Alto Stisboi

Glara Map
Image from Steve Bowers and John M Dollan
The subcontinent of Glara, where Alto Stisboi flourished

The early colonial years

The first of the ancient colleges which eventually became the Academic culture on Corona were established while the terraforming process was still under way, and the majority of the population still lived in vast domes on the major continents of Quark and Baryon. When the atmosphere was finally declared breathable in 1829 AT the domedwellers were joined by a diverse influx of colonists from Solsys and other locations in the Inner Sphere. A few of the colleges (Os Universidad in Coronese) continued to specialise in philosophy, the others becoming agritech laboratories, media studios, or corporate indoctrination centres. The period of the great Expansion into the wildernesses of Corona was a remarkable time to be alive, but there was, for a while, less time for contemplation or abstract thought.

The Northwestern fringe of Baryon, facing Quark across the Dirac Sea developed a Low Superior culture, nearbaseline humans with mild tweaks or cybernetic enhancements raising their effective intelligence to a certain degree. The Department known as Su Glara which developed in this region was fast-moving and competitive, sometimes bewildering to the outsider, and regarded with suspicion by the mostly unaugmented Quarkians in their island continent. However the Glarans were not generally contemplative, rather they favoured cynicism, materialism and novelty over philosophy or spiritual development.

By 2000 AT the population of Corona was already three billion, and Glara had half a billion of these. Glara was developing a distinctive culture, as noted above, but the influence of the global culture was also important, and also the interstellar network known as the Federation of Sophonts (the First Federation, as it is now known). At this time, before the advent of wormhole technology, the Federation was bound together almost entirely by the exchange of information via message laser, with the occasional slower than light ship arriving from one or another of the colonies.

One technology which was spreading from world to world at this time was improved gerontology, a field which had been quite advanced in the Old Solar system before the Technocalypse, but had been thrown into disarray by the collapse of medical infrastructure on Earth; a series of tailored diseases also effectively reduced the average life expectancy of the general population in the ensuing Dark Ages. But now life expectancy was on the rise again, and an individual on Corona at the beginning of the third Millennium a.t. could expect to live four hundred years or more. To avoid overpopulation, the death rate would have to match the birth rate within a close margin, but the death rate had fallen to a remarkable extent.

However the inhabitants of this new, underpopulated world were accustomed to having large families, a desirable trait on a world where every new town and city required new citizens. Such a high birth rate was no problem while Corona was still largely wilderness, often simply bare rock and sand which needed to be seeded with new biomes. But two hundred years later many parts of Corona were densely populated, and the long-lived citizens found it necessary to change their breeding habits. This particular problem has been faced on countless worlds throughout the Terragen Sphere, and many solutions have been found. But the solution found by the Glaran community is particularly notable.

The Glarans quickly filled their territory in the northwest of Baryon, and bright crowded cities dotted the land. It was now regarded a rare privilege to have children. Although there were no laws passed to restrict family size, powerful memetic pressure was brought to bear on the citizens to limit their families, with varying results. A number of competing political movements had developed in Glara during the era of population growth, and each had a different take on the issue of population control.

  • The various Altruist parties considered that the welfare of the nation was more important than the freedom of action of individuals, and praised above all else any individual who resisted eir own desire for children, also encouraging modest consumption and compact housing.
  • The Situationists were dedicated to provoking change by favouring action over consensus, expecting that the interplay of events following a challenging action would lead to a new synthesis and equilibrium.
  • Radical Situationist, known as Conflictionists, actively desired upheaval and continuous discord, believing this would lead to a vibrant and dynamic culture with an ever-shifting balance.
Another political movement, Pragmatism, was becoming very strong and consistent in this period, but often the followers of this party were unable to prevail against the idealistic Altruists or capricious and arbitrary Situationists.

The Age of Expansion and the rise of Alto Stisboi

By the time Corona was connected to the wormhole system and had become the effective capital of the Taurus Nexus (2450 AT, Age of Expansion), Glara was wracked with a number of low-intensity conflicts and brushfire wars, cyborg against cyborg, su against su. While the rest of the world of Corona was experiencing the flowering of High Academic Coronese culture, the once-vibrant subcontinent had become a dangerous and uncomfortable place to live, with most of the conflicts having population pressure and methods of population control at their heart. In 2101 AT a charismatic Altruist leader, Sventik Opek, committed ritual suicide in front of an enthusiastic audience, leading to a score of copycat immolations. Opek's second in command, the equally charismatic Ellat Virumaa, declared that these suicides were martyrs who had died so that new life could enter the world, but that such self sacrifice need not be a solitary act of altruism. Instead she established a form of institutional killing, a ritual voluntary human sacrifice which quickly became the centre of a secular religion.

The Religion of Sacrifice, or Alto Stisboi (literally 'Death for the good of All') as it became known, became widely adopted in the cities and arcologies of the Glaran subcontinent. Several different sects arose, leading to a certain amount of sectarian strife in the region; and all forms of Alto were suppressed or persecuted in other parts of Corona at different times, especially on the mostly baseline continent of Quark (where the population generally had a much lower life expectancy anyway). Several wars were fought during the course of Corona's history between the followers of this religion and non-believers.

Mainstream Alto Stisboi human sacrifice occurs in public at intervals decided by the High Synod; in this form of the ritual the volunteers (who may have been waiting for several years for this event) do not upload their memories beforehand, so that they die completely without prospect of retrieval. The ceremony is watched by a live audience of thousands, but not televised or otherwise recorded. The volunteer's heart is quickly removed, cooked and eaten. Several dozen volunteers may be sacrificed at such an event, and many of the congregation are permitted to eat a small part of the flesh, prepared in a traditional manner (cannibalistic funerals were already accepted on Corona before the emergence of Alto Stisboi, a tradition that seems to have originated during the earliest days of the colony). The earliest volunteers were sacrificed exclusively by Ellat Virumaa herself, who is said to have carried out her duties with compassion and efficiency until her own sacrifice in 2255 AT.

Other variants of Alto Stisboi include sects which permit uploading beforehand, or insist on this action. Uploading technology in the early third millennium was relatively rudimentary, and the uploaded personality may have had most or all of the memories and character traits of the original but few citizens at that time believed that there was a continuity of identity between the original and the upload. In most sects of this nature the uploaded personality was stored or exported, never to be reactivated in, or to enter, the Corona system again. Some reactivated uploaded personalities have been stored for millennia, and may be reactivated far out in the Periphery; sometimes these reactivated personalities are responsible for a new occurrence of the religion of Alto Stisboi in the Outer Volumes. Another variant of this belief allows direct neural interfacing between the congregation and the participants, the experiences of the volunteer and priest or priestess being transmitted to each and every person present (sometimes recorded for later use).

Over time Alto Stisboi spread to other worlds in the Taurus Nexus, despite being regarded as barbaric by most other religious and secular groups. The existence of numerous and varied sects of Alto Stisboi adherents throughout the Taurus Nexus was an important factor in the great civil war which eventually tore apart the Taurus Nexus in 3262 AT.
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 15 May 2007.