An Empathetic Depiction of Slavery in Dema
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A Clarification To Our Community on Subject Matter
Given the histories of several areas of Earth in the last several hundred years, notably North America and Europe, depictions of slavery in any form are a subject that could be a meta-concern to the sensitivities of some modern players. In the forward-facing material that Solar Studios presents, slavery in Dema is a dynamic that overwhelmingly reflects historical and cultural features, specifically the presence of slavery in classical antiquity. This article presents a list of ancient cultures where slavery was one of the most prominent aspects of how labor and power dynamics were present. Primary academic sources used in Redsky’s lore building concerning ancient slavery can also be provided upon request.
Dema’s cycle in Redsky attempts to have features of science fiction and fantasy storytelling layered over a classical depiction of a universe. The team had to make deliberate conceptual choices for how slavery might be seen, and thus resisted player characters trying to do the right thing in meaningful ways. Slavery is to be seen as a harmful practice used by the “bad guys” of the setting. These bad guys operate through power derived from tendencies in “social” organizations and are not inherently representative of their entire species' ethical natures.
For instance, not all Featherfolk in the island faction of The Auric approves of the practice of slavery. There are uprisings, abolitionists, and other movements throughout the culture that the oppressive proponents of slavery seek to combat. The hope is that players do not feel limited to having all Featherfolk characters they create to support the ownership of enslaved people. Instead, these societal features can present opportunities to tell the stories of characters who must have meaningful experiences within these frameworks. Players could be a character who, for example, resists slavery in the setting like a “rebel,” or be an ex-slave, or a slave-owner who has a moral reckoning and goes on to work towards emancipation in their culture. All of these experiences have factual analogs in the dynamics of the ancient world. Their repercussions in Dema are meant to be holistic fictional constructions by design and do not knowingly seek to promote negative parallels to any present-day real-world identity group.
For instance, the main heroine of the Redsky novel Arise is Jayne Erindera, a former Nightrider thrall who goes on to lead an uprising against the Hegemony. The dynamics around power and injustice explored in her arc are hopefully a template for the kind of conscious, compassionate depiction of the struggle against oppression through a speculative fiction lens the team would like to echo in more Redsky experiences to come and follow the example of other universes we pay homage to.
As far as the human-centric Solar Hegemony goes, the ‘Hegs were never meant to be an overall morally just society. The words the devs most associate with them are “a dystopian subversion of the tropes of goodness, heroes, and light.” They are the most dominant culture in the world through emulating the worst aspects of ancient expansionist regimes like Rome, Egypt, and Greek city-states, which kept millions of enslaved people.
The Hegemony seeks to impose the practice in territories they conquer, such as the cosmopolitan culture of Mundi, where a whole Heroic Era uprising against slavery took place called The Marble Rebellion. Mundi offers a different, human and pan-sentient emancipationist counterexample to the oppressive Hegemony government.
In a way, we hope player characters fighting against slavery expand the conversation around power dynamics, injustice, and the strength of positive morals through this creative space. As devs, we must “thread the needle” of being empathetic and compassionate to the more modern sensitivities of recent history within the universe we set out to explore. The devs stand by the vision of the world we have set out to create. Ancient human history is filled with vile deeds, but we, as worldbuilders, believe portraying these evils in our fiction is vitally important to create stories with depth and meaningful consequences.
To our fans, we pledge to address and take ownership of any sensitivity concerns we have not foreseen. Together with our community, we will build an even better vision for Redsky as we advance with self-improvement in mind.
Where Is Involuntary Servitude Present in Dema?
The Solar Hegemony and The Auric tend to enslave people in non-slaveholding cultures. Resistance against these two nations is also a matter of not wanting to be conquered on top of existing cultural distaste.
The Wakewalker Jana'haki pirates can imprison/enslave conflict "galley" rowers for use on their ships. The fates of those captured are grim, with one common possibility being their sale in the Gilded States.
Dawnraider and Hardhoove Nightriders have taken tribal "thralls" for centuries. The status of a thrall is complex, with the possibility of freedom in exchange for decades of often unappreciated service.
Unrul forces prisoners to do forced labor in service to the regime. Whether Sporespawn captured from other hives or culled from their population, these people are often one opportunity away from revolting against their erstwhile masters.
Tohol and its leader, The Everborn, are subsuming sentient Sporespawn drones into the hive to use for work. The loss of consciousness is a terrifying prospect to many drones whose identities are erased into the hive mind.
In contrast, it is a Human-Archivist conflict point that the three Archivist city-states of Etherea, Aegis, and Luminos religiously object to slavery, especially the enslavement of Archivists. Their faith teaches that any mass hindrance of the Million Step Path is grounds for retaliation.
There are notable Human, Archivist, and free Featherfolk liberation movements in major human slaveholding cities, working to emancipate enslaved people to undermine the Solar Hegemony.
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