My first guest post on this blog. (Originally posted here.)
On Letting People Live Up To Their Full Potential: “Picking Up Plans In Palma”
By Matthew W. Quinn
Hello everybody. My name is Matthew W. Quinn. I’m the writer of the short stories “Coil Gun” and “Picking Up Plans In Palma,” two stories Korsgaard thought very highly of. He has so kindly given me the chance to write about them for his blog, so here goes…
The Afrikanerverse began as a challenge on AH.com, a forum dedicated to discussing alternate history. The user reddie came up with a challenge—have a Cold War between the United States and “the apartheid juggernaut,” much like how S.M. Stirling’s Draka novels featured the “Protracted Struggle” between the American-led Alliance for Democracy and the Domination of the Draka. However, instead of being Anglo-Saxon like the Draka, the evil empire must emerge from Dutch/Afrikaner culture. I started spinning ideas from there and soon had multiple iterations of the timeline, building on the suggestions of others.
However, although the Afrikanerverse is a homage to the Drakaverse, it’s also a critique. One trait of the Drakaverse that doesn’t ring true is how the Domination, a society enslaving 90 percent of its people, can keep pace technologically with the U.S.-led Alliance for Democracy. Although the Domination can lavish unimaginable resources on Citizen scientists and inventors, that would only take them so far given how small the Citizen body is. Had American slavery persisted even one more generation, George Washington Carver would have been an illiterate field hand rather than a scientist and inventor and the South would be so much poorer for it. The Afrikaner Confederation limits the opportunities of much of its population and thus fails to benefit from their output. The result: Scientific and technological stagnation. And this has its consequences.
Although both “Coil Gun” and “Palma” reference “Theonomy,” that’s not a fictional belief system. “Theonomy” literally means the law of God and it is a term used by those who call themselves Christian Reconstructionists, those whose enemies call them “dominionists.” Here is some more information about them. I once corresponded with a Reconstructionist who complained about premillenial dispensationalism robbing the world of Christian science fiction — if Jesus is going to return in the next decade or so, there’ll be no space-opera future — and read a story he wrote involving a culture that was basically “Boers in Space.” This is how the seed of a connection between Afrikaner culture and Christian Reconstructionism was planted. Members of the Afrikaner version call themselves Theonomists. They’re a reaction to changes in their society (many Afrikaners recognize their society’s failures), much like how much of the American Christian subculture is a reaction to the triumphant counterculture. Rather than acknowledge and learn from their failures, under the thrall of the Theonomists the Afrikaner citizen body makes things worse.
“Coil Gun” and “Palma” both reference the Theonomists’ anti-Catholicism, but “Palma” touches on their sexism. Katje de Lange, born and raised in the city of Palma in what is our world’s Mozambique, is a journalist who emigrated in a large degree due to a growing hostility toward her being a woman interested in a career. This blog post here, written by a former member of the American Christian home-schooling culture, references a bias against college education for women, work outside the home, and female independence in general. More damning, I once found a Reformed blog whose comments included a man who was uncomfortable with his daughter’s interest in making movies and how that could distract her from her alleged true calling as a wife and mother. This is something more akin to “Biblical” Patriarchy, which to be fair most complementarians don’t approve. Although Katje is by modern American standards rather conservative (“Palma” references her wearing a wrap at the beach when she isn’t actually swimming), she’s a raging liberal by the standards of an increasingly authoritarian and reactionary culture. A culture that, rather than renew and improve the Afrikaner Confederation as promised, is instead leading it into further stagnation and ultimately the unwinnable war depicted in “Coil Gun.”
However, don’t think that “Palma” is intended to be generally anti-religious or anti-Christian. One Afrikaner character puts a Theonomist in his place with Proverbs 19:2 and makes a surprising decision when push comes to shove. And I disdain complementarianism and “Biblical” Patriarchy as a Christian—see the Parable of the Talents. If Jesus does not approve of people who “bury their talent in the sand” out of fear of misusing it, what do you suppose He thinks of the people who made them think that?