Life on Venus, pt3

 

Work

Almost everyone on Venus has a job. This doesn’t always mean that they do any work.

Take George, for instance. George is a zymologist – a Zymologist, even, a journeyman member of the Guild of Zymology. This is so central to his identity that most people don’t call him George at all, they call him ‘Zymologist Umbenhaur’ when they’re being formal, or just ‘Zymologist’ or ‘Zymo’. Calling him George Angkor (this is his real name – ‘George’ is only an abbreviation) is something he’ll only tolerate from his good friends. Zymology, of course, may appear an unusual occupation to people of other times and places, but on Venus it is a prestigious and economically critical profession. An unusually high percentage of the food consumed on Venus is formed out of shaped and flavoured yeast – actual plant matter is a not-inexpensive addition to a basic diet of yeast (meat, fish and eggs from actual animals are all illegal, and the lab-grown equivalents are considered a disgusting concept; small quantities of milk, yoghurt and cheese are available as delicacies). Zymology is therefore lucrative, yet there are relatively few zymologists required.

George, however, doesn’t actually do very much zymology. He gained a pre-apprenticeship to the Guild as a young man, no doubt heavily aided by his family background (his grandfather was an academic who found secondment to the Guild when he came to Venus, and both his parents are Zymologists also); he showed himself bright and hard-working, and obtained a full apprenticeship. After working hard for several years, he was permitted to join the Guild as a Journeyman. A decade of work followed, in which he progressed to be an Advanced, and then a Higher Journeyman.

But that was some time ago. Like many Guildlings, George tired of his job; by that time he had married Zylogrius, and he decided to devote himself to his children and his family. This didn’t mean leaving his job – just working less. While his eldest children were being raised, he worked in general only one day a week, though he would often also work full time for a month or so now and then. Fortunately, the Guild continued to pay him – indeed, as a Higher Journeyman working one day a week, he earned about as much as he had done as a Journeyman working five days a week. Guilds hardly ever pay by the hour – there is a basic income all members receive (even if they choose to do no work at all), then additional boosts to pay based on experience and grade, plus sometimes bonuses for exceptional hard work or ability. Indeed, it is misleading to talk of Guilds ‘paying’ at all: Guilds provide.

Take this apartment, for instance. This does not belong to George and Zylogrius – it belongs to the Guild of Zymologists. Their meals, whether communal or at home, are not bought with money – they are provided by their Guilds. Guild members choose from among a variety of ‘packages’ offered by the Guild, personalisable to a degree – instead of ‘salaries’ of different levels, Guild members ‘unlock’ better packages (bonuses are then added on top of the basic package). The small amount of personal spending money Guildlings receive is therefore only a fraction of their total remuneration – almost everything they use or consume will be provided for them by their Guild.

It might appear that this system encourages idleness. It does – this is intentional. Cythereans tend to believe idleness is a good thing – it encourages reflection on the true values of life. More specifically, it results in many individuals, like George, spending a lot of time with their children. This is one reason, Cythereans believe, why crime levels on Venus are in general so low – the population is educated, well-adjusted and emotionally fulfilled. It is also part of the reason why Venereans have so many children compared to Earthicans.

Of course, work does need to be done. Yet in the 26th century cheap energy and mass-mechanisation allow most of society’s needs to be met even with high levels of non-employment. Earthicans ‘solve’ the ‘problem’ of unemployment by having their archons employ large swathes of the population to perform essentially unnecessary ‘service’ work – a late-24th century archon’s robe, for instance, might be large and long enough to require the employment of ten full-time robe-holders (thirty, allowing for shifts) all by itself. On Venus, these jobs do not exist – indeed, even many jobs that existed in the 21st century no longer exist on Venus, since people with more leisure are more willing to do things for themselves – and instead the unemployed are supported directly without imposing a requirement for labour. Between the financial benefits of promotion and the higher status gained through promotion, and the power and influence gained through promotion, and the sheer enjoyment of labour, there are more than enough people willing to work to produce all that is required; however, even those who work usually only work part-time. The heaviest work is usually done by young journeymen, eager to gain status and to impress (their superiors, their peers, and perhaps most importantly prospective mates – leisure is highly valued on Venus, but the willingness and ability to work hard is still considered an attractive personality trait). Older Guild members must choose between resting on their laurels (and their unlocked remuneration packages, or ‘dues’), or seeking further promotions as craft-virtuosi, teachers, or administrators/politicians.

So, George stepped back from work, but retains his ranks as a Higher Journeyman. Now that his eldest children are adults, and his younger children require less constant supervision, he’s beginning to work a little more again, as many people do at this stage in life. His mother – who did the bulk of the child-raising in his family – has ended up returning to work as an instructor in the Guild, and George is considering following that path. On the other hand, in his spare time he’s aquired some academic qualifications in 19th-century German literature, and he might try to pursue a career as a university tutor instead.

Zylogrius, on the other hand, works hard most days of the week. She began by following her father’s path and apprenticing to the Guild of Croupiers, but found that unsatisfying. Instead, she joined – and rose to the position of Undermaster in – the powerful Guild of Fabricators, the guild responsible for creating most ornaments and furniture. After a time, however, she became tired, and wanted to change her career. This is not unusual. Most do this by obtaining a ‘secondment’ to another Guild – essentially, working for a new Guild while being ‘paid’ by their original Guild.  As a succesful Fabricator specialising in graphic embellishment, she could easily have found a secondment with any number of Guilds in which her skills would have been of use. The particular passion Zylogrius discovered was for tattoos, and the expected course of action would have been for her to seek secondment to the Guild of Tattooists as a design specialist. But part of what attracted Zylogrius to tattooing was the personal contact involved, so this sort of backroom job didn’t interest her. Instead, she entered a new apprenticeship with the Tattooists, and has worked her way back up the ranks from scratch to Advanced Journeyman, working in the tattooing studio personally. This has been an arduous process, but it does have its rewards – leaving aside her personal enjoyment of her new profession, she is now in the enviable position of being dual-guilded, a distinct benefit to her income and prestige.

Peter Dragon, their eldest son, has chosen to follow his father into the Zymologists. It’s not that Zymology is an inherently fascinating subject, and most people consider Zymologists a little dull, but it’s lucrative, and his co-workers are an interesting mix of people – Zymologists tend to be scientifically-minded, but they also include more creative types, who liaise with the Guild of Chefs (and take into account public opinion surveys) to develop more interesting tastes and textures. Peter has recently joined the guild formally as a Journeyman (apprentices are attached to but not part of the Guild); for now, he’s still working in Vanadia VI’s own zymolabs, but in a year or two he’ll be sent off to another city to continue his education.

Titus Angkor, the eldest of his younger sisters, is still an apprentice, at the Guild of Mechanists. This mostly involves splitting her time between learning about different types of mechanisms and following a number of senior mechanists as they go about their business – mostly fixing machines that have broken down. She spends a lot of time holding things, handing people things, and filling out forms. One day, she hopes to specialise in flight systems design, and play a part developing the next generation of the many machines necessary to keep Venus’ cities airbourne – but that’s a highly competitive line of work. There are a lot of Mechanists on Venus, but very few rise to senior design levels, let alone to flight systems design. If she wants to achieve her goal, she’ll have to dedicate a lot of hours to her career.

 

Entertainment

Much entertainment on Venus still takes place in the family’s apartment, or in the apartments of friends and families. George and Zylogrius have friends around every few weeks, and the youngest children go off to visit other families every few days. Apart from the inevitable chatter and banter, group entertainment in the home focuses upon card games and board games. Card games are the national pasttime of Venus, probably thanks to the key role of casinos and casino workers in the planet’s formative centuries; they range from the simple to the fiendishly, esoterically complex, and from games of pure luck through to games of great (and highly-regarded) dedication and skill. Most people on Venus regularly play at least a dozen different card games, and passively know another dozen more; Zylogrius’ family background and early croupier training have led to her family having a repertoire of at least thirty different games, and they are all members of multiple informal card-leagues, both within the family and with their friends. Much of humanity’s natural competitive instinct is, on Venus, channelled into proficiency at cards (and similarly though to a lesser extent with tile games, usually seen as a little more intellectual). Board games, on the other hand, are generally played more for fun and less to win, and typically include a great deal of luck and humour – pure abstract strategy games do of course exist, and have many enthusiasts as a hobby, but are only a niche interest. Families also play games on gaming consoles, located in the living room (headsets allow each player to focus on their own game without distracting others); however, these games are generally either simple time-wasters (puzzle games and platform games are popular) or else are forms of education for children, made more palatable by the trappings of entertainment. Families may also download films, plays, concerts, art exhibitions and the like to their terminals.

Outside the home, there are three places to go for entertainment: the arcade, the paradise, and the sports hall.

Arcades are more or less the same as on Earth: places to go to play computer games. Arcades offer something home gaming cannot offer, or at least has not been able to offer since the dismantling of the internet: interaction and competition with others. A further difference is that these games are truly interactive – the arcade employs staff to shape storylines that react to the actions of the players (both individually and collectively). Indeed, on Venus the arcade staff are responsible for much of the construction of the game – typically the underlying framework of the game is taken from a template, but given unique local form in each arcade. Particular games that have achieved great acclaim in one arcade may be imported to other arcades, but there is no expectation that the same games will be found in all arcades – in this regard, they resemble theatres more than cinemas. As a result, Cytherean games typically lack some of the incredible pre-made depth of Earthican games, but are more responsive, more personalised, and usually give a greater role to collective action and community interaction.

The paradise, meanwhile, is at the opposite end of the technology scale – as much as possible is kept simple and unobtrusive. The main business of a paradise is sex – this is where couples come to have sex without their children or parents getting in the way, and a large part of the paradise is given over to a wide variety of rooms presenting different settings and environments for this purpose. Most of these rooms are communal – not for group sex per se (though this is extremely common among the young) but just because any situation with only two people in a room alone together is likely to be disconcerting for Cythereans, who are instinctively sociable. Most rooms are therefore set up with semi-open berths, in order to allow visitors to feel at ease and in company without being distracted by the direct sight of others (and without being a distraction to others). Prostitution also takes place here – the paradise employs professionals to join couples or groups, and also to provide an education to the young. Zylogrius has already brought her thirteen-year-old, Miki, here for that purpose – she does think her daughter is too young for sex, but she also thinks that these things are best learned in a pleasant and safe environment from expert strangers who know what they’re doing, and better bring her here than have her go off discovering things with her friends. Her older siblings likewise came here at this age – Titus worried her mother for a few years by declaring that she wanted to be a prostitute herself when she was older. It’s a lucrative profession, and of course nobody would be so reactionary to think of it as in any way shameful or immoral, they’re perfectly respectable men and woman, of course, and somebody clearly has to do it… but like most parents, Zylogrius would have been rather embarrassed if her daughter had ended up doing it. The near-elimination of poverty on Venus has of course raised the price of prostitutes dramatically, and the Guild of Companions is a powerful and prosperous organisation; their members are never hired casually, but only as a luxury. However, their profession remains focused almost entirely on sex – the ‘companions’ hired by the Fleet for their crews may be more psychologist than sex-worker, but on Venus nobody wastes valuable money paying prostitutes to talk to them – probably because the average Cytherean is already more provisioned with companionship and conversation than the average Earthican, Degaman or Zhengian.

The paradise, in any case, is not just for sex – it is for all sorts of physical pleasure. In particular, it is well-stocked with baths, saunas and massage tables; it also has a high-quality restaurant. In other words, a paradise is a combination of sleazy motel and luxury spa.

The sports hall is more or less what it sounds like. Sport on Venus – much like sport on Earth – is no longer a spectator event. Sport exists as a way of exercising the body – it should be healthy, physically enjoyable, and to some extent offer a competitive element for added fun. Sport is an individualist activity (unlike almost everything else on Venus) – team sports exist but are a niche interest (beyond casual five-a-side games among groups of friends), and even directly competitive two-player games are not the norm. Sport on Venus is typified by activities in which the individual sets a score, which other individuals can seek to match – the emphasis is on personal performance and improvement, but the individuals will also sneak glances to see whether they’ve gone up or down on the leaderboard. The whole family visits the sports hall, either together or individually with friends, and they run, row, swim, climb, throw, jump and so forth. The great exception to the ‘individualist’ generalisation is calisthenics – morning exercise sessions (typically conducted in the nude) are attended by dozens or hundreds of individuals at once, and conducted with synchronicity and in silence – they are as much a source of discipline and unity as they are of physical health.

Beyond these usual fitness activities, Zylogrius has a particular interest in archery, and Miki is taking after her in that regard. Titus, however, is more interested in wrestling – which does not take place at the sports hall. Wrestling is a stereotypically Venusian, rather than Venerean, activity – it takes place casually in and around communal eating halls, but private wrestling rooms are where the enthusiasts go. It’s become one of the most popular sports on Venus, but it remains rather disrespectable. Recordings of sports events can be downloaded to terminals, but this is normally done only by enthusiasts, not by the general public. The only three sports publically followed are rugby (due to its adoption by the Fleet; originally a Venusian enthusiasm, there are now rugby teams for most of the larger cities, a league structure, and even games against visitors from other planets; however, for most people on Venus rugby is ‘followed’ less as a sport and more as one of the few opportunities for competition between cities – Zylogrius makes sure her family watch any Kipris v. Kytara match and cheer appropriately), running (most cities have popular running events around their streets on a regular basis, and local winners are then invited to prize-races), and animal racing (dogs and bird primarilys, and occasionally horses – these are popular not in themselves but as events to gamble on).

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One thought on “Life on Venus, pt3

  1. […] Part Three talks about what they do for their jobs, and what they do for fun […]

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