The Experience of Being European (2)

If you look at terrestrial globe, Europe is tiny compared to Asia and Africa and chock full with even tinier countries. And almost all of them have its own language and its own version of history, usually going back to the Roman Empire. The only other area which is similarly cluttered with tiny countries is Central America & the Caribbean, but that region has only three languages: Spanish, English, French. Africa is the other way around: a huge continent with vast countries, each the home of scores of languages.

Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers argues that Europe’s balkanized political structure is a major cause for its success in dominating the world in the 19th century. Tough competition between its many countries forced the major ones to become highly skilled in macroeconomics, warfare, agriculture and technology to survive and prosper. Other regions of world, like China and the Mughal Empire of north India, did not suffer the same political “evolutionary pressure” and therefore the European great powers managed to dominate them temporarily (i.e. for a century or two).

When I look at my stories, I see these European traits. The protagonists speak many languages and frequently do not share the same mother tongue. Countries tend to be small and competitive. The power-play of nations influences the plot development in manners similar to 19th-century Europe. (When I look at American SF writers, I often see that they pay less heed to humanity’s diversity of languages. And they often have less complex international politics.)

2 thoughts on “The Experience of Being European (2)

  1. Håller med om att amerikanska SF-författare ofta en mer centraliserad makt i sina böcker – men är det inte bara att det finns något sorts paradigm att en expansion ut i rymden kommer kräva resurser som inte ett land ensamt kan uppbåda utan mer en global stat – eller så är det deras egna bakgrund som spelar in.

    Jag antar att genren dieselpunk/retro inte borde dras med samma paradigm – för mig känns den väldigt “europeisk” pre-WWI el mellankrigstid, men det är min egna känsla.

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