This lack of democracy in fantasy shouldn’t be surprising. After all, epic fantasy hearkens back to Medieval days when the feudal system was firmly in place. Rule of law was created, administrated, and adjudicated by the king and his representatives. No one voted for his rule.
Urban fantasy, dystopian, or apocalyptic fantasy seem predicated on either anarchy or tyrannical despotism. Much of science fiction seems so inclined as well. The Star Trek series might be an exception. Apparently the Federation of Planets has some form of democracy because they have a President, as I recall.
Still, I don’t recall anyone ever voting. There are coup attempts and military councils, and certainly the rule of law is considered sacred (think, “Prime Directive”), but I don’t recall any campaigning or political debate or voting!
What does that say about democracy and what does it say about speculative literature?
Is democracy too tame for novels? I mean, when a political party disagreed with an election outcome in recent US history, the matter was settled by the US Supreme Court, not by an epic battle fought with swords and spears.
Perhaps democracy is the “holy grail” of governance. For years the US has painted it as such, standing against dictatorships in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and during the Cold War, the USSR.
Consequently, democracy would be the condition for which characters might strive, not that under which they labor.
But I don’t see democracy held up in fantasies or in science fiction as The Answer to the ills of the world. Rather, it seems as if democracy is not an option or it has led to a despotic take over, a la Rome or, in modern times, Germany.
The Answer to the ills of society seems instead to be either the benevolent rule of a King or hero, or the anarchy of the individual. Is democracy a failed experiment, then? Or is it simply lacking in the kind of conflict that makes for a good speculative story?
What does an absence of democracy say about speculative fiction? First, it appears that speculative fiction, if providing commentary about the world, disregards democracy as the true ruling force. Perhaps it speaks to the greater world than that which we experience physically, which, in my estimation, makes it True.
But perhaps speculative fiction’s commentary on democracy is that it is an interim state, a way stop between monarchy and dictatorship. Perhaps speculative fiction is mired in a hopelessness for this world to solve the problems of this world. But that, too, would seem to reflect Truth.
Of course, having said that, I immediately think of Star Wars which seems to find hope in the defeat of greedy power. Undoubtedly there are other stories of like kind. Evil loses, good—defined as a collection of people fighting evil—wins.
This question then comes to mind: is speculative fiction less concerned with portraying good than it is the fight against evil?
What are your thoughts?
I’ll conclude with this: those of you in the US, please vote tomorrow if you haven’t already voted early. Whatever you think about democracy in speculative fiction, it is the current law of the land, and consequently it’s my contention that we Christians have a responsibility to be involved in the process.