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How do you write an empire set in a modern setting?

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by ThePoarter, Nov 24, 2021.

  1. ThePoarter

    ThePoarter Not too sore, are you?

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    I'm sure I'm not breaking any rules about this question but i don't really know how to ask or answer it. It's for a relative dystopia but it's still very much modern day.

    How do you write an empire in a modern setting set in our technological levels of civilizations i.e. nukes, internet, easy travel?

    What would be some ways to ensure that (in a setting with no magic) such an empire would properly dominate all it's tribute nations in a manner that they can not deny or play at?

    In essence what IS an empire?
     
  2. crazygrox

    crazygrox I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Okay, by empire you mean a group that doesn't have a long history of control in its acquired territories(possibly outside of the core territories), and as such rules over and extracts from subordinated but distinct regions and peoples.
    Or alternatively a group that extracts from peoples with a strong enough internal culture that they are not being naturally assimilated over long periods(for example the eastern half of the Roman empire were assimilated enough that they called themselves romans and thought of all the glory of Rome as being theirs, but they were culturally different to the west and spoke Greek instead of Latin.), and either are not engaging in forcible assimilation efforts, or are failing at those efforts due to a mix of passive and active resistance.
    edit: sometimes they're extracting resources or taxes(a La the conventional colonial European empire), occasionally land-based empires are extracting security, by preventing conquered peoples from organizing invasions, by gaining control of advantageous defensible border features, and by gaining troops extracted from conquered peoples. It's hypothetically possible to extract national pride/pride in the group you identify with, from subjugated peoples, but I don't think that usually works, when it does it's usually accompanied by fairly intense efforts towards assimilation.

    So, did this setting go through our planet's 19th century(1800's) rise of nationalism?

    The thing that resulted in people changing how they conceptualize a state. From being land that is organized as the possession of political elites, to being land that is organized as the possession of a group of people with common characteristics.
    The 1848 spring of nations, inspired by the ideologies of nationalism growing out of the unfairness' perpetuated against groups of people by the Hapsburg monarchy and the 1804-17 Serbian revolt against the Ottomans could have simply not happened, or have failed radically in a way that discredits the idea.
    If that had happened, the norm would still be for most nations to be authoritarian monarchical or oligarchical states, which incorporate multiple groups of peoples, and as such are states but not nation-states.
    Those revolutions, and earlier proto-nationalistic ones like the French and (to a lesser extent)American revolutions, were mostly driven by the extreme costs, and thus need for taxation revenue, that was the result of increasingly expensive wars between major powers.
    If there was either only one major world empire(for example China begins seaborn conquest a couple of centuries before the Europeans would have) that would remove the impetus for such revolutions(assuming otherwise-sensible empire management). If there were significant natural barriers(major deserts, mountain ranges, being on separate islands) between the core territories of the major empires, that could also reduce the likeliness that wars between them will be impoverishing or disruptive enough to core territories to provoke major social revolution.

    Maybe watch this playlist and take notes: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL79SVbb9bn0RmjlsLWIq48NuXPLAG70EW
    For info on how to construct an empire that works/how to write one.
    and remember that some segments of conquered peoples generally have at least some positive draws to remain in the empire, even if they didn't join voluntarily. For example at least benefiting from imperial defenses and trade networks.

    It's also worth noting that a lot of the reason why we don't have major European empires in some parts of the world today is because the Americans were worried that any attempt to maintain existing empires would give a major advantage to Russian-inspired communist revolutionaries, who would be pursuing globalized revolution with powerful backing, and because America had the major European empires so deep in debt that they could promise a lot in exchange for giving up overseas possessions.
    In a modern world that lacked such a severe debt to motivate imperial withdrawal the process of decolonialization would be more fraught and hard-fought.
    Portugal's final decolonization wars start in either 1954 or 1961(depending on whether you're measuring from the loss of enclaves and ports in territories they don't mostly rule, or only starting measuring from the rebellion of major regions of subject peoples) and only ends in 2002.
    In a world without a globalizing revolutionary ideology with a powerful backer that would also remove a lot of the impetus to decolonize at all, either willingly or by revolution. And America and Russia were only really able to support that kind of ideological worldview because they were major and powerful nations who didn't have powerful and geologically distinct subject peoples. If there were no major nation without powerful and distinct subject peoples there would be no sufficient backer for global revolution.

    But honestly, I think the simplest way would be for the setting to be a planet of islands, like a planetary version of Indonesia. That way there are major barriers to expensive and disruptive invasions of core territories so they wouldn't happen as often in history(both everything being islands that are difficult to invade if they're well-populated and well-developed as core territories will be, and the fact that a lot of islands have a major mountain range in the middle separating them into at least two cultures because of the historical difficulty of invading across it), and there is a lot more reason to believe that every major and powerful nation will have powerful and distinct subject peoples in their own sub-regions, and thus no one actually powerful can afford to put state resources behind a revolutionary ideology that might also afflict their territories.

    edit: it needs to be noted that empires become less 'empire like' the longer they exist.
    The extraction of resources from distinct peripheral peoples in favor of an imperial core is inherently unstable, and over time empires either fall, assimilate peripheral peoples into the core culture, or (rarely in humans)become more pluralistic and federalist, making peripheral regions more co-equal.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
  3. ThePoarter

    ThePoarter Not too sore, are you?

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    Well the empire here has a population of 1.6 billion and is the biggest nation in the world. Developed as well. The population of the entire planet is 12 billion.

    And it's a semi presidency democracy. But in reality it's an oligarchy.
     
  4. Imperator Pax

    Imperator Pax Talon Master

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    There are a couple of ways, though not 'modern modern' earth, my AoE timeline has what is effectively an Imperial China in the sixties and most of its soft social power is cultural, and material. That is to say that post Japanese defeat, post Chinese civil war China then involved itself in local anti colonial struggles. That is to say it sided with Vietnam against France, eventually with overt military force against the French in Indochina as well as participating in less overt actions in Indonesia, and then its wealthy social elites invested in developing Vietnam and Indonesia markets while the state invested in military assistance and anti-communist assistance to particularly Indonesia. This would eventually form a third block in Asia as an answer to the warsaw pact.

    SO effectively a large industrial base able to create manufactured goods for exports, and an emphasis on creating easy travel while also heavily involving itself in its client states post war rebuilding particularly education.. Democracy isn't really necessary for a successful state, economic prosperity is all the really matters and being able to deliver that by improving rural standards of living and shaping education is effective in shaping public opinion.


    An Empire is effectively a political entity with a centralized / in group identity which shapes policy and strongly influences the surrounding lesser states and serves as a counter balance to other strong states.
     
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  5. ATP

    ATP I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Look like soviet and USA acted once,and China now.2 fallen and one existing empire.
     
  6. crazygrox

    crazygrox I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    You're probably going to want a setting where for some reason this empire is accepting that democracy is the right way to legitimize a ruler.
    Either there was a popular democratic movement they wanted to appease, or there was another country they were diplomatically courting, so they moved in the direction of token democracy.

    But if you want the 'empire' character to be preserved. Namely that they be an expansionist state which conquers and exploits peripheral peoples, you're going to want either formal and explicit restrictions on who can vote, or one of the forms of, usually less explicit, vote rigging to ensure that either the ruling party or the most powerful individuals are always voted in.
    By Oligarchy do you mean that there's a formal or informal class system which politically privileges members of a small ruling class, or do you intend for the oligarchs to have personalities and be long-standing individuals in a ruling committee?
    If the second you're going to want to not have the populace select the president, or else have the president or chairman be completely ceremonial, instead the ruling committee or the legislature would probably elect the president. Because an oligarchy doesn't want the populace having the power to elect someone over them who might act to limit their power.
    While a setup with an elected president under a rigged general vote, yet with significant independent power vested in a small oligarchy, could happen it's far more likely in weak countries that recently began their current authoritarian regime, and thus had to structure a lot of their political system to appease foreign backers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2021
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  7. ThreeRumbarPirates

    ThreeRumbarPirates Versed in the lewd.

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    Would language help to preserve the feeling of separate nations beneath an empire? Kinda like the Hispanian empire, where although the lingua franca was castillian spanish, the northern Basque regions fought hard to preserve the language and traditions of old.

    Say, the Portgass Empire is old, everyone speaks Castel, but in certain places the old grocery lady is far more kind - and amenable to barter and gossip - if you greet her witha Varia Salut (old Barrasqe greeting, some describe it as a weirdly sweeping bow) and here are many good sights - bars, family restaurants, the like - and other services you won't ever find they exist if you don't speak Barrish.

    Or how in certain places on the southern shores of Gian you can tell tourists from local patrons as the later tend to leave that last spoonful of food in the bowl, some old Giandian way of giving face to the ancestors of one's hosts. It involved sacrificing a bit of food in a lit brazier on certain holidays, but nowadays most Giandians who still bother with that just burn something they cooked for the occasion. They don't actually keep old leftovers to burn on Shien. Nevertheless, leaving the spoon or fork loaded with a last bit of food is seen as good manners.

    Doing so on a Montren restaurant is likely to at best land you a kick in the ass and to have your pic pinned to the Blacklisted board. Even if there was no bad blood between the Gian and the Montre, wasting food is not just an insult to host and fellow patrons both, but in the eyes of the Monna religion it is outright considered a sin.
     
  8. Torcer

    Torcer Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I'm a fan of one particularly YouTube Channel called Hello Future Me which focuses on Writing. Your post reminded me of a series of his On Worldbuilding, to which I've linked three relevant videos on Empires. It's about an hours watch collectively. I'd recommend watching it them once through to enjoy the video, and a second time to take notes and make references. I hope this helps.



     
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  9. ATP

    ATP I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    What empire is?
    classical empires,like Rome,had 2 proprieties which differ them from other states:
    1.They had no fixed boundaries - other states keep their tribes,or territory,or people of one religions and no more - empires had potential claims to all people on Earth.Why? becouse of Ideas which keep their empires together.

    2.Ideas. - in Roma cause,cyvilization.They gave conqered people superior cyvilization,so they should be grateful that they get conqered.And blame only themselves if they fought and get massacred.
    It could be also religion,Arab created their short living empire in name of religion.Or something else,like ideology in modern times.

    What differ modern empires of genociders Lenin,Sralin,Hitler and Mao from older ones ?

    Utopia.They wanted create paradise on Earth,which mean,that part of population who do not belonged must die.Jews,gypsies and most of slavic people in german Empire,farmers and christians in commie empires.
    Romans do not fought jews who accepted their rule.Germans must kill them all.Romans do not genocide farmers who obey,soviets must kill all.Christians for most of times ,except some periods,could live,too.If Romans decide to genocide them all,that there would be no christianity.

    Current China empire,even if cosplay as commie,is Han centered.So,they do not need to genocide those who obey.

    If you want write about modern empire,you knew something that potentially claim entire Earth,like soviet union,have idea/no matter which/,and genocide those who consider enemies of such idea/again,no matter which people/
     
  10. ThePoarter

    ThePoarter Not too sore, are you?

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    Actually watched that. But the thing is the only modern empire we have is America and maybe China to compare to. That's it.