Tweet of the Day: An Author’s Writing Voice
This trope involves using a feudal (or pseudo-feudal) political structure (of the Western European style, but not exclusively so) in a sci-fi setting, mainly in space. There are several reasons for it, including but not limited to:
- Invoking the romance of ages past: After all A Time Long Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…. sounds like a fairy tale. You need to have a least a princess or two to go with the knights with laser blades. In other words, it is a great way to use a bunch of feudal/historic tropes which the audience is familiar with and therefore needs no translation.
- Space is, after all, a very big place: How can you rule a galaxy-wide Empire without some form of nobility? If it takes weeks or months (even years) to communicate or travel between sectors of the galaxy (or two star systems) then keeping under the control of a few ruling families not unlike Europe or Japan in the Middle Ages. Ultimate power may reside with a King or Emperor in a far away capital, but day to day affairs in the local star group (specially defense) are dealt with by minor nobles. It is also a great way to fend off rebellion since any challenge to the ruler also means a challenge to the local lord (unless it is a Baron’s revolt, those too were pretty common then.) It may also allow the ruler to play “divide and rule” by pitting local rulers against each other and therefore to busy to claim the mantle of galactic overlord.
- Stability over time: Any political system that last for hundreds or even thousands of years is bound to consolidate a specific power structure by tradition or design, or a mixture of the two.
- Smaller Cast of Characters: Much easier to have a single authority figure at the center of the action than a committee of generals, political advisers, campaign managers and the like running rampant through a book. You can have a few key figures who are either the benevolent leaders whom the audience cheers for or the malevolent oppressors that must be taken down in order for the heroes to win.
- Ancien Régime: The feudal structure may represent the ideal before the current status or the corrupted state of affairs that must be swept away. Whether the heroes are fighting to restore the king (or his equivalent) to the throne or dispose of a corrupt nobility that is living high while the masses starve, the feudal system serves as the fulcrum of change from the current situation.
Those are some of the reason why an author may use a feudal future as part of their setting in their sci-fi story and why I believe they will continue to use it for some time to come.
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