I get asked why I chose Persia to be the name of the nation where “Before the Storm” is set. Even calling it “New Persia” causes some confusion with readers who either believe I am writing about the present-day Islamic Republic of Iran or have some political point to make with the book. Neither is true.
New Persia is a book set in the far future. The in-story date is around 3300 AD. The setting is intentionally vague because I wanted a sense the world is something with little connection to our world. What happens here in our everyday lives does not inform the story. It’s so far in the future great changes have taken place. People live on another world and have a long history there. The connection with Earth is thin and almost lost. Technology has decayed to the point where it is primitive by the standards of the 21st century. I wanted a sense of an alien place without alienating the reader with technobabble.
So why call it Persia and not some made-up name?
While I made an imaginary world, I’ve always liked when authors leave a shadow of the past for the reader to infer a deep history behind the scenes. In “The General” series by SM Stirling I loved the bastardized Sponglish language and the little hints about the origins of the colonists on the planet Bellevue. It was never made explicit. I also enjoyed the religious aspect of the book. There was a new religion worshipping ancient technology alongside ancient faiths like Islam.
The touchpoint to the past made for a better setting than one completely without connection with the present.
Why choose Persia as a baseline for the nation of New Persia?
I wanted a far future setting. Any civilization used as a starting point should be robust enough to be believable. If I used a culture without ancient roots and had it survive a thousand years into the future on another planet, the reader would be forgiven if the suspension of disbelief could not be maintained. I notice science fiction stories when the social norms of the present are assumed to continue indefinitely into the future. I have a hard time not wondering how that is possible, given my experience of enormous political, social and religious change in my lifetime.
There aren’t many civilizations on our planet which have stood the test of time. Western civilization is relatively young. Rising from the ashes of the classical ancient world it can only be said to be about a millennium old. Not long enough for my setting.
China and Egypt are the champs for longevity. Egyptian civilization lasted a long time but isn’t around anymore. China would be a good choice. My primary reason for not using China as a starting point was a desire to use minority groups, particularly religious minorities, as the origin story for the different nations on my planet. There are undoubtedly religious minorities in China, and perhaps I will write them in along the way. But the mainstream of Chinese civilization is so old and so recognizable the reader would have a hard time if I took any liberties with the culture to reflect a thousand years of changes on a new world.
Between the two extremes, there are a few choices. The Jews are a long-lived religious minority. For my purposes they have the same problem as China, being too well-known to be usable without causing the present to intrude upon the story I want to tell.
Persian civilization is truly ancient, going back to at least 1000 BC. That’s old enough. Persia has been host to many religious minorities over time. I chose one of the most recent, the Baha’i faith, as the religion of the New Persian empire. The idea of a small and persecuted religious minority settling a far-off colony made sense to me. The Persian substrate provides a rich history to mine for architecture, names, stories, and culture.
New Persia is not Islamic. Religious minorities from Earth settled the planet orbiting the star 70 Ophiuchi A, and Islam is in no way a minority faith. Neither is Catholic or Protestant Christianity. There are far too many believers in either religion to qualify. A decision about the setting of the book I made early on precluded most human faiths.
Far from having any agenda or commentary on the present, New Persia is a result of assumptions I made when I first started writing the book. The decision to use an old civilization and a religious minority for a backdrop led to Persia and the Baha’i faith.
How well I succeeded in creating a believable world is up to the reader.