It’s Good to be the King

So there was an election the other day.  You might have heard about it.

I was not surprised by the outcome and frankly, I didn't care much.  As I quipped a entries back, we're doomed either way; regardless of the individuals involved, it is the nature of any government to swell in size, become more intrusive into the lives of its citizens, to grow more corrupt and riddled with decay until finally the entire edifice collapses.  Historical precedent has been set; for every system in the universe – physical or otherwise – the only constant is entropy.  The remaining question is one of longevity.

(Muse:  Lighten up on the cynicism, would ya?  You are one gloomy gus.)

No doubt.  I am anxious to get on the road here in a few days.

Anyway, my question has less to do with that and more to do with the system of government we see in speculative fiction.  Why is it that every form of fantasy seems to feature some form of monarchal government? 

I don't think this is just a problem of the "medieval" bent to fantasy (as in, the overwhelming sword-n-sorcery fantasy having a northwestern European influence).  After all, the concept of the divine Emperor is common in historical China.  The Aztecs were ruled by a King who was beyond reproach.  So I don't think it is western bias.

Is it just laziness?  That's what we know, so that's what we write?  Worse, is it an act of convenience?  Since we know the reader will identify with-slash-understand that, that's what we write?

Or is it really drilled into our damn DNA?  I mean, our closest genetic ancestors in the animal kingdom live under a rule-by-the-strong maxim, and so it goes with humans.  When you get beyond the tribal structure of nomadic people (e.g., Native Americans of the plains or Australian Aborigines), humans always seems to fall into the structure with the few strongest at the top, ruling the weaker many, often through force.  Even in more egalitarian societies, there are always a few with more power than the rest.  Are having kings and tyrants simply us responding to the way we know how to do genetic business – and is our writing reflective of that?  And can a fantasy or sci-fi story be written with a non-pyramidal form of government running the society?  I'm sure it can but when I strain for an example, I draw a blank.

There is an old (i.e., ancient) computer game out there called Masters of Orion 2.  It's a space conquest game.  One of the playable races in he game is a race of insect-like creatures.  Per the game's narration, that race essentially shares a hive mind, meaning they work with unity of purpose, giving the player bonuses in production and protection from spying (who can break into a society that is that closed off?) but penalties to morale (something that affects one affects all) and they take twice as long to assimilate conquered species.  I think about that and it kind of fascinates me.  What might a story in that society look like?  Would the author be writing for one member of the society – or all of them at once?

I am interested in seeing if there are any examples of this out in spec fiction.  Not necessarily what I just mentioned, but some framework where the characters interact in a form of government unlike what we see.  Is it possible?  Or is the human mind simply to hardwired to accept anything else?


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