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preyer
03-21-2005, 11:01 AM
yet another '(insert controversial item) in SF/F...' post.

now, as just people, we have our political beliefs. it's another aspect to how we think, like our attitudes towards sex and religion. as writers, we'll often equate our version of how things should work into a fictional society's ideal system. we certainly don't disagree with a political (or economic) system and try to twist that into our way of 'making it work' as a basis or sub-plot of our stories when we've, ahem, 'already gots it all figgered out.'

now, i'm not trying to stir a political debate here, because i'll tell you right now i'm right and you're wrong so there's no reason to debate that now, but what kind of political system do you use to govern your society? indeed, a character's politics often govern their actions, even without the writer sometimes consciously knowing it. do you even consider it important? maybe not for a short story, but for a novel?

with a novel, particularly fantasy involving princesses and kings and knights, do you give it any thought, or is it left up to the reader to say, 'oh, it's a monarchy. i already know all about *those* because i'm, like, totally smart and i've got a friend who lives in england or britain or something like that. england, britain, u.k., they all mean the same thing. lol. lol. lol. lol. :)' mention 'peerage' to most americans and you get a blank stare, which is probably just as well because it doesn't have any bearing on us. assuming you're trying to give some depth to your world, however, and things like that might be good to know for a writer. (not only that, but 'peerage,' i reckon, has an american equivalent which could be good to know for better understanding our own society, eh?)

are these things important to your story? are they interesting to read in other people's stories?

from a demographic standpoint, do you think it more likely that your accidentally pro-democrat (liberal) space captain (which doesn't even sound right to begin with) would sell better in california than here in ohio?

and is worth thinking about your captain's political orientation? i mean, we all have our interpretations backed up by generalizations, cliches, and observations of what a conserative and liberal are, be they correct or not, which are pretty intrinsic to our philosophy. seeing as how the military as a whole leans towards conservatives, and that a space captain is very likely to be conservative (a lot of time when you've got a bunch of ignorant people to supervise, many of those lofty ideals are at least temporarily and conveniently abandonned once you reach a certain point), would you try to or subconsciously impart a set of ideals he's not likely to have, especially given his job responsibilities and actions his character has already taken?

should the likelihood of a character's political affiliation affect the character at all? for example, i'm currently re-working an old, old star wars fanfic about an outpost the day after the empire falls. after the officers abandon the place, one trooper is left in charge, and a lot of his decisions are based around the notion that 'i'm an empire man.' of course, this only applies to stories where it, uhm, applies to further the plot.

i do see a lot of stories where the king doesn't ring true. maybe it's because generally we don't have a concept of what kind of power and pressures a king has. i see more off-the-wall speculation than educated guesses, though, and that really detracts from the story. (if i read one more story where the princess escapes/is thrown out of the castle and has to grow up on her own and eventually returns to take back the throne, i'll cry. please, for gawd's sake, the world does NOT need another one of these stories.)

i tend to like fantasy more than sci-fi because at the heroes i typically used to find (not saying this is true anymore or that it even was necessarily the case then, just from *my* experience) in fantasy seemed more liberally-based. while i don't necessarily subscribe to that ideology, if nothing else the characters seemed truer. what was aggravating was the villian had a whole lot of attributes easily acreditted to conservatives. while not especially liking the formulatic aspect of the characters, that seemed more realistic. at least they were who they were supposed to be.

in sci-fi, on the other hand, i find more the reverse is true. soldiers and starship captains, who i believe *in general* would necessarily *be* conservative by nature, i found a lot idea/ideals presented over their character's behaviour and practices that are blatantly liberal. that's what makes me wonder about this whole thing: it's always been said, or at least heavily implied by those without the balls to say it for fear of 'offending' someone or, worse, being wrong, that artists usually are liberal. i'd say that's probably true, but i'm not sure of the percentages and if there's a noticable difference between art forms, like writers and actors. i wonder if that's because artists not only reflect life but attempt to make or hope for its ideal. all that's fine and dandy. but then i come across a cap't picard-type and i just don't buy it. the resolutions seem twisted to make a situation come out a certain way, as were there a hidden political agenda involved in the story. these characters often sermonize, i think that can be a dead giveaway.

am i right, wrong? comments, opinions?

by the way, i'm starting a viable third party called 'the american freedom party.' join now. donations encouraged. my party's symbol is the turkey.

DaveKuzminski
03-21-2005, 05:53 PM
Difficult to say. I think a greedy liberal is just as dangerous as a greedy conservative. About the only difference between the two is the method of attack they use.

In a recent manuscript of mine, I posited several different political systems so that I could create more conflict in the story. One operates on the empire/large corporation system. Central power, central authority.

Another is an anarchy. Although there is an elected figurehead position, he has no real power. Instead, he acted as a listening post so that he could basically impose whatever the majority of the people demanded. So, if an individual wanted to build a home in what was the middle of the street and no one objected, he could do so. However, if enough people spoke out against that, the figurehead would more-or-less tally those and then let everyone know what they'd selected. The people would then take it upon themselves to dismantle the illegal home leaving the one individual to find some other location. So, they really had no one ruling them and I considered it to be as close to an anarchy as I could manage for that one.

The third was composed of cities ruled by their businessmen. Because they were all basically small businesses without any remote stores in other locations, they were effectively city states. However, their power was diluted and shared among a number of different groups so that one group could not, in many cases, run everything.

Those were the main groupings and their societies each presented different cultures and religions which further differentiated them from each other.

victoriastrauss
03-22-2005, 02:05 AM
I'm a liberal and proud of it--and not a whiny wishy-washy fake liberal either, but one of those people who supports national health care and governmental regulation and thinks that taxes should be raised, not lowered. However, it seems to me that the general drive of human societies is toward more conservative values and viewpoints, and a society set up along principles of tolerance and diversity (such as the utopian Earth of Star Trek Next Generation) just doesn't ring true to me. The political systems in my novels reflect that view, not my own liberal values.

- Victoria

Jamesaritchie
03-22-2005, 02:58 AM
yet another '(insert controversial item) in SF/F...' post.

now, as just people, we have our political beliefs. it's another aspect to how we think, like our attitudes towards sex and religion. as writers, we'll often equate our version of how things should work into a fictional society's ideal system. we certainly don't disagree with a political (or economic) system and try to twist that into our way of 'making it work' as a basis or sub-plot of our stories when we've, ahem, 'already gots it all figgered out.'

now, i'm not trying to stir a political debate here, because i'll tell you right now i'm right and you're wrong so there's no reason to debate that now, but what kind of political system do you use to govern your society? indeed, a character's politics often govern their actions, even without the writer sometimes consciously knowing it. do you even consider it important? maybe not for a short story, but for a novel?

with a novel, particularly fantasy involving princesses and kings and knights, do you give it any thought, or is it left up to the reader to say, 'oh, it's a monarchy. i already know all about *those* because i'm, like, totally smart and i've got a friend who lives in england or britain or something like that. england, britain, u.k., they all mean the same thing. lol. lol. lol. lol. :)' mention 'peerage' to most americans and you get a blank stare, which is probably just as well because it doesn't have any bearing on us. assuming you're trying to give some depth to your world, however, and things like that might be good to know for a writer. (not only that, but 'peerage,' i reckon, has an american equivalent which could be good to know for better understanding our own society, eh?)

are these things important to your story? are they interesting to read in other people's stories?

from a demographic standpoint, do you think it more likely that your accidentally pro-democrat (liberal) space captain (which doesn't even sound right to begin with) would sell better in california than here in ohio?

and is worth thinking about your captain's political orientation? i mean, we all have our interpretations backed up by generalizations, cliches, and observations of what a conserative and liberal are, be they correct or not, which are pretty intrinsic to our philosophy. seeing as how the military as a whole leans towards conservatives, and that a space captain is very likely to be conservative (a lot of time when you've got a bunch of ignorant people to supervise, many of those lofty ideals are at least temporarily and conveniently abandonned once you reach a certain point), would you try to or subconsciously impart a set of ideals he's not likely to have, especially given his job responsibilities and actions his character has already taken?

should the likelihood of a character's political affiliation affect the character at all? for example, i'm currently re-working an old, old star wars fanfic about an outpost the day after the empire falls. after the officers abandon the place, one trooper is left in charge, and a lot of his decisions are based around the notion that 'i'm an empire man.' of course, this only applies to stories where it, uhm, applies to further the plot.

i do see a lot of stories where the king doesn't ring true. maybe it's because generally we don't have a concept of what kind of power and pressures a king has. i see more off-the-wall speculation than educated guesses, though, and that really detracts from the story. (if i read one more story where the princess escapes/is thrown out of the castle and has to grow up on her own and eventually returns to take back the throne, i'll cry. please, for gawd's sake, the world does NOT need another one of these stories.)

i tend to like fantasy more than sci-fi because at the heroes i typically used to find (not saying this is true anymore or that it even was necessarily the case then, just from *my* experience) in fantasy seemed more liberally-based. while i don't necessarily subscribe to that ideology, if nothing else the characters seemed truer. what was aggravating was the villian had a whole lot of attributes easily acreditted to conservatives. while not especially liking the formulatic aspect of the characters, that seemed more realistic. at least they were who they were supposed to be.

in sci-fi, on the other hand, i find more the reverse is true. soldiers and starship captains, who i believe *in general* would necessarily *be* conservative by nature, i found a lot idea/ideals presented over their character's behaviour and practices that are blatantly liberal. that's what makes me wonder about this whole thing: it's always been said, or at least heavily implied by those without the balls to say it for fear of 'offending' someone or, worse, being wrong, that artists usually are liberal. i'd say that's probably true, but i'm not sure of the percentages and if there's a noticable difference between art forms, like writers and actors. i wonder if that's because artists not only reflect life but attempt to make or hope for its ideal. all that's fine and dandy. but then i come across a cap't picard-type and i just don't buy it. the resolutions seem twisted to make a situation come out a certain way, as were there a hidden political agenda involved in the story. these characters often sermonize, i think that can be a dead giveaway.

am i right, wrong? comments, opinions?

by the way, i'm starting a viable third party called 'the american freedom party.' join now. donations encouraged. my party's symbol is the turkey.

I'm definitely a right wing conservative, just a little to the right of Ronald Reagan, in fact. It's the only political view that makes any sense to me at all. I don't believe anything about liberalism works, or even makes any sense at all in the real world.

So my stories should reflect this, right? Nope. For me, it doesn't work this way.

A story I write might well reflect any political viewpoint. The political viewpoint in a story I write is there to make that particular story work, and that's all it's there for. It's the old "what if" game. For me, any story, regardless of genre, must be consistent. If you want to explore a certain idea, you must have a background to the story that allows this idea to exist.

The politics in a story can set up conflict or harmony. They can provide the conflict in a character's storyline, or the can be used to allow the character's storyline to happen in a natural, peaceful manner.

Sex and religion fall under the same guidelines. What view on sex and/or religion will make this story work, will make it all consistent and logical? This is what matters for me.

I think this is why it can be very difficult, and wrong-headed, to judge a writer by the stories he writes. Some, like Tom Clany, do express their political beliefs through their fiction, but most of us are faithful to the story, and want to write in greater variety than we possibly could by having everything in our fiction reflect our own personal beliefs.

It's what makes the story work.

whitehound
03-22-2005, 05:05 AM
What interests me about the political situation in Star Trek is that it basically portrays a human society in which the European model (state-funded health-care etc.) has won out over the US one :)

I suppose jamesaritchie would consider European states to be "liberal" - he'd pretty-much have to, since what the US regards as left-wing seems to be what we regard as moderately far right - and I can assure him it works OK. Not perfectly - no system on earth works perfectly, nor could it, since we are a species which evolved to live in groups of about 30 individuals! - but OK.

E.g., OK, I know we have a smaller population than the US so all major crimes neccessarily will be rarer, just because there are fewer people to commit them - but we ain't *that* small. There are about 56 million people in Britain, I'm 46, and *during my entire lifetime* there have only been two mass-shootings in the UK. I've lived almost all my life in two capital cities, London and Edinburgh, including in some quite rough areas, and afair I've never seen a hand-gun, nor a knife drawn in anger - though I've witnessed quite a few public punch-ups!

Jamesaritchie
03-23-2005, 06:54 AM
What interests me about the political situation in Star Trek is that it basically portrays a human society in which the European model (state-funded health-care etc.) has won out over the US one :)

I suppose jamesaritchie would consider European states to be "liberal" - he'd pretty-much have to, since what the US regards as left-wing seems to be what we regard as moderately far right - and I can assure him it works OK. Not perfectly - no system on earth works perfectly, nor could it, since we are a species which evolved to live in groups of about 30 individuals! - but OK.

E.g., OK, I know we have a smaller population than the US so all major crimes neccessarily will be rarer, just because there are fewer people to commit them - but we ain't *that* small. There are about 56 million people in Britain, I'm 46, and *during my entire lifetime* there have only been two mass-shootings in the UK. I've lived almost all my life in two capital cities, London and Edinburgh, including in some quite rough areas, and afair I've never seen a hand-gun, nor a knife drawn in anger - though I've witnessed quite a few public punch-ups!

I've been there. Nothing I saw worked to my liking. And of course you've never seen a handgun drawn in anger. They don't trust you folks enough to let you own them.

whitehound
03-23-2005, 07:46 AM
I've been there. Nothing I saw worked to my liking. And of course you've never seen a handgun drawn in anger. They don't trust you folks enough to let you own them.

And you are suggesting that Americans *can* be trusted to own them - on a day when there has been *yet another* report of yet another poor mentally-disturbed US high-school kid massacring his schoolmates and himself? More pictures of grieving parents and traumatized kids, anyone?

It works to *our* liking and that's all that matters really. I've never been to the US, but almost everything I've heard about it makes me (and a lot of Europeans) consider it as a sort of overgrown third-world country.

I realize that's a generalization, because the different states are really like different countries and some of them are among the most civilized and sophisticated places on earth. But it's almost impossible to imagine any European writer who wasn't openly Nazi even considering that *anybody*'s ideal society might include public executions, for example (as preyer did on another topic). As soon as you see that, you can bet that the author is either American (north or south) or from one of the more rabid Moslem states. But if the majority of US citizens like it that way, that's cool.

As for what does or doesn't work to your liking - tell me that when you've been wrongly convicted for a crime you didn't commit, and you produce new evidence which proves categorically that you were innocent and you get told that under US law innocence is irrelevent, and that the local state accepts that you are almost certainly innocent but is going to execute you anyway (as is actually happening to the husband of an aquaintance of mine).

Tell me that when you need some complex expensive medical treatment and your insurers won't pay. It's quite routine for science fiction fans in Europe to be asked to fund-raise to save the life of some American SF writer who is dying of something they can't get treatment for at home.

[E.g. some years ago there was a writer whose wife had recently been in a car crash, which soaked up all their mutual medical insurance, and when he got cancer his insurers simply decided to let him die - so the poor guy had to go begging on the European SF convention circuit just to stay alive. I never heard the end of it and I don't know whether we saved him, but people were auctioning their best books for him and etc..]

Back on topic, there are at least twelve different societies on the world I'm writing about and every one has a different political system. Of the two I am most concerned with, one is an anarchic society of telepaths who operate by discussion and consensus, but they are also an hereditary monarchy. The monarch doesn't command as such, but he or she acts as a sort of permanent chairman - has the casting vote in any undecided debate - and if the monarch is out on their own and needs to make a decision fast, or if the whole society needs to make a decision on the spot and doesn't have time to discuss it, then the monarch decides and the people abide by it. If a monarch makes a bad decision they abide by it anyway and say "Hey, nobody's perfect" - if a monarch makes a *lot* of bad decisions he or she is quietly deposed and replaced by a more able relative.

The other has a two-tier system. At government level officials are elected but not in a party system - it's more like a Student Union situation. Individual candidates stand for individual posts, and once elected they stay there until they retire or are impeached for incompetence.

Out in the countryside, villages are ruled by hereditary lords. The lords tax the people, and the government taxes the lords. Healthcare is free to the patient but the bill is sent to their lord, who recoups it by whatever method is the local custom (which can't include just charging the patient for the whole lot, unless they are very rich or injured themselves through gross negligence).

At local level each village or estate has its own rules but they have to operate within certain guidelines, and the people have to be free to move to another village if they don't like the one they're in. So no lord can afford to be seriously oppressive, because they'll lose all their manpower if they are.

katiemac
03-23-2005, 08:41 AM
Kleptocracy. Religion and state aren't separated yet, so it's more the religion aspect that's controlling all the stealing. Kind of goes back to Louis XIV and Versailles, and justifying all of that with divine right.

Other than that, I don't have any clear cut "laws." Your standard "no killing, stealing," etc., of course any of that is a bit unbalanced when it comes to the government. There's one biggie that deals with population control, but that's pretty much it as far as citizen's rights are concerned. A little laissez-faire, as long as they aren't doing anything noticeable the government doesn't have a situation.

whitehound
03-23-2005, 08:52 AM
Kleptocracy. Religion and state aren't separated yet, so it's more the religion aspect that's controlling all the stealing. Kind of goes back to Louis XIV and Versailles, and justifying all of that with divine right.

Do you mean like random ad lib taxation, or more like the Thieves Guild in the Discworld books? Do they think of it as stealing but think stealing is good (the way the Thugees thought murder was good)? Or do they sanitize it in some way?

Mr Underhill
03-23-2005, 11:40 AM
as writers, we'll often equate our version of how things should work into a fictional society's ideal system. we certainly don't disagree with a political (or economic) system and try to twist that into our way of 'making it work' as a basis or sub-plot of our stories when we've, ahem, 'already gots it all figgered out.'I'm still trying to parse that second sentence, but as to the first, I think it's more effective to take the way things "really" work and shine some light on the cockroaches in there. Take some aspect of our society, or human nature, and take it to it's logical conclusion to show people the SNAFU.

After all, sure I'd like to live in a u-topia, but I sure don't want to read about one. Give me a good dys-topia novel anyday.



with a novel, particularly fantasy involving princesses and kings and knights, do you give it any thought... are these things important to your story? are they interesting to read in other people's stories?

...i do see a lot of stories where the king doesn't ring true. maybe it's because generally we don't have a concept of what kind of power and pressures a king has. i see more off-the-wall speculation than educated guesses, though, and that really detracts from the story.Have you read George RR Martin's Songs of Ice and Fire epic yet? That's one book that really impressed me with a lot of thought about how a feudal society really functioned. He emulates the War of the Roses instead of some Arthurian Neverland. You have brutal mismanagement of people and land, politics by arranged marriage and all the rest. I really enjoyed it, but it's a big tome with an architectonic plot, so pack a lunch.


soldiers and starship captains, who i believe *in general* would necessarily *be* conservative by natureCareful. While this is the case in early 21st century America (still a gross generalization) it by no means holds true in other times and places. One of the most liberal gentlemen I ever knew was real-live Band Of Brothers fellow, captain of a paratrooper unit that fought across Europe, discovered a concentration camp, and forced the local citizens to come see it and dismantle it. Of course, back then the American military was fighting fascism.

Another thing to consider is the relative nature of these terms. Conservatives are people who want to preserve the status quo, Liberals want to move forward. But society is continually moving forward over the long term. Thus, if you were to pluck wild-eyed liberals out of the 19th century and set them down in Congress today, with a completely unchanged agenda, they'd be so far back they wouldn't even be conservatives, they'd be reactionaries. (What? This has already happened?) So your starship captain of the 24th&1/2th century might well be a conservative by his society's standards (it is true that the military frequently exists to keep the status quo), but he could be hopelessly liberal to us "medievals." But boy you oughta see the folks at the Elysium Planum artist's colony!

Now, there is a proud tradition of creating a future or fantasy story to serve as the author's personal soapbox, but aside from those stories, I have to say I agree with Jamesaritchie. Wait, let me just get past this bit...
right wing conservative, just a little to the right of Ronald Reagan, in fact. It's the only political view that makes any sense to me at all. I don't believe anything about liberalism works, or even makes any sense at all in the real world.:roll:

Phew. Got that out of my system. But his main point is spot on: the political milieu and the character's own politics should be exactly what works to tell the story. Nothing more and nothing less. If it doesn't advance the story-telling, drop it. For one thing you might just alienate some readers unnecessarily. Excellent idea to work those things out as part of your world development and character development, but that doesn't mean you have to talk about it, any more than you would feel compelled to rattle off the semi-major axis of every single planetary orbit you've worked out.

Zane Curtis
03-23-2005, 12:05 PM
I think it's pretty much impossible to write a novel that isn't political in some way. The very act of chosing a point of view character is fundamentally political, since you're essentially agreeing to tell a story from one point of view (which will necessarily exclude others). You might choose tell your story through the eyes of a worker or his boss, a king or a swineherd, a policeman or a thief. Whether you want to or not, you'll be nailing your colours to some mast or other, depending on what you show your characters doing, and who you decide to treat sympathetically or unsympathetically.

It's better to think about the politics of what you're writing up front, otherwise you might end up accidentally espousing political opinions you didn't even know you had. Look at Tolkien, for example. He thought he was writing an obscure, whimsical little novel grown out of his tinkering with artificial languages, and all of sudden he has hundreds of hippies camping out on his lawn, who've read far more into LOTR than he ever meant to put there.

Mr Underhill
03-23-2005, 12:17 PM
I think you were actually asking what we are doing, yes?

Well I'm just getting started, but I have some things worked out. I have both a future "space opera" and S&S fantasy milieu worked out in considerable detail. But they're really there to have a large stage already set up for whatever drama they need to support. In some ways they're generic: an Imperium with a Navy and corporate neo-feudalism (yeah, Dune, Foundation, Traveller) on the space side, and the standard-issue aristocratic monarchy with desultory empire on the fantasy side.

In the case of the space opera cosmos, the feudal aspect gives me lots of flexibility, actually. I can have an over-arching government and societal set-up, but completely different local arrangments can be integrated into the system. So maybe it works likes Baron rules 1 world, Count rules 10 Barons, Duke rules 10 Counts, but there could be one corner where there's a loose confederacy of worlds governed by anarcho-syndicalist collectives witha kind of rotating officer-of-the day... [ahem] Anyway those twelve planets appoint someone to represent them as a "Count" in terms of the hierarchy. Or maybe there's a race of arboreal treecritters scattered throughout human space, and they're covered by one of their own called Duke Forest. Maybe that's someone they pick at random to humor the humans, or even as a punishment.

That's the top-down approach. So far in my short stories I've been working from the inside out, so those are all different. There it is completely about what works for the story.

Both objectives work for me, since my objective is to tell you some Really Cool Stuff. For a SS, it's a cool story. For the others, I just need a stage with a fresh coat of flat black paint to host a number of Really Cool Things, whether that be characters, societies, groups, gizmos, magics, histories, you name it.

preyer
03-23-2005, 12:30 PM
just a quick mention that, indeed, americans are trusted with firearms, provided that they are of legal age, purchase the appropriate license (and are encouraged to take firearms training), and have no felony record. who would kill all the bambis if we didn't have an armed populace? (actually, deer season is vital and were it not a 'sport,' it would have to be carried out by some other means.) without being able to cite facts, it's my understanding that in states that have a conceal-and-carry law, allowing citizens to legally carry concealed guns, certain crimes drops quite a bit. it's a hot-button issue here, and daze like these never fails to bring peoples' opinion about the subject to the top of the list of things to discuss. as to prisoners on death row, they've got years and years to make appeals, it's not like we execute people overnight. the problem there lies in the fact that our legal system can be terribly out of whack sometimes, there's no denying that. personally, i don't trust our legal system, and i trust even less those who are in a position to change it but see fit to go with the status quo. be that as i may, while it's a given it's not a perfect system, i'm pretty confident those who are executed are 99% of the time guilty of what they are accused of. of course, there are exceptions.

public executions.... well, at one point, the height of western civilization practiced gladiator games, partially to execute publicly those convicted of crimes and partly to entertain. the name 'pitbull' came from bull/bear baiting expositions where a bear or bull were tethered to a post and attacked by vicious dogs, all done for entertainment. and therein lies a fallacy of some fantasy writers, i think, those who impose 21st century sets of values on a society of a thousand years ago where otherwise the fictional society mirrors the historical one except for a few points. born in the same place and time, i, too, would very much likely watch public executions and violent games for amusement. anyone who says, 'there's no possible way i could *ever* do that,' i don't know, just seems like the sayer of that isn't putting themselves into a historical perspective (that's the nice way of saying it, at least, heh heh). for me, that's a big reason why fantasy characters don't ring true, because sometimes the author completely ignores even a fictionally historic context, all the characters seeming as if all have modern sensibilities, educations, and morals. i understand there's a modern storytelling method, though at the same time i don't think that necessarily entitles especially those who write historical novels to completely ignore the realities of the era. sure, we probably have to soften brute up a bit, but that brute might possibly have been that era's hero. look at hercules: he's actually a horrible jerk, but still he was a 'hero' in that context.

WH, since your fictional political system clearly has socialistic aspects (need i say don't confuse socialism with communism?), is that system based on your beliefs? that is, would capitalism work there instead, or this that not much of a consideration? i'm not saying most authors intentionally create propaganda for their own personal beliefs (though, honestly, we all create propaganda to a certain extent and from a certain point of view, don't we?), but, to use you as an example, is the fact that you're from a socialized country (where ever that may be, i'm not sure) have a major influence on your fictional system? since it sounds on the surface to be a feudal system, and the typical lord's 'method' of collecting money for healthcare is naturally to raise taxes that much more, it sounds like an expensive place to live (as is the case with most socialized countries in real life), would that (in a fictional feudal system) give the peasants, serfs, slaves, etc. reason to attempt a coup?

and from a practical standpoint, if i'm sick but the next village over has a better 'healthcare system', i.e. they're witchdoctor is better, what's to stop the entire village from flocking there when they're sick, too? and how is *that* lord to pay for it? by taxing his own people for services *another* lord's people are taking advantage of? as a lord, how would you stop other people from taking advantage of your healthcare system? i mean, the lord who doesn't have to pay for it is hardly going to be inspired to create a system for his own people that directly costs him money and makes a lot of problems for him and takes up a lot of his time, no?

or is there official laws stating each lord has to have some healthcare system? what does that entail? most importantly, what's the incentive to have the best system around when it's much easier and profitable to have the *worst*, thereby driving his people into the next town over for cures? from a realistic human standpoint, people aren't going to give up their lands, friends, family, professions, etc., for healthcare unless they desperately need it. that is, healthy people aren't going to pay heavy taxes for something they don't need if they don't have to when they can make the journey in case something serious happens. i think that creates a kind of HMO situation, where you could go for basic health care as long as it's nothing serious, and where you'd receive your 'health maintenance,' which is, as you can probably imagine, not exactly top-shelf care in most cases.

lords can still be seriously oppressive. if lord A is a horrible jerk, let's say the population flocks to lord B's place. lord B, unable to handle the sudden exodus of people, can't support double the population. land and food become scarce, driving up the price of everything. since occupations are harder to come by, people accept bad jobs for less than what that job is worth just to make *some* money to pay for things they have serious problems paying for things they can barely, if they're lucky, afford. essentially you create an entire poor class. crime goes up, health goes down, the lord himself has to find a way to pay for that healthcare (i almost guarantee 'local custom' won't work by this point), and enter creditors and lenders. the theory that competition breeds quality and better prices only works if the influx is organically introduced. of course, mundane issues like space plays a big part in that, too. you might be able to have a new blacksmith on the other side of town, assuming lord B's population doesn't drive you out of business first. there's a big labour issue there, though: with competition, you have to lower prices sometimes. lower prices means that maybe, just maybe, you're able to sew more dresses. you'll have to to make up the lost profits. but you have to sew so many more dresses that you need a helper, which just eats up your money. hey, at least you don't have to kill yourself working a 100 hours a week: you can work, if you're lucky, no more than you did before those new people came to town. problem is you're making less money for the same amount of work while everyone in town is sporting new dresses. and now you've got employer issues to deal with. and anyone looking to break into that business will very likely be discouraged from doing so given the horrible labour conditions. (to reduce labour and material costs is currently the big push in american industry. the problem is often your quality suffers. in the case of the seamstress, her likely method of 'streamlining' would be to stop double-stitching, etc., and charging more that process. so, yeah, everyone's got a new dress... which lasts half as long. it's great for consumers in the beginning, but eventually you get what you pay for. i'm obviously not a business major or anything, just a half-arsed theory based on observation. i don't sit down and study bizness models, but there's a reason why wal*mart is the biggest company in the world and sell, no joke, cardboard grandfather clocks. and believe me, the reason wal*mart is so big is *not* because of healthy competition.)

the situation really comes to a head concerning food. you just can't double your food output. if you've even got a place to live, prepare to go a little hungry this winter. don't get sick, either, because the witchdoctor is backed up for a month.

suddenly lord A doesn't seem so bad. sure, he was a tyrant and demanded a lot, but at least we could survive better than we can here. lord B is a great guy, hate to leave him, but i'm tired of living in a big piece of bark and working twenty hours a day just to afford a rotten apple.

that's simplified, of course, but does that sound plausible? that's assuming, too, that lord A and lord B are so vastly different that uneducated people feel compelled to move.

if the ideal society has public executions thing is an american/european nazi statement (i know you didn't mean to suggest i or americans are nazis), can it be said that there are differences in european and american writing philosophies? in other words, are there cues beyond the obvious 'theatre'/'theater', 'lift/elevator' type of stuff that indicates where an author is from?

sorry if this post rambles and goes off topic here and there and everywhere, but y'all should be used to that by now, eh? :)

Pthom
03-23-2005, 01:08 PM
...
sorry if this post rambles and goes off topic here and there and everywhere, but y'all should be used to that by now, eh? :)
No, not especially. ;)

For everyone: This forum is for and about the writing of Science Fiction and/or Fantasy. Please, let's try to keep that in mind. Mr. Underhill and Zane, thanks for bringing this back around. :)

Politics, religion, sex, and the like, should be dealt with here only as pertains to the genre. If you want to discuss the pros and cons of those topics on their own, there is another forum for that.

Thanks.

Alphabeter
03-23-2005, 03:32 PM
Its your world, make it up.

God did.

But further than that, I'll take to the Religious board. ;)

katiemac
03-24-2005, 01:40 AM
Do you mean like random ad lib taxation, or more like the Thieves Guild in the Discworld books? Do they think of it as stealing but think stealing is good (the way the Thugees thought murder was good)? Or do they sanitize it in some way?

I haven't read Discworld, so I can't really compare anything with that. But yes, random taxes and things would be something this government would do. As for the stealing part, it's only the government that does this. Since I mentioned Louis XIV and Versailles, I'll just expand on that concept. If Louis wanted something that belonged to someone else, all he had to do was toss the guy in jail and take up his property. He could tax people all he wanted for money, and anything else he could figure a way to get. This kind of stealing, from government perspective, isn't necessarily good or bad -- it's what their entitled to as divine rulers, descended from God (like the Egyptians). It's more the people who have a problem with it, but if you were noble in the time of Versailles, Louis threw parties all the time and people lived at Versailles. They were all blindsided as to what was actually going on, and it's only the peasants who were hurt badly. But, if you've got all the gold in the world, who cares about them, right?

whitehound
03-24-2005, 06:32 AM
just a quick mention that, indeed, americans are trusted with firearms, provided that they are of legal age, purchase the appropriate license (and are encouraged to take firearms training), and have no felony record.
But they leave 'em lying around and kids get hold of them - as seen yesterday :( Here, if people *have* guns they are also required to keep them locked in a secure safe, which is inspected before they can have a gun licence, and afair the ammunition/powder has to be kept separately, also locked (I have friends who target-shoot and who do historical recreation with black powder guns).

It's not that we don't *have* nutters here, you understand - we have plenty. Only in the last couple of days we had a young man shot dead by police marksmen after attacking fellow motorists with a sword, and last year a teenage boy fatally stabbed a classmate and then himself. If they'd had access to guns the death toll would undoubtedly have been far worse.


without being able to cite facts, it's my understanding that in states that have a conceal-and-carry law, allowing citizens to legally carry concealed guns, certain crimes drops quite a bit.
Mmm - but clearly, certain *other* crimes go up :(


it's not like we execute people overnight. the problem there lies in the fact that our legal system can be terribly out of whack sometimes, there's no denying that. personally, i don't trust our legal system, and i trust even less those who are in a position to change it but see fit to go with the status quo. be that as i may, while it's a given it's not a perfect system, i'm pretty confident those who are executed are 99% of the time guilty of what they are accused of. of course, there are exceptions.
Afair some American legal organization did a survey recently and reckoned that about a third of all executed prisoners (I could be remembering it wrong - it could have been two thirds) were probably innocent. Our legal system's a horrible mess too - there are some UK police forces which are so corrupt they're pretty-much an extension of the criminal classes - but since we don't execute people we usually get to put our mistakes right, eventually.


public executions.... well, at one point, the height of western civilization practiced gladiator games, partially to execute publicly those convicted of crimes and partly to entertain. <SNIP> and therein lies a fallacy of some fantasy writers, i think, those who impose 21st century sets of values on a society of a thousand years ago where otherwise the fictional society mirrors the historical one.
Oh sure, absolutely - but that refers to writing stories with a historical or quasi-historical setting. You asked what people would have in an imagined *ideal* society, where you can have whatever setting you like - and to British eyes the suggestion of public executions automatically labels a society a dystopia.


WH, since your fictional political system clearly has socialistic aspects (need i say don't confuse socialism with communism?), is that system based on your beliefs? that is, would capitalism work there instead, or this that not much of a consideration?
Well, first off, *all* mainstream political parties in the UK, and afaik in the rest of Europe and Australia, including the right-wing ones, support the welfare state and state-funded healthcare: the only debate is over how to pay for it. "Socialist" here means a society in which the major infrastructure (railways, postal service etc.) is state-owned and that doesn't apply to the society I mentioned - they don't even have a state-owned army!

Personally I'm of what here counts as the moderate right, but none of the societies I'm writing about has much to do with what I personally do or do not believe - these people are *aliens.* One of the societies is a brutal sex-and-death-and-pain cult ruled by gang-bosses, one is a collection of little city-states, one is ruled by feuding hereditary warlords, one is ruled by merchant-houses, one is ruled by craft-guilds and ship's captains...


i'm not saying most authors intentionally create propaganda for their own personal beliefs (though, honestly, we all create propaganda to a certain extent and from a certain point of view, don't we?), but, to use you as an example, is the fact that you're from a socialized country (where ever that may be, i'm not sure) have a major influence on your fictional system?
I'm British and we're not particularly socialized - we privatized most of our infrastructure years ago. I don't think my own background influences the stories I write about particularly - especially as my main period of historical interest is the 15th C! - but of course it influences which societies I consider to be reasonable and desirable and ones where I might like to live.


since it sounds on the surface to be a feudal system, and the typical lord's 'method' of collecting money for healthcare is naturally to raise taxes that much more, it sounds like an expensive place to live (as is the case with most socialized countries in real life), would that (in a fictional feudal system) give the peasants, serfs, slaves, etc. reason to attempt a coup?
Well, first off the healthcare in the society I mentioned (which is called Kathry) isn't particularly expensive. Technology is at about 17th C level and there isn't much in the way of expensive treatments or equipment involved, so a stay in hospital only costs about three or four times as much as an equivalent-length stay in an inn.

I'm not sure about "socialized" countries being so expensive to live in anyway. Sweden certainly is said to be - but they do get *very* good services for it. The US seems to have far cheaper electronic goods than we do here but the rents seem to be proportionately higher and healthcare is *enormously* more expensive in the US. I'm not just refering to medical insurance here - I mean the sort of over-the-counter medicines which nearly everyone needs at some point. I was comparing prices with an American friend and she reckoned she would pay $50 for things which here are 4.50 (about $8). Medical equipment available to the public, such as nebulizers and TENS machines, seems to be more than three times dearer in the US compared with the UK.


and from a practical standpoint, if i'm sick but the next village over has a better 'healthcare system', i.e. they're witchdoctor is better, what's to stop the entire village from flocking there when they're sick, too? and how is *that* lord to pay for it?
The hospitals are not part of any lordship, they are separate organizations, like collectively-owned independent companies. The doctors and other senior staff (it's a bit complicated but they don't have nurses in our sense, just different levels of different specializations of doctor) club together to found a new hospital and thereafter they take a proportionate share of the hospital's earnings, dropping slightly once they've recouped their initial investment. Each hospital is like a village in itself, or a land-locked ship, with the staff living either within the building or very near it (they have to live in easy walking-distance anyway, since there is no fast transport).

It doesn't matter which hospital you go to, the bill goes to your own lord. If there was a good hospital attached to the next village over you would go to that hospital and they'd send the bill to your home. But since transport is difficult and healthcare doesn't vary much anyway (doctors being properly organized and trained from a common body of written knowledge), people go to the nearest hospital, unless they need specialist care which is only available at some more distant site.


or is there official laws stating each lord has to have some healthcare system? what does that entail? most importantly, what's the incentive to have the best system around when it's much easier and profitable to have the *worst*, thereby driving his people into the next town over for cures?
Actually it might be to a lord's advantage to set up a hospital and buy into a share of it. If it was so good that people came to it from other lordships for miles around, then he or she would send the bill to the patients' own lords and take a cut of the proceeds!


from a realistic human standpoint, people aren't going to give up their lands, friends, family, professions, etc., for healthcare unless they desperately need it. that is, healthy people aren't going to pay heavy taxes for something they don't need if they don't have to
But that is precisely what most of Europe does, and has done for most of recorded history. Throughout the Middle Ages and the later so-called "Dark Ages" we had a perfectly good collectively-funded welfare system run by the Catholic (and in Ireland the Celtic) church, which functioned as a state within a state. Everybody knows they pay health taxes because they might need urgent medical care some day, and if they don't then someone else will need it, and mutual support is what society is all about. I don't think I've ever met anybody in my entire life who objected strongly to paying for the health service - though one sometimes reads about such people in the newspapers.

It really, really isn't much of an issue in Europe, so there's no reason to assume it would neccessarily be an issue in an alien society.

[If it helps you to get your head round it, think of it this way: just like you, we have to pay for health insurance, but the government runs the insurance company and that company can't refuse to accept you, or ever refuse to pay out on a claim - right? Because it can't refuse bad risk customers, the company charges a slightly higher premium than it would if it were some nasty cheapskate organization which was going to weasel out of making a payment every chance it got - but you get a pretty good service for the money.]

Taxes in Kathry are raised in various ways, according to local custom. Some lords give out land free but tax the peasants on their profits; some just charge rent for land but the profits are your own; some charge neither rent nor tax but require the peasants to do a certain amount of free work on the lord's land, and the lord finances him or herself by selling the resultant produce.


lords can still be seriously oppressive. if lord A is a horrible jerk, let's say the population flocks to lord B's place. lord B, unable to handle the sudden exodus of people, can't support double the population. land and food become scarce, driving up the price of everything. since occupations are harder to come by, people accept bad jobs for less than what that job is worth just to make *some* money to pay for things they have serious problems paying for things they can barely, if they're lucky, afford. essentially you create an entire poor class.
Well, to begin with if a lord became seriously oppressive he or she could be first fined and then if neccessary arrested and deposed by the elected tier of the government. And if for some reason there was a mass exodus from one lordship - say there was a localized crop-failure - people would spread in all directions and tend to go towards other lordships which had spare capacity to support them, where they would then till extra land and make extra craft products and bring the local lord a nice new crop of taxes. Remember, the populace are the lord's source of income.

If there was a nationwide crop-failure obviously the system would start to break down - but that's true of any society.


you might be able to have a new blacksmith on the other side of town, assuming lord B's population doesn't drive you out of business first. there's a big labour issue there, though: with competition, you have to lower prices sometimes. lower prices means that maybe, just maybe, you're able to sew more dresses. you'll have to to make up the lost profits. but you have to sew so many more dresses that you need a helper, which just eats up your money. hey, at least you don't have to kill yourself working a 100 hours a week: you can work, if you're lucky, no more than you did before those new people came to town. problem is you're making less money for the same amount of work while everyone in town is sporting new dresses. and now you've got employer issues to deal with. and anyone looking to break into that business will very likely be discouraged from doing so given the horrible labour conditions.
These are village-level communities with plenty of potentially fertile land to spare and a low birth-rate (they aren't a very fertile species). If there isn't enough trade to support two blacksmiths (actually brownsmiths - they use bronze, not iron), either they both go part-time or one chucks it altogether, and he/she/they go back to farming.

The towns have the sort of problems you mention but the towns don't usually come within the lordships, and they function as well or ill as 17th-C-level towns anywhere.


the situation really comes to a head concerning food. you just can't double your food output. if you've even got a place to live, prepare to go a little hungry this winter. don't get sick, either, because the witchdoctor is backed up for a month.
These people aren't stupid. If they were going to move to a new lordship they'd tend to do so in the spring so they had time to plant food for the coming year. If their lord went loopy or they were invaded by robber-barons and they had to leave in a hurry, they'd flee to other lordships, and the other lords they had fled to would either band together to sort out the problem themselves or get the top layer of government to do so. They/the government would probably then sell the mad lord's (or the robbers') effects to pay for the expense of having to feed so many extra mouths for three months or whatever. It would be a nuisance but it's unlikely anybody would actually starve.

If you had more sick people in an area than the local hospital could cope with, the less urgent cases would get shunted along to other hospitals - just like we do here in the UK, only at ox-cart pace rather than motorway pace.

Remember that feudal societies come in all different flavours. You do get societies like the Russian boyars who treated their peasants as mere property - but at the other extreme you had the Highland clans. Yes clan chiefs had the power of life and death over their people and some abused it - but most didn't, because the chief and the people were each other's cousins, and the boy (or sometimes girl) who was to be the next chief was fostered out to be raised by a peasant family to strengthen the bond. The laird had a right to call on his clansmen to come and fight and die for him - but if there was a bad harvest he (or she) had to sell the family silver to buy food for the people. This system worked well for a thousand years or more, until changes in fashion led to lairds being raised and educated far away from their clan-kin, breaking the social bonds which had kept the society together.

Kathry is somewhere in between. Like most lords of the manor in historical Britain, the lords regard themselves as a separate class and probably a bit better than their people, but they are raised in the idea of service and responsibility, to their people and to their estate, and mostly try to do a good job. Obviously you get the occasional tearaway who gambles away the estate's capital - but that happens in all societies.


if the ideal society has public executions thing is an american/european nazi statement (i know you didn't mean to suggest i or americans are nazis), can it be said that there are differences in european and american writing philosophies? in other words, are there cues beyond the obvious 'theatre'/'theater', 'lift/elevator' type of stuff that indicates where an author is from?
Well - it's too broad to say "differences in european and american writing philosophies" because writing philosophies vary considerably between European nations as well, and also I only speak English and *can* only speak for works written in, or translated into, English. For all I know, characteristics which I think of as peculiarly American might be absolutely typical of e.g. Turkish Cypriot novelists. But certainly there are often obvious cultural differences between US and UK writers. Some of these will be far more obvious in books set in contemporary society than they are in SF/Fantasy of course.

Relationships between the sexes/the formal dating game/"girlie" behaviour among females - one can't really imagine The Rules or Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus being written by a British author, although Sex and the City did strike a local chord with a lot of UK viewers I believe. That kind of formal game-playing between the sexes seems very foreign.

Portrayal of women and/or the middle classes as being materialistic, portrayal of wealth as neccessarily conferring high status. The materialist, celebrity-worshipping culture is gradually creeping in over here, but certainly for my generation and older social status tends to depend on education and good taste rather than on wealth. [Or at least, people who have wealth but no education or taste *think* they have high status, but the rest of us sneer at them behind their backs.] Being overtly materialistic and displaying obvious wealth is associated with the sort of people Americans call "white trash." Therefore, sex-and-shopping novels tend to come across as being "American" - even when they aren't!

[Or - working-class people have expensive home-electronics. Middle-class people have tasteful ethnic rugs. Upper-class people have wall-to-wall labradors and muddy boots.]

Extreme interest in the character's physical appearance also tends to feel "American."

Any stories in which people of apparently high status are openly racist or sexist or believe in the death-penalty - we have plenty of people who have such beliefs here but they are beliefs which tend to be associated with the underclass, and people who wish to appear socially acceptable rarely express them openly. If it's a story about an openly racist or sexually opressive society it's probably written by an American - if it's about a society which is officially fair but where there is covert prejudice operating behind the scenes, or where there is open prejudice based only on social class, it's probably British.

Paranoia about the underclass - a large sub-genre of British literature is based around heroes who are junkies or thieves or spend much of the story being sick and I get the impression Americans tend just to see such people as a seething, faceless collective enemy - but I could easily be wrong about that one since my experience of American literature is mainly SF and detective stuff.

Stories in which the protagonists devote a lot of time to being sick (or other less than attractive bodily functions) tend to be British...

Stories which are subtly ironic tend to be British, ones which are full of sparkling wisecracks tend to be American.

Stories which are morose and pessimistic tend to be British, ones which are upbeat and optimistic tend to be American (except Harlan Ellison).

Stories which are gushingly sentimental and/or which talk a lot about patriotism and/or religion (especially Christian religion) in emotive terms are almost always American - stories which are determinedly cynical and snide are usually British (except Harlan Ellison).

Stories which talk about religion at all are usually American - as are nearly all stories in which the MC is a Christian.

Stories in which patriotism, or hunting, are seen as even socially acceptable are usually American.

Stories about weird psychological theories are often American because the theories themselves so often are. [IMO it's to do with the way shrinks are paid - in the US afaik they get paid per case so it's in their interests to keep people in treatment by thinking up exotic problems: here they mostly get paid by the health service, and within extreme limits they get the same money however many patients they see - so it's in their interests to declare people cured and shove them back on the streets even when sometimes they clearly shouldn't be.]

Finally there's a noticeable tendency for US writers to assume that their readers will only be interested in a story if the protagonists are American, so they take stories about heroic deeds peformed by British soldiers and re-write them as if the heroes were American (which causes a great deal of ill-feeling here), or re-write British comedies in an American setting. Whereas we are quite happy to watch American sitcoms, and if somebody wants to make a film about Socrates they don't feel obliged to re-locate it to Wales and change the names.

This may be the reason why US fantasy writers so often set stories in a sort of hybridized neverland which has some sort of European mediaeval culture grafted onto an American eco-system. I'm not sure whether this is laziness, or just because the writers/editors think their readers won't relate to a world which doesn't have maize and chipmunks in it - but it always gives me an uneasy feeling that the Native Americans are being written out of the American subconscious.

Of course British fantasy writers have it much easier because if they are writing about European mediaeval culture it's a lot nearer to home and they *can* set it in Britain without seeming at all odd - but they tend to set stories in a sort of fantasy mainland Europe with bears and so on and assume their readers will enjoy the exoticness, rather than be alienated by it.

Zane Curtis
03-24-2005, 07:50 AM
Mmm - but clearly, certain *other* crimes go up

I'll spell that out in full. When the practice of carrying concealed guns reaches a certain level, you're average strung out junky has a strong disintentive to mug someone in the street. So what does he do instead? He buys a stolen handgun off someone. He waits around a dark corner for you to come strolling by. You, of course, think you're invincible since you have your handgun for protection. But that junky isn't going to give you a chance to even touch your gun. Before you even know he's there, he's going to shoot you dead and rifle your pockets.

That gun you bought for personal protection has just gone into circulation, and what would have been a simple mugging in a society with strict firearms control has turned into a murder. In the statistics, the apparent rate of muggings has gone down, but only because it's evolved into a more serious crime. Now, maybe you're going to get lucky. Maybe the guy thinks he can get the drop on you without killing you first, so maybe you can survive long enough to actually use that handgun you've bought for personal protection. Because even a strung out junky is not stupid enough to give you enough warning to prepare yourself for a mugging, that means the first opportunity you'll have to get off a shot is when the guy is running away from you. Still want to pull that trigger? Well, a guy running away from you does not constitute a imminent threat, so you're the guy going to jail for murder. The DA, of course, is not going to pursue a case against a corpse, so the statistics still show a drop in the mugging rate. (Crime statistics are usually done on a such a small sample size that single incidents like this can actually skew the results.)

Guns = personal protection is the biggest lie ever sold.

whitehound
03-24-2005, 08:07 AM
Guns = personal protection is the biggest lie ever sold.
The big problem with guns from that p.o.v. is that they work from a distance. "You hurt me, I'll hurt you" might work as a deterrent with knives/swords and would almost certainly work with unarmed martial-arts training: but carrying a gun is never, ever going to make you safe from gun-crime, because the other guy can take a pop at you from halfway down the street before you even know he's there, and if he's a decent shot you never even get the chance to retaliate. Having a lot of guns floating around in society just makes it more likely that someone will take a potshot at you.

Terry Pratchett said that openly-carried weapons like swords are for having, not for using - you carry them openly so you won't *have* to use them - but concealed weapons are for killing with.

If we ever get as far as Star Trek-style weaponry it probably wopuld be OK to let any citizen carry phasers, permanently locked on stun. A phaser wouldn't protect you from other phasers, and the prevalence of phasers in society would make it more likely you would be shot by one, but if you were only going to be stunned anyway that wouldn't be too bad (provided somebody didn't stun you while you were e.g. driving a car), and having a phaser probably would protect you from knife-crime, from rape and similar.

But guns as they stand protect you from probably non-lethal crime (knives, fists, rape) at the expense of making you more vulnerable to probably-lethal crime.

Zane Curtis
03-24-2005, 10:38 AM
But guns as they stand protect you from probably non-lethal crime (knives, fists, rape) at the expense of making you more vulnerable to probably-lethal crime.

I don't think it's always as simple as that. We live in an indirect world. Piss someone off, and they won't confront you. They'll slink away and phone fifteen friends with baseball bats, then wait for you out in the parking lot. That sort of stuff has gone on for as long as I can remember. I've seen a lot more of that than I have of one-on-one fist fights.

The way that gets worse is when the guy phones fourteen friends with baseball bats and one with a rifle. That's happened in Sydney a couple of times now, and I don't like it one little bit. You don't stand a chance in an ambush like that, gun or no gun. The only way you truly stay safe from attack is to leave the area immediately after you have an altercation with someone. That might not be an obvious thing to do if you've been brought up on a diet of Bruce Lee movies and Hollywood cartoon violence.

preyer
03-24-2005, 02:23 PM
mu, i said captains of star ships, not soldiers. big difference. my theory is your more successful methods of actually operating a ship is through conservative ideals. i say that because if you rise up through the ranks to that point, you've heard it all, and you're not going to stand there and listen to some schmuck trying to b.s. you when you know better. whether or not a captain's personal opinion of, say, smoking space pot dictates there's no real harm in it, his official standpoint is going to be 'hell, no.'

i liked your statement about comparing modern versus historical and speculative definitions of 'conservative' and 'liberal,' but, as you pointed out, if conservatives are interesting in maintaining the status quo, this would especially apply to a military situation. that's why they've fought against gays and women in the military, because of their supposed morale-depleting factor. having not been in the military, i can't say if that's true or not, just that i could recall as many stories against as there certainly are stories pro. in those terms, there has been a 'liberalizing' which commanders have to learn to deal with. still, there's nothing that going to replace discipline (not the 'throw 'em in the brig' kind). i can't see an organized military ever getting rid of their notions of honour, discipline, and duty, all of which plays directly into a conservative thinkology.

good reply, wh. there was one point that i either didn't make clear or was slightly taken out of context, but it's not really worth pointing out because i'm not feeling very egotistical at the moment.

especially when you're dealing with hot topic issues, statistics have to be taken with a grain of salt, even gov't stats. it's pretty easy to find statistics to go against any argument, and i'm sure that were i to visit the NRA website, there'd be plenty of convincing supporting evidence for concealed-weapons. somewhere in the middle there are some facts, it's just parsing them out, weighing them against common sense, and using your experiences. a strung-out junkie is probably a poor example to use, but i see what you're getting at. we live in a world where it's possible, however unlikely if you're a normal person, to literally be murdered for the kind of shoes you wear or what kind of colours you have on. pretty much, there are bad places in town where cops won't even go, and you're better off not going there yourself. if you insist on doing so, or walking down dark alleys in the dead of night, maybe you have your weapon at the ready as to not get caught unawares, eh? add to that that most people really don't favour guns over mace or stun-guns for personal protection anyway. and, yeah, i believe it is a law that we have to have gun safes to store guns in, but i could be wrong on that. i know several liberal politicians have been lobbying for trigger locks for years.

i say that not because i'm defending the supposed american's right to keep and bear arms, but to illustrate a point between theory and 'what really happens' to bear in mind when writing. the theory is that trigger locks and gun safes protect kids from using the gun and killing themselves or others. and on some level that's going to work. it certainly won't hurt. on the opposite spectrum, say you live in a very bad part of town. you might keep your firearms handy in your nightstand drawer, just in case. sure, it might be against the law, but it's not always viewed as either practical or smart in certain cases. these aren't criminals, at least they don't consider them as such. it's rather interesting to me to delve into this kind of mindset, maybe because i can see their point, too.

and we laud authority who breaks the rules in entertainment. i mean, how many times has kirk gone into the neutral zone, anyway? or interpreted his prime directives to suit his noble goal? indeed, that conflicting philosophy is inbred in entertainment. 'don't ever, EVER push that button, soldier.' and every single time that soldier winds up pushing that button in the end. it's acceptable to a certain degree, nay, practically encouraged, to break the rules if what you're doing has a noble or benefitial effect. in real life, i used to know an ex-army ranger who was sworn not to talk about the black ops he partook in, though he admitted he did some. black ops are by definition 'breaking the rules,' yet we pull them off frequently under the auspices of protecting our country and our way of life. even our commercials aimed at children depict the 'cool kid' thumbing his nose at the stupid authority figure who only wished he could be as cool as the fifth grader sucking yogurt out of a tube.

from a character standpoint, we dig bad boys, anyway. okay, we dig them in real life, too. i'm a guy, but these people tend to be much more interesting than your boy scouts. women definitely respond to them.

on the one hand, we laud and recognize those righteous, upright citizens. whenever a cop actually accomplishes something, we're quick to award medals. when people die, we erect memorials and call them heroes, sometimes with little or no appreciably heroic activity taking place. and at the same time, we love our president that much more when he gets caught in a hundred scandals and has an affair with his wife. without getting into a whole kennedy debate, he's considered one of our countries greatest presidents... that's despite a lot of facts to the contrary.

brits aren't scandal mongers? well, y'all sure love to follow the royalty around, don't you? american royalty consists of entertainers. if what you're saying is americans are more heavy-handed and blunt, i certainly agree with that. we don't tend to be equated with subtlety, lol. maybe there are some forms of characterizations there that illustrate that. that makes me wonder if there's a difference between american 'style' of characterization and the latino standard? hm, i wonder if it might very well be worth it to learn spanish....

whitehound
03-25-2005, 02:29 AM
brits aren't scandal mongers?

Who said that? I certainly didn't.

preyer
03-25-2005, 01:23 PM
'The materialist, celebrity-worshipping culture is gradually creeping in over here, but certainly for my generation and older social status tends to depend on education and good taste rather than on wealth.' ~ your royalty is your celebrity, no? unless you're specifically saying 'celebrity' in terms of movie stars, and basically ignoring worship of rock stars since elvis presley. the implication seems to be that the british have so far been able to ignore this supposedly strictly american pasttime until just recently. or did i just misunderstand that? i wouldn't know, but you're also saying that the british aren't as obsessive about collecting material goods as we are, to which i can't argue due to ignorance about that. for all it's worth, i could say the british care more about the status conferred in their material goods, but how true would that be? :)

Pthom
03-25-2005, 02:00 PM
need I reiterate?
This forum isn't here to allow the discussion of current politics or our personal opinions about them. Please keep the discussion of politics as relates to science fiction or fantasy or I will have to consider closing this thread.

Thanks.

whitehound
03-26-2005, 04:11 AM
But it *is* relevant - remember that this discussion centred around preyer saying that it was unrealistic to write about an alien society in which people paid taxes to provide healthcare which they themselves didn't need, because no-one would ever want to live that way - when in fact it's how most of the world outside the US does live right now.

This is all relevant to preyer's question about how people's own cultural background conditions their writing. E.g., I can't speak with total authority since I'm primarily a pure SF reader, but afaik most fantasy seems to be set in a sort of mythological Mediaeval Europe, and most fantasy seems to be written by Americans. The fact that America is not a welfare state, and American writers therefore do not generally think in those terms, probably explains why no fantasy I have ever come across mentions the quite effective welfare provisions which existed in Mediaeval Europe - the alms houses, the free, church-funded hospitals, the free accommodation and food provided by the church to poor travellers, the scholarships and so on. This produces a skewed version of Mediaeval society which makes it appear a much nastier place to live than it probably was, and makes it seem as if peasants passively endured ruthless oppression and taxation by church and lord - rather than thinking, rationally, that the benefits of the system outweighed the disadvantages.

To get back to preyer's questions, material goods don't particularly convey status in the UK, or didn't until recently. This came about roughly as follows.

In the Mediaeval period status and wealth went hand in hand - there were some rich merchants around, but the mega-ruch had either inherited their wealth or been given it in gratitude for services provided to someone else with inherited wealth and status.

After the Industrial Revolution, a new class of mega-rich industrialists grew up, but the old families wished to retain their unique status so they looked down on "new money," as opposed to old money i.e. the kind you inherit.

Then the noble families gradually lost their wealth, but they kept most of their perceived status, so being mega-rich came to mean you were neccessarily of the nouveau riche (because there was hardly any old money left). That meant that being obviously rich came to be seen as not quite nice - a bit common, as we say over here.

The Royal family are something a bit different from modern celebrities. There have been times (and now is one of them) when we treat them pretty much like rock stars, alternately gushing over them and attacking them, and they have often been objects of obsessive interest - I understand that in the 15th C people were allowed into Westminster to watch the king eat! The level of personal neurosis which this sort of thing induces is important to consider when writing about European royalty.

But they are something more than mere celebrities. Although the press (yes, probably engineered by Murdoch)is currently doing its best to sever the links between monarch and people, they have traditionally been a living embodiment of our sense of identity - kind of the way the Stars and Stripes are for Americans.

It should be remembered, incidentally, when writing about Mediaeval kings, that the terms "Your Majesty" and "Your Highness" were invented in 1485 by Henry VII who had a) no claim to the throne and b) a very odd sense of humour. Prior to that kings were simply "Your Grace."

DaveKuzminski
03-26-2005, 07:47 AM
I seem to be doing a lot of things right. Although a book, actually a series, I'm working on is not really in our medieval age, it is in what would be one for the culture on the world where I placed it. Interestingly enough, I posited the existence of retirement and some other provisions for the people, but they also have an alternate to the death penalty which is to banish those who won't work or break certain rules to the wilderness. Most people in their culture feel that is a death sentence, though it's not really that bad. In fact, the people who guided them in that knew the truth and wanted a way of getting people to expand on their own despite the presence of some quite formidable wildlife, though I don't actually mention this last bit in the story yet.

preyer
03-27-2005, 12:57 AM
and it's difficult to overcome the misperceptions we've grown up with. in this case, like i mentioned, seeing a medieval village in any practical context as opposed to the disease riddled, population oppressed mud hole or the highly idealized, sanitary version with peasants dancing in the streets. people always have a tremendous amount of false ideas about pirates and the old west, too. of course, the truth isn't usually as exciting.

the england WH mentions was still much more brutal than our culture. there were minour revolutions against oppressive lords. because we don't have the history backing us up to great extents, it's harder for americans to get an idea of this type of society, i think. (we do have an extensive and comprehensive welfare system, though, in case anyone is interested. its effectiveness is questionable, but it's certainly there for anyone to partake in if they need to. i'm in the process of buying a convenience store, and one of the things i'll be doing is to incorporate it to protect my house. so, there are laws there, too, that helps people protect themselves. unfortunately, were i a minority, i'd have my loan by now. go figger. hence, the term 'angry white male syndrome,' lol. but, i've talked to lots of europeans under the notion that america just turns its back on its poor and mentally disabled, while the truth is far, far, far from that. i mention that not to defend america, but to illustrate how people have ideas about foreign countries that just aren't true, rather like how some americans think all muslims in the middle east hate america. hell, we often have misconceptions about our *own* country.)

whitehound
07-17-2005, 07:39 AM
bump