07 April 2012

"B" is for...

BRITAIN

   Ah, Britain. That "scepter'd isle... this other Eden... this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." The Bard of Avon put it so well. What Victorian Science Fiction universe does not include the British Empire, either as hero or villain, in it? One I'd not be interested in, I assure you. Let's be honest: Britain was the global superpower throughout the era we typically set our adventures and games and stories within. The whole genre is even named for their queen, Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India (God Bless Her!).

The Union Flag, Emblem of Empire
   Other empires, other races, other factions, however you like it, be they Russian, Fenian, German, French, Martian, Cytherean... there is always a Britain. And that's okay. The British were bloody everywhere in the last half of the 19th century. And were, for all intents and purposes, inviolable. They invented gunboat diplomacy.  A British woman's honour besmirched by some ruffian in the marketplace of Madripoor? Have the British agent 'encourage' the Khal to deal with the problem. Problem with the Khal of Madripoor? Send in a gunboat! And such gunboats we have in VSF - the ubiquitous Aphid-class, of Space: 1889 fame, and widely copied or adapted. Swoop in, fire a few shells, and watch the locals grovel in their place.

   Or perhaps you prefer a Wellsian fantasy? Invasion of England is another popular theme, thanks to Mr. Wells's tale of the Martians. And always, pluck and playing cricket win the day.

   I must confess, I am an Anglophile, myself. But anyone who tries to deny the system-bestriding colossus that is the British Empire of the day is only fooling themselves, whether we look at an alternate science fiction full of anachronisms or at the real history.

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