The Vacuum-Tight Suitcase
Excerpts from The Vacuum-Tight Suitcase by K. Joan Durrell
It's a lot harder to define the typical Adonian than you would guess from the madcap and brain-fried stereotypes you see on TV. They live in many different ways. For instance, everyone knows Adonians are artistic, but plenty of Adonians are also technically expert, and the planet probably boasts more than its fair share of ingenious hackers and tinkerers.
Other Adonians also remind us how little technology we really need for daily life. The most radical examples are the folk on Walkabout. The biology of Adonis supplies all the right trace minerals for humans, though you have to have gene therapy and tailored gut bacteria to get all the vitamins and amino acids. The climate is a bit chill, but if you can take it, or if you know how to make your own clothes from hides, or if you take a cosmetic mutation for fur, you can survive comfortably and indefinitely in the wilds of Adonis with nothing but your wits and your hands.
I guess that most folk on Walkabout are Adonians on a get-away-from-it-all vacation. Some are off-worlders; indeed, there used to be a minor literary cliche in which embittered heroes disembarked at the Sybil spaceport and walked straight from the landing field into the forest, doffing their clothes at the border and taking a sabatical or retirement from heroics. The prudent Walkabouters take a sturdy handcom with them, so they can call for help in case of accident. But if you are independent and hermitish enough to go Walkabout, you may jolly well not want to have a handcom around either.
The next step up is small hunter-gatherer bands, and they usually keep a few palmtops, laptops, and pocket TVs with them. In fact, they blend smoothly with folk on hiking excursions.
The Walkabouters and the hunter-gatherer bands make up only a small part of the population (I think; Adonians aren't much for record-keeping, and it's impossible to keep track of the Walkabouters in any case). Many more Adonians live in woodland communes or strung-out forest villages.
And finally there are the folk in the cities. There aren't many cities on Adonis, and they aren't large, but they are busy and bustling and full of color. Sybil looks almost like a shanty-town. Street-plans are twisty, zoning is non-existent, and a lot of the buildings are made of log-cabin-style timbering. Only the few government buidlings and big corporate facilities are "normal" and solid-looking. There are bright decorations everywhere -- either ads or just pure ornament -- and people in any manner of dress or undress.
In short, the whole planet is a great vacation spot and has something for almost any kind of vacation you had in mind. Indeed, you sometimes feel that the Adonians themselves are tourists at heart.
You don't hear much about the Adonian government, and the popular impression is that Adonis is an anarchy. I'm sure they'd like it to be, but United Earth and the necessities of human nature prevented that. The government, such as it is, is the elective parliament UE usually established on colony worlds unless there was some reason not to. The parliament busies itself with executive and judicial matters more than legislative. Their standard problem is supporting the activities of the Medical Service and the Plantary Rangers, or the Docs and Cops as they are usually called.
The government people are misfits, to a degree. They are, frankly, the grown-ups, the people who realize that the Dionysian mode of life can't become ALL of life -- it's just not practical. Most governments attract the power-hungry. On Adonis, the power-hungry, along with everyone else, realize that government work is frustrating and low-status. Power-seekers devote their energies to unofficial, charismatic leadership, and to making money. Thus they still manage to be a problem.
The Docs, besides giving medical care (much of it delivered by aircar), do the most to control the planet's population and ecological policy. They sterilize babies at birth and routinely check juvenile patients for sterility in case they were born without medical assistance. To have a child on Adonis, you must win a lottery and present your birthright certificate to a doctor to have your sterilization reversed. Everyone has a certain minimal chance at the lottery, but one can buy more chances from the government -- one of its few ways of raising money.
The Cops, or Rangers, not only control crime as best they may, but do rescue work and disaster control. With so few laws, crime is hard to define, and the Rangers limit themselves to dealing with acts of violence and theft for the most part.
The Docs and Cops overlap in membership a good deal with the parilamentary representatives. Since their work is low-pay and low-status their numbers divide pretty clearly into the public-spirited and the mean-spirited who are officious or incompetent. Officious temper is very un-Dionysian, but it still crops up like a recessive gene. The purely incompetent types appear more among the Cops than the Docs, since the Docs have higher standards of technical expertise.
Officially, Adonis has a state religion -- the Dionysian sect of the Temple of Common Worship. But the TCW gets no government funding or preferment, and you don't have to be a devout Dionysian to hold office. The state religion makes its main appearance in a vigorous cycle of holidays, at least one every other week or so. For the rest of it, other religions are welcome on Adonis, particularly if they are charismatic in character but not austere or authoritarian. Religions that promote public charities go over well, too.
Adonians are no lazier than anyone else. But they don't run big businesses often. Most Adonian industry is small businesses or cottage industry. As a result, most Adonian technology is low-energy and even low-tech. When the colony was young, most hi-tech items came in through trade. Then a few off-world companies set up businesses; they did well enough if they could handle extremely flexible work scheduling. Others got around the peculiar nature of the Adonian work force by autofacture.
The planet has less axial tilt than Earth, and though both poles are landlocked, with huge permanent ice-caps (to about 30 deg N and 20 deg S), there is good circulation around the equator. As a result, all the planet that is not ice-locked enjoys a year-round cool temperate climate, like central and southern Canada in the spring.
Because of the ice age and its glacial irrigation, there are no deserts, savannahs, jungles, or rain forests on Adonis. The land is mostly covered with thick forests, broken here and there by mountain ranges and a few prairies.
Adonis has a 19-hour day. This may be the most inconvenient thing about the place. Adonians being a flexible lot, they cope pretty well. Your typical Adonian alternates "long days" and "short days." On a long day, he is active twelve to sixteen hours, then takes a nap or siesta for the residue of the day. On the following short day, he is active the first half of the day, then sleeps, naps, drowses, or loafs for the rest of it. I advise you to imitate the Adonians, or run the risk of spending your entire stay on Adonis jet-lagged. The Adonians can offer you a large selection of recreational psychoactives to help you get the hang of this system.
Because of the low axial tilt and even climate, the local year isn't very significant. The Adonians have adjusted their calendar and replaced their Terran solstice and equinox festivals with the Adonian ones, but beyond that they retain the standard Earth calendar.
The big, planet-girdling forest is, in large part, made of very Earth-like evergreens. Less earthly are the huge "fungi," looking like giant coral, or like amplified versions of saguaro cactus, in shades of yellow and tan. Small specimens are usually spongey in texture, but big ones are woody, and can even be used for lumber.
There are no flowers. Natural color comes from the avians. Most of these are "birdlets" -- birdlike micro-vertebrates, beaked and bipedal, with one to three pairs of wings. Each wing is like an individual feather of an Earthly bird. Avians range in size from gnat-sized up to a three-meter-tall monster that looks something like the prehistoric diatryma of Earth -- a giant, flightless hawk.
Pufferbellies are the best-known Adonian avians. They're about the size and shape of a duck, but with clawed feet, and heavier bills and neck. They're flightless, and dig burrows to live in. The natural specimens are brown, with white underbelly, and splashes of white, black, and blue, mostly in their wing plumes, used for mating displays only. Domesticated ones come in all manner of colorings. Many popular breeds have "enhanced" wing plumes -- twelve instead of six, or extra long, or curly, etc. Like a pufferfish, they can inflate themselves, quadrupling their volume. It's a dominance display, and may stave off predators, but it only makes humans laugh.
The Adonian chameleon is a long, snakey creature, almost a beaked serpent on crane legs rather than anything you'd call "avian." Its fur changes color with temperature, even after the creature is caught and skinned, varying from white (when warmest) through green to dark blue.
The other major group of land vertebrates are the reptilians. They are leathery, not scaly, with three eyes and six limbs. Most are small, like salamanders with extra anatomy, and many are brilliantly colored, sometimes luminous. They look like a taxon with lots of unrealized potential, largely crowded out by the avians.
Adonian wormskin is the hide of a three-meter salamandrine, cursed with a beautiful pattern of crimson and purple patches that makes it a target for hunters.
The most "famous" reptilians are non-existent, the "Adonian Toadmen." These are supposed to be dark, nocturnal creatures like yard-long toads, with four bandy little arms and, of course, three bulgy eyes. Small groups of them are "seen" at night, in small clearings, hopping around bonfires or will-o-the-wisps. Poltergeist activity gets blamed on single toadmen. There really are some toadlike reptilians, about the size of a soccer ball. They don't appear any more intelligent than Earthly toads, but that doesn't prevent them from being the core of a local myth.
Adonis was invaded by the psi lords early in the Psi War, in 2379. The planetary government folded instantly and went into hiding. The psi lords found themselves up against a vigorous guerilla and underground resistance movement, very quick to learn and invent new psychic tricks. The two sides held a stalemate until Adonis was liberated in 2383 by allied Terran and KaiSenese forces. After that, Adonians became famous for the wide range of psi skills they contributed to the war effort. In post-war Terran Space, Adonis became a center for psychic and psionic innovation.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.