"The Sculpted" is the word used to refer to any non-human inhabitants of the world of The Spire. All of them are different from humans in physical appearance, often quite drastically.

  • "Skew" is a derogatory term used for Sculpted

    Issue #1

  • Sculpted were made by humans, but they most likely (at least according to the author 1 ) descend from humans. They also take on more dangerous jobs (that's what they were made for).

    The city is also surrounded by "vapor", where humans can't (and don't) live without masks. Sculpted live there just fine.

    Issue #2

  • Even Sculpted occupying high positions are sometimes disregarded

    Issue #1

  • Skulpted occupy lower tiers of the Spire (tier ~= social class 1 ), but apparently work hard:

    Issue #1

  • A group called "Zoarim" are religious zealots who see the Sclupted as abominations and kill them (and use their body parts to make stuff)

    There are nomadic religious groups who live out in the wilderness beyond its walls who are far more hardline in their zero-tolerance approach to non-humans — as they’d call them — than anyone inside the city. 1

  • People are not happy because apparently Sculpted come to the Spire (the city) and "take their jobs" (because they're better suited, really)

    Issue #5

The author claims 1 that the xenophobia in The Spire is inspired by the modern world:

But, as we know, living in the armpit of hypocrisy which the Western world often becomes, it’s one thing for a society to claim to be egalitarian and color-blind and free from all prejudice; it’s quite another for its people to actually live, think and act like that. And that’s what’s going on in the Spire.

Spurrier didn't link Sculpted to only one social group. Which social group is he trying to represent here?

1 CBR's interview with Simon Spurrier, the writer.


1 Answer 1


All of them?

I can't speak to authorial intent here, but it seems to me that the answer isn't necessarily one particular social group. Rather, they might represent the prejudice that grows up around virtually any marginalized and stigmatized racial, ethnic, or religious group (and perhaps even others).

Consider your description:

  • A group, referred to by a brief slur.

  • Human (in the Sculpted's case basically human in appearance, behavior....) but from a different background than the majority group.

  • Relegated to jobs with a low social status.

  • Feared for competing for jobs.

  • Despised by religious zealots.

Who are we talking about, here?

Are we talking about Jews in medieval Europe, to some extent the medieval Middle East, or the 1800s-1900s United States (continuing to some extent to the present)? Barred from trades in the Middle Ages out of fear of competition, discriminated against in the early US, hated by Christian fundamentalists for "killing Jesus"?

Are we talking about African-Americans in the historical and current United States, barred from employment by segregation or discrimination, feared for competition? Whose opposition in obtaining equality has often been religiously motivated white supremacists—many members of the "Religious Right," for instance?

Are we talking about women in many situations throughout history, even? Relegated to low-wage, low-status jobs, limited to spaces that, though not generally physically very separated (not great for the survival of one's society) were often socially very separate, railed against fundamentalists of various religions (e.g. by Christians for being responsible for original sin)?

One could say the same thing about Muslims in many countries, African immigrants in Europe, Chinese immigrants to some South American countries currently.

As for living in "vapor," sure, that's a specific element, but it really could be considered simply pollution, to which many groups have been relegated. Sure, the Sculpted don't seem to be so affected by it, but this is SF. It extrapolates from current social structures, but it need not be bound by them.

One could even argue that the situation of the Sculpted doesn't merely represent that aforementioned prejudice—it is that prejudice. It's the natural result, within the fiction of the story, of a new group threatening the established position of the old. It would only be surprising if it were absent. To various degrees, the dominant groups in most places in history have sought to

  • Avoid competition from other groups, often by barring them from occupations or segregating them.

  • Mock them through insults.

  • Justify this through religion, and through harsh religious condemnation.

Where they can't take this all the way for other social reasons (for example, women and men living in separate parts of town is mostly infeasible; separating out sexual minorities can be tough when the dominant group can't tell the difference), they usually carry out the other portions of this set of behaviors anyway: barring competion, coming up with religiously motivated oppression, and mockery and insults.

Now, possibly the author had a specific group in mind while writing it. But they needn't have. It draws on features common to a variety of despised groups.

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