One commonly recurring science fiction cliche is a political situation where the smallest unit of territory that can be controlled by a government is a single planet, with the possible sole exception of Earth itself. You see governments that control a single planet, governments that control multiple planets (e.g. The United Federation of Planets), but you rarely see a situation where a non-Earth planet is shared among multiple governments each of whom control some of the planet’s area.
What are some SF stories (books, movies, TV series, individual episodes of series, whatever) that are exceptions to this rule? Can you name a SF story where e.g. there is a government that controls the northern hemisphere of Arcturus Prime, the western continent of Arcturus II, and six islands on the waterworld of Vega III as their empire, or a government whose entire territory is limited to a fractional part of a planet other than Earth?
I’m not talking about situations where some portion of a planet is occupied in war as part of the current episode, chapter, or brief story arc and the situation resolves itself promptly with the entire planet either reverting to the defenders or being fully conquered, but it could include situations where a conflict results in a long-term stalemate with de-facto borders. What counts as long-term is contextual - make a judgement call. Planets with organized resistance movements could count if the resistance is able to hold a portion of the planet for a long period of time and run it themselves in the manner of a country (e.g. taxation, public works, police, courts) with reasonably defined borders. A few dozen people cowering in basements with XR-6 blaster rifles and taking pot-shots at Space Cops is not a country.
I vaguely remember a story or two where a planet had more than one government, but in every case that I can think of, it was because there was more than one race intelligent enough to form governments on the planet, and each country consisted of all of the inhabitants of a single race.
You remind me of an episode of South Park where it turns out that Earth is actually just the setting of a reality show - “Instead of every planet having one race and one planetwide government, what would happen if multiple races were put onto the same planet?”
The majority of Hammer’s Slammers novels and short stories have a planet with multiple governments, currently at war with each other. Sometimes they end with one side conquering the other, sometimes they don’t. The most recent, Paying the Piper starts with a stable planet with multiple independent nations, which go to war, and are still independent nations after the war.
It may be a feature of most “military SF” since there has to be a conflict to hang the characters on. Joel Rosenberg’s unfinished Metzada trilogy (Not For Glory and Hero are the two existing parts) has multiple planets with opposed factions. Some are multi-planetary colonies, others are purely local. He works out some interesting details of the interactions.
There’s plenty to pick from, if you include SF set on pre-Space Age planets. Off the top of my head, Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, and Poul Anderson’s Fire Time all take place on low-tech planets where human explorers get caught up in conflicts between local polities.
Likewise, lots and lots of stories with aliens showing up on contemporary Earth, and dealing with national conflicts between the US and Russia, or the Allies and the Axis, or Pharonic Egypt and their bronze-age neighbors.
Stories with opposing nations on the same, space-faring world are harder to come by.
the first to jump to my mind is The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. Much of the novel takes place on the planet Urras, which consists of many nation-states. The two most prominent are A-lo and Thu, which are roughly analogous to the USA and the USSR, respectively, down to the proxy wars in other countries.
In contrast to Urras, there’s Anarres, the sister planet, which is governed by a single body.
I specifically excluded Earth. The situation in the OP would be more like humans landing on an alien world and having to decide whether to ally with the T’Kelian Confederacy in the north or the Principality of Br’arth’m and V’e in the south.
Iain Banks’ Culture novel Matter fits the bill. There are the Sarls, human warring feudal factions on two levels of the nine-level Shellworld called Sursamen, and all the levels are controlled more or less by an alien race known as the Oct, plus you have other aliens on other levels that are higher ranked than the Oct, the Nariscene and Morthanveld, and finally you have the Xinthian WorldGod, an ancient massive alien creature that lives in the Core, who may or nay not be there to protect against the Iln, another evil ancient alien race.
What about that planet in Star Trek where half was controlled by people with white on the left side of their face, and half was controlled by people with black on the left side of their face. Would something like that count (if they hadn’t blowed each other the hell up, anyway?)
I seem to recall Stargate shows sometimes running across worlds with two (or more) warring nations.
S.M. Stirling’s and David Drake’s The General series is set in a future where there was an interstellar human civilization, but it collapsed from political strife of an unspecified nature. Now all human-inhabited worlds (that appear in the stories) are technologically and culturally primitive compared to the old federation, and are divided into multiple independent states (or pre-state formations such as tribes).
In Mercedes Lackey’s Skitty stories I found it amusing that the human traders blindly made the standard sci-fi assumption that one planet = one government, right up until assassins from another government attacked. It turned out that not only were there other nations, but the one they were trading with was in a nuclear Cold War with another one run by religious fanatics.
There are several Bolo stories where there are multiple nations on one planet.