The Canal Martians general appearance is similar to that of humans, but they average a foot taller and are quite slender. They have fine hair and pale ocher skin, and some humans feel their large, pointed ears give them a faint resemblance to the elves of human myth. Their hands are similar to a humans except for having only three fingers. They have three-toed feet that bear a vestigal thumb located on what would be called the heel on a human foot. The High Martians still have this thumb and grasp a weapon with their feet nearly as well as with their hands. Humans and Martians can eat the same sort of fare, although Martian cuisine is too spicy for most human palates, and Martians find most human dishes unpalatably bland. Canal Martian dress is too varied to be easily described, but it strikes many observers as reminiscent of the garb of the ancient Egyptians.
The Canal Martians have been civilized for at least 35,000 years and are still consumate farmers, accomplished builders and skilled artisans. But they are obviously a culture in decline, as demonstrated by their inability to maintain the ancient technology of their forebears such as the canal pumping stations. The culture of the Canal Martians is stagnant and unchanging, their arts have become incomprehensibly baroque and degenerate, and their science is without the innovative spark that characterizes human intellectual activity.
The details of government vary from city to city, but most are ruled by hereditary monarchs, called canal princes. Many cities have governing councils of nobles, also hereditary, in addition to the prince. Powerful mercantile families in the larger city-states are often at odds with the nobles. A complex bureaucracy handles the day to day government in the larger city-states. The civil servants are either appointed by the prince or win their positions through competitive tests, as in ancient China. In all cases, the higher levels of government are unalterably corrupt and it is nearly impossible to do anything without multiple payments to officials, inspectors, and bureaucrats.
Illustration and text (adapted) from the Space: 1889 rule book.
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Space:1889 is Frank Chadwick's registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era space-faring. He has granted permission for the use of the background of Space:1889 for the stories presented here. All text, illustrations, photographs and design are © 2000-2007 Dan Thompson, except where otherwise noted.