Editor’s Note: George Soonge, 57 , Marketing Director for Kunitani Manufacturing Company, describes life on Poseidous. A native, born into one of the oldest families on the planet, George graduated cum laude from Vallois University with a Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology. He spent five years working for the Poseidous Weather Service, a private company. During that time he developed his theory of the effects of small moons on Poseidous’s weather. Publication of this theory lead to the development of a computer program for predicting the occurrence and paths of tropical storms.
After five years, George tired of meteorology and took a job selling Kunitani’s appliances. He proved so successful at his new career that he rose rapidly through the ranks to a position of top management within 20 years. He has traveled widely on Poseidous, visiting literally every island that contains any sort of retail store or co-op outlet. George’s hobby, Poseidous’s history, forms the subject of his very entertaining and popular book, Waterlogged Spacesuits. He is active in the local politics of his home island, New Britain, and was serving as member of the Council of Governors at this writing. George’s extensive knowledge of the many communities of Poseidous, his understanding of its unique weather and his experience as a writer make him highly qualified to tell Poseidous’s story.
It’s natural that Poseidous, with so much ocean, attracted people of seafaring heritage. The ocean shapes the lifestyle of every Poseidon. It influences not only our hobbies, our commerce, and our institutions, but also subtly weaves itself into the subconscious instincts of every person. The ocean draws us magnetically to its shore to build our homes where the pungent smell of sea air, the constant roar of breakers, and the empty expanse of sea and sky permeate all our senses.
The antigravity field obsoleted the great floating ships of Earth’s oceans before the founding of the Poseidous colony, yet Poseidous’ seas still serve important commercial functions. Mariculture provides a major food source and offshore minerals fulfill all of the planet’s raw material needs. The sea creates a giant playground for 95 percent of all Poseidons who engage in at least one form of water sport. Swimming, gill or snorkel diving, sailing, submarining, fishing, and surfing head the list of leisure time pursuits. Our beaches form the focal point of social activities on almost every island.
The diversity of Poseidous’ societies transcends mere politics. Arts, family structure, mores, eating habits, esthetics, and governments follow patterns unique to each island. For example, the island of Moamba, settled by the dissident socialists from New Britain, retains a peculiar brand of socialism that is about as inefficient as socialism has ever been. Yet Moambans seem to like it and feel a strong sense of attachment to their community and their island. Being rather puritanical and straight-laced, they wear light-weight, but starkly simple clothing resembling coveralls, usually in drab colors. The unisex look is omnipresent; men and women crop their hair closely, and frown upon makeup or bodily ornamentation.
Moambans are big on community projects and often spend weekends working to improve a park or build a stadium. They must like parades too, for I manage to become entangled in at least one each time I visit. Disposable incomes of the islanders appear quite low, despite the official statistics. Appliance sales on the island are not as brisk as they ought to be, considering the size of its population. The sales my company makes tend to be basic items like cookers, waste annihilators, preservators, and ovens. Very few clean fields, domestic robots, or entertainment centers find their way into Moamban homes.
Moambans minimize family life at the expense of community life. Marriages are rare, and sex for pleasure is discouraged. Yet Moamban women have a “duty” to bear children, and so most find a way to get pregnant without having any fun. After their children are born, community child-care centers raise them, and mothers see their offspring only during spare hours. Though some mothers do bring up infants at home, education in state boarding schools is compulsory, and when the children reach 18, they go out into the world to repeat the dreary process.
Life on Moamba stands in total contrast to Troon, without doubt the most purely hedonistic culture that ever existed. I suspect the easygoing attitudes of the Troons have to do with the weather. The nearest inhabited island to the equator, Troon remains very humid and near 32 degrees C at all times. Nudism, though not universal, is widely practiced and quite obvious in all public places.
I have no difficulty telling the girls from the boys there! Troons go in for weird, brightly-colored things. Body paint and makeup are commonplace. Most Troons don’t work very hard, but then, why should they? The beaches are gleaming white, and the crystal blue water measures in the high twenties all the time. Fruits and vegetables from Earth’s tropical regions flourish without much attention.
Troon’s chief exports consist of all kinds of toys, from beautiful polyglass sailboats to strange little dolls that fit one inside the other. Troon produces Poseidous’s only genuine hardwood furniture, beautiful, if impractical, and arts and crafts of all kinds abound on the island. The people of Troon prefer simple lifestyles; so for wholly different reasons than on Moamba, Troon also posts rather punk appliance sales. Most Troons reside in houses without walls and engage in simple diversions. They would rather do without something than work too hard for it. Most live in large, loosely structured family groups. Few Troons have a single mate, but somehow they manage to care for their children and to educate them about the things they consider important.
Notable exceptions to the Troon stereotype exist, of course. An old friend of mine, Alex Popodopolus, lives in the center of the island and is the nearest thing to a hermit I have ever met. Most of his time not spent gardening or fishing is consumed in producing his own strange brand of wire art. He purchases his artist’s supplies and other things he can’t make himself by catalog from the income of a conservative portfolio accumulated during his years as a successful insurance salesman.
Lifestyles on the rest of the island vary between these two extremes. Most communities allow much personal freedom and support modern, industrialized economies. They offer the safety and conveniences of life on Earth, although the variety of goods is somewhat more limited. I wish I had the time to describe each island community, for each has its endearing features, but I think I can convey the spirit of life on Poseidous best by telling about life on my home island of New Britain.
More than half of New Britain’s population traces its ancestry to eastern Asia, a fact that profoundly influences our culture, despite our island’s Anglo-Saxon name. The island lies in the temperate latitudes, so the air temperature rarely varies from 26 to 22 degrees C. New Britain supports much of Poseidous’s basic industry and over 50 percent of the population makes its living from manufacturing, construction, or agribusiness. Laissez-faire applies to business and personal life. New Britains believe that anyone can chose his lifestyle as long as it doesn’t harm others. An island government attempts to provide some sort of guidelines for community development, but were it not for the spirit of cooperation that pervades the populace, I doubt that anything would remotely resemble the government’s plan.
Although New Britain makes a small blotch on the map of Poseidous, the enlarged map (figure 3.6 below) shows what a large and uncrowded place it really is. The most rabid hydrophobiacs can find dry homes in the interior, and even on the sea coasts leagues of open space remain for future generations.
Figure 3.6 – New Britain Island
About a third of all adults live in nuclear families consisting of one man and one woman; another third roams relatively unattached, and the last third are members of extended ring or line families. I am a member of a line family that dates back 170 years to Li Soonge, an upstart young immigrant who had the audacity to marry the Anglo-Saxon daughter of one of New Britain’s oldest families. Today the Soonge line encompasses 98 members spanning five generations. I live with the 31 members of Molly Soonge’s branch. “Grandmother,” as we call her, married into the family, but her daughter, Camile, by Li Soonge’s eldest son, is my mother and a direct descendant of Li.
Grandmother staked the claim of our present home 51 years ago along with her two daughters and two younger men who had married into the family. My cousin, Leslie, had just been born, and Grandmother felt that the family would soon outgrow the original family complex near New Washington. She proved an astute planner, for the branch today includes some 16 adults and 15 children, yet the present home (figure 3.7 shown below) still offers room for future growth.
Figure 3.7 – Soonge Family Estate, New Britain Island
Centuries ago Humans learned that by dividing their labors and specializing, they could raise their material standard-of-living, but it took them much longer to realize that what was good for business was good for their personal lives as well. In a nuclear family, one man and one woman must cope with earning a living in an industrial economy, raising and caring for children, shopping, and taking care of domestic chores like cooking, cleaning, and fixing the house. Each must assume many roles, though most of us aren’t well suited to all of them. In a nuclear family two individuals stand alone against a sometimes hostile, always demanding world. If either of them falters, the other must pick up the entire load. Through all these trials, each man and woman in a nuclear family must be the sole friend and companion of the other, always patient and supportive, ready to cope with and adjust to the many changes in outlook, goals, and personal philosophy that each goes through in a lifetime. No wonder marriages that last 75 to 100 years seem as rare as supernova!
“Many hands make light work,” and so in an extended family the burdens of domestic life fall on many shoulders. Each member does what he or she does best. Some perform best while pursuing a career. These members earn the money needed to buy the necessities of life. Others enjoy raising children, entertaining and instructing them, organizing and disciplining them, and watching to make sure no harm comes to them. Still others prefer domestic chores: cooking, repairing the machinery, caring for the garden, decorating, building an extension.
In our family, Leslie and I earn the lion’s share of the money now, though Quon, Daphne, and Roger all intensely pursue promising careers that may project them into highly paid positions when Leslie and I are ready to retire. Grandma remains titular head of the family. Though she sometimes supervises the children, she spends most of her time reading or gardening. My mother, Camile, is retired, along with Wilbur. Together they manage the family investments. Mother reads a good deal, and Wilbur enjoys tinkering with machines of all sorts. Daphne studies toward a Doctorate in marine biology and hopes to land a position at a research institute. Chen works hard at marketing his secret invention, a household gadget that I’m not supposed to describe. One day I’m sure he will be either the greatest success or the worst failure in the family.
The other adults gravitate toward domestic life. Liam, Nancy, Sharon, and Phuong primarily care for the children. Tsen cooks, with help from the others. Peter cares for most of the estate, with help from Sharon with the inside chores. Sharon’s holographs have started to bring in fair sums of money now that she has begun to earn a reputation, so all of us encourage her to do more art and less straightening and decorating.
Only a few of Li Soonge’s genes still float around in the family gene pool, for as each generation grows up, some members born to the family leave it, and others born outside the family marry in. When one “marries in,” he or she marries the entire family, not just one member of it. Children, regardless of their genetic parents, are born to the entire family, and the entire family shares legal responsibility for their care and upbringing. By design few of our children are conceived by the same two parents. We also avoid producing too many children from the same genetic lineage, so genetic defects aren’t amplified. Leslie and I, who share a common grandmother, have created just one child together. Though IU gene scan can detect genetic disasters early, we loathe abortion and prefer not to increase the risk of it.
Finding new members for an extended family isn’t easy. The more people involved in making a decision, the more difficult it becomes. When someone marries in, they pledge to love and support not just one other person, but the entire group. They must find something to love and appreciate about every family member, or the alliance cannot be a happy one. Our family encompasses a variety of different personalities, but all share the same basic outlook on life. Though none of us are religious, we all respect nature’s works, both grand and humble, and disapprove the wanton destruction of any of them. Though we follow different occupations, all of us believe that what we do, we must do well. Like most Poseidons, we enjoy sports and outdoor life. Free and open sexual relations exist between all adult family members, and all of us find something physically attractive in each other. Though we have no hangups about nudity, we don’t live a nudist lifestyle, and since we aren’t into homosexuality, we try to roughly balance the number of men and women. Though some of us spend more time with our children than others, we all enjoy and appreciate their youthful curiosity and energy.
Though I love every member of my family, each is a unique individual and the emotions I feel toward each of them are unique as well. I would risk my life for any one of them. Although I regularly sleep with every one of the women from Grandma to Daphne, I feel closer and more in tune with Leslie than with all the others. One has to meet Leslie only once to be forever branded by the intense fire of her personality. She throws every gram of her drive and creativity into her career as marketing director of Infodyne, the largest information service on Poseidous. Her job takes her traveling as much as mine does, yet on those occasions when we splash down at home together, we usually sit up talking long ofter the others have gone to sleep. We hash around our latest business ideas, cry on each other’s shoulders about problems of corporate politics, and recount tales of business adventures not suitable for the dinner table.
The relationship we share couldn’t exist without our extended family. As husband and wife, the demands of our separate careers would constantly clash with the demands of our home and our children and would inevitably lead to unhappiness and divorce. In our extended family we can devote all of our energies to our work, knowing that this is how we can best serve the others, yet within the family framework we can experience the joys of having children and the pleasures of conjugal companionship.
Work has always played a central role in my life. My early love of the sea and sailing drew me to study meteorology in college, and I began a career as a professional weather forecaster. It didn’t take long for me to give that up, because weather on Poseidous is downright boring. I quit the Poseidous Weather Service, and took a cut in pay to begin selling appliances for Kunitani Manufacturing. My early career took me all over the planet, to tiny islands with one co-op store and to private islands of single families. I found I enjoyed hawking “Neptune” dish handlers, “Trident” environmental conditioners, and “Viking” foodmasters much more than I liked organizing data files to input to the computer. Sales offered a great opportunity to meet all kinds of interesting people and to absorb the variety of fantastic lifestyles adopted everywhere on the planet.
Enjoying a job almost guarantees success at it, and my record sales in the outlying islands soon boosted me up the sales management ladder. As the outlying islands grew in population, sales volumes rose, and it wasn’t very hard for me to blow right past the old-timers working the established territories like New Britain and Lisieux. Now I’m responsible for all marketing at Kunitani, and not only sell existing products, but dream up ideas for new products to sell.
My job still calls for a lot of traveling, and I still spend half my nights away from home. Though I have computerized sales reports and a high-priced marketing department full of hotshots to think up new products, I feel the need to get out to the islands and talk with the salespeople. I visit appliance stores too and try to meet as many customers as I can, just to keep in touch with a real world. My own observations of the customer’s complaints and desires help me to temper the megabytes of statistical and behavioral analysis that come across my screen with a little common sense. Many times my hunches have not only uncovered new opportunities but prevented pursuing some projects that would have been mistakes.
Meeting new people and seeing new places remains the most enjoyable aspect of my job. In my younger days, I looked upon each potential sale as a challenge, but I’ve mellowed with age and leave the hard sell to the younger people. I usually travel in my personal levicar. Though at 700 kilometers per hour it is slower than the big interisland transports, I like having my car to make short trips around the island once I’ve made a transocean hop. I enjoy the solitude of crossing the ocean.
Once I set a course, automatic guidance control takes charge and not only steers, but looks out for obstacles and other vehicles as well. From my car’s terminal I can read or write reports as conveniently as I can from my New Britain office, yet when I look up, I survey the vast expanse of empty sea and sky. I love to watch the subtle changes in color of the water as sunlight gives way to the clouds of a passing squall. Amidst the peace and tranquility of the open ocean, I find it so natural that Earth’s gentlest and most intelligent creatures evolved in the sea. I often wish Earth’s great whales and dolphins could become pioneers too and live with us here on Poseidous, for our world is even more suited to them than to us.
One major disadvantage of rising up the executive ladder is that sooner or later you’ll be roped into some sort of community service. For some reason people believe that because you know how to organize a business, you can organize the unorganizable – government. The fact that someone with an attitude like mine could be elected to the New Britain Council indicates how seriously the average New Britain voter takes his government. The better part of my term of office has been spent hammering out the final details of a land-use plan.
After nearly 200 years, it has become pretty clear what sort of development New Britons want. They wish to live on the seashore and not have a bunch of cruddy-looking industrial complexes mess up the scenery. Industry has, in general, been happy to oblige. Large tracts of land have always been more available in the interior. On Earth, industry has traditionally located near the coast because it needed access to ocean ships and the cooling waters of the sea. The advent of direct fusion energy conversion and antigrav transport eliminated these traditional requirements, but the industrial areas remained near the seas because nobody wanted to be the first to move in next to a steel mill. Now, on Poseidous, industry has located inland, nearer cheap sources of groundwater. The council’s plans will do little more than formalize this natural pattern of development.
GAILE finds the absence of an all-planet government on Poseidous quite exasperating. It is much easier for one massive, bureaucratic institution to deal with another giant bureaucracy than to deal with more than 50 distinct island communities and thousands of unaffiliated family units. Nevertheless, GAILE has remained true to its stated policy and has not attempted to coerce the islands of Poseidous into any sort of unification plan.
Poseidons do fullfill their obligations to supply GAILE with scientific knowledge about our planet and with details of technical innovations developed here. Poseidons also have the right to influence GAILE immigration policies so the interests of GAILE an d the Poseidons are served. To this end, each government sends a representative to the GAILE advisory assembly, which acts as liaison between GAILE and the island governments. The assembly in no way functions as a government and exercises less influence over the New Britain Council than the native Ginko lizards. It meets on GAILE Island, a small island set aside for the exclusive use of the GAILE staff. The island contains scientific laboratories, quarters for the permanent GAILE staff, and the Assembly office buildings. Giant computers on the island organize data received from literally millions of sources around Poseidous, analyze it, and prepare it for transmission to Earth.
Almost every Poseidon participates in the continuing study of our planet. Major industrial companies gladly furnish information about their technical accomplishments and scientific finds in exchange for access to GAILE’s own data bases which contain the latest technical information from Earth. In order to insure the continued flow of information, GAILE protects the secrecy of proprietary inventions and formulas from competitors on Poseidous, but distributes the information on Earth. Ordinary citizens of Poseidous may report any observations of new or unusual phenomena directly to GAILE via satellite, through a series of open data channels maintained by the GAILE staff. Though this system accumulates a tremendous quantity of informational garbage (the expected result from the input of millions of untrained observers), GAILE computers manage to sort out the inconsistencies. The GAILE staff feels this is a small price to pay, for last year alone, citizens of Poseidous discovered more than 1100 new species of marine life.
Even more substantial contributions have been made by Poseidous’s industries. The bipolar sonic barrier for confining marine animals in mariculture zones has found extensive application both on Earth and on Genesis. A technique for random sequencing multichannel computer inputs using Murphy’s statistics, first applied on Poseidous, greatly enhanced the effectiveness of data acquisition computers. Poseidons developed the first nonreflux autoigniter for small-scale laser fusion plants that has made them not only safer, but also less expensive. The list continues through hundreds of minor refinements to industrial techniques and processes that have found application on Earth. Even more importantly, Poseidous’s simple weather patterns allowed people to develop the first accurate, deterministic model for predicting weather. The techniques learned on Poseidous provided an essential first step toward the accurate long-range prediction of Earth’s weather patterns.
Though Poseidous lacks the potential of the newer colonies, we still have plenty of room for growth. During the coming century, our diversity of thought and life styles will reap an increasingly bountiful harvest of new ideas to help all Humankind.