A Survey of Yazirian Literature

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by Tom Verreault

Class Objectives

1. To gain a broad understanding of Yazirian Literature from ancient to modern times.

2. To be able to recognize and describe several broad genres of Yazirian Literature

3. Be able to discuss and critique the works of one major yazirian author.

Lecture Notes

Yazirian Literature like Yazirian History can be broken down into major epochs: the Early Clan Epoch, the Clan War Epoch, the Industrial Age Epoch, the Pre Exodus Poetry and Post Exodus Epoch. Many genres of writing overlap more than one age or epoch but are described as being a part of the age or epoch in which the genre is believed to have begun.

Early Clan Literature

Long before the development of writing, honor codes, stories, and songs were transmitted orally by bards that spread them over wide regions. Bards are believed to be the earliest chroniclers compiling stories, songs, and honor codes in written form.  These scrolls were circulated and copied but none are believed to have survived to the present. The oldest examples we have are believed to date from 2-5 centuries after the development of writing on Yazira.

Honor codes from this time reflect collected clan wisdom and show a high degree of development compared to modern honor codes. Songs from this period are rhythmic and show strong internal evidence of being written for percussion accompaniment. The stories from this time come in two varieties: the clan epic and the warrior epic.

The clan epic is the history of the clan presented as an episodic story with moral lessons at the heart of each episode. The emphasis is on the clan and its wellbeing.  Athough individual heroes appear in the narrative, they are never presented as larger than life. The intent is that the clan is the hero because the clan is eternal.

The warrior epics are believed to be adaptions of episodes from clan epics by the travelling bards for use among other clans. Other clans would not connect with a story about a foreign clan being a hero and rival clans would be openly hostile to a rival clan’s epic thus the bards obscured details about clan and emphasized details about individual warriors. Honor and right moral action were often strong themes in these epics and it is believed that over time heroic deeds of multiple warriors and hunters were merged into one epic with the main character taking on legendary and mythical proportions.  In time many clans came to claim these legendary and mythical figures as their own even though the same hero cannot possibly be from hundreds of clans. It is possible for the subjects of these warrior epics to be based on historical fact but it is impossible to separate myth from reality at this point in history.

If one genre of literature can be said to be quintessentially yazirian, it is the clan epic. However, the genre of literature that is the birthright of the whole species is the warrior epic. As a genre of literature it lasted into the Industrial Age with new heros being chosen from the annals of the clan wars and the forging of a world government. These heroes are more solidly based on fact and though their clan of birth is concretely known the emphasis of oneness of the species promulgated by the Imperial Warhon has worked to make them universal heroes to modern yazirians. It’s probably only a matter of time before a post Exodus warrior epic emerges with near universal popularity.

The Epoch of the Clan Wars

Much of the literature from this age survives and is available in electronic databases while the preserved documents remain in colonial archives on all of the yazirian colonies. The clan epics took on a permanent form because of being committed to writing but warrior epics continued to evolve and change.

The warrior epic reach the height of its development during this age as some of the great warrior bards of the age refined their wording and meter so that their oral recitation could be chanted to the accompaniment of a drum in an effort to whip clan warriors into a battle rage before battle.  The warrior epics from this time are the most poetical and sophisticated representations of this whole genre of literature.

Martial songs also developed during this period and are closely linked to the warrior epics. The honor codes developed into their accepted forms and though some have had more modern additions they remain essentially the same from this period on.

The Industrial Epoch

This age begins in the age of the Imperial Warhon as the industrial revolution was instrumental in ending the clan wars and establishing an imperial world government. It lasts long after the time that historians consider to be the end of the industrial revolution. It covers a vast period of change and urbanization in yazirian society and witnessed the development of a new genre of Yazirian Literature: the “two pups” stories. The changes in yazirian society required that the clans adapt their understanding of what it meant to be a yazirian and warrior in industrialized and modern society. The Two Pups genre consists of formulaic stories illustrating the lives of two pups, often from the same litter thru their coming of age. These stories concerned themselves with moral choices made by the two protagonists with one following an honorable path and the other following a dishonorable path.

Though the plot of the story is predictable the climax is not always – surprise endings are a hallmark of the genre. Typical endings are: the honorable yazirian prospers while the dishonorable one does not, the dishonorable yazirian finds redemption in the end by making a final honorable choice, the honorable yazirian helps his dishonorable littermate find redemption, and the dishonorable yazirian kills his honorable litter mate. Additionally, the story will take on a theme of either the old ways are best and modern change is bad or the adaption of old wisdom to modern change is best with clinging to the old ways as a path to ruin. The story may be crafted such that the surprise ending is a reversal of the overall theme.

The purpose of the “two pups” stories are moral lessons for young yazirians to find their place in harmony with the overall stance of their clan to the tremendous changes happening in society. Many are fictional though a few are based on true stories.

Pre Exodus Poetry

With the development of space flight and the discovery of the potential death of the planet from a close pass of a rogue brown dwarf to their home system, Yazira witnessed the development of a new genre of literature known as death song poetry. Fear of the impending destruction of their planet and the old practice of singing a death tribute to a fallen warrior or hunter lead to the development of this literary tradition. Death song poetry was the emotional response to recognizing that their clans may not be eternal. It’s been characterized as morbid and nihilistic, but this is only the case for a small percentage of the overall body of this class of literature. In truth the best examples are a celebration of the life of the clan that the poem was written for.

Post Exodus Literature

This epoch of literature applies to the arrival of the yazirian species in the Frontier until present. Writers during this time have revived all the old styles of literature but generally with post Star Exodus subjects. Death song poetry is a notable and understandable exception to that.

A new genre has emerged called Exiled Literature. In the past, yazirians that were clan less or banished were marginalized on the fringes of yazirian society. In the modern Frontier they often gravitate to non-yazirian colonies where they are not judged on the history of their clan but on their own merits. Also, contact with other species has led to exposure to alien genres of literature. Out of this has sprung a new and lively class of literature and poetry whose one defining rule is that there are no rules. Exile Literature has exploded in popularity among both yazirians and non-yazirians. Typically non-yazirians prefer Exile Literature because it feels less aggressive over other forms of yazirian literature.

Adventure Hooks

The Prenglar Prize

Prenglar Prize medallion
 image by Eric Winsor

History

Alled Gruu of Inner Reach was the extraordinary engineer that developed the first cost effective atomic drive. Latter he was instrumental in reverse engineering the sathar’s laser technology. He became fabulously wealthy from his hundreds of patents but his most famous patent was for hand held laser technology. While visiting Triad, Cassidine he read his obituary (mistaken) and was startled by the line: “the merchant of death is dead.” Being of advanced aged he spent his remaining years brooding over the significance of his legacy and shortly before his death he famously changed his will. Over 97% of his immense fortune was set aside to fund an interstellar prize to promote peace and interspecies understanding, the Prenglar Prize.

While Triad, Cassidine was the first multispecies colony founded to promote interspecies understanding, Gran Quivera, Prenglar was the first colony so founded with yazirians as charter members.  Thus the prize is hosted there.

The Prize is awarded in the fields of engineering, physics, literature, bio-sciences, culture, and peace. The vast majority of prizes handed out for engineering and bio-sciences are for a specific discovery or invention. Nearly all literature prizes are for a specific work of literature not lifetime achievement. Culture prizes tend to be awarded for life-time achievement. The peace prize is awarded about 70% of the time for specific recent accomplishments and 30% for life time achievement.

Interestingly, the prize is specifically barred from being awarded to astronomers and astrogators due to the wording of Alled’s will. It’s believed that this is linked to a long standing feud and law suit between him and a fellow researcher who was an astronomer over a patent that is alleged to have been stolen from Alled. The award has been awarded to astronomers in a roundabout fashion by giving them the engineering or physics award for a particular invention or discovery.

The Prize is managed by the Prenglar Prize Committee on Gran Quivera. The prizes are awarded yearly and come with a million credit cash award.

Significant Award Winners

  • Toolonn Zhee for development of the multi species quickheal compound, Biocort.
  • Quint Logham for negotiating the cease fire in Laco’s War.
  • Rixx Icktal for developing the federanium alloy.

The Prenglar Prize Will be Awarded

The committee for the Prenglar Prize has awarded the Prenglar Prize for Literature to a yazirian author from Hentz but the Family of One has ordered him to turn down the prize as well as blocked him from leaving Hentz. The committee has responded that his refusal in no way invalidates their awarding of the prize. The PCs are commissioned to locate a clan relative living outside of the Araks system  to stand in his place at the awards ceremony. There are three such members of his clan that have left Hentz but only their general whereabouts are known.

This is an investigative adventure where at least one viable candidate must be located. One might be dead, one might be prisoner somewhere, one might require a side quest before he goes along with the PCs; a referee has a lot of leeway in how he runs this adventure.

Calistra’s Verses

A yazirian “Salmon Rushdie” has written an expose of the Family of One and the Fo1’s Inquisitors (the religions secret police) want him for questioning back on Hentz. The player characters could have been hired to snatch and smuggle him back to Hentz or to protect him from the Inquisitors. If the PCs are involved in a kidnapping, Star Law and Space Fleet may be potential antagonists.

Alternately, the PCs might be tasked with confirming key evidence in the expose or getting rid of that evidence.

 

The Exodus Diaries

The Exodus Diaries purport to be the diaries of a key figure in clan Anglann that rules the Family of One religion. The contents of the diaries state that clan Anglann hatched a coop to assassinate the Imperial Warhon and his body guards on their space flight from Yazira and take over control of the yazirian colony on Hentz by seizing control of the Family of One religion. The diaries may or may not be a hoax. The PCs would be involved in either authenticating them or protecting them or in destroying them based on who they’re hired by.

I Am Marcus Toowain

A Family of One dissident writes negative critiques of the Family of One and smuggles them off Hentz to be published on Gran Quivera under an assumed name. He uses a secret transmitter to send his documents to a ship in orbit which hands them off to secret cadre members at Prenglar. The PCs may be contracted to pick up the most recent document dump. The Hentz militia or the Inquisitors may be antagonists. The author’s identity may have become compromised and the PCs are sent to extract him.

The Literary Hoax

An author has faked his memoir and it came to interstellar acclaim before the hoax was discovered. The PCs may be charged with investigating and confirming or disproving the story or with apprehending the hoaxer. The hoaxer may well have played the sympathy card by claiming to be a survivor of the Free World Rebellion, the First Sathar War, or the Laco’s War and told horrific but exaggerated stories of suffering. Literary agents or publishers may want the hoaxer apprehended to recover money paid for the fake story. Though the crime is fraud this individual is not high on the Star Law most wanted list thus the PCs are being employed as bounty hunters.