Building a Better Barsoom
Recently I went back to re-read an old favorite: Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Mars” novels. I’ve been fond of these since I was a kid, and although my adult eye can see how they haven’t always aged well, I still re-read them once a year or so.
Of course, these days when I re-read a well-loved old work, I’m forced to suppress the urge to turn around and write fan-fiction for it. Not to say that fan-fiction is a bad thing, but yeah, I’m making a conscious effort to avoid spending too much time on it, as opposed to writing original work that I might one day sell.
On the other hand, what’s to prevent me from working up some stories in the same genre as John Carter’s adventures on Barsoom? The venerable planetary romance is very far from death, with examples such as Frank Herbert’s Arrakis, Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea, and Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor all considered pillars of modern science fiction and fantasy.
So, in this article I’m going to engage in some targeted world-building. I’m going to work through some of the tropes visible in Burroughs’s stories. I’m going to decide which ones I want to keep as is, which ones I want to subvert, and which ones I want to avoid entirely. Once I’ve done enough literary analysis, I’ll begin building the environment for the setting itself.
Let’s begin with the setting as a whole.
Burroughs (and many of his imitators) set most of his stories in our own solar system. Barsoom is Mars, as it was understood a century or so ago, with plenty of references to Schiaparelli and Lowell. That clearly won’t work today. Mariner 9 killed Barsoom, or anything like it, stone dead. Most of today’s planetary romances are set upon habitable worlds of other stars. I’ll follow suit here. Picking a name out of the mysterious caverns at the back of my mind, I’ll call this planet Tanûr.
Barsoom is ostensibly a desert planet. The strange thing about that, of course, is that it’s almost never described as a true desert. Even in the middle of the “dead sea-bottoms,” there usually seems to be enough moisture to survive, bound up in hardy plant life. There’s often a canal nearby, where the heroes can find food and water, and get help for the next stage of their journey. Barsoomians are generally portrayed as terrible swimmers, but they never take precautions to conserve moisture. In the cities, there’s always enough water to drink or for a lovely princess to bathe in. Next to Arrakis, Barsoom looks downright paradisical.
Still, it would be interesting to have a world that’s somewhat difficult to live on, without being so hostile that civilization is flatly impossible. Let’s go with the concept of an eyeball planet. This is a proposed planet type which is tide-locked to its primary star, presumably a late K-type or M-type dwarf. Water tends to evaporate from the hot day face, and is then carried on the winds to the night face, where it freezes out in a “cold trap.” The ice sheets covering the night face of the planet tend to melt at the edges, providing liquid water for a narrow zone all around the planet’s terminator. The result would be a well-watered habitable band circling the entire planet, caught between the hot, dry day-face and the cold, dark night-face.
We might imagine Tanûr as having such a region with very stable climate, not unlike that of Earth’s Mediterranean basin. That physical setting gives me a way to recapture one of the neater features of Barsoom. Burroughs had a whole planet to work with, one with about the same amount of land surface as Earth. That meant he could drop all manner of distinctive local societies into each story as needed. Some of them served as home bases for the heroes, others provided antagonists, and still others acted as simple episodic distractions. If Tanûr’s habitable zone is broken up by mountain ranges, small seas, and other geographic obstacles, I should have plenty of spaces in which to place distinctive local cultures.
So, what kind of people live on Tanûr?
I’ll assume that they, like the protagonists who visit the place, are essentially human. Tanûr can be a “lost colony” of sorts, first settled by humans thousands of years ago, now a backwater planet that’s in very sporadic contact with an interstellar society. The details of that interstellar society can be left vaguely defined, since visitors from off-world will be almost as rare as Earthmen on Barsoom. A similar case might be Silverberg’s Majipoor, which exists as part of an interstellar civilization but is almost entirely self-contained.
If Tanûr has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years, that’s long enough for local civilizations to fall and rise again more than once. We can assume that it’s now occupied by many small city-states and nations, all of them possessing distinctive local cultures, frequently at war with one another.
One very strong trope in the Barsoom novels was racialism. Barsoomians came color-coded, in green, red, white, black, and yellow varieties. The narrator often described individual characters by referring to their racial origins first. Each racial group had a typical personality, even if individuals didn’t always live up (or down) to the stereotype. Now, for all that Burroughs used tropes we would consider problematic, he didn’t march in lock-step with the worst racism of his time. For example, throughout the series, the white Barsoomians were the most consistently degenerate and villainous. Still, better to avoid those tropes entirely.
Everyone on Tanûr will be some shade of brown, including the protagonists visiting from off-world. Differences in build, facial structure, hair color, or skin color will be purely descriptive, and they won’t play any discernable role in cultural or social distinctions. I’m reminded of Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Earthsea” setting. Hopefully, if any of the Tanûr stories I haven’t written yet ever get a book cover or a film adaptation, I’ll still be around to insist they don’t get white-washed.
One interesting feature of the source material: it portrays everyone as being superhuman, not just the protagonists. John Carter is eternally fit, super-strong, and uncannily fast and agile; he served as an early inspiration for Superman, of all things. But then, the native Barsoomians all seem to be nearly ageless, immune to disease, physically attractive so long as they don’t neglect their fitness, and capable of recovering from any wound that isn’t immediately mortal.
To anyone familiar with modern science fiction, that suggests the presence of very advanced biological science and medicine. I can run with that. Possibly the original colonists of Tanûr had the benefit of germ-line genetic engineering, granting their descendants long lives and very resilient physiques. Their present-day descendants may not be able to match that technology, but if the traits breed true they’ll still retain them. Meanwhile, anyone visiting from off-world may have access to even more advanced biotech. That might give them a John Carter-like advantage over some of the native Tanûrese, in support of swashbuckling derring-do.
Thus, we have an exotic world, habitable but not entirely Earthlike, occupied by long-lived, healthy, attractive people. So far, so good.
The Barsoom stories are swashbuckling adventures, in which any warrior’s preferred weapon is the sword. This is kind of strange, since Barsoomians are said to possess incredibly effective firearms. To get that result, Burroughs wrote in a strong warrior’s code of honor, which forbade anyone to use a firearm when his opponent lacked one, or was unwilling to use one. I want the same low-technology flavor, but I don’t feel comfortable using nothing but social fiat to get it.
Fortunately, there’s a way to make sure Tanûr remains comfortably low-technology in at least some areas. Let’s assume that it’s a planet that lacks fossil fuels, or perhaps whose easily accessible stocks of fossil fuels have already been used up by previous cycles of civilization. It’s not impossible to build a high-energy civilization without fossil fuels, including industrial production and advanced science. On the other hand, it’s not easy, and without the energy densities available from fossil fuels it’s almost impossible to do mass industrial production. Let’s assume that Tanûrese societies almost exclusively use renewable energy. I also note that if Tanûr is not a densely populated world, and each local state is relatively small, then it’s going to be difficult for any society to maintain complex technology.
All of this suggests a world that has baseline industrial technology at about the early-modern level, but which may be more advanced in specific areas. We can assume that the Tanûrese don’t have any trouble with advanced science and mathematics, and that they’re quite clever with the technologies they produce given their limited resources. They may have (e.g.) electricity driven by wind or water power, steel production based on renewable charcoal, and so on. We might also assume that they have biotechnology to fill in some of the technical gaps. If their ancestors engineered themselves, they might also have produced plant and animal forms that can fulfill many of the functions of an advanced technological base.
Yet there’s no reason to suspect that the Tanûrese will invest heavily in making firearms one of those areas of unusual sophistication. Let’s assume that they have firearms, but that they’re about at the flintlock level, still roughly comparable to bows or crossbows in battlefield effectiveness. Now our swashbuckling heroes can still prefer swords and other muscle-powered weapons, and not look too foolish as they go about it.
One thing to notice about firearms is that they’re uniquely populist weapons. Swordsmanship, archery, and the other classic martial arts require years of training and practice. In our history, they’ve tended to be restricted to upper-class people who have the time and resources necessary to specialize in such training. In contrast, a flintlock musket isn’t terribly accurate or deadly, but it’s relatively easy to train a competent musketeer. Generals of the early modern era appreciated that ease-of-use, because that made it possible to replace losses quickly. Eventually that led to a shift in political power, as crowds of peasants armed with flintlocks found it possible to enforce their demands on a few aristocrats armed with swords.
What about Tanûr?
Well, I’ve already established that the Tanûrese have been engineered for long lives and robust health. More people are likely to have the time (and the physique) to train in archery, swordsmanship, and so on. That suggests that even if Tanûrese societies are warrior-states, their social pyramids might be a bit flatter than we’re used to.
Biotechnology might make other aspects of Tanûrese life a little easier as well. Suppose, for example, that Tanûr has a variety of engineered crop plants, providing a healthy diet without demanding lengthy or back-breaking work? If a few farmers can feed the whole population, they aren’t peasants anymore; they’re skilled professionals who can make an independent living. That frees up most of the population for other pursuits: skilled craftsmanship, science, the arts, or soldiering. That was, after all, the first great force multiplier of our Industrial Revolution.
I think I’ll have at least some Tanûrese societies – the more sympathetic ones – as small oligarchic republics instead of feudal aristocracies. There might be a monarch and an aristocracy, but there should also be a lot of social mobility. In fact, we might expect the aristocracy to be only loosely hereditary, with people rising into its ranks on merit or even by election on a regular basis. Everyone might take the time to learn the military basics, while still working in their technical specialties most of the time. Not unlike the citizen bodies of many city-states of antiquity.
That brings us back to Barsoom, by no coincidence. In the stories, we do get to see a few details of everyday life for “red” Barsoomians, the racial group most often dealt with by the protagonists. Farming is done by independent land-holders, not by serfs, and we don’t get the impression that it’s a back-breaking job. Many characters have professions other than agriculture: scientists, engineers, merchants, artists, assassins. Meanwhile everyone has at least some combat skill, even if those who specialize in it do seem to be the most highly valued.
Politically, each Barsoomian state has a social hierarchy (jeddak, jed, chieftain, ordinary citizen), but there also seems to be a fair amount of social mobility. We see multiple characters being elevated in status on merit, or for service to the state. In fact, it seems that characters are sometimes elected to higher position. We see one jeddak (king) whose only son will still have to “stand among the jeds (higher nobles)” when it comes time to “choose” a new jeddak. Even John Carter was elected to the new position of Warlord of Barsoom, by a gathering of allied jeddaks.
A society that’s stratified and may have some form of aristocracy, but which also permits plenty of social mobility, seems fitting for both the genre and for the specific Barsoomian example.
Of course, this brings us to the elephant standing in the tent: the question of slavery. This is one of those points at which I’m forced to ask what on Earth Burroughs was thinking.
Okay, let’s be clear: by today’s standards, Burroughs was a racist (though apparently not ideologically committed), and he had some pretty horrific ideas about eugenics. It still strikes me as odd to hear a Northerner, the son of a Civil War veteran at that, speaking approvingly of the institution of slavery. Yet there it is. Starting with the infamous line about how the narrator’s antebellum slaves “worshipped the ground [Carter] walked on,” it continues through the presence of slavery in every Barsoomian society we see, with slaves owned even by the protagonists of each story. Perhaps this was just Burroughs putting words in the mouth of his narrator that he wouldn’t himself approve. He is careful to demonstrate that heroes treat their slaves with kindness. Still, that hardly seems sufficient.
No, no, just flat nope. I’m not John Norman; this is not what I’m aiming for if I intend to write my own planetary romance. So, if any society on Tanûr keeps slaves, it’s clearly going to be a villainous society that needs a bit of revolution. Sympathetic societies will recognize and defend the freedom of all their citizens. Wealthy people may hire servants, people may be hired for unpleasant or dangerous work, but no one is going to be treated as property.
Sexual Ethics and Gender Roles
Now, some relevant tropes from the Barsoom novels will prove to be unworkable for a modern audience. This shows up most strongly in the area of sexual ethics and gender roles.
First, an oddity.
The Barsoom stories are famous for the casual nudity of their characters, in almost any climate and under almost any circumstances. Male Barsoomians rarely wear anything but a leather “harness” on which they can hang their weapons, a utility pouch, and possibly a few ornaments. Female Barsoomians normally wear nothing other than some jewelry. We never see most characters put on actual clothing, unless they’re going out in a very cold climate.
Right away, this seems a little impractical.
We can expect that Tanûr, a tide-locked planet with little or no seasonal variation, will have very stable climate. That doesn’t mean the place won’t have weather; there will be times when people outdoors will want protection against the elements. If nothing else, consider that in the inhabited zones, it’s going to be daylight all the time. Maybe Tanûr’s primary star is a relatively cool and quiet thing, that doesn’t put out a lot of ultraviolet light. If most of the population have medium to dark skin tones, they won’t need to worry about what UV remains. Even so, people will want to shade their eyes, protect their skin from the sun and wind, and possibly wick sweat away from the body.
There’s also the question of what people are going to wear to a fight. Reading the stories of John Carter and his nude antagonists, going at it with a variety of edged weapons, it doesn’t take long before you wonder how that’s supposed to work with no protection for their dangly bits. Warrior’s code of honor or no, the first treacherous thern to come at Carter with a sword had to be strongly tempted to go for the clear target.
So, let’s assume that the Tanûrese aren’t so foolish as to give up clothing entirely. When they go outdoors, they’ll wear something appropriate. If most of the inhabited zone has a warm Mediterranean climate, I might expect loose or rather sheer clothing. Something like ancient Egyptian styles, perhaps: light kilts or wraps for both sexes. Meanwhile, when the Tanûrese go into battle, they can be expected to wear some protective gear. Full metal plate is probably excessive, but some kind of cuirass and leggings wouldn’t hurt, something to help fend off the odd sharp edge or musket ball.
Meanwhile, indoors, we can assume the Tanûrese are like Barsoomians, in that they have no trouble at all with social nudity. Bring on the well-toned, eternally youthful physiques, shown off with a minimum of clothing and as much bling as one can afford, even (or especially) at the royal ball!
This brings us to the related question of sexual ethics.
It’s interesting to note that the Barsoom novels generally treat the ubiquitous nudity as just another part of the landscape. None of the sympathetic characters ever seem to notice all the hot nakedness on all sides. Sure, the male heroes are always described as well-built and handsome, and the female love interests are all described as beautiful. Yet it’s almost vanishingly rare for any “good” character to show the slightest sign of sexual interest.
This is, of course, part and parcel with the way sexuality is more generally treated in the stories. On Barsoom, sex only seems to take place in one of two circumstances. In one case, the participants are a married couple, the sex occurs entirely off-camera, and the fact of a sexual relationship is never clearly laid out in the narrative. Children do occur, but they may as well have been brought by the Barsoomian equivalent of the stork. In the other case, a male villain forces himself on a female victim; either this is prevented by the hero at the last moment, or it again occurs off-camera and is only coyly hinted at in the narrative.
We’re left with the picture of a planet full of habitual nudists with the sexual mores of Victorian English. Which shouldn’t surprise us: Burroughs intended to titillate his audience, but his own mores were essentially Victorian.
The mores of (most of) the modern audience are not Victorian. There’s no reason why I can’t bake a strong sexual ethic into the Tanûr setting, just as Burroughs did with Barsoom, but it can be a sexual ethic based on the core value of consent rather than chastity. Good people will have good sex: explicitly negotiated, mutually pleasurable, and based on respect for themselves and their partners. As for the evil people, well, perhaps I can avoid using “abduction and threatened rape” as such a persistent plot element.
It seems clear that the Tanûrese are not going to have a social norm of life-long monogamy. They’re living under a different set of biological constraints than present-day humans. For example, if they’re effectively immune to infectious disease, they won’t need to enforce monogamy as a means for controlling its spread.
A more pervasive factor: if the Tanûrese are engineered for long life, they’re probably going to need to limit their reproduction, and they won’t be in a hurry to have children as soon as they reach adulthood. It’s even possible that Tanûrese women have some form of conscious control over conception, so that they can’t become pregnant “by accident.” All of this suggests that the Tanûrese won’t need to devote as much of their lifespan to raising children, and won’t have the same social requirement for pseudo-permanent partnerships. I imagine they might go in for temporary pair-bonds, where “temporary” might run up to the equivalent of twenty or thirty years, if the intention is to raise children. Or there might be social acceptance of some forms of polyamory or group marriage.
In fact, maybe most Tanûrese societies are matrilineal, reckoning descent and inheritance in the female rather than the male line. There’s plenty of historical precedent for this kind of arrangement; I suspect that human reproductive patterns tend toward matrilineal social structures anyway. The only way patrilineality works reliably for men is if they get to enforce male control over female sexuality and reproduction. Otherwise, “a mother is a fact, a father is an opinion.” Matrilineality doesn’t imply matriarchy, by any means, but it does provide an interesting subversion of the unspoken assumptions of the Barsoom stories. I think I’ll run with this.
Finally, let’s engage in a brief examination of gender roles. It’s not surprising to see that Barsoom assumes very strict separation of the roles of men and women. The narrator gives away the game when he describes the highest ideals of Barsoom’s “red” civilizations: “a world that aspired to grace and beauty and chastity in woman, and strength and dignity and loyalty in man.” I don’t think anyone would quarrel with most of those ideals today, but the way they’re explicitly divided up isn’t as obvious as it once was.
Meanwhile, Burroughs says that Barsoomian women are potentially just as effective in action as the men. Yet that often seems to be an informed attribute. Female characters do show agency, and they sometimes even act to save the male heroes. They also have a distressing tendency to be reduced by the narrative to objects, to be pursued, rescued, and accepted as a reward for heroism. Dejah Thoris may be incomparable, but in the original source material she never seemed very interesting. It’s no accident that in more modern adaptations (the recent film, or the Dynamite Comics series) she’s given a lot more agency and competence.
We’re in new times, and I have a new audience with new expectations. Let’s go with the notion that most Tanûrese societies have at least partial gender-egalitarianism. Women can serve in any role that men do, including in the military or the halls of political power, according to their aptitudes and inclinations.
In fact, what better way to demonstrate this than by having a female protagonist? My John Carter analogue can be tough, smart, lightning-fast with a blade . . . and a woman of color. Almost commonplace on Tanûr, but wouldn’t it give our ageless Virginia gentleman cause for a moment’s confusion!
Let’s examine some of the physical details of the setting, what Tanûr might be like as an environment in which people can live and have adventures. Most of these details have been derived using an extended variant of the world-building systems I designed for GURPS Space, Fourth Edition. I may revisit this work once the Architect of Worlds project is further advanced.
What follows is an excerpt from the standard Imperial Diplomatic Service’s introductory data packet, intended for visitors to Tanûr.
Tanûr is an independent world, colonized by humans during the Fifth Expansion Wave, about ten thousand years before the present. Although it is within the boundaries of the Human Imperium, it is far from any significant trade routes, and has no local resources worth exporting. Few citizens of the Imperium have ever visited Tanûr. Fewer still of those visitors have ever left the immediate vicinity of the planet’s sole frontier-installation spaceport. Tanûr has been declared as an Imperial Protectorate, severely restricting off-world contact and forbidding the export of advanced technology to local societies.
In the language family most often heard near the spaceport, Tanûr’s primary star is called Rehaan. Rehaan is a red dwarf star (spectral class M2v) with 40% of Sol’s mass, but only about 4.8% of Sol’s luminosity. It is an old Population I star, about two billion years older than Sol. Billions of years ago it was a flare star, but today it has settled into an eons-long calm, with major flares occurring only once or twice in a thousand years. Flare episodes are disruptive to civilization on Tanûr, but are generally not catastrophic.
Rehaan has no companion stars and eight planets. Many societies on Tanûr are uninterested in astronomy, and do not even have names for the other planets in their star system. Standard Imperial nomenclature for the planets is as follows.
- Rehaan I: A small, rocky planet, orbiting at 0.15 astronomical units (AU) from the star. Essentially a much warmer version of Mars.
- Rehaan II: Tanûr, the single habitable world of the system, orbiting at 0.25 AU.
- Rehaan III: An Earth-sized world, very cold, with an atmosphere composed largely of ammonia and methane and a surface of solid ice, orbiting at 0.43 AU.
- Rehaan IV through Rehaan VI: Three ice-giant worlds like Uranus or Neptune, orbiting at distances from 1.3 to 3.8 AU.
- Rehaan VII and Rehaan VIII: Two small, icy worlds, like Neptune’s moon Triton, orbiting at distances of 6.8 AU and 12 AU.
Although Rehaan is smaller than Sol, it appears about two and a half times as large in the Tanûrese sky; about a degree and a quarter across, roughly the size of a large coin held at arm’s length. Although it is a “red” dwarf star, its light does not appear conspicuously red to an observer. Instead, it has a more golden-orange appearance. An observer might be tempted to look directly at the star, as its visible-light output will not be immediately blinding. This is still a very bad move, as the star’s radiation peaks in the near infrared. Anyone who stares at it for very long runs the risk of serious retinal burns.
Tanûr orbits Rehaan once in just under 74 Earth-days. This is also the length of the planet’s rotation. Tanûr is “tide-locked” to Rehaan, the same face turned eternally toward the primary star, just as the Moon is tide-locked to Earth.
Surprisingly, however, Rehaan is not completely motionless in Tanûr’s sky. Tanûr has a minimal axial tilt of about three degrees, which means that Rehaan appears to slowly slide north and south in the sky during a local year. Meanwhile, the planet’s orbit is not perfectly circular; it has an eccentricity of about 0.05, similar to the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. This means that Tanûr moves faster at some points on its orbit than others, so its rotation is never perfectly synchronized to its revolution. This leads to a phenomenon called libration. In other words, Tanûr “rocks” slightly back and forth with respect to its sun, causing Rehaan to slide in an east-west direction in the sky as well. From any given point on Tanûr’s surface, the sun can always be found in the same general part of the sky, but it appears to perform a slow, perfectly predictable dance around its average position during each local year.
Tanûr is a relatively small terrestrial planet, about 9,950 kilometers in diameter (about 78% of Earth’s size). It has a large iron core and is only slightly less dense than Earth. Its mass is about 46% that of Earth, and its surface gravity is about 0.75 standard. Visitors to Tanûr from Earth will feel pleasantly light, but will not be able to perform apparently superhuman feats.
Despite its low gravity, Tanûr has a thick blanket of atmosphere. The gas mix is well within norms for long-term human respiration, with no unusual or toxic components. Air pressure at sea level is about 94% that of Earth, or about what an Earth native would experience at an elevation of 1,000 meters. Tanûr’s lower gravity implies that air pressure falls off more slowly with elevation than on Earth. Since the planet has no extremely tall mountains, no equivalent of (e.g.) the Andes or the Himalayas, there are very few places where the air becomes too thin for humans to easily breathe.
Most of Tanûr’s water has been locked up in the vast ice sheets of the planet’s night face. About 36% of the surface is covered by liquid water, most of that arranged in a series of small oceans and large seas that circles the outer edges of the day face. The center of the day face is one large continent, most of whose interior is hot, dry desert. Tanûr has an active water cycle, in which water is pulled toward the center of the day face by winds crossing oceans. What water doesn’t fall as precipitation on the day face is eventually carried into the night face, where it freezes out onto the ice sheets. The ice sheets tend to push back toward the day face, encountering warmer air and water currents, and melting to maintain the planet’s supply of liquid water.
The average surface temperature of Tanûr is around 285 kelvins. Naturally, temperature variations across the planet’s surface are enormous. At the center of the day face, temperatures soar as high as 385 kelvins. At the center of the night face, the temperature never rises much above 170 kelvins. The region where humans are most comfortable (say, with average temperatures between about 283 and 305 kelvins) forms a rough circular band around the day face, stretching from close to the planet’s terminator to about 30 degrees away from the terminator.
(As a side note: the question of exactly how stable climate would work on this kind of habitable tide-locked planet is not at all clear. We can model local temperatures on such a world quite easily, if it has no atmosphere. Air and water tend to move heat around the planet, moderating the extremes of climate, and their actions can be very difficult to model. All of the above are back-of-the-envelope estimates, meant to be plausible rather than scientifically precise. Okay, back to the Imperial data packet.)
Tanûr is an old world, and its age and small size mean that it has lost more of its internal heat than Earth. The planet remains geologically active, if less so than Earth. It possesses a few mobile tectonic plates and small areas of active volcanism. These occasionally disrupt inhabited lands. On the other hand, some volcanic zones near the terminator or on the night face actually provide more warmth and liquid water than the planet would otherwise see. Tanûr’s mineral resources are significant if not abundant, although there are no easily available stocks of fossil fuels.
Tanûr has a human population of about 26 million. This is a loose estimate, as the Imperium maintains only a single local enclave near the frontier spaceport, and has made no attempt to survey or annex the rest of the planet. Large regions of Tanûr’s habitable zone have never been explored or even visited by off-worlders. The planet is divided among hundreds of small states, most of which are at a stable early-industrial stage of development, with many technological anomalies inherited from earlier cycles of civilization. At least a dozen major language families are attested, all of them showing signs of remote descent from languages of Old Earth. Most societies exhibit various forms of tribal or city-state organization.
Visitors are advised that many Tanûrese states are hostile to off-worlders. Familiarity with local languages, and careful respect for local customs, are strongly indicated.
©2016 Jon F. Zeigler