Sunday, April 7, 2013

World Building A to Z: Government and Golden Age

Welcome to Day G of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. A big bag of M & Ms to Arlee Bird and his group at Blogging from A to Z for organizing this month-long event. This month, I'm sharing my observations about world building and setting in stories. 

Government: A government can influence the way its people live, the way they think, and directly or indirectly affect how far an individual can go in life.


You can learn a lot about a government by how it treats its dissenters or those suspected of dissenting. In George Orwell's 1984, the invasion of Big Brother and the execution of those suspected of not drinking the government kool-aid mean that citizens can't write angry letters to their Congressmen for sport. In THE HUNGER GAMES, the Capitol punishes the districts for their rebellion by forcing district citizens to sacrifice their children to slaughter each year.

A "government" in a story doesn't have to be a literal government; it can merely be a unit of activity where someone is in charge: 

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, the head of the "government" is the corrupt warden who exploits a prisoner for his knowledge and work skills while refusing to release him when he learns this prisoner is an innocent man. 


In Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus'  THE NANNY DIARIES, the head of the "government" is Mrs. X and her disinterested V.P. and husband, Mr. X. The citizen is the Nanny, whose livelihood rests on the whims of her selfish and vindictive employer. 


Most stories about sad orphans or neglected children usually hint at a higher authority who is doing its part to make these young people miserable.


Golden Age: In many dystopian and futuristic stories I come across, there is often a reference, sometimes a subtle one, to a time when life was sweeter before things started going downhill. I regard this "time when life was sweeter" as a Golden Age, and also a point of reference for what is presently surreal and something seemingly impossible for the featured world to ever return to. A golden age can refer to a historical period within a world, and it could also refer to a special stretch of time in someone's life.

In Ray Bradbury's FARENHEIT 451, a girl claims to have heard that firemen were once people who put out fires instead of starting them. 

In Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE, Offred lives in strict confinement as a sex slave. Offred sometimes recalls her former life as a carefree college student, a happily married woman and mother, and a time when she had taken liberties, such as reading signs, smoking cigarettes, and wearing hand lotion, for granted. 

Are you living in your Golden Age now, or is that a thing of the past?


There must be stories featuring examples of soft and fuzzy governing out there....perhaps you can name some for me?

15 comments:

Lynda R Young said...

I love your examples... all awesome books.

T. Drecker said...

Great books. All of them.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Government is often very important in world building. I just finished Cinda Chima Williams' Seven Realms fantasy series. There the new Queen is the hero and she's trying to save her kingdom. That's a great series filled with amazing world building if you like fantasy.

Ghadeer said...

I think everybody should read 1984 at least once in a life-time. People underestimate the power a government can have over all aspects of one's life. And governments aren't necessarily always democratic and supporters of personal freedom even if they seem so on the surface.

S.P. Bowers said...

I've read most of those books. :) Government has been something I've been trying to work out in my current WIP so I'm loving these examples. I'd say in my novel they're just entering their golden age.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah the government can sure screw with us in many way if they deem fit, 1984 is a perfect example.

Jay Noel said...

Speaking of government, here's what I don't get - so many writers are pretty darn liberal. I consider myself a moderate (social liberal and fiscally conservative). With science fiction using the corrupt big government theme so often, it boggles my mind how they still support a "nanny state" and want the government to take care of everything.

Melanie Schulz said...

I'm thinking of almost any book by Stephen King; he was probably the first person I read that had me truly frightened of the government. Then of course Brave New World and Hunger Games.

Elise Fallson said...

Great books you've got listed here. I don't think I've hit my golden age. At least I hope not! Though some days I think my golden age was when I still believed in Santa.

John Wiswell said...

Government is one of the easiest sources of antagonism since nearly every reader you'll have will harbor both some resentment and some fear for it. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not taking a cheap shortcut by putting my protagonists at odds with the Empire in my novels. I know I'll eventually do one from within the administration.

In terms of government stories, there's nothing on the level of The West Wing. Sympathetic, very rich and thoroughly explored stories about how it could work, and how often it can't.

Julie Luek said...

Great examples-- government so often plays a major starring role in plots. After all, it's the big power that can provide endless obstacles! (in life too.)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes, great examples! The government makes such a great villain. LOL

Mark Means said...

I think government is always seen as 'oppressive' because, for the most part, it's a faceless entity.

Now, Kings and Queens can be different stories :)

Nick Wilford said...

Great thinking outside the box about different forms of government. It can make for a powerful presence as long as you don't make it too one-dimensional ie all evil with no explanation. There's something powerful about a lone citizen up against the big machine though.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic, everyone!

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