For a while now I've been working (or at least trying to) on a story. In this story I've been trying to create a modern society similar to ours today, but I'm trying to make that society a step back in weapon development. Imagine a modern medieval society. Wars are fought with bows, swords, spears, etc. The society would have a lot of our technological developments. Trains, ships, and air balloons definitely, but I also want to implement mobile phones.
By society, I mean the entire world. By world I mean an alternate version of Earth. It should be similar to our Earth in as many ways as possible, except in the ways that my story changes directly.
So here's the question. How can I create a technologically advanced society in all (if not, most.) areas except weaponry?
There are a couple requirements though. In this story Britain has taken a large majority of Northern Europe, and is the major superpower in the world. However, they have not been able to take much of anything in the Americas due to a untied Native American front. So I have to limit weapons while keeping Britain THE major superpower.
I already tried to have an early gunpowder event of "mass" destruction, when gunpowder was early in its discovery. Because of that event, a coalition of countries banned the use of gunpowder. Therefore pushing weapon advancement back, but there are major flaws with the idea. The idea still has some potential in it, but I can't seem to use it very well.
Any suggestions are welcome, and please point out any flaws in the idea.
This might give a few general ideas.
Wouldn't we still have all weapons from an EMP?
I saw one where there's like an episode where an EMP eliminates all tech and guns because at this point all guns have electronic firing pins, but I've never seen one with no guns whatsoever. I do vaguely remember Gus from Breaking Bad in an America that went through an EMP strike or something where swords because popular, but that still had a few guns in it, altough they were rare. Which does seem weird, as there's far than enough guns in America to keep the populace in a post-apocalypse armed with better weapons than swords.
Yeah, it was called Revolution. Basically there was an event 15 years ago called "The Blackout" that disabled electricity and such. (Cars don't works, planes crashed, etc) People ended up adapting to the situation, but as with any post apocalyptic scenario, there are a lot of warlords and different groups all scrambling for power.
I tried watching some of it, but I ended up not really caring too much for most of the characters so I never really got invested in it.
I agree with what has been said in this thread already, that modern technology has too much killing potential if misused, to not have been used as a weapon. One of the only things I can think of to legitimise the use of swords and bows for warfare (instead of, you know, massive blowy-uppy stuff) is if somehow all states in the world decided not to use advanced weaponry.
For example, in the Middle Ages, the Pope banned the use of crossbows (against other Christians), because they were deemed to make it too easy to kill large amounts of people. Religious or philosophical arguments could therefore prevent the use of advanced weapons in warfare, while the rest of technology is advancing. Though, as you say, there are a lot of flaws with that idea (historically speaking, people usually go with the 'efficient killy' stuff, and just ignore their religious leaders).
The other thing I can think of is that the world just had a very, very long period of peace, and that most states did not have a need to invent modern weaponry. Then again, it's very easy to accidentally invent an effective weapon (see gunpowder, and cars). So yeah, I agree with the people above in this thread that it doesn't sound like a realistic enough idea in my opinion.
I remember reading a story with a similar thing, although it was for another alien species. They arrived on earth with massive spaceships, thinking humanity's lack of a space presence would make them easy pickings, only to invade with like flintlock weapons. They got hammered, humanity took their shit, they realized we were a serious threat. Not really helpful to you, but hey, I'm mentioning it.
Read Dune for inspiration. Laser guns cause a nuclear explosion if they hit a shield, so everyone fights with knives instead. It's kind of similar to what you're suggesting here.
Yep, Dune was one of the very rare sci-fis which made a plausible reason for hand to hand combat to be fashionable again. However, I'm guessing the author wants to delve more into early 1900s/2000s as the setting for his Britannian adventure. Dune's shields would be too far away for him to be able to put into the story, and as I've explained in my (overtly large) post, till a Dune situation, man to man melees would not be the way of war.
I'll look at this from two different ways.
1) Why do you want wars to be fought with Bows/Swords/Spears as the primary small arms technology?
If it's because the idea of people getting up close and sweaty trying to kill each other seems like something fun to write, well then you're not going to get far with this setting (as in not at all).
The reason being that even if anyone who thought about gunpowder miraculously ended dead for some reason, you'd STILL have a lot of vicious weapons on the battlefield over the centuries that'd make hand to hand combat pointless or a massacre for both sides that no one would want to engage in. Ballistae (with payloads such as an explosive head, the way old rifle grenades worked), Trebuchets, Acids, Repeating Crossbows, normal bows (see the Parthian cavalry and their Parting shot tactics), Bombs, Poison gas (a big issue), Napalm, Flamethrowers would all have been prominent on the menu for warmongers in this reality, and NO faction ever willingly overlooks those techs seeing as how they'd give dominance over the battlefield. Another obvious tech that would be militarized would be cars/bulldozers to RUN THINGS (People) OVER (yeah, no spears are going to stop those).
The other problem with your current premise of gunpowder is how you've made the research taboo. The thing with taboo topics is that they still get discussed. Someone somewhere would perfect the tech, arm his kinsmen and take over the world in the name of Khan (or whoever wins the tech lottery). Because Khan's side would have guns, the rest of the world would go scrambling to get them, either skirting around treaties or just ignoring them in order to get their hands on their own guns (for a fun history lesson on how treaties don't mean much in warfare, see how European nations worked to skirt around the negotiated limits on naval power after World War 1 AND 2, and how Japan today is only allowed a SELF defense force - ergo no force projection aircraft carriers - so it just calls its aircraft carriers amphibious assault vehicles and everyone just nods)
As far as the impact of techs you want would have on the battlefield - Trains were mainly used for logistics, having train technology is more relevant to your world's supply lines and economy than actual fighting (though since they make troop movements fast, enemies would not be able to be sure about how much forces would be committed to regions along the train line). Ships would move away from ramming and swashbuckling to throwing acid or napalm via ballistae. Check out Greek Fire for a technology lost to history. The moment you have things that can fly (zeppelins), you have airbombing via napalm and eventually better conventional bombs, and that'll be a pain for your squishy swordsmen (try throwing flaming spears 8000 feet into the sky, whoever hits the target is the new king of England - a reverse King Arthur scenario if you will.
Of the tech you want, cellphones are in fact EXTREMELY complicated machines requiring hundreds if not thousands of intermediate techs to arrive at (you need a tower network, switchboards, cabling, common standards, computers, and so much more, the whole kit), and I'm sure somewhere down that tech tree the absence of gunpowder would have been a major issue. Also bear in mind that without gunpowder access to exotic resources (such as rare earth metals from China) would be limited, so scientists would have a hard time experimenting with those resources, slowing down tech advancement rates (so your story would have to take place in something like 2500 AD to have cellphones). Smaller empires due to no empire being able to outright dominate others also mean that colonialism, and its child capitalism would not have taken off as much as they have in the modern world, so China, India, Africa, and a lot of other nations would be strong counter-balances to your grand Britannian empire.
2) Now, despite having said all that, you can have a world without gunpowder, but it'll be have to be like the world mentioned above - close range combat will still be obsolete and a total no-go. If you can work with that in your scenario then by all means go ahead and surprise us.
Yes it's the same story. It's just a different aspect I'm working the chinks out now.
Thanks for all of the responses. You all definitely reaffirmed my suspicions regarding the plausibility of such a society to exist.
The main purpose for wanting to have the weapon systems set back was to create a point in time where gunpowder weapons developed, but was at the "early" stages. So flintlock pistols and the like. This was to give that British superpower an edge with their weaponry to quell a rebellion, which would be used by the police force. Mostly. The story would take place in a point in time where those gunpowder weapons were free to use by approved persons, and the main character would be a ranged specialist. An expert in mildly advanced flintlock pistols essentially. I do enjoy writing melee fights more than gunfights though, so that is a contributor. I also did not want to just throw my story to the 1400's to get that flintlock pistol effect, although I may have to do something similar to get a more agreeable setting.
Post apocalypse settings aren't really my cup of tea. I suppose I could try that if I'm really desperate for this particular setting.
Thanks again all. This really helps.
Well yes I could, but that's where my preference comes into play, I don't particularly want to write about a modern police force, but with superior weaponry. It's been done, and I don't find it that interesting. Personal preference.
Your setting is nonsense. I'm sorry, but none of this makes any goddamn sense at all. You can justify it until the cows come home, but it will still feel weird to read, because it flies in the face of common sense.
That's why I was running it past everyone. I wasn't trying to justify. Only merely pointing out what I would've done had the setting made sense. Since it doesn't I'll have to modify severely.