Thea recently read – and enjoyed it a great deal – Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers and we invited the author to talk about the idea behind Kingdoms in SPACE.
Why monarchies? In space no less. If people are advanced enough to go into space, one would think they’d have discarded the idea of such an antiquated government by that point.
Monarchies are without a doubt one of the worst possible governmental structures in existence. So why are we so fascinated with them that we continue to pull them into our science fiction stories?
I’ve had discussions about the various representations of government in science fiction for years.
It’s a fascinating topic, made even more so by some lively opinions on both sides. Some people are over the idea of monarchies and feel like science fiction stories should focus on more progressive forms of government. Others think that it would be a likely evolution from the requirements of colonizing the stars.
I tend to fall into the second camp, in part because it breeds more conflict for the particular story I’m telling. In the case of the Indranan War series, an empire (and a matriarchal one no less) was a natural evolution for the history of that colonized world. It also provided a good backdrop for the story I was trying to tell. I’m a sucker for a good prodigal daughter story and it’s more fun to me when there’s something massive at stake, like the lives of billions of people hanging on one person’s decisions.
Real space exploration for humans is likely to either be led by corporations or some form of government agency. The success of any mission to outer space would rely on a clear chain of command and extremely defined roles for those involved. Sending out 400 colonists to a planet far away from any hope of assistance and expecting them to immediately function as a democracy is not only unrealistic but a good way to end up with 400 dead colonists.
Now that’s not to say all colonization of planets would obviously lead to a monarchy. Plenty of people write stories within a democratic context, but there’s something about the idea of kingdoms in space that grabs at our imaginations.
So what is it about kingdoms and empires that continue to fascinate us?
I’d argue that Star Wars set the stage for this, even though I’m sure there are older stories out there that would fit the mold. Plucky Rebels fighting Imperial forces, unbeatable odds, and a shadowy evil emperor were a huge part of my childhood. I grew up on Star Wars, and much of the early reading that would later shape my writing fell into one of three categories: romance, fantasy, and space opera.
For this particular discussion romance doesn’t play a role, but fantasy and space opera thrive on monarchies and theocracies. They are rife with tyrants and oppressors; with knights in shining armor and sword-swinging princesses.
When I developed Indrana, one of the major questions that came up was how the matriarchy had established itself. Given the origins of the Indranan colonists and Earth’s own mostly patriarchal history, how could such a thing even come about? I decided on a form of dementia born of space travel that predominantly affected the Y-chromosome, much like colorblindness. Hail’s extremely determined ancestor gave me the beginnings of Indrana when she decided to take, and hold, her husband’s spot as the head of the original colony.
I’ll admit I’m something of a pessimist where governments and power structures are concerned, so I also believe that when people get a hold of power, it’s extremely rare for them to willingly give it up. With that line of thinking, it’s not a stretch for me to see advance missions to unfamiliar worlds turning into systems of government that are anything but democratic. We are, by and large, creatures of habit, and the feelings of comfort and safety provided by something like a monarchy when you are so very far from Earth can be very appealing.
What’s your favorite science fiction government? Is there anything specific about it you think was done very well and/or realistically?
K.B. Wagers lives and runs in the shadow of Pikes Peak. She loves flipping tires and lifting heavy things. She’s especially proud of her second-degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and her three Tough Mudder completions. When not writing she can be found wrangling cats with her husband, or trying to keep up with her teenage son.