by Max Barry

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Society and Culture

Perhaps the deepest and most defining aspect of Antarctic culture is its values and aspirations regarding the qualities of people and the quality of life. A number of values, in particular, stand out as some of the defining characteristics of an Antarctic life. One such example is the characteristic humility of many Antarcticans, a quality they profoundly admire and look up to in one another. They tend not to see themselves as important or extraordinary in any way, and always prefer to think of themselves the same way they think of anyone else, in both their qualities and the things that they do. The most defining value of life in Antarctica, though, goes far deeper. Antarctic culture, as a whole, is fundamentally built around a particular notion of the purpose of a human life; specifically, a deep and profound sense that the purpose of life is not to accumulate money, power, or other achievements, but to become the very best person that one can be. The deepest constant in Antarctic life is the effort to look inside oneself and discover new ways to improve as a person, each and every day. It is little wonder, then, that perhaps the most defining and recognizable trait of the Antarctic people is the friendliness, compassion, and kindness that motivates them as a sign of human quality, and their desire to make the world a better place for each and every human being that they can.

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, Bengali, 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. Regardless of the language, Antarcticans speak in a leisurely and deliberate manner, with varied and intricate tones of voice. Their speech is often described by visitors as sounding very beautiful and poetic.

Antarcticans owe their beautiful and attractive reputation to more than their patterns of speech, however. They owe more of it to Antarctic fashion. In Antarctica, fashion is unisex, and Antarcticans of all genders spruce themselves up the same way. This often makes it very difficult for visitors to determine any particular Antarctican's gender. A trained pair of eyes can sometimes tell them apart, by human anatomical differences both common and subtle, but even Antarcticans still fail to guess each other's genders with these on a regular basis. They enjoy these failures as wholesome fun surprises, and would not have it any other way.

Antarcticans are well-known for two things around the world: their wholesome attitudes, and their universally beautiful appearances, particularly their hair, skin, and eyes. Antarcticans always wear their hair long, at neck length or longer, and their hair is remarkable for its especially soft and shiny quality. Their skin is nearly perfect, and it also seems to give off a soft glow. Their unique appearance comes from their use of exceptional products with both natural ingredients and harmless chemicals, a quality for which they pay great money, and which they use every day. One of these many products is eye makeup, which is worn in a signature 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. Antarcticans do not use any other makeup except for chapstick, and this contributes to a very natural look complementing their beauty.

Yet another integral part of Antarctic fashion is, of course, clothes. Antarctic clothes are most notable in that they incorporate plenty of color but are always sure to avoid garishness. Many clothes have fairly basic and straightforward designs. Others have much more elaborate designs, based on classic outfits such as tuxedos, saris, tangzhuang, kimonos, and many, many more, all of which are made to fit both genders perfectly well. Whatever their style, these outfits are also designed to go along well with another essential aspect of Antarctic clothing: scarves. Most Antarcticans have as many scarves as they do other items of clothing, and they are never seen without them. They typically wear very light scarves in the summer, and thicker ones to stay warm in winter. Antarctic winter clothing is also an essential item on the continent. It is specially designed to complement normal clothes, both in style and in the way they feel, and it is designed similarly to normal clothing, with the exception that it is naturally much thicker and warmer. In the winter, most Antarcticans go around bundled up, which many visitors find quite adorable.

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, although the last half-inning is never skipped. 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 hats, which, in Antarctica, have a conical shape and are attached to the head with chin straps. These hats 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. Antarctica's hall of fame is decked with both male and female players, and many kinra players as well.

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 and environments are a combination of hand-made art and special effects. A minor influence of Japanese anime can be seen in kalanta characters, as they are drawn with an expressive quality, particularly regarding their eyes. However, in contrast to the former, the latter are drawn with more-or-less realistic proportions. Their environments also have a distinctive look, with highly intricate and realistic lighting, rich colors, and ample use of light bloom. The main goal of kalanta, regardless of genre, is to create deeply written, multifaceted, realistic characters who almost feel like real people. Their actions and interactions will often be the main driver of the plot. Some kalanta are light-hearted comedies, but many others have much more serious and deep plots which explore how normal people can end up doing terrible things. Even the darkest stories, though, still have a strong and underlying sense of optimism, particularly in the notion that those who accept their own mistakes will always be able to change for the better. An interesting quirk is that kalanta are always produced and shown at 36 frames per second, without motion blur. This creates smoother and more realistic motions without sacrificing the choppy quality that is essential for engaging viewers. Another amusing quirk is a sex trope: when characters are sexually aroused, they will sneeze - usually once, as a big reveal, or multiple times if the writers are going for more comedy. Just like baseball, kalanta can be found everywhere in Antarctic culture, in the form of TV series, movies, graphic novels, music videos, and much more.

A defining aspect of the Antarctic people is the places in which they live. There are twenty-eight cities in Antarctica; each city's population totals somewhat over two million. These cities are filled with cooperative towers, each one many dozens of stories tall. The few lowest stories of each tower are storefronts and businesses of all kinds. From there all the way to the top, the buildings are filled with lofts (the Antarctic word for any living space), general-purpose offices, vertical farming spaces, and occasional manufacturing and recycling levels. Antarcticans love small, warm, and cozy spaces most of all; there are thousands upon thousands of rooms in a single tower, and thousands of towers in a city. Each tower is located roughly two miles away from its neighbors. Between these towers lie stone tile walkways, lined by small open-air shops and restaurants. Outside the walkways, between each group of buildings, there lies at least several square miles of undisturbed austral forest. Antarctic city structures are all built in a very antique and refined style, combining influences from Europe, China, Japan, and India, and in times of darkness, Antarctic cities are lit by a cream-colored fluorescent light from inside the buildings as well as lamp-posts on the ground.

The layout of Antarctica's cities is extremely spread out. Each one covers several thousand square miles, with no particular center, and an extremely low population density by conventional land area due to the separation between towers. These cities are, however, still entirely dwarfed by Antarctica's vast stretches of uninhabited wilderness. Even in the cities, nearly all of the land area is composed of undisturbed forest, for the Antarcticans have only ever cut down trees to make paths for their structures. They have always deeply loved and cherished their natural environment, and refused to give it up for anything, even traditional infrastructure. Instead, there are bicycle lanes in the walkways for those who need to commute for any reason, and those who need to travel to other cities are served by an underground bullet train network. The size of Antarctica's cities has created a very localized society, in which people never need to commute more than one or two towers away from where they live. The vibrant and teeming pace of life contrasts with the constant presence of the forest, creating an atmosphere that mixes urban and natural elements into a distinctive Antarctic blend.

Antarctic production has several other unique characteristics as a result of Antarcticans' desire to keep their environment intact. Antarctica's population remains fairly constant, alternating between periods of very slow growth and very slow decline, as median birth rates are very close to the replacement threshold. However, the population still consumes resources on a daily basis, and Antarctic society has found several unique ways to manage this. Antarctic food is produced through vertical farming of fruits and vegetables and sustainably managed fishing of seafood. Meanwhile, possessions such as clothes, housing, bicycles, appliances, and electronics are specifically produced to be as durable, hardy, and long-lasting as possible, so that there is little to no demand for new ones. These possessions often serve their owners for decades, occasionally even centuries. Single-use products, such as restaurant food containers and grocery bags, are always made from recycled paper. Even long-lasting possessions have as many recyclable components as possible, and overall, Antarctic waste is only very rarely incinerated. The rest of the Antarctic production cycle is easily handled by the continent's recycling levels, necessitating virtually no intake of resources from the natural world.

Education in Antarctica is considered perhaps the most vital function of the country. Schools are publicly funded and open to all. Learning in Antarctica is a very participatory and hands-on experience; a consensus has formed in Antarctica over several decades that students are most engaged, and retain the most learning, through experience rather than verbal instruction. Verbal lessons do still exist, particularly for abstract subjects such as mathematics. Tests typically occur at the end of each learning unit, and students are given grades for each semester once they reach high school. However, teachers focus more on whether their students are engaged and interested in the subjects at hand, and spend all the effort they can muster to help bring struggling students into the learning process, both daily and throughout the school year. There is only one standardized test, which students take in the last year of high school. The shift away from a verbal, standardized education system was begun by Prime Minister Rakesh Gilard in the early 3000s, and completed from top to bottom by Prime Minister Michiko Mayweather in 3018, in the second great achievement of her career.

In its role as a home for millions of homeless refugees from around the world, Antarctica has always been a destination as well for many people who have sometimes been made to feel homeless in their own societies: gender and sexual minorities. In its early years, Antarctica was considered a safe haven for LGBT+ individuals from the West, tongzhi individuals from China, and hijra individuals from India. The continent around them soon collapsed into chaos and hatred, but these alternative cultures persevered. Along with the broader society around them, they eventually coalesced and unified into a single Antarctic whole.

In Antarctica, there are no gender roles, and society has no expectations for how men and women should act. Instead, in Antarctica, men and women act in the way most natural to them: according to their own personalities. Both men and women can be strong and assertive; both men and women can be cooperative and emotional. Above all, everyone can be the kind of person that they naturally are. Even Antarctic clothing and other externalities are unisex, although names remain gendered. Race, in Antarctica, is even less influential. It is, in fact, a concept that has long since faded away into history. Skin color is regarded as nothing but an externality, the same as hair color, voice, or height, and the idea that it would affect one's personality is regarded as nothing more than a hateful delusion.

In Antarctica, there are boys and girls, and there are also kinras. A kinra is a person who identifies as anything besides male or female. Kinras are referred to by the pronoun they. The word came from the hijra community, who called themselves kinnar. As Antarctic culture coalesced, so did the words, and they began to take on a meaning different from the original. Kinra is not a blanket term for all sexual minorities, only those who identify as something besides male or female. In Antarctica, people who have male anatomies but identify as girls are simply girls, and people who have female anatomies but identify as boys are simply boys. Similarly, there are no labels for sexuality. In Antarctica, there are simply people who like boys, people who like girls, people who like both genders and/or kinras, and people who don't feel sexual attraction at all. Antarcticans believe it is absurd to separate love from itself, or human identity from itself, with the use of labels.

This attitude ties into Antarctic religious views as well. Human sexuality in all its forms is not stigmatized in any way by Anava Hinduism; in fact, it is cherished as part of the kama, the sacred enjoyment and experience of life. The infinite diversity of the human condition, and the ways that human differences combine to create meaning and beauty, is considered an essential reflection of the brahman, the divine truth of everything that exists.

There are several miscellaneous, but still notable aspects of Antarctic society as well:

  • Each Antarctican has three names: a given name, one parent's last name, and the other parent's last name. The order of a child's last names is set at birth by both parents, and one's second last name is passed on to one's children.

  • The main national beverage of Antarctica is tea. It is 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. The Antarctic diet, meanwhile, consists mainly of a lean and healthy combination of various fruits, vegetables, breads, and seafood. Other meats are not consumed, since they are not farmed, and over the years Antarcticans have developed a surprisingly strong distaste for red meat in particular. Sugary treats are typically consumed only on special occasions, although less sugary treats, such as extra dark chocolate, are a little more popular.

  • Antarcticans stubbornly continue to use old American units of measurement, such as the Fahrenheit scale, feet, inches, pounds, cups, gallons, and so on.