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Old 08-12-2011, 09:21 AM   #1
jbcohen
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An observation about Sci-fi books and TV shows

I have come to a recent conclusion that most of the books and TV shows that I have seen are about civilizations that ar rules by monarchs. Star Treck (the program talks about the elected body but we never get to see it in action) and Star Wars (where viewers get to see the republic's senate and often see elected representatives) stand out as exceptions to this rule. David Weber's civilization is run by a monarch and Michael R. Hick's civilization is not really a monarchy but it tends to act that way. The only reason that I can think of for this trend is that monarchs are easier for writers to deal with since there is no dynamics that need to be dealt with that acompany a democracy. Any thoughts on the issue?
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:28 AM   #2
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Being a monarchy and being a democracy are not mutually exclusive. Many European countries, for example, are democratic monarchies, with the monarch being head of state, but with the country being governed by a parliament.

David Weber's "Star Kingdom of Manticore" in his "Honor Harrington" books is basically the same set-up - it's very much modelled on the British parliamentary system.
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Old 08-12-2011, 03:03 PM   #3
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Seems to me there are an equal number of interstellar ruling councils (see Babylon 5 or Mass Effect), colonial defense forces (see Old Man's War or Hammer's Slammers series, which also has monarchies if I recall correctly), Terran Federation (see Starship Troopers or Ender's Game series or Battlestar Galactica) and the like in SF literature.

Last edited by Penforhire; 08-13-2011 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 08-13-2011, 02:31 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by jbcohen View Post
I have come to a recent conclusion that most of the books and TV shows that I have seen are about civilizations that ar rules by monarchs. Star Treck (the program talks about the elected body but we never get to see it in action) and Star Wars (where viewers get to see the republic's senate and often see elected representatives) stand out as exceptions to this rule. David Weber's civilization is run by a monarch and Michael R. Hick's civilization is not really a monarchy but it tends to act that way. The only reason that I can think of for this trend is that monarchs are easier for writers to deal with since there is no dynamics that need to be dealt with that acompany a democracy. Any thoughts on the issue?
I used to see panels at SF conventions about government vs interstellar travel. There are good arguments to be made about the type and size of government that works or even can work, with respect to the speed of travel between units of the civilization. Democracy doesn't work very well between stars at lightspeed. Sending a representative means something different when it's a lifetime appointment due to travel. On the other hand, instant communications makes some government types more likely.

Just like the difference between a sailing ship commander before radio, and a modern naval commander, the speed of communications effects your level of responsibility for independent action. And there are spiritual arguments to be made that, even with a large bureaucracy to run the government, it can make a difference to public perception if there is a royal head of state that "cares for" the people.

Pure democracy only really works when you can meet and get to know every voter in the system. Beyond that scale, some representative is needed, and the level of legislative abstraction gets huge when you throw in lots of planets. If I can't go to an office to talk to my rep, does she really represent me? Maybe it's better to trust a royal prince, who at least might have the advantage of a good education (or not, but that's another reason for a story.....)
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Old 08-13-2011, 03:00 AM   #5
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Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series has a democratic Alliance on one side of the conflict and the Syndicated Worlds (a gigantic corporation), on the other.

H Beam Piper explored all sorts of star spanning governments in his Future History books.

He started with a Federation, a democratic system. Then a period of dark aged anarchy, then to Empire.

The Vatta's War series by Elizabeth Moon has no centrally governing political system, rather planetary governments or small multi-system federations.

I tend to think the Monarchical system works quite well for star spanning political systems as a strong centrist system would bind all the individual systems together.
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Old 08-13-2011, 03:28 AM   #6
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Star Wars did have Monarchy in it if you remember. The queen seems to have been elected to a term and then another leader took that position later I assume. After she stepped down from being queen Amadala was addressed as Senator. I assume the 'queen' was the head of the Government while in office and normally would have sent her Senator to handle things with the Senate rather than go herself, but the circumstances forced her to do so personally. So locally there could be monarchy while in the greater whole there would be what we think of as a democracy.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:44 PM   #7
jrlewis
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Plenty of old school science fiction reflected the democracy of the future. I'm thinking of writers like Heinlein.

But when writers create new space empires, they often want the fantasy elements of a medieval court with ranks. I think there's more romance and compelling drama in a knightly court than in a bureaucratic office.
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Old 08-24-2011, 05:15 AM   #8
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The Culture from Iain M Banks's novels has no real formal government at all. It's a post-scarcity anarcho-communist utopia.
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Old 08-24-2011, 09:11 AM   #9
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It's a post-scarcity anarcho-communist utopia.
Beautifully concise description! Drop the first two words and it's almost a haiku.
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