Galactic Cultural Zones
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Rather than focusing on regions defined by environmental geography, the study of galactic cultural zones focuses on the cultures in various areas of the galaxy, the majority of them being human. This is going to be very WIP. I'll essentially be throwing ideas down in a messy manner. I'll rearrange and condense them later; that will be a fairly large task on its own, most likely.

Coreworlds

The coreworlds, at the galactic core, are almost purely human planets. Trade is rich and prosperous and humanity thrives, living peacefully and happily. Undesirable things such as criminals, waste disposal, or heavy industry are mostly relegated to the midworlds, leaving the core planets looking pristine and idyllic. It seems like a utopia, but only on the surface. The beauty of New Earth - the new capital of humanity - cloaks a dark "criminal" underbelly composed of radicals, rebels, and freedom fighters who are waiting (patiently or impatiently) for an opening in the system's militaristic police state - set up "for the good of humanity".

Inner core

The inner galactic core surrounding Sagittarius A* is relatively uninhabited because of high levels of x-ray and gamma radiation. Those that do live here are almost entirely human, although many indigenous species remain. No one really cares about these, and these species have already adapted to the high levels of radiation enough that they tend to serve well as "gas station attendants" in a pinch, servicing human ships that happen to stop by for repairs or refueling in their trek across the galactic center. The humans that live here have adapted to the harsh conditions culturally, and have a reputation for being harsh, blunt, and crude scavengers. People from the far wealthier outer core have a tendency to find inner core inhabitants untrustworthy, and prefer to avoid stopping in the area if possible. Most of the through traffic are traders seeking to save some money by cutting some time off their travels, although as human warp technology advances, this is becoming less and less frequent. As suspicious as their wealthier neighbors may be of their long-term goals, there is actually little risk of any sort of rebellion; the people of the inner core simply couldn't care less about anyone else in the galaxy. They have their own problems to worry about.

Inner core technology has a tendency to be cobbled together from scrap parts. A lot of it may be very advanced, but it will be strung together with rusty plates and old cables, as though they raided a coreworld garbage dump. This is considered the "norm" here, and the coreworld inhabitants find a good deal of beauty in such patchwork constructions - a beauty that their near neighbors find positively hideous.

While their personalities are generally fierce, haughty, and indifferent, the humans themselves that live here are relatively fragile from generations of living sheltered from their environment. Many of them suffer from a variety of health problems, and the average lifespan is roughly 70 years of age.

Outer core

This is what most people inner-worlders are referring to when they mention "the coreworlds" or "the core"; many people forget (or simply don't know) that the inner core exists at all.

There are very, very few aliens here. Most of these planets are rich with trade and commercialism; living standards are high, people are happy, and poverty is scarce. Athleticism and comfort is valued over all else; people live in comfortable houses with plenty of space, often owning large tracts of land as well. Much of these planets resemble early 3rd millennium suburbs expanded to the scale of countryside. Judgment is typically low and people are mostly encouraged to do whatever they want - after all, they have plenty of room to do it without bothering anybody else.

The average lifespan here is roughly 120 years. Augmentations are somewhat more accepted here than they are in the New Earth Neighborhood; corporations have been trying since before New Earth was founded to encourage augmentation use, but they are fighting counter to human culture, developed during the Hiltorel Enslavement and subsequent Galactic Cleansing - a sort of patriotism for natural human bodies and humanity in general.

There are a great many advanced factories here that produce luxury goods, shipped to the coreworlds and the New Earth Neighborhood. Many of the citizens join the Galactic Military as they get older.

Robots are scarcer here than in the New Earth Neighborhood, but they still exist. Coreworlders hold a vast variety of jobs, from robotic factory management to food prep to landscaping and construction.

New Earth Neighborhood

In essence: the Utopian city.
The area closely surrounding New Earth is frequently called "the coreworlds" by midworlders; they often believe that the entire outer core is this wealthy. And it is wealthy indeed: city skyscrapers on these few planets tower thickly, often conjoined in various areas to provide extra living space. Parks are plentiful, with some of the most gorgeous landscaping anywhere in the galaxy, and free, comfortable public transportation is considered a human right - but not an "alien right". In fact, aliens are scarcely permitted to even set foot on these planets, and if one did, they would almost certainly find themselves harassed (and potentially injured), while the police looked the other way. When it comes to human affairs, on the other hand, police are very highly vigilant. A common coreworld phrase is "like committing a crime on New Earth" - this means "doing that would be really stupid and you'd get caught", and refers to how quickly the authorities typically catch up with lawbreakers. Committing crimes can easily get you permanently shipped offworld - as can being homeless. Poverty is, in fact, essentially outlawed here, although salaries for those living here are typically so high that becoming homeless in the first place takes some real doing.

Trade and export is primarily art and tourism; these planets import more than almost anywhere else in the galaxy. Corporations run almost everything. As robots are culturally expected to be "neither seen nor heard", humans fill jobs such as receptionists, room service, waitresses, taxi drivers and the like, while robots fill areas such as maintenance, cleaning, waste removal and landscaping - many of these typically done in the dead of night.

As far as technology goes, New Earth has the best in the galaxy. Hovercars are the norm, holograms and pseudosentient AIs abound; robots are commonplace civil servants and take care of most of the menial tasks, especially in the city suburbs and countryside. Countryside itself exists almost purely as scenery, and is often carefully landscaped and cultivated for miles to provide lovely backdrops for any innerworld picnickers. Farming is often handled on other planets entirely - or on moons.

Technology: VR tech is frequent, but not the plug-style VR commonly seen in Tartarus Inc. vessels. Augmentations are easy to afford but stigmatized and viewed as unnatural by the general public; if by some chance someone loses a limb that cannot be reattached, it is easy enough to simply grow and attach a completely new one. Individuality is not appreciated, but rather rejected by anyone outside the art community. Even artists themselves often try to follow common trends; in essence, art is following the rules of fashion. Those that try to rock the boat too much are often ignored.

Cancer has been cured, but is expensive; corporations control the cures. Old age has become mostly a question of "how steep are you willing to let the price of living become"? A human body can be kept alive almost indefinitely with the present state of technology, but prices rapidly become steeper the older you become, and the more work you need done. By the time the galaxy's oldest human, Edgar Atkins Wallace (a local trillionaire), died at 207, he was spending almost all of his time in medical wards and paying millions daily for his medical treatment. The story goes that eventually, he simply decided he wasn't enjoying life anymore, and had his body preserved to be revived in the future after technology had advanced far enough to "de-age" tissues.

Overall, New Earth and its neighboring systems are akin to a rotting apple painted a bright, shiny red. The aboveground - especially areas dedicated to tourism and religion - are beautiful, but there are plenty of dilapidated areas of the cities and planets with problems that are simply swept under the rug and hushed up. The media, owned by the same megacorporations that own practically everything else, typically "neglect" to mention anything other than the culture's shining surface. A large part of this is to encourage the mindset that "everything's all right", and discourage the need and/or want for personal privacy, security, and protection; civilians are heavily surveilled and corporations have access to almost all of their secrets; essentially, it's a police state. Freedom is apparent, but purely superficial. To escape this artificial "safety bubble" you need to go underground - often literally. This is where the criminals are - the illegal slave rings, the corrupted cops, the bribes, the brothels, the dangerous night life, the gang wars that the surface world and galaxy at large never know exist - unless, of course, you happened to live there yourself.

The personality of many living in the Utopian portion of these planets is petty to the point of being almost insane. Without any other conflict in their lives, they seek out and even invent conflict. Drama is one of their favorite things; they simply don't (and can't) get enough of it in their lives. They can't stand any inconvenience, no matter how minor, and lack much of a sense of perspective - although, if you asked, many of them would be quite convinced they did - at least relative to their peers.

Midworlds

The midworlds, analogous to the galaxy's rural areas, are composed primarily of small self-contained star clusters. They make up the "middle" 50% of the galaxy, between the core worlds and rimworlds. These are areas where humanity swept through during the 340-year "Galactic Cleansing". After the bulk of Earth's military had wiped out any alien contingencies in the area, forced them onto rimworld reservations, and set up their own colonies, these planets were often abandoned as the front line of the Cleansing moved on. Their technology is somewhat outdated as you move farther out, and prices are steep, but the communities are tightly-knit and defend each other - often from large contingencies of pirates or other criminals.

Inner mid

In essence: the outskirts of town.
Heavy industries, logging, and farming are commonplace here; they export their goods all over the galaxy. As part of the central higher-density belt of naturally habitable worlds, they also have a decent tourism industry for cushy innerworlders seeking a "simpler life" - for as long as they can stand it. Many of these worlds were formerly alien-owned, and some of them even retain the original architecture. Some of them even retain some aliens here and there - either on tiny planet-bound reservations or mixed in with the human population - as the extreme minority, of course, and usually only with species humanity is less hostile towards.

These planets tend to lean more heavily towards the democratic/liberal end of the scale - or at least what still exists of the scale. By today's standards, they would usually be considered (on average) fairly neutral with some conservative tendencies.

Robots are rarer, when they're even around. This area's culture is probably most analogous to Western culture in the year 2000, and although the technology level is much higher, they still face many of the same problems. There is much less of a divide between the wealthy and poor than elsewhere, but enough of one that "middle-class" families often struggle in the face of medical emergencies. Medical operations are not free, and losing a limb can often send a family spiraling financially, especially if they choose the more expensive option of a grown bodypart.

Every planet has its own system of government; the arm of the Core can only reach so far. Nevertheless, they are ruled over by New Earth and the Human Galactic Federation - the fancy name for Humanity's main system of government. The UGF supplies broad-stroke laws, demands taxes, and the planetary governments get to fill in the blanks however they see fit. This leads to a very wide variety of worlds, some ruled by tyrants, others by the people. This makes it very difficult to classify inner-midworlders into any one category.

Outer mid

The wild west. Often from the bloodier, more aggressive stage of humanity's Purge, many of these planets have had their environments and climates destabilized. Governments are sparse and often either despotic or apathetic. Whatever police exist are either corrupt or have their hands full - or both. Bandits and pirates often roam between the stars, and it's any civilian's right to defend themselves - because the law won't. The worlds farthest out exists as militant outposts, defending their borders from aliens and keeping them from leaving the rim - but some always slip through.

Augmentations are somewhat more common than closer to the galaxy's core - ramshackle versions of what the Galactic Military tries to equip their best soldiers with, often failing or needing medicine either to help with bonding or to help with the pain. Ground-bound transport such as trains and cars are relatively more common, and there are few that live here by choice. Most were born into it, exiled, or hiding from their past. Criminals can much more easily grow famous and powerful here due to a lack of resistance, and many HGF-given laws are outright ignored. The core looks after their own, and so too do these.

Outworlds

The outworlds are something akin to a degenerated wild west, controlled mostly by aliens on "reservation worlds" - planets that humanity deemed unfit for human colonization or mining projects. Criminal operations make a very sizable portion of the population and mostly go unchallenged. There are few, if any, centralized government systems. Settlements and colonies end up paying tributes to pirates, and these pirates protect them, in an uneasy sort of symbiotic relationship. While humans make up most of the rest of the galaxy, humans are the minority in the outworlds - with the exception of the systems bordering "Old Earth" - the birthplace of humanity. Old Earth is a polluted slumworld, and propaganda has essentially changed humanity's view of it from a sacred location to a disgraceful shitstain. In the present day, Earth no longer has any useful resources and its inhabitants are struggling for survival.

Alien Reserves

This category makes up the majority of the outworlds.
Far from being a typical "reserve" as is often thought of, the Reserves are merely places that aliens are legally permitted to live. HGF Law doesn't hold true here; these places are either governed by themselves, or not at all, and the Federation doesn't pay any sort of attention to any wrongdoing - with the sole exception of human extermination and discrimination. Perpetrating any sort of human massacre will get your stations scuttled and your planets glassed, and happens much more rarely than it would due to how harshly it's enforced. On the other hand, they turn a blind eye to humans doing similar things to aliens, and human corporations are still strong out here, though they're far from the main traders.

Bandits, slavers, pirates, drug lords, mercenaries and worse all comfortably make their home here. Valuable minerals are scarcer due to the sparser distribution of stars, and successful large-scale mining operations become the crux of many star clusters. Medicine and life expectancy is poor. Food and water is often scarce, sometimes overpriced. Famine and poverty are widespread. Stations and colonies alike are often overcrowded, sometimes to the point of packing aliens in like sardines. Executions are common; unlike in the mid- and coreworlds, HGF doesn't care about capital punishment or execution, and locals generally handle the application of "justice" however they see fit.

Behind all this, despite being far away from their homeworlds, alien populations are slowly beginning to band together and regroup. Some of them are vying to restore their empires to their former glory, while others just want a home where they can be left alone in peace. Still others realize that there is strength in numbers, and are reaching across the gaps to make alliances with other alien species. These and others - both alien and humans - spew out propaganda and lies to sway people to join their cause. Whether you believe the propaganda or not, the fact remains that many of the outworld-midworld borders are bloody and hotly contested, while humans continue seeking to drive wedges between the different species.

Northern Exclusion Zone

A vast, loosely-defined region on the opposite side of the galaxy from Old Earth, extending deep into what would be midworld territory. Vaguely similar to the Bermuda Triangle's reputation in 20th century popular culture, vast numbers of ships have completely vanished without a trace in the vicinity - both solitary and even entire fleets. Other strange occurrences have been reported such as shining lights in the depths of space with of no apparent origin, unexplained electrical storms, and intense radiation fields that appear suddenly and vanish just as fast. These are the more believable of the claims. Even if you discard all of it as hearsay or anecdotal, the fact remains that no spacefaring species has ever been discovered native to the exclusion zone, and attempts to colonize it have consistently met with terrible ends.

Once officially the territory of the Plodii prior to humanity's introduction to the galactic community, they, too, often encountered these strange phenomena. After determining that there were no species to trade with, they made a point of avoiding the area altogether - as, perhaps, humans should as well. But when has a little danger ever kept a human from doing something?

Fringe zone