I love romance novels! So when I decided to take up the NaNoWriMo challenge in November 2010 and write a complete novel in one month, that’s the genre I chose. But I wanted to put a twist on it, so I returned to a science fiction world I’d written about while I was pregnant. The planet is a human colony set in a future when colonies are common, but Kingdom Come is an out of the way world. Interstellar commerce is common, but thier backwater world only sees starliners a few times a year.
The unusual thing about Kingdom Come is that a traditional family consists of several men and several women. The most desireable combination is four of each gender, called a “perfect eight”. It is just as common to see groups that are smaller, or more of one gender than another. Larger groups are not as common, and the law only permits groups up to twelve, but that limit is imposed for logistical reasons, not morality.
This twist opens up a whole new world for romantic storylines! Instead of ending with boy gets girl, the reader may constantly wonder if there’s something more in store for the characters. Sometimes, a story is complete with two or more people falling in love, only to be continued in another book where the relationship expands to include even more love interests. Misunderstandings are easy to come by, since a married group might be open to dating other singles or groups.
Another interesting aspect for the romance writer is the idea of arranged marriages. On Kingdom Come, besides the numerous elected officials, their government consists of three levels of nobility: Kings & Queens, Dukes & Duchesses, and Counts & Contessas. They are not inherited positions, but they are for life, and they include an arranged marriage. If a citizen aspires to nobility, they have to complete a set of requirements including petitioning the populace. Once a citizen qualifies for the pool of noble candidates, they simply wait for an offer that may never come. A noble marriage is formed by balancing a team of four men and four women, and each of the eight must be qualified in a different segment of the eight parts of government. It is almost unheard of for anyone to turn down an offer of nobility. Once accepted, the eight are married and installed in the ruling house of the duchy or county for which they were selected.
OK, that puts a different twist on public service, doesn’t it? I presume you would forfeit your title if you divorced your family (if divorce is even possible), so…
“Here. You can be part of the ruling oligarchy for life. All you have to do is marry these strangers that you may not even be able to stand.”
This would definitely tend to select people who value society’s greater good over their individual happiness, I think.
Divorce is possible, but much less common than it is in the US today. Divorce on the level of nobility is a HUGE scandal, and almost unheard of. I haven’t written about a noble divorce, but in my mind it would likely lead to an instant retirement for the entire family of eight.
And the first book begins with a man who looks at the matches that have been made for him, and he decides that even though his whole career has been geared towards the same kind of noble marriage his own parents have, he cannot stand the idea of being married to those particular people. He commits career suicide and turns down the offer. (Not a spoiler, by the way, that is how the story opens.)
In Silverberg’s “Lord Valentine’s Castle”, Majipoor has a ruler who stays in the position of “Coronal” till his predecessor, the “Pontifex” dies. Although the society has a lot of other types of politicians, the Coronal and Pontifex ensure that the overall, long term plan is consistant instead of changing every four years as a new ruler is elected. That’s one thing I had in mind when designing my world. Yes, it takes a certain someone to dedicate their whole lives to the service of their planet/duchy/county! And within this society, it works.
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