Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Arab Spring and the FALLEN EMPIRE Series, Or What Happens When the Empire Falls

I'm sure most of us have seen Star Wars, that saga of the heroic space rebels who first destroy the evil Empire's dreaded Death Star superweapon, narrowly escape the revenge of the Imperial military, and, finally, redeem the Empire's greatest warrior and defeat the Emperor once and for all. All across the galaxy, the people rejoice, with the Emperor's statues pulled down like those of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been after the 2003 fall of Baghdad. And, according to the new canon at least, the remnant of the Empire is soon defeated and defanged. All is well, at least for awhile.

However, Lindsay Buroker's Fallen Empire series is much less cheerful, bearing a much greater resemblance to the Middle East after the Arab Spring rather than the optimistic ending of Star Wars. Here's how...

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS describes how the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria was shaken by initially peaceful protests in 2011. Rather than respond in a conciliatory manner as the king of Jordan did, Assad lashed out in a series of one-sided orgies of slaughter. Volunteer brigades formed to defend the protesters from the regime's armies and gangs of thugs, volunteer brigades that swelled with defecting soldiers who'd refused to fire on protesters all the way to defecting generals. In the Fallen Empire universe, an anti-Imperial underground had existed for years prior to the beginning of the rebellion, but it's a massacre of protesting students by Imperial troops who, years later, even Imperial loyalists admit overreacted, that really kicks things off. Buroker's story "Remnants," which takes place early in the rebellion, depicts the Alliance possessing a military base commanded by an admiral and with an officer training program already in place. That implies a substantial chunk of the Imperial military went over intact to the Alliance, much like in Syria.

Thing is, like in Syria, the Empire still possesses an overpowering advantage in capital-intensive weapons--massive warships, fleets of fighters, armed space stations, etc. much like how Assad retained control of the Air Force and the majority of the tanks. The rebels in Libya had the Western Powers to break the back of Gadhafi's aircraft and armor, but the Syrian rebels had virtually nothing that flew and as far as I can tell a lot fewer tanks. Attempts to seize major cities failed, leaving the only alternative a long, grinding war of attrition that began in March 2011 and last until this day (late 2017) and not likely to end soon. The rebellion against the Empire in Fallen Empire takes around four years and leaves the Tribus Solis System in ruins, with "billions of casualties." My Kindle Worlds stories "Ten Davids, Two Goliaths" and "Discovery and Flight" take place during this period, with the rebels waging hit-and-run war from hidden bases and then having to flee them when the wrath comes down.

And there's no happy ending for most people. The Alliance thins out the defenses of the Imperial capital with a series of simultaneous attacks all over the system and manages to kill the ruling Emperor in a lightning raid, causing the whole system to collapse. The rebels take control of three core planets and establishes a stable, democratic government there, much like how Tunisia has remained a free country after the fall of its tyrant. The Empire retains control of its capital and life is somewhat normal there, albeit still authoritarian, much like how life went on in Damascus during the war. The rest of the system has fallen into anarchy much like Yemen or Libya after the flight or killing of their despots. Series opener Star Nomad for example, features an ex-Imperial cyborg warrior with master-race pretensions seeking to establish an empire of his own amid the ruins, while as the series progresses the machinations of a powerful and very evil psychic--with a surprising connection to series protagonist Alisa Marchenko--threaten to bring about a tyranny more absolute and horrifying than the Empire's. According to Black Flags, what would become ISIS had been defeated in Iraq before gaining a new lease on life in Syria, while the Egyptian "deep state" was able to reclaim control from the democratically-elected Islamist president when he went too far.

But at the end of the day, Fallen Empire is not just about the rise and fall of governments, of armies and fleets. It's a very human story of a mother trying to find her lost daughter amid the collapse of civilization, of a widow finding new love amid grief, and much more besides. And although the primary series is space opera with more than a little romance, there's plenty of room for other tales to be told. "A Stand for Honor" is a prison escape, "Spice Crimes" looks like a heist story, and "Rogue Derelict" kind of reminds of me of Event Horizon. And my stories, "Ten Davids, Two Goliaths" and "Discovery and Flight," are military sci-fi.

So check them out. You won't regret it.

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