A bit of Culture’s Skeleton
With Culture’s Skeleton (you can buy the book here) coming out, I thought I Would share about a thousand words of it, to, hopefully, help explain the city the novel takes place in: Mur. So here you go:
We were, earlier, talking about Mur. Mur, the original city. Mur, the mighty and timeless. The city itself spun around space and time like a child’s toy kicked by the family dog on a bender. A word not often used to describe Mur: simple. Words often used to describe Mur: annoying, desperate, and “Where the fuck am I and where are my shoes?”
That last isn’t, strictly, a word, but allow for a bit of license.
If you’re going to understand Mur, you need to know that this is true. Pure truth, uncut by niceness and concern for the established structures of how most people think the world works. Back when humanity split into three kinds of people – hunters, gatherers, and assholes – there came a time when the existing, easily movable structures weren’t enough.
Wait, let’s back up. There used to be three primary roles in any sizable grouping of humans:
Hunters – These were the folks who crafted weapons, went out into the fields, and alternatively killed and were killed so that the others might eat something besides berries, roots, and fungi. Humanity wasn’t good at those three, constantly tripping over yet another poisonous variation. So there came a diversification in the form of an omnivore shift.
Gatherers – At first these jerks kept killing off large numbers of people by grabbing the wrong berries, roots, and fungi. Later, after Homo sapiens started to add meat to its diet, they were in charge of looms and fabrics, as well as general upkeep back at the so-called ranch. Function following form, really.
Assholes – More important than originally thought, the first assholes were the ones who refused to do either of the other jobs, claiming they had to either create or administrate. People didn’t look highly at these skills in the beginning, for good reason. Art is fantastic when you have shelter and food. Until then, it’s a bit of a hindrance when a key part of your tribe flat-out refuses to help skin lunch because their muse is on them.
Once small, mobile tribes started to wane – due to population increase, which was due to the hunters and the gatherers getting much better at what they did, from speed of the kill to knowing which fucking berries not to shove down their throats – the assholes found their calling. They would organize stable, long-lasting structures to live in. Places multiple tribes could move into and become supratribes, combining forces and creating a leisure class, which sounded much better than “assholes.”
Eventually they founded the first city: Mur. Some historians, looking back through broken lenses that could only see bits and bobs of reality anyway, declared, feeling quite informed, it had been named Ur. Others claimed it had been named Mu, and belonged with the lost continent of Atlantis. Either way, evidence of Ur or Mu couldn’t really be found, but the existence of such a city made too much sense to let go of. Historians held on to the concept partly because it was actually true, and partly so they could spread the idea of a smarter leisure class being the root of all cities, while removing the idea that they were really just assholes. Historians – back during the founding of Mur – of course, were assholes.
Mur stood as a shining example of what humanity could achieve, if it bothered to care to, for centuries. And then, one day, it vanished. Poof. Gone. No trace remained, except a few stories. What actually happened remains fairly simple, if looked at the right way. The city simply fell out of time and space in a rational sense, going about and spinning directionless across all spaces and times simultaneously.
At fault was an antelope, which became later, among other things, a cat. We’ll get there, I promise. Sort of. But for now, you need to know that Mur stood alone and yet accessible.
The city, laid out in a circle for aesthetic reasons by the assholes known as city planners, was built with a wall around it.
Into the wall were cut seven gates. Each gate was fitted with a heavy door, and the ability to secure it against invaders as needed. But like any mass with an irregular spin and orbit through space and time that allows it to touch all points simul-multi-taniously (you’d be surprised how many small objects exist in that state, really), Mur touched, and interacted with, the rest of the world at different points.
Unwary people could walk through certain doors and find themselves in Mur. Unfortunately, if they were dumb enough to walk back out, confused, they would find themselves in a totally different place and time on Earth. Turning back and trying again wouldn’t work, as that door to Mur had already spun away. So they were stuck. This happened to many of the people who found Mur. Signs were put up trying to warn folks about the problem at all seven gates to the city, but since language evolves they were pretty damn useless more often than not. But, hey, the city coordinators reasoned, we tried, and past that what can you do, stand there and shout? Not going to happen.
A few lucky ones, for reasons that no one has ever explained, were capable of not only entering and leaving at the same spot, but of finding their way back to Mur as often as they wished. Those people made the rest fairly uncomfortable, possessing an ability others wanted, not to mention the new revenue stream that being able to take people with them brought.
Mur spun on, growing with internal time and population, expanding upward and using as much of its land as it could. How it kept seasons, night and day, and access to crops and fresh water, much less a sun that shone, remained more of those unexplained facets of life that kept many scientists in Mur in money. The closest they’d come was to insist that since Mur was everywhere, it had access to those things the rest of the Earth normally enjoyed. That didn’t make more sense than shrugging, honestly. Time passed and people learned to not ask, because answers cost money and made no sense, regardless.
Along the way, Mur gave birth to other cities of myth, such as, but not limited to: Brigadoon, Asgard, Oz, Stars Hollow, and Tartarus. Some claimed Camelot was a Mur analog as well, but that’s silly, as Camelot existed exactly where you think it did – north of what would become Vancouver, Canada. But that’s a different story and we’re talking about Mur, here.
And that’s a taste of Culture’s Skeleton, available all over the place, including by clicking here.