Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pointless Question #43

Why is it that so many aliens have resolved enough issues to have planetwide governments but are still ruled by hereditary monarchies?

9 comments:

King of Ferrets said...

I blame ninjas.

Tom Foss said...

Off-topic: what's up with the "recent comments" widget? It's showing comments from August.

Bronze Dog said...

Yeah, that's weird when it happens. Last time it cleared up on its own.

Mongrel said...

Tradition

Anonymous said...

Because hereditary monarchies are clearly the most stable form of leadership, as demonstrated by their long tradition of... tradition. Any sufficiently enlightened civilisation will eventually conclude that the only way to stop assholes fighting for power is to make sure one asshole already has it all.

As such, we strongly recommend that you invest your entire life savings in a country fortunate enough to have a monarchy.

- The British Board of Propaganda.

William said...

Because the people who write that tripe are lacking in imagination, and are really writing about a 19th (not even 20th) or earlier century version of Earth, with worlds standing in for countries. (This fits with the theme of starships as sailing vessels, which is roughly how they're treated in standard space opera, in terms of travel times, etc.) Not just one government each (and that a backwards one), but one language and one culture.

In fairness, though, some of those cultures can be pretty strange. But to find an alien world in SF that feels as real, and as complicated as Earth, is as rare as hen's teeth.

Monarchies are a simplification: you don't have to depict internal politics, but can present the aliens as a monolithic enemy, a foil for mankind. It also helps place them in that enemy role, in contrast to a "democratic" Earth (standing in for the U.S.).

MWchase said...

And if it's a democratic government that doesn't make all that much sense, maybe the story takes place in an alternate future of Left Behind where God was dicking with the characters even more than he was already supposed to.

William said...

P.S. And of course (though perhaps in contrast to my earlier points), a lot of people just have a misguidedly romantic view of feudalism. But everyone imagines himself the knight or herself the princess, never the peasant.

Stogoe said...

In fairness, though, some of those cultures can be pretty strange. But to find an alien world in SF that feels as real, and as complicated as Earth, is as rare as hen's teeth.

Well, yeah. Trying to equal the complexity of all of human history with the creative output of one single human is frankly impossible. Not that we can't or shouldn't strive toward more complexity than Ice Planet or Smugglers' Wretched Hive. But if you expect all your Space Opera fiction to have dozens of worlds as rich and deep as all of human history, you need to lower your expectations a bit.