All great literature has a thesis that an author tried to hammer out across the span of his or her work. Sometimes the thesis is blatant. Sometimes subtle. Sometimes absurdist. But that thesis is what makes all of the relevant parts of the work hold together. Even if the author has to admit he or she was wrong in the end, a thesis still has to be there.
I was burned out earlier this afternoon. It was a challenging day of coding. I figured I would put on a comedy over dinner to try to get my mind off of worldly matters. And despite the brilliant set by Patton Oswald, I let myself be distracted with a game on my phone. Part of me was listening and laughing at the jokes. But my attention was on the game. Sort of. When the set was over, I felt no more relaxed than when I had started. I was actually more exhausted.
It was a shame, really. One of the things I loved about Oswalt's work is that he keeps returning to several overarching themes through all of his sets.
So, to get myself centered again, I decided to just sit down and WATCH something. Preferably something without words. After fumbling to remember the title I tracked down a copy of Koyaanisqatsi. And watched it. No phone. No laptop. Not even getting up to grab a snack. I watched the entire thing, letting my mind wander, but always coming back to the show.
Many things stuck out at me watching that movie. First: I forget how much the world was falling apart in 1982. Sure some people are awed by the Saturn-V launch or the atom bomb explosion. What stuck out in my mind were the collapsing project housing, the guy getting tossed onto a stretcher by cops, and a few long slow shots of a homeless guy. Ok, and the ending shot of the rocket that self-destructs and you just watch the engine from the upper stage slowly fall back to Earth in slow motion.
But that movie had a theme. There was seeming order, then chaos, then progressively more subversive blending of order and chaos, and finally people. I mean, really, the theme is kind of what you put into it as the audience, but for me, that's what I got out of it.
There was a lot of long shots of the decay of 1982. Homeless people. Desolate slums. City shots often had smog.
But, oddly enough, the decay was almost always where there was no people. Or at least no people anymore. The movie also featured shots of traffic. People standing in line. Factory assembly lines. They often looked more chaotic than the explosions. Yet... in that chaos new order was being created.
I his Annihilation set, Patton has a line that has stuck with me. I keep watching this same comedy set, again and again, just for that line:
I want to avoid the idea that there is a singular hero in my stories. If there is a success, that success is a group effort. If there is a disaster, there are a lot of people to blame. I want a world that is governed by the scientific process. What we know doesn't work, we just don't do. If someone has an idea we haven't tried, try it out. And answer is only "right" in the distorted environment in which it was asked. Applying a "right" answer in the wrong setting is a wrong answer.
In my works, the various factions are never outright wrong. They just are doing the best they can applying the morality that works for their society.
For the Krasnovians (or Krazis), they value control and conformity, with a lot of brute force to fill in the gaps. It is a top-down society where folks wrestle to move up the social ladder by hard work or cunning. Punishment or wrong doing is swift... at the bottom. Towards the top, there is a definite sense that morons rise into the highest echelons. The cunning that allows one to move up is not often paired with leadership or even intelligence. But, once someone falls from grace, they are dealt with swiftly. And... usually permanently.
The ISTO (or Psychos) are a planned society. Natural monopolies are centrally controlled. Any means of enriching oneself at the expense of society is engineered out their economy. To be wealthy is a sign of greed. Psychos value individual development, and maintaining a high standard of living. The quest for productivity ends as soon as everyone is fed, and housed, and the facilities are well maintained. They are capable of hard work, but they prefer planning ahead far enough to avoid booms and busts.
The Circle Triad (Or Ciorcal's) is basically a criminal organization with a space program. While mob violence is not unheard of, the families prefer to avoid coming into conflict with one another. Space is big, why battle for a racket when one could just set up a parallel franchise on another colony? Entrepreneurialism is highly valued in their culture, whether those endeavors are considered legitimate by the local authorities or not. Almost everything in Circle Triad settlements is disposable, or engineered with a finite life span. Long term maintenance is not really their thing. Most settlements have a fancy side (that was recently rennovated) and a shithole side (that is at the end of its design life). Eventually the shithole gets degraded enough that the powers that be need to tear it up and rebuid it. At which point that section becomes the "fancy" area, and the former "fancy" is left to rot.
What ends up happening is that all three factions end up occupying environments in the Solar System where their styles either allow the to dominate, or allow them to survive in an area where the other factions cannot.
Any body about Luna sized or larger is dominated by the Krazis. Their martial culture and ability to field overwhelming forces allows them to dominate on a planetary scale. However, their settlement strategy relies on the surface gravity of the worlds they inhabit. Taking over small planetoids is not really their bailiwick. Nor is long duration missions into space.
The Cirocal's are basically pirates. Anywhere that represents a natural chokepoint to communications is where they lodge in like a tick. Earth crossing asteroids and stations at the Lagrange points are where they dominate. They also dominate in space based agribusiness. But they have tentacles in the port facilities of every other faction.
The Psycos got their name from the asteroid 16 Psyche, where their first large settlements were laid down. Because they stress central planning, they can pull off construction projects that put the other factions to shame. Their style is a bit too slow to be competitive in the highly contested markets near Earth orbit. But they dominate in the outer solar system where there is no substitute for quality.
Ok... getting back to my original point...
One curious quirk in all three cultures is their reliance on computers. For the Krazi's they need computers to maintain their police state. For the Cirocal's, to keep a proper accounting of business. For the Psychos, to maintain their complex central planning system. Each society is gradually taken over by intelligent computers. Maintaining those computers is a shadowy 4th faction: Etoyoc Heavy Industries and the International Tegician Guild (ITG). EHI builds and programs the computers. ITG is the labor union of the tegicians that make field calls.