Cygnus is a planet featured prominently in the Spectral Shadows series, starting with Serial 11: The Planet of Genetic Misadventure. Though references to The Constellation Of Cygnus and The Northern Cross appear frequently in earlier serials. Most specifically involving a star pattern found over the front door of The Rhoades Mansion showing six jewels in the shape of a cross with an empty space where there was presumably once a seventh jewel. This reflects the Rush lyric, "Six stars of The Northern Cross in mourning for their sister's loss."
There are actually 9 prominent stars in the constellation of Cygnus as it known in real life. But this story is taking place in a completely different universe that has a Northern Cross comprised of 7 stars, allowing for compliance with the Rush song “Cygnus X-1,” which was one of the sources of inspiration for the story.
Unlike the real Cygnus constellation, the ‘’Spectral Shadows’’ Cygnus constellation does not contain a black hole; at least not yet. Theoretically the star represented by the missing jewel over the door of The Rhoades Mansion will eventually explode, creating a black hole which will suck in what remains of the ‘’Spectral Shadows’’ universe, compress it down to a singularity and blow it all out the backside, giving birth to the universe which contains Earth.
Unfortunately the star that is due to explode, putting an end to the ‘’Spectral Shadows’’ universe, also happens to be the one orbited by the habitable planet on which our story takes place; which, like the constellation, is also called Cygnus – so named by the human colonists from the planet Chikyu who laid claim to it many thousands of years before the time in which our story takes place.
These colonists brought with them much of the culture of Chikyu, which they were free to copy to profusion, being light years away from their mother planet and any copyright enforcement that might have come from it.
The colony was quite successful, outliving Chikyu by a few thousand years, during which the human population covered the planet and lived in the comfort of bountiful excess. But, being human, this could never be enough for them for long, and the human population eventually divided into competing segments that made war on one another, eventually attempting to maintain the status quo through the threat of genetic weapons that they assumed would never be used.
History would not accurately record the justification for it, but inevitably the weapons that were never to be used were used, and the last outpost of human civilization was dissolved into a multi-colored slag, along with all the animal life of the planet.
This left all the buildings and belongings of the human population intact, save for the ravages of time and encroaching jungles, to be rediscovered by a new species of human/animal hybrids who seem to have re-evolved from the mixed DNA of the slag in a remarkably short period of time, archeologically speaking – as the newly evolved Cygnusian species recons the period of re-evolution to have been in the neighborhood of 100,000 years, rather than in the millions, as most books on evolution that the elder race left behind would seem to indicate necessary.
In attempting to reclaim the knowledge and technology of the elder race, the Cygnusian animal people have formed the opinion that pure humans were inferior in many respects, particularly where intelligence was concerned. Else they would not have destroyed themselves. Thus the new species finds itself in a quandary over what aspects of the elder race it should emulate, and which it should reject. But one thing they seem very sure about is that they want to live as humans, not animals. And the elder race has made it very clear that certain things are necessary for a human society.
One gender must be submissive, while the other is dominant. But having males be dominant appears to have been fatal for the elder race. Therefore the animal people have determined that females should dominate.
Studies of elder race culture have also been determined to indicate that a human society must have religion and politics, but the religions of the elder race seem primitive and unattractive to the animal people. So they are left to develop their own religions based on things they find more attractive, never bothering to think if their religions make any sense, as the records of the elder race clearly indicate that any belief system which doesn’t demand suspension of logic does not require faith, and is therefore no good for a religion.
At the time of our story, the planet Cygnus plays host to 53 Towns on a single continent, referred to only as “The Continent.” Other continents are known to exist on the planet, but they are assumed to be uninhabited, and the population is not numerous enough to make colonization attractive.
Each of the 53 towns is independent with its own religion modeled after some aspect of Elder Race history or literature, though there is an agreed upon intertownal standard stating that no elder race religions shall be revived, and that no town shall pass judgment on the validity of another town’s religion, lest their own religion be called into question. Only the ruler of a town may determine if a religion has proved itself a failure. And at such a point both the religion and the town that supported it are destroyed, never to be revived – a fate which had befallen a town called Ashbury in the past, and which will befall several other towns during the course of our story.
The Cygnesian species seems to have an overwhelming passion for basing its religions on elder race literature and entertainment, producing towns with names like Oz, Cair Paravel, Camelot, Phaze, Webberton, Adamsdown, Rockville and many others.
Surprisingly these religions often prove quite successful. Because of this, belief in magic is quite common on planet Cygnus, in contrast to a number of science based towns. Thus world belief does not work as hard against magic as it would on an entirely scientific planet, but it does limit the practice of legitimate magic to very well trained practitioners.
The Author has had the Rush song "Cygnus X-1" in mind since the early 80's, long before the character of Christine James was being called Christine. In fact, long before any bipedal anthropomorphic or time travel stories were planned. As long as the character that would become Christine has been around, she has had that star pattern over her front door without The Author having any idea what significance it would have to the series.
Over the decades more parallels to the Rush Cygnus compositions fell into place, though they remain mostly in the background. What is seen on the planet Cygnus are not these parallels, but rather the result of them - what happened after and as a result of Rael destroying the blinded Rocinantè by piloting her into the black hole of Cygnus X-1.