Space Opera Politics: post-conflict politics in the Human Legion Pt. 1June 21, 2016
Interview with PP CorcoranJune 29, 2016
After the war what next?
That’s when the hard work starts, that’s what!
In the forthcoming Revenge Squad series, the Human Autonomous Region is fighting for stability, and that’s not just to provide a decent life for its citizens. If you’ve read the Human Legion series as far as Book 5 then you will probably be thinking that if any freedoms have truly been won, then they are going to be highly fragile. Winning freedom is one thing. Making it work, is quite another. As we saw in part one, you can compare this chaotic region of space to Central and Eastern Europe between the First and Second World Wars.
And it is a much more constrained area of space (and time) than we experience in the Human Legion books.
To begin with, at least, the Revenge Squad books are limited to the planet of Klin-Tula and its surrounding star system. The characters aren’t about to pop into a space shuttle or matter transporter and arrive in the next chapter on Earth or Tranquility. There are stuck on Klin-Tula as you and I are on Earth (unless you’re reading this on the ISS, in which case ‘Hi’ and ‘Good on you’ but you are only marginally less stuck than me).
In the late eighteenth century, a protected series of wars were fought in North America involving the native peoples, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and European colonists. The European powers had the strongest conventional militaries, but had to travel across the Atlantic. In the Age of Sail it took around a month to cross to Europe and two months to cross to America. See how that turned out!
Now consider the situation in the Human Legion universe where the equivalent of transatlantic travel times are approximately 75 times greater than European ships took to across the Atlantic.
If the world of Klin-Tula succumbs to a coup, invasion, epidemic, a fashion for avocado-colored bathroom fittings or a similar calamity, it’s going to be at least a generation before any help will arrive. The world needs to be self-sufficient enough to respond to its own needs.
That includes a military capability, which in the case of Klin-Tula takes the form of the federal Civilian Defense Force.
Klin-Tula is a colony. There have been settlers there for thousands of years, slaves themselves like everyone in the White Knight Empire. They are few in number, and most live underground or in the seas, choosing not to live on the land surface. Which is just as well, because Klin-Tula has been designated as a ‘conglomerated colony’.
The leadership of the Human Legion decided early on that to allocate one planet to the Littoranes, another to the Hardits and another planet to the humans, would be an invitation for the fledgling Human Autonomous Region to split along species grounds.
Twelve of the constituent species of the Human Legion are being settled on Klin-Tula. Think of how diverse contemporary humanity is and then imagine the multitude of religions, political ideologies, tribes, ethnic and cultural subgroups within each of those species. Then multiply by twelve. And then add the settlers in who were already there.
Klin-Tula is a crazy patchwork world, which makes it interesting to write about, but difficult to live in. This division combined with the huge separation from neighboring star systems also makes Klin-Tula ripe for exploitation. Imagine corporate raiders operating on a planetary scale…
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first Revenge Squad novel is due to reach the editor at the start of July, and already I’m hinting here at what might lie in store for books to be published in 2017.
When I look for ideas to describe future worlds and how the people in them might relate to one another, I often look for inspiration from real-world examples. After all, the problem of how people can live together in larger than extended family groups is something our species has been working on for many thousands of years. I’m not sure we’ve quite figured this out yet, but it isn’t for want of trying. That’s led to a number of ideas I can steal and then take where I choose.
Like me, the humans within the Human Legion story also look for inspiration from Earth history, for precisely the same reasons. More so. The likes of Arun McEwan, NJ McCall and Lance Scipio have been separated from Earth for many centuries, and their culture and history squeezed through such a narrow funnel that they couldn’t distinguish historical fact from fantasy until very recently. Orphaned from their culture, and rejecting their history of servitude, they look to Earth for inspiration.
In a tiny way, the Human Legion took inspiration from the town of my birth, Colchester. Its Roman name was Camulodunum, and it was one of the earliest and most important Roman coloniae in Britain. When a legionary had served his time in the legions, he was given a small plot of land somewhere in the frontier and changed status to a citizen reservist. These plots of land were grouped around new frontier towns or were outposts around newly captured towns. They were known as coloniae.
The idea was to create small pockets of stability populated with veteran soldiers who brought their families, and therefore had a vested interest in the prosperity and success of these towns. Over the decades and centuries, the conquered peoples whose land was being colonized in this way (as you probably know or figured out, that’s where we get the word colony from) became ‘civilized’ enough that the frontier could be moved on and more distant coloniae established.
My town was colonized by the Roman invaders way back in AD 50. A few of these coloniae are still around today: Belgrade, York, and Cologne, to name a few.
Stabilizing the frontier was the plan, anyway. Plans don’t always survive contact with reality, though. Not even for the Romans.
In the UK, when property developers build a new shopping mall or housing estate, the local authority often requires the developer to pay for a quickfire archaeological dig before they bring in the heavy machines and forever ruin whatever might lay undisturbed underground. Archeological digs in the center of my hometown always discover a red-black layer if they dig deep enough. It’s called the Boudican Destruction Layer or more recently the Boudican Destruction Horizon (which sounds more science fictional … I wonder if I can work a ‘destruction horizon’ into a story one day). The destruction layer comes from the time the local Celts, led by Queen Boudicca, decided they’d had enough of being civilized for the time being, thank you very much, and burned Camulodunum to the ground in a conflagration hot enough to melt lead (AD 60-61). Here’s a photo of the destruction layer. It’s over a meter thick in places.
In Revenge Squad, when former Sergeant Ndeki Joshua is retired from the Human Legion and sent as a reservist colonist to Klin-Tula, he tries to reinvent himself as NJ McCall, a farmer who keeps himself to himself, does his annual stint with the Civilian Defense Force, and tries to avoid people in general (and aliens in particular whom he blames for a lot of his life’s ills).
Funnily enough, I decided not to write a multi-book science fiction series about farming, and some other geezer has just written an enormously succerssful series of books on silos (though not farming ones), so I didn’t want to involve those either. NJ may start off living as a future version of a Roman ex-legionary colonist, but if he’s looking for peace, he’s not gonna find it. Remember the Boudican Destruction Layer? Look at those flames behind NJ on the cover art. Things aren’t looking good for him.
Maybe he should have bought fire insurance. In older buildings in towns across England you will sometimes see plaques that show registration for an insurance policy. If your town had a Sun Fire Office team and your building caught fire, the Sun Fire Office team would put it out… but only if you had a fire insurance policy with them, which you signified by a special mark or plaque they put into your building. Big towns would have rival fire insurance organizations, with much opportunity for skullduggery, although to be fair there was also at times a surprising amount of cooperation and a sense of civic duty.
In the world of Klin-Tula there are a lot of fires both literally and metaphorically. Many of them started deliberately. If you find the local thugs are putting the squeeze on your business because you won’t pay protection money, or if thief breaks into your home and steals your valuables, then you will be glad to have a policy with Revenge Squad Inc. they will send some agents to find out who did you wrong and take appropriate level of revenge on your behalf. Who knows? They might even bring your valuables back. But in a world where civil authority is weak, and the rule of law depends on who you are and how much you are going to pay, if you carry the Revenge Squad plaque on your building or on your car, or even sewn into your jacket, then the hope is that the bad guys will see you are under protection and pick on someone more vulnerable.
The authorities turn a blind eye when it suits them, a temporary accommodation with mercenary vigilantes while the planet settles, or so they say. Like a Pinkerton Agency in the Old West, if my extensive research on this topic is correct (I watched Deadwood).
But does that mean Revenge Squad is the ugly face of space age capitalism, turning a mercenary profit out of others’ misfortunes? Or are they performing a necessary service, bridging the gap between anarchy and effective civilian authority? People once asked the same question of Sun Fire Insurance. Once again, echoes of the past resonate in the future. As for Revenge Squad Inc., who and what they really are is a complex question. To find the answer, you have to read the books.
The first Revenge Squad book will be published Fall 2016, but if you don’t want to wait that long, Legion teams will be reading the first recon edition as soon as it’s come back from the first trip to the editor (probably first week in August). Eagle eyed readers will notice the latest artwork from the excellent Vincent Sammy. I’m still playing around with the book titles, and my initial feedback is that I need to rethink them. But Vincent’s images are spot on.
To gain access to the recon edition of new Revenge Squad books when they become available, as well as The Sleeping Legion and Human Legion titles, Join the Legion. If you’re signed up by the end of June, you’ll be in with a chance to win a signed Human Legion audiobook on CD.