1879: Fort Alice: Culture and Its Necessity

To kick off the new year, here’s an excerpt from the opening chapter of the Fort Alice sourcebook, currently in draft.

Culture and Its Necessity

Unmoored. Uprooted. Whether voluntary or not, everyone from Earth currently living in the Gruv has been displaced, disconnected from their native environment and sent to a truly alien world. There’s simply no way to deny this is not Earth. Communicating with home takes time, is difficult at best, and may be nearly impossible. Most decorative or decorated items have been brought from Earth, not made locally. As a result of this disconnection, and the harsh realities of building a home in a new world, many of the colonists in the Gruv have trouble focusing on anything past their immediate needs, and are suffering from the loss of support from their cultures.

Arts and crafts are emerging in the more established colonies, but this requires the dust of relocation to settle enough people feel they have time to invest. The newer the arrival, the more impaired their creativity. Adjusting to an alien environment requires living in it long enough to start to feel comfortable. As well, those wishing to practice these traditions must to be able to do more than secure their basic needs. Many are so preoccupied with building a new home, planting crops, tending livestock, seeing to food and clothing and shelter, they just don’t have the energy to spare for creative pursuits. There’s also a matter of available personal time. When you have to build furniture in order to have a place to sleep besides the floor, you don’t have time to make it fancy. Carving, painting, embroidery all have to wait.

Without these cultural touchstones, though, the lives of many Gruv settlers feel empty. Maintenance of traditions helps hold communities together, and keeps individuals properly grounded and accepting of the boundaries of their society. If there’s not a fiddle, the Irish will drink anyway, and if they can’t sing, they’ll fight, as the British attempting to shut down Irish culture found out the hard way. This same problem replicates in all other cultures. The Italians have found several local plants to make wine from, and consume it to excess, especially when alone, their gregarious social traditions denied to them. The Germans have the advantage of immigrating en masse to their own town, where their culture and social order are maintained with Teutonic precision. While they brew prodigious quantities of beer, its consumption is carefully regulated. They still have fistfights in the streets, providing a nightly challenge to the constabulary. The Danes apply their engineering skills to distilling and produce a raw spirit less aqvavit and more industrial sanitizer. It’s in high demand among those who can choke it down. Alcoholism has not yet become the rampant scourge it is in London, where the gin palaces reign supreme, but if the settlers aren’t given time to acclimate, to gather socially without the purpose of work, and to pursue their traditional arts and crafts, it will.

All of this taken together has produced a bustling, brawling boom town, too close to a military base and with too many attractions for the common soldier to be comfortable for the officers. Conflicts between the population and the military arise constantly, some handled with paperwork, some with fists. The need for proper governance has gone so far past pressing that new terminology must be invented. And yet, somehow, this muddy, raw, sprawling town has anchored Earth civilisation to the Grosvenor World, provided the closest thing to a stable base for exploration and settlement as yet exists, and continues to grow and thrive at times in spite of itself. The history of Fort Alice and its eponymous town is still being written, by those who live and love and fight and build within it. As the newspaper writers say, more on this story as it develops.

Tally Ho!