There's lots of monarchs in SciFi but they are essentially Presidents for life with a House of Lords consisting of other friends/nobles.

I am looking for a full pyramid feudal system where slaves and serfs are owned by freeman who pledge themselves to Knights -> Barons -> Dukes -> King.

Knights must levy their own men-at-arms from their own lands and answer the banner call of a baron who answers a Duke and so on. I want this society to be extremely advanced.

  • Communication is Faster than Light, albeit physical transit is not.
  • The kingdom is spread across multiple nearby solar systems (roughly 10 ly in diameter)

  • Factories are highly industrial and owned by the nobility, fusion energy is commonplace

  • AI is on a near-human level of sentience.

I want a practical reason for a society like this to still cling to a medieval system of government.

  • $\begingroup$ I suggest you take a look at George Martin's Wild Cards. One of the most powerful civilizations in the galaxy is truly feudal as you describe. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 20 '16 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ There are plenty of examples from world history as to how these forms of government develop, a good answer will not be opinion based. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 20 '16 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ um, Frank Herbert's Dune [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(novel)] jumps to mind. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jun 20 '16 at 22:27

The way I see it is that the necessary element is the power of the lesser people. In more modern forms of government, the common people have more and more power (with Democracy, in theory, giving them complete power over their government). Feudal Lords retained power because of various methods, but the chief among them was a Divine Mandate. Peasants can, in large enough groups, overpower any government, but tie in eternal damnation, and the desire to rebel goes down a lot.

In a highly futuristic environment, you can go the "Dark Ages" route like Warhammer 40k does, and have it so that the people can use technology, but they don't understand it, and in some cases fear it. This allows the ruling class (the Emperor and Space Marines) to maintain control easily, as they have utmost access to this rare and powerful technology and tightly control it. It doesn't sound like this is the kind of world you are looking for.

I would instead look at ways of differentiating the Lords from the lesser folk. A way I would implement it is by biological immortality. The King can rule everything because he is nearly impossible to kill, thanks to genetic manipulation and technology. Each lesser order of Lords is a little less immortal and more killable, until you reach the "common" folk who have very short lifespans (perhaps 20-30 years with a very early "adulthood" at age 10 or so). Lesser folk can be raised to higher ranks, but it is rare and only for impressive service (saving the life of a noble, for example).

This creates a world where the common folk are born and die for dozens of generations with the same nobles above them, and the nobles seem like permanent fixtures in their lives (in fact, they are from their short lifespan). Their only hope for a longer life is to directly save the life of a noble or help them in other ways. Meanwhile, at every other level of the government, the same thing is happening, right up to the way the Dukes view the King. The King outlasts everyone.

I would be tempted to tie some mysticism or something into all of this, perhaps with a Cult of Science or something. Maybe children are tested at a very young age, and if they are intelligent enough or possess a gift, they are spirited away into the Cult, and transformed with the same technology that grants the Lords longer life (perhaps with a title to go with it). This Cult is responsible for the technological advancement of the society.

EDIT: Given the presence of super AI, you could also have the human lords "pretending" to be AI masters, while enjoying the fruits of the labor of the peasants. I don't like this idea as much as the original I've proposed.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would like to make the humans more or less equal at birth, with the Lords having access to more and more expensive technology. The way I had imagined the AI was smart enough to figure out things on its own, but still malleable to human control like a smarter Military Working Dog. Common people don't own any AI networks but interact with them and maintain their physical presence. They are largely programmed by a skilled engineer/technician class (that ranks far above a peasant, but below a knight) like Spartan Perioeci. Knights actually own the systems, and use them to manage war machines. $\endgroup$ – knowads Jun 20 '16 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @knowads Typically, in a feudal system, humans are not more or less equal at birth. In fact, one of the deciding charactaristics of feudal cultures is that one is born into royalty, or born into a powerful house. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 20 '16 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ I should have clarified. I meant physically equal. The rich aren't superhuman $\endgroup$ – knowads Jun 20 '16 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ @knowads: But they are rich. And wealth buys you a whole lot; the more technology there is, the more wealth can buy. Indeed, one of the characteristics of a feudal society is high wealth inequality. And combined with medicine based on advanced technology, who do you think is going to be able to afford the cure for cancer or Alzheimer's? And without widespread access to healthcare, the lower classes are highly likely to have a drastic decrease in life-expectancy. Sure, basic sanitation buys you a lot, but 150 years vs. 60 is not a "superhuman" life disparity. $\endgroup$ – Nicol Bolas Jun 20 '16 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ @NicolBolas Yes. I envisioned the Rich free from disease and 50% longer lifespans. But at 20-40, they are roughly physically equal to the peasantry. Then after that they deteriorate much slower due to treatment. Still I don't quite see how this supports feudalism. The poor would surely revolt against their mutant overlords? $\endgroup$ – knowads Jun 20 '16 at 23:53

Well lets see here, where to begin...

First, the odds of a society advancing to the future tech, system spanning empire you mention, having ALWAYS been a feudal kingdom is completely impossible.

As a general rule feudal systems don't do much to promote long term technological and economic growth.

Traditionally feudal systems existed to keep the rich and powerful well..rich and powerful. Changing your status was virtually impossible and the common folk were generally viewed as a common resource like wood and stone.

If you think wealth concentration is bad in the modern era...well lets just say the middle ages were way way worse.

Education also tended to not be important or supported outside the ruling elite, its tough to maintain power when you have an educated populace, there is a reason that dictators tend to either exile or murder intelligent people when they come to power.

The main point here is: Your empire didn't start a feudal system and remain that way from the Medieval era to the far future era.

With that point settled the question remains, how could a system spanning empire with a true feudal flavor exist in a far future setting?

Well...its impractical as feudal systems tend to be more and more inferior in efficiency the larger they grow in size, that said, we can probably set up a plausible or at least acceptable scenario to get there, after all, there are still plenty of monarchies today even when to most of the world they make no sense.

Reasons for a monarchy rising in a far future setting:

  • Unrest/War: If things get bad enough, and a strong man steps up and makes things better, the people are still people and security is very important to them, no matter how far in the future.

  • Apathy of the citizenry: If the people are happy...they may just not care. That family has been in charge for 200 years but I have my space big mac (TM) and my space smart phone (TM) and my space...whatever (TM) so I just don't care.

  • Being Sneaky. In a lot of cases we see what is in reality a monarchy arise without the label. Usually this is done through manipulation of the legal system. This will require a massively popular (Hugo Chavez for example) leader figure that the people like enough to give up political freedoms etc.

  • Super wealth: Middle Eastern monarchies are probably the best modern example of this, and it overlaps in may ways with the apathy option...if the government gives you lots of money due to having a much desired resource, you probably don't care who's in charge as long as they don't interfere too much with daily life.

Odds are it ends up being a combination of the options I listed, or even the myriad of other options I did not list out.

I should also mention I love the idea of a space armada where the king is in a gargantuan capital ship, the Dukes are in cruisers, the Barons in Carriers, and the knights fly around in large interceptors. Meanwhile the grunts are stuck flying in fighters...each unit has their boss' coat of arms painted on their craft...very cool mental image.

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  • $\begingroup$ Again I don't want a Caesarian style monarchy, where a single family or individual runs everything through various control of the people. The King is totally depended on the Dukes and the Dukes are totally depended on the Barons. $\endgroup$ – knowads Jun 20 '16 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ @knowads I was simply giving you the transition methods from whatever came before, to your feudal system. In any of those scenarios mentioned the leader will die and each of those options (or again more likely a combo) would allow for a feudal system. Make sense? $\endgroup$ – James Jun 20 '16 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Not exactly. I feel that would need to happen multiple times, or else the Knights would be appointees of the Baron, not the other way around. In regards to your edit, what actually inspired this was a post on why don't SciFi ships use kinetic energy more. In stead of working around that, I made it my focal point. Heavily armored fighters are specialized for ramming. $\endgroup$ – knowads Jun 20 '16 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ @knowads Look at it this way. Your first "King" can start out appointing all the nobles, and they are all totally supportive and subservient to him. Over time the kingly line gets less...kingly, the barons/dukes etc begin to assert more and more control over time. This happened plenty often enough in the real world $\endgroup$ – James Jun 20 '16 at 21:13

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