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We Know you as aunera-aliens-and have always had peace and good congress with you. One day, several of you asked: How is it that your empire works so well for you, when it would work so poorly for us? And so I found a translator, an aunerai scribe. Together we make available there fil ekain, these incense stories, short but lingering...an attempt to explain what it is to have an Ai-Naidari soul.—The Aphorisms of Kherishdar, Introduction
I am the altar upon which society sacrifices its murderers, its thieves, its wayward spirits. I am their Correction... or their destruction. I serve Shame. Without me, there is no Civilization.—The Admonishments of Kherisdar, Introduction
A series of short stories and one on-going serialized web novel, all written by M.C.A. Hogarth, Kherishdar is a five planet alien empire whose people, the Ai-Naidar, are tall, feline aliens which have an insular, caste based society that emphasizes the good of the community over the individual. Hogarth explores the implications of this in a series of short "incense" stories, starting with the definition of a single word or concept, which leads into an illustration of a single aspect of life among the Ai-Naidar. These stories may be found at her website and two printed collections, The Aphorisms of Kherishdar, written from the point of view of The Calligrapher, which concentrates (mostly) on the positives of the Ai-Naidar civilization, while The Admonishments of Kherishdar focuses on the criminals and malcontents, who all give their impressions of Shame, the embodiment of justice in Ai-Naidar society and charged personally by The Emperor with Correcting individual behavior so it comes in line with Society.
Though Kherishadar is generally portrayed in a positive manner, it's definitely a Blue and Orange Morality, with the emphasis on Society over Individual striking a sometimes disturbing chord. What it mostly is, however, is logical but different from human cultures.
These stories provide examples of:
- Author Appeal: Hogarth loves long hair that goes "Fwoosh!" To the point that the Ai-Naidar have a specific word for the effect.
- Babies Ever After: Bitterly subverted when one Noble goes into deep depression after his cheerful suggestion that one couple should have children at their marriage ceremony leads to the wife dying in childbirth and the husband wasting away shortly thereafter. Shame literally has to knock some sense into him.
- Blue and Orange Morality: As noted above.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: A mild example can be found in Hogarth's Live Journal, where The Calligrapher and Shame sometimes appear in Hogarth's world for a moment to help her understand the definition of a particular Ai-Naidar word or aspect their culture.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Though it's certainly part of Shame's arsenal, Corrections generally don't involve this. The more usual method involves...
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: ...finding a way of pointing out to the individual the damage they're doing to others or themselves. Such as having someone who wants to stop harming themselves wear bandages signed by their friends and family.
- Epiphany Therapy: Shame's default method of Correcting individuals. The Calligrapher often manages the same thing through providing a notably appropriate aphorism.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": While The Calligrapher and Shame do have names that are mentioned in their stories, they're easy to miss. Given the very stratified nature of Ai-Naidar society, almost everyone goes by their title first, using their name only among close associates.
- Good Is Not Nice: That's Shame in a nutshell.
- Loners Are Freaks: Goes double among the AI-Naidar, given its emphasis on community and family.
- Not Using the H Word: Cloaked aliens who are (probably) humans are seen several times in the stories, but are never referred to by their species name, but the more general term Aunera. They're generally portrayed as either ignorant or outright disruptive to the smoothly running Ai-Naidar society.
- Purple Prose: Well, definitely shaded lavender with an occasional side order of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. The Calligrapher is frequently guilty of this, given it's part of his job, but many other characters indulge in it to emphase the Ai-Naidar's formalized styles of speech.
- Questionable Consent: It's not a very good idea to take advantage of your subordinates in this world. It attracts Shame's attention.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The default nature of the Noble Caste. When they don't live up to it, that's when the Emperor calls Shame in.
- Rousseau Was Right: Pretty much the setting default. While there are (very rare) monsters in the Ai-Naidar world, the assumption is most people just need a gentle nudge back on the path when they end up doing wrong.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something
- Subordinate Excuse: In one story, the Calligrapher encounters a servant whose artistic skill is equal to his own, but who chooses not to pursue it to stay close to her lady.
- The Chains of Commanding: Much of The Calligrapher and Shame's work involves reinforcing noble caste leaders who become stressed as they try to balance the needs of the people under them with the demands of society in general.
- The Emperor: A near divine being who despite the nominally science-fictional nature of the setting is said to be the reincarnation of the previous Emperors.
- Too Kinky to Torture: As part of his training to take the post of Shame, Kor must experience specific tortures under the hand of the Emperor before being permitted to use them on anyone else. It's several weeks before he finally breaks down.
- What Measure is a Human?: "People" in the Ai-Naidar language refers strictly to their own species and culture. Aunera refers to anything foriegn, including other races, which by definition cannot be equal to an Ai-Naidar.
- Who Watches the Watchmen?: How does the Emperor make sure he himself doesn't abuse his own power? He assigns a casteless servant to the post of The Exception, whose job it is to tell him when his actions might be harmful to his people.