Systems of Government and the future in sf.
Images pixabay (book covers are links)
A little while back someone on FB had a thread on the topic of why, in modern sf the systems of government of the future are usually feudal and hierarchical. I found this both interesting and amusing. THE FORLORN/MORNINGSTAR had various forms of feudal government – but it was on a colony planet where the level of technology had been knocked to at best medieval.
RATS BATS & VATS – the dominant human political system was Shavian socialism –and displayed as a system which required a permanent disenfranchised underclass to survive. The Alien cultures were 1)pure communist (complete with ‘the party’ in opulence) 2) A survival based (non-hereditary, but shaped by the biology of the species) hierarchical oligarchy. And among the Bats communal socialism (with some small acknowledgement to one of my Jewish friends who once said something like ‘where you have three Jews, you’ll have four political parties’. Having heard bats bickering in a cave, it seemed appropriate, and likewise the bats enjoy politics and have constant battles between different factions – which only a common enemy stops. The Rats, of course, have Anarchy – or would have if they cared a damn about politics. They just live it.
Stardogs explicitly explained the collapse of crony capitalism into hereditary autocracy, and was the precedent to a revolutionary war to destroy that.
SLOW TRAIN once again had multiple political systems, ranging from anarchist, theocratic non-tiered (no hierarchy beyond the elected council) democracy, qualified franchise (where males were not allowed the vote), Meritocracy, hereditary dictatorship and a minarchy with immediate democracy (where anyone could put measures to the vote and the vote on any subject was direct and immediate.) Each had flaws. The best functioning was in fact democratic and non-hierarchical.
The Karres books exist within Schmitz’s Universe, and the political systems he described from 1960s (so not mine). The rest of my books are either present day or fantasy, or Alternate History and logically derived from the known politics of the time.
So I am obviously not a modern sf author: or at least not a typical one. This is amusing, along with many of absolutely batty comments. This however was the classic:
Now as: 1) PW surveys find the staff in Trad was IIRC 78% female and more than half of senior management female. 2) A count of new (as in bought for the first time in the last 10 years) sf/fantasy authors in trad big 5 are over 75% female. 3) Awards (for what they’re worth) are overwhelmingly female – 100% as often as not, 4) Using political donations (considered the most accurate proxy of political affiliation – because money doesn’t lie) US Publishing has less than 1% NOT left wing, and any analysis of the public positions of Trad published authors will show they either share this position or kiss up well… so Ole has trouble telling his Ole from his Elba. (Napoleon, having seen it all from People’s Revolution to Imperial autocracy, I believe said on the ‘ole, Elba was preferable)
Still, I am sure, even faced with sexist, racist, homophobic facts and mathematics ole Ole would have concluded nothing different, just, like communism, it hadn’t worked because it needed more. Even less than 1% was too much conservative white male patriarchy, and it was still its fault.
It curiously does say that this political and sex bias has produced (if the premise is correct) a lot of sf with authoritarian and hierarchical systems of governance. That’s pretty funny really. Nearly as funny as Ole’s conclusions as to reasons… I wonder what Freud would have said about the expression of their subconscious?
I would be curious to see if an analysis of Indy sf produced a future more full of variety. Perhaps Anti-authoritarianism, minarchy and libertarianism?
Anyway, this sort of brings me around to my thesis for today: besides exploring all sorts of possibilities, what value can the modern author extract from the political setups of his or her futures? Because, contrary to the gibberish talked by the leading lights of modern traditional publishing we’re NOT here to challenge our readers, or to make them uncomfortable, or any other balderdash. They actually don’t HAVE to buy your books. They don’t have to READ your books. (Perhaps this lies at the heart of the dream of an authoritarian future where the hierarchy in the daydream has them at the top and the peasants have to read what is good for them so they can be educated.) We’re here to sell lots of books they want to read. We’re here to suspend their disbelief, to immerse them in a different world. It might possibly do all sorts of things but along the way but – even if these were the author’s main interest in writing it — they are ALWAYS secondary to getting lots of readers to read (and love) your books. It’s not rocket-science, you’d think even Ole could get it (Ok, maybe not). If no one reads your books, besides not making any money, all your hifalutin’ goals cannot be met.
There’s nothing wrong with stretching the political envelope. There’s equally nothing wrong with a feudal future – many readers, never having experienced brutal authoritarianism, or socialism (which inevitably seems to trend to authoritarianism) may find it attractive.
I’m outright pessimistic about the short-term future progress of good political governance: we’ve got a classic quis custodiet ipsos custodes issues. We have a vast amount of ‘end justifies the means’ (always an excuse for abuse. Always) nonsense, and things like the governments of first world democracies using the organs of state to spy on and sabotage their political rivals – an appalling abuse, which can hardly be described as progress. We have intrusive and draconian and confiscatory laws designed against the citizenry by political powers. We have horrendous levels of propaganda, and we have the fourth estate (which is supposed to curb political shenanigans) having become organs of the same.
But as something of an anti-authoritarian who still holds that, well, democracy may lead the people into trouble – but at least it’s the trouble of their choosing, I like hope in my sf. Many of my ideals are quite libertarian, and I detest hierarchy – especially entrenched unearned and intrusive officialdom… I don’t think I’m alone in this. So yes, that is the future I tend to paint my characters as fighting towards.
On the other hand… just as a world language and world culture are anathema to me – why the hell should any future have one political system (well, if it does, my characters will be trying to fragment it.)?