The Jokka are a roughly bronze-age alien race with three sexes who have a chance to turn from one sex to another at two separate puberties. Recent climate changes have been harsh on them, and the breeding sexes are particularly prone to strokes that result in a complete amnesia known as the mind-death. There are several short stories in this universe as well as a trilogy of full-length novels (The Worth of a Shell
, Pearl in the Void
, and A Bloom in the North
This story provides examples of:
- After the End: The continent is spotted with ruins of a fallen past civilization. No one is sure what happened though. In A Bloom in the North it is revealed that a meteor struck the continent, and killed off many plants that were nutritionally essential to the Jokka.
- Bizarre Alien Sexes: Jokka have three, emodo (male), anadi (female), and eperu (neuter). And they can change sexes sometimes.
- Death by Childbirth: Physical death is uncommon, mind-death disturbingly common.
- Death of Personality: The mind-death is an ever-present threat for any Jokka who suffers physical trauma, especially for anadi giving birth. And it's caused by malnutrition
- The Empire: The Stone Moon reunites the continent, first by offering lost technologies recovered from archives and lots of shell, then by force when that doesn't work.
- The Emperor: Roika is a somewhat well-intentioned emperor with some unnecessarily oppressive methods. His successor Pathen is more the benevolent and effective type.
- Het is Ew: Jokka culture discourages long-term relationships between sexes as childbirth commonly results in mind-death. Also eperu are thought to have no sex drive. This custom is codified into law by the Stone Moon.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Starting in Pearl of the Void Roika suffers from "the black-spit death". It dissuades assassination attempts by both Keshul and Thenet.
- Lost Technology: Things such as irrigation, and road-building, which the Stone Moon offers hets in order to put them under their sway.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Roika, upon finding a thriving egalitarian society on the northern continent where the mind-death is practically unknown, and realizing that all the atrocities he committed in the name of saving the species were for naught.
- No Blood Ties: Jokka houses are bound by contracts rather than blood, children are bred as an unwelcome duty to the house, often by deals with other houses that sell their anadi's wombs.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Anadi have human-like breasts. They have hair (albeit just a mane) so they are like mammals but there aren't any mammals that change genders.
- Not-So-Phony Psychic: Keshul, a fortune-teller, in Fire in the Void initially believes that he's just scribbling nonsense and telling his clients common sense. Then his fortunes start to become shockingly accurate. In Pearl in the Void he finds even more reasons to believe in his power.
- Polyamory: In Unspeakable Nashada doesn't seem to have a problem sharing Tanel with Ekkuli. Then there's Keshul, Dekashin, and Bilil, a triad with all three sexes. And triads are apparently the norm on the northern continent.
- Sex Shifter: Jokka can change genders at two points in their life, once in the first seven years of their life and again in the second seven. Some never Turn, others Turn once, some Turn then Turn back to their original gender, and a few rare individuals have the chance to be all three sexes.
- Weird Currency: Seashells are used as currency, because the nearest ocean is past a nigh-impassable mountain range so they are rare. The Stone Moon switches to square metal coins.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Roika builds his brutal empire that treats anadi even worse than the existing culture in order to save the Jokka from extinction. However some of his edicts, such as the virtual enslavement of the eperu and banning of all heterosexual relationships are out of spite.