A way with worlds: 16 - Yin and Yang: Utopia Dystopie Cornucopia
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 1
Once, there were
two kingdoms, a very good kingdom, and its neighbor, a very bad
kingdom. The people in the good kingdom were happy and nice, the
people in the bad kingdom mean and oppressed.
One day, the bad
kingdom attacked the good kingdom, and there was a terrible
fight. The good king and the bad king finally met in combat.
"I have a
question," said the bad king.
the good king asked, raising his sword.
"Why is it
our kingdoms are completely different, yet close by? Why is it
that we have no similarities and thus fight? Why is it my
miserable people conquer your happy people?"
know," replied the good king.
kingdoms vanished in a puff of logic.
Welcome to Yin and Yang, an
irregular (read, whenever I have a theme) part of A Way With
Worlds. In Yin and Yang, I'll take a look at opposite ideas and
extremes in continuities, and how to reconcile them and/or avoid
extremes that may damage your continuity's consistency.
And, I think you can guess
this column's theme already . . .
MY KINGDOM FOR A
It's one of the most egregious stereotypes ever to show up in
fiction; the really nice kingdom/country/planet and the really
bad kingdom/country/planet, the fairy land of perfection and the
oppressive yet-unstoppable nightmare, next to each other or
close. Talk about metaphor all you want, this is a trap that can
ruin a good continuity.
It's simple to say there's a
Utopia and a dystopia, making it believable is another thing. In
fact, honestly, unless you're doing complex political metaphor
and analysis, its likely to end up not working.
Where's the flaws? Let's
take an analysis of both sides of the situation and common flaws
THE GOOD KINGDOM:
- Everyone is happy - For
the average human group, its hard to get everyone equally
- Everyone is happy, yet
the kingdom is weak - The old "happiness breads
weakness" argument. No one ever focuses on the idea
that happy people may want to keep themselves happy.
- The ineffectual leader
- The kingdom manages to be perfect yet the leader is a
dunce? If he's so influential, why hasn't he messed it up
(unless he's not the real government, which in case he
doesnt matter anyway).
- We're so happy we have
no military - then you're also stupid if there's
oppressive enemies, and its hard to imagine how stupid
people achieved a utopia in the first place.
- Er, we degenerated -
and the utopia lasted until one critical point and no one
tried to fix it or saw it happen.
THE EVIL KINGDOM:
- We're oppressive and
evil and controlling - and you don't suffer potential
revolutions, being overthrown, an un-responsive sheeplike
- *We have Total Control
of the Population - Ever read "Dilbert?" Think
you could micromanage a kingdom?
- Our land is dark and
dreary and blighted - SO how do you support your people?
Those blasted fields and barren wastelands arent
that great for farming.
- We're the most evil
kingdom that ever ways - So no one has attacked you yet,
banded together, etc.
- All are afraid of us -
So why hasn't anyone banded together to destroy you.
- Our massive army
strikes fear into the hearts of all - So how do you feed
it and support it and organize it? Does your kingdom have
any kind of economy?
- Well, we're evil - and?
Can you reconcile these opposites? Sadly, I think not.
Simply defining something as complex as social-political
structures is going to create a flawed, unbelievable, and shallow
continuity. Simply saying that a Kingdom is good or evil is as
much a cop out as saying a person is good or evil - definition is
not motivation or background.
There are a few common ways
to try and get simply good/evil kingdoms to work:
- The gods did it - this
is a pretty good one, to cast the battle in a larger
context. However, it can also be, to put it
non-technically, lame and easily abused. Certainly it
requires the definition of the complexities of the gods
and still requires one to figure out how the societies
manage to function.
- It's temporary - A
temporary polarity just occurred between two cultures,
and it just happened to make the perfect story.
- Well, it's really alien
- Then you have a lot of explaining to do so the audience
can understand. Attempting to be radically different may
take you beyond simplistic definitions of good and evil
Don't fall into the simple good/evil trap in defining
your societies. It may seem easy or obvious, but for strong
continuities, rarely is that easy to pull off. Take the time to
build your governments/cultures, and dont fall into the
simple good/evil trap.
Recently, I've focused on sites to promote online
projects. Now, I'd like to inroduce you to a few that may help
you make money.
http://www.themestream.com/ - An
article publishing site that
lets you get paid for people viewing what you post. Seems orented
towards columns and helpful ideas.
http://www.epinions.com/ - A
review/advice publishing site.
Express yourself, help out, make money.
http://www.iuniverse.com/ - Easy
publishing in a bottle. A
newer venture in making publishing more accessible to people,
more author-oriented, and more print-on-demand focused. Worth a
look. I'm keeping an eye on this one in the future!
Take a trip to my own alternate world, the Crossworld of Xai, at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/xai/
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