Friday, March 31, 2023

Lanthanide Horizon - Food, Water, Shelter

Despite the lack of work on it, Sunless Horizon (now and until later, "Lanthanide Horizon" for the purposes of people not talking about Fallen London anymore) remains my favorite of my settings. Here, I put a little bit of effort into the base layer of worldbuilding - with a setting with these environmental difficulties, how do people actually Live.

Source - this is actually Lanthanide Horizon... fanart, a thing I find startling

Food and Food Preservation

    Agriculture is tenable aboard the megastructure, and its prerequisites tend to determine population patterns among those groups that use it. Soil both exists and conglomerates in dunes solidified by plant growth, and water can be collected from rain (some sections of the structure are doused with water intentionally for unknown reasons, and others are open enough to have to their own "natural" weather - however, it is best to assume this water is nonpotable until proven otherwise) or extracted through taps into intraship water lines.

    These lines often define the size and shape of a settlement and its farms - long, "linear" towns appear along high-pressure pipes that can sustain them, farms and their drainage systems are suspended in midair to make the most of vertical tubes, miles wide, that switch from drought to flood, and large, reliable taps can be siphoned off for ponds and aquaculture.

Digression - Soil Formation, yes i am really writing a paragraph about soil formation on my rpg blog and you can't stop me

    Implacable erosion means various fine metal dusts are common aboard the vessel, as are chemotrophic bacteria, which can augment these dusts into a dry, metallic soil habitable enough for plant life. These soils are moved primarily by wind, prevailing currents collecting them in specific locations where they are solidified by plant root systems. The concepts of "fine metal dusts blowing around wherever they feel like" and "soil comprised heavily of questionable heavy metal residues" may raise Worries among my readers, and they are almost certainly correct.

s o i l     


    Most groups on the worldship are at least semi-agricultural, though some are less standard than the Oasis Kingdoms or those far Houses:

    Skinborne vessels are too small and disconnected to grow food on their own, though it is common for them to supplement rations brought from their ark with onboard herb gardens, small animals, and similar - a bit for practicality, but more for pleasure.

    The Gardener Clans are sedentary hunter-gatherers - their homes in the ship's hydroponics bays not only produce enough food for them, but enough that their pillage goes unnoticed by the bays' alarms. In contrast, the Walker-Herds feed off the same bays, moving their herds between them in a grand, devouring swarm, leaving only when the complex is depleted or the alarms ring. 

    Some groups of the firstborn (those still under the eye of the megastructure's controlling AI) toil in ponds and fields, as the AI leaves them dormant and self-sufficient for future crises. When work stacks up, and the crops are abandoned, the machine promises deliveries of luxuries, hundreds of tons of grain, endless water, all as gifts for the loyal - and, of course, permanent drought, plagues, and hard vacuum for the shirkers. 


    Salt is both required for some relevant industrial processes (water treatment, manufacturing of synthetic rubber, etc.) and for biological life - as such, concentrated brine numbers among the substances piped through the megastructure, and available to be tapped. This brine is then dried to create salt or diluted and stored for food preservation.

    Outside of these taps and reservoirs, salt is difficult to find in the concentrations required for preservation, so drying, smoking, and pickling in acids are more common, despite being less effective.

    As one of the many steps in their industrialization and expansion, the Houses have invented the canning machine (though just as on Earth, not yet the can opener), letting them preserve food for extended periods without reliance on rare minerals.         


Shelter & Clothing

    When possible, buildings are repurposed from pre-existing structures - shipping containers, unused facilities, long corridors of empty closets, et cetera. When buildings have to be made, they are generally constructed of ubiquitous metal panels, dry-fit or connected with clay, siphoned industrial sealants, or even welds (as unfortunately, neither lime nor bitumen are present).

    In areas with hostile climates (after all, the central AI cares little about habitable temperatures in the 500-square mile sulfuric acid synthesizer), insulation is harvested from the ship, or ventilating holes and windows are spaced carefully to catch wind. Areas with very hostile climates, such as active furnaces, chambers filled with radioactive waste, and the insides of town-sized wire EDMs, are functionally uninhabitable.

    Clothing is generally synthetic - piles of wiring insulation painstakingly unrolled into wide strips to knit into clothing, or single mats of plastic wrapped around the body. When present, hair, plant fibers, and such are used. Metal is commonly used for jewelry, decoration, and armor.

    Access to electricity for use in heating (and the creation of fire) and light (through common, easily scavenged electric lights) is very common, but fully taking advantage of electricity requires enough layers of concepts, machines, and cultural needs that the majority live in a pre-industrial environment.

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