Monday, July 29, 2013

Ruling Classes in Scifi - So Who's in Charge?

Heather Massey's recent post on royalty in scifi over at Heroes and Heartbreakers got me thinking about the monarchy and ruling classes in my own books. In Keir, the main character's own society is based on a matriarchy rather than a monarchy, although it's still decided by birth and bloodline rather than a democratic process. The system is loosely based on the same medieval Italian era that I took the design for the Palace (castle) of Adalucien from, to really keep the overall feel of the period. The Matriarch is the oldest female of the Corizi family, and she's not just a figurehead. She is law. The commander of the Adalucien forces is generally her husband, or her first born son or grandson (failing that, it would be the husband of the next Matriarch). The next Matriarch would be the daughter of the current one. Again, failing that it would be a daughter or granddaughter (or nearest female relative in the family). Anyone marrying into the ruling family, whether male or female, takes on the Corizi name, maintaining their rule while bringing in new blood and tying other families into the matriarchy.

A more traditional method of rule seemed most appropriate for a human society that had gone backward in its development, despite Keir being a scifi novel. Ironic, perhaps, when (as Heather suggested) the concept of royalty is perhaps a better fit with a fantasy story - and the opening to Keir definitely has a more fantasy feel to it than an obvious science fiction one. However, despite Keir's medieval start I still skirted around the idea of using royalty as the basis for Salusian rule. The idea of a matriarchy had more appeal since it came with the period I researched for the buildings, dress and customs, plus I can't deny a certain bias in creating a female led rule rather than the usual patriarchy.

But for Metraxi, a supposedly advanced alien civilization, I chose a queen. Why? Well, I think it started with the character of T'rill herself. As soon as she stalked into my head, the title was a perfect fit. T'rill was inspired by the likes of Princess Aurora from Flash Gordon and Princess Ardala from Buck Rogers, both childhood favourites. Sexy, smart, sneaky...okay, T'rill isn't sneaky, but she doesn't hold back from using her obvious charms to make her people adore her. Even if I'd given her some other title (technically, she isn't a 'queen' exactly as the role is among earthly monarchs but the nearest language equivalent), she'd still be a queen in my mind. Regal, charming, intelligent, and not above using those talents to fulfill her role. Unfortunately for her, the antagonist in Keir finds her weak spots and exploits them fully.

But Heather's article it also got me thinking about the British Royal family, and the huge role they play in diplomatic terms. They have no official powers in this country, or elsewhere in the world, and yet are adored by many across the globe. In a space-faring society, where perhaps we'd have to weave diplomatic relationships with other races, perhaps a Terran royal family would play a big part. One SFR title I've read recently - A Mere Formality by Ilona Andrews - has a marriage arranged between the ruler of a military race and a cultural analyst working for a diplomat. Perhaps that would be a reason to retain a monarchy in space, to strengthen bonds. Of course, that might not work to well with a completely alien race...

Back to another book, and Gethyon introduces the Galactic Commission and their military arm - Wardens. Rather like the Trade Federation in the Star Wars prequels, the Commission began as a loose association of commercial groups that took on military aid to protect convoys of cargo being pirated in deep space. This eventually became a form of government across the human worlds known as the Territories, with links to the military and/or government of other alien-controlled worlds. 'Harmony through trade' is their motto, and the heart of their existence. Members of the Commission are neither born to the role or elected, but buy their way in as part of a larger trade consortium. Since commerce is the heart and soul of the human Territories, it made sense that the business world would run it. However, the wardens must apply for the role and pass entry exams and training courses.

I've yet to write about a world governed by a democratically elected ruler or senate, although I daresay that will come. So what kind of government do you favour? And how do you go about deciding on how it works?

Pippa's Journal

Mission Success!

Keir has been selected as one of the final three books in the Paranormal/Time-Travel/Futuristic category of the RWA Aspen Gold Contest! Woo hoo! It will now be judged by librarians and book sellers, with the results being announced mid-September. A shout out to friend and fellow Lyrical Press author Karen Y Bynum, whose paranormal romance Witch Way to Turn has also made it into the next round in the Young Adult category. Woot!

On a more personal note, I've had two of my monsters in hospital - one with a serious viral infection that had him on the childrens ward for four days, and the other to A&E (ER) with a deep one inch gash to his head. I'm pleased (and relieved!) to report both are now fine and dandy. Phew!


On the subject of contests, The Rebecca - a contest for unpublished works, but the author can be published or unpublished - run by LERA (co-blogger Laurie A Green's chapter of the RWA) extended its contest deadline until the end of July, so this is your last chance to enter! I can recommend this contest for the feedback alone, even if you don't make it into the winners. You need the first 5000 words of your manuscript - and it must be romance - and you can find more details here.

Due to losing my last week of writerly related stuff due to a poorly little monster, the relaunch of the SFR Brigade Presents will now be delayed until September. I'm sorry about that, but I think it better to wait until I can throw myself into it whole-heartedly and promote it properly rather than struggling to do a half-baked job over the summer.

My own blog is running on automatic for the holidays - there's a post about making Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters to celebrate my 42nd birthday on the 3rd August, a guest post by TC Southwell on World-building for the release of her latest fantasy novel, why I like reptiles and write about them, and also some cosplay and costume designs for my characters. I've plans to make a Jedi costume over the next few weeks, and details on that will probably go up when I'm 'back' in September.

Ping Pong

@Laurie - promo. Ah, the bane of my existence as a writer! I try so hard not to be one of those annoying authors who does nothing but promo on places like Twitter, although I've had a couple of people say I don't promo enough. Or the odd occasion where a book I've had out for months suddenly gets a comment from one of my friends on Facebook along the lines of 'oh, I didn't know you had another one out!'. Clearly I'm failing somewhere. It's getting the balance right. I read somewhere that only a third of your tweets should be promo, although probably ninety percent of mine have been chatter, lol. Now that I have more than one title out, I can at least vary the tweets and use review quotes as well as lines from the books to make it more interesting, but still. I keep looking for new ways to do it.

@Donna - loved your post on 'Whose Character is it Anyway?' I'm always fascinated by how my readers see my characters, usually by naming an actor/actress they could see in the role. I've yet to have the same name mentioned twice. I also had a lot of fun discussing actors for Keir with a friend, and we did a shortlist. But I think the most fun (and wonderful) thing I ever got was a piece of fan art from a friend, on how he saw my two main characters in the opening scene of Keir. And since Laurie asked about it, here it is -

I'm not going to say whether this is how I saw the scene in my head or not - readers are entitled to see the characters as they imagine them. (But I will say I always saw Aidan Turner, Kili in The Hobbit as a potential Keir). ;)


  1. I have a little bit of everything in my SFR series. There's democratically elected presidents, a Senate kinda sorta like the Star Wars Senate and the UN combined, but nothing they do is binding. And a couple of monarchies.

    My main characters are my alien race who have just gotten their freedom back. They had a king before their enslavement. They were a fractured tribal society in their past, and there was one man who was able to get them to stop fighting with each other. So they made him king. When they were enslaved, their closest genetic cousins (also a monarchy) kept track of the royal line and created a secret society to protect it.

    The government they're building now is a restoration of the monarchy, combined with an American style representative democracy. The king does have actual power, though I'm still figuring out what all it is. For where my aliens are right now a king is what they need, someone they trust and who they know isn't going to abandon them.

    Their closest neighbors are the same people who conquered them in the first place, and they're an autocratic empire based on ancient Egypt.

    I've always enjoyed political science, so getting a chance to use it and build my own governments is a lot of fun.

  2. You're one of the few I see who doesn't make every Twitter post promo. It drives me crazy. That wasn't the purpose of Twitter!!!

    As for ruling classes, - well I'm finally writing my second sci fi romance and setting up my controllers. Interesting times!
    Sorry about the babies!! Glad all is okay.

  3. Rachel, yours all sounds so organized. I usually have to back track mine after throwing them into a story, then trying to make them work later.

    Barbara, thanks - I try to keep the promo stuff down, and not promo just my things all the time. What depresses me is the people who use automated DMs to spam you, or the latest thing is roundteam that picks out and RTs stuff for you. Really?! At this rate, Twitter will be nothing but bots! That's not what any kind of social media was intended for!

  4. Trust me, Pippa, it sounds way more organized than it is.

    Most of it is in notes, not actually in the story. Most of the action takes place on my aliens' home planet, and is focused on the romance angle. I love epic stuff, but I'm forcing myself to hold back.

    For the fourth one, I'll be delving more into their enemies societal structure. I'm excited about it. Still have lots to figure out about their society. They're not what I thought they were.

    The first book also ignores most of the political aspects. It's about the archaeology and the romance. The politics starts showing up in book two, there's a little more in book three, and there'll be a little more in book four. I'm fleshing it out as I go.


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