Note: In Case of Survival is part of the Cities and Thrones blog tour. Yesterday’s review was not part of the tour, but today’s post is.
Today, we have a guest post from author Carrie Patel. Yay! Thanks for joining us, Carrie!
What are your thoughts on revolutions? Let us know in the comments!
You Say You Want a Revolution
Wicked rulers and corrupt governments have been a staple of speculative fiction for about as long as they’ve been around in real life.
Which is to say, forever.
Overthrowing the despot, deposing the dynasty, and outmaneuvering the bureaucracy are nearly-universal power fantasies, so it’s no surprise that they show up in much of our fiction.
And so we read stories about heroic pig farmers who vanquish sorcerer-kings and resourceful children who save the world. These story arcs follows the heroes’ empowerment, their struggles, and their ultimate triumph over the forces of evil and ineptitude.
It’s generally assumed that everything is hunky dory once the heroes have ousted the bad guys. All that remains after that point are the author’s acknowledgements.
Endings based on successful revolutions are satisfying because they reflect a certain moral symmetry that we like. It seems right and reasonable that circumstances should improve when people who are intelligent and well-meaning replace those who are not. We like to see our heroes earn their happy endings, and we want to believe that the world can become a better place through simple, honest effort.
But this ending—the happy revolution—assumes several conditions.
It assumes that a person in power will stick to her principles.
It assumes that her lieutenants and subordinates will, too.
It assumes that all of these people who knew how to rebel also know how to govern.
And it assumes that everyone else will agree to follow them.
But the skill sets of wartime champions are not always compatible with those of peacetime leaders—George R. R. Martin derived an entire series’ worth of conflict and drama from this idea. Furthermore, the realities and compromises of leadership are often messier than the high-minded ideals of revolution.
And few ideals survive a violent uprising unscathed.
To gloss over these tensions is to miss some of the richest story material available to a writer. And yet, stories so often end once power has changed hands. Just when things are getting really interesting.
Cities and Thrones is about the notion that reconstruction is an even greater epic than revolution. It’s not so much an end to the conflict as it is an extension of it. Allies find themselves at odds, enemies learn to cooperate, and principles are put to the test. Meanwhile, the aftershocks of revolution set off a domino effect of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers as the newly-empowered and the recently-deposed scramble to seize and salvage what advantages they can.
An intricate and chaotic game of musical chairs often begins after a sudden shift in power. Individuals find their beliefs and loyalties challenged in new and surprising ways. It’s hectic and heart-wrenching, and it’s some of my favorite conflict in fiction.