Slavery and Science Fiction

Los Alamos

Science fiction usually tells tales of galactic daring-do as Humans engage in competition or conflict with mysterious Aliens met somewhere in the dark reaches of interstellar space. I love those kinds of stories by writers from the Classic era to the present. The idea of a hopeful interstellar future really appealed to me, a child of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. But then, why have four of my sci-fi novels dealt with the issue of far-future slavery of both Humans and Aliens?

My second novel Ancestor’s World, part of the StarBridge series by A.C. Crispin, dealt with a giant archaeological “dig” on an Alien world. But a secondary plot element was a raid by Alien pirates seeking slaves for sale on the interstellar black market. And my three most recent novels in the Vigilante series deal with an Alien-run galaxy where “cloneslavery” exists and is an approved commercial practice!

Ancestor’s World cover. Courtesy/T. Jackson King

Cloneslavery involves forced taking of body cells from Humans and Aliens in order to make in vitro “clone copies” of people for sale as slaves to whoever wants to own a live person. The clones are mind-imprinted with an “Obey or feel pain” mind pattern that ensures they obey their master. They are a major element that my Human hero, Matt Dragoneaux, campaigns against in the novels Star Vigilante, Nebula Vigilante and Galactic Vigilante.

My focus on far future slavery comes from my background as an anthropologist who went to college in Paris and Tokyo, and my experiences visiting with a diversity of people and cultures. Everyone I met has hopes for a spouse, a family, good shelter and food, and a positive future for their children. East or West, North or South, First World or Third World, those were common basic hopes and needs. And none of the people I met in my world travels ever said they approved of slavery.

But according to the group Anti-Slavery International, UNESCO and several private groups, there are an estimated 29.2 million people worldwide now living in various forms of slavery. There is ownership of people outright as practiced routinely in Mauritania. But there are also the conditions of debt-bondage, tenant serfdom, forced marriage, forced labor, human sex trafficking and the selling of children into hard labor or prostitution. At present, slavery in its various forms has been reported in 31 nations, with the worst offenders being India, China and Pakistan by raw numbers of enslaved people. More data on the scourge of slavery can be found online at the website of Anti-Slavery International (, which has campaigned against slavery since 1839, when the group began in Britain.

Galactic Vigilante cover. Courtesy/T. Jackson King

To me, as a writer who grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien, and B-movies of the 1950s like This Island Earth and The Day The Earth Stood Still, to see slavery still existing today is an abomination. But it is one of the abominations we humans tolerate. Even though, in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it was stated that freedom from slavery was a universal human “right”.

Since slavery has existed since at least 8,000 B.C., and on every continent and in all ancient cultures, I thought it would be fascinating to see why and how slavery could exist in the far future. A future where Humans are New Kids On The Block who seek our own colonies under an Alien-run galactic culture I call the Anarchate. The Anarchate exists to prohibit interstellar alliances like the UN. They leave each planet’s internal affairs alone, and allow interstellar commerce based on barter trade. But woe to anyone who challenges the rule of the sixteen corporate combines who are the “rulers” of the Anarchate.

This was a tailor-made venue for a story about a planet hiring a solo Vigilante, or soldier for hire, to help bring peace and some kind of justice to the planet. Preferably a Vigilante armed with a dreadnought-level starship! Matt Dragoneaux answers a call to help a Human colony planet in Star Vigilante, but by the end of the novel he finds himself fighting an Anarchate Nova-class battleglobe! Which he defeats at the cost of forever being on the run from the authorities.

Writing about slavery still existing in the far future is not a focus on dystopia. To me, it is a focus on reality that exists today and which may well exist in the far future for the same reason it exists today. Money. Selling people to work or be servants is cheaper than building machines with self-aware minds to do such work. Also, the organic slaves replace themselves through their children, which the master also owns. So I could see a future society with high tech tools and interstellar trade that still pursues an ancient evil.

And in writing such stories about a future ancient evil, I hope the reader will be both entertained, and motivated to learn more about how to eradicate the slavery that still exists today.


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