Friday, 27 January 2012

Le Monde du Futur

This is the last of these giant setting-dumps, I believe. As a disclaimer, Cold-War era international politics are something I'm a little hazy on, so please excuse the occasional wobbly bit history (I also fudge a lot of the facts in order to fit with the theme and aesthetic, so that affects things too)

A sort of Cold War/Big Brother/Brazil/Paranoia/Modernist aesthetic coupled with a heavy dose of Metal Hurlant-style Euro-sci fi. Illustrations by Moebius, Bilal, Mezieres, set design from Alphaville and the Bauhaus, and costume design help from Jean-Paul Gaultier. A worn, 60s-to-80s future where spaceships and flying cars zip about, but on the crowded, grimy city streets people just ride bicycles or scooters. It would be like if Blade Runner had Europe instead of Japan as the culturally dominant ones.

I like the notion of enclosure, and the people of the world being forced into tight urban spaces. To that end, I see the world of the future (I almost want to say the year is 2000 for fun) as being composed primarily of enormous arcologies that link or combine several major present-day cities (say, there’s the Paris-London-Amsterdam megacity. Or perhaps one big Anglopolis and a northwestern continental one with France and Belgium and the Netherlands. Whatever) and the world outside the megacities is just a mess and practically uninhabitable due to nuclear war or something. Technology is clunky and primarily analogue because the world went to hell in 1966 or something and a substantial chunk of the world’s industrial capacity was lost, so everything’s done on a smaller scale now and people are perfectly content with oven-sized computers and film and typewriters. And hover-cars.

I can see that post-disaster there would be room for major revolution within certain governments, and that nations might rise from the ashes under a nationalist dictatorship, but that goes part-and-parcel with the general tone of things; everywhere in the world is basically pretty horrible and probably a police state, and the PCs are against that in some way. It’s a ‘punk’ setting. Maybe there’s a scummy little international lunar colony, where the worst undesirables of Earth society end up. It’d be kind of like Casablanca, maybe.

So in this one your characters are variously:

  • anarchic (or anarchist) gun-happy Tank Girls and street toughs
  • Ennui-ridden Francophones, lurking in smoky stairwells or bars where a lone record player loops a scratchy Edith Piaf album, or some gloomy jazz
  • Hardboiled detectives in the vein of Chandler, Blade Runner, or Alphaville
  • Overtly futuristic Moebius-y people with curious headgear.
  • Deluded upper-class people content with the current state of things
  • Organised revolutionaries, full of idealistic notions of overthrowing the corrupt government and restoring to the world to its pre-disaster state.
  • Small-time businesspeople, taxi drivers, and suchlike
  • Spies, for or against the current regime.
  • Hired killers, with a host of deadly piece-together guns and a precocious young Natalie Portman sidekick.
Fashion-wise, people fall mostly into one of two camps: either they wear futuristic fashions with wild hair and accessories (and not entirely dissimilar to a person of the 1980s), or they look broadly 60s, with suits and miniskirts and suchlike. People live in cramped, boxy flats in the megacities, but don’t skimp on decor; homes are all decorated in some variation on a modernist, 60s-future style (albeit with a lot of concrete about). This is the Euro-future, the Dutch and German knack for design has greater prominence. (Bauhaus spaceships)

The major political powers in this future are something along the lines of:

  • America: The ‘Disaster’ (or 60-Minute War, or just WWIII) obviously affected America pretty terribly; huge swathes of its territory are uninhabitable, cities reduced to rubble, all of that. America, at its peak before the Disaster, is now reduced to a third-rate power at best. The capital is New York (optimistic, really, but this is fiction. Nuclear radiation works on principles of fun and drama), and many of the country’s best minds and important figure fled to Britain before the attack, leading to the UK’s surge in importance (akin to Von Braun et al in America after WWII).
  • European Union: The calamitous effects of the Disaster left Europe massively weakened, and caused many nations to realise that banding together in mutual support wouldn’t be a bad thing. When the Germanies united in the 80s the EU was further strengthened. Today there are Autobahns criss-crossing the continent, linking the various major metropolises via high-speed radiation safe travel. The largest cities are Paris, Berlin, Benelux City, and Roma.
  • USSR: It’s pretty much just playing along with genre expectations to include this, but in the 80s and earlier people didn’t seem to consider the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it always continued well into the future. We’ll say they had the upper hand during the war, delivering a decisive strike against the Americans and then essentially ending things. They were probably also hit, but less badly. They have their own lunar base, which they maintain with greater diligence than the EU Lunopolis. (can you tell I was born post-Perestroika?)
  • Britain: It’s pretty patently ridiculous to say that Britain will be a world power in the science-fictional future, but perhaps the disaster levelled the playing field somewhat. I see the UK as mostly semi-isolationist, occasionally dragged into American schemes. With a rise in nationalism and patriotic fervour, the monarchy is somewhat strengthened (though still complete figureheads), and the head of state is Queen Beatrice (the top four in line to throne having perished in various ways. Beatrice was in Australia or something) Most of the populace lives in the Anglopolis, or Greater London, which dominates most of the south and midlands, and is connected via subterranean shuttles to Mega-Glasgow (Wales is a nuclear-scarred wasteland)
  • China: China is this world’s stable, reasonable state on account of their being largely unaffected by the Disaster. They’re affluent, well-populated, and their communist ideology comes out looking pretty okay in the face of some of the worse countries in Earth A.D 2000. Chinese influence probably extends out into the rest of Asia, as well as into the weakened America (which causes something of a Blade Runner effect, although Europe also has similar influence). China is, because of this, one of the most progressively futuristic nations, with a full-fledged space programme, cyborgs, big multi-level Moebius cities, and sundry other sci-fi bits and pieces.

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