Question: If you have effectively immortal galactic dynasties is it possible to have stable control by the eldest? Is infighting inevitable?
Literary analysis has never been my strong point (just ask my AP English teacher), but as I was reading my book over lunch yesterday it sparked a thought I was having fun exploring. Judas Unchained is the second half of a story by Peter F. Hamilton (Pandora’s Star being the first) which at the highest level deals with the conflict of two very different galactic cultures as they meet. This is a very normal plot for science fiction but Hamilton is skilled in creating very deep and wide plotlines that he juggles and intertwines almost to the point of chaos but eventually pulls together. The topic that spurred my question originated in the prequel to this series, Misspent Youth, which, sadly is kind of a shallow book, but introduces the reader to the beginnings of what medical rejuvenation can do to a person. By the time the reader gets to Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, medical rejuvenation is an integral part of society.
In Hamilton’s world, rejuvenation is what it sounds like. As a person reaches an age where they feel the onset of age, they have the ability to be returned back to their 20 year old self. The process takes 9 months during which they are effectively in a coma, removed from society. Optionally memory can be cleaned up, excised, or backed up while they under. This can be done indefinitely; effective immortality. Death is even taken care of as long as you have a recent backup.
The society has formed around two major pillars; the multi-planet government, which I won’t touch on, and the long-lived major family Dynasties which I will. The concept of a familial dynasty is a natural part of human society (think Kennedy, Bush, Windsor, etc.) but practical rejuvenation adds a whole new twist. Death adds a limiting factor to any dynasty for while the family name may continue, the patriarchs and matriarchs are changing as generations age and die. But what happens when you remove that limit?
Hamilton portrays the inevitable growth of the dynasty with the same leadership as the true strength of the organization. Led by a council of the eldest members of the dynasty, it leaves the younger generation free to participate (or not) supported by the great wealth of these families.
I’m not so sure. Being born into a dynasty where your place on the “still alive” family tree can never move up seems like it would result in two main behaviors depending on your personality. If you are not terribly ambitious, riding on the coattails of the dynasty seems to be the obvious choice (and one certainly taken by any number of people even in current day dynastic families). The ambitious personality is where things get tricky for me. If you can be assured the eventually the leaders in your family will die off, patience is a route one can take to power. But without that assurance, where does it lead? Politics? Infighting? Murder? And to make matters worse, if “normal” killing isn’t permanent, what effort do you really have to go through to get rid of someone?
It seems to me that the concept of a family dynasty with rejuvenation is just not sustainable. You either have stagnation as the younger generations have no incentive to apply themselves or chaos due to infighting and political maneuvering.
What do you think?