Sunday, November 20, 2005


Today we took our two year old to the Devonshire Renaissance Faire. For a small little two-day Faire, it was really good. They had a huge owl (at least two and a half feet tall) that had been rescued, and they were letting children (and adults) pet him. He was very calm and still -- in fact, most everyone thought he was a stuffed doll until he turned his head and blinked at them. Our daughter was entralled. She went up to the lady running the booth and asked if she could pet the owl all by herself. She's not terribly shy, but you could see she wanted to pet that owl very badly. The Faire also had jugglers and knights conducting swordfights and lots of movement and color. What really thrilled her, though, was that she was asked to meet the queen.

We were walking past the queen's pavillion, and apparently she saw how cute our daughter is (not uncommon -- I'm not just being a proud dad when I say everyone is strangly attracted to how cute she is). The queen sent one of her nobles over to ask her to come sit with her. Our daughter did very good. She walked into the roped off area of the pavillion all by herself. Bowed at the end of the carpet, then walked up to the queen and sat in her lap. She talked to the queen for a while, and was given a "magic bracelet" to take home. Our daughter got down from the queen's lap, bowed again, and came back to us. It was so cute! She was totally impressed to meet a "real" queen.

But what is it with humans and royalty -- or nobility in general? I should say on the front end that I'm not immune either, but I would like to understand the feeling. Why are we so entralled with people who were born into noble families? They didn't do anything to deserve it. They aren't "better" people -- in fact, due to in-breeding, they're often a little worse than us "commoners." Is it nothing more than five millenia of conditioning? Or is it that this is the one thing that no matter how much we achieve in life, we can never have? I honestly don't know. You would think we would resent the nobility (and of course that happens too -- the French Revolution is a case in point), but in general we look upon them as an extremely positive thing, even when, in today's world, they have no real bearing on anything. I might could have understood it when the nobility literally wielded the power of life and death over you, but that's far from the case anymore. Again, I'm not immune to the feeling either, but that doesn't mean I have the tiniest inkling of why we feel that way.

Nobility is not often used in science fiction, although it's extremely common in fantasy. The science fiction role-playing game Traveller had nobles playing an important part, as do the nobles in the Honor Harrington series, but those are about the only examples I can think of. While there is a monarchy in the world of the stories I write (only one out of six Solar Nations), the monarchy doesn't play a big role. I think the Babylon 5 universe provides an example in their "Rangers" that taps into the same feeling without explicitly having knights and kings and queens. The Rangers are roughly the equivalent of knights errant, and are respected as such, but they have a wholly science fiction feel to them -- they aren't just transplanted fantasy elements. I'm thinking that I should come up with something like that to tap into this strangely human trait of respecting the nobility, no matter who they really are. There could be some interesting conflict there for science fiction that, unlike fantasy, hasn't been done to death a thousand times before. Definitely worth exploring...

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