Part 1: The Past is Prologue
Why did you choose to juxtapose the Medieval, fractured, quasi-feudal empires of The White Light of Tomorrow with advanced technology left over from the ‘Apex’ of mankind’s scientific achievement?
The answer, of course, is that knights with armor and swords are cool, and spaceships are cool, so put them together, damn it!
There is a bit more to it, though, and to answer properly there are two historical events I need to call attention to.
First, the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages that followed. Specifically, the fracturing of the Empire into smaller political bodies loosely based on geography and ethnicity. This is usually attributed to the depredations of barbarians, but recent scholarship suggests a breakdown in Mediterranean trade may have been the doom of Rome. Regardless, a similar fate befalls the empires in WLT, several centuries before the novel begins.
The second occurrence is the appearance of cargo cults in the nineteenth century, and particularly in the Pacific islands after the second world war. A “cargo cult” may develop in a primitive society when it comes into contact with a more technologically advanced people, and generally has as it’s objective the summoning of the wealth of the more advanced culture using magic and/or ritual. For example, a primitive people witness the clearing of an airstrip and the arrival of aircraft bearing wealth (cargo), then the foreigners leave, the aircraft stop landing, and the cargo disappears. Not knowing where the cargo comes from or why it arrived, they might later clear a section of jungle in the shape of a runway and even build a control tower out of bamboo and leaves in hope of summoning the airplanes and their cargo.
This next part could be considered spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution if you think you might read the book.
Let’s say that there is a future in which Earth has been brought under the control of one government. Let’s call it the Earth Union (though I assure you it has no similarities at all to another government with the same initials, nope). Technology advances over a couple of centuries and eventually the Earth Union is able to explore nearby star systems, perform some crude terraforming, and establish colonies. The colonies aren’t designed to be self-sufficient–they are outposts set up to exploit whatever resources their planets offer, and lack any large-scale industry of their own.
What would happen to these colonies if some cataclysm cut them off from Earth? How would the newly ‘independent’ populations govern themselves? How would the sudden, acute shortage of basic resources and finished goods affect their relationships with one another? How would lifestyles change when small groups of people once again need to grow their own food, make their own clothes, trade for things they lack, and defend themselves and their possessions?
In the First Earth series I experiment with the idea that the sudden need to compete for survival would lead to rapid Balkanization and conflict among the colonized planets. Whatever peace and harmony the Earth Union was able to enforce would be swept aside by ancient rivalries and hatreds. Groups–religions, guilds, governments–would form along familiar lines and conflicts would pick up as if they had merely been on ‘pause’ for a few centuries.
Recycling ideas from the past would illuminate the path of least resistance for people living on the edge of extinction, and it is reasonable to think that there there would be a degree of fetishization of past practices, organizations, and lifestyles, leading to cargo cult-like behavior, with a twist. In this case, instead of a primitive society coming into contact with a more advanced one, the cult arises from a single devolved society’s contemplation of it’s own past.
You can, of course, see this in action in the book, and these ideas will be developed further in future stories. Do keep in mind, though, that this is merely the backdrop against which our heroes play out what I believe are some very exciting adventures with cool swords and spaceships!
I hope you enjoy it!