Politics and Gunpowder Fantasy

For the many years that I’ve been writing, weaving some amount of political intrigue or drama into my stories has been a recurring theme. Whether it’s an MC who suddenly finds herself at the head of an emerging third power in a previously two-party system, or the quiet intrigue of nobles as they plot to free themselves from their King.

Traditional Fantasy politics usually follows along the lines of the latter. Knights, Nobles, Ladies, Kings, and Queens vying for power, plotting and scheming against each other.

For a good example of a strong political storyline in Fantasy, look no further than George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. But that’s traditional fantasy. Travel in Westeros is slow and arduous; even messenger ravens take days to move notes from place to place. That allows for a much slower, long game form of Politics.

But when you start introducing aspects of Gunpowder Fantasy, especially improved communication, the political game needs to evolve, and it needs to do it quickly.

The lack of an extended communications lag will cause plans to move forward more quickly than they would under in a traditional story. Imagine if, in A Game of Thrones, messages had been passed from Winterfell to King’s Landing in hours instead of days or weeks.

Slower forms of communication could be used if caution or a slower developing plan would be more in order, but for the most part that would only lead to information being out of date by the time it would reach its destination. In this vein, messenger ships or riders, and messenger birds would be popular choices for communication.

The weapons that exist in your world are going to be another factor in how your politics develop.

For example, in a world where one nation has developed advanced firearms and artillery, other nations are going to react differently to them than to a nation that they consider an equal.

Perhaps one of your nations has developed steam-driven, screw-propeller ships and can move troops and goods faster than anyone else. Their merchants are more likely to be resented across the world and political tensions will be higher.

But you can use technologies  to create parity in your world, especially in trade. For example, say you have a nation that is a behemoth of trade, just because of where they are in the world. Maybe they control a narrow strip of land between two continents (like the nation of Ehtroy in my world). All land based trade has to travel through their lands and they collect taxes from that.

If another nation were to develop a better method of sea-based trade, they could quickly grow their merchant navy and make the land-based nation obsolete. What effects would this have on the diplomatic relations between the two nations? What about the nations that used to move their goods through the land-based nation and now move those goods via the sea? How would the land-based nation react?

As with everything in a world, the impact of technology on politics is a complex aspect that you need to keep in mind when designing your world.

About Joshua K Johnson

Josh is the author of The Cerberus Rebellion and The Hydra Offensive, Gunpowder Fantasy novels set in the Griffins & Gunpowder universe. He is currently working on a new novel set in the same world as well as The Centaur Incursion, Book 3 in the Ansgari Rebellion Series and Loyalty Betrayed, Book 1 in the Liberty Forged Series. He currently works full-time and has an 8-year old and a 4-year old to keep him busy.

Posted on August 18, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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