The City of the Saved made its first full appearance as a setting in the novel Of the City of the Saved after mentions in The Book of the War. In 2012, Obverse Books acquired the rights to the City from its creator, Philip Purser-Hallard, and has since published several short story collections using it as a setting.
A view of the City (courtesy of Philip Purser-Hallard) Edit
THE CITY OF THE SAVED: SOME BACKGROUND
The inhabitants of the City of the Saved come from all parts of human history – including any alternative history you care to think of – and from everywhere on the family tree of human species. Broadly speaking, they divide into the resurrectees – the original population who awoke here on Resurrection Day – and their children and descendants, the City-born.
The earliest protohumans to be resurrected are Australopithecines, who are slightly more intelligent than gorillas. Though considered full Citizens, they tend to be found performing manual or domestic jobs, and there are pressure groups who consider them exploited. Later species are closer to full human intelligence, with the Neanderthals, for instance, mixing with the City’s Homo sapiens Citizens on an equal basis.
Also here are Homo sapiens’ descendant species, the hyper-evolved or genetically adapted or part-cybernetic posthumans and transhumans and panhumans whose history stretched trillions of years into our future and far beyond Earth’s solar system.
Resurrectees may have been reborn at any age, with or without the scars, tattoos, amputations and augmentations that they acquired during their lifetimes. They do not age. The City-born do, but only until they reach the age – again, it varies – at which they will spend the rest of their unending lives.
The City is home only to those who are of human descent, however distant. Still, there were aliens during the history of the universe, both humanoid and otherwise, and at times humans interbred or otherwise mingled with them. The resulting partially-human population was also resurrected, but only in the most liberated of Districts are they accepted as equals. These non-Citizens are known as Collaterals, and form the City’s disenfranchised underclass. Utopia is relative.
In the City all these species can interbreed, and some City-born may be peculiar combinations of pre, post- and non-human. In addition, some of the City-‘born’ are in fact constructed artificially from human biomass, usually to resemble popular fictional, mythical or media characters. These ‘Remakes’ include many characters familiar to us, although of course there are many from other cultures and from the City’s own media. (Tales of the Great Detectives, focused on the adventures of some of the many iterations of Sherlock Holmes who have banded together to form The Great Detective Agency).
All of these people are – prior to the events of Of the City of the Saved… – immortal and invulnerable. The City-born take this for granted, but to the resurrected it is a continuing source of astonishment, though many of them have become blasé about it over the centuries. Following the events of the novel, the capacity to harm and kill spreads throughout the City at different rates, turning many Districts into war zones. In this environment, it’s generally the City-born who are at sea.
The people of the City communicate with their neighbours – who may be culturally and ethnically similar to themselves, or may be the exact opposite – using the universal language known as the Civil Tongue, which they were resurrected with full knowledge of. There are variants (Gestural Civil, Radiant Civil, Chromatic Civil and others) for those who communicate in more esoteric ways than voices. All of these variants are – somehow – mutually comprehensible.
The City’s Districts – of which there are in effect uncountably many, each about the size of a large Earthly nation – have their unique cultural identities, within the monolith of diversity which is the City. The buildings, like the people, may resemble those of any era and society, from Iron Age hill-forts to palaces of spun energy: some Districts have a distinctive flavour, while others are a random mishmash. Dotted among the Districts are parks, including the Great Parks, areas of countryside – including rivers, oceans, mountains and more exotic terrain – which may be many times the size of the Earth.
The Districts are represented in the City’s government by Residents, one for each District. It is from their (all but uncountable) numbers that the thousand City Councillors are drawn. The Parks are governed, benevolently but not particularly democratically, by the Parks Corporation.
Looking upwards on a clear day from most places in the City, one will see the sky-dome – an astronomically distant, continuous, plain white surface which provides illumination during the day and darkens at night. In the Parks, one may also see one or more pseudosuns, smallish stars created to enhance the sense of being outdoors. These, too, turn themselves off at night. The City has its own climatic system, and individual Districts have characteristic weather profiles.
Travel between the Districts – and the Parks, though the stations there are fewer – takes place by Tube, a hyperspatial transit system through which chains of carriages travel between fixed points on and beneath the City’s surface. The major Tube lines run North-South and East-West, but break off fractally into innumerable branch lines, the smallest of which allow for travel within Districts on a local level.
The City is the ultimate cultural melting-pot, where every single human culture, past, present or future, rubs against all the rest. To quote the somewhat overblown description in The Book of the War, ‘the City is the site of an eternal self-renewing Renaissance, the art and culture of a million eras blending and evolving in a seething crucible of complexity and influence’. This diversity and creativity applies to visual art, drama, media, literature, music and any number of art forms as yet uninvented.
A major player in the City’s popular culture is BardCorp, a media empire dedicated to exploiting the talents of William Shakespeare. Its most popular product is the guns-‘n’-godlings soap opera The Prosperos, though true media snobs prefer its independent rival, Marlowe’s Faustus Rex. The primary news provider is KaneNet, a corporation run by a Remake of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.
Religion continues to be a vibrant force in the City, with most of the traditional faiths adapting to the changed conditions and spawning a myriad more. Most of them come with their own theories about the creation of the City, and the identity of its Founders or Secret Architects. A few of the more prominent faiths are the Roman Catholic Church and its Conclave of All Popes (who disagree widely with one another, and maintain their own followings); the Human Catholic Church (a schismatic faith led by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, now known as Pope Peter); the ancient Roman religion, which has adapted to incorporate new gods; and the Valites, founded by science fiction author Philip K Dick. Many religions now grow their own gods using the Remake process.
Prior to Of the City of the Saved…, the City is, for most, a glorious, rich and almost universally liberal utopia. Each District has its own political system (though many of them choose a benign anarchy which gives the impression of not being one at all), and any individual is free, by universal accord, to change their District of residence at any time. This means that some Citizens deliberately choose to live under repressive regimes, simply to limit the heady freedom which they find themselves subjected to elsewhere.
An annual holiday commemorates Resurrection Day. Some Citizens also celebrate a ‘rebirthday’, which may be arbitrarily chosen. Other celebrations include ‘Little Resurrection Day’, the anniversary of the re-resurrection of some twenty million Citizens following one of the rare attacks on the City. This is preceded by ‘Verrifant’s Night’, when effigies of the traitorous Lord Mayor who facilitated the attack are defiled in various creative ways.
Chronologically, the City of the Saved is located between the end of our current universe (called the ‘last universe’ in the City) and the beginning of the next. It is a flat disc the size of a spiral galaxy, surrounded by a City wall on which the sky-dome rests. Curvature aside, the surface of the disc resembles ordinary planetary terrain, most of it heavily built upon. Some cultures believe that the City is sentient in itself, and personify it as a goddess, generally known as ‘Civitata’ from her name in the updated Roman religion.
The City walls have Gates to the North, South, East and West. These open on blank void, and are generally agreed to be decorative or educational rather than functional. The City’s fifth Gate is the Uptime Gate, a powerful piece of time-travel technology which opens into the last universe. (The Gate is closed and sealed following the events of Of the City of the Saved…) Rumours persist that there is also a hidden Downtime Gate leading to the next universe, but for our purposes these are only rumours.
Time-travel inside the City is categorically impossible, another fact which some resurrectees have found difficult to adjust to.
Philip has provided a useful chronology of the City from Resurrection Day to the Civil War, at www.infinitarian.com/citychronology.html, marking when particular stories from previous anthologies have been set against the timeline of the City’s history.
Places of note
These are a few of the more significant or interesting places mentioned in the City material to date. Although you’re free to use these in your own stories, it would be far more splendid if they inspired you to make up your own. Remember that the City is almost limitless in size and scope.
Located in the City’s administrative region, Central District, the Watchtower is a tapering buttressed pillar one astronomic unit high – the distance between the Earth and the sun. Containing its own communities full of shops, residences, businesses, parks, galleries, museums and places of worship and learning, it forms three autonomous Districts in its own right. The size of a small continent at its base, it is topped by View Point, a citadel and viewing-platform from which one can view the surrounding City.
Council House and the Chamber of Residents
The City’s administrative bodies are also located in Central District. Council House is a gigantic faux-gothic citadel where the Councillors and their extensive support staff are accommodated, as well as the Council Chamber itself. The Chamber of Residents is a walled amphitheatre the diameter of a gas-giant planet where the representatives of individual Districts can meet in assembly. Fortunately only a small proportion of Residents attend any one session or they’d never fit them all in.
The Uptime Gate
A block of stone a mere mile or so high – and therefore dwarfed by some of the surrounding structures – the Gate stands in Erstwhile Plaza in Central District. Prior to its decommissioning, it is the site of innumerable reunions, partings, pageants and expeditions. The other side of the gate is a settlement named Ascension, a vassal of the City, located on a mountain on a distant planet in the posthuman era.
The University of the Seven Ages
Located in the Central District, the university began life as one of many liberal arts colleges attempting to provide a synthesis of human thought and wisdom through the ages and has since grown in size and importance, if not always wisdom.
The Hollywood to Central District’s Washington DC, Teletopia is the centre of the City’s media industry. Many of its inhabitants are Remakes, while the others mostly come from cultures dedicated to the slavish absorption and propagation of the media. Architecturally, the District resembles every city of the future in any film ever. Especially the giant screens.
The Romuline District
The Romuline is a politically highly influential District. Culturally and architecturally Roman, it is mostly inhabited by resurrectees from the pre-Imperial Roman Republic and their City-born descendants. Slavery is legal here (although living here is of course voluntary, so the slaves can free themselves at any time by leaving). At least one family – the Ignotians – have built a substantial media empire based on both simulated and (as far as possible) real gladiatorial combat. Following the events of Of the City of the Saved…, the family’s head, Councillor Lucius Cassius Ignotus, serves as Lord Mayor of the City.
A would-be-secessionist walled enclave inhabited exclusively by the Manfolk, a species of posthuman warriors displaying extreme sexual dimorphism. The men are aggressive muscular thugs, the women fat and buxom earth-mothers who are almost equally aggressive. The children are, for obscure reasons, all boys. The architecture is brutalist concrete, morbidly overlaid with urban decay. Following the events of Of the City of the Saved…, Manfold becomes a gigantic bomb-crater designated ArenaVille, in which Citizens are invited to work out their differences violently.
Other Districts about which we know a reasonable amount include:
• Araminta District, a submarine city populated by merpeople, or ‘marine Citizens’.
• Bonehall District, culturally Neolithic and dominated by a mysterious piece of art or technology called the Metalith.
• Bostromville District, a constantly shifting network of tubes and nodes with its own gravity system, which simulates life in early space colonies.
• Bribori Zadig, a posthuman giant whose colossal recumbent body forms an honorary District in its own right.
• Cerulean District, which consists of sky in all directions and is inhabited mostly, though not exclusively, by aerial posthumans.
• Godsdice District, a radical liberal enclave where Collaterals are accepted as full Citizens.
• Kempes District, a painfully dull and dismal seaside town.
• Paynesdown District, a film noir dystopia where it nearly always rains.
• Samphire District, home to the rarefied and frankly godlike people of the final human civilisation.
Mappamundi Great Park
One of the smallest Great Parks, but probably the most popular, Mappamundi is a 1:1 scale model of the Earth, perfect in every detail bar the perverse choice of the distorting Mercator Projection to transfer it to a flat surface. Many resurrectees with a nostalgia for Earth have settled here, and some of their settlements – among them Nova Roma, Younger London and Seattle – correspond to the locations of Earth’s original cities.
Technically another Great Park, RealSpace is a sizeable region of the City remodelled to resemble a portion of the last universe, complete with stars, planets and other celestial phenomena. (The effect is compromised by the distant City skyline, which is visible throughout the region.) RealSpace is used by the Citizens as a gigantic space-opera theme park, equipped with replicas of real and fictional spacecraft and replete with opportunities for exploration and mock-combat. It also houses some of the Citizens whose exotic biologies make the Earthlike conditions of the majority of the City uncomfortable for them.
The site of one of the few attacks from outside in the City’s history, known as the Timebeast Assault, Memorial Park occupies the remains of what was once Snakefell District. The Park has been left as a wasteland in which a vast block of obsidian records the names of twenty million Citizens who perished (although they got better later). It gets blown up in Of the City of the Saved…, but may well be rebuilt afterwards.
Fictional Overview Edit
The City is a galaxy sized conglomeration at/just beyond the end of the current universe and before the creation of the next universe, in which every human being or pseudo-human being who’s ever lived currently resides in functionally immortal and unharmable bodies. Each person is reborn with their full memories up until the moment of their deaths in a body that best resembles their self-image (called in story an "imago"). It is virtually impossible to change that imago, however various techonlogies exist that enable short- and long-term alterations to be made (Lost Ships and Lost Lands). This is, in the most part, a good thing, meaning those crippled by the ravages of time awoke in bodies free from pain, but in some cases (particularly citizens who died in childhood) would mean they were trapped in less than optimal bodies (such as in the aforementioned case of children, stuck at age 11 forever), "Of the City of the Saved..." tells the story of Roman Emperor Claudius' first love who was reborn in the body of a child, making a restablished relationship between them (given he was reborn in a body modelled on how he looked when he was anointed as Emperor) impossible.
For the vast majority of humanity, the City is a second chance, a chance to achieve things they never managed in their first lives. However, for those who in their first lives were people of power and influence, City life could be torture. For example, Henry Tudor died King of England and a mover-and-shaker in the political landscape of his time. In the City however, he was simply one former king of many millions. While man other former royalty built lives for themselves but a few, like Henry, would go to great lengths to regain power. Even as far as alli with criminal elements (The Queen of Clubs).
Although the City is vast enough to encompass all political systems and world views, almost universally those who are of less than 100% Human extraction (such as half-breeds with alien parentage, or those who underwent genetic alteration in order to survive on their adopted home worlds) are viewed as second-class citizens. This is something that citizens such as Grandfather Halfling (himself a child of mixed human and Great Houses parentage) Amanda Legend Lefcourt (a City-born human) are campaigning to change (The Book of the War).
Also within City society are "Remakes" which are fictional beings brought to life, if rumours are to be believed, via processes similar to those that gave new life to common humanity. One of the most famous groups of Remakes can be found in "The Great Detectives Agency", which as the name implies is composed of various versions of Sherlock Holmes (and their attendant Doctor Watsons). Remakes adhere so closely to how they were initially written that criminal Remakes are frowned upon by City society (for example, the only known Remakes of Professor Moriarty are either in prison serving million year sentences or kept under lock and key in asylums) (Tales of the Great Detectives). Most Remakes fulfilled roles similar, if not identical, to those originally written for them, but some like one specific Richard the third (modelled, he tells us on the Sir Ian McKellen performance of the role) became a Philip Marlowe inspired private detective (The Mystery of the Rose).
The most notable feature of the City, however, is the immortality of the inhabitants. For much of humanity, whose lives were short, painful and fear-filled, such a boon was literally a gift from God (or Gods, or Goddesses ...). However, as Laura Tobin, the original iteration of Compassion, would discover in the course of pursuing her career as a private detective, certain artefacts existed, dubbed Potent Weapons, that could permanently harm, even kill, a citizen. These weapons would become the focus of a number of groups, nor more influential than the City Council and none more worrisome than the legions of anarchists, fascists and troublemakers that inhabited the City (Of the City of the Saved... and Tales of the Civil War).
- The Book of the War (ed Lawrence Miles, 2002)
- Of the City of the Saved... (Philip Purser-Hallard, 2003)
- Tales of the City (ed Philip Purser-Hallard, 2012)
- More Tales of the City (ed Philip Purser-Hallard, 2013)
- Tales of the Great Detectives (ed Philip Purser-Hallard, 2014)
- Furthest Tales Of The City (ed Philip Purser-Hallard, 2015)
- Tales of the Civil War (ed Philip Purser-Hallard, 2017)