beatrice_otter: Star Trek symbol--red background (Red Shirt)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter
My absolute main kink, whether fanfic or profic or movies or tv shows, is for solid worldbuilding.  I want to know about culture, government, history, religion, ethnology, psychology--all the soft-science background details.  So, for instance, for the new Star Trek timeline/AR, I have all kinds of ideas about how I think the surviving Vulcans will react.  My impressions of Vulcan culture are taken from all the tv shows and movies, combined with the classic Star Trek books from the 80's/90's (e.g. Spock's World, the Vulcan Academy Murders, Sarek, the Pandora Principle, Dwellers in the Crucible, Strangers from the Sky, etc.  Note that Kurtzman and Orci consider Spock's World to be canon, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Here is a summary of Vulcan history interludes from that book.)

So.  Here's Vulcan culture as I have interpreted it:

Vulcans are intensely private.  There are some things they simply Do Not speak of, particularly not with outsiders.  Pon Farr is one of these things, but not the only one.

Vulcans are extremely conservative.  (I don't mean modern American politics, I mean in the literal definition of "not wanting change.")  There are elements of Vulcan society that literally haven't changed in over 5,000 years.  For example, when Spock needs Fal-Tor-Pan at the end of ST:III, that ritual hasn't been used in a looooong time.  But the High Priestess still knows how to do it.

Vulccans are an odd combination of incredibly blunt and incredibly opaque.  Some things they will think are self-evident and wouldn't refer to directly because they assume they don't need to, or only refer to obliquely/by implication.  But once they decide something needs to be spoken of, they can be far more blunt and matter-of-fact than Humans are comfortable.

Family is everything and marriage isn't just between two people.  It's a social contract between two families, as well.  The extended family is extremely important, with the right to influence/interfere in education, career, marriage, children, etc.  Arranged marriages for political/economic/genetic alliances were common even before the Reformation when Surak brought mastery of emotions.  And some families are more equal than others.  Spock's family is one of the most important--he's related to T'Pau (who ruled the Vulcan council by the end of Ent. and could override Starfleet in TOS), his father was the Vulcan ambassador to the Federation, Spock is descended from Surak.  If they're not exactly the Vulcan equivalent of royalty, they're close.  Also, marriage is at least as much about the telepathic bond between spouses as it is about sex and surviving Pon Farr.

Family affects gender roles.  The pattern is, young and middle-aged men go out and work among offworlders (Starfleet, diplomatic corps, science) while young and middle-aged Vulcan women pursue careers closer to home; if career sacrifices need to be made for marriage and children, it's the women who make them.  This is not to say that young/middle-aged women can't have the same kind of careers; they do, it's just unusual.  BUT old women (i.e. women past child-bearing) have power, sometimes huge amounts of power.  They're high priestesses and clan leaders (and remember how important family is to Vulcans).  Every time we've seen a really really old Vulcan woman, the Vulcan men in her vicinity have been very deferential.  Not just ceremonially, either.

Vulcans have deep passions, particularly the violent passions.  Mastery of their emotions is necessary.  Before Surak, they were well on their way to tearing themselves apart.  Depending on which novel, they may or may not have reduced themselves to the brink of extinction on more than one occasion.  Surak changed that.  Vulcans are very conscious of the inner barbarian and how easy it is to lose control and descend into chaos and violence.  If their control sometimes seems overly tight, it's because it has to be.  The people who didn't agree with Surak left and became Romulans.  (This is one of the things Vulcans generally hate discussing directly, which is how in the original timeline nobody knew the Vulcans and Romulans shared common ancestry until TOS.)  However the Romulans have evolved to keep themselves in check, you really, really don't want to see a Vulcan who's lost all control.

Vulcans truly believe themeselves to be superior to all other species, including Humans.  They really are arrogant.  Even Vulcan Starfleet officers tend to be absolutely convinced that Vulcans are better than Humans in any way you can think of.  (To be honest, they are usually smarter and stronger than most species.)  They tend to be insular; they don't go out and found lots of colonies and mix with other species.  Aside from diplomats and Starfleet officers and a small percentage of scientists, they tend to stay on Vulcan, among their own people.  Which has a lot to do with thinking themeselves superior.  They tend to be suspicious of non-Vulcans, except for that small percentage who are fascinated with them, and who are generally looked down on by most of society.  Vulcans honor diversity in theory but not necessarily so much in practice.

How will this affect the rebuilding of Vulcan culture?

First, they are going to want to replicate Vulcan society as closely as they can.  This means not only replicating institutions, but trying to recreate families/clans with whatever fragments of them have survived.  The needs of the many are going to outweigh the needs of the few by a dramatic margin.  They are also going to be understandably nervous at having such a small population.  It's almost certainly at least twice the number they need for genetic viability, but that doesn't mean they can relax.  They are going to  be looking at the worst-case-scenario and just how easy it would be for a plague or another attack to wipe them out.  They are going to want to try to increase their population, but they're going to want to do it within the traditional family structure if at all possible.  I.e. no whipping up babies in test tubes and raising them in creches.

This leads to my second point.  There is probably a severe gender imbalance in the survivors.  Women (particularly of child-bearing age) are more likely to have had careers that let them stay close to home, i.e. on Vulcan.  Given Pon Farr, this is almost a death sentence for however many men there are more than women, if Vulcans follow their instincts and don't marry outside their culture.  (A few of them will be able to beat Pon Farr with meditation.  Most won't.  If nothing is done, when they start going into Pon Farr there will be a lot of challenges and duels to the death.)  Most of the survivors of either gender will be widowed; Vulcans are betrothed at age seven, and that betrothal is a binding contract strong enough to be referred to as a "marriage."  They will start arranging marriages for each other as soon as possible, particularly for those about to go into Pon Farr, but there won't be enough women to go around.  I can see two possible solutions: 1) as unbonded males get close to Pon Farr, put them in stasis until there is an unbonded woman available for them, and use genetic manipulation to increase the ratio of girls to boys in the next generation born.  This has obvious disadvantages.  2) marry non-Vulcan women.

Marrying non-Vulcan women has challenges of its own.  Even if you ignore Vulcan prejudice, their main goal is going to be to remake Vulcan society.  This means that all the children have to be raised as Vulcans, and the women have to be willing to live as part of Vulcan society.  They're also going to have to meet Vulcan standards for intelligence and appreciate/understand/support Vulcan emotional reserve.  And assuming you have women that fit the bill ... most Vulcan marriages are arranged.  Most Vulcan men are not going to know how to arrange their own marriages when dealing with Vulcan women, much less women from another species.

So, if I were Spock Prime, going off to help rebuild Vulcan society, here's what I would suggest:

First, the Federation is probably going to offer to help the Vulcans rebuild.  If nothing else, construction and relocation; Vulcans are probably going to have gaps, as well, in what skillsets are available in the surviving population.  Their instinct will probably be to turn down the help or accept it but do so on as minimal level as possible.  Instead, accept it, but say that given their need to preserve Vulcan culture they want to have approval over everyone who comes, and make sure they can live integrated in Vulcan society without causing waves.  And then for primary criteria have educated, single women of child-bearing age who might be able to learn to fit into Vulcan society permanently.  Let in some men, too, so it doesn't look too weird, but there's no reason to mention to anybody that the primary criteria of who they're letting in is bride-hunting.  Don't lie, but don't bring it up.  Ask people who have problems fitting in to leave.  Watch them carefully, and if they look to be attracted to any unmarried men, do whatever needs to be done to evaluate the suitability of the relationship and arrange a marriage.  This will both help get much-needed brides and keep needed skills the Vulcans don't have/don't have enough of within their community.

Second, get the Vulcan Science Academy up and running again.  Allow in offworlders, but only those who are intellectually up to the challenge and seem to be able to fit in to Vulcan society; make it clear to all applicants that they will have to fit in to Vulcan society for the time it takes them to complete their degree.  Skew acceptances towards females.  Do the same watching/arranging as with the women relief workers.  This will both help get much needed brides and keep Vulcan's influence in the sciences going.

These two methods may not fully solve the problem, but they'll at least lessen it, as well as keeping Vulcan society from turning in on itself and becoming isolationist.  He should be aided by the fact that the most xenophobic Vulcans will have died with Vulcan; the ones who survived are more likely than average to have an open mind concerning non-Vulcans.  (That's not necessarily saying much.)

ETA: I've written a Spock/Uhura story that grew out of this meta: The Desert Between.

anon drive-by

Date: 2009-05-12 05:39 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
What really bugs me is that - Vulcan, a major player in the Federation, has -no- colonies? Human colonies are scattered across the map. Maybe by "Vulcans" the Vulcans are being literal and only referring to those Vulcans with Vulcan as a home planet. They're obviously not counting the Romulans, anyway; they have a whole Empire of colonies.

There've also got to be some random worlds which are mysteriously like Vulcan in its wacky cultural equivalent of the 1930s or the Roman Empire, because hey, it's TOS ;)

Tuvok's supposed to be from some random colony and he was born around this time...though that might be standard sci-fi "planet of the black people" schtick.

Re: anon drive-by

Date: 2009-05-23 09:10 pm (UTC)
jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)
From: [personal profile] jmtorres
Given the Romulans, Vulcans may have been pretty damn wary of large groups of Vulcans going off on their own.

MA shows Tuvok as born on Vulcanis Lunar something or other, which is confusing as Vulcan has no moon: I suggest there was a Vulcan base on Terra's moon. But probably not a full colony per se, not terraformed/vulcanized.

Re: anon drive-by

Date: 2009-05-26 02:48 pm (UTC)
juliekarasik: (Default)
From: [personal profile] juliekarasik
Vulcan does not have a *moon*, but it does have a sister-planet - T'khut, which is often inaccurately referred to by offworlders as a moon.

Re: anon drive-by

Date: 2009-05-24 04:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tafkarfanfic.livejournal.com
I totally forgot he was from a Vulcan colony. YAY! Tuvok's not dead!!!

Re: anon drive-by

Date: 2009-05-24 06:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tafkarfanfic.livejournal.com
Well, in the original timeline Tuvok was born six years after the events in the movie. How about: there's a high probability Tuvok will exist!

Re: anon drive-by

Date: 2009-05-24 04:16 pm (UTC)
grav_ity: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grav_ity
What really bugs me is that - Vulcan, a major player in the Federation, has -no- colonies? Human colonies are scattered across the map. Maybe by "Vulcans" the Vulcans are being literal and only referring to those Vulcans with Vulcan as a home planet. They're obviously not counting the Romulans, anyway; they have a whole Empire of colonies.

They do have at least one colony, because that's where Tuvok was born.

Re: anon drive-by

Date: 2010-01-05 12:35 pm (UTC)
zephyrprince: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zephyrprince
There's also that holy shrine planet that was shown in Enterprise

here via vulcanreforged

Date: 2009-05-23 05:39 pm (UTC)
cjk1701: Age of Sail navigation instruments with the words "Attention to detail" (attention to detail)
From: [personal profile] cjk1701
Another issue -- fanon (and book canon) says that if one bonded partner dies, the other will suffer shock and pain at the very least. Considering not many bonded pairs are likely to have escaped together, this might up the mortality rates in the survivors immediately following Vulcan's destruction.

I wonder if the conservatism you mentioned is likely to become even stronger in the face of almost total destruction of Vulcan society. Will there be a movement towards older values and ideas, away from off-world influences and professions? How is young!Spock going to be viewed, especially if Spock Prime's identity will not be widely revealed?

There is likely to be a baby boom, for logical reasons at the very least. This new generation might grow up even more closed and conservative than their parents and their children, if one can draw a parallel from human post-war behaviour. Having witnessed their parents' grief first hand, they'll act and feel differently than their own children, who might be even wanting to try and swing the pendulum the other way, hitting inflexible Vulcan heads in the process.

Okay, now I want to write lots of fic. *sits on hands*

Re: here via vulcanreforged

Date: 2009-06-13 10:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roachpatrol.livejournal.com
Now I'm just imagining this rash of widow-remarriages: all the suddenly-unbonded widows and widowers being hastily slapped together, like pieces of puzzles, because they can't be allowed to die, the Vulcan race doesn't have the luxury. Traditionally I think they were just put out to pasture, or allowed to waste away. But then after the planet is destroyed, so many of the widows would be young. The males, they very well might just let waste, but the females I think would be pressed into new service.

Then again, remarriage could be a really touchy subject with Vulcans, and the deaths of the widows would be seen as simple, unavoidable collateral. Along the lines of 'we're an endangered species, but we're still VULCANS are we are going to do this properly'. For such a logical species, they have a lot of hang-ups.

Re: here via vulcanreforged

Date: 2009-10-11 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm late to this party, but yeah. My head canon is all about The Vulcan Academy Murders. My first thought was that a lot of Vulcan survivors, like Sarek, were going to die from the pain of a broken bond. Sarek would have had Spock to help him through it, but most would not be so lucky. Clearly that is not the route the movie or any fanfic I read went. That would have made things that much worse. If you didn't manage to save the couple, both were dead.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-24 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tafkarfanfic.livejournal.com
Nice thinky here.

I think you've overlooked a third choice: polygyny. It would seem the logical solution for a culture that is both somewhat xenophobic and lacking in women. In theory, the men who are not in pon farr would be able to use their logic to control that petty emotion of jealousy when their woman was off mating with some other guy. In fact, under the circumstances you describe, it seems like one logical solution would be to require a woman to be mated with two men, to support both genetic diversity and the continued survival of the individuals within their species.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-24 06:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tafkarfanfic.livejournal.com
The Vulcans IN pon farr are not rational, and I acknowledged that in my comment. But the one who is not in pon farr could leave at the first sign of his mate-in-law (for lack of a better term) going into pon farr.

Vulcans are scientists. It would seem that they would be able to develop a system to figure out roughly when a male is going to go into pon farr, and send the other male partner away (heck, off-planet, if necessary). Since pon farr happens every 7 years or so, the logical thing to do would be for a woman to have two mates whose pon farr cycles were on extremely different schedules (i.e. V1 hits pon farr at 2233, V2 hits pon farr at 2236, V1 hits it again at 2240, etc.) They arrange marriages anyway; it just requires a higher level of planning.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-11 03:37 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm with you. Vulcans have strong passions and possessiveness that they control or their society tears itself apart. How taxing to that control would be a wife with another husband? Eben not in the throes of Pon Farr would a logical Vulcan be able to mediate that away especially if you can feel your wife getting it on with her other husband through the bond. Would the one in Pon Farr forget that there's another man with a claim on his woman?

And finally we go back to conservative Vulcan society not changing much ad the marriage being just as much about the bond as the pon farr and sex. Going from monogamy to polygamy is a huge change.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-29 01:42 am (UTC)
elf: Rainbow sparkly fairy (Default)
From: [personal profile] elf
Vocab quibble: polyandry, not polygyny. Multiple males, not multiple females. Both are form of polygamy.

I posit that a Vulcan woman could be married to two or potentially three men whose pon farr cycles were different enough that they didn't ever overlap, as long as the "inactive" men were careful to offer no challenge to the one who's dealing with "that time of the decade."

Perhaps they would even live at different locations, with the woman rotating addresses between them, so they weren't triggered by each others' presence. The telepathic triggering might be lessened thereby, or they might come up with methods to block it.

It does seem like a very problematic solution. But given the extremity of the circumstances--I'm sure there will be plenty of problematic attempted solutions, and perhaps this one could work for some Vulcans, if not all. (Perhaps it works best for those with limited telepathic ability, leading to a case where those who were considered damaged or disabled on Vulcan are now the most fit survivors.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-13 10:44 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That's brilliant! It could even be similar to that traditional Tibetan system, where the wife married not just one man but all the brothers in a family set. Then they all had a bunch of kids, and they brought in someone else's daughter for the sons, and shipped their daughters off to another family's set of sons. This is apparently great for when you live in a harsh, arid land and don't have a lot of farmland to divide off for the heirs-- you keep it in the family, forever.

Though from the above description of Vulcan gender politics, it seemed that land and power was kept with the stay-at-home women, who presumably stayed put while the men were encouraged to get the hell out, and thus accumulated political capital their entire lives. I think if the remaining Vulcan women played it right, they could have an inverse of the Tibetan system-- the daughter stays with the family land, title, and holdings, and a set of wife-starved sons are brought in for her. Possibly ALL the daughters stay put, each with their own spate of husbands, and the mother of the daughters gets to sit in a nice web of co-relations-- each generation of this system and the webs will get a lot more tangled, as people end up second- and third-cousins. Hopefully Vulcans have words to differentiate cousins-on-mother's-side and cousins-on-fathers-side, or they'll have to invent them pretty fast!

If the Vulcan women don't play it right, of course, they could all end up as bargaining chips that the Vulcan men will award or deny each other in their own political games. You know, like 'Distinguish yourself by doing exactly what we tell you to and we'll give you a wife before Pon Farr melts your brain!' Hopefully the women put their collective foot down on that but good.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-03 02:04 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] brightfame
Thanks, this is some excellent meta. It helped inspire a fic.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-03 05:58 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] brightfame
:) Done! I'd linked it in the vulcanreforged post, but neglected to do so for the main story post. Direct link is added to the story now.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-03 06:54 pm (UTC)
gramina: Photo of a stalk of grass; Gramina references the graminae, the grasses (Default)
From: [personal profile] gramina
Umm... Maybe I'm clueless here, and certainly Amanda demonstrates the thing can be *done,* but --

Vulcan strength.
Human strength.
Pon Farr.
Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

I admit the differential isn't quite as great in the case of Terrans and Vulcans, but, um, I'd sure be worried about it, and I actually am a masochist. Doesn't mean I think broken bones are fun!

I've always wondered how Amanda and Sarek managed, because I don't think Vulcan mental disciplines are going to cut it during Pon Farr. Put her in an armored exoskeleton with strategic cut-outs??? Somehow medically half-incapacitate him?

Or, I suppose, one could just go with, "well, they did it, so it must not be a problem, somehow." shrug I dunno.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-08 02:20 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Very interesting and well thought out. Just a few points though.

At time, Vulcans can probably also breed artificially. I mean, if Trip and T'Pol can have a daughter who was created without any real input aside from cells on their parts, I'm sure that Vulcans can do the same.

Which brings me to my next point, to preserve their diversity, they are going to need a lot of children. And most likely, these children will be of various combinations genetically. To that, they will require caretakers. Possibly more than are currently available. This would be another method for them to attract offworlders to the colony. And if current (for our time and for humans in general) tendencies pan out, many of them will be female. It wouldn't take as much for these women to be interested in Vulcan men if they can actually see how dedicated and loving (if in a stiff and formal way) they are to their children.

Adding on to that, if hybrid children do indeed follow, that would further expand their gene pool. Especially if these children married and only bred with other Vulcans or other Vulcan hybrids. In a few generations, the alien genetics would be negligible for the most part. They also wouldn't really have to worry about sterility since technology makes it a moot point anyway. After all, humans and Vulcans cannot bred naturally, but Spock obviously exists.

As for Vulcan isolationism, I can see it going either way. Nevertheless,aAbove all things, Vulcans are logical. They can and would definitely see the need to remain active in the Federation for defense and medicines if nothing else. They will be infinitely vulnerable, and no matter how prideful and arrogant they may be, they still aren't the types to let that overrun good sense.

AzarDarkstar (on LJ)

P.S.
I'm sorry this is anonymous, but I wanted to post and don't have an account here.

Is Pon Farr always a hetero thing?

Date: 2009-06-08 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trienne-hovus.livejournal.com
Is there any reason Pon Farr must always be resolved by a heterosexual mating? I've read that Vulcans tend not to enter into homosexual relationships because they're 'illogical' - i.e., barren (without surrogates, that is) but I've never agreed with that theory.

Humans definitely can shift their sexuality in dire circumstances, such as during imprisonment. Why couldn't Vulcans do the same,and form same-sex bonds until demographics are more favorable?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-05 12:36 pm (UTC)
zephyrprince: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zephyrprince
here via vulcanreforged

do you have novel recommendations for learning more about Vulcan culture?

Polyandrous Ménage à Trois

Date: 2010-05-06 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
So, polyandrous ménage à trois in which two bisexual males who's cycles are synchronized bond with one female would be extremely unlikely, due to culture and cannon. But extremely likely in fan fiction, due to imagination and "slash".

Here's To Happy Resolutions

Date: 2010-05-12 07:21 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
No polyandrous ménage à troiss?! And yet - most fan fiction writers are "supposed" to be female!? (This gives me serious doubt, just to how accurate the idea that "women are writing most of the 'slash'", really is.) Not only would this solve the Vulcan's problem, but think of the happy resolution it could bring to that 2009 movie Kirk/Spock/Uhura triangle. Really! Where are your imaginations, Ladies?

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