Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Category: Stories Behind Stories (page 1 of 3)

Genre Tax

With taxes being big news on both sides of the Atlantic, from the Tories’ major u-turn on their proposed raise in NI contributions for self-employed people, to the continued questions over Donald Trump’s refusal to release  his tax returns, we should take a look at taxes.

Tax forms a major part of the proper functioning of a modern society. As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes, and the same is true in your fictional world. As we’ve already looked at death (twice), it’s time to take a look at tax. Continue reading

The Afterlife

With even more celebrity deaths in the news since I wrote my last piece claiming that 2016 was the year of death, the year seems determined to prove me right with the deaths of Muhammad Ali, Kenny Baker, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Ron Glass, Andrew Sachs, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael and sanity. That being the case, it’s time to look at another aspect of death that has a profound effect on the fictional society that you’re creating: the afterlife.

Every society has some view of  what happens after death – whether that includes some kind of afterlife, or simply a nothingness – and that belief can have a profound effect on how people behave. A well-defined belief in an afterlife can add depth to your world, and define the shape that your society takes. Continue reading

Political Opposition

In the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, increasingly extreme views have appeared in the UK’s mainstream political sphere. From increased racist attacks on migrants, to more and more openly xenophobic policies being put forward by the Conservative government under Theresa May. This week, one Conservative councillor has even gone so far as to start a petition demanding that continued support of the UK’s membership of the EU be considered an act of treason.

This raises an interesting question for your fictional world: How are the people who openly oppose the majority’s beliefs or the government’s policies treated within your society? We have looked at violent dissent before, but not everyone in your society must think the same way, or agree with the same things, without it being an issue of extremism. Real-life societies tend to comprise a broad spectrum of views and opinions which may not necessarily be compatible with one another. So how does your society deal with these differing views? Continue reading

Pollution

This week brings news that China and the USA have both formally joined the Paris climate agreement, committing themselves to a drastic reduction in emissions in order to keep the global average rise in temperatures under 2°C. Between them, the two nations are responsible for around 40% of global CO2 emissions, and their ratifying of this agreement is a significant step forward for the agreement and its goals.

Pollution and environmental effects can have a profound effect on the way that people live their lives, and the shape that a society takes. How might pollution affect your society, and what steps might your society have taken to deal with it? Continue reading

Strangers in Strange Lands

With the Olympic Games comes travel. A lot of travel. Athletes and spectators from all over the world descending on a country to which they otherwise would never have gone – and in many cases, to one which they know nothing about. Foreign customs and conventions, strange foods and diseases, and many opportunities for misunderstandings and misadventure.

The Olympics is often also an interesting time for authoritarian regimes like Eritrea, with a number of athletes and officials taking the opportunity to defect (and in related news, this week sees the defection of North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UK). With travel and exploration such a big part of much genre fiction, this is a great opportunity to examine what happens when people from one culture go to visit another. Continue reading

Ceremony and Tradition

With the beginning of the Rio Olympics dominating the news around the world, the sports themselves can often take a back seat to the pomp and circumstance. Each host nation uses the beginning of the Olympics to proudly display something about themselves to the world, in a celebration of culture and history, full of symbolism which can sometimes be arcane and opaque to outsiders (who can forget US viewers utter confusion at the NHS tribute and mistaking Isambard Kingdom Brunel for Abraham Lincoln back in 2012?). The traditions of the Olympics themselves are just as prominent, from the Parade of Nations and the Olympic Flame to the Olympic Torch relay (which we’ll all conveniently forget was devised by the Nazis for the 1936 Berlin games).

These kinds of ceremonies and traditions can add colour and culture to your fictional setting, imbuing a civilisation with a sense of history, belief and custom, and avoiding a dry, functional portrayal. What do your people celebrate, and what do their traditions say about them? Continue reading

Dissent and Violence

In the last few weeks, the world has seen a number of high profile attacks on civilians, many of them claiming to be (or having been claimed by) the fundamentalist militant group Daesh (also known as Islamic State). While these attacks are despicable, they are hardly unique. Similar attacks on civilians have been conducted throughout history by pockets of individuals unhappy with some aspect of the governing status quo, be that religious, ideological or political. Disagreements exist in all societies, and extremist groups draw upon them the world over to increase their influence and accomplish their aims – from the Ku Klux Klan, to the IRA, to ETA.

Might your fictional world have similar extremist groups, and what effect might that have on the rest of society? Continue reading

Generational Divides

Since I’ve already written about political unions in the past, the inescapable news that the UK has narrowly voted for “Brexit”, the UK’s exit from the European Union, would seem to have me stuck retreading ground and discussing the same thing all over again, only with a slightly gloomier outlook.

However, one of the interesting things to emerge post-referendum is the demographics of those who voted; broadly speaking, the young were most likely to vote remain, and the old were most likely to vote to leave. This shows a huge divide between the generations in our society – might your fictional society have a similar divide? Continue reading

Privacy

Over in the US, the Supreme Court has just approved a law change that will allow the US Government greater powers to hack and access computers and phones both in the US and abroad, something which could have huge implications for privacy. Simultaneously, new rules are being proposed which may give citizens greater control over what information is collected by service providers.

This is part of a wider discussion about privacy which has continued for decades, from the USSR’s use of informants to the UK’s “snoopers charter“. Where does a right to privacy end, and other concerns – such as security or stability – become more important? Continue reading

Death

With 2016 continuing to be the year of death, losing David Bowie, Prince, Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett, Terry Wogan, Admiral Ackbar, and what seems to be the majority of the western hemisphere, death is the one thing that all societies have to deal with (unless your society is one of omnipotent immortals, à la Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time, naturally).

How they view death in a philosophical sense, and how they deal with the practical side, can vary wildly, and can also tell us a great deal about the kind of society we are dealing with. Is death something to be feared, or something to embrace? Is a funeral a solemn ceremony, a cheerful celebration of a life, or a clinical procedure? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

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