The Draka

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"The Draka will conquer the world for two reasons; because we must and because we can. And yet of the two forces the second is the greater; we do this because we choose to do it."

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Gather around lads and lasses and we shall tell you a story of a good republic and an evil empire where the bad guys are vanquished and truth, justice, and the American Way prevail.

Science Fiction author S.M. Stirling said "Screw that". Apparently tired of seeing the same cliches being used again, and again; he created the Domination of the Draka, an Evil Empire that doesn't intend to lose...ever.

Stirling later revealed that one of his primary motives in creating the Draka was as a philosophical thought exercise into the nature of evil; he wanted to demonstrate that traditionally "good" qualities (loyalty, perseverance, ingenuity, honor, etc.) used in the service of evil goals could create a more horrific villain than the most caricatured puppy-kicking 100% evil monster could ever be. Arguably, he succeeded.

The Draka timeline diverges from our own during the American Revolution, where American Crown Loyalists, due to the Dutch intervening in the war, are shipped to the new British Crown Colony of Drakia—named after Sir Francis Drake—on the southern coast of Africa. They are joined shortly by French Royalists, defeated Confederate troops, and generally the other losers of history. Burning with a desire for revenge, they founded the Domination of Draka: an Empire forged on conquest and slavery. Their goal is nothing less than world domination. Standing in their way is the United States of America and the Alliance for Democracy. And you just know this is going to be bloody.

The main trilogy consists of:

  • Marching Through Georgia (set in the opening hours of the Drakan entry into the Eurasian War, the alternate equivalent of our World War II)
  • Under the Yoke (covering Europe's incorporation into the Domination after the Eurasian War)
  • The Stone Dogs (covering the "Protracted Struggle" between the Domination of Draka and the remaining democratic nations, now joined into the "Alliance for Democracy")

There are also:

  • Drakon (a Draka from the 25th century is hurled back to 1990s Earth by a space-warp experiment)
  • Drakas! (a collection of short stories set in the Draka timeline, edited by S. M. Stirling but written by other authors)

The Domination is an omnibus of the main trilogy, not a separate book.


Tropes used in The Draka include:
  • Affably Evil: A lot of Draka characters, when you get past the slavery and the warmongering and the rampant amorality, are actually surprisingly pleasant people. However, it only really serves to make them even more unsettling.
  • Alien Space Bats: The only decent explanation why no one else stopped them before they became too powerful. Knowing the Draka, they have them as slaves.
    • It needs them to explain how and why a sparsely-populated colony of farmers of the late 1700s could industrialize quicker than all European nations together and conquer a continent which no less than three Real Life superpowers (British, French and German Empires) barely could.
      • They had a century's head start, they didn't have any competition, and they had infinitely less ethical restraints on their actions.
      • Also, they had far more motivation. All of the failed colonial attempts on Earth were done by people who could simply give up and go home if things turned out to be unprofitable. The Draka's ancestors had been exiled to South Africa and had nowhere to go—profitable or not, their only two choices were win or die.
  • The Alliance: The Alliance for Democracy.
  • Alternate History: And not the nice kind either!
  • Alternate History Wank: A textbook example thereof.
  • Alternate Universe: The Draka were experimenting with wormholes for FTL travel and instead opened a gateway to another Earth.
  • Author Appeal: S.M. Stirling seems to like lesbian or bisexual female characters. Johanna, Rahksan, Yolande, Myfwanwy, Gwendolyn... you can't throw a rock in any of the books without hitting at least two.
    • He does try to handwave it a couple of ways—primary education is sex-segregated, and prior to the development of the drakenses the Race Purity Laws create a variation on Really Gets Around in that it's acceptable for male Draka to have sex with any serf woman they like, but for a female Draka to have sex with a male serf is a capital offense (diluting the Race, presumably), with a side of Family Versus Career for female Draka, who are required by law to produce a minimum number of offspring (the actual pregnancy eventually being off-loaded to host mothers) -- but it still feels heavy-handed at times.
      • Remember—Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe. What to do when a serf woman has a child that is potentially half-Draka is easy; if you don't have two Draka parents, then you're a serf, and the half-Draka nature of the child can be told with certainty because the mother is a serf. On the other hand, if a Draka woman has a child then the only way to be certain that the child is Draka is if she has never had sex with a serf remotely near the relevant time period. It's ultimately an extension of why real-world medieval standards were so much more concerned with ensuring female fidelity than male fidelity; guaranteeing the paternity of children in the absence of such things as modern birth control and DNA testing. When the Draka finally do develop the aforementioned technologies, as well as modern fertility aids and surrogate mothers and etc., the Race Purity Laws basically quietly cease to exist.
  • Badass: Way too many to list here.
  • Badass Army: The Draka Citizen army.
  • Badass Creed: Service to the State. Glory to the Race.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: More correctly, the worst guys win.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Tremendously averted and one of the major criticisms of the timeline. Despite radical alterations to history starting in 1783, we still get a US Civil War over slavery in 1860, a Great War in 1914 (which the US joins on the exact same date in 1917), and both Hitler and FDR still rise to power in 1932. Word of God says that these are different people, but they aren't given different names. Of course, the Draka is more of a thought experiment than an attempt at a plausible Alternate History.
    • Also, outside of the World War II-related ones (which are indeed very far-fetched), the rest are fairly solid alt-history. Both the American Civil War and World War I are ultimately rooted in things that the Drakian timeline divergence won't substantially change; the root cause of slavery and disagreement over goes all the way back to the initial slave-trading compromise clause in the US Constitution, and World War I was the ultimate result of 19th-century colonial expansion and competition finally running out of planet to divide up amongst each other while simultaneously running headlong into the invention of 20th century industrial warfare. The only coincidence there is both wars occurring on the same dates.
  • Crapsack World: The raison d'etre of the series. Before the stories even begin, the Draka enslave the entire native population of Africa and much of Asia's. The Drakaverse version of World War 2, made worse by the radical nature of Drakan tactics, including arbitrary starvation of resisting cities, unflinchingly brutal punishment of partisan activity, and much more liberal use of atomic weapons, kills off approximately one-tenth of humanity, and ends in a majority of survivors going into slavery. Out of self-defense, the United States and her allies become massive armed camps. Eventually, a nuclear holocaust ensues in which The Bad Guy Wins, and most Americans who aren't killed or enslaved are treated as hunting game for the Draka. Then, of course, the Draka create two posthuman species, and the Serfs are engineered into a pliant, non-resistant slave race which happily serves the Draka masters. The Draka then develop interstellar and interdimensional travel, enslaving sentient alien races and alternate timelines.
  • Easy Logistics: One of the complaints that gets brought up is that the Draka are seemingly completely unaffected early on by the logistics of waging war in what was historically for Europeans a medical nightmare, on a continent that, for anyone, lacked the necessary fundamental infrastructure to create or maintain a continent-spanning empire.
    • Note that the initial expansion of the Draka territories is in the non-tropical parts of Africa; the area south of the Limpopo, then Egypt and North Africa (traveling by sea), then up the highland spine where altitude makes it too cool for malaria and sleeping sickness. These are precisely where in our history people of European descent settled. Southern Africa proper has over half a million square miles free of tropical diseases, with a sufficiency of goodish farmland and stuffed with virtually every valuable mineral known to humankind. After that, the accelerated development of tropical medicine kicks in. As for the infrastructure, that gets built over the course of generations. It's no more difficult to build railways and roads in Africa than anywhere lese; there was just less economic incentive to do so in our history.
    • Think of it this way, though: who were the OTL Europeans to settle the non-tropical parts of Africa? The Boers. How many wars did they win? Two in total: one against the Zulu, who were at a supreme technological disadvantage, and against the British in the 1880s, when the British had just recently entered the Transvaal and were at a numerical disadvantage. When they actually formed nations, however, the Boers proved themselves only marginally wealthy, and when the British under Kitchener came back for more in 1899, the Boers were only able to take their tactical advantage only so far before being crushed by superior British weaponry and numbers. At no time were the Boers in any real position to take up a continuous war against the British or even expand outside of the Transvaal, really. The land they occupied simply could not support a large, European-style land empire (hence why you didn't see total Zulu dominion over Southern Africa, just over what is now Kwa Zulu/Natal).
    • Not to mention how the hell a colony of the British Empire built on the plantation system has any sort of major technological progress.
      • The Draka took slavery way beyond agriculture. As early as the mid 19th Century they had massive, slave-driven mining entities called Combines that gave the colony access to its extensive mineral wealth. These grew into industrial sectors with tonnes of practical knowledge in metallurgy and industry. In Marching Through Georgia it is noted that slaves there are worked in such terrible conditions and treated so harshly that the plantation is seen as a pleasant lot in life.
      • While Confederate/Southern US slavery is one ancestor of the Draka system, they are not at all the same system. Draka culture is, quite consciously on the Draka's part, designed as something like 'Sparta done right' -- note the Greek military titles used by the Draka, even quite early on according to the stories in Drakas!. The Draka slaves or 'serfs' are more analogous to Spartan Helots than to New World plantation slaves.
      • The Confederates are in fact the last major wave of emigration the Domination experiences (Confederate descendants are considered Johnny-come-latelies by the established aristocracy) and the serf system is already well-established when they arrive. The Draka system is more analogous to a Haitian sugar plantation with overlays of medieval European serfdom (brought by the exiled French nobility post-Revolution) and Greco-Roman classicism.
  • The Empire: The Draka have a version.
  • Everyone Is Bi: The genetically-engineered New Race -- "Homo drakensis"—portrayed in Drakon, is all bisexual.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Draka can be seen as an evil counterpart of the United States of America. Both are world powers that started as colonies. Both expanded by taking over other colonies and native lands. Both originally had very slavery-dependent economies. But whereas the USA ultimately rejected slavery, the Domination embraced it.
    • Both also took over their home continents (North America and Africa) at ludicrously fast speeds with ludicrously little resistance. If the USA didn't exist in real life, but was written about in an Alternate History story, people would probably think its tremendous success was just as Alien Space Bats based as the Drakas' and voice the objection that France, Spain, and England would have stopped them before they took over the entire center of North America. On the other hand, the USA's rapid expansion is probably a little more realistic than the Draka's since it would be a lot easier for someone who wanted to stop the Draka to send armies and supplies across the Mediterranean than it would be for someone who wanted to stop the USA from sending Armies and supplies across the Atlantic.
      • The characters themselves reference this as early as Marching Through Georgia by noting that North America had a much lower indigenous population density, and most Native Americans were killed by European diseases (in many cases long before the colonists themselves showed up). The conquest of North America was therefore much faster and less resource-intensive than what the Draka had to do. Africa being much more heavily populated (and with the disease situation reversed), the ancestors of the Draka were forced to militarize very early on.
  • The Federation: The United States.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Quite a few of the Draka Serfs suffer from this. And after the Draka master human genetic engineering, they all suffer from it.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: By the 20th century, the timeline has changed so much that almost no real-world historical figures show up. Guess who is one of the few exceptions.
    • It is notable that Drakaverse Hitler is blonde and sports an eyepatch.
  • It Got Worse: The entire history of the war against the Domination.
  • Karma Houdini: An entire nation of them.
  • La Résistance: The Finns are the only nation presented as waging anything like a determined resistance in the face of Drakan occupation. Under the Yoke seems to suggest that the free Finns will eventually simply die from attrition or lack of supply, never posing a serious threat to Drakan strategic interests.
    • According to the chronology given for the series, Switzerland apparently is considered a hotbed of resistance into the 1970's. And the French Resistance at the beginning of Under The Yoke is featured, but only as a shadow of its former self, its members forced into cannibalism to survive and generally considered little more than an annoyance by not only the Draka but also the serf population.
    • The Finns are the only ones we actually get to see in action. In addition to Switzerland and France, Russia is also said to have pockets of holdouts, Barcelona was nuked to stop an uprising, and as late as the 1960s some serfs in former Italy are trying (unsuccessfully) to resist the Draka (seen at the beginning of The Stone Dogs). Most of the rest of Europe has been so battered by war that the Draka are mostly picking up the pieces and rebuilding—many civilians are so worn-out and beleaguered that they're actually lining up for their serf tattoos just to get food and medical care.
  • Master Race: The Draka consciously craft themselves into a master race by living The Spartan Way. The books contrast the Draka with the Nazis, who believed they were a master race because of an inherently superior genetic lineage. It is mentioned that the average Draka footsoldier could crush the skull of an SS trooper with his (or her) bare hands. Later, genetic tinkering accentuates this to the point that the Draka literally are a Superior Species.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: after the Final War nearly destroys the eco-system the Draka respond by invoking strict environmental standards to ensure stablity. Nature preserves are created from entire continents and the population levels are kept low.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Just look at the page quote!
  • Not Using the Z Word: Draka never call their slaves slaves, instead they refer to them as serfs.
    • Justified in that they originally did this as a loophole exploitation so they could have slaves while still paying lip service to the British Empire's ban on chattel slavery.
    • Although one of the less plausible plots points is the idea that the British Empire in general, and the abolitionist movement in particular would have been fooled by this for five minutes.
      • They weren't necessarily fooled for long, if at all—according to the Custer story in Drakas! Drakia paid only lip-service to being British even in the late 1870s; one officer is considered eccentric/politically extreme for taking loyalty to Queen Victoria seriously.
  • Nuke'Em: The inviolable law is that no serf is to raise a hand in anger to any of the Draka, on pain of death. The crowning example was when a serf rebellion in Barcelona managed to overwhelm the local garrison, which made the Draka decide to suppress the riot by nuking the entire city.
    • It was probably a better death than the fate that would have awaited the rebels if the Draka had used conventional methods.
      • You Bet! The Draka "conventional method" was to inpale the rebels on a wooden stake up the rectum. A very slow, painful, and degrading way to die! Give me a nuke anytime!
    • For those who are puzzled and trying to remember where the hell that ever happened in the plot, the answer is during the timeskip between Under the Yoke and The Stone Dogs. It's mentioned briefly in the latter book.
    • And that's just in peacetime. During the Eurasian War, the Draka use no fewer than seventeen nuclear weapons in Europe, and one in China. The US is also rather more nuke-happy in the alternate timeline: four bombs are used against the Japanese, two on fleets, and the other two on Osaka and Tokyo.
      • Fridge Logic: Shouldn't the Earth of the Draka be an irradiated wasteland plagued by nuclear winter? Since if all those nukes went off at the same time...well it's The End of the World as We Know It. Only twelve nukes going off at the same time would cause serious problems for the human race.
      • Twelve nuclear weapons of that size wouldn't even begin to affect the climate and fallout is highly overrated; hundreds of airburst nuclear weapons were set off in the 50's and 60's during tests, and the world survived handily. Cancer deaths increased... to a degree that could only be detected with fairly sophisticated statistical techniques. My own father was in an open slit trench within 1.8 miles of a fusion bomb explosion in Nevada in the 1950's, and died at the age of 93 of liver failure. Ninety percent of the fallout from a nuclear explosion decays within a few weeks; ninety percent of the remainder is gone within six months. "Nuclear winter" is a dubious hypothesis, even with thousands of city-smashers flying around; the original papers on the subject made some very arbitrary assumptions. But a dozen, or a few dozen, or a few hundred, most certainly would not produce any such thing.
      • There are comments made by Draka characters toward the end of The Stone Dogs that the next century will be very hard, partly due to the damage done to the ecosystem by the Final War, and that the space colonies will be critical for rebuilding. This is a major motivation for Eric von Shrakenberg to offer Metic citizenship to Alliance personnel in space who surrender -- not only does he want the war over with, he needs their talent and resources to keep Earth from collapsing.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Played straight in that, while a Draka citizen is technically allowed to practice a religion, it is considered at the very least tacky and, in general, politically suspect. Averted in that the Draka have absolutely no qualms about using (modified) religions as a means of control over their serfs. It appears, however, that by the time of Drakon, 400 years into the Final Society, both the servus and drakensis are uniformly materialist atheists.
  • Schizo-Tech: Until the last few years of World War Two the Eurasian War, this happened a lot because of the Draka tendency to be one or two generations ahead of everybody else. Somehow. At the end of the 18th century, the Draka had lever-operated multi-shot rifles.
    • At the end of the 18th century, they had single-shot breechloaders based on the Ferguson, an actual weapon of the time which didn't see mass usage not only because it didn't match tactics of the era, but because the cottage industry of the era couldn't mass produce it and because the wooden lock broke down too easily.
      • They were indeed based off the Ferguson, but they were explicitly not single-shot.
    • In the mid-1800s, they had smokeless powder and bolt-actions. In World War One the Great War, they had semi-automatic rifles and squad automatic weapons. In the Eurasian War, they have assault rifles with 75-round drum mags, integrated bipods, and optical sights. And none of this is getting into their vehicles...
    • The technological prowess of that world in general ran faster than our own, once you were into the 20th century. Both sides had orbital space industry in the 1960s, for example.
      • The problem isn't that part of the story. Rather it seems to be time before that when everyone else has regular technology, but the Draka are at least a generation ahead.
        • Until the 20th century, at which point the Alliance for Democracy moves into the lead technologically in every area except molecular biology, where the Draka remain ahead only because they're ethically willing to engage in widespread human testing of unproven technologies (on serfs, of course) and the Alliance is not. It seems that the major cause of the Draka's technological lead was simply being more willing to spend a larger percentage of their GDP on military R&D than other nations, an advantage they lose once the Alliance is formed and it becomes blatantly clear to every non-Draka nation on Earth that only 100% militarization will give them any chance to survive.
      • This trope reaches its apex in The Stone Dogs. At the end of the novel, the Alliance for Democracy launches a sublight starship powered and propelled by matter-antimatter reactions to Alpha Centauri. The starship contains 100,000 cryogenically-frozen Alliance citizens, enough to start a colony and continue the fight against the Draka. In what year does this happen? 1997.
        • This sort of makes sense. Stirling admitted that his goal with this Alternate History was to populate the globe with massive, hi-tech superstates. In the appendices, there descriptions of major scientific and technological advances taking place in nations which were, in real life, undeveloped poverty-stricken third world shitholes (much of Africa, South and Central America, Central and Southeast Asia). When you basically double or triple the number of people working on coming up with clever solutions to problems and not merely focused on sheer survival, you'll get results.
        • Their computer tech is described as very security-oriented with programs residing on ROMs and such, but there's no way the Domination could have cracked human DNA, for example, without some impressive number-crunching ability.
          • Memory media and processing speed aren't necessarily related. Massive amounts of parallel processing combined with a complete lack of ethical boundaries with regard to research subjects could get the job done.
        • Stirling goes into some detail about this in the afterword to the story, at least in some editions. He envisioned a world where the constant warfare forced all sides into taking the "Manhattan Project" approach—throw lots of money and resources at the problem right now, build something usable on the battlefield right now, expenses be damned, risks be damned, refinement or subtlety or elegance be damned. It gets results quickly, if you don't mind the results being big and crude and clunky and maybe a bit unreliable. It produces crude atomic bombs that weigh many tons, to be delivered by Mach 2+ ramjet bombers that are more dangerous to their own crews than any enemy air defense. He observes that a "Manhattan Project" approach to polio would have been far more likely to produce a "magnificently advanced iron lung" than a vaccine to prevent the disease in the first place. In one of the novels there is an in-universe book excerpt in which a scientist complains that an experiment using superconductive materials is producing anomalous results that were not predicted either by quantum theory or by Relativity—but no one knows what it means because no one will fund any large-scale research on anything that doesn't have an immediate obvious utility for blowing people up.
  • Secret Police: The Draka version monitors the serfs for any hint of uprising, and the Draka civilians for any hint of sedition.
  • Shout-Out: Recurring references to Nineteen Eighty-Four, most notably when a Draka characterizes their economic system as "oligarchical collectivism" as a reference to Emmanuel Goldstein's treatise The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.
  • Slave Race: Homo servus.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The Draka play chess; unfortunately, owing to the author's Critical Research Failure, the only moves quoted are complete nonsense ("Knight to King's Pawn Four" is syntactically invalid, never mind whether it would be a good move or not).
  • Space Opera: The series becomes more and more Space Opera-ish as it goes on. The Draka rulers in Drakon dream of The Race eventually conquering the entire galaxy. It is wisely pointed out that there may be powerful species in space that could destroy the Draka if they are not cautious.
  • The Spartan Way: The Draka train their children in military boarding schools from the age of 5. This program is called the Agoge, which fits with the Drakan obsession with Classical society.
  • Superior Species: Homo drakensis
  • Super Soldier: Homo drakensis, for one, but even as far back as Marching Through Georgia, the Draka citizen-soldiers were effectively these compared to everyone else.
    • Homo servus is one in comparison to baseline humans, with improved strength and intelligence (the Draka having engineered out defective genes in the population). They're the lower caste because they've been bred to be 1) susceptible to drakensis pheromones and 2) without the initiative or drive that would lead them to want to upset the system. But a servus could easily take a baseline human in a fight.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: It's actually possible to feel sorry for those bastards when reading Marching Through Georgia.
    • Note that the Nazi soldiers in Marching Through Georgia aren't even "good German" Wehrmacht—they're a regiment of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, the lead division of the Waffen-SS. And you actually feel tempted to pity them.
  • The War to End All Wars: Occurs in The Stone Dogs.
  • We Have Reserves: The entire point of the Janissaries. It's a measure of how much life as a Draka serf sucks that they still get millions of volunteers for human wave cannon fodder duty, as while Janissaries are still serfs they're at least allowed to work off some of their mad by oppressing other serfs.
    • Put to diabolically good use with Jewish concentration camp survivors. Note that Zionism seems to have been averted when the Draka took control of the Holy Land after their universe's equivalent of World War I.