewise, is a living space, but dedicated to calmer pursuits – it’s where a person can slip away to read or to work, and where the children are taught by (usually) George. It also contains a good many books – probably several hundred – since books are very popular on Venus. For George and Zylogrius, books are a sign of enjoyment and leisure – they read from books to symbolise that they are doing it voluntarily, whereas reading they are required to do is generally done on a terminal. Indeed, tracking down a book with the required information or story in it is half the fun of reading!
The bedroom is singular. There is only one bedroom, though there are several beds – George and Zylogrius share one, Peter Dragon and Titus Angkor share one, the twins share one, and Miki Zylogrius either shares with her older siblings (if they’ll let her) or the twins (if they won’t). The beds are arranged around a central waterfeature – water rippling down a glass cylinder with low lights shone on it. This provides calming, sleep-inducing sound and light, as well as breaking up the room to make each bed feel a little more private. There doesn’t have to be much privacy, however, and George and Zylogrius like it that way – they can, if necessary, overhear the conversations between their children, in case anythign inappropriate is being said. There’s never any need for private conversation between siblings, after all – there’s hardly ever any need for any private conversation in a family, indeed, apart from the occasional strategy discussion between the parents, which can be accomplished by stepping into another room for a moment. The other reason why humans of many other cultures require privacy in their sleeping quarters – copulation – is not an issue here. That doesn’t happen in bedrooms on Venus – not only would it be inappropriate in a room shared with other family members, but to George and Zylogrius the entire idea strikes them as really rather unhygeinic-sounding. The bedroom is to be clean and quiet and restful, and it’s most distasteful to imagine too much sweating going on there – not to mention that it hardly seems to make sense to try to be energetic in a room primarily associated with unconsciousness! No, when George and Zylogrius feel like having sex, they simply go off to visit a paradise.
The washroom, like the bedroom, is singular. The family generally wash together, morning, noon and night (temperatures and humidity on Venus are usually kept toward the high side of pleasant, and in particular there is no wind). This involves taking turns in the personal cleansing pod, which sprays a fine, soapy mist at the inhabitant, agitates the water against the skin with ultrasound, and gently blow-dries. The entire process takes a couple of minutes. All water on Venus must be recycled, which encourages low consumption – a more energy-expensive washing unit like this is worth it if it saves recycling a shower’s-worth of water yet again. The same sort of system is widely found on Earth.
There are two lavatories, each with several cubicles – one is used by family members only, and the other is used by guests only. The idea of having a toilet in the same room as the cleansing pods would be considered appallingly unhygienic, to the point of being truly disgusting (although similar technology is built into the toilets – ‘wiping’ with hand-held paper would likewise be considered disgusting).
Finally, George and Zylogrius have a small garden at the back of their apartment. This is common, although in some cities apartments have no garden, with instead more space being given over to communal gardens. Vanadia VI following a generally Cythromanesque architectural style, their garden is not wholly open, but in effect is part of an arcade – at the end of their garden (which is about the size of a room) is a low fence, opening onto a walkway that runs along the whole row of apartments on this level (the gardens themselves being divided by translucent but non-transparent walls); the walkway looks out through archways into an abyss (the archway is filled with a strong but super-thin netting that is invisible at a distance, to prevent jumpers). Abysses are common in Venus’ cities – tall empty shafts to allow light up from below, around which apartments are clustered. the cities have the unusual property of being equally illuminated from below, and from the sides, as from above, thanks to the extremely high reflectivity of the surrounding white sulphur clouds – although cities generally plan for sunlight primarily to enter from above (if for no other reason than to keep the centre of gravity low, to promote stability in the high winds outside), shafts and tunnels are also commonplace to bring light in from other directions. If George or Zylogrius could stick their head out through the archway and look down, they would see hundreds of metres of arched walkways, down to a gleaming white sea of cloud beneath. As it is, they are too high up to see to the bottom from their garden, or even from the walkway.
Thanks to the cloister design, their garden is too shaded to have a thriving grass lawn (though it would of course be possible with more expensively engineered grass!), so they have a lawn of lush moss, and a handful of shade-loving plants that they take care of. It may not rival the local botanical gardens, but they like the connection to ‘nature’.