we scream because we know why the caged bird sings
The Zhanbun are a constructed culture made by Roxy &. Its concept arose from the Laiqbun language. I eventually grew so close to the concept that I began to feel like part of them (which isn’t strange, they were based on me in the first place). So far, most information about the Zhanbun has remained as some sort of internet oral tradition — there have been three attempts to change that, you might be able to guess how they went.
This part of the website will use dozenal and the human era calendar, which are used by the Zhanbun. I will use X for ten and Y for eleven.
The Zhanbun define nature differently to how we do. A way to put it in words would be «that which almost every living creature is subject to, but that they either strive against or have no choice about». They see nature as a self-destructive force, and bound to it, all living creatures destroy each other. In the broadest possible scale, nature is entropy and zero-to-negative-sum competition. In a human-experience scale, these are death (extending to causing death to other beings), hunger (extending to food and consumption), multiplcation (as a necessity for a species to thrive) and power (extending to status, etc). Some may extend these interpretations to their will, for example, extending hunger to the fact that things are needed to do other things instead of being spontaneous. I personally consider multiplication to be a bit out of place with the other three. I think these are a solid baseline, though.
One may create three divisions in the scale from natural to artificial: Natural (what was just explained), Organic (living creatures fighting against nature) and Artificial (living creatures doing things for purposes other than survival).
A thing that one may stumble upon when learning about the Zhanbun is the apparent contradiction between the way they deal with personal life and how they think about the universe. The Zhanbun are against nature, but they don’t stop themselves from enjoying it – the joy you feel when eating your favorite food isn’t the same as food itself, just like food itself isn’t the same as the fact that we need sustenance. They are all related and caused by each other, but not the same thing at all. Judgement of one affects the other, but is not the only factor. The same applies for the other urges, except, obviously, for death, the anihilator of all options.
The Zhanbun embrace contradiction so much that they have predicates for “both true and false” and “neither true nor false”. They also believe that truth and non-truth are merely a result of human experience, and would be incoherent outside of it. This does not mean they don’t believe in them – after all, it’s not like it makes sense to deal with life as if you were not part of life, would it?
Or more literally, that which is the case has the property of not being the case. But that sounds less deep, doesn’t it?
A lot of Zhanbun history is up to reader’s interpretation – there are some things that are commonly agreed upon, such as their origins: The common tale tells that they originally were a group of people that vaguely agreed on transhumanist ideals, communitcating only through forums in various languages. Eventually, the idea of working to reach their goals by themselves became a possibility, and the Zhanbun island was made. From here onwards, a lot is headcanons – even what I believe is true about them is just a headcanon, and I welcome most other interpretations (but not all, I don’t want my project to stray away from what inspires it).
Just like the Zhanbun believe that living beings are natural emergences trying to go beyond what created them, they believe that mental constructions are physical emergencies trying to go beyond what creates them. A perfect circle does not exist physically, yet when we imagine them, any circle can be perfect. In a way, the living are entirely natural, just as the mental is entirely physical, but the separation is evident. The separation of the mental and the physical will be referred to as spirituality, even if spirituality often refers to things that aren’t physical – I just haven’t come across a word that encompasses this.
In Zhanbun spirituality, the self is one of these separations. So much, indeed, that our image of ourselves may greatly differ from what our physical body represents. Since the entity that we are interacting with is beyond the body we see them as. This is why they wear masks whenever they’re in public, only letting their friends and loved ones see their faces. Masks are often heavily decorated to represent the person wearing them. Note that they don’t believe the body isn’t deserving of respect – the body is a living being too.
The Zhanbun religion is unorganized, and best described as a bunch of tales that everyone more or less agrees on. They majorly believe in four (or three, in my interpretation) gods that rule over all living beings. These gods are called Mori for death, Moqgu for food and hunger, Raua for power and status, and Shiqriu for multiplication, in the interpretations that have her. They believe these gods are to be dethrown and replaced by something else – this something else are the artificial gods of the living, which are less agreed upon, but some that people commonly agree on are Community, Love, Progress, Joy and Science.
It’s important to understand that they acknowledge these gods as metaphors for what they strive for – they are majorly seen as an artistic representation of what they believe in, which is something they find value in.
While as a society they are transhumanist, some people wish to learn to deal with the burden of nature through radical acceptance. People who follow this path are called Xhaaq. No two xhaaq look the same, since this is very personal.
These are beings that, although they’re not an actual entity, it tends to feel like they are. Have you ever felt like some coincidence happens way too many times? So much that they may even feel orchestrated by someone? This is what random gods are. They are the orchestrators that our mind makes for all absurd string of coincidences. The entire year of 6Y58 was a bunch of random gods on top of each other waring a trench coat.
Here’s a fun random gods tale: One time when Ash updated xha Hauqtuq, the Discord bot for the Laiqbun dictionary, the person hosting it asked her to see if it worked. She did that by trying to break it – one way she did this was by using the search function to see if it can find the word “break”. It didn’t break, and no one else used the bot that day.
The next morning, it broke for completely unrelated reasons.
And the last message it had sent?
The Zhanbun government is where it started geting more like an utopia. They want their government to take every single individual in consideration, not just general groups of people – this is not possible for human beings to handle, since even if it wouldn’t be hard to have data about everyone’s living situation, no human can process this much information, and no human can be trusted with it. Their solution was to develop twelve sentient digital entities (not to be confused with general AI) to do it. Their brains can handle this much information, and they can quickly come up with solutions to any problem they see. Xhaaq often go to them to offer them guidance, both spiritual and personal, which tends to lead to very close personal connections between them and the rulers.
One reason one might say they don’t go mad with power is that they just don’t. It just doesn’t happen.
My explanation, slightly more good than that one, is that they don’t really care about power, thus don’t have any reason to abuse it. They acknowledge that it is a thing they are born into, and accept this reality, but they don’t have any reason to either want it or not want it – they don’t have desire and they don’t have to worry about their survival needs not being met. Why would they, then, ruin their perfect, pretty much unbothered life?
If no explanation for them not going mad with power can be came up with, I’d prefer to say that it doesn’t happen than to say that it can, this can lead to dystopian settings, which are exactly the opposite of what I want.
Due to their origins, it’s hard to assign physical traits to them. However, most Zhanbun people have on a prosthetic thumb on the opposite side of the ones they were born with. This is one way to recognize them. The Zhanbun tend to dye their hair unnatural colors, wear unnaturally-colored contact lenses and sclera lenses, wear glow-in-the-dark hair extensions, cat ears, amongst other extravagancies.
Note that despite the possibly striking looks, the lives of the average Zhanbun person are what would be pretty average to us, too. Except, perhaps, that they don’t worry about survival resources due to them living in post-scarcity.
Zhanbun fashion is something that I’ve left very underdeveloped, and that I look forward to working on in the future. A thing I do know for certain is that sleeves are often baggy and assymetric, that is, one sleeve is long and the other is short. I’m leaving this part here just to work on it some other day.
Zhanbun food is also very underdeveloped, as I don’t know much about food to actually work on it. I just know that they have a lot of fish, and they tend to prefer synthetic meat – respect the living, not life itself. I’m leaving this part here just to work on it some other day.
At some point in Zhanbun history, people got way into dozenturies old media from the outside, and they began adapting the concept of gender. Up until that point, no one really cared about it, and there were no gender words, inspired by Male, Female and Non-binary.
There are a lot of people who have never been introduced to the concept of gender, and are not interested in participating in it. This could be counted as a gender. Note that this is different from having a gender and that gender just being none. This is not even that. Picture the difference between an empty box and no box at all. No box at all would be this gender. The word for this is geuq. It’s really the fifth gender, but I decided to introduce it first here since it feels a bit more “default”.
There are people who decided to label themselves as men (zeeq), women (beoq), and nonbinary (deaq). They don’t actually have anything very well-defined about these three, and are just abstractions that people relate to. Nonbinary, for them, is basically just a third gender with a very broad definition. Not having gender (not to be confused with the gender introduced in the last paragraph) would count as nonbinary.
And finally, there are people who choose to label their gender as relating to concepts outside from manhood, womanhood and enbyhood. Kinda like xenogenders. Their word for this is xeiq.
They don’t see these as mutually exclusive labels, but rather, everyone has a set of genders that contains these. Except, of course, for geiq, which is mutually exclusive with the rest.
With the Laiqbun community, other things about the Zhanbun have been worked out, they are be listed separately since I didn’t have much to do with them: