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A town founded by convicts:
Hello, people. It sure has been a really long time since the last time I launched a thread just for my own story. I recently thought of a new story and I need some details in establishing the setting. (Do note that most of these, especially the name, are not settled) In Riverach (working title of the story), there is this empire called Elterlein, which is a mixture of British Empire and 1940s America. A group of convicts are sent to work in a mine. One day, the mine collapsed with all the convicts, trapping them there for three weeks. All of them manage to survive, however, thanks to one of them being a former doctor, who treated and encouraged them. When they come out, they decide that they will start their life anew. They buy the mine and a wasteland near it, both of which are infamous for harsh weather, violent wildlife, and other unfavorable elements, from the government and build a town. They named the town Riverach, after the former doctor who died right after coming out of the mine. The villagers have one goal; to make Riverach a town of second chances.
Okay, now that the setting is explained, what are the problems of this scenario? What should I keep in mind?
edited 6th Oct '12 10:33:17 AM by dRoy
literary masochistOne that jumps out immediately is that while I'm pretty sure some convicts are the genuinely repentant type, and one or two may simply be wrongly accused, there are certanly going to be at least a handful of them that are really the scum of the earth, so to speak. I'm not sure how long any stable social order might last (assuming one gets formed at all) with that concentration of those kinds of people in it.
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
All the convicts would probalby already be in groups/gangs and have some kind of social structure/order. So they would probably start out with that and the laws that come with it.
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Writer: Tokusatsu 5YrWar1 word Australia
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Wolf1066That's precisely what I thought when I saw the title of the thread. And given that a lot of the "scum of the Earth" selected for transportation were guilty of such heinous crimes as stealing loaves of bread to feed their starving family or "possessing a Limerick accent within the boundaries of London", if you based a lot of your world and story on Real Life historical events, you could make it quite plausible that the majority of the convicts are no real "threat" to their community and, given a new place with more possibilities and opportunities than the impoverished life they previously had, they would work together. The idea of some of them being part of gangs etc is also good as the heirarchies and rules of the gangs are not too different from the rest of society - they punish transgressions against those within the gang even though they may think nothing of transgressing against outsiders (kinda like most countries, when you come to think about it).
Thunder, Perfect MindThe first thing that came to my mind was the colony of Georgia, which was basically the Australia of the Atlantic for a while.
Writer's Welcome WagonThat sounds like a great suggestion. Although I think it'll be interesting playing with a wide range of convicts. They could range from the innocent, to the pitiful, to the more dangerous who are trying to reform, and then a couple of truly twisted criminals. That should give you a few ideas on a dynamic ensemble, along with some conflicts and moral questions.
Wolf1066There'd definitely be some seriously hardened and dangerous ones in the mix, but they needn't be all that prevalent or too twisted and anti-social (bear in mind that in the era that the proposed world is based on in - 1940s USA and (early?) British Empire, the worst, most violent and unrepentant offenders were executed rather than imprisoned or "transported"). However, the scope would still be there for those who have a history of physical violence (presumeably short of acts that would get them "dancing the hemp fandango"). I doubt you'd find psychotic murderers in a location like that. If any of them have killed, it is possibly some form of unpremeditated killing. And by the way, d'Roy, it's a brilliant idea and I'd be interested in reading it when you're done. Your opening post read like a brilliant blurb for the sort of story I'd enjoy reading.
edited 10th Oct '12 1:38:15 AM by Wolf1066
Thanks for the replies, especially Wolf 1066; thank you for such kind words. So I guess I should do a lot of research on Australia. Cool. Hmm...how likely is that the townspeople would resort to less than clean methods in order to get the money to develop their town? The way I have it is that for the first couple of decades, the townspeople sustain themselves with mining and hunting. After that, the mines get all mined out and the animals near the mountain range suffer a drastic decline in quantity. After much argument, the more expert hunters turn to bounty hunting or mercenary works. Within years, Riverach becomes one of the most feared town in the empire. Then the White War, which is basically World War II in that verse, breaks out. Many of the townspeople serve in the war, mostly as either marksmen or snipers, and win a lot of merit, more often than not at the cost of their lives. Because of all the achievements, the government awards the town with lot of financial support, particularly in regards to infrastructures. However, the more they prosper, the more the townspeople are filled with regret; the whole purpose of the founding of Riverach was so the people can leave their past behind and lead a peaceful and crimeless life. And yet, in order to establish to town, the townspeople shed so much blood. I am not sure if I am making any sense or not.
Wolf1066A couple of decades is more than a generation, so it wouldn't be too much of a stretch if there was a bit of a shift in the politics of the place, especially in the face of dire circumstances such as the food source getting low and dwindling resources at the mine. There's going to be, by that stage, a couple of younger generations - adult children and young grandchildren of the original convicts - to consider and some of the older children of the convicts are going to be old enough to have a voice, and probably participate in the mercenary actions/bounty-hunting. War's a completely different matter - if it's got to the point that there's global war, then they may see it as a duty to go to war to protect their homes. While there would be those who would not be thrilled at the fact people in the community have had to kill to maintain their way of life (either by hiring out as Mercs or to protect the local area from invaders), there would be others who would see those things as necessary. Bounty Hunting is freelance law enforcement, capturing wanted felons and the like, war can be justified as a necessary part of keeping their freedom (which they would not be able to do if neighbouring locations were over-run). As to mercenaries, it depends on what they do. If they honestly hire themselves out as extra troops and behave fairly, they would most likely get a reputation for being good fighters and honest with it. If they take the attitude of using mercenary action to commit war crimes or help themselves to loot then they'd be viewed differently. Real life mercenaries have had a mixed reputation, here. It's up to you to work out what sort of reputation they have. But you could certainly have a lot of the elders of the town dismayed that townsfolk have had to resort to killing to keep the town going. A lot of the younger ones may well not share that dismay.
Terracotta Soldier ManOne idea that leaped to mind while I was reading this thread (especially once Georgia was mentioned): You might do well to incorporate the "town of second chances" theme into the founding of the town itself. Maybe you could have the town be originally established by some wealthy patron as a way of giving that opportunity at a second chance to those whom the rest of society has already rejected.
@Wolf 1066 - Second and third generations...darn, I never thought those. Wait...now I need to think where the townspeople would get women. I really hope that they take lessons from Rome... @Specialist 290 - Wealthy patron...didn't think about that either. Maybe the town can be named after him. What would be his motivation, though? People don't use large amount of reason without good reasons.
Wolf1066Women were transported, too - for the same wide variety of "crimes" as the men.
If you're going for something akin to Australia, it's worth noting that a fairly significant number of people were transported for political crimes - it was a convenient way to get rid of inconvenient people. Another parallel to bear in mind is the Soviet gulags - where (going on fiction anyway) political prisoners were a separate 'class' from the run-of-the-mill criminals: they stuck together somewhat, and acted as a kind of unofficial leadership amongst the prisoners (subordinate to the actual guards, of course). Also, it seems unlikely that these guys would be dumped in a town without guards. In Australia, it was military guys, who were assigned there. Some of them settled in Australia permanently.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Terracotta Soldier ManAgain, using the example of Georgia: James Oglethorpe essentially saw the debtors' prison system used in England as inefficient and counterproductive, since while they were languishing in prison they couldn't actually do anything to pay off their debts themselves. He proposed instead to settle them on an unused plot of land in North America (now the state of Georgia), where they could work the land and the proceeds of their labor could be used to pay off their debts. At the time, Georgia was also unoccupied, and part of Oglethorpe's "sales pitch" to King George (aside from naming the colony after him) was that the new settlement would serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the wealthy Virginia and Carolina colonies (Spain being one of Britain's perennial enemies during the period). Wikipedia has a decent summary of the man and his plan if you want a more in-depth look. I'm not saying that your wealthy benefactor has to copy Oglethorpe's motives outright, but it's a useful starting point to work from while you puzzle out your own motivation for the character.
Convicted women, gulags, and military guards. Didn't think about them either. The Oglethorpe Plan. It looks really interesting. I should look into it. I should probably do some extensive research on World War II as well. I have a feeling that while doing research for this one, I might as well as get a major in history. XP
A thought came up. Riverach is town whose (unofficial) motto is "Everyone gets a second chance." As such, a sizable portion of the population is former criminals who want to start anew. The problem is, pardon the cliche, old habits die hard. What are some ways that could keep the crime rate down without resorting to iron fists in this kind of circumstances?
Peer pressure? A genuine desire to reform? If the town is one's last chance of being accepted back into a normal community, that would be an incredible incentive to keep one's nose clean. Especially in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Plus, you don't just crap all over on someone's generosity.
I'm no expert but it seems to me that 'tough' communities often develop a very strong code of ethics, probably as a necessary counterbalance to people's selfishness. It's not quite 'iron fists' because there's usually a kind of anti-authoritarian mind-your-business attitude, but people who violate the few taboos there are, usually along the lines of harming innocents, causing major trouble for the community, breaking one's word or betraying the community to its enemies get put down HARD by everyone else. That way people feel that there's at least a few things they can depend on and chaos is kept to a minimum.
edited 4th Jan '13 3:47:18 AM by Kesteven
Wolf1066Gangs and gang areas are very much subject to the gang's rules - even people not in the gang itself adhere to their rules - if they know what's bloody good for them. I once lived in an area of Hamilton that was the main living area of a major, long-established, gang - their regional "President" lived about 4 houses away, one of his chief lieutenants lived next door to me and well over 50% of the houses in that street alone were occupied by patch-wearing gang members. "Civilians" such as myself and my flatmates were expected to keep our noses clean and not bring the unwanted attention of the police into the area. We were expected to be respectful of the gang and they were respectful of us in turn - they didn't do anything to us that would prompt us to seek recourse or call the police. I'm talking down to the level of keeping the noise down when having parties and driving their cars in the area - in contrast to the way they acted out of the area. And all the minor toe-rags in town knew better to hit any house in the area - ours as well as the ones known to be gang houses. This was because they knew full well the gang would be after them if they did and, unlike the police, the gang would have no qualms about acting if they remotely suspected who did it (besides, the minute they tried to fence what they stole, the gang would know exactly who it came from). And that's inside a normal city. In a place such as you describe, the necessities of survival and marshalling resources would mean that a "ruling body" would emerge and rules would be put in place. People would break those rules at their own peril. They would become the "authorities" they once rebelled against.
So basically it would be a town that is ruled by lawful gangs? Hmm, that is not what I wanted. I want it to be, at least on surface, look like a normal, peaceful town. On that note, the Deuteragonist is one of town's cops (with his own dark past, of course). How would be the relationship between the townspeople and law enforcement officers would be?
Wolf1066Only if there's a predominent gang or more than one gang with sufficient numbers, otherwise something akin to a tcwn council would probably form out of the more level-headed people who realise that that things need to be done and resources need to be protected. And even if it were ruled by a gang, it would still look like a normal, peaceful town. People would mostly behave themselves and there would be no need for it to be anything other than peaceful. Unless you're a rival gang member or do something to fuck off the gangs, they tend to leave you alone, especially if what you do is of use to their community. A gang ruled town would not be a place of senseless random violence - gang violence may appear random, but there's generally a reason behind it. People would just go about their business and not give the gang a reason to trouble them. On the surface it'd seem normal. Beneath the surface, a gang may be the ones making and enforcing the laws. They would want to ensure that resources get everywhere they need to be. OK, priority would be given to members (but in all seriousness, how does that differ from any municipal body that makes itself fat at the cost of the ratepayers?) but others would get a share as the gang will realise that they need "civilians" to do the work they can't (or don't want to) do. My main point was that gangs have their codes of conduct by which members and non-members are expected to behave. The gang members might be OK with stealing from random "civilians" but stealing from each other is harshly punished within the gang, as is stealing from neighbours with whom they want to remain on amicable terms. They might not give a fuck about the law of the land, but they are pragmatic and they certainly give a fuck about themselves and have rules/codes to protect their own best interests. Your convicts would be no different in that respect, they may well think nothing about stealing from people in the towns they came from but they would not appreciate it happening to themselves and they would take steps to protect themselves in their new town. So they would make rules, appoint law-keepers and punish infractors. While many may not like cops in general, how they react to that guy will depend on what he's like, who made him the cop in the town and many other factors including their personal outlooks. I've seen an interview with a long-time professional thief whose attitude to the police was "it's nothing personal, it's their job to try to catch me" - the fact that he was being interviewed meant that he'd been caught at least once...
edited 8th Jan '13 7:59:47 PM by Wolf1066
(Whoo, very late reply) I see, so the police would be fine. In addition, the main character is an attorney who got sent to the town to start up his career. What kind of involvement would an attorney get roped into in this type of town?
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