I’m going to avoid the whole sorry mess (partially because it is such a big mess, and partially because I’m not sure I should openly criticise our glorious new regime) and instead I’m going to talk about treaties, alliances and unions.
The election results show an astonishingly divided country, with the majority of Scottish voters endorsing the Scottish National Party, whose long-term goals include the dissolution of the United Kingdom, and who actively supported the pro-independence campaign in the Scottish Referendum in 2014. The rest of the UK, meanwhile elected the Conservative Party, who support (among other things) a referendum on the UK’s continued membership in the European Union – and the huge rise in support for the anti-European United Kingdom Independence Party shows a country pulling apart from itself and from its neighbours and allies.
Hmm, a kingdom in turmoil as parts of it try to pull away from their allies… regions trying to pull away from an unpopular ruler and write their own destiny… Sounds like we have the makings of some classic fantasy fiction here, right?
So there are a few things to bear in mind here when we’re building our fictional kingdom (or colony-world of the Galactic Federacy, or Hive of the Greater Wasps, or whatever); who are “our” people, who are our neighbour’s people, and how do they interact? Since this topic is so huge and multi-faceted, I’m going to split it into a couple of different posts.
First, then, what are the people like within our own borders? Has the kingdom always been one kingdom, or was it previously many kingdoms? How were those kingdoms unified – by treaty, by marriage, by conquest? Are they viewed as equals? Are some areas richer than others? All these things will help to inform how your fictional society interacts within its internal boundaries, and how characters from different parts of your fictional land can expect to be treated when adventuring in a different region.
Example: One hundred years ago, Stallia was an independent principality, ruled over by its own noble house. Attracted by Stallia’s mineral wealth, the king of the neighbouring Geringland mounted an invasion, executing the noble House of Stal and claiming Stallia as his own.
Here we can see a union through conquest. How might the people of Stallia feel about the conquest, both at the time and on hundred years later? Perhaps at the time there were uprisings, which were dealt with by Geringland’s military. Perhaps the people of Stallia still feel that they are a conquered people rather than full citizens of Geringland as the current king insists that they are. Perhaps they are hostile to Geringlanders who enter their lands and expect to be greeted as kin.
Let’s see an alternative example;
Example: One hundred years ago, Stallia was an independent principality, ruled over by its own noble house. Attracted by Stallia’s mineral wealth, the king of the neighbouring Geringland arranged for his eldest son to marry the ruling House of Stal’s only daughter. Eventually both rulers died, and the two lands were ruled over by the same royal line, leading eventually to the political union between the two.
Here we can see a relatively peaceful union which (we can assume) has been mutually advantageous for both sets of rulers; in exchange for the sovereignty of his land, the ruler of Stallia’s dwindling royal line merges with a much more powerful one. While this may be advantageous for his line, how might the ordinary citizenry take to it? They may feel that their rulers are too remote, that they are being led by people who do not necessarily share their history, language or traditions – or they may feel more comfortable and secure knowing that their homes and families now have the protection of a much larger army than previously. In any case, there is likely to be little genuine anger and likelihood of widespread uprising, since it is fairly evident that the decision taken was a mutual one.
However, this is not the end of the story where this peaceful union between Geringland and Stallia is concerned; the Stallians are still ruled from the capital of Geringland, many miles away. Perhaps the Geringlanders find the Stallian’s traditional ways to be “backwards” and attempt to impose their own culture upon them for the sake of national unity. Perhaps the mines of Stallia now operate exclusively for Geringland’s royal family and its capital, with the miners of Stallia and their families seeing less and less reward and security for their work. How might this feed into how cohesive Geringland is as a country, when one or more of its regions feel as though they are not treated fairly and their rulers do not understand or support their desires and their way of doing things?
What about if the regions have some manner of local governance, as part of a wider government?
Example: The Osiris had been travelling for a thousand years, but was still centuries from the colony world that had been selected for it back on Earth, before the Tear had become all-consuming. Consisting of a central command core and three encircling habitation rings, Osiris was designed as a self-sustaining biosphere; a home for generation after generation of millions of inhabitants. The three massive habitation rings each have their own Local Authority, while the leaders of the command core – drawn from the best and the brightest of all of the habitation rings decide on all matters that affect Osiris as a whole. Additionally, the ship was designed to be modular – if one habitation ring becomes damaged, it can be removed safely, and the remainder of the ship will still function correctly.
The two forward rings have become impatient over the last century, continually questioning why the ship must travel at only half of its maximum speed – if it had been travelling at full speed from the beginning, they would have reached their destination centuries ago and once again have real ground beneath their feet. The representatives of Ring 3, the most rearward ring, however, fearful at what the effects of increased engine output would be for the people living nearest it have constantly resisted these calls – but the representatives of Rings 1 and Ring 2 grow ever more insistent.
So we can see here how one area of a population can feel that they are increasingly victimised – that the rulings and decisions of a central authority will have powerfully negative effects on them, while having broadly positive effects on everyone else. It may be the case that the people of Ring 3 are being needlessly concerned with unlikely outcomes (as no doubt the people of Ring 1 and Ring 2 would claim), but it may also be the case that those who are unlikely to be negatively affected by the new policies are simply not giving enough concern to what may be a major issue (as the people of Ring 3 would likely contend).
What might the people of Ring 3 think about the others, who are putting their impatience above safety? How might the people of Rings 1 and 2 see the people of Ring 3 slowing down the journey through being overly cautious? How might this story proceed if the representatives of Rings 1 and 2 attempt to overrule Ring 3 and up the Osiris’ speed regardless?