by Max Barry

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Society and Culture

The most defining element of Antarctic culture is how the people of the continent treat others, and how they approach life in general. In Antarctica, it is regarded as every person's obligation to treat another with respect and kindness, and to care for others' happiness and dignity. It is no surprise, then, that the most well-known trait of the Antarctic people is the unfailingly respectful, friendly, and caring attitude with which they treat all human beings. It is the trait by which Antarcticans measure themselves the most, and the trait of which they are most deeply proud.

Upon arriving in Antarctica, the first element of the continent's culture that any visitor will experience is language, not only in words, but in gestures. If an Antarctican wishes to give a respectful greeting to another, they do so by bowing. Specifically, they bow in a style that is based upon the standing form of the Japanese futsurei or keirei. There are a few differences, however: Antarcticans stand with their feet together when bowing, regardless of gender, and they conduct the bow at a more natural pace. In less formal situations, Antarcticans may greet each other with a wave of the hand, or with hugs and other sweet gestures if they know each other well.

When it comes to speaking, Antarcticans are like few other people in the world. Each Antarctican speaks seven languages fluently: English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Odia, and Dravidian. Antarcticans can and do switch seamlessly between languages during speech, at any frequency they desire. They might speak multiple full sentences in one language, or, just as easily, they might speak each word in a different language than the last. The Antarctic accent follows a specific pattern: the sound of any one phoneme is influenced by that of similar phonemes across the seven languages. This influence is fairly strong, but still intelligible. Essentially, this means that Antarctican speaking one language will have a medium-strength accent of the other six.

Several linguistic features are unique to Antarctica. The Dravidian language, which uses the Kannada script, is the most obvious of these, for it is a language that does not exist outside Antarctica. Its vocabulary is a mix of words from the four main Dravidian languages - Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu - though the words themselves are not changed. Meanwhile, the Mandarin Chinese language, which uses traditional characters, is not tonal in nature. A speaker's tone of voice instead conveys their feelings and attitudes, as in most languages. As a result, many words are pronounced identically, and their meaning is instead judged by the context in which they are spoken. Similarly, the Japanese language uses fixed stress patterns, rather than a pitch accent. A notable feature across all seven languages is a rule that the schwa sound cannot be deleted. This overrides both formal rules and informal tendencies, and its effect is easily heard by listeners.

More than any other, the most sought-out profession in Antarctic society is to be a doctor. This is not because of the salaries or any other such reason, but because of the integral role that doctors have fulfilled in Antarctic society for over six hundred years. Before the foundation of the Free Republic, the Antarctic continent was an extremely violent place. Injury and death at the hands of others was inescapable, and the most conscientious Antarcticans, seeking to help society in any way they could, became the first members of a medical tradition whose size and reputation has steadily grown throughout the years of Antarctic history. Though modern Antarctica is a much more peaceful place, the role of doctors is no less important for it. If an Antarctican is not a doctor themselves, they almost certainly know someone who is, be they a physician, psychiatrist, surgeon, nurse, medical researcher, or simple intern. Medical activity is, in fact, the primary driver of Antarctica's economy, and is the most common Antarctic profession by a substantial margin.

The great abundance and reputation of doctors in Antarctic society has, predictably, supercharged the advancement of medical technology and profoundly improved the general health of the Antarctic people. Most Antarcticans are perfectly healthy, with bodies that are strong, flexible, and very attractively shaped, some with visible, well-defined muscles, and others showing a thin, healthy layer of fat. The average life expectancy at birth is the ripe old age of 94, and nine out of ten deaths are due to natural causes. These excellent conditions are due to a number of reasons: one is that the advancement of medical technology has made terminal diseases easily preventable, and another is that, due to the very high regard for doctors in their society, Antarcticans are highly inclined to follow their doctors' advice and keep themselves healthy, exercising regularly and eating heartily.

The beautiful and attractive appearance of many Antarcticans comes down to more than health, however. It is also governed by Antarctic fashion. In Antarctica, fashion is unisex. While there are subtle (and a few not-so-subtle) differences in appearance between genders, these are due to genetics and hormones, rather than any difference in fashion.

Antarcticans wear little makeup, with the exception being eye makeup, which is applied in a particular style. It is thought to complement the natural appearance of eyelashes, being relatively bold on the upper eyelid, and, on the lower eyelid going inward, fading from bold to subtle. Specifically, eyeliner is used to create a thin, dark line along the eyelids, and mascara is used to darken the eyelashes, but not to thicken or lengthen them. Subtle eyeshadow is used around the eyes as well. The end result is eyes that are regarded as strikingly beautiful, with a surprisingly natural look.

There are several other aspects of fashion that make Antarcticans unique. Both genders wear their hair long, at neck-length or longer, and they both wear perfume, which is typically a natural scent, such as pine trees. Most Antarcticans also have a very well-groomed appearance, with lustrous, luxuriant hair and near-perfect skin. This is because they tend to spend great amounts of money on skin and hair products, which, accordingly, are of very high quality, and use them regularly.

Yet another integral part of Antarctic fashion is, of course, clothes. Surprisingly, Antarctic clothes are not all that thick or warm. This is because, in the winter, they are not meant to be worn by themselves, but in combination with many other layers of clothing. Thus, Antarcticans can wear the same clothes in summer, one at a time, without getting too hot. As a result, Antarctic clothes are designed to look good both on their own and in combination with other clothes. There is one item of clothing, in particular, that can be found on any Antarctican. Scarves are considered an integral part of clothing, and most Antarcticans own quite a variety of them. They wear scarves at any time of year, which means scarves are seasonal - winter scarves are thick and warm, while summer scarves are thinner and lighter.

There are two pastimes in Antarctic popular culture which are so popular that they can be found everywhere. The first is baseball, which is played both a professional spectator sport and a common pastime. Over time, Antarctic baseball has developed a unique set of rules and characteristics. Tie games are allowed, and the game's length is limited to nine innings. The playing field is slightly larger, like in the United States, while the baseball itself is slightly smaller, like in Japan. Professional baseball is played during the summer months, when the temperature is quite comfortable. As a result, Antarctic baseball uniforms are light, flexible, and stylish. One very notable component is the baseball caps, which, in Antarctica, have a conical shape and are attached to the head with chin straps, like Vietnamese nón lá. These caps are even more useful than their Western counterparts, since they provide shade to the wearer's whole head. As a result, they can be found anywhere in Antarctica, whether or not baseball figures into the situation. The most notable aspect of Antarctic baseball, however, is that players of all genders are allowed to play the game. As a result, Antarctica's baseball hall of fame includes men, women, and even a few third gender players.

The second of Antarctica's two main pastimes is kalanta, a style of animation with a history going back more than a century. Kalanta characters have a hand-drawn look, and their environments have a hand-painted look, both of which are defined by sober and realistic proportions, rich colors, highly realistic lighting, and ample use of bloom. Meanwhile, writers of kalanta are expected to combine sober thought with riveting action, and to use real people as examples when writing their characters. As a result, in addition to its realistic yet dazzling appearance, kalanta is well-known for its deep, intense, and thought-provoking plots, as well as its highly realistic and multifaceted characters. One interesting quirk is that kalanta are shown and produced at 36 frames per second, with no motion blur. This creates a pace of motion that is more realistic, without sacrificing the choppy quality of motion that helps engage viewers. Even more than baseball, kalanta can be found everywhere in Antarctica, such as in television shows, movies, video games, graphic novels, music videos, and more.

A defining aspect of the Antarctic people is, naturally, the places in which they live. Antarcticans live not in houses, but in cooperative buildings, each containing a multitude of flats. In fact, they would not have it any other way, for in Antarctica, it's said that small and crowded means warm and cozy. Flats come in a variety of sizes, from single rooms to areas capable of housing extended families. Once they reach adulthood, some Antarcticans choose to live on their own, or, later, with only their own spouse and children. Others are happy to continue living with multiple generations of their family, which, in Antarctica, is regarded as an equally valid choice.

These flats are, naturally, located in cities. There are thirty-one cities in Antarctica, most with populations of about two million each. The largest two are Nanji, the capital, and Vostok, which is often thought to be the nation's spiritual center. These cities each have the same general structure: several large clusters of high-rise buildings surrounded by a main body of low-rise buildings, all adding up to around 20 square miles, beyond which the city transitions into the austral forest. Most Antarctic buildings are multi-purpose, containing both flats and business operations. The high-rise buildings are highly sleek and futuristic, while the low-rise buildings have a very refined design - a classic European shape combined with exquisite Indian embellishment. The streets of Antarctica's cities are not covered with asphalt, for there are no cars. Instead, they are covered with bricks, on which Antarcticans walk or ride bicycles to their destination.

Antarctica's natural environment, the austral forest, is deeply cherished by its people. Therefore, they specifically avoid doing things that violate the forest, such as building suburbs or laying down roads between cities. Instead, Antarcticans travel between cities on bullet trains, which travel through underground tunnels at several hundred miles per hour. Instead of farming the land, Antarcticans farm vertically, using the space in their buildings. It is, therefore, not surprising that Antarctica's environment is widely considered to be the cleanest and most beautiful in all the world.

In addition to their values of friendliness, kindness, compassion, fair-mindedness, and personal and societal liberation, Antarcticans are also notable for the level of equality in their society. Skin color and other physical traits are regarded as mere decoration. There is also little difference between the genders in Antarctica. Expectations of behavior are the same; it is considered perfectly natural for men to be emotional, or for women to be strong and assertive. Outwardly, the genders are also similar; most clothes and even most names are unisex. The full variety of gender identities is embraced as perfectly natural, and gender confirmation surgeries are complete to every last detail. Similarly, sex is not suppressed or stigmatized in any way, as it is viewed as an essential part of a full life, and all sexual orientations are embraced and cherished by society.

There are several other interesting details about Antarctic society. For example, each Antarctican has three names: a given name, and the last names of each parent. The order of a child's last names is set at birth by both parents, and the second last name is passed on to one's children. Besides water, the most popular drink is tea, made with traditional Chinese recipes that are thought to keep drinkers in good health. Some recipes also use a wide variety of flavors, such as various mints, and all kinds of fruit. Sparkling tea is also a popular variant for special occasions. Most amusingly, Antarcticans stubbornly continue to use old American units of measurement, such as the Fahrenheit scale, feet, inches, pounds, cups, gallons, and so on.