1. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    Caste systems. Overdone?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Alexis Covington, Aug 5, 2019.

    Please let me know if this doesn't belong here :)

    I know caste systems are pretty much used to death, especially in YA, but I have an idea for a story based on this type of world.

    Basically I would like to build a society where what occupation you can hold, what clothes/hairstyles you can wear, and how you are treated are based on eye and hair color.

    Those with blue eyes would be at the top (presidents/czars/royalty) while black eyes would be at the bottom (slaves, hard laborers, the destitute) . Any color in between will be "normal" jobs (ex: scientists (light green), botanists (forest green), office workers (hazel)).

    Instead of having the POV be from a character at the bottom and showing their rise to the top, I would like the POV to be of a member at the top who is kidnapped by a lower level member and made to give up information so that they can infiltrate and bread the system. The story would follow the MC's journey from ignorance and hatred for the lower members, to understanding and empathy.

    Does this sound at all interesting, or is it a stupid concept? I know it comes down the personal preference, but it would be cool to get a little feedback.

    Sorry, this thread is a jumbled grammatical mess. I'm currently at work and hiding from my boss :D

    Edit: I'm also at 30,000 on another WIP, but this suddenly came to me today. I'm working in South Korea, which has a pretty obvious caste system, so it's been inspiring my writing lately.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

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    Meh. Eye color is a pretty random thing to striate society by. That would mean that rich siblings would be separated into separate castes at birth. Same for poor siblings. I suppose if you were aiming for satire or irony it might work. Or for a Monty Python routine. And the Aryan/Nazi comparison would make it feel derivative... but I suppose it could work if done right.
     
  3. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    I plan to throw something in there dealing with evolution to help with this issue. This will be set far, far into the future. I'm planning for this to be pretty high Science Fiction with a touch of alternate history.
     
  4. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    Thanks for the response by the way.
     
  5. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    I good idea with poor execution won’t work. I weak idea with good execution will. Don’t fret too about the originality of your story because all stories are pretty much the same. The Prince and The Pauper is the most obvious example that springs to mind.

    If it wasn’t ‘caste’ then they’d be some other difference you’d have to use in order to make for an interesting dynamic.
     
  6. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    Gotcha.

    I do tend to get a little worked up about what I write being too similar to a published work I've read.

    Thanks for the (very sound) advice!
     
  7. Baeraad

    Baeraad Member

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    It's an often-used idea because it's interesting. And it's often been a fact of life in the real world - in some times and places more so than others, but the general idea of "each person is born to serve a particular function - so sayeth I, who just so happens to be born to serve the function of telling other people what to do :D" seems to be one that just naturally occur to human beings at a certain point of social development. I say go for it.

    The eye colour thing I'm not too sure of, though. It's such a weirdly specific thing. Why not just have everyone be the same caste as their parents? It'll amount to the same most of the time.
     
  8. Mish

    Mish Member

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    The eye colour does not indicate IQ so on what basis would such decision be made? Why would very intelligent people with hazel eyes be forced into menial jobs? And why would unintelligent people with blue eyes become royalty?

    I think you would need to have a very solid explanation to make it work. Are blued eyed people on the verge of extinction and this is an attempt to save them? Did a cabal of blue eyed people take over the power and now they are holding everyone back?
     
  9. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    I mean, the thought randomly manifested about an hour ago as I was doing research for my Korean class. It's nowhere near fleshed out enough for me to answer these questions, haha. These are all amazing questions, and useful in figuring out why the system is the way it is as I actually sit down the plan.

    To answer the IQ thing: There are many accounts throughout history of royals being put on thrones while being "clinically" insane or mentally disturbed in some way. I do plan to factor evolution/genetics into this (kind of how there's scientific evidence about certain ethnicities being prone to certain types of cancer, not producing the sweat gene (as Koreans do), but with eye color/hair color if that makes sense; and how there are of course outliers).

    I really like the idea of blue eyed people taking over power and holding the others back.

    But you're right, I definitely have to think harder about how the eye color/power thing will be fleshed out.
     
  10. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    Thanks. I second the eye color thing. It's just what happened to pop into my head. I'm willing to change this to something else if I think of another way to set up the system. The other ideas I had seems kind of cheesy and implausible.

    The parents thing might work, but what would be the explanation behind the parents and their separation into whichever caste would be the question. It's already making my head hurt thinking about it, haha.

    If you can't tell, worldbuilding is a bit of a struggle for me!
     
  11. Baeraad

    Baeraad Member

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    I don't know, same way it happened in the real world? People just naturally end up performing different jobs. And then they teach their children to perform the same jobs. Repeat for a few generations, and then someone decides that it's clearly The Will Of The Gods that you do the same kind of jobs as your parents did, because if it wasn't then everyone wouldn't be already doing it.
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just read a very memorable book written by Rohinton Mistry, entitled A Fine Balance, which deals with the caste system in India, as applied during the middle of the 20th century. You might get some ideas from this. It's got a lot to do with the occupations certain castes get stuck with performing, and how restrictions get put in place to keep these people from ever moving out of that caste they were born into. It's based on real history, and it's an eye-opener, for sure.
     
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  13. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    Hm. Something to think about, for sure.
     
  14. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    I'll give it a look! Thanks for the suggestion.
     
  15. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    Ah, just thought of something. Instead of using eye color as the reason, maybe everyone is each caste goes through some sort of genetic alteration so they can be more easily identified. I'm not sure why, but I'm really digging the idea of entire factions/groups having the same hair and eye color. Can't kick the thought.
     
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  16. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    Hair and eye colour is a very dumb basis for unemployment, unless you make those as visual indicators of other sorts of genetic alterations. I'd suggest having a quick look at a book called Brave New World as well.

    It's important to note that we've moved away from systems that have genetics be the key factor in giving the mandate to rule and that, even when there were those with significant mental health issues on the throne, there was more often than not a Regent who did the actual ruling. Returning to a genetic mandate as opposed to a democratic one tends not to happen without a massive period of instability, and, even then, those are more often framed as being about the stability of a clear successor.
    I'd also suggest reading Joothan which is an autobiography by Om Prakash Valmiki, who is a Dalit/untouchable living in contemporary India, and deals with the fact that, even though there are laws that are supposed to lessen the prejudices of the caste system, plenty of people are either ignoring them or working around them.
     
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  17. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    I think sparkling vampires are dumb, but Stephanie Meyer is laughing her butt off sitting on millions....

    If you scroll up a bit you'll see that I ended up changing eye and hair color being the reason for the separations into factions. However, I'd like to keep the color aspect. Color is still very much used today to judge a person or group of people. Lighter skin, hair, and eye color, for example, are seen as desirable over darker skin, hair, and eye color. Often times people equate that with beauty, intellect, prestige, and will treat you accordingly (I live in South Korea where this is still prominent).

    Read Brave New World in high school about thirteen years ago. Wonderful book.

    As I plan for this to be an alternate history Science Fiction novel set generations into the future, I don't think it's too far-fetched to assume humanity could fall back into genetically based categorizations for people. We tend to repeat ourselves over the centuries. What's to stop another Hilter or Pol Pot, or Kim Jung Un from taking reign 3,000 years from now, especially in a time of economic or social crisis?

    I don't exactly plan to make the reason for the genetic alterations based on the fact that society has been doing well and everyone is happy. There will obviously be a catastrophic tipping point within society to make the changes of this caliber necessary.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
  18. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    And this is now the time where I say be careful as a dumb take on a sensitive topic tends not to come out well.
     
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  19. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    No worries, man.
     
  20. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Is this a reference to the Blue eyes/Brown eyes thing done by Jane Elliot?
     
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  21. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    It isn't, but I can see how it could be. The idea came to me from my relocation to South Korea, and observing how lighter eyes/hair/skin are seen more favorably within the culture.
     
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  22. Mish

    Mish Member

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    It has already happened, it was called "Colonialism". It didn't end too well.

    I think at best this is due to vanity because they associate pale skin / hair with wealth. (at worst with racism) Though none of the reasons indicate that pale skin / hair is a determinant of intelligence or is good for meritocracy. I think a future society built on such principles is not going to last long. But, perhaps this is your intention, if it is then go ahead.
     
  23. Alexis Covington

    Alexis Covington Member

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    I'm not writing non-fiction. Is there a reason why I can't craft my premise off of this to make it work (serious question, not being a jerk) if I do it in a well thought out way? I know I should base some of my world around history/reality, but some of the fun in writing fantasy/sci-fi is being able to write outside of these constraints.

    If you scroll up a bit you'll see I ended up changing eye color/hair color for being a main determiner of why people are categorized into what caste. I merely used my experiences (and that specific example) in South Korea as a jumping off or inspiration point, if you will. I do agree with you in terms of a society not lasting long on such principles.
     
  24. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    You can do whatever you want to do, but you should keep the readers suspension of disbelief in mind.
     
  25. Mish

    Mish Member

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    As a writer you can really write about anything you want. That's one of the main perks of being a writer. The main risk you may be running into is your readers may not find this idea original or interesting. That was my way to try to point this out.
     

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