Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota Discord Server AMA

A condensed and lightly-edited transcript of Ada Palmer's discord Ask Me Anything session.

Published

Updated

The Author makes an introduction:

Dr. Palmer

Hello, all! To keep it clear from the start of the channel, I'm delighted to be here to talk to you and answer questions, but I don't intend to join in the server chat generally because I think fan discussions flourish best when people aren't thinking about the author being there and how they'd react. So I'll just use this channel, and am delighted to answer questions both about the books and about random other topics, and I think we will set it up so that I can pop in long-term and answer questions periodically so if you post new questions after this is over I likely may (tardily) come by and answer them, but I won't be poking around in other parts of the server and we're going to try to set it up so I can't access them, since that's my preference.

Questions were not asked in any particular order, and ranged across topics. I’ve tried to group them here by topic while preserving chronological order where necessary.

Table of Contents

  1. On the content of the books
    1. On historically-named characters
    2. On la Trémoïlle
    3. On Vidocq
    4. On the Adulthood Competency Exam
    5. On the administration of trackers
    6. On the effects of transit upon dining and museums
    7. On civic design in 2454
    8. On Apollo's Iliad
    9. On the literal-ness of character names
    10. On Blacklaws and swords
    11. On the speed of the cars, and typos
    12. On crappy jobs in 2454
    13. On Hugo Sputnik
    14. On Dominic
    15. On the French translation of the books
    16. On the city named 'Romanova'
    17. On the education of Hiveless
    18. On Reservations
    19. On the Adulthood Competency Exam
    20. On failing Adulthood Competency Exam
    21. On archaic words in 2454
  2. On the setting, but not in the books
    1. On veterans' heritage organizations as strats
    2. On marriage and reproduction in 2454
    3. On sexual transition
    4. On polyamorous child-rearing
    5. On Hobbestown
    6. On Australia
    7. On time-zone differences
    8. On gender vs sex in 2454
    9. On edgy religious kitsch
    10. On raising a child speaking Latin
    11. On North America in 2454
    12. On Israel in 2454
    13. On a Model UN setting
    14. On the field of Computer Science in 2454
    15. On additional philosophers
    16. On hermits
    17. On content distribution and publishing in 2454
    18. On the state of science fiction in 2454
    19. On no-longer-extant Hives
    20. On deaf and disabled communities in 2454
    21. On 'goddamn'
    22. On 'bless you' and other benevolent affirmations
    23. On the initial public perception of the Hives
    24. On pets in 2454
    25. On gene editing in 2454
    26. On education in 2454
    27. On strat markers for religion
    28. On gendered pornography
    29. On the marketing of brothels
    30. On the obsolescence of aeroplanes
    31. On the provision of government services for Hiveless
    32. On libraries in 2454
    33. On hive-specific taboos
    34. On early Gordian
    35. On Dungeons and Dragons in 2454
  3. On Utopia
    1. On U-Speak
    2. On U-Beasts and the Uncanny Valley
    3. On similarities betwee U-Beasts and Pokémon
    4. On Utopian children
    5. On a Utopian Oath for the 21st Century
    6. On the Utopian practice of multiplex occlusion
    7. On Antarctic exploration and Utopian ideals
    8. On constellations and the length of book 4
  4. On set-sets
    1. On the term 'set-sets'
    2. On the number of numbers in a set
    3. On hacking set-sets
    4. On set-sets vs U-beasts
    5. On the numbers in sets
    6. On the varieties of set-set
    7. On set-sets' ability to make choices
  5. On Sniper
    1. On Sniper and Ockham's deer
    2. On Sniper's pronouns and bash'mates' usage thereof
    3. On a Dora the Explorer pun
  6. On Mycroft and Saladin
    1. On Mycroft and Saladin's sets
    2. On Javert
    3. On Saladin, Mycroft, and childhood love
    4. On the musical tastes of murderers
  7. On Dr. Palmer
    1. On Dr. Palmer's voice
    2. On Dr. Palmer's Renaissance art affinities
    3. On statues of Ganymede
    4. On Dr. Palmer's scifi favourites
    5. On Steven Brust
    6. On Dr. Palmer's favourite anime
    7. On Dr. Palmer and Kaworu Nagisa
    8. On Dr. Palmer's recommended Enlightenment works
    9. On Baccano
    10. On Dr. Palmer's writing process
    11. On Dr. Palmer's musical ambitions
    12. On Dr. Palmer's favourite saint
    13. On Dr. Palmer's vexillology
    14. On Dr. Palmer's own religion
    15. Is Dr. Palmer a Homestuck?
    16. On Dr. Palmer's duck recipe
    17. On animals eating bananas
  8. On The Reader's present day
    1. On COVID-19
    2. Why the Renaissance had a lower life-expectancy than the Middle Ages
  9. Updates

On the content of the books

On historically-named characters

A Gordian petitioner

I’ll kick it off! So, do actual Thomas Carlyle, actual Abraham Arden Brill, actual mythologized Tullus Hostilius etc exist in the universe of Terra Ignota?

Dr. Palmer

So, the actual Thomas Carlyle does, and is the namesake of the imagined Romanovan founder figure. The actual Abraham Arden Brill does too but I hadn’t actually heard of him when I picked Felix Faust’s name – Felix is named (very nerdily) after the academic publisher Brill, which is notable for publishing incredibly niche important research that no other publisher will take because it’s not going to turn a profit but which is still really important and needs to be known. It reminded me of how the Brillists are working hard on research no one cares about while everyone recognizes that the fruits of said research is important. Tullus Hostilius remains as real in Terra Ignota as in history.

On la Trémoïlle

A Cousin petitioner

I only recently found that la Trémoïlle was a real French noble family with a claim to the kingdom of Naples. Why did you pick it for the house Madame chose to revive John Hammond-style?

Dr. Palmer

They were also instrumental in various important invasions and other interesting historical incidents, I keep finding them popping up in my research. It was a family that died out at about the time I wanted it to die out, and that had a distinctive name and a clear vein of royal blood, but that also wasn’t well known and hadn’t been used in any other prominent fiction so it wouldn’t have too many other associations.

On Vidocq

A Blacklaw petitioner

so how many characters are based on Vidocq besides the explicit Papadelias?

Dr. Palmer

Well, since Vidocq is both Valjean and Javert, there’s entanglement with Mycroft too. Papa and Mycroft are the main intended entanglements there, but also important is the reminder that people cn have utterly implausible lives that stretch the plausibility of novels and yet still be real, which I want people thinking about in terms of Mycroft but also many of the characters.

On the Adulthood Competency Exam

A Blacklaw petitioner

What does the ACE entail exactly?

Dr. Palmer

We get a bit more on it in book 4, but there are lots of version administered by lots of Hives, so they vary a lot. Many are an interview, or partly an interview, but there are also written-only versions, and there are many language options too. The focus, though, is on seeing whether you understand moral problems enough to make ethical decisions at an adult level, so for example some versions involve the Trolly Problem or other ethical thought experiments, not with the expectation that there’s a right answer, but that articulating ANY answer demonstrates moral reasoning at a sophisticated level and the fact that you can recognize that it’s a complex question. A lot of it is to make sure you have enough practical critical reasoning to avoid being taken advantage of if you become your own legal decision-maker, i.e. that you fully understand what it means to choose a law and be bound by it. Different people can take different forms, so, for example, someone who struggles to articulate things aloud can take a written-only version, someone who struggles with writing can take an oral-only version, etc.

On the administration of trackers

A Blacklaw petitioner

Who runs the tracker system? I would assume that the 7 hive council has something to do with it but a single bash’ ultimately controls the 6-hive transport system.

Dr. Palmer

Good question. Yes, the tracker system is administered mainly by the Alliance itself, though the facility is a joint Cousin-Mitsubishi undertaking.

On the effects of transit upon dining and museums

A petitioner

Hello! I love all the world-building you’ve done with food in Terra Ignota. I’m curious if you’ve thought about how restaurants and dining culture have changed from today.

Dr. Palmer

I already talked about how most restaurants do only one meal for a long time, to accomodate time zone hopping. It’s also much more common for highly-rated restaurants to be primarily by reservation and have a waiting list (museums too) since people can go to them from anywhere, so a favorable newspaper review can result in thousands of people. Elite restaurants might have bookings months in advance, while more modest ones focus more on feeding people in the immediate neighborhood. In effect it mostly makes sense to go either to a restaurant that’s within walking distance or to go to one that’s really exciting and worth a 15-20 minute trip which means 1/3 of the Earth – medium-quality restaurants that people drive to because they’re the best X in the area but not actually outstanding are what’s gone, so you get more local mom & pop shops and super specialty things like Try Our Famous Goat & Feta Sausage Dog, Unique in the World!

On civic design in 2454

A Cousin petitioner

Apollo mentions that there are no more roads, but what about sidewalks ?

Dr. Palmer

There aren’t sidewalks because streets are largely entirely pedestrian, though larger cities do have trams or subways and sometimes bicycle lanes, since for short distances within a dense urban space local transit can be better than the car. The acceleration and deceleration at the beginning and end are the slowest part, so a 1 mile trip in a car is actually most of the time length of 100 mile trip. Public bikeshare programs are thus very common still, as are trams for main thoroughfares, while everything else is pedestrianized.

On Apollo's Iliad

A European petitioner

Will we ever get to read Apollo’s Iliad?

Dr. Palmer

Only if someone fan-writes it

On the literal-ness of character names

A European petitioner

How literally should we be taking the names?

Dr. Palmer

Hmmmmmm good question!!

On Blacklaws and swords

A Utopian petitioner

We see a lot of Blacklaws with rapiers. Are they a classical association with Blacklaws? Or a coincidence associated with Madame’s connecteds

Dr. Palmer

Dueling is a big blacklaw thing since it’s the main way of reveling in, and publically showing, one’s willingness to kill and be killed. It’s not always rapiers, but it often is, a general dueling culture thing.

On the speed of the cars, and typos

A Cousin petitioner

Just to confirm, the bit in TLtL where Eureka is talking about the car system and says “they couldn’t fly safely over 900 km/h. now we fly them over 1000”–that number (which is only a little faster than the speed of a modern passenger jet) is a typo, right? Earlier Mukta is described as going “9,640 km/h”; is that more accurate for what twenty-fifth-century cars are capable of?

Dr. Palmer

Yeah, that’s a typo. They happen.

On crappy jobs in 2454

A petitioner

I just got off work and haven’t read the back scroll so sorry if somebody already answered this question but: what does a lousy job look like in Terra Ignota universe? What are the worst jobs? And also what are the most common jobs that ordinary people have?

Dr. Palmer

So, there are a number of jobs that everyone agrees aren’t at all enjoyable but need to be done, like being a plumber, or rubbish inspector, or fixing stuff that goes wrong in automated factories, double-checking that janetorial robots have done their job right, etc. Some jobs people feel they have a vocation for or at least find gratifying (policeman, caregiver) but generally the ones that are considered the least desirable are the ones that need to be done but just aren’t fun. Those generally pay well, though, to make up for it, and people put in their 20 hours and eveyone else feels grateful to them for taking on the stuff that’s just no fun.

On Hugo Sputnik

A petitioner

Will we ever learn more about Hugo Sputnik’s fiction, and what the different Clutches are?

Dr. Palmer

No, that’s a treat for the reader to have fun imagining!

On Dominic

A petitioner

Was Dominic inspired by any character, person, or thing?

Dr. Palmer

As for Dominic, he’s based on the general milieu of 18th century stories about what we would now call trans people, i.e. the Chevalier d’Eon and later imaginations about the Chevalier, plus Diderot’s speculations about ethics in Rameau’s Nephew.

On the French translation of the books

A petitioner

I’m slowly making my way through the French translation. i noticed that some of the text that’s in French in the original has been slightly modified. comments, anecdotes, griping about not having a gender neutral object pronoun?

Dr. Palmer

Yes, the French translator was incredibly wonderful and in really close touch with me throughout, she’s amazing and really really worked hard to make the text faithful, both to my project, and to my effort to make the prose resemble Diderot’s. She’s made lots of little fine-tuned additions like that which make it work in French and it was a joy discussing them with her and also getting to see them at last as I’m reading the French mself. She’s a finalist for the best translator award in France right now and SHE SUPER MEGA DESERVES IT!!

On the city named 'Romanova'

A petitioner

Is Romanova’s claim to be “New Rome” quietly and desperately controversial among partisans of Constantinople, Moscow, and other cities as New Romes? What about Rome makes it such an attractive concept for people to attach to?

Dr. Palmer

Yes slightly but the fight over who gets to be the new Rome is a very old one. My favorite version of it is Renaissance Florence claiming to be the new Rome and Rome being like “I’m RIGHT HERE!” fascinating fight. So it’s a very old fight and there are always rival claims, which is another thing I talk about a bit in my current little nonfiction book about the Renaissance

On the education of Hiveless

Note:

A follow-up to “On education in 2454”

A petitioner

So are there than higher schools for Hiveless or can they attend the schools fromm other Hives?

Dr. Palmer

Romanova does run some schools and there are also private schools with no Hive affiliations, but yes Hiveless kids can also go to Hive-run schools and are usually very heartily encouraged in hopes they’ll then join the Hive.

On Reservations

A petitioner

How do the reservations work? do people go to them often? what’s the attitude towards them?

Dr. Palmer

You’ll enjoy book 4… :upside_down:

On the Adulthood Competency Exam

A petitioner

Would I pass the adulthood competency exam

Dr. Palmer

Probably? Again cool discussions coming in book 4.

On failing Adulthood Competency Exam

A petitioner

What does it look like to fail an adulthoold competency exam, and how common is it?

Dr. Palmer

It’s pretty common, many kids end up suddenly taking it very young when having a fight with their ba’pas or ba’sibs, a kind of kid protest variant on deciding you’re going to run away from home. So it’s not uncommon for many kids to do it rashly once very early, like age 11, and no one thinks of it as anything but growing pains and actually a cool way for an angry kid to reflect on things like ethics and dial down from being angry to being contemplative. When you’re taking it more seriously intending to pass then failing it is still not a big deal, and for most of them you don’t get a numerical score (except with the Mitsubishi one) instead you get written feedback and a chance to discuss the results with both the interviewer who administered it and a neutral party. And, of course, you can take it again within 24 hours if you feel it was somehow unfair, or that a different version of the exam would be better. The main time it’s actually a bit tricky is if it’s a kid who’s trying to take it very early, not in a one-time quarrel with bash’parents, but in a serious effort to separate from an unhealthy bash’environment, i.e. when the minor really does have a problematic home situation and needs to be liberated from it. For that reason, whenever a kid is taking it quite early, 14 or earlier, the examiners always also have a social work councilor type person talk to the kid at length about the reasons to see if there’s a possible abuse/unhealthy situation happening, and if the kid doesn’t pass then they talk to the kid about other options, like a foster bash’ etc. So it’s carefully watched as a social tool for helping kids in good bash’situations self-examine, and for helping kids in bad bash’situations get out. They work hard to make sure there’s no stigma on failing, & popular celebrities make a point of talking about times they failed to normalize it.

On archaic words in 2454

A petitioner

I recall in one of the books there’s a reference to hard drives. I’m assuming people are still not using hard disk drives in the future, so is it just a really fancy SDD? Or something else?

Dr. Palmer

It’s a totally new futuretech but lingering vocabulary. We still say “car” short for carraige even though we don’t use carriages anymore.

On the setting, but not in the books

On veterans' heritage organizations as strats

A petitioner

The Sons/Daughters/Children of the American Revolution are a history/national interest group focused in genealogical descent from a defined pool. I could imagine it being developed into a strat, but would such sorts of “descendants of veterans of a particular war” be strats?

Dr. Palmer

Those would be small strats, equivalent in importance to strats like shiba inu dog breeders, or cyclists, or fans of a particular band, etc. They don’t have political significance, don’t vote in Europe for example, but exist like clubs or loose associations with social webs that form diasporic communities. That said, war veteran-ness for wars of the age of barbaric geographic nations is a bit stigmatized in 2454, so those societies would not be so common as descendants of other things less war-related like descendants of former farmers or something, and the war-related ones that did exist would have nuanced explanations of what they’re about, to engage with the stigma.

On marriage and reproduction in 2454

A petitioner

What is the social culture around marriage and reproduction? Prospero and Leslie plan to have a child and raise them as a set-set; did their parents set it up so that Leslie could sexually reproduce with either Ojiro or Prospero? Or has science developed to a point where any couple can reproduce if they choose to?

Dr. Palmer

Tech is indeed at the point where any pair of people can be parents, or indeed more than a pair (we’re already at the tech level where we can do 3 parents if the mitochondrea come from a 3rd).

On sexual transition

Note:

@carinique’s question is “On marriage and reproduction in 2454”

A petitioner

Adding on to @cariniqe’s question, is it commonly doable for people to transition their sex? Obviously it is possible (see Sniper), but can the common folk do it?

Dr. Palmer

Easily doable, and the surgery for a full transition is far better tha nnow, but I imagine it as fairly rare because, while it’s an open question whether sex and gender have successfully/completely separated, it’s true that the degree to which one is treated differently and the amount that gender intrudes in your life is lessened, people don’t use gendered pronouns on you daily, there’s less pressure about things like clothes, so it’s much easier to just feel feminine while having a male-sex body or vice-versa than it is today where society reminds you about the category it’s put you in so constantly. The less society actively shoves gender in your face the less pressure there is to feel that you can’t be the gender you feel you are with the body you have. So I think active transition would happen less often, because people aren’t experiencing as much constant pain/stress from it. That lessened examination isn’t necessarily all good, though. A complex question, with, again, a bit mroe coming on it in book 4. :slight_smile:

On polyamorous child-rearing

A petitioner

How common is a polyamorous birth, and can we please see that in book 4

Dr. Palmer

Very very common.

On Hobbestown

A petitioner

Where is Hobbestown geographically?

Dr. Palmer

You can deduce from travel times that it must be either in Europe, the Middle East, or north Africa, but I’m intentional about not saying. But it’s in the Latvia/Estonia area.

On Australia

A petitioner

Any lore on Australia?

Dr. Palmer

Chapter 4 of book 4 has a bunch of action surrounding Sydney

On time-zone differences

A petitioner

How do people handle time zone differences? For example, if someone in New Zealand wanted to see Shakespeare at the Globe, would they just have to cope with the 12 hour time difference?

Dr. Palmer

The fact that work weeks are only 20 hours make this easier and more flexible. You’ll notice the times in the book are usually given in UT, i.e. Universal Time, so everyone is used to naming times by that standard rather than by personal time zone. In general any given bash’ will pick the sleep schedule it prefers, often based on sunset and sunrise times where the bash’house is but also to accomodate everyone’s jobs best. People will then sleep by those times and do recreational activities at different points. Meanwhile theaters tend to offer shows at a wider variety of times to get more people from other time zones, and similarly rather than doing breakfast at breakfast time and dinner at dinner time most restaurants specialize in one meal but do it all day, so you can have breakfast at a breakfast place anytime within a 12 hour window, depending on when breakfast time is for you.

On gender vs sex in 2454

A petitioner

Have they successfully divorced gender from sex? (except for, like, the obvious failures)

Dr. Palmer

That’s certainly one of the questions that I want you as reader to be judging over the course of the books. Particularly in book 4 when we see the world under pressure we’ll get another chance to think about whether they have succeeded or not, and if so how much. A good book 4 question!

On edgy religious kitsch

A petitioner

Is there a subculture of edgy religious kitsch in the Terra Ignota world? This seems alluded to by JEDD’s collection of discarded religious statuary, but I wonder if there’s something rather like black metal dudes with inverted crosses or maybe even how Christian iconography often shows up as a shorthand for superstition in anime.

Dr. Palmer

Yes but it’s a bit past edgy into making people really uncomfortable. I’d compare the way people in Terra Ignota would react to a cross more to how we today react to swastika than how we react to a satanist symbol, in their minds it’s associated with a giant NEVER AGAIN! traumatic historical incident, so the degree of the taboo is very severe.

On raising a child speaking Latin

A petitioner

How would Felix Faust respond to Montaigne’s upbringing? Bad to teach a child only latin since it isolates them from peers? fascinated by the resulting set, since being raised speaking only latin doesn’t lock sets down like the set-set processes?

Dr. Palmer

Montaigne is indeed one of the major cases that Brill looked at, and early bash-studiers too. They discuss it as an example of how intentional rearing can have powerful effects, but yes, they say it’ smuch better to do a group of kids together, which is also an argument for bash’es in general.

On North America in 2454

A petitioner

What happened to North America?

Dr. Palmer

Hmmmmmmm.

On Israel in 2454

A petitioner

sorry to contribute to the absolute excess of questions but I simply must ask. What, if anything, exists in the geographic location we would refer to today as Israel?

Dr. Palmer

we get a bunch more on the future of Judaism and Jewish culture in book 4

On a Model UN setting

A petitioner

Have you heard of the Terra Ignota/Hobbestown/Canner Murders Model UN Conference made by @Timanenchanter ?

Dr. Palmer

Huh… I don’t specifically remember that though I do have a vague memory of being contacted by model UN but I might be remembering being asked about my 1492 Papal Election LARP. Sounds awesome though!!

On the field of Computer Science in 2454

A petitioner

What does the field of computer science looks like in the 2400s and what is the level of AI - what do set sets do that can’t be done with a big computer? (credit to a friend who can’t be online right now but wanted to ask)

Dr. Palmer

Mainly set-sets do things that human sensory interfaces have still proved best at, which was a discovery of trial and error as the technologies developed. With some of them it’s things it’s intuitive that a human brain would be good at like an Amadeus set-set making music that appeals to humans, or a Rosetta set-set analyzing language, but in things like the Cartesian they wanted to maximize the data a human could look at and it has different strengths from AI. There’s certainly some of what we now call AI within the Saneer-Weeksbooth computers working along with the set-sets, but the set-sets can keep up with what it’s producing and displaying and give real-time feedback to the predicted movements of 400 million cars; no human relying only on regular senses could keep up with the computer that well.

On additional philosophers

A petitioner

I loved the Hobbes POV/narration in book 3 - if you could add another philosopher-narrator who would it be?

Dr. Palmer

Hmmm. The only ones that would really make sense would be Voltaire or Diderot. But I’m doing something very particular with Hobbes, very happy with what it’s doing in the series (she says vaguely).

On hermits

A petitioner

Doesn’t really anybody prefer to just get ther own apartment in this world? This seemed weird :thinking:

Dr. Palmer

It’s not totally unheard-of, but most people grow up in bash’es and expect bash’es and feel lonely transitioning to living w/o. That said it’s not uncommon to have a small studio apartment in a city where you work so you can sometimes work late and sleep there and then go to the bash’ other days. Vivien & Bryar, for example, have a small flat in Romanova in addition to the big bash’house in Mumbai. This is more common with vokers but sometimes even non-vokers do it and have private space that way while also enjoying bash’life.

On content distribution and publishing in 2454

A petitioner

What does content distribution look like in 2454? Has there been a renaissance of physical media, or has digital streaming largely won out? Society seems to have different censorship attitudes - do those extend to digital rights management?

Dr. Palmer

That’s a big pile of questoins! Most media is digital but there are also physical copies especially of books, for people who like having a physical thing. Digital media is soemtimes bought and owned, sometimes short-term rented, but there’s been a push back against the you-can’t-own-it-you-just-lease-it Kindle model, since when the Church War made so many things go sour that model proved its toxicity in temrs of what corporations (and states exploiting them) could do to censor and destroy media. Media has to go through pre-publication censorship, modeled on the system England used after the mid-17th century, but censorship and ownership are decoupled. Did I cover everything?

On the state of science fiction in 2454

A petitioner

I have another, very meta question - I would love to know what science fiction is like in the Terra Ignota universe.

Dr. Palmer

Much like it is now, continuing to explore other ways the world could be, broadeing the space of speculation and preparing people better for the reality that the human experience constantly changes generation by generation.

On no-longer-extant Hives

A petitioner

What is your favorite no longer extant Hive?

Dr. Palmer

I’ve been mulling on this one but it’s really hard. A lot of them were corporate at first, which aren’t that fun, the ones with strong interesting ethics were the ones that tended to survive. OBP aka One Big Party is the one I’ve given the most development, which was about helping people zip around the world to go to raves and concerts and had an interesting relationship with celebrity and participation in live events (what it means to be in the audience at a concert vs. streaming a concert) parallel to but separate from the Olympians, so their discussions with each other as they merged would have been really interesting.

On deaf and disabled communities in 2454

A petitioner

Do the deaf and disabled communities still exist in the Terra Ignota universe? Or were they eliminated with the Utopian dedication to conquering death?

Dr. Palmer

They exist definitely, though in different ways. In 2454 much like now medical advancements do mean many things that used to be incurable are curable, but it also means there are many more conditions that are survivable resulting in adults with different new kinds of unusual conditions or disabilities that didn’t exist earlier. MASON’s psychosomatic limp from his cloned foot is an example of the kind of new disability which has come about as a result of tech advances, as are Tully Mardi’s challenges resulting from extended time on the Moon. So like today the disability community is an evolving one as new technologies and conditions change and expand what’s possible. I don’t think the deaf community would exist as much as an internal separate community because there would be both a wider variety of substitute technologies and a wider variety of new kinds of sensory disabilities, so I like to imagine a broader more inclusive community composed of people with a huge range of atypical sensory stuff using a broad range of different technologies and communications methods. The disability community and tension around set-sets would absolutely be linked in discourse, as discourse about autism and neurodiversity is linked to other kinds of disability discourse today, and we’ll see a bit of that in book 4 in fact.

On 'goddamn'

A petitioner

Is it illegal to say goddamned it?

Dr. Palmer

Yes, in fact, and separtely it’s ALSO taboo. With this and other swears I had to work hard on modern equivalents, especially in Spanish where I had to ask for help from friends. There’s a point in book 4 where I really wanted the equivalent of wen someone would say “Oh, my God!” and it’s hard to find substitutes for that, even harder in a language you don’t know well!

On 'bless you' and other benevolent affirmations

A petitioner

Is saying bless you taboo? what do people say instead?

Dr. Palmer

Yes, and various variations on wishing people good health, or good luck

On the initial public perception of the Hives

A petitioner

I was wondering if you think the Hives, at their founding, would have been recognized as a good thing by most people or would have been thing as yet another step back away from progress, all happening in the midst of the Church War? After all, I assume people would have been eager to characterize it as the richest fraction of the population running away instead of paying their fair share to help their country in time of need. All the scary stuff in the Hive system (censorship, for example) would have been much more scary without seeing the end result, too.

Dr. Palmer

I think there would have been a mix, and at first the Great Renunciation would’ve been a source of major fear for anyone who was against the war but also wasn’t in one of the groups in the original set who renounced (i.e. Cousins, Gordian, E.U., Olympians). There would definitely have been uncertainty, tension, accusations of being traitors and cowards, violence as well, but indeed they were largely affluent and had strong infrsatructure and it blindsided everyone else so they were able to respond quickly and succeed. But I do imagine it very scary. The one supplementary bit of Terra Ignota writing I’ve been mulling seriously over is a kind of a mini-LARP walking tour kit which would be set during the Great Renunciation and offer a glimpse of the anxieties of the time – I’m hoping to write it for when book 4 comes out, but we’ll see.

On pets in 2454

A petitioner

Do any of the characters we’ve met have pets (excluding ubeasts, if that term could apply to them)? We’ve heard a little about pet registry, have Bridger’s Boo and a couple of fake dogs running around, but any others?

Dr. Palmer

We don’t see them yes. We don’t see Danae’s little dog but she has one, and there are several pets at the Kosala-Ancelet bash’, and Papadelias’s bash owns a farm with farm cats but also goats and things, and of course Sniper and Ganymede have horses. Julia also has cats, trying to remember who else… those are the ones I’m thinking of at the moment.

On gene editing in 2454

A petitioner

How aggressively do people engage in gene editing? Is it common or uncommon? If gene editing is common, how do the Hives not become a retelling of Gattaca?

Dr. Palmer

Universal, so universal Mycroft doesn’t think it’s worth mentioning, but we see him reference Saladin having had the normal gene editing as a kid but then not taking his anti-aging meds and so still aging somewhat faster than societal standard.

On education in 2454

A petitioner

I would love to know any tidbits about education pre-Campus; is home/bash’schooling common ? are high schools regional ? public ? you don’t need to address all of these, just anything you think is interesting

Dr. Palmer

Since the work week has shrunk and there are always multiple adult caretakers, it’s worked for school days to shrink as well. Thus kids get a lot of their education at home while also going to school for social interactive parts of it too. If a current school week generally has a kid at school for maybe 30-40 hours, theirs are closer to 20 hours at school with more learning done at home. The schools are run by many organizations - the Cousins provide a lot of the earlier levels of school but all Hives offer the equivalent of middle school but there are also lots of private schools and regional schools to choose from. It’s generally recognized that the socialization aspect of school needs to be recognized as separate from the informational learning aspect of school, so more of the latter is at home, and school is free to organize activities designed more to facilitate good socialization and social interaction learning.

On strat markers for religion

A petitioner

People don’t talk about their religions, but are religious markers part of legible fashion?

Dr. Palmer

No, they’re largely severely taboo. The cultural hangup is very extreme, and intended to set off our warning bells.

On gendered pornography

A petitioner

How does gender stuff stay hidden with internet pornography (which presumably exists) around? is it all non-gendered? is it more gendered than modern/historical stuff? does it just not exist given the tracker system to assure safety + cars + legal brothels?

Dr. Palmer

There’s tons of gendered pornography, it’s considered an exciting fetish costume, like a nurse outfit or a maid outfit. People think of it as unimportant but it’s a big part of what keeps gendered coding live in people’s minds, and what Madame builds on when seducing people .Remember that gender is taboo but NOT illegal, unlike religion which is taboo AND illegal.

On the marketing of brothels

A petitioner

Related question: Just how do properly market a non-gendered Brothel? :thinking:

Dr. Palmer

Like with any brothel, the customer when arriving expresses their preferences including anatomical sex of partner but also other things. A brothel is a vast taboo anyway so requesting a gender and requesting a police outfit aren’t that different.

On the obsolescence of aeroplanes

A petitioner

When was the last commerical airplane flight ?

Dr. Palmer

Let me pull up my timeline! Let’s see, the flying care systems become commercially affordable in 2074, so the commercial airline industry as a staple of how people travel would die out in the 2090s, though novelty flights (ooh, a plane!) continue even to 2454, just as we still have horse-drawn buggies for fun

On the provision of government services for Hiveless

A petitioner

Do the hives except for their respective “gimmicks” actually provide any of the social services modern states do and are Greylaws than excluded from that?

If not, why are Hiveless in general so few?

Dr. Palmer

Some social services are provided by towns, cities or regions (fire protection, emergency hospitals, local police, local libraries), but a lot of others are provided by the Hives, yes, covering healthcare costs, education, unemployment, childcare, specialized libraries, health coaching, wide variety. Romanova provides such services for Hiveless (including for Blacklaws) but theirs don’t have as many bells & whistles as the fancier Hive offerings which tend to cover a lot more. So social services, especially having them work the way you want, is one of the reasons to join Hives, but another reason so few remain Hiveless is the tendency of people towant to feel like they’re part of something large and strong. The Hives are so powerful that there is a sense of semi-disenfranchisedness of graylaws. Even having Tribunes makes you the equivalent of the Plebs in ancient Rome, subtleties that drive people to choose to be part of the big powers. Not all people, but many people.

On libraries in 2454

A petitioner

What do libraries look like in the 25th century? especially with the erosion of geographical boundaries, do libraries tend to be universal or focused on a local community? Physical or digital predominance? Public perception of libraries/librarians?

Dr. Palmer

There are still local libraries, which tend to be funded by the local community as one of the perks to entice people to stay there and increase property values, like having a neighborhood swimming pool. There are also many research libraries, and archives. There are also Hive-run libraries including vast digital libraries wher ethe Hive pays for the content and you access it as part of the perks of being in the Hive (or you pay the Hive per use in the case of Mitsubishi). And there are historic libraries, and university or school libraries. Most books are released digital-only or with luxurious beautiful hardcovers, often produced on demand or in a limited art press type run, so libraries have big digital components, but also do have physical copies for those who enjoy them. But everyone grows up accustomed to reading on lenses and tablets, so paper book reading is something only some people enjoy.

On hive-specific taboos

A petitioner

What are some hive-specific taboos that the books don’t really get into? what are your favorite taboos you didn’t have a chance to do anything with?

Dr. Palmer

Hmm… This deserves a good answer but I’m getting tired and dont’ have one. If I think of things another day I’ll pop in and share.

On early Gordian

A petitioner

What were the defining characteristics of the Gordian hive before they became dedicated to Brill’s teachings?

Dr. Palmer

It was a flashy entrepenurial big corporation comparable to Google, though with a even more of a social services we-care-about-being-good-guys presentation. Its corporate identity merged with Hives Were Our Idea We’re First to be their dominant brand, so they were sort of the default Hive for a while, until Brillism gave them specificity

On Dungeons and Dragons in 2454

A petitioner

Do people no longer play dungeons and dragons or warhammer? (sorry if this is a repeat I just got here)

Dr. Palmer

No they play super aweome future way cooler than those are versions of them with near-holodeck-level griffincloth environemtns and real unicorns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Utopia

On U-Speak

Note:

It’s not clear whether ‘latter’ is correct here. As of 2020-04-21, we await confirmation.

A petitioner

What is U-speak actually like? Is it just English with 90% of the idioms and vocabulary swapped out for the 25th-century equivalent of the Jargon File, or is it really more like a truly distinct language?

Dr. Palmer

It’s the latter. It uses in-group vocabulary references the way social groups do, to reinforce social cohesion, and separateness from other communities. There aren’t any grammatical differences and Utopian language still uses all standard English, it just adds a lot of specialized word uses. It’s an extension of how a bash’ too will develop particular linguistic habits – you’ve experienced this if you’ve ever had a close-knit friend group with many social media shared experience and noticed, for example, that you’ve started using particular Japanese words picked up from anime within your standard English, or references to jokes or media as shorthand for things. It’s a more developed version of that.

On U-Beasts and the Uncanny Valley

A petitioner

Are U-beasts typically deep in the pits of the Uncanny Valley?

Dr. Palmer

A few of them, but many more of them just use complex colors while keeping the animal anatomy very faithfully duplicated. It looks more like a real green cat than like a creepily-off cat, and they don’t do the thing where they make the eyes eerily extra big to make things cuter. They strive to make everything look “natural” or at least like you’d intuitively imagine that thing would be if it were real.

On similarities betwee U-Beasts and Pokémon

A petitioner

Did utopians come up with u-beasts because they were like “what if pokemon, but real?”

Dr. Palmer

Well, also dragons, and unicorns, and all the exciting creatures we’ve invented and enjoyed for ages.

On Utopian children

A petitioner

What percentage of children raised by Utopians become ones themselves after passing the ACE? I thought it was interesting children were included when Mycroft was talking about the Utopian griffincloth-static mourning ritual

Dr. Palmer

The majority do, Utopian culture has a strong impetus of passing the project on. A larger bash’ will often have a rebel kid who goes and becomes a Humanist or something, but the majorty will remain within Utopia, the least mixing of any Hive.

On a Utopian Oath for the 21st Century

A petitioner

I was thinking about the Utopian oath, and it doesn’t work in 2020 because Utopia is not here to sustain my needs, but a slight alteration maybe? (italicized)

I hereby renounce the right to complacency, and vow lifelong to take only what minimum of leisure is necessary to my productivity, viewing health, happiness, rest, and play as means, not ends, and though I must work to provide my needs, to the fullest extent possible I commit the produce of my labors to our collective effort to redirect the path of human life away from death and towards the stars

(insofar as there’s a question it is ‘did you have ideas about this at all/does this work’)

Dr. Palmer

Yes, I think that works well. I’m really looking forward to how people who’ve thought hard about the Utopian oath react to further discussions of it in book 4. But yes in general the Utopians are basically full-on communists, sharing resources among each other with an equally alotted leasure budget, and affluent enough to make it all work smoothly.

On the Utopian practice of multiplex occlusion

A petitioner

Can we get more information about the process of multiplex occlusion? The utopians here have been struggling for the past year or so to select a role color because we simply don’t know how to properly reach consensus

Dr. Palmer

Yes, it’s tricky. The color used most often for them when Romanova needs one color per Hive is either black or white, but those make tricky things wiht the blacklaws. As for multiplex occlusion it’s intentionally obscure so you can think about the many different ways it could operate. Clearly one must be approaching an answer from many directions and then cut them off bit by bit to arrive at a final one, but how?!

On Antarctic exploration and Utopian ideals

A petitioner

I’ve recently been getting very into nineteenth century arctic exploration, and i wanted to know to what degree utopians see themselves as influenced by that era–i know they’re based on the classic sf but the sheer wonder of discovery Without The Imperialism This Time seems like a big historical legacy for them to draw on, and i was wondering if you were thinking about that with the esperanza city stuff in book 3?

Dr. Palmer

Yes, and Antarctica’s centrality is part of them dealing with that legacy, the biggest example we have of exploration which didn’t involving disturbing an indigenous group, and can be used as a model more for space. But there is indeed a big entanglement of the legacies of imperialism with the Utopian project and with the Masons and the Masonic-Utopian alliance, more meat for book 4!

On constellations and the length of book 4

A petitioner

Can we get a peek into the more personal life of some constellation? How do they collaborate, and how is conflict resolved?

Dr. Palmer

It’s on my list of things I wish there’d been more room for, but book 4 is already 2x the length of the others. But it’s a great space for imagination.

On set-sets

On the term 'set-sets'

A petitioner

Is there a politically correct word for set-sets?

Dr. Palmer

Set-sets are very comfortable with the term. When people are being nasty about set-sets what they usually do is pair the term with some secondary piece of dehumanizing language, like referring to different types of set-sets as different “species” or talking about “set-set behavior patterns” or “the set-set reproductive process”.

On the number of numbers in a set

A petitioner

Why are sets 8 numbers, instead of any other number? Doylist or Watsonian answers are equally interesting.

Dr. Palmer

I tried lots of different lengths and that one looked right. It didn’t resemble any number string we use now (telephone, credit card), and it felt long enough to be very complex and code a lot of info but not so long as to be way too much. It really was mostly a visual decision, which is what affects the real readers most.

On hacking set-sets

A Utopian petitioner

I have a question for Dr. Palmer as well. It’s become quite a meme in my friend group.

Can set-sets be hacked?

Dr. Palmer

Their interfaces can be hacked, which has the same effect as hacking a hearing aid, or a pacemaker, but the brain doesn’t have any direct connections to electronics, it still all goes through the body’s senses. Team Brillist’s mind-machine interface work is still underway

On set-sets vs U-beasts

A European petitioner

Why are set-sets a thing if Utopia could just give U-beasts to handle that?

Dr. Palmer

They do different things, and set-sets are more focused on developing extant human cognitive capacity in new directions. Remember Utopia has yet to make an AI that could pass the Adulthood Competency Exam — they have complex creatures but not that accurately duplicate all the desirable characteristics of a human brain. Basically why have only one tech when you can have both!

On the numbers in sets

A Gordian petitioner

Are the digits in sets completely independent, or are there dependencies between them? Like, your seventh digit can’t get above 3 unless your fifth digit is high enough, or something like that.

Dr. Palmer

There are patterns that you can somewhat work out, but the complete opacity is intentional, to give the reader a sense of exclusion (another of these invisible majorities Mycroft talks about: the majority are NOT Brillists)

On the varieties of set-set

A Gordian petitioner

Cartesan, Abacus, Oniwaban, Amadeus, Rosetta… are there any other set-set kinds that you just didn’t have room for in the books?

Dr. Palmer

No, in fact, I didn’t give very deep development to the different kinds of set-sets that I knew we wouldn’t see. Since cognative neuroscience and electronics are both advancing so fast, anything super specific that I develop is guaranteed to become outdated and read as weird in a few years, so leaving it to the reader’s imagination guarantees that the reader will always imagine things that make sense at the current level of scientific understanding. So it’s a really fun arena to speculate intentionally left to be the reader’s domain.

On set-sets' ability to make choices

A petitioner

Would it be at all possible for some Set-Sets to choose hives different to the ones they’re assigned to, for lack of a better word?

Dr. Palmer

Yes certainly set-sets choose their Hives freely, it’s really mainly the O.S. system that rather coercively forces people into Hives. But, for example, it’s entirely possible for a set-set that was trained by a Mitsubishi bash’ wanting to use it for Mitsubishi business purposes to agree to do that work but decide to be a Humanist.

On Sniper

On Sniper and Ockham's deer

A Cousin petitioner

We’re told in Too Like the Lightning that Sniper and Ockham slew a deer together as a coming-of-age ritual. What’s the origin of that ritual, and how widespread is it?

Dr. Palmer

That ritual is unique to O.S. and was developed in the early generations of the O.S. system as a sort of psychological test to make sure the kids were ready to take a life.

On Sniper's pronouns and bash'mates' usage thereof

A Gordian petitioner

Assuming sniper does use it/its pronouns, since they don’t in their interlude, how does the Saneer-Weeksbooth ‘bash/their own unseen bash respond?

Dr. Palmer

We get a bit on this in Book 4 but generally Sniper is still thinking about its pronoun preferences and really loves the it pronoun but finds it a bit too powerful for everyday interaction, the burst of positive feeling being so overwhelming, so Sniper likes Mycroft using it in the history but is still in the process of deciding whether to ask people to use it more broadly or not

On a Dora the Explorer pun

A Utopian petitioner

What is Sniper’s reaction to their ba’sibs teasing them with Dora La Exploradora memes along the lines of “Sniper, no sniping!”

Dr. Palmer

Hee :slight_smile:

On Mycroft and Saladin

On Mycroft and Saladin's sets

A Utopian petitioner

How different were Mycroft and Saladin’s sets during their rampage?

Dr. Palmer

Great question! For book 4 related reasons I’m not going to answer it.

On Javert

A Utopian petitioner

Who’s more the Javert to Mycroft’s Valjean, Papa or Dominic?

Dr. Palmer

Mm, both are entangled, but don’t forget about Holmes and Moriarty being entangled too! :wink:

On Saladin, Mycroft, and childhood love

A Blacklaw petitioner

It is mentioned that Saladin and Mycroft were childhood lovers – would this be interpreted to include sex? what’s the age of consent like in a world where adulthood is defined by the ACE?

Dr. Palmer

Yes they were, and different Hives have different attitudes about what’s appropriate, though kids are under graylaw which has a fairly age-of-consent gradient where 15-20 are the ages at which you interview people carefully to see if there really is mature consent, but they’d never do the stupid thing where one of two 16 year olds turns 17 and suddenly it’s illegal. Mycroft’s relationship with Saladin when it becomes widely discussed certainly lends fuel to those who think that early sex esp. among ba’sibs can be unhealthy, but it’s an active debate.

On the musical tastes of murderers

A Blacklaw petitioner

Is Mycroft and Saladin’s murder playlist also their sex playlist?

Dr. Palmer

No good answer to this one I’m afraid. But there is one song a friend played me once that reminded me of them, Alkaline Trio - This Could Be love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRB1wS2bFVs

On Dr. Palmer

On Dr. Palmer's voice

A Gordian petitioner

…I realize now that I have no idea what Ada Palmer’s voice sounds like :P

Dr. Palmer

Well, you can hear me sing on my albums or online in links like this https://sassafrass.bandcamp.com/track/hearthfire-five-parts-with-guitar but there are also some podcasts and interviews around like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59xWZmHx9oI

On Dr. Palmer's Renaissance art affinities

A Humanist petitioner

Another question, not quite TI-related, but does Dr. Palmer have a favorite Renaissance painter or perhaps a favorite work?

Dr. Palmer

Botticelli’s “Madonnas with Angels” always get me most among Renaissance paintings, but I find sculpture even more powerful. My favorites are Verrocchio’s Doubting of St. Thomas, Cellini’s stone Ganymede, and Cellini’s Perseus, I’ll share photos. I like them because they’re incredibly powerful but also incredibly narrative.

Oh and also the three classical Berninis in the Borghese!

Verrocchio Doubting of St. Thomas, made for the merchant court of Florence since Thomas was their patron saint because a good judge only believes things when they've seen the evidence first-hand. The patron saint of Empiricism!
Cellini's stone Ganymede, a human overwhelming the divine by teazing Zeus with his sexual appeal
Cellini's Perseus, commemorating the death of the republic - so chilling!

On statues of Ganymede

Note:

A follow-up to “On Dr. Palmer’s Renaissance art affinities”

A petitioner

There is a very similar Ganymede statue at Versailles which I noticed last time I went!

Dr. Palmer

There’s one hallway in the Vatican with more than 20 statues of Ganymede, I have an entire folder of photos of them!

On Dr. Palmer's scifi favourites

A petitioner

who is your favourite sci-fi author and book?

Dr. Palmer

Narrowing to one is hard, but I love Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (starting with Shadow of the Torturer) which was my model for (A) depth of world building and (B) complexity of narrator, and Bester’s The Stars My Destination which was my model for the manic pacing I sometimes use, grandeur and party scenes, and the epic sense of thinking about humanity’s future. I love and reread those a lot.

On Steven Brust

A petitioner

(A Brust fan?)

Dr. Palmer

I enjoy hanging out with Steve and discussing nifty writerly tricks, we have a lot in common in terms of planning, and it’s fun singing with him when he plays guitar, and some of his stuff is on my list to read especially *Agyar *which I’m confident I will enjoy when I read it, but I haven’t had a chance yet. I really want to do another panel with him at a con about nifty writing tricks but cons keep not putting us together, alas.

On Dr. Palmer's favourite anime

A Utopian petitioner

Is your favorite anime Evangelion? If it is; who’s youre favorite character? If not, what is it?

Dr. Palmer

One favorite anime is hard. I love Kaworu but much of Evangelion is very painful. I really, really, really enjoy Gundam Seed, and it was amazing having it to watch as I was actually writing book 1 because so many of the themes were so parallel. I sometimes refer to my plushie of Rey Zaburrel from Seed Destiny as my Apollo plushie (Raw le Kreuze is my favorite, especially his gundam!! I love Revolutionary Girl Utena, of course, and Paranoia Agent. Recently I really loved Concrete Revolutio, and From the New World. But I also love goofier ones like Yakkitate Japan. Early ones were formative too (compare Kenshin to Mycroft for example), and the Metropolis movie led me to my vast love of Osamu Tezuka, though mainly the manga. I know they’re animating Pluto and I’m in great suspense - if it’s good it’ll be amazing but I feel great fear. Same with the Uzumaki anime, I LOVE Uzumaki but Junji Ito adaptations are ALWAYS TERRIBLE!

On Dr. Palmer and Kaworu Nagisa

A Gordian petitioner

ada's mentioned she has kaworu nagisa figures

Dr. Palmer

This is about Evangelion, not book 4. I have more than 60 Kaworu Nagisa figures! They have their own special cabinet and I enjoy counting them! I also have some duplicates in my office and other parts of the house from when I see one and get excited and buy it and forget that I bought it already! I really enjoy intertextuality so for me the best thing is cross-comparing all the versions, even the ones from the silly manga!

On Baccano

A Cousin petitioner

Was Bridger’s potion at all Baccano influenced, while we are talking anime?

Dr. Palmer

I own but haven’t yet seen Baccano – I have started it 3x but all three times I was tired and realized I wasn’t tracking on it and it was too good to watch while tired and not tracking it, so I’ve been saving it for when I knew I could do it justice.

On Dr. Palmer's writing process

A European petitioner

What do you write with? Pen and paper? Word? Notepad? Something else?

Dr. Palmer

I write in MS word on my laptop. I can’t handle writing by hand, my hand cramps up and also it’s slow and also I can’t sleep at night if there isn’t a backup!!!!! MS word is not a good program but it is a program that constantly updates and will never have the risk of being incompatible with whatever’s current, so that’s my main priority. And the new version finally has proper breathing marks for ancient Greek so that’s a big improvement!

On Dr. Palmer's musical ambitions

A Utopian petitioner

Question you might have missed earlier: Are you planning any further musical pieces? (Somebody Will might just be my favorite song) (also have you seen the remake of it at https://www.jefftk.com/p/resetting-somebody-will-v2 ?)

Dr. Palmer

I haven’t seen that resetting, I should look at it. But right now I’m working on recording better versions of my older music, and on recording an album of Renaissance music. Not actively composing at the moment though as I get deeper into working on the new Viking novel series I may end up returning to a couple unfinished Viking pieces.

On Dr. Palmer's favourite saint

A Blacklaw petitioner

Ooh who’s your favorite saint?

Dr. Palmer

Hmmm… hard to pick just one. Thomas & Jerome are great, and St. Monica is awesome, but also St. Olga, and I have a historian’s fondness for Bernardino of Siena, and Lorenzo is great because spotting him in art is fun, and Julian is so cool because a patron saint of repentant murderers is such a cool idea and so needed! So no favorites, they’re best because they’re plural and you collect them all, like Pokemon!

On Dr. Palmer's vexillology

A Gordian petitioner

Have you designed flags for anything outside Terra Ignota?

Dr. Palmer

No. I collect Gundam universe flags, though.

On Dr. Palmer's own religion

A Blacklaw petitioner

What’s your religion, Palmer?

Dr. Palmer

Rather not discuss. :RomanovaFlag:

Is Dr. Palmer a Homestuck?

A Blacklaw petitioner

Important question: have you read Homestuck, and is Madame a fan

Dr. Palmer

No, but friends have described enough of the best bits of it to me for me to be confident that my favorite character is Doc Scratch.

On Dr. Palmer's duck recipe

A European petitioner

Where did you get your Effortless Duck recipe? I’m referring to this one: https://www.exurbe.com/recipes-cooking/unreasonably-easy-perfect-duck/

Dr. Palmer

Honestly, I can’t remember. :sweat_smile:

On animals eating bananas

A Utopian petitioner

What’s your favorite animal to imagine eating a banana?

Dr. Palmer

Hmm… I mean, the shark is integral to the plot :wink: But now that you bring it up I’m envisioning a nudibranch & it’s pretty fun. And watching any creature with hand-like grasping ability eat a banana is pretty fun because of what it does to the brain’s human/inhuman categorization.

On The Reader's present day

On COVID-19

A Greylaw petitioner

Do you have any hopes/fears/wild speculations for how government and the global society might change as a result of this pandemic?

Dr. Palmer

I’m actually working (very suddenly!) on a casual (non-academic, footnote-free) nonfiction book right now provisionally titled Why We Keep Telling the Myth of the Renaissance responding to people who’ve been asking whether the Black Death caused the Renaissance golden age and if so whether we can expect a similar result from COVID. It’s a question that deserves a long answer because the fundamentals of the question are so wrong, namely that the Renaissance was a TERRIBLE time to live and had a WAY LOWER life expectancy than the Middle Ages, which isn’t what people imagine. I don’t want to try to summarize the whole thing but I’ll do a short version on my blog soonish, but in total I think we can expect something radically different because we have no fear that COVID will stay around killing people for 400 years the way Y. pestis did, we know we’ll have a vaccine, it’s just a question of how many months or years it takes. I do hope that COVID will result in more employers allowing partial or complete work-from-home since the option of working from home a few days a week works so well for so many jobs, and this will hopefully make people take that more seriously and help begin to erode the it-must-be-in-the-office-9-to-5 attitude, and I also hope it’ll push the US and other countries to improve our medical infrastructure. A change toward work from home being more aceptable is also a shift toward starting to flex and change the totally unnecessary 40 hour work week.

Why the Renaissance had a lower life-expectancy than the Middle Ages

Note:

A follow-up to “On COVID-19”

A petitioner

why a lower life expectancy?

Dr. Palmer

Because of progress. Increased trade and circulation of people meant more diseases which traveled more quickly and had new outbreaks more often, while centralization of governments meant bigger states raising larger armies enabling bigger wars, and improved technology made wars deadlier as it got easier to shatter city walls and do mass-destruction. The answer to this in the book is about 7,000 words long but that’s the precis.


At the end of the AMA, the Author remarked:

Dr. Palmer

As a historian I'm awed by how GREAT a job humanity is doing now, the first pandemic where we've understood hygiene, hand-washing, where we've had actions we could take. In 1918 they didn't even discuss delaying the election because there was nothing they could've done to make it safer even if they did, they didn't know enough about how the disease spread to disinfect stuff or anything. I know we're focusing a lot on the mistakes that are being made and they're HUGE mistakes, but since my head is usually in the pre-modern world I sit in awe at how much we're doing, how sure we are we can handle it together as a species, how empowered we are, and how much we're reaching out and being warm and helping each other. Some governments are botching, individuals, but the collective is doing one of the most impressive things any species has ever done in the history of this planet. We just need to keep reminding ourselves of that.

In voice chat, Dr. Palmer recommended Petrarch’s writing on the subject of the plague.

And then she read us the first chapter of Perhaps the Stars.

Perhaps Perhaps the Stars will be released in June of 2021. Perhaps the Stars is almost 300k words.

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