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New Crobuzon

New Crobuzon is a fictional city-state created by China Miéville. It is prominently featured in both Perdido Street Station and Iron Council, and serves as a plot device and background for The Scar. It will soon be the focus of Adamant Entertainment's RPG, Tales of New Crobuzon, scheduled for release in fall 2009.

Geography, environs and climate

New Crobuzon claims dominion over a watershed along the eastern seaboard of the Rohagi continent, on the world of Bas-Lag. The city itself is situated around the Rivers Tar and Canker, whose confluence forms the wider and more navigable Gross Tar. It is the Gross Tar that connects New Crobuzon to the Iron Bay, ten miles east of the city. The mountains that separate New Crobuzon from the rest of Rohagi are called the Dancing Shoe Mountains.

The basin occupied by New Crobuzon is vast, and its terrain varies greatly. Northwest of the city is described in The Scar as an uninhabited "expanse of scrub and marsh," ending eventually at the feet of the Bezhek Mountains. Immediately to the south lies a substantial forest called the Rudewood, beyond which is found an area called the Wetlands. Eventually, the Wetlands give way to the Mendican Hills. Beyond this is the Grain Spiral: an agricultural region that supplies New Crobuzon with much of its food.

Various tributary settlements dot the lands surrounding New Crobuzon. Most are little more than agrarian hamlets, though one, Tarmuth at the mouth of the Gross Tar River, is notable enough to earn mention in The Scar.

In terms of climate, New Crobuzon occupies a temperate zone with regular seasonal changes. As in the real world's northern hemisphere, the autumn and winter seasons are colder than the spring and summer. New Crobuzon was capable of controlling, or at least greatly influencing, local weather earlier in its history through the use of an "aeromorphic engine." This device has not functioned for over five centuries, however.

Calendar

New Crobuzon operates on a standard day, week, month calendar. Years are denoted as Anno Urbis, and are presumably counted forward from the city-state's founding — i.e., 1,779 years after the establishment of the city is listed as "Anno Urbis 1779," or simply "1779."

Details regarding the New Crobuzon calendar are murky. The novels name seven days — Dustday, Blueday, Fishday, Dockday, Chainday, Skullday and Shunday — which loosely imply a seven-day week. The year has twelve months, but only ten are mentioned: Lunuary, Soluary, Chet, Melluary, Tathis, Sinn, Octuary, Rinden, Arora and Dust. Chet, Melluary, Tathis and Sinn seem to constitute some of New Crobuzon's spring and summer months, and Rinden is implied as falling within the bounds of late autumn or winter.

History and timeline

History

The history of New Crobuzon prior to about 1500 is obscure and sparsely-detailed. None of the novels account for the city's origins, though presumably it was named after some predecessor-state — an "old" Crobuzon, as it were — and none provide any details about its first millennium of existence. The oldest documented event of New Crobuzon's past is the arrival of individual khepri traders between the years 1000 and 1100, perhaps resultant of a merchant-explorer named Seemly making contact with their homeland on the continent of Bered Kai Nev. Two centuries later, an unnatural meteorological phenomenon battered the city, prompting the construction of the weather-controlling aeromorphic engine. This event, called a "Torque storm," was presumably followed by the "Full Years" — an era of indeterminate length which a character in The Scar suggests was New Crobuzon's golden age.

New Crobuzon's fortunes waned during the final decades of the 1400s, and it is from this point that the city-state's history becomes more detailed. The Full Years ended around 1500 with the construction of Bas-Lag's most magnificent and ineffectual warship, the Grand Easterly. Shortly thereafter, New Crobuzon found itself embroiled in an epic military campaign referred to as the Pirate Wars, during which the Grand Easterly was captured by the pirate-city called Armada. New Crobuzon emerged from the Pirate Wars victorious in 1544, after obliterating the rival city-state of Suroch with "Torque bombs." It was around this time that the Weaver assumed residency beneath the city and the aeromorphic engine ceased working properly.

A hundred years after emerging from the Pirate Wars, New Crobuzon's government dispatched a small scientific expedition to the ruins of Suroch. Many of the expedition died, in horrible and bizarre fashion, as a result of the still-prevalent fallout. The scene was so horrific that one of the expedition's men felt the public should know of the damage wrought by Torque weaponry. He published his reports and heliotypes, against the wishes of the mayor and Parliament, and thus sparked the Sacramundi Riots of 1689, which a protagonist in Perdido Street Station claims "damn-near brought the government down."

More-or-less concurrent with this event was the khepri forced-migration to New Crobuzon. Their homeland had been devastated years before by a mysterious disaster referred to as the "Ravening", prompting an exodus to continents unknown. For over two decades, khepri arrived in New Crobuzon's ports, eventually settling into ghettos where they were relatively safe from persecution.

Perdido Street Station begins and ends in the summer of 1779. The Scar opens some five or six months later, and concludes in 1780. New Crobuzon is plagued with troubles throughout the span of those two years: labor strikes, civil unrest, an epidemic of nightmares spawned by exotic moth-creatures, and an abortive war with Armada, to name but a few.

The events of The Scar and Iron Council are separated by a span of almost thirty years — the latter opens in 1805 and closes the following year. During the elapsed decades, New Crobuzon's problems grow exponentially. An effort by one of the city's private corporations to build a railway across the width of Rohagi fails, the city violently purges itself of its previously-clandestine population of sentient machines, economic depression sets in, and hostility towards the government increases. At some point between 1780 and 1804, New Crobuzon entered into a war against the nation of Tesh. By the end of The Scar, civil unrest had grown to the point that martial law was necessary to keep the reigning government in power.

Timeline

0 AU (anno urbis; lat. for year of the town): Founding of New Crobuzon.

circa 1000 - 1100: The merchant-explorer Seemly makes contact with the khepri of Bered Kai Nev. Khepri traders begin to arrive in New Crobuzon.

c. 1300: New Crobuzon is battered by a Torque storm; the aeromorphic engine is constructed.

c. 1300 - 1500: The "Full Years." New Crobuzon is at the height of its militaristic and economic might.

c. 1500: The completion of the Grand Easterly marks the official end of the Full Years.

c. 1500 - 1544: The Pirate Wars. The Grand Easterly is captured by Armada.

1544: New Crobuzon obliterates the rival city-state of Suroch with "Torque bombs," thereby ending the Pirate Wars. The Weaver assumes residency beneath New Crobuzon.

c. 1644: The New Crobuzon government sponsors a scientific expedition to the ruins of Suroch.

1689: One of the Suroch-expedition's survivors, named Sacramundi, publishes his photographs and notes without government approval. The public is so horrified that riots break out throughout New Crobuzon.

c. 1689 - 1709: The khepri migrate to New Crobuzon from their home continent in the wake of the Ravening.

1779 - 1780: The events of Perdido Street Station take place during the summer. Between six and eight months later, the events of The Scar take place.

c. 1780 - 1804: New Crobuzon goes to war with the rival city-state of Tesh.

1793: The Construct Wars. New Crobuzon purges itself of its automaton population.

1805 - 1806: The events of the Iron Council take place.

Government and politics

The New Crobuzon government styles itself a parliamentary republic, but in actuality it is an authoritarian oligarchy with mercantile and colonialistic ambitions.

Executive branch

At the helm of the New Crobuzon's political machine is the mayor, whose office is apparently obtained in a manner akin to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In Perdido Street Station and Iron Council, the mayor is depicted as possessing powers bordering on the dictatorial. In Perdido Street Station, for example, Mayor Bentham Rudgutter orders the abduction and torture of suspected dissidents without restriction, and entirely on his own initiative.

Known mayors

  • Bentham Rudgutter is the mayor of New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station and The Scar. He is a somewhat two-dimensional embodiment of corrupt government authority, emotionally bankrupt and stoic under pressure, with little personality or motivation beyond his desire to maintain the status quo. Perdido Street Station apparently grants only a snapshot of his rather lengthy administration; in Iron Council he is described as having been mayor "forever". He has a problem with his eyes which requires them to be repeatedly replaced.
  • Collod, whose mayoralty is called "ghastly" in Perdido Street Station. It is implied that he had Cactacae farms, but the exact meaning of this term is never explained.
  • Dagman Beyn, whose mayoralty is two centuries gone by the time of Perdido Street Station, and lasted through part or all of the Pirate Wars. He is notable for having been mayor when the Weaver assumed residency beneath the city.
  • Eliza Stem-Fulcher served Rudgutter as his calculating, cold and unflappable Home Secretary in Perdido Street Station. By the time Iron Council opens, she has become mayor in her own right, having succeeded Rudgutter upon his death. The admittedly biased protagonists of Iron Council attribute all manner of atrocities to her and her administration, and she is portrayed in that novel as racist, reactionary and venal.
  • Mantagony was briefly mentioned in Perdido Street Station and was noted only for being mayor at the time the bio-philosopher Calligine successfully had himself Remade with mechanical wings. His or her tenure was during the late 1600s.
  • Tremulo the Reformer, who earned his sobriquet by building low-income and veterans' housing in and among the neighborhoods of the city's rich. In Iron Council, his mayoralty is said to have occurred "two centuries past," shortly after Dagman Beyn's.
  • Triesti, about whom nothing is known beyond the name. He or she assumed the mayoralty upon the assassination of Stem-Fulcher.
  • Turgisadi was mayor about a century prior to the events of Perdido Street Station. He is mentioned only in passing by one of that novel's protagonists.

Legislative branch

New Crobuzon's elected Parliament ostensibly holds legislative authority, though it is characterized as stagnant and feckless in Perdido Street Station, much like the Roman Senate after the rise of the Empire. Parliament is divided among a handful of political parties, which the protagonists in both Perdido Street Station and Iron Council consider nothing more than an old boy network.

Known political parties

Four political parties are mentioned in Perdido Street Station, with another, the New Quill Party, appearing in Iron Council.

  • Diverse Tendency Characters in Perdido Street Station imply that the Diverse Tendency Party represents New Crobuzon's non-human ("xenian") population. One protagonist in that novel refers to them as "comprador scum.". Diverse Tendency's pro-xenian preachings are genrally regarded by seditionist eyes as a ploy to capture liberalist votes
  • Fat Sun: The majority party in Parliament during Perdido Street Station and Iron Council, and presumably in The Scar. During the events of "Perdido Street Station", the city is ruled by Mayor Rudgutter. By the time of "Iron Council", Rudgutter's Home Secretary, Eliza Stem-Fulcher has taken over as mayor.
  • Finally We Can See: Seems to be an idealist pseudo-liberal party though none of their actual policies are described in the books
  • New Quill: Founded on hatred for all non-human races, the New Quill Party may be a splinter group of the Three Quills Party. In Iron Council, its adherents are described as wearing bowler hats, ill-fitting blazers and iron-toed boots.
  • Three Quills: It is implied in Perdido Street Station and Iron Council that the Three Quills is a party formed on a racist platform. Its members seem opposed to all non-human races (called "xenians").

Judicial branch

As in the real world, New Crobuzon's judiciary concerns itself primarily with hearing disputes and passing sentence upon transgressors. The judges of New Crobuzon are referred to as "Magisters," and all operate under false names to protect themselves from possible retribution. It is implied that they wear masks while holding court.

Punishment at the hands of the New Crobuzon justice system is a harsh and terrifying affair. Crimes ranging from petty theft to murder are almost invariably punished with lengthy prison sentences and Remaking — a grotesque, painful process whereby a person's body is intentionally mutilated.

Suffrage and elections

Suffrage in New Crobuzon is not universal. Those who pay sufficient tax (this is not a Poll tax, rather an automatic qualification) gain suffrage automatically. Anyone else seeking the vote must enter their name into a "Suffrage Lottery," the winners of which are permitted to cast their ballot. Left-wing groups and seditionist cells believe this system is highly corrupt.

Armed forces

The Militia acts not only as New Crobuzon's police force, but also as its standing army and an intelligence-gathering operation. In Perdido Street Station, the Militia resembles "secret police," maintaining order not through uniformed enforcers but rather through double agents, paid informants, blackmail and above all fear. Thirty years later, in Iron Council, they patrol the streets of New Crobuzon openly and are employed as soldiers against the rival nation of Tesh. At all times, the militia is hooded or masked.

New Crobuzon also maintains a navy, which in times of peace serves to protect the city-state's shipping interests. In The Scar, about half of the New Crobuzon navy is deployed against Armada, and though it loses the engagement it is nevertheless described as a fairly intimidating force that inflicts substantial damages on the pirate-nation.

Seditious groups

An illegal newspaper entitled Runagate Rampant is portrayed as New Crobuzon's primary source of opposition and dissent in Perdido Street Station. The staff of the Double-R, as it is colloquially known, operates through a cell structure, so as to best evade government capture.

Dissatisfaction with the existing government is so widespread by the time of Iron Council that numerous other seditionist groups have formed. Though factious and disparate, these groups attempt to coordinate their activities through a loose alliance called the Caucus. The staff of Runagate Rampant, meanwhile, is portrayed as having devolved into an ineffective gaggle of leftist intellectuals, content to spend their nights complaining about New Crobuzon's government but never actually taking action.

Other notable anti-government forces include:

  • The Flexible Puppeteers: A subversive group of performance artists, named in memory of a previous editor of the Runagate Rampant, Benjamin Flex who was captured, tortured and executed by Rudgutter's government during the novel Perdido Street Station.
  • The fReemade: Nominally led by Jack Half-A-Prayer during the 1770s — and perhaps earlier — the fReemade are Remade who refuse to accept their fate as slaves to the state. They operate in small groups, or individually, both within the city and without. Many become brigands, bandits and urban terrorists.
  • Toro's Gang: A small band of urban terrorists, they fight against the tyranny of Parliament in a more literal sense. They were led by a Remade who wore a giant metal helmet shaped in the head of a bull — hence the group's name.

City layout and boroughs

  • Salacus Fields: A bohemian district, popular amongst the left-wing inhabitants of New Crobuzon. Many artists either live or work in this district and it is notably more socially progressive and liberal than other districts. By the time of Iron Council it is considered by protagonists to have become something of a Bourgeois bohemian district, largely abandoned by the more radical artists.
  • Brock Marsh: A scientific district. Because followers of Bas-Lagian science include a broad mix of physicists; chymists; necrochymists; mathematicians; karcists thaumaturgists and more, the combined waste products of the inhabitants of Brock Marsh can be both dangerous and random. Badgers make popular messenger animals because of their natural immunity to these factors.
  • Kinken: A khepri ghetto, although most of the buildings are originally of the same construct as the rest of the city, they have been extensively remodelled by home beetles. Kinken is essentially the centre of khepri culture on Bas-Lag, as it is inhabited by the descendants of the last survivors of the khepri civilisation, who fled an unspecified catatrophe on a distant continent.
  • Creekside: Khepri slum, does not make the displays of khepri history as its more affluent cousin Kinken does. Some residents of Creekside feel that Kinken has no real claim on true khepri culture and simply flaunts a recycled version of what little was preserved when the khepri made their exodus to New Crobuzon.
  • Flag Hill: The elite district, full of bankers, officials, wealthy artists, and captains of industry. It is described in Iron Council as a place of "wide-open ways and sumptuous houses sheer onto the streets, backing on to shared gardens".
  • Smog Bend (industry), also known as Didacai Village.
  • Sunter (industry)
  • Griss Twist: formerly industrial area, now huge industrial junkyard and waste storage area. By the time of Perdido Street Station, it has became the dwelling of Construct Council.
  • Kelltree (docks)
  • Gross Coil (docks and industry)
  • Echomire (docks and industry)
  • Sobek Croix (has large gardens)
  • Spatters (lawless slum, garuda ghetto)
  • Chimer (slum)
  • Dog Fenn (slum)
  • Badside (slum)
  • The Crow (city centre)
  • Sheck: part of Old Town. Lower-to-middle class and well-paid specialist workers live here. Crowded district, irregularly built up with old brick houses.
  • Spit Hearth: part of Old Town. Triangular district, built up with old stone houses. Notorious for it's punishment factories near the river; they supply city with Remade.
  • Petty Coil: part of Old Town. Previously elite district, with wide streets and great mansions, it was abandoned by rich inhabitants disturbed by smog and noise from industry of Griss Twist across the river. Many mansions were rebuilt and became homes for craftsmen. Some houses in Petty Coil are almost thousand years old; Cockscomb Bridge in Petty Coil is mentioned in Perdido Street Station as one of oldest city's buildings.
  • Rim (part of old town)
  • Serpolet (middle-class suburb)
  • Gallmarch (middle-class suburb)
  • Bonetown: A poor district, known for its random, maze-like streets and named for the Ribs -- its prominent landmark feature of a gargantuan, partially buried skeleton. The origin of the bones is unknown, but they have mystical emanations, seemingly causing increased misfortunes and accidents during construction attempts in the area.
  • Glasshouse: A Cactacae ghetto, this suburb is literally a giant greenhouse that preserves the temperature and humidity levels that the desert-dwelling Cactacae prefer. However, it can contain only third of Cactacae population, so many of them inhabit northern Riverskin around Glasshouse.
  • Flyside: Poor district, crowded and cheap but not particularly dangerous.
  • Riverskin: Location of Glasshouse, this district is built-up with old tall timber-frame houses. It's southern part is much like Flyside it adjoined. Northern part of Riverskin is the location of Glasshouse and dwelling of lower-class Cactacae.

Science, technology and magic

New Crobuzon's technological capabilities are decidedly steampunk: difference engines, advanced clockwork "constructs", helium-balloon airships, firearms, primitive photography and coal-powered trains and ships all abound in the three Bas-Lag novels. Yet despite all this, the citizens of New Crobuzon seem, by the 1700s, to merely be utilizing the inventions left to them by their ancestors. They apparently do not have the know-how necessary to repair the city's aeromorphic engine, for example, and widespread fear of artificially-intelligent machines prompts the New Crobuzon government to destroy its population of constructs between 1780 and 1805. New Crobuzon seems to be limping along in terms of scientific and technological achievement, having devolved significantly since its heyday hundreds of years prior. Occasionally, a new technology may be rediscovered, and it is suggested in Iron Council that the phonograph may be an example of this.

Where science fails, however, magic steps in. New Crobuzon harbors a large population of magic-users — broadly referred to as "thaumaturges" — who are capable of earning a substantial living from their craft. The Militia utilizes thaumaturges, as does organized crime and private industry. Bio-thaumaturges often find work as ReMakers; their skills allow them to do virtually any transplant or alteration without causing lethal trauma to the victim, potentially making them master surgeons. Such a practitioner is yet to be seen, however, and the post seems to attract sadistic psychopaths who relish the opportunity to inflict a fate worse than death on sentenced criminals. In the pirate city of Armada, though, there exist Remakers whose craft is not used for punishment but for bodily augmentation. The arcane is treated like a science, with courses available on the subject at New Crobuzon's eponymous university; senior members of the faculty are often tied to the higher level of government.

Following the purge of constructs, golemetrists - thaumaturges specialising in the construction of golems - have risen in demand. Golems in New Crobuzon and Bas-Lag can be made of any substance or abstract concept. In Iron Council there are golems made of (among other things) water, light, sound, corpses, railway tracks, stone and even time. A somewhat similar brand of magic is the ability to summon and control elementals, performed by thaumaturges called elementarii. Some of the more bizarre types seen in Bas-Lag include moonlight and flesh elementals.

See also

References

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