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<   No. 1568   2007-05-13   >

Comic #1568

1 Paris: I met this guy, a genetic engineer. His name was fforbes-Davïs. With a lower case double-f at the beginning, and an umlaut over the i.
2 Spanners: Wow. Pretentious. He must come from a long line of really posh nobles or something.
3 Paris: That's his first name.
4 Spanners: Yeah, see, that's what happens when you inbreed amongst the upper classes; mutant names.

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In all the time that Paris was in conversation with fforbes-Davïs, and his name was plainly visible as part of the vision-impaired script, I was amazed that not a single reader made any comment or reference to the unusual name.

The idea of nobles in science fiction comes to me from the classic SF roleplaying game Traveller. Although Traveller was published in 1977 and was the second SF RPG, I only came to it with the release of GURPS Traveller in 1998. The default "Third Imperium" setting for Traveller is a widespread galactic empire, so far flung that travel from the capital to the provinces can take years, resulting in the Imperium being administered by a hierarchical network of hereditary nobles in a feudal-style system. It's an interesting concept that might not otherwise occur to people thinking about how a highly technologically advanced galactic civilisation might operate.


2017-05-21 Rerun commentary: In reality, assuming no relativity-breaking scientific advances that allow faster-than-light communication, if humanity ever does develop an interstellar civilisation then administration will necessarily need to be localised at least to a solar system level. You can't effectively administer something with a communication lag of several years. So the first interstellar colonies will very quickly become politically independent, no matter what anyone on Earth feels about the situation. Hopefully we won't be stupid enough by then to wage war on the new colonies and wipe them out. That would be rather a waste of effort.

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