Terrible Writing Advice – Chapter 10: EVIL EMPIRES

It’s time to crush those filthy rebels for the glory of the Empire! Evil empires are common in science fiction and fantasy. This video will show you how to take an extremely interesting topic rich in history and potential, and boil it down into a boring cliché!

My Honest Thoughts on Evil Empire

I played Tie Fighter as a kid. It was so much more fun than Xwing. It also offered a unique perspective on the galactic empire. I would go so far as to say that my fascination with villains began there. That game introduced me to the concept of the anti-villain. In Tie Fighter, the empire was the good guy. They fought rebels, but they also spent time on peacekeeping missions and enforcing order in a galaxy of chaos. It was the first time I wondered what the other side of the story was.

I love studying empires. I did my bachelor’s level thesis on the Roman army. There is something awe inspiring about the power of an empire. Look at the uniforms of the 1st century CE roman legion. Seeing ten thousand of those guys must have been a sight. Then there is all of the power and decadence of the Roman elite. There is such a fascinating idea there. Empires are so powerful, yet that very power rots out their soul. Success can be poison, pride their downfall.

Too bad most writers throw all that out the window. When the Empire isn’t some ideological straw-man, they barely get any attention at all. Star Wars at least tried to suggest some depth to them by adding a senate and some internal politics. Some books don’t even have an emperor and just take the name empire to sound menacing. What a lost opportunity. If a writer just wants a faceless enemy to throw at the heroes, they should just use monsters or bugs. This is one of the tropes with the most squandered potential I have seen.

Still, empires are occasionally done right. The Foundation Series by Asimov did a good job. Frank Herbert’s empire in Dune was also well built even if he stole a bunch from the Ottomans. By the way, if you want inspiration on a real evil empire, look up King Leopold the II. He didn’t have the kill count of the Nazis, but his policies in the Belgian Congo were beyond nightmarish. Few fictional works have topped the brutality of the real world rubber trade in the Congo.