by Johnny Worthen
Johnny Worthen’s Of Kings, Queens and Colonies is A Parallel for Modern Times – a bit self-consciously, perhaps, but still relevant for all that.
The tale begins on a spaceship carrying settlers intending to colonize Tirgwenin, the last “unclaimed” planet in their solar system. It is nearly a thousand years since the evacuation of Old Earth, and the pollution brought about by Man’s relentless greed has rendered most of the new worlds nearly uninhabitable. (In a nod to current events, one shipboard family is kept separated from the rest due to being quarantined for a communicable virus which is decimating the population.) Their tales of Tirgwenin paint it as a new Eden, with a mystical sky and magical (though less-than-human) inhabitants.
Meanwhile Enskari, the planet they are leaving behind, is on the verge of war. The clashing of fanatical royal houses combined with class wars and religious persecution have convinced the king of a neighboring world that the time has come to build an armada and consolidate the entire planetary system under his rule – especially since Enskari has had the gall to install a woman on the throne.
Imagine that Offred joins the crew of the Millennium Falcon, and they all head off to see if they can find Rivendell on Arrakis. It’s like that.
It’s the age-old technique of using futuristic fantasy to ask at one remove the question, Are we as a species doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes? Judging by such commentary as, “Personal greed when backed by overwhelming resources crushes evolution and ethical behavior,” Worthen’s answer to this question is a qualified yes. As behooves a Creative Writing instructor, he elucidates his arguments clearly and simply:
On the other hand, he also dumbfounds the reader with head-scratchers such as, “Their blood was as red as theirs and colored the mud a dirty death.”
If you are already a fan of Johnny Worthen’s work, well, here is some more of it. If not, Of Kings, Queens and Colonies may not be the best place to start.