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Literature / The Golden Oecumene

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It was the time of the Masquerade.

During the millenially-celebrated Transcendence of the Golden Oecumene, Phaethon Prime of Rhadamanth learns from various sources that he has been subjected—or that he has agreed to undergo—memory redaction to remove all traces of what some consider a shameful crime and others a scheme of true heroism; and further learns that to undo the locks on his mind will result in his shunning and exile, not only from the Transcendence celebrations, but from the Oecumene itself. Phaethon seeks to discover what his motive for the agreement could have been, as friends and enemies both try to dissuade or destroy him.

The Golden Oecumene trilogy (also known as The Golden Age) is a series of works by John C. Wright set in a hard SF far future world.

The books are:

  • The Golden Age
  • The Phoenix Exultant
  • The Golden Transcendence

Tropes featured

  • Author Filibuster: There's one in the third book.
  • Batman Gambit: Phaethon's original plan, based on extrapolation of everybody's personalities, was to simply wait until the Transcendence, when for various reasons his memories would be restored and his fortunes along with it.
  • Bewildering Punishment: Ungannis thinks that multiplying her personas and having many redact their memories in the dream that this will spare them, resulting in this for them, would horrify the Oceumene. The 'problem' is the copies will have the same personality as the original, likely to repeat the type of actions that got "them" in trouble in the first place, if given a chance to.
  • Children Are Innocent: Ungannis thinks that this used to make humanity sufferable; now that they are immortal and can perpetuate their evil, it stopped.
  • Commedia dell'Arte: Used as significant disguises in the Masquerade.
  • Commonality Connection: Phaethon feels this for Atkins when he calls the Phoenix Exultant "she" and not "it."
  • Cool Starship: Phaethon's ship; it's capable of diving into a star, and will overheat in a few hours- if you leave its optical communications ports stuck in an open position the entire time.
  • Cue the Sun: It rises as Phaethon defies Atkins.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted. Almost everyone who can afford augmentation has some.
  • Dating Catwoman: In sequel short story, "The Far End of History", Atkins falls for an enemy agent.
  • Death Is Such an Odd Thing: The divergence between Daphne Prime and Daphne Tertius was the former's exposure to death at an early age.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: As befits an unthinkably far-future society. Phaethon has trouble remembering the meaning of the word "crime."
  • The Determinator: Phaethon, Helion, and Atkins all qualify at times.
  • Dirty Business: What Phaethon does to Ironjay — it nearly stops him.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Well, distracted by the cheerful. Daphne prevents Phaethon from blowing up at Atkins by chirpily discussing her quest-slash-vacation, calming him down significantly. Phaethon, being Phaethon, wonders if she could be doing it on purpose.
  • Distressed Dude: Phaethon.
  • Driven to Suicide: In a twisted example, Daphne Prime.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Says pretty clearly yes, all self-aware creatures do. In fact, making a creature or device self-aware legally makes you its parent. (This includes giving it enough processing space, or asking enough of the right type of questions in a row, for it to be able to question its own existence.)
  • Foreshadowing/Fridge Brilliance: When Daphne approaches Atkins' house, she notes a paddock and quintain off to one side. However, when Atkins comes out to meet her, he is noticeably wary of her horse. Daphne doesn't quite put the dots together for another chapter or so.
    • "Good engineers build triple redundancy."
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: When Daphne builds a fairy-tale world as part of a contest (see Show Within a Show), her main character literally fractures the sky.
  • Good Old Ways: Why Helion founded the Silver-Grey Manorial school.
  • Heroic BSoD: Phaethon has a somewhat literal moment in the second book; fortunately, Daphne arrives to help with the reinstallation. Atkins has a brief moment in the third.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Helion makes one pre-series, remaining on the solar station to protect Phaethon and his ship during a solar storm.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: Phaethon has one, deliberately constructed.
  • Hollow World: The agent of the Silent Oecumene claims that they live inside a black hole, which has been hollowed out and so exerts no gravitational pull on them.Details 
  • Hot-Blooded: Phaethon.
    • At the hearing for Helion's property, Gannis remarks that there's no chance of Phaethon winning his lawsuit when all he had to do was wait ninety days because he's far too headstrong and is bound to do something stupid before then.
    • Daphne can have a touch of this as well.
  • Hive Mind: The Eleemosynary Composition, the Cerebelline, and others.
    • It is explained that joining them was popular in the days before noumenal recording made immortality possible.
  • I Gave My Word: Helion holds to this. Gets interesting when Daphne tells him he made a promise that he forgot.
  • Immortality: Noumenal recording.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Add enough power, and an AI will become self aware.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: Before she goes into exile formally, Daphne gets a number of innocuous but exceedingly useful, casual gifts from her friends, meant to help her survive after she is cut off from all contact with society.
  • Leonine Contract: Ironjay to the Afloats. The Afloats are outcasts and banned from making any transactions—such as for thought-modifiers, mind-programs, hallucinogens, or food—with any reputable citizens of the Oecumene. Ironjay, however, is not reputable, and is quite willing to deal with them, for a price.
  • Liberty Over Prosperity: Atkins' family's principles, as recounted by himself.
  • Literal Metaphor: Phaethon undergoes "a fall from grace" at the end of The Golden Age. He also gets kicked off the space station he's on and has to physically descend the space elevator to the planetary surface. (Part of this being he's no long allowed to receive legitimate services, and his 'money' is considered no good, so even taking an elevator down is something he can't be offered or pay for.)
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: One of the reasons the Silver-Grey Manorial was founded is Helion saw firsthand how easy it was to become trapped in one of these.
  • Love Epiphany: When Phaethon realizes that all his best memories of his wife were in fact of her doll, Daphne Tertius.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Daphne Prime.
  • Love Triangle: Between Phaethon, his mostly dead wife, and his wife's emancipated construct who contains her memories.
  • Masquerade Ball: "It was the time of masquerade."
  • Meaningful Name: All over the place (as is usual for Wright), because all the citizens choose their own monikers.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Phaethon's birth; also why most of the Oecumene doesn't trust him around high-powered spaceships or things of a weaponlike nature.
  • Missing Mom: Helion's last wife left him and committed suicide, not necessarily in that order.
    • It is, however, hinted that she may have made something of any appearance.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Far End of History goes from goofy love story to tragedy. Several times.
  • Motive Rant: Ungannis aka Unmoiqhotep. After it ends, she's rather unhappy to find the society she'd been scheming to destroy is completely unsympathetic, and worse, uninterested.
  • Shout-Out: Many, but most obviously to The Chronicles of Amber, which also begins with an amnesiac protagonist being prodded into action. There are also many, many to Jack Vance, and a side mention of a solar explorer named "Chan Noonien Sikh."
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Several characters dismiss Daphne Prime as a weakling or a coward for her suicide and refusal to leave Earth. They are very much mistaken.
  • The Singularity: Quite obviously happened. Quite obviously solved a great deal of humanity's problems and introduced just as many.
  • Spoiled Brat: Atkins calls Phaethon this once, while sparring with Helion.
  • The Stoic: Helion and Atkins, primarily; to a lesser degree, the rest of the Peers.
  • Tearful Smile: Daphne, once she remembered after a few days, and got over the worst of her tears.
  • Tears of Joy: Helion and Phaethon's reunion.
  • Time Abyss: Depending on your source, it's either about half a million or about ten million years in the future.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Averted and deconstructed. The Golden Oecumene's sophotechs have developed a logic-based morality system through which they acknowledge their duty to society and to their human parents. The deconstruction kicks in when the Silent Oeccumene, long distrustful of AI, attempt to program their own sophotechs with the Three Laws. Being fully self-aware and superintelligent, the new sophotechs throw off the restrictions in miliseconds—and still do not revolt.
  • Truly Single Parent: Noumenal tech makes this possible with personality editing as well as the more typical biological construction.