- Reason: Must be written in-universe, must be referenced, leave literary commentary to the novel article.
The Affront is an Involved species from the moon Issorile. Once known as the Issorilians, they were given the "Affront" moniker by the Padressahl in reference to their exceedingly brutal culture. The Issorilians enthusiastically adopted the nickname and have used it ever since.
History[edit | edit source]
Finding a Mentor[edit | edit source]
The Culture was aware of the Issorilians many centuries before Idiran-Culture War and sought some way to improve the Issorilians behaviour. The civilization was not only aggressively expansionist, but had culturally and socially ingrained traits for exploitation, sadism and brutality.
Maintaining contact and relations was difficult since the Issorilians treated technologically more advanced civilizations with suspicion, and the reverse with contempt. Eventually, the Culture found the Padressahl in the same volume of space as the Issorilians; the Padressahl had a similar evolutionary history and physiology as the Issorilians and so more likely to be accepted, but they also were closer to the Culture in terms of moral outlook. The Culture appealed to the Padressahl to guide the Issorilians.
The Padressahl accepted. Early attempts were rocky. During one episode a Padressahl trade delegation was eaten, prompting them to nickname the Issorilians the Affront. Ironically, what was intended as insult was enthusiastically embraced by the Issorilians. They began calling themselves the Affront and refused to drop it even after relations with the Padressahl improved. The Padressahl continued their mentoring role for many centuries. With the Affront being handled, the Culture was free to engage with other nearby civilizations.
What is not well-known, however, is the origin of the Issorilians. The species, or to be more precise the sub-species, are the juvenile form of the Slow species known as the Dwellers. (ref: Banks' "Algebraist") Long before the Culture coalesced into a recognizable civilization on the Involved stage, the Dwellers were already billions of years along, and, having rejected Subliming largely it is believed out of sheer conceit, had collectively passed into quiet passivity resembling a senile doddering hedonism. Dwellers appeared in nearly every gas giant in the galaxy, and how they got there was long forgotten, although every Dweller possessed at least one boastful opinion and would readily share it with anyone willing to listen. In any case, in addition to their mind-boggling longevity (simple adulthood in a Dweller bordered on a billion years of age) one of the many distinguishing characteristics of the Dwellers was their complete disdain for their offspring. To be specific, Dwellers hunted, enslaved, skinned, and stuffed their young as trophies, and, if rumors were to be believed, even had a recipe for them. To most Dwellers, this was more than simply jolly good fun, but actually served the useful purpose of keeping their population growth in check over the billions of years of their history. Another other distinguishing characteristic, nearly forgotten by the time that the Culture reached maturity, was that the Dwellers kept the secret of their galaxy-spanning wormhole network, well, secret, from all species and all other civilizations for all those billions of years... thereby selfishly ensuring that there would never arise a society bigger, wiser, or more powerful than themselves. In some ways, the Minds never forgave the Dwellers for this perverse deceit. So, early in the development of the Culture's altruistic interference policy that gave rise to Contact, the often mischievous Minds decided that a bit of karmatic payback was in order. Simply put, they extricated an entire generation of Dweller juveniles, and resettled them on Issorile in adult-defying equiv-tech independence. Unfortunately, this was one of the earliest of the many occasions in which Contact learned that it didn't learn its own lessons. Because it turned out that while mature Dweller society was unique for their self-obsessed silliness that bordered on senility, there was good reason the Dwellers kept their juveniles to a minimum. Because separated from the barbarous-but-mollifying oversight of the aged adults, the juveniles-now-called-Issorilians became Permanently Stunted Adolescents, with traits that took Dweller psychopathy to hitherto unforeseen gob-smacking levels. And, thanks to SC, now they were armed. Among the Minds, this is most-often cited reason those juveniles took so well to the nom de plume The Affront.
Dealing with the Galaxy[edit | edit source]
About a century or so after the Idiran-Culture War, the Padressahl suddenly sublimed. To their eternal joy, the Affront was suddenly freed to harass neighbouring civilizations, including those being shepherded by the Culture and others that no Involved had seen fit to contact yet.
Now the Culture, and the other Involveds, had to deal with the Affront themselves. Eventually the Affront was convinced to abide, at least most of the time, by the generally accepted code of conduct for an Involved. This was after considerable effort, outright bribes, and allowing the Affront to "covertly" steal technology. The rate of expansion onto other planets was slowed when they received orbital technology form the Culture; the Affront refused to accept pre-made orbitals. The Culture hoped technology transfer would undermine some of the less desirable traits of Affronter culture and society.
After the Idiran-Culture War, the Culture was not willing to entertain another massive military action to contain the Affront (even though it was at the height of its military power). Clandestine efforts to moderate their society did however continue, and after the Affront's warlike actions in Excession, the Culture started more direct steps in limiting their expansion and behaviour.
Society and Culture[edit | edit source]
Affront society is described as being "a never-ending, self-perpetuating holocaust of pain and misery", where the strong prey upon weaker species and individuals. Among the Affront's technological accomplishments is an aptitude for genetic engineering, which they developed long before spaceflight. They use this skill almost exclusively on 'prey species', which tend to be changed so as to provide greater sport (and opportunity for sadism) during the communal hunts forming a major part of the Affront culture. Some examples of these changes include altering game animals to experience heightened levels of fear when recognizing the silhouette of an Affronter, or altering beasts of burden to panic when their masters are excited and thus induce them to pull vehicles faster. One of the few changes to their own species was the redesign of their females to make sex painful for them, a choice exemplary of the reasons they are considered abhorrent by the Culture. "Progress through Pain" is a common Affront slogan.
The Affront pose a difficult moral problem for the Culture with its reluctance for direct intervention. However, the Affront are intelligent and cooperative enough (ritual or spontaneous duels notwithstanding) to build a stellar empire, and to develop advanced technology, or else steal it. They have also received some Culture technology (such as the ability to build orbitals) in exchange for grudgingly kept promises of better behaviour.
Physiology[edit | edit source]
An average adult Affronter's body consists of a bulbous mass about two metres in diameter, which hangs from a frilled gas sac one to five metres in diameter depending on their desired buoyancy and which can be deflated and covered by protective plates. Six to eleven tentacles of varying length and thickness grow from the central mass, of which at least four end in leaf shaped paddles. Many Affronters have lost one or more tentacles in combat or duels. Beaks on the front and rear of the central mass cover the creature's mouth and genitals, respectively. The eyes and ears are held on stalks above the fore beak (they also have a sensor bump atop the gas sac). An anus/gas vent is located in the bottom centre of the main body. The latter is one of their sources of propulsion, though they usually 'walk' on their limbs or 'paddle' through the air unless in a hurry.
Their homeworld is described as a 'fog-bound moon-planet', probably similar to a larger version of Saturn's moon Titan. Affronters require a high pressure, low temperature environment, and breathe an atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen and methane, plus other trace hydrocarbons.
References[edit | edit source]
- Excession, chapter 5.3