So! You heard someone talking about Post-Self, or perhaps you ran into a cladist on Wolfery, or maybe you just stumbled across the site somewhere. What is it, though? Here is a very short primer on the basics of the setting, its mechanics, and some of the characters.
Note: The rest of this wiki contains many spoilers. While pages will be linked out from here, those pages may spoil some of the canon works. If that's something you're concerned about, you may not want to click around too much.
Where should I start?
This guide is a lovely place to start! However, if you would like to learn by reading, here are the best places to do so:
- Gallery Exhibition: A Love Story is a novella/Twine game that does a good job of explaining the mechanics of the world
- "Opportunity Paralysis" is a short story that explores more of the social aspects of the world
- "For Old Times New" is another short story that has a different take on uploading and disability
- Qoheleth or Toledot are the two possible entry points to the Post-Self cycle novels (Qoheleth is a prequel, essentially)
Okay, but what is Post-Self?
Post-Self is a science fiction setting involving uploaded consciousnesses residing the rather opaquely named System. It's an open setting, meaning that anyone can create content within it, though the canon is loosely managed in order to keep it consistent.
Starting in 2115, advances in technology allowed individuals to be uploaded. This is a one-way, destructive procedure. That is, once you're uploaded, there's no going back, and your body dies in the process. Given the ongoing deterioration of the climate on Earth and the fact that, in most countries, uploading is subsidized (one's beneficiaries are provided with a payout after one uploads), this is often seen as a very attractive solution. Other reasons that one might upload is to enjoy the anarchic society on the System, the functional immortality offered to uploaded individuals, or some of the mechanics enjoyed by cladists.
Individuals on the System are known as cladists. This stems from the fact that individuals can create copies of themselves, and those copies can go on to create copies of themselves, and so on. This leads to a branching tree of individuals, or a clade.
'Cladist' refers to both the original upload and any of their numerous copies, and debates about whether or not cladists are still human are a perennial activity.
The act of a cladist creating a copy of themself is called 'forking', as in a fork in the road or forking a source code repository. This new copy is a complete person. They have their own will and drive to continue living and everything. This is not a hive mind thing: both the original and the copy are true individuals.
That said, this new copy (often called a 'fork' or an 'instance') is, at the moment of forking, the same as the original cladist (called the down-tree instance, because they're closer to the root). After all, that cladist was one person, right? They're just now two! That means that they're created thinking the same sorts of things and sharing the same ideals. Over time, however, they'll start to individuate, learning to appreciate their own things based on the separate experiences that they have.
Quitting and merging
These new instances of our example cladist also have the ability to quit. This means that they'll simply stop existing. But wait! Why would they do that?
One reason is that one might simply want to accomplish a task. Perhaps you're cooking a lovely meal and the pasta needs stirring while you're cutting up the garlic bread. Why, simply fork and now you have two pairs of hands, one to go stir the pasta, one to cut the bread. The pasta thus stirred, the new instance may as well just quit. No reason to stick around.
Another reason is to go and experience other things in the world and then bring back those memories. Quite literally, too! When a fork quits, the cladist who forked them receives all of their memories to incorporate with their own. A cladist may wish to cook their delicious meal, but they're also entertaining guests: they can fork off an instance to go cook the meal while they entertain and, when they're done, quit. The down-tree instance will receive all of the memories of having cooked and all of the feelings about the process so that they know to warn their guests, "Hey, uh...the pasta's a liiiittle spicy..."
One can only ever merge down to the one from whom one was forked up until 277+42, and after that point, one can merge to any of one's cocladists, but only within a clade.
"But what about the transporter paradox?" you ask. Post-Self's answer to that is a shrug. The memories live on. All of the experiences live on. One simply lived two lives at once for that time.
A note on those memories
One unforeseen consequence of living in a giant computer is the inability to forget. This can start to cause problems as one gets older. And older and older and older...because one is functionally immortal. Even though those memories can be organized, or even storied away in imaginary bins called exocortices to be remembered on demand, the fact that they keep piling up is both a boon and a bane. It's a boon because now, suddenly, you can remember everything! No more forgetting names, no more losing track of items. It's a bane, though, because that can get kind of maddening for your average 300 year old.
Aha! But who lives there?
People upload for lots of reasons! Once they're sys-side, though, they settle into society as they will.
It's an anarchy
There's no way to truly govern such a system beyond the mechanics provided by its very existence, and so it's simply left ungoverned. The forces behind the scenes have largely sought only to guide the System in vague directions, often towards yet more freedom. Rules are per-sim, engagement is optional, and cultures are fractured and finely tuned around shared interests or heritage.
The System allows for endless freedom and endless expression. In such a setting, boundaries such as strict gender binaries, hetero- and mono-normative relationship structures, and even species have been broken down. Trans folks may upload and live as they will as cis folks of their chosen gender, or they may remain visibly and proudly trans. Furries may upload and become their fursoñas (this is a metafurry setting, after all; everyone on Earth is a human, and thus every cladist began life as a human). Plural and median systems may upload and split into component selves, or they may remain plural sys-side. Even names and identity have been queered, and you will often see clades adopting naming schemes such as taking lines of a poem for their forks' names.
Why are there so many skunks?
If you've seen cladists out and about, the chances are good that you've seen some skunks among their number, usually with long, poetic names. This is due largely to the canon works in the Post-Self cycle — Qoheleth, Toledot, Nevi'im, and Mitzvot (and, soon, Motes Played) — which feature anthropomorphic skunks heavily. Several folks have adopted these skunks as headmates or characters for roleplaying.
And now, in more detail...
There are a few other low-spoiler pages that might help:
- No-spoiler timeline
- More to come...
Some other mechanics
Cladists have access to a few other mechanics that are useful.
For instance, they can create just about anything they can dream up. This isn't as easy as it sounds, of course; it takes skill to get good at dreaming up very specific things such as strawberries or cars or a pencil.
They can also create sims. These are the locations where they live out their lives. These can be everything from a studio apartment to an entire city. They can be private or public. They can be ornate and finely detailed natural settings or they can be plain gray cubes of space.
Contraproprioceptive virus is the only way to kill a cladist. It disrupts their sense of their body and induces a crash, from which one cannot recover. This was patched out in 2401.
Cladists engage with the world with all of the same senses that we have. These are lumped together into a sensorium. One of the benefits they have is the ability to share some or all of these senses with another cladist via a sensorium message. If you want to show your friend what you're looking at, send them a sensorium message to share your vision. Some sims even mess with your sensoria (consensually, of course) to change the way that you see things or how things feel.
The perisystem architecture
There are some tools included in the System itself in what is called the perisystem architecture.
All of those creations listed above, and even some of these experiences, can be shared publicly on the exchange. This was originally a marketplace where one bought and sold such things with Reputation, a currency put in place in the early days when System capacity needed closer management, though this has since become almost a non-issue.
There are also feeds which one can use to share information, news, stories, all sorts of things! Think of these (loosely) like subreddits.
The perisystem also contains the clade listing. Privacy was an important consideration from the founding of the System, so one cannot simply look up any old cladist and find out everything about them without being granted permission.
Finally, it just plain stores information. Things like libraries are essentially locations to go engage with, access, manipulate, or otherwise play with the information that is always available.
For the sake of brevity, some other things available are ACLs which control permissions, cones of silence which offer privacy, AVEC which allows communication between the System and Earth, systime which is the calendar used sys-side, and inviting/sweeping, which is how you get others to join you or make them leave your sim.
Notable clades and individuals
You'll probably see the Ode clade mentioned quite a bit (notably May Then My Name Die With Me, The Only Time I Know My True Name Is When I Dream, and Dear, Also, The Tree That Was Felled). This clade is at the center of many events in the Post-Self Cycle, and played a large role in the System becoming what it is. You may also hear about the Bălan clade, which has found itself entangled both professionally and romantically with the Odists. Other names you might hear are the Jonas clade, Debarre, and AwDae/RJ.
Some societal topics
There are some social things that fall out of the mechanics:
- Parallel monogamy: The pattern of cladists forking to track relationships. While the relationships may be monogamous, the clade itself may be in several at once.
- Systechs: These are the people who act as helpers and tech support on the System. They can help you fork, get you out of a bind, or get you set up with the proper ACLs.
- Dissolution strategies: These rough categories describe how a cladist approaches forking and merging:
- Taskers fork primarily to accomplish tasks (and may rarely fork at all), and do not particularly enjoy individuation.
- Trackers fork to track projects, relationships, or various lines of thought. They are more okay with individuation, but are still likely to merge down eventually.
- Dispersionistas fork like crazy and find individuation to be a joy. They are likely to be larger clades with lots of instances who have no plans on merging down.
- The Council of Eight existed early on in the System to act as the technical and political interface with phys-side. It was disbanded in around 2150.
- The Guiding Council only exists on the Launch Vehicle Pollux and has taken a heavier hand in governance.
- The Council of Ten exists within only a portion of the Launch Vehicle Castor, and is related to the Artemisians living there.