In my last blog I went on about the why of the Vorstaat, but I didn’t really cover the who.
Inspiration comes from life and as science fiction is renowned for its ability to satirise the real world I took my lead from our own history. Particularly I was very interested in our colonial behavior as this is exactly what we would become once we took to the stars – colonists.
There are three things that make the Vorstaat an interesting idea for me; one is their cultural make-up, which I took from the often overlooked colonial history of the Dutch, specifically in their travels to the African continent and that country’s affect on those people over the centuries. The second factor came from another colonial source, that of the Americas and their fight for independence – this for me was the bedrock of their politics, but I didn’t want an obvious parallel, so I took this colonial combination in another direction and considered what might happen to a newly formed nation if they didn’t stop fighting for generations.
The result was something more similar to a communist state (although the Vorstaat are capitalists) or perhaps even the Nazi regime, whereby the politics were originally sold as a solution for the people, but became something quite different as time and conflict wore on, skewed as they were by individual political agendas and the desire to win at any cost and win big.
People, ultimately, are people and they will fall victim to hubris and greed whether they are sailing in a wooden ship to unknown shores or jumping through hyperspace to a distant planet. I know there are many positive works of science fiction out there that see our future as one of relative peace and prosperity and don’t disagree with those ideas. I believe that as we evolve we do improve, but I find it hard to accept that we could so easily iron out those human traits that always seem to catch up with us, no matter what land we run to.
So, the Vorstaat represent many of our colonial ideals, but also many of our failings, including greed and the desire to expand as a destructive impulse.
So who are they?
Originally mining contractors from one of the giant habitats back on Earth. Specifically the predominantly Afrikaner habitat of Pretoria, which occupied the majority of the southern half of the African continent in the latter part of the twenty-second century. They took their mining skills to the less habitable planets that were rich in minerals and ores and became, though centuries of development, the industrial backbone of the Systems Coalition.
This made them tough and it made their cultural identity more cohesive than most, allowing them to retain much of their original language and traditions. It also made it difficult for them to integrate with the rest of the Coalition. Being out on the rim put them out of touch with everyone and their separatist nature only served to reinforce this divide. It made the Coalition less than sympathetic to their needs as well. When they asked for a better deal in exchange for continued supply of materials they were almost immediately turned down.
It didn’t take long for things to break down and for war to start and neither side was entirely blameless in this, but one thing is certain – without war the Vorstaat would never have come into being.
The name Vorstaat comes from my own corruption of germanic languages for Four States, the idea being that the Vorstaat weren’t previously a cohesive whole. They had a common cultural identity, but centuries of colonisation across the stars had separated them into various subcultures, like the pure Dutch settlers of the Golden Islands or the elitist Afrikaners of the capital planet of Opstel or the common workers of Rassist. War brought them together, cemented them into a common identity that would become far greater than the sum of its parts. The Vorstaat would become a terrible wave of vengeance, punishing the Systems Coalition for its hubris and greed and rolling over its own lofty goals of freedom and liberation in a wave of destructive ambition.
I guess it is a gloomy outlook. Ultimately we all fail, but I like to think that this work is my own piece of scifi optimism, because in the face of such impossible odds there are people willing to stand up for the right thing and that is the other half of the human dichotomy that I think always makes for good fiction, which is why it is exploited to the point of exhaustion.
The bravest light is the frailest one that shines against the darkest night. That, for me, is what Control is all about.