Thursday, June 27, 2013

State of the Writer: Summer 2013

A writer is at a party where he meets a neurosurgeon.  "So you write books," the surgeon said.  "I've always thought about taking a summer off to write a book."  "That's funny," said the writer.  "I've thought about taking a summer off to do some brain surgery."

So, we're knee-deep in summer now, and for me it's always more of a challenge to maintain my writing discipline, but I've been pretty good so far.  The main thing I've been working on is editing, and that's a bit harder to put a metric on.  When you're writing, you can use daily word count to track your progress.  That doesn't quite work with editing.

Given that, here's where things stand, and where I plan things to go for the rest of 2013.

Thorn of Dentonhill, Holver Alley Crew and Maradaine Constabulary are, of course, out in the world shopping.  I try not to dwell too much on the details of this process.  That's what agents are for. 

Way of the Shield is finally finished as a rough draft.   Editing it to a fine, clean draft that is worth sending to my agent is my current "main" project.  Part of that is also outlining summaries for the planned Books Two and Three of Way of the Shield.  Knock on wood, that stuff should all be send to the Agent by the end of July.  Should

Secondary project is fine-tuning the outline for Banshee, which has gone through a lot of permutations over the years.  However, I've found a new angle that really excites me, and I look forward to tackling that once I send out Shield

Beyond that, I've got a handful of loose ideas that haven't quite coalesced into a plan.  Of course, with any luck, someone will be wanting the Book Two for Thorn, Holver Alley, Maradaine Constabulary or Way of the Shield.  I might even write a first chapter for each as a warm up.  I'm thinking of also trying my hand at novelette/novella length works.  We'll see.  I've had some Secret Projects that I've intentionally kept back-burnered until I finished the quartet.  So something may beat its way into the forefront of my brain.

Also: Rayguns Over Texas will be an actual, printed book that you can hold in your hands in two months.  Isn't that exciting?  I mostly consider it a small reward, a reminder that this hard work will be worth it.  And it will.  And as another reminder of that, here's Macklemore to play you out.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hugo Nominations: Best Novelette

Continuing with my opinions on the Hugo Nominees, the Best Novelette nominees are:

  • "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
  • "Fade To White" by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
  • "In Sea-Salt Tears" by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  • "Rat-Catcher" by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
On the whole, I enjoyed reading all five of these.  But some, of course, I enjoyed more than others.

"The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" is a strong favorite for me in this batch, even though the titular boy isn't really who the story is about.  It starts out giving a rather thorough description of what's going on with him-- for some odd reason, he doesn't have any shadow, he doesn't reflect in a mirror, nor can a picture be taken of him.  He can be seen, of course, but looking at him gives an uncanny-valley effect, as his face has an almost glowing-photoshopped quality.  He has a brief bit of celebrity as a child, but after a while, people stop caring, and he tries to live a normal life.  Until he meets another freakish boy, who is somehow made of living glass.  This is treated as an oddity, but simply one of those things that happens in his family.  Being living glass is not easy, as he's not very flexible yet incredibly fragile.  In fact, of all the living-glass people there have been in his family's history, he's the first one to make it to the age of fourteen.  The work does a fantastic job of showing the friendship of these two outsiders, though it's really about the glass boy.  The Boy Who Cast No Shadow himself is mostly an oddity in order to have empathy for the glass boy.  But the whole thing works well as a metaphor for children who are born with a condition that will damn them to a short life. 

"In Sea-Salt Tears" and "Rat-Catcher" have a lot of similar notes, which is not surprising, given they are written by the same person.  Both are stories of a fae-creature (a selkie and a cat-fae, respectively) who have to navigate the tragic politics of their fae-world.  Of the two, I preferred "Rat-Catcher", but only a bit.  I have to confess, fae stories don't quite click for me, especially with the tropes in play in "Tears".  The set-up for "Tears" is interesting: the main character is a selkie by birth, but is still effectively mortal, since one doesn't become a true selkie without a skin, and skins are in limited quantity.  You only get a skin when it's passed on to you.  The main character gets passed over for a skin several times, and then gives up and starts up a romance.  The romance, of course, gets tested when she finally gets offered a skin.  My big problem with this one boils down to Secret Tropes.   This one has "I don't want you to do X because I have Reasons that I won't tell you"  "Well, if you won't explain, I have to do X."  Character does X.  Other character THEN reveals Reasons.  Why didn't they reveal them earlier? BECAUSE SECRETS.  Yeah, I'm not crazy about that sort of thing.  "Rat-Catcher" is a bit more of a romp, and while it's also tragic, it's at least a fun path to the tragic.  It's as fun as a story about the Great London Fire destroying the fairy world could be.

"Fade to White" is interesting.  It has the same DNA as "The Handmaiden's Tale", in that it depicts a world torn by mass infertility, and dealing with it in 50s-sitcom-morality methods.  However, in Valente's version, both men and women are tested for their fertility, as the number of fertile men are one-fourth of the number of women.  Fertile men will get to become "Husbands" for four women, but with an overcomplicated system of spending one week a month in each wife's home, and the wives living in separate communities, so there's never any sense of embarrassment or impropriety or anything other than nice, normal nuclear families.  It's well-done satire, though there are constant switches in form and voice, some of which worked for me and some didn't.

"The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" was a frustrating read.  It was a piece that's very deep in its own worldbuilding, and just hits the ground at full throttle and hopes the reader will stay caught up.  Now, I had no problem catching up, but the whole piece stayed at arms-length, emotionally.  The gist of the piece is in a future where the solar system is being colonized, most of the people out in space have their bodies completely altered-- mostly to a squid-like form-- and thus their sense of identity shifts from human to other.  The slang term for the altered forms is "sushi", and thus making the change is "going out for sushi".  Part of my frustration comes from these slang terms-- the author couldn't seem to pick a single one for what the altered call normal humans.  Three or four terms are used interchangeably, though the one that stands out for me is "featherless bipeds".  This stands out because there's never a feathered biped... so why the distinction?  I feel like the setting deserves a bigger story than Cadigan is giving it here.

So, to my rankings:
  1. "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
  2. "Fade To White" by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  3. "Rat-Catcher" by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
  4. "In Sea-Salt Tears" by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  5. "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Perils of the Writer: Writing and Politics

I don't know if you've really noticed this, but I tend not to talk about my political leans here on this blog.  It's not that I don't have them, but I don't bring them up here.  Because I want you, dear readers, to think of me as a sci-fi/fantasy writer, not a writer.

Here's the thing: I don't talk about my personal politics here because it really doesn't reflect on what I write.  Even Way of the Shield, easily my most "political" work, doesn't necessarily reflect any specific political view as "right" or "wrong".  In fact, if any eventual reader does take a specific political message from it, that's more a reflection of their read than my intent.  But if they find something, great.  Subtext is best when it's unintentional.

But some writers aren't like that.  Some wear their politics right on their sleeves, especially in their work.  And that can be great.  Or it can be horrible.*  But I'm kind of the opinion, if you want to write that sort of thing, that's what opinion columns in the newspaper are for.  As fiction, it tends to be uninteresting. 

And some wear their politics so proudly, it becomes their public persona.  That's your right, of course, but Freedom of Speech only prevents the government from shutting you up.  It doesn't stop people from thinking you're a jerk.

This is relevant right now, because there's some political scuffling going on over at SFWA.  I'm not a member yet, but I hope to be some time soon.  However: for all intents, lines have been drawn, and people have chosen their side, and squabbling has been going on.  

Without pointing fingers or getting into too many details, here's two things that have stood out to me:

1. I've noticed that the kind of people who are complaining that SFWA is "getting too political" and "politics shouldn't enter into it" are the very same people who can't seem to make a blog post or Facebook entry without being highly political, including actively attacking people who don't have the same politics. 

2. People who complain about having to be "politically correct" tend to be people who want to be jerks.  Let me tell you a secret about "political correctness".  Do you know what it really is?  It's not calling people something they don't want to be called.  That's it.  If doing that is something you've got a real problem with, then you should take a look at yourself and decide what kind of person you want to be.  If the answer is, "I want to be a jerk and piss people off", then fine. Own that shit.  But also own the consequences.  Don't act like you can be that guy and also be surprised that you generate some ire for it.

So that's my main thing: talk the smack, if that's you want to do.  But don't be surprised if it smacks you back. 

*- For the record, I've read fiction on both sides of the political spectrum that I've found eye-rollingly absurd.   

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fantasy Worldbuilder's Bibliography

Over at my Book Country interview, I talk a bit about the research behind worldbuilding, and the books I recommend.  I did only give a few, I didn't want to go out of control, of course.  That's what a personal blog is for, after all. 

So, here's some of the books that have been helpful to me:

Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond. 
Collapse, also by Diamond

 These two books gives you a key primer on the core forces behind the rise and fall of civilizations and technology.  Specifically, how the natural resources available, especially large domesticatable animals and key staple crops, are prime determining force for a successful civilization.  Read these and you'll never have a city in the middle of barren wasteland on top of a mile-high mesa again.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

This one gives you core concepts about production of food. While the chapters on industrial farming might not be as useful for the Fantasy Worldbuilder, the chapters on traditional farming and hunting/gathering definitely would be. 

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage 

Six drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and soda, and how each one represents a stage in history.  Really crucial work for understanding, on some level, what each of these drinks are, where they come from, and what they mean culturally.

Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan

OK, this is a bit of an odd one, I'll admit, as it's actually a cookbook. But one of the key elements in this cookbook is the French concept of terroir, which I think is a fundamental to breaking down a nation into smaller cultural regions.  Simply put, every culture will have its primary staples-- the main starches and proteins that form the backbone of their diet-- but then the finer details makes the dishes themselves.  But the minor crops, herbs and spices that make the details can give all the difference: the "traditional dish" of five cities in the same country can each be, at its core, the same dish, while at the same time each dish can be unique to the character and flavor of that city. 

Salt by Mark Kurlansky
Spice: A History of Temptation by Jack Turner

Both of these are similar books on the history of salt and spice, and the importance they played in culture, trade and exploration.

The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo

Now, if you want some true source material on culture, trade and exploration, here is the holy grail.  Polo's account is, of course, exaggerated in parts, but that also gives some insight into the nature of legends and mystery: what we think is on the other side of that ocean says as much about a culture as what is actually there.

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

There are probably several good books about science-as-history, but this one, focusing on the periodic table of the elements, is a personal favorite.  For one, it might give you some ideas regarding the process of discovery and evolution of technology-- much of "science" up until a century ago was essentially the dabbling of the bored-- but also how basic elements are used. 

I wish I had a good book to recommend about geography and mapmaking, since I feel that's such a crucial element of fantasy worldbuilding.  Unfortunately, I don't have a key source.  I have a fundamental knowledge from high school Honors Earth Science, and my own bits of specific research.  But no general text to offer.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Perils of the Writer: The Editing Process

After taking a couple weeks away from Way of the Shield, it's time to dive into the editing process. 

For me, the first step in editing a rough draft is that time away.  One friend of mine said, "Forty days and forty nights."  I think that's a bit much, especially if one is under a deadline.* But you need to freshen your eyes on the project.  So, step away, read something completely different, cleanse the palate.  I took two weeks, which is plenty.

Also during this time: get other eyes on it.  Preferably someone who isn't going to just be all gushy and, "Oh, you wrote a book, wonderful!"  You need someone who will throw a critical eye on it, but also not just be mean.  Critiquing is an art, telling the writer what they need to hear without drowning their baby.  Though some baby killing will come into it.  But good, reliable beta-readers are like gold, and you should treasure them if you find them.

Next for me: change the font you wrote in, and print a hard copy.  This gives you a editing/reading experience that is an utterly different from the writing experience.  You'd be amazed how much that makes those little mistakes pop out.  So many tense/typo/spelling problems show themselves in reading through the hard copy.  The other big thing to do at this stage is figure out when I've tangled up my phrasings, using twenty words when fifteen would do.  I go through with a red pen** and mark the manuscript all to hell.   Here's where I figure out my chapter breaks.  I never do that in the actual writing.  I'm not sure why, it just doesn't feel organic at that stage.

Then next, I go back to Scrivener, and implement the red-pen changes, as well as any new changes I've worked out on going through it there.  That usually catches everything.  I also add any new scenes or tweak existing scenes, based on the notes I get from my beta.

In theory, that's when it's time to send to the agent.  Then he'll usually have notes for another go-round.

And so, time to get to it.  See you all Monday.
*- I'm not technically under a deadline for Way of the Shield, but by my own standards it's overdue.  Sometimes the only way to get a project done is to behave as if it is under deadline.
**- Actually, it's purple, but the principle is the same.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hugo Nominations: Best Short Story

As I am attending WorldCon in San Antonio this year, I'm entitled to vote on the Hugos.  As opposed to my qualms about nominating, I have no problem with voting, especially since I have the opportunity to review the nominees. 

So, let's start with the Best Short Story nominations.  There are only three nominees this year, due to a rule involving nominees needing to receive at least 5% of the nominating vote.*  The nominees are:
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard ( Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
"Immersion" follows two story tracks: a woman who has lost herself to life in an "immersion" suit  (essentially Google-glass with real-world avatar), and a young woman who works in a restaurant who knows how to use the immersion suits.  The first woman is essentially clinically depressed, and her use of the suit is a metaphor for putting on a fake-it-for-the-world face while feeling dead inside.  There is a certain degree of classism attached to the suits-- the use of the suit is uncommon amongst the restaurant family, and the young woman needs to get hers out and put it on to interact with the occasional customer who wears them, namely the couple with the depressed woman.  Now, why she needs to wear her suit to interact with them isn't clear-- they are engaged with the real world, just from inside their suits.  It seems mostly so the restaurant owners won't come off as a bunch of hicks to the besuited couple.  Not that the woman cares, she's barely aware of what's going on.  The two women have a moment of connection, but not much really comes from it.  It struck me that there's a lot more story here, condensed down to short-story length to the point where something crucial got lost.

"Mantis Wives", I was expecting to like more than I did, mostly because I really enjoyed Kij Johnson's "Spar", which was a wonderful use of economy of words.  Economy of words still applies here, but it's not a story.  It's more of a prose poem, a listing of sexual variants employed by Mantis Wives (who normally would practice sexual cannibalism) in order to avoid or prolong said sexual cannibalism.  It's a lovely gem of an idea, but doesn't do much with it.

"Mono no Aware" is an interesting tale of a one colony ship that escaped some unknown disaster on Earth, so they represent the last survivors of humanity.  The protagonist is the only Japanese native on the ship, thus the lone remainder of Japanese culture.  Something goes wrong with the ship, and he volunteers to repair the damage, which he ties to the Go lessons his father gave him as a child.  This one is dense with ideas, probably a bit too much for under 5000 words, but I definitely enjoyed it, and wanted to read a longer version of the story. 

So, my ranking order would be
  1. "Mono No Aware"
  2. "Immersion"
  3. "Mantis Wives"
___In other news, there's an interview of me over at Book Country.  Go check it out.

*- Hugo voting math always strikes me as exceedingly complicated.  I'm sure it makes sense, but every time I've seen voting-results tables they've made my eyes cross.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Worldbuilding: Constructed languages and how we think

I'm not much one of one for doing the Constructed Languages work.  That may seem funny, given how much of a worldbuilding purist and completist I otherwise am, but while I can draw maps of finer and finer detail all day long, and craft cuisine for cultures that define them in numerous detail-- language construction lingers outside of my patience grasp. 

I do have a lot of respect for the people who can do that, because it is an undertaking, and hopefully doing it brings about good results for your worldbuilding.  I kind of wish I did have the patience and temperament for it, because I think I could use it to good effect.*

But I came across an article which should be intriguing for the nascent language-builder.  The underlying gist of it is the nature of a language influences the way native speakers think.  The most dramatic example used involves an Australian aboriginal language in which fixed, cardinal directions are key to the language.  Things are not "to the left" or "behind you", but always "to the northeast" or "in your southwest hand".  Even standard greetings are based on this.  So it becomes almost impossible to speak at all unless you know where north is. 

I imagine if that was your native tongue, you rarely get lost looking for that one store on the other side of town you never go to.

There's some other intriguing ideas over there, which are quite usable, even if, like me, you don't have the patience for the full-language build.  General concepts that can inform a culture.  For example, in Russian all the words in a sentence have to match the gender of the subject.  What if, say, you had a culture with a very rigid social structure?  Could the language reflect that?  Could a language demand that the sentence agrees with the caste or rank of the subject?  Or the caste and rank of who you are talking to?

I'm almost tempted-- almost, mind you-- to do some more detailed conlang work.  But I'm sure I'll get over that.

*- Currently I have a sense of the historical evolution of languages-- how they branch off over time-- but that's in name only (i.e. Ancient Kieran branches into Old High Kieran, Old Vernacular Kieran and Old Trade.  Old Trade then evolves into Middle Trade, which then branches into Waish Trade, Druth Trade and Acserian Trade, each of which absorbed elements from the old languages of their area) but actual words, structure, syntax?  Yeah, not doing that.  Not yet.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fantasy Worldbuilding: Tour continues to Fuerga

As we continue to go around the continent, past the Kieran Empire to the east: Fuerga.  Now we're also out of the Empire's direct influence on culture.

"The three biggest things about being in Fuerga.  Always be polite, never strike your horse, and never think that you got the better deal." -- Ian Talsen, Druth Trader

"The Fuergans are the most downright decent and moral people you could meet.  Of course, it's their own set of morals, but they do stick to them." -Kieran Statesman Polonus Kenix

"On the surface, Fuerga seems like a wonderful culture, filled with commerce, art, and the most generous of people.  However, there is a frightening, uncivilized reality beneath that.  If someone disagrees with your business, or you cannot fulfill your debts, they can assault you, beat you within an inch of your life, lock you in a cell or leave you dead in a ditch.  And not only are there no legal ramifications, their leaders encourage and participate in this.  There is a line not to cross in Fuerga."  -Kahngzhei Dzana, Lyranan Foreign Attaché

"Goods taken without agreement are not property.
All prices are negotiable.
Never leave town with debts behind you.
Great profit rarely results from minimal effort.
A man's horse says everything about him.
Family is always more important than profit. "
        -Excerpted from the Fuergan Tenets

Fuerga is a nation unified more by a common mindset of lifestyle, philosophy and business rather than unified by a governing body.  From an outside perspective, it is often said that Fuerga is about three things: Family, Trade and Horses.

The Family unit, and allegiance to one’s family, is the central aspect of the Fuergan culture.  In is through the families that Fuerga is run. 

Trade is what the families live for.  Increasing trade, improving the family’s financial status, improving one’s personal financial status is the key to power in Fuerga.

Horses are what they love: they take great pride in their stock and breeding of horses and in their unparalleled skills in the riding and handling of horses.

The only real government in Fuerga is the Fuergan Syndicate. The Syndicate consists of the heads of the most powerful families in Fuerga.  Its number varies, as there is no set amount of representation.  Every year, families can become members of the Syndicate by “buying” a chair on it.  If a current member cannot pay this yearly fee, they lose their chair.  On the whole, the flow of commerce keeps a balance so that most of the time, there are about twenty chairs on the Syndicate.  In boom periods, this has raised as high as fifty, but shortly afterwards the market balance back out and many new chairs are lost again. Although each member has an equal voice, the chairs are ranked, based on how long it has been held by a family.  The family Kyoran has maintained its chair since the formation of the Syndicate, so it holds the First Chair.  The First Chair controls the Syndicate meeting, hosts the location, and calls it to order and to close.

The Syndicate has direct, absolute, control over two things: Road tolls and import fees.  They have influence, however, on almost all aspects of commerce, including effecting base prices, since most goods are, directly or indirectly, controlled by the members of the Syndicate.

The Syndicate Families have influence most of the other families in Fuerga.  Lesser families may be Allied or Sworn to a Syndicate family, or Allied or Sworn to a family that is connected to a Syndicate family.  Some families are in Endebtment, which means its members must provide labor and service to the family to whom they are indebted.

A few families are independent, thus having no voice or ally in the Syndicate, and are reliant upon only their own resources.

Every Fuergan has a Caste Rank, or krai, which is a direct measure of his or her personal wealth.  As krai is personal, ranks within one family or home can vary.  The highest ranked member of a family is the head of the family, called the natrilka.  If there is a problem within a family, it is ultimately the natrilka’s responsibility to take care of it.

The krai are as follows: Jorchal, the highest rank, is reserved for the natrilka of a Syndicate family, as it represents the wealth needed to purchase a Syndicate chair.  The ranks continue, in descending wealth with Niklan, Lavark, Malreth, Heina, Veir, Taf, Ona, Kaln, Deln, Ni and Va.  Kaln, Deln, Ni and Va all represent levels of Endebtment.  A family or home is often referred to as being the same as the Caste rank of its natrilka.  Thus, for example, a wealthy family, but not extremely wealthy, would be a Lavark family.  An entire family of Endebted may be a Ni family.

There are no true laws in Fuerga, but there are the Tenets, a set of philosophical rules regarding trading ethics.  If one does not live by these rules, his family will usually deal with him.  If a whole family acts untenetially, other families, even the Syndicate, will deal with them.  This usually takes the form of a polite but stern warning at the first occasion, beatings and other physical assaults in further instances, and eventually someone will be considered beyond reproach and is killed.

An important part of the Tenets have to do with debt, and being responsible for one’s debt.  There is no shame in being in Endebtment, but failure to take on the responsibilities it entails will usually be beaten or killed.  An Endebted man is essentially property until his debt is paid off.

A family member who has brought dishonor on the family through some form of crime will either be ousted from the family, or killed by the family in extreme cases.  An ousted man will usually fall into Endebtment.  A whole family found to be untenetial would be decried as being so.  Once such information is public, that family will find doing any business nearly impossible, and will also usually fall into Endebtment.

There is no official military per se in Fuerga.  Wealthy families, especially the Syndicate members, will have some form of small army they control, as well as ships that are both merchant and naval in nature.  Soldiers and sailors are usually from the Endebted, officers from one’s own family.

Typically, a soldier is both a light footman and light cavalry.  He has a horse, which is his right to care for.  He wears leather armor, or occasionally (if the family spends the extra money) scale or chain.  They are usually trained and armed with a sabre (in Fuergan, the hrana) and a bolo (kiaset), traditional Fuergan weapons.  Lassos and knives are often carried as well.  Bows, crossbows and long polearms are almost never used by Fuergans.  Sailors will just wear leather vests and carry a sabre.

There are a number of Fuergans who are of mixed Fuergan and Turjin descent, who are called turfien.  Turfein are presumed to have less of a sense for trade, and usually are encouraged to become soldiers.

Unless one is from a wealthy family, there isn’t much opportunity for education.  Technically, each Syndicate family is the sponsor of a private university, but only a few take this duty seriously.  All the universities have a tuition, which is typically paid through a sponsorship of some sort.  The student, however, will have to repay the sponsorship one way or another.

Of these, only the University of Kyor is a very organized university.  The rest are little more than a well kept library with a single scholar caring for it.

Fuerga has made an effort to maintain neutral to friendly relations with all other nations, in order to improve and enhance international trade.  There is some tension with both Turjin and Bürgin, having had some open conflicts with them in the past.  Fuergan and Bürgish ships will attack each other sometimes, but there is no official declaration of hostilities between the two.  They are on friendly terms with Druthal, but have no true allies.  During the wars of the 12th Century, Fuerga stayed pointedly neutral, selling weapons and armor to all sides of the conflicts.
Within Fuerga’s structure, there is more conflict, as some families will make covert or overt war on each other.

Family is, of course, the center of the Fuergan culture.  Fuergan families are complex, and unlike any other in the world, so it is very difficult for non-Fuergans to understand all the relations between family members. 

Each family is broken into homes, and each home is essentially its own independent unit, although the most parental home (the natir) is in charge of the rest.  The natir only interferes with the lower or "children" homes (mokorr and nelmokorr) in important matters.  Which home is the natir of the family depends not on seniority, however, but on krai.  If the krai of a head of a mokorr or nelmokorr becomes higher than the head of the natir, than that home becomes the natir, he becomes the family’s natrilka and the old natir becomes a mokorr.

Fuergan families are polygamous, in which anywhere from two to twelve men and women are all married to each other.  All children born to the family is the responsibility of all the adults, although there is, of course, special affinity to the birth mother.  When children become adults, they are still part of that family branch as hlesta, single adults, until they marry into another family, or start a new mokorr or nelmokorrHlesta are expected, however, to earn their own life and way, as the shizaram (a gift given upon reaching adulthood) is the last money they will receive from their parents.  They still would warmly receive Fuergan hospitality from them, though.

Fuergan names are long and complex, yet very important to them.  They follow a precise pattern:
ab mik lek (dai ) vil sim .  For most occasions, one will be referred to merely as ab , especially when dealing with foreigners.  When speaking formally to each other, Caste rank is used as a title, followed by family name, as in Malreth Chial.

Houses are important to Fuergans, as they are an immediate sign of wealth and family size.  Houses are actually whole compounds, whose grounds may take up several buildings of a city, even whole blocks.  In the country, whole villages and communities are essentially one house of a wealthy family.
A house is expected to give every member of the family, including the children, their own quarters, as well as having ample space for guests.  In addition, all the servants, soldiers, and other Endebted workers are housed somewhere on the compound, although they are usually not given single rooms, instead the live barrack style.  The main house for a family can be four or five stories tall, and with the very wealthy (such as Syndicate families) nine or ten story houses are common.
Most families of stature try and maintain a city house and a country house.
Fuergans are noted for their immense hospitality.  A friend or guest of good standing will happily be put up in a house for a couple of months with very little asked in return.

The city Fuergans, known as sikar, have a very basic day-to-day life.  In the morning, the streets are filled with traders.  Deals are made with each other, with travelers, and so on, all through the streets.  Because the streets are crowded and noisy, much business is done here using the capathla, the hand gesture language of the Fuergans.  This is a system used only for business deals, and involves large, wide gestures that allow one to make a deal with someone a block away.  This allows an adept trader to act as a bridge between a buyer and seller who cannot see each other, and make a profit as an intermediary.  Doing well in the street trading requires sharp eyes, fast hands and quick thinking.  Food vendors also move through the streets selling their wares. 
By late morning, the deals have been made, and the streets clear out.  The city cleaners (who are employed by the Family who has greatest influence in the city—they are considered the ones responsible for maintaining the city) come out and sweep the streets, and make the city look presentable.  Traders go and make their preparations for the deals made on the streets that morning.  In the streets, no money or goods exchanges hands, only deals are made.
There is then a family lunch, and a rest period.  In the afternoon, all the exchanges are made to fulfill the deals made that morning.  Unless special arrangements were made with the deal, all exchanges are to be made that same day.  Being unable to fulfill one’s deals in the afternoon will hurt one’s reputation and status, and may cause retribution to occur.  This is the danger in being an intermediary- both parties made a deal with you, and if one of them does not fulfill their obligation, then you cannot either, and your reputation suffers.
In the evening, there is dinner with the family, and then usually some form of evening entertainment.

There are three kinds of country life.  The sinar, who live in the country communities, are the ones who handle most of the farming and actual crafting of goods for trade.  This work is usually done by the endebted families who live under the grace of the family they work for.
The kanar are the nomadic Fuergans who move from community to city to city.  The kanar are equal members of whatever family they are a part of, but they are usually not involved with daily business.  Instead, they are on the road, delivering goods from place to place in caravans.  Many Fuergans crave this lifestyle.  Usually kanar arrive in a city, make deals with the goods they have, make trade and move on.  The kanar are the true lifeblood of the Fuergan economy.
Lastly, there are the kihari, who are usually loners or small groups who live in the northern Kihar forests.  They live a life of mostly trapping and lumberjacking, trading their goods with visiting kanar for supplies, and keeping to themselves.