by Max Barry

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The Infinite Empire of
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Cultural Dossier

Imperial Culture Dossier:

Architecture: Cybusian architecture is characterized by smooth lines, curves, angular and geometric patterns, and symmetry. Art Deco is the most common style of architecture in the Empire. Cybusian architecture conveys power and beauty, through architecture. It typically uses darker tones in both materials and paint, offset by the light coming through windows.

Fashion: People who visit the Cybusian Empire are often surprised by the clothing worn by its citizens. Almost every man wears a suit, formal shoes, a hat of some sort(not a cap, probably a fedora, trilby, bowler hat, or the like) as well as either an overcoat, or trenchcoat. Women, if not wearing the same as men, wear very warm yet elegant dresses under some sort of fur coat. Informal clothing is relatively rarely worn, though it is growing in popularity, albeit slowly. Kefta's remain popular options for clothing as well.

Keftas: A Kefta is a long, comfortable coat, designed to keep one warm in the cool and rainy weather of Arcadia, but be light and cool enough to be worn during the spring and summer without being uncomfortably hot. Despite being originally from Arcadia, they spread to the rest of the Empire as Alexanders legions conquered. Most of them are decorated by their owners, nobles often having very ornate and elaborately decorated ones.

Art: Cybusian sculptures tend to be large and grandiose, sometimes incorporating Art Deco design elements, and often feature Imperial heroes and Saints, in a style known as Mercerist Deco. Several prominent artists are listed below.

Anton Sokolov:
While most famous for his beautiful portraits, Torchwood engineer, occult specialist, and artist Anton Sokolov has also painted a number of landscapes, cityscapes, and what he calls “industrial still-lives”, centering a scene around a particular piece of technology, be it a spaceship floating through an asteroid field, an airship docking at The Rapture Lighthouse, a Hardlight pistol in the hand of a soldier, or a streamlined hovercar heading down a street. His portraits are expensive, but worth the cost. Sokolov has also recently delved into sculpting. He has on occasion conducted live vivisections of Drakul (they technically, they are not alive, merely undead) for paying audiences, though they have drawn criticism from many groups and individuals, most notably the Eichhorsts, The Arcadia Herald, and, most oddly, William Greyson, President of The Collux Ascendancy, who called the practice ‘barbaric and uncivilized”. On the flip side, scientists Nathan Koenig and James Abrasax praised the vivisections, while Rapture artist Sander Cohen remarked “Inspired performance, perhaps I too should venture into…anatomical theater.”

Delilah Kaldwin:
A raven-haired Banshee, she is known for infusing magic into her portraits and statues to make them move. Known for her beauty and her magical ability, Delilah primarily paints portraits and historical scenes. Two of her most famous works are paintings of The Rebellion. One of them, entitled “The Triumph of The Downtrodden” portrays a rather evil, nearly demonic-looking Alexander being struck down by Charles Orson with The Sword of Tritus. The other painting, “Death of The Slave” depicts Charles being impaled upon a triumphant Alex’s right blade-arm, through the back, The Sword shattered in two at Alex’s feet. She also produces statues of herself and others, capable of limited movement and changing facial exspressions. While most well-known for her art, Delilah is a powerful witch, maintaining a coven of her, which Torchwood keeps a close eye on, as they do all covens they are aware of.

Sander Cohen:
A flamboyant and eccentric Rapturite, Sander Cohen is a painter, songwriter, playwright, and sculptor. His paintings are often abstract, though he has painted some cityscapes of Rapture as well. Most of his music is purely instrumental, and most of the songs he has written for others are considered to be rather blatant propaganda for Rapture. However, a handful of the ones he’s written are popular, glorifying individuality. His plays are much the same, and often laud the nobility of the concepts of Andrew Ryan’s philosophy, though he has also written a few conventional dramas, a handful of comedies, and two musicals. He has also produced a number of bizarre experimental short films, one of them simply consisting of a “Please Stand By” logo spinning, set to maniacal laughter and screams, before they are abruptly cut off by a voice calling for silence, followed by a splash of blood, and then the credits. Several of his sculptures are abstract, while the rest are of plaster-covered humanoids in various poses.
Cohen is, however, highly volatile, having physically attacked two critics before, throwing a nearby wrench at one, and punching another repeatedly. He once infamously stated that all critics should be assassinated, a statement earning him the ire of the Rapture Tribune.

Music: Cybusian music is an odd mixture of new and old. "Old Earth" music is highly popular, and you will often hear The Ink Spots, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald on the radio in the Empire. However, "modern" music from Earth is also popular, with Lana Del Rey (partially because her music is somewhat inspired by the era the Empire is fond of), Stevie Nicks (popular with witches and Dana Mercer and Fleetwood Mac being quite popular. Torch songs are quite popular, and Vera Keyes is a popular torch songstress. The genre known as "electro-swing" is also very popular. An index of popular music

Literature: Classical Cybusian literature is a unique medley of various types. The classical Cybusian plays are rather morbid, mostly tragedies, although there are a few romances here and there. Perhaps the most infamous Cybusian play is "The Golden Sepulchre", in which a man is terrified at the idea of being buried alive. So he builds an elaborate golden coffin, with systems to support life. He dies early on in the play...but the coffin works too well. His corpse rises every night, feeding on blood. The play ends with the coffin smashed and burning, having been destroyed by a mob. It is one of the earliest known vampire stories. A rare "horror play" is "The Raven King", a play dealing with a Human king who is mentally unstable and secretly worships Alexander as his court plots to betray him, culminating in a complete mental breakdown of the king, resulting in chaos and horror for the rest of the play. The works of HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe are quite popular in the Empire, as are other works of horror. Noir, detective novels, and murder mysteries are also very popular. Modern Cybusian literature is defined by Edward Mordrake and Anna Lesova:

Edward Mordrake:

The Banshiek son of the wealthy Mordrake family, an ancient and loyal family of Mercerists who were afforded the noble rank of Porokis, Edward Mordrake has proven himself very unlike his ancestors. He was born in 1821, on the lush and beautiful world of Viridian, named for it’s shimmering emerald waters and forests of pine trees. His family educated him with the best tutors rather than send him to a school, and he quickly proved himself an able student, when he would apply himself. He was particularly interested in history and English, proving himself an adept writer of short stories. He lived a life of luxury, before unexpectedly leaving the family Alcazar to become a reporter, seemingly on a whim. He was viewed with skepticism by the Arcadian newspapers, because he lacked any credentials or diplomas, but was hired by the Arcadian Herald, and quickly proved his worth by ferreting out a scandal in The Raven Court involving a court member who had attempted to seduce Dana Mercer, despite being married to a prominent socialite, and who had managed to hide his affair until Mordrake reported it. In quick succession, Alexander banished him from court life, and his wife divorced him. Mordrake quickly became the foremost reporter on Palace affairs, and it was here that he began his slide into a love of hedonistic activity. He was swept away by the lush and hedonistic life at court, yet was able to resist the slavish devotion to the Emperor as court members jockeyed for his favor in increasingly elaborate shows of devotion and worship, which Mordrake would happily cover in his articles. He worked with the Herald for fifteen years, before writing his first short story, a drama which adapted the story of his first scoop. He began to become more flighty, taking frequent vacations to the far corners of the Empire, and began to collect artifacts from across the Empire. One one of these vacations, he befriended Natalia Usher, who he vaguely knew from court. The two had both bid on an antique bell which was reported to ring only in times of great universal danger, and had last rung during the Rebellion. He won the bidding, and the bell sits in his vast collection (ringing during each war between the Empire and Oceara, as well as during any Redlight expansion) on Viridian. The two restless collectors quickly became good friends, Natalia providing him with topics for his reporting. He immersed himself in a hedonistic lifestyle, enjoying alcohol, drugs, and sex in excess, quickly entering and then leaving relationships, throwing elaborate parties that would make Gatsby blush, and using his magical abilities for parlor tricks. He wrote a semi-autobiographical book about a young mans descent into hedonism, showing it to be a positive thing rather than something negative, entitled “Jump Into The Fog”. His works became more political, as he argued that conquest was a costly waste, arguing that Imperial culture and the luxury and hedonism made possible by the lassiez-faire policies of the government would draw worlds into the Empire by themselves, and that the Empire should largely ignore other nations affairs.
Famous as a playboy who throws great parties, Edward is still employed by the Herald, writing under a pen name to avoid any blowback from his reputation. He tours the Empire and beyond, collecting odd and historical artifacts, including a French Revolution era guillotine blade which he has housed in a new frame. He hosts incredibly elaborate parties in his beautiful alcazar on Viridian, and his mansions on Arcadia and other Imperial worlds, and attends other parties and events all the time. Despite the deep religious belief of his parents and ancestors, Edward is not particularly religious, only sporadically attending worship services. Edward is a talented pyrokinetic and hydrokinetic, often using his powers for party entertainment. He has dated numerous Cybusian celebrities, including Delilah Kaldwin and Vera Keyes, and has a deep-seated dislike of Anna Lesova, the Banshee whose writing supports conquest and expansion of Mercerism. The two famous authors constantly feud, in their work and in public, and on the rare occasions they meet in person, their arguments quickly become the center of attention, Edwards sharp and witty tongue ripping into Anna, who retaliates with curses and portents of doom.

Anna Lesova:
A Banshee writer whose works are immensely popular and influential in the Empire and its client states, Anna Lesova is a devout Mercerist, a believer in Imperial colonization and conquest, both of which are reflected in her work.
Born in 1851 on the quaint and agrarian colony world of Urozhy, Anna Lesova was born as an illegitimate child of a local noble and was quickly sent to live in one of the planets many Mercerist covens. In the millions of years since The Rebellion, the planet has become isolated and agrarian, hardly in touch with the rest of the Empire except for the ships which traded with the backwater colony. Raised by a group of highly religious Banshees and Baneshiek in a rustic white washed temple and surrounding complex of huts and shrines, she remained with the coven until she was 21, finally moving on to live in a nearby town and undergo a formal education for the first time. Her instructors, used to educating young women who had been raised by the coven, were sympathetic and understanding, and soon discovered Anna had a talent for writing. She soon began writing articles for the local paper, but found herself wanting more. At the age of 25, she moved to the capital, Brehzny, and was both captivated and repulsed by the “big city”. This fueled her writing, causing her to quickly write her first independent publication, the “Guide For The Modern Traveler”, which mostly made common sense suggestions while imploring the reader to keep their faith in the Emperor strong. The book was an abysmal failure. Around this time, the Empire took a greater interest in the backwater world of Urozhy, deciding to bring it and other worlds up to Imperial standards by a steady “reclamation”. Unfettered by the failure of her first book and continuing her work at a newspaper, Lesova watched as Imperial culture and advanced technology became more widespread on her homeworld as the Empire “reclaimed” it. The more superstitious peasants of the rural countryside regarded the Imperial Army soldiers as holy servants of the Emperor as they set up anti-orbital installations and built fortresses, an image that Lesova would later use in her works. She began to write short stories, many of them centering around the new culture and fashions. She began wearing a Kefta, a comfortable black one she purchased and then embroidered with gold thread, creating Mercerist Deco decorations on the fabric, blending the classical Mercerism of her upbringing with the Art Deco of approaching civilization. Anna published a collection of short stories “Tales From Urozhy”, which proved popular and slowly filtered out on the increasingly large number of ships heading out to the greater Empire. The stories within showcased life on Urozhy, both before and during the cultural shift, obviously viewing it as a mixed blessing, many of her stories focusing on the rapid changes and the strangeness of the new world being created by the recolonization.
This quickly changed when she began to explore the Empire, seeing how other worlds were transformed from primitive backwaters to advanced centers of technology and culture. Her works began to shift in time, starting to praise Imperial culture as a bringer of civility and advancement to backwards worlds. Her works depicted ignorant populations being uplifted by Mercerism and Cybusian technology, tales of heroism of “The Emperors Angels”, shining Imperial citadels being bravely defended from heretics and foreigners who are jealous of the glory of the Empire. She traveled to Arcadia for a pilgrimage and was amazed by the beautiful, shining capital of the Empire, writing an entire book of stories about her experiences on Arcadia, the book entitled “The Golden World”. Her writing become more prolific and she grew more popular, her books reflecting her views, and proving popular across the Empire by 1900. In the 2000s, when Oceara first rose to power, she seized on the threat and fear of communism and socialism, writing prolifically on the “The Red Menace”. When Oceara colonized its first planet, she wrote a book called “The Red Tide”, showcasing a future scenario in which the Ocearans launch an invasion of the Empire and commit horrific atrocities, destroying churches, killing intellectuals, and committing other atrocities perpetrated by various communist and socialist governments throughout history, until the invasion is valiantly repulsed by an uprising of the faithful in the occupied territory, coupled with resurgent Imperial forces. The book was a bestseller, and helped fuel the deep-seated suspicion and dislike of the Ocearan Empire, which was compounded by another book she wrote entitled the “Rise of The Red Empire”, a book set on a planet occupied by Oceara, from the point of view of the occupied. Her books and stories continue to be wildly popular, though Lesova lives a fairly simple existence, only rarely responding to the many invitations to Arcadian society functions and parties she receives. She is a familiar sight at The Chestnut Tree Cafe, where she sits in a corner booth and sips tea, wearing her kefta and Bone Charms, hiding her red hair under a robe.
Anna is talented at healing and is a fairly good user of telekinesis, but otherwise she is rather unskilled in the use of magic. She has engaged in several public feuds with other artists, including Delilah Kaldwin, whom she calls a ‘hedonistic woman who paints only to distract herself from her moral failings’, and her ‘arch rival’ Edward Mordrake, the hedonistic heir to the Mordrake family, whose writings emphasize hedonism and indifference to international affairs. Her earlier works idealizing peasant life has spawned a small movement in the Empire, wherein members will settle worlds and live a simple life, the kind described in her works. These worlds are known as Rustica worlds.

Cuisine and Diet: Evolved require lots of protein and energy to operate, so meats, breads, and rice are very popular dishes, as are stews and soups. Cybusian dishes tend to be hot, and are often spiced as well, to ward off the cold rain of many Imperial worlds. Many dishes include the meat of the Ormann, a Cybusian herbivore very similar to a cow. Coffee and hot tea are roughly equally popular.

A gentle Arcadian herbivore, very similar to a cow, they even go moo. They have spread throughout the Empire, and are used as sources of meat and milk. Ormann can be easily distinguished from cows by the tiny tentacles which emerge from their mouths when feeding to more easily devour grass and herbs, and their unique defense mechanism; Ormann, to deal with Blacklight-enhanced predators, they emit a very mild pheromone which calms and pacifies anything in the area, and some Imperial corporations have extracted these pheromones for use in stress relief products such as the painkiller Med-X. In addition, their milk has a mild calming effect, though this is obviously removed from milk before it is sold or used.
Ormann meat is a very common ingredient in Cybusian cuisine, and Ormann have been introduced to Earth in quantities sufficient to feed the Cybusian population without being an invasive species.

(OOC: Yes, Ormann are Lovecraftian tentacle-equipped cows with calming pheromones. But they are still pretty much just space cows, they even still go moo.)

Miscellaneous: Miscellaneous forms of entertainment in the Empire include freak shows, cabinets of curiosities, expositions of new art or technology, and the public dissection of a body donated to science. Also, unlike most nations, we still have radios in our homes, as well as radio shows. Evolved, due to their relative immortality, are interested by death, and tend to be morbidly interested in anatomy, disease, and other things most species would consider unusual.

Communal Palaces:
A long-standing Cybusian institution, the Communal Palace is a place where Cybusians gather together as one. Every Cybusian city has at least one, and serves as a place to relax and learn. The earliest Communal Palaces were simple ones, put together to allow Mercerists to meet outside of the context of church, and to shelter passerby from the cool Arcadian weather, offering a warm fire and a hot cup of tea or coffee. The government, noting the popularity of such institutions, began to create larger versions of such establishments, with amenities others could not match. The facilities are run by local government, though local businesses may rent out space for restaurants, and generally a reasonable admission fee is charged, to help pay for the upkeep of the palace. Once within, a citizen has access to many amenities, such as a library, cinema, theater, auditorium, shooting ranges, heated swimming pool, or other such things. Many incorporate Mercerist shrines. In the auditorium is common for speeches and presentations to be made, often praising the Emperor and the glories of his Empire and the free market. A wide array of movies, newsreels, and propaganda are played in the cinema, while plays are put on in the theater, as visitors sip hot tea and coffee, grateful for a chance to escape the cold rain or snow.
Borrowing from the Arcadian Academy of Science’s famous Friday Evening Discourses, it is not uncommon to see a scientist or engineer explaining some new discovery, or providing practical demonstrations of technology, or, much to the horror of visiting foreigners but to the delight of Cybusians, public vivisections of Drakul specimens, or public dissections of creatures.
Communal Palaces also serve as hubs of Imperial propaganda, often incorporating radio stations, newspapers, even TV studios in larger cities, all run by the Imperial government; not meant to compete with local networks and papers, but to keep a steady of flow of propaganda in circulation. Despite this, a Communal Palace is often the first stop for a visitor to a city, as they provide information about the local area, as well as important notices, such as traffic closures, news of disease outbreaks, and other such important notifications.
Most Communal Palaces are beautiful works of Art Deco and Mercerist Deco construction, with beautiful murals depicting Cybusian heroes, walls showing Cybusian art, ads, and propaganda in equal measure.