The culture of the Columbian Empire is very similar to that of the United States. The reader will find much that is familiar.What I want to discuss briefly here are some key differences.
The biggest difference is that in this universe magic is real. There are people who practice magic, witches, and people with magical abilities, fairies, and other beings, such as the tree and water-spirits or numina. Officially and by most of the “normal” populatinon, they are called paranormals, or paras.
There is a cultural divide between the New World and the Old in the acceptance and practice of magic. Beginning in the Elizabethan era, magic and the magical emerged into mainstream life in the British Isles and across Europe and in China and Japan. Among the indigenous populations of the East Indies, much of Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Australia and New Zealand there was no emergence as magic never went into hiding.
Thanks largely in part to the Puritan Exodus from England in the 17th and 18th centuries, acceptance in the Columbian colonies of magic was problematic. Puritan beliefs condemned magic and its practice. The Neo-Puritan Revival in the late mid-to-late 19th century in Columbia led to the Rationalist Reform movement that eventually takes over the country. This takeover culminates in the Glorious Revolution of 1918. Theodore Roosevelt leads a naval flotilla up the Potomac and a cavalry charge down Pennsylvania Avenue. Robert II is forced into exile, his court Merlin is shot, and Theodore Roosevelt takes the throne and begins to make Puritan beliefs the law of the Empire.
At the time of the story, mid-1960s to 2000, paranormals have been deprived of almost all legal and social protection.Fairies, and many witches, have been forced into iron-fenced ghettoes. As witches do not, as a rule, look “nonhuman,” those who are not caught and exterminated or forced into ghettoes, go into hiding and/or pass as normal. Vampires were hunted to extinction, as are most wers (shapeshifters)—a small number are used for experiments or kept in zoos. An even smaller number go into hiding. Those pans, sylvans, and mers, who survived the persecutions, are kept in reservations, or go into hiding. Various small groups have remained free in hiding; hybrids survive by passing as normals after surgery or with drugs and protective magic. Hybrids caught passing are publicly executed, as are witches. Creatures such as dragons are hunted mercilessly, others, such as pegasi, centaurs and unicorns, are in zoos. A few survive in the wild. Magic is prohibited in the New World Alliance (Columbia and other nations on the continents of Northern and Southern Columbia*), per the 1947 Treaty of San Francisco.
The Treaty of San Francisco also specifies a “cordon sanitaire” between the New and the Old. No one from either side is permitted to pass 30 West and 177 East. There is no commerce or communication between New and Old.
When the story begins 56 years have passed the end of the Second Great Crusade. There have been signs of the resurgence of magic, as various resistance groups have been arisen, including Radio Free Columbia (RFC). The Earth itself seems to be in defiance of the triumph of science. Since 1990, earthquakes have become a regular occurrence throughout the NWA. Volcanoes have erupted in completely unexpected places; wild tornadoes and tsunamis have caused much damage. None of this can be explained by NWA scientists or the Church/military. Stories of prophecies of a reckoning due at the Millennium (for the Old World, this comes at Samhain, for the New, January 1) have been spread by word of mouth, via RFC broadcasts, and illegal publications. Of course, in the NWA, especially in Columbia, governments’ reaction has been harsh reprisals, increased restrictions, and the like. Hybrids are especially vulnerable, as they are considered monstrous births, resulting from vile acts of sin. While both human and First Folk sexuality cover the full spectrum, only heterosexuality is legal in NWA territory. Any other sexuality in the human population is considered proof of fairy or magic blood and is punishable by death. Fairies are notorious for their bisexuality and the loose relationships in a nest, which are groupings composed of two or three tetrads and their children. A tetrad is the basic fairy social unit: four souls representing fire, air, water, and earth.
Some other cultural markers of the Columbian Empire include: a culture of secrecy and hiding, even among normals. No one knows just who might be an informant. No one knows just who might turn in a neighbor via the ARMs, Automatic Reporting Machines, that are ubiquitous. Secrets become a form of currency, a source of blackmail. The latter is an accepted part of Columbian life. Columbians tend to rule-followers: if one follows the rules, no one gets in trouble. Authority is not often questioned. Columbian literature and art, over the years, has grown tame and safe (with periodic flareups of nonconformity). The Columbian Empire is not a happy country.
Nations of the New World:
*Northern Columbia: The Empire, the French Kingdom of Quebec, the Caribbean Confederacy, the Mexican Empire. Cuba and Puerto Rico are provinces of Columbia.
Central Columbia: Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica. Panama is a province of the Empire and Guatemala is a province of Mexico.
Southern Columbia: Nueva Granada, The Empire of Brazil, the Andean Alliance, Gran Argentina.