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Author Topic: Rural Impressionist Hard/Soft Cyberpunk Transhuman Outlaws  (Read 7336 times)
WINGED NEMESIS
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« on: December 19, 2015, 01:46:46 PM »

I really, really, really like the cyberpunk and biopunk genres, but there are a lot of standard tropes that I don’t necessarily relate with or that I would handle differently, the fixation on the hyper-urban in particular. So, this is my take on an ideal sort of hybrid cyber-biopunk, weakly-transhuman setting – it’s going to be more of a collection of ideas and impressions than a grand unified theory. Obviously it owes something to the titans of the genre like Snow Crash and the Altered Carbon (Richard K. Morgan should see someone about that weird hatred of sex workers), but I was more directly inspired by games like Eclipse Phase, Transhuman Space, Beyond Earth, and, of all things, the television series Justified. If this were a visual medium, I’d lean pretty heavily on the science fiction aesthetics of Neil Blomkamp, especially Elysium. Serious, that scene where Matt Damon is firing an old-school wood-and-steel AK-47 fitted with a laser rangefinder and explosive airburst rounds? That was a downright erotic experience for me.

The core focus of the setting could best be summed up as “post-cyberpunk transhuman country outlaws.” It’s Twenty Minutes into the Future, as they say, and things might never be getting better but they don’t seem to be getting any worse either. Berserk weather systems are the new norm and coastlines have crept steadily inland, but hey, at least we’re no longer sitting on the razor’s edge of full-blown ecological meltdown. The Earth’s population hovers around just below ten billion people, most of them packed into bloated urban sprawls and hyperdense archologies. Tens of millions more live beyond the battered homeworld – most of those in the orbital habitats that choke the Lagrange points or in settlements on the Moon and Mars. When civilization has spread beyond the Belt, when animals have been uplifted to sapience and biology is no longer a prerequisite for citizenship, it’s easy to forget that life still goes on in the small towns and backwaters that fill in the interstices. Ironically, the technological developments that many thought would destroy rural communities were the same ones that ended up helping them stubbornly persist. Advances in wireless telecommunications, alternative power generation, water reclamation, and 3D printing and minifacturing have essentially destroyed the concept of “The Grid.” A lot of traditional farming communities have made the transition into pharming communities – the vape supplanted the cigarette years ago and nobody drinks dairy milk anymore, but transgenic tobacco strains can be used to grow everything from estrogen to hemoglobin and there’s little that can’t be synthesized in the right bovine biofactory. I know everyone predicted soy was going to be the generic foodstuff of the future, but at least in America, it’s corn that’s used as the main ingredient in everything from candy bars to fake meat. Chocolate and wine are so rare as to be practically extinct and red meat is priced well beyond what the majority of consumers could hope to pay – most rely on processed krill and the ever-appetizing snakehead tuna when they want some “real” meat.

As is the case with most traditional nations-states, the US federal government looks like it’s on its way out. Its formerly-universal authority is challenged not only by autonomous city-states like the Chicago and New Orleans archologies – both of which are administrative states in their own right – but by the rise in non-geographic polystates: distributed, sometimes global networks of sovereign enclaves – some as small as a single square block – that nevertheless form a unified political body that is not always subordinate to the federal government. And that’s not even taking into account the de facto sovereignty that major corporations enjoy. Nowhere is this impotence more apparent than the American backwoods, areas that the authorities have struggled to control even at the best of times and which are now truly lawless. What baffles most outsiders is the sheer sophistication of this lawlessness. Sure, you have your traditional rural crimes like moonshining and methamphetamine cooking – both of which exploit cutting-edge advances in chemical synthesis to the fullest – but then the hills and hollers are home to just as many illegal data havens, pirate minifacturers, and black biotech labs.

The countryside is a more diverse place than it usually gets credit for, which is of course reflected in its criminal element. What with Latin@s being the largest single demographic and all, most Americans nowadays have at least a passable understanding of Spanish and a lot can still speak a little of the Arabic that they learned in school as well. A surprising amount of MENA, South, and Southeast Asian immigrants ended up settling down in small towns, so it’s not unusual to overhear conversations in Urdu or Cambodian even in the most Deliverance-y of locales. Then there are all of the species of uplifted animals: hominids, corvids, parrots, pigs, cetaceans, elephants, and octopi. And then there are all the various sorts of sapient synthetics, strong artificial intelligences, forked personalities, whathaveyou that you’re likely to encounter as well.

Forking is actually something that deserves its own explanation, because it’s the reason that identity is measured by degrees these days. Anyone, uplifts and androids included, can hook up their mind-machine interface to a decently-powerful computer and make an exact copy of their consciousness – most people make full backups of themselves anywhere from twice a year to once a month. So long as the backups are kept in cold storage and not allowed to generate any subjective experiences of their own, then for all intents and purposes, it’s just an earlier version of you. But run that instance of your mind on its own or subject it to any sort of editing during the generation process and what you have on your hands is what’s most commonly referred to as a “fork.” A person and their forks are not considered to be the exact same person, but they are – socially if not always legally – considered to be a part of the same general “person cluster”, at least until they achieve a certain degree of divergence. Personalities and memories can be integrated as well as forked: the process more complicated and much more likely to result in long-term issues, but then again, neuroatypicalities like autism and ADHD aren’t pathologized like they used to be. The criminal utility of forking technology cannot be understated. Need to negotiate with an off-world partner but don’t want to deal with light-lag and the possibility of interception? Send a fork of yourself to do the talking for you and reintegrate it afterwards. There are entire criminal outfits comprised of nothing but multiple instances of a single mastermind.

And as the old global powers are on the decline, criminal syndicates are back on the rise as well. The American Mafia made probably the most dramatic turnaround – while its European progenitors are still very much ethnic affairs, the new Commission includes not only the old guard of Irish and Italian-American families, but Polish, Cuban, Greek, Puerto Rican, and Syrian-American ones as well, among others. The “name-brand” Mafia competes with the so-called and significantly more violent Dixie Mafia as well as the emergent Mexican-American crime families, which are often conflated with the Mexican cartels despite being a distinctly Chican@ phenomenon. The Yakuza and Triad clans are still going strong, of course, as are the Russian bratvas. Then you have the Mercurials, post-human outfits of strong AIs, uplifts, and singularity chasers. They do most of their business outside of Earth’s gravity but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security – you do not want to know what their particular combination of mechanical ruthlessness, alien amorality, and atavistic savagery looks like first-hand. What you may be asking yourself at this point is, what separates an outlaw from any other sort of professional criminal? Well, the key difference is one of philosophy. A criminal is someone who breaks the law, but the outlaw, she fundamentally rejects the law. Authorities are not worthy of even the most grudging or fearful of respect from her because she is beyond them, an unpredictable free radical in this, the Diamond Age of Piracy. Then there’s the second matter of locality. The outlaw is fundamentally of her surroundings in a way that most bureaucratized criminal syndicates are not. That is not to say that she is necessarily attached to or respectful of them, but the scope of the outlaw’s ambitions are deliberately provincial. There is a very archaic, almost artisanal quality to the way that, even in this world of instant global telecommunication, she continues to work with her own two hands – figuratively, at least. Outlaws may drive 100 miles to rob a gene-vault in the next state over, but they will have done their planning in the unhackable anonymity of some small-town dive.

So then, what kind of work is available for outlaws? There’s plenty to be had working as hired muscle for larger, more organized criminal outfits and in running protection for rural black clinics and data havens…and in ripping them off. While most strains of marijuana are legal just about everywhere, there’s still a very profitable market for trafficking in the harder stuff – from old favorites like cocaine and heroin to cutting-edge synthetic poisons and digital narcoalgorithms. Cybercrime hasn’t made the good ol’ fashioned smash-and-grab obsolete yet – as they say, physical access is total access – and with most places concerned with securing themselves against digital intrusions, they’re often ill-prepared to deal with a crew of masked gunmen kicking in their doors and physically absconding with servers full of cryptocurrency. Valuable goods, particularly the sort that can’t be easily fabricated, still need to be transported cross-country, which of course puts them at risk for hijacking. Even courier aircraft aren’t guaranteed safety, what with it being easier than ever for some enterprising criminals to get their hands on some surface-to-air ordinance.

Here’s some extra thoughts that I couldn’t sandwich as cleanly into the existing narrative flow:

Almost everyone now has what’s known as a mind-machine interface: a useful little tool consisting of a network of microprocessors inserted throughout the gray matter and two or more access ports, usually located at the base of the skull. The MMInt (pronounced like “mint”) does not itself have any sort of wireless capability – it only translates information between the brain and external devices, but plug-in wireless adapters are a pretty common accessory. Many people go a step further and get themselves a full-blown cyberbrain, which involves augmenting or replacing more of the neural tissue with cybernetic components and encasing the whole organ in a durable metallic shell.

Modern smartphones and tablet computers haven’t decreased much in size, but they are orders of magnitude more powerful than their last-generation predecessors – your typical model has a storage capacity in the hundreds of terabytes and the processing power to run its own weak AI personalities.

Self-driving smart cars are ubiquitous, but unless they’ve been upgraded with a serious navigation program and electronic warfare suite, they’re not something that your professional criminal will rely on for a quick getaway.

Bodies are surprisingly easy to come by these days – a decent android frame costs about as much as a car and takes about as long to make. Some people will still pay through the nose for 100-percent Grade A beef just like Mom used to make, but the economical option is synthetic-organic hybrids fast-grown in nutrient tanks – or in rural body shops, inside transgenic cows – that can be ready in a fraction of the time and which work just as well.

Nigeria is one of the world’s dominant cultural powers – almost half of all blockbusters released in American theatres last year were made by “Nollywood” studios, you can find cans of sour palm wine and millet beer in most gas stations, and all but the most Podunk of towns will have some sort of West African barbeque joint.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2016, 11:17:59 AM by Rhamnousia » Logged


Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2015, 04:53:27 PM »

Although this would make a killer roleplaying setting, I really want to read this novel. Altered Carbon is probably the best thing I read this year so I'm still jonesing (the sequels were good but didn't quite scratch the right itch). The juxtaposition of rural and cyberpunk is really cool and unexpected. Almost has a slight hint of the Southern Gothic as filtered through a gritty transhumanist lens.

You're a helluva writer. Write this so I can give you my money?
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« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2015, 05:26:43 PM »

Rhamnousia

Nigeria is one of the world’s dominant cultural powers – almost half of all blockbusters released in American theatres last year were made by “Nollywood” studios, you can find cans of sour palm wine and millet beer in most gas stations, and all but the most Podunk of towns will have some sort of West African barbeque joint.
Now I especially want to play a game in this setting that is designed to feel like a Nigerian film. (At least, from the real world. In this setting, if they're making blockbusters for American theaters they're probably just blockbuster movies. tongue )
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WINGED NEMESIS
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« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2015, 10:03:19 AM »

sparkletwist

(At least, from the real world. In this setting, if they're making blockbusters for American theaters they're probably just blockbuster movies. tongue)

To defend the artistic integrity of these fictional Nigerian filmmakers, DHOOM 3 was a big-budget Bollywood action movie set and shot in Chicago that was nevertheless profoundly foreign in its sensibilities, so even if they're making blockbusters for global audiences, they're still probably Nigerian blockbusters. As to running a campaign like one, I'd really have to brush up on my West African cinema but it sounds like a great idea.

And to Steerpike, that means a lot to me. There's almost certainly some Southern Gothic influences in there, though I'm not entirely sure where the distinction between true Southern Gothic and the Southern crime works that were a more direct inspiration lie. I'm wishing retroactively that I'd thought to make a joke about "haints in the machine", but in all honestly, cyber and biopunk have enough potential for subtle horror that they would synchronize with the genre pretty easily, I would think. As for a novel - we'll see about that. I'm pretty garbage when it comes to actually writing prose, but I either might give it a shot now that I'm done with school or try to pitch it to an artist friend once he's done with his Kickstarter campaign.

Simon Stålenhag is another huge influence on my aesthetic conception of the setting. While his art is set in Sweden, I love the idea of ultramodern-yet-rusting technological monoliths contrasting with corn fields and coal hills.

I didn't even really think about what the current state of transhuman augmentation is, other than the MMInts and cyberbrains. What we certainly haven't done is totally corrected for disability at, like, the genetic level - it's one thing to give kids nonporous teeth and "smarter" metabolisms, but while the really horrifying genetic diseases are largely treatable these days, it's something else altogether to start poking around in people's genomes to "fix" them. Prostheses have advanced to the point that it's easier to simply correct for problems when they arise and avoid the ugly question of eugenics altogether: acoustic wayfinders or cybernetic eyes for the blind, slimline powered exoskeletons for the mobility impaired, AI assistants to help those with cognitive disabilities, etc. This is especially true of the backwoods, where being too perfect marks you as a big-city asshole. As for more radical augmentations, I'm basically using Eclipse Phase as rough guideline for what's possible with modern technology - I was envisioning this as being a FATE setting and I don't know how I'd handle more in-depth mechanics. Of course, anything you can get on Earth you can get just about anywhere on Earth, so the only difference between your classic urban "street samurai" and your modern redneck militia type is that one of them wears a lot more denim and flannel than the other.

Oh, and the enhanced "smart" baboon has supplanted the pit bull as the drug dealer guard animal du jour.

I guess I'm curious if my pitch raised any questions you'd like answered or possibilities you'd like explored - I think I do my best worldbuilding when I'm being challenged, so to speak.
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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2015, 02:35:49 PM »

Love it! I'll second Steerpike's praise and commendation for more. If there is one thing I'd ask Santa Rhamnousia to bring the good little boys and girls is a more fleshed out setting/active game for basically any of your settings (i.e., this one, Plateau, Commission, Bastard's Bastards). I'd definitely pay for a game or book or whatnot.

Along those lines, how about you drill down development for a specific region? To use Justified as an example, make your Harlan County (even if it's in Idaho or Kansas or elsewhere) that you can do more micro-development of the setting. If you do decide to go that route, where you most like to set such a place?

Pertaining more to macro-features, I do have a few questions:

1. Wars often drive, and are driven by, commerce (legitimate and otherwise). What are the recent and/or current wars (locally, globally, inter-globally), and how have they affected the outlaws?

2. I'm sure there is a melange, but what's the primary power source for most machines? Are we still using fossil fuels? If not, how did that affect the Middle East, politically and economically?

3. How's moon culture compared to Earth culture?

4. How have all the changes, temporally and culturally, affected religion in this Brave New World?

5. Are there any areas that are wastelands due to viral doomsday devices, nuclear explosions, or whatnot?
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2015, 03:58:39 PM »

This all sounds pretty sweet. One thing that stuck out to be is, why is red meat cheap? If you have ubiquitous 3D printing, printing some kind of meat-analog is probably easy-peezy. Or Bovine factories.. don't produce meat? If you have land, growing meat is ridiculously easy. Goats can live anywhere. Wild game is around. To me, any kind of meat avoidance in the future seemed like it would always stem from it being unethical to eat "real meat", like cut from a living creature. It just stood out as a jarring piece to me.
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2015, 04:44:46 PM »

Rhamnousia

I'm not entirely sure where the distinction between true Southern Gothic and the Southern crime works that were a more direct inspiration lie...

I was thinking mostly about how invested the Southern Gothic is in the grotesque, which this so clearly is as well.

Llum

To me, any kind of meat avoidance in the future seemed like it would always stem from it being unethical to eat "real meat", like cut from a living creature. It just stood out as a jarring piece to me.

Personally, I assumed this was linked to climate concerns. The opening mentions that the climate has stabilized from its downward spiral. Since red meat is incredibly carbon intensive - giving up beef would probably do more to reduce emissions than giving up cars, depending on estimates - it could be that in the future cattle-raising became unsustainable.

I would imagine there are meat-analogs, though? There's mention of fake meat.
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WINGED NEMESIS
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« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2015, 07:49:36 PM »

Rose-of-Vellum

Along those lines, how about you drill down development for a specific region? To use Justified as an example, make your Harlan County (even if it's in Idaho or Kansas or elsewhere) that you can do more micro-development of the setting. If you do decide to go that route, where you most like to set such a place?

I was thinking about this recently and I’m leaning towards focusing on the areas surrounding Louisville, Kentucky, which by this point has swollen into an even denser, more congested urban center, but that is subject to change. This is definitely a route I’m planning on going down.

Rose-of-Vellum

1. Wars often drive, and are driven by, commerce (legitimate and otherwise). What are the recent and/or current wars (locally, globally, inter-globally), and how have they affected the outlaws?

Wars these days are smaller, but size is no longer a good predictor of savagery. Microfacturing fundamentally changed the nature of warfare like no other technology since powered flight – a fabricator small enough to fit in the back of a truck can produce a virtually unlimited of ammunition and spare parts; a set of blueprints and a few tons of scrap metal can become a full-blown arsenal in a matter of days, if not hours. The majority of the thousands of micro and polystates largely maintain their own military forces and most conflicts are basically high-tech, well-organized turf wars between gang-sized armies. Proper nation-states lost most of their stomach for conventional warfare after the expensive slaughter of the Four-Day War – a brief but violent engagement in the Horn of Africa between American-European and Chinese forces during which both sides unleashed the full force of their modern arsenals. Many outlaws who were veterans kept the augmentations they were given in the service – as sensible as it might have been, there was no chance of a “Let’s Cripple Out Vets” ever making it through Congress.

Rose-of-Vellum

2. I'm sure there is a mélange, but what's the primary power source for most machines? Are we still using fossil fuels? If not, how did that affect the Middle East, politically and economically?

Fossil fuels are rarely used anymore. The most popular forms of energy generation are fusion reactors, wind farms (using upright vibrating rods instead of archaic fans), solar panels, and algal bioreactors – the last two can be incorporated directly into buildings, which makes them particularly popular in rural areas. While they rarely supply the entirely of their power requirements, most modern vehicles have some sort of solar paneling built into their chasses and even older ones have almost all been modernized with electric or biodiesel-hybrid engines. The switch to alternative energies was predictably devastating to MENA petrostates’ economies, but the same advances in energy self-sufficiency that spelled the end to their governments enabled a resurgence of traditional nomadic-pastoral lifestyles.

Rose-of-Vellum

3. How's moon culture compared to Earth culture?

Lunar culture really isn’t much different than Earth culture in that it’s a bunch of non-monolithic cultural blocs, though there is – as is the case with most extraplanetary settlements – a significantly more pronounced survivalist undercurrent.

Rose-of-Vellum

4. How have all the changes, temporally and culturally, affected religion in this Brave New World?

Major religions are, perhaps surprisingly, largely unaffected by the massive technological developments that define the modern era. Your more conservative branches of Christianity and Islam are of course rather warry of radical forms of human augmentation, artificial intelligences, and animal uplifting, while Orthodox Judaism is unique in its blanket tolerance of transhuman technologies. Catholicism and Islam are both more popular than ever in the United States.

Rose-of-Vellum

5. Are there any areas that are wastelands due to viral doomsday devices, nuclear explosions, or whatnot?

Nothing nearly so dramatic, though a lot of the country – and by extension, the world – just suck. Like, they’re just awful, shitty places to live. The Appalachian coal country was thoroughly fucked during the last desperate search for exploitable seams before the entire industry went the way of the dinosaur. California suffered a similar fate as well when it became inescapably apparent that they had long overshot the region’s carrying capacity and the agricultural sector there all but imploded. This ties into Llum’s question about the rarity and expense of red meat – the environment simply cannot bear the pressure of industrialized meat production like it used to. The near-apocalyptic desertification of the American West was the deathblow to beef as we know it – in vitro substitutes produce too little for the amount of energy they require to be a viable alternative. This, of course, applies only to the Americas; Africa reaps the benefits of sustainable husbandry practices in the form of steaks that cost less than a new stomach. People still hunt game and raise goats on a small-scale, but it’s not like you can go into a grocery store and pick up a steak the way your great-grandparents could. You typical consumer makes do with a range of processed substitutes typically made out of either corn-krill hybrid meal or mycoproteins – the closest that you’ll get to hot, fresh, real meat these days is a snakehead tuna steak.
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« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2015, 12:35:24 AM »

Rhamnousia

I was thinking about this recently and I’m leaning towards focusing on the areas surrounding Louisville, Kentucky, which by this point has swollen into an even denser, more congested urban center, but that is subject to change. This is definitely a route I’m planning on going down.
I look forward to hearing more.

As for the other answers, why are wars smaller? Yes, I get the sense that microfacturing would allow war to be conducted by smaller groups and thus smaller battles, but how or why does that historically or presently prohibit arms races, deployment of nukes or other large-scale weaponry, or one side gaining an advantage from simply having more super-soldier gangs? You mention the Four-Day War. Who won? Did they use nukes or more modern, devastating weaponry? Basically, what's stopping one arcology from using ICBMs to wipe out another? And with the advances in biotech, have there been any major wars waged with biological vectors (e.g., mass super flu, militant ebola)?
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So Warm and Cuddly
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« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2015, 12:08:46 PM »

This is so cool. I am envious of your ability to freeform write this sort of stuff in a cohesive manner. Also I would love to play in this, if you ever considered running it. No lie.

As for questions, you seem to have thought this through pretty well. I guess I would wonder what it would be like for me, as I am now, to be living in this not-so-distant future. Would the U.S. government still appear as the purported leaders of the country, or would I, as a citizen, know that the city I live in really holds the power? Is the fear of terrorism still strong?

Also, while I know very little of it, I know Stephen Hawking and at least some other folks have a fear that as robotics advance the need for human involvement as farmers, doctors, and even artists (among many other things) diminishes to the point of being superfluous (in a capitalistic environment, at least). Would this world have developed far enough for that to be a threat? Or are there laws in place to mitigate that?
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« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2015, 07:03:54 PM »

The problem with waging a conventional war these days is that it is essentially impossible to wage an old-school “total war” anymore. Just on a purely tactical level, you can completely encircle an enemy unit, cut them off from all logistical support, and if they have even a single fabricator and some nanomedicines, they can continue to fight at peak efficiency for days if not weeks. Now imagine trying to take over an entire country where every single enemy formation can be almost totally self-sufficient and – assuming they have secure backups or are teleoperating combat drones – are willing to make every single battle into Stalingrad 2.0. Large-scale wars just aren’t worth the effort they require to fight. Part of the power of nukes and other weapons of mass destruction has always been that having them was historically an exclusive privilege – now every single country on Earth theoretically has the capacity to manufacture a proper thermonuclear weapon in a matter of weeks and some pretty nasty varieties of nerve gas in a matter of hours.

How much authority the United States government has over you varies immensely depending on what part of the country you happen to be in. Let’s use the Chicago archology as an example. For the most part, Chicago is a city-state but not a city-state – that is, it is sovereign from the state of Illinois but still part of the United States. However, some parts of the city are considered territory of the Commonwealth of Illiniwek, a non-geographic American state with a predominantly Miami-Illinois Indian population. And then you have areas of the city that are enclaves of sovereign polystates, such as the neighborhoods controlled by the libertarian communist Goldman Commune, which are considered foreign territory and typically require a valid passport to enter. If that sounds absolutely exhausting to navigate, well, it is. But if you’re on the run from the CAPD, it’s helpful when they can’t pursue you past the city limits – or even into the wrong neighborhoods – without being slammed with a mountain of jurisdictional challenges.
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« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2015, 07:56:11 AM »

R,

My comments on war are more about the use of weapons of mass destruction and similar strategies that aren't about conquering your enemy as much as destroying them. Your above comments would seem to incentivize, rather than deter, their use. Unless you are suggesting that the entire world (worlds now) is being held in check from using them due to mutually assured destruction. And that only works with rational state actors, which your setting clearly lacks in certain places (as it should). 
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2015, 10:25:48 PM »

I'm still working on the particulars - the balance between fantasy and authenticity is hard to get a firm grip on - but I'm being tripped up by the owrry that what I have is unintelligible. Is this sample informative and/or evocative enough for y'all?

Marion County sits at the heart of Kentucky, equidistant from Louisville, Frankfort, and Lexington and only slightly further away from Bowling Green. There’s no delicate way of putting it – Marion County is poor, with over twenty percent of the population living below the official poverty line and a per capita income that has stubbornly remained just south of $15,000 for decades. The county seat of Lebanon is, if anything, even more impoverished. Kentucky had few protections in place to protect organic workers, so automation of huge segments of the manufacturing and service industries left thousands unemployed. The combination of superior growing conditions and the ease with which the traditional infrastructure for producing burley tobacco could be adapted for cannabis means that the state is paradoxically even more agrarian than it was a century ago: what with the waterlogging of North Carolina, Kentucky is the country’s largest producer of marijuana – particularly high-CBD/low-THC variety – as well as industrial hemp and transgenic tobacco products. The county government has precious little formal authority – much of Marion is a patchwork of de facto agricorp control and near-lawless unincorporated townships, making it in many ways the Southern equivalent of Tortuga.

[I can’t decide exactly how I want to characterize the Mooney clan and since that’s been the major roadblock for me, I’m just going to move past them for the time being. Keep in mind that in addition to everyone else, there’s also a multi-generational Syrian-American outlaw family led by a supercentenarian cyborg matriarch.]

The Dixie Mafia is another important player in the Marion underworld. Their main interest in the county is in producing and distributing everyone’s favorite semisynthetic thebaine-based opioid: oxycodone, otherwise known as cotton, orange county, and hillbilly heroin. In the past, moving oxy required forging prescriptions and smuggling cargo from Florida pill mills, but nowadays they’ve streamlined the process – thebaine-rich tobacco mash is fed into transgenic cattle and the resulting narcotic milk synthesized into straight oxycodone in rural pharmhouses before being packaged and shipped out to dealers. The local Dixie Mafia shot caller is a Tennessee expat by the name of Harold Painter. Middle-aged, leathery, and never without his MMI earpiece, Painter has well-deserved reputation as a savage motherfucker who does not respond well to interruptions in his cash flow. He’d love to diversify his operation beyond just oxy-pharming but doesn’t have the necessary capital to do so on his own – and he doesn’t want to ask his bosses in Nashville for a loan he might not be able to repay. The Dixie Mafia is a pure moneymaking operation after all; he knows that his position is due solely to his wealth and he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that, even if the monotony is slowly driving him crazy. Always by Painter’s side is his robotic bodyguard and chauffeur, which everyone calls The Lobster for some reason. Despite being a high-end, heavily-armored, bug-faced killing machine, The Lobster is ironically a damn sight more pleasant to interact with than their employer himself is. Nix, a strong AI specializing in predictive modelling, handles legal and financial matters for Painter’s crew from a private server in his Lebanon office.

Goldentree is an enclave of three square blocks in Lebanon under the control of an autonomous sex worker collective, which runs it as a self-sufficient red-light district where pretty much every type of sexual service is available…for paying customers, of course. The workers themselves are obviously the most striking feature of the neighborhood – many of them engineered for attractiveness and embodying the modern proliferation of gender, species, and beauty standards – which often leads customers to overlook just how secure the area itself actually is. Make no mistake; this is not the sex industry of yesteryear, where the customer was always right. When you cross the border into Goldentree, you are a guest – and a carefully-surveilled one at that. In addition to the neighborhood security forces, which wouldn’t look out of place guarding a military installation, quite a few of the sex workers are actually last-generation killdroids overlaid with fancy new meat. Prices and rules are set by the girls themselves and customers are expected to honor them without exception. Failure to pay or excessive rudeness will get you roughed-up, violently ejected, and blacklisted from all affiliated establishments; more serious violations will get you shot and dumped into a mass digester. Goldtree is ruthless – I mean cartel-level  ruthless – enforcing their stranglehold on the sex trade in Marion County and there’s some good money to be made escorting workers on outcalls, tracking down abusive clients, and putting the screws to would-be pimps.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2016, 03:24:25 PM by Rhamnousia » Logged


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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2015, 11:36:49 PM »

I think the balance is there, yes. It's a little more informative than evocative, compared to your previous blurbs, but that may be expected and necessary given that you're moving from macro to micro-flavor.

I like the general set-up for the state, county, and clan. My only real compliant is I greedily want more. smile

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WINGED NEMESIS
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« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2016, 03:25:09 PM »

I edited the post somewhat. That whet your appetite a bit more, Rose?
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