By the time a reader has gotten through one of the Fortune novels, they have to have noticed there’s a trend in the slang and expletives of choice.
Part of this, an astute reader will understand, is an attempt to appeal to a wider age range. For me, The Fortune Chronicles should have the same, all in the family appeal as Star Wars, Leverage, Firefly, or The Librarians. The stories feature mostly adults, but there’s no reason younger people can’t enjoy them (and, quite possibly, grow up without being stuck in the belief that life ends at 30).
Another part, in fact the larger part, is due to the reasons Fortune was colonized in the first place, and the lessons those first colonists brought with them.
Foremost of these lessons is the reverence for all things related to bees because, let’s face it, without bees, the ecosystem crumbles. So bees are The Thing. So much are they The Thing that they’ve become the lynchpin of Fortune’s cultures. No matter what political or economic differences might exist between the Colonies and the Coalition States, everyone respects the bees, and with respect comes the inevitable dissemination into popular culture. Hence, when things go bad they go swarm, while someone pressing a point would say, swarming apiaries!
There are also the aphorisms. At some point, someone will have uttered the words, I have no hive in this meadow, or we were scraping the bottom of the hive. An act of futility might be referred to as visiting a flowerless meadow, and it is a damning condemnation to refer to another as a wasp in the hive. A wise woman would tell you it is a rare fool who keeps all his bees in one hive, and a grifter promise his mark that if she buys into his scheme, Fortune will be your apiary. If you’re happy to see someone, or something good appears, it might be referred to as Honey from the Keepers.* And rather than the old, Earth-bound Eureka!, a discovery of import would inspire the exclamation of Honeycomb!
Games follow this trend as well, with the field game, “Net the Queen,” winning fans continent-wide, and a poker-like card game with the apiary being the winning hand (but a full hive’s not bad, either).
People on the low end of the social scale are drones and pregnant woman might be said to have a queen in the royal jelly… and so on and so on. Bees on Fortune are, to put it mildly, valued.
Moving out of the apiary, readers will also see some opinions on Earth, and how things ended there. Smogging, and what in the name of toxic Earth, or Earth-bound thinking, tell a cautionary tale of what came before, and what no one wants to see happen again.
There are also more than a few references to crystal, the highly combustive silicate found growing in fields throughout portions of the United Colonies. When life is going well, for instance, it is crystal and comb, (again with the bees). Someone perceived as mentally unstable (or just possessed of a crazy idea) might be referred to as crystal mad, which also references the high occurrence of mental illness in individuals who harvest crystal. One may wish another ill by hoping crystal takes root in your eyes. And, with crystal as a power source, it’s not too surprising that Nike features its own red light district in Red Crystal Alley, where members of the night trade ply their talents (legally) in exchange for a few starbucks. And on Fortune, when someone gets an idea, instead of the lightbulb flaring, the crystal sparks.
In addition to the Fortune-centric colloquialisms, there exist any number of phrases and words from Earth that are not common in Western culture, but deeply ingrained in other regions on the planet, and therefore on Fortune as well. This comes from the assumption that the humans arriving on Fortune came from a vast number of cultures and, over time, those cultures blended.
Because of this, on Fortune one would hear swearing in Hebrew and Japanese with Betsim and Shimatta, see people shopping in souks, and hear everyone using my personal favorite phrase Do the needful.
It probably bears mentioning, in the discussion of culture and language, that while Fortune’s first audience is reading the stories in English, I wouldn’t put any starbucks on the concept that the citizens of Fortune are speaking English. By 1400 plus years on a planet untold hundreds (or thousands) of years in Humanity’s future, there may be an entirely new lingua franca for the masses, perhaps a hybrid of the many Earth languages currently extant.
Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that, as the stories continue to expand on the lives of the characters, so too will expand the cultural idioms of Fortune. So much so that, perhaps someday, you’ll find yourself wondering where you put the smogging keys, or calling that driver in front of you who won’t use his turn signal the spawn of a hornet.
And the best part? You won’t get in trouble for swearing.