|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
A Sub-Trope of Space Romans, Space Amish are another Fantasy Counterpart Culture ...in space. Like their namesakes, the Amish (found in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Mid-Western United States, and Ontario, Canada) and the closely-related Mennonites, who voluntarily eschew most forms of modern technological conveniences, Space Amish are an offshoot of a technologically advanced race who have rejected most forms of advanced tech in favor of an agricultural life.
Space Amish have generally found themselves a nice pastoral Arcadia somewhere and settled down in pursuit of a simple life. They're usually isolated, and are quite likely to be a Lost Colony. Space Amish are defined by having very limited or primitive technology in explicit contrast with the extensive technology of the universe around it, though just how limited or primitive their technology is can vary widely.
Often, the settlers will actually have knowledge of, or even be highly skilled with, the same level of technology as everyone else; they simply choose not to exercise it (whilst never actually losing that knowledge). The settlement also enjoys a surpassing level of peace, with the implication—rarely stated outright—that the lack of technology is the actual source of the peace. In other words, Science Is Bad. For this reason it can also be called a "Luddite Utopia."
As with any Utopia, there's usually a catch to Luddite Utopia: for example, upon arrival, it may be impossible for visitors to ever leave. Or, if it's a Cult Colony, you may have to convert to the local religion—which tend to be strict if not joyless. Or human culture may be stagnant. Or you may have to share your body with alien parasite spores. Or you have to actually put in an honest day's work for your supper. Or your descendants may discover that others have it easier and regret the settlers' unilateral decision.
Space Amish settlements might have a Superweapon Surprise in store for invaders—because, really, who better to guard the Lost Superweapon than people who reject technology and don't want to conquer anybody? Even if they don't, though, wider galactic society is usually not interested in crushing Space Amish communities: they tend to be too poor and too boring to be worth conquering. Only the most evil of despots tries it.
- Lost Colony: Space Amish voluntarily eschew technology, while Lost Colonies tend to have simply fallen behind galactic state-of-the-art due to being, well, lost. Space Amish and Lost Colony can, of course, overlap; in fact, it's fairly common.
- Cult Colony: The rejection of technology may be based in a religious ideal, in which case, this trope may overlap with a Cult Colony.
- Hidden Elf Village: Space Amish usually just stay out of society's way rather than actively rejecting it, and most are not actively hostile to outsiders. Still, it's a small step for a Space Amish community to become a Hidden Elf Village.
- Perfect Pacifist People
- Space Elves: Another Closer to Earth space society, but Space Elves are almost always aliens, while Space Amish almost never are, and Space Elf technology tends to be quite advanced, albeit developed along different lines relative to human technology.
- Space Cossacks: While Space Cossacks are also a Fantasy Counterpart Culture and rebels and/or dropouts from mainstream galactic society, they tend to be technology-neutral if not pro-technology, and they are definitely not pacifists.
- Space Jews: An alien culture built on a much less sympathetic stereotype of an Earth culture.
- Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ has the Moon-Moon colony which was cut off from the rest of space during the war from the previous series (less than ten years before!) where most people have forgotten how to use technology & believe that mobile suits are gods.
- Last Exile is set on a world with an approximate 18th-19th century level of technology. There are occasional glitches and suspicions of Schizo-Tech, like using steam-powered guns (which are, reasonably, much worse than gunpowdered ones), fashions ranging from Baroque to 1930s styles, or the anti-gravity engines used in their planes/blimps. Which appear to be powered by antimatter. That washes ashore. As it turns out, there are reasons for this:
- In DC Comics there are several instances of this, interestingly involving Kryptonians.
- The Kryptonians themselves, while a highly advanced civilization technologically, had a very closed culture, to the point of having built a device, the Eradicator, to assist in keeping them cut off from the rest of the universe, even introducing genetic modifications to make life offworld nearly impossible.
- While they have and use advanced technology, the Daxamites are very isolationist to the point of xenophobia and have strong cultural taboos against certain technologies, such as anything related to space travel.
- In the Threeboot continuity of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the enlarged Kandor is like this in that the entire place is essentially under self-imposed quarantine to preserve the last remnants of Kryptonian culture. No one's allowed to leave because if they found a world with a yellow sun, they'd become super and never come back; no one's allowed in because the entire rest of the universe knows this and doesn't exactly think that first part is a good idea.
- Smiley's World in Strontium Dog—while advanced technology is present, the planet is so remote that obtaining it is expensive, so people outside the large cities live a mostly agrarian lifestyle. While it isn't entirely without problems, it's one of the better planets in the galaxy.
- The forest-dwelling Primmies (Primitives) in Doug Moench's 1980's comic, Electric Warrior. They've chosen to flee the cities not just to get back to nature, but because the cities in that world are class warfare nightmares where the slum dwellers live like vermin.
- The National Lampoon had "Amish In Space", a comic-book format story by Brian Mc Connachie - a typical midwestern rural Amish family floats around in a sci-fi rocketship, displaying the stoic purposeful behaviour of their kind. It's as pointlessly absurd as it sounds.
- Star Trek: Insurrection portrays the Ba'ku, inhabitants of a world whose radiation keeps them forever young. They claim to be capable of producing and using warp technology, but they don't bother with it.
- In the Chaos Walking series, the trope is attempted but failed by the first settlers. They get rid of most of their technology but absolutely fail the peaceful part.
- The Osu in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series
- In Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (and to a lesser degree, its sequels) there are references to planets in the high-tech space empire that engage in pretty primitive activities, such as whaling, but it seems to be more because these are pioneer/frontier areas that do use some technology and continue developing while taking advantage of their raw natural resources.
- In another Card work, the "Homecoming" series (Memory of Earth, et. al.), the human race has resettled to another planet After the End of Earth. They're technologically simplistic, with certain exceptions, but not through conscious choice: The original settlers created the Oversoul, a world-spanning Master Computer / Mind Control Device, which keeps people from even thinking about the evil advanced technology that would doom the human race again.
- Partial example: In the Honor Harrington books, Grayson was founded as this type of colony. However, by the time of the books, the people had decided that technology was a good thing, and desired current tech. Trying to colonize a planet with an environment so toxic that most male fetuses die in the womb, and you have to build farms in orbit to grow food that won't slowly poison you will do that.
- The planet Refuge in the short story "In The Service Of The Sword", set in the same universe, played it much more straight. Due to low-tech of its inhabitants, this star system was used as a staging base by the Space Pirates.
- Grayson's are warlike, old fashioned, have a tradition of taming a death world as well as having naming customs that would be at home among American Pioneers. They also love baseball. They in fact have a resemblance to Mormons. They also though have some aspects from other cultures that bear a quirky fit like feudalism(and Dutch noble titles), and a taste for samurai traditions such as using a katana as a dueling weapon.
- Also from Weber there's the Safehold universe, where the stargoing empire of humanity was attacked by a race of Absolute Xenophobe aliens, and was doomed, but managed to hide one colony ship from the aliens, the original mission plan was for the colony to stay low-tech for a few hundred years to avoid detection by the aliens, but it turned out the people put in charge of the colony were megalomaniac Luddites and started a religion in an attempt to keep the colony low-tech forever (as well as making themselves into "Archangels").
- In the Dragonriders of Pern series, Pern was originally founded as this type of colony; this led to complications during the first Pass of Thread attacking the planet, and eventually led to an even more primitive culture than the colonists had planned. Pern is also a Lost Colony, though there's a strong implication that the parent society wouldn't care anyway - space travel is slower than light in that universe, and folks expect to leave the planet of their birth behind forever when they leave on a colonization trip.
- There was a short story that established Pern as existing in the same 'verse as her Brainship series, which has developed FTL travel since the colonization of Pern. However, an early exploratory mission landed there after the Southern continent was abandoned and found only a single family living there, who claimed all the settlers were dead. This lead to Pern being marked as extremely dangerous and the rest of the universe simply steering clear.
- In the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley, the human colonists on the titular planet have developed a feudal culture and general level of technology. The aristocracy has and uses psionics and "matrix technology", which can do things that even the advanced technology of spacefaring humans cannot duplicate. But use of these is highly limited, and the Darkovans have a strong cultural resistance to Terran attempts to introduce regular technology into their society.
- Alfred Bester's novel The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) has a colony of asteroid-dwellers who have customs reminiscent of a stereotyped isolated tribe (including rapid arranged marriage, initiation rites and facial tattooing). However, they're called the "Scientific People" (they're the descendants/remnants of a stranded scientific expedition who have undergone a "nativeless" version of Going Native). They're gentle and welcoming, but they don't want you to leave.
- The Golden Globe by John Varley includes genuine Amish living on the moon. They are just like the real Amish in that they are they are neither ignorant of nor resistant to the modern world surrounding them, they're just very particular about which aspects of that world they choose to accept.
- Slow Train to Arcturus by Eric Flint and Dave Freer is a deconstruction of many of these ideas. The Government specifically wanted to get rid of weirdos and unpopular cultures. The ship is one long string of artificial environments, with all of them breaking apart in a way the other cultures can help fix. The new Aryan Brotherhood (who pretty much kill themselves off after using too much boom) New Eden (Amish whose world was built to be very robust but ultimately needs repairs). The Republic of Diana (Dommies who genetically engineered men to be 90 pound weaklings and have a very good biology department but whose ubertech has been breaking down) Space Indians (Lampshade that it may of been an act by conman for hundreds of years and who understand computers better than all other groups but don't have a biome suitable for farming). Daredevil fliers (who love flying with their own cybernetic wings and developed a government based on who wins the speed matches, but whose ecosystem is breaking down). And finally the ruling caste of the DPRK.
- Peter F. Hamilton uses this trope a few times - in his Night's Dawn trilogy, Norfolk is one of the more pastoral planets, with legal limits on technological imports - although it's not entirely backwards, as a power grid and transportation network do exist. In Fallen Dragon, the Wilfrien were an advanced alien race who chose to "look inward" once they knew all there was to know about the universe - this translated into living simple pastoral lives among the decaying ruins of their cities. In the Commonwealth Saga, the race that created the Dyson sphere confining the Primes split into those who used their incredibly advanced technology to transcend physical existence, and those who chose to remain behind on their homeworld and live simple lives. Also in the Commonwealth Saga, the inhabitants of Huxley's Haven have essentially paused their society at about a late 20th century level of tech (plus a wormhole connection to the rest of humanity which doesn't really get used very much).
- The Last Colony has Space Mennonites mixed in with the rest of the Roanoke colonists. This is for a good reason, as the colonists find out that they will have to go without their usual technology as long as they live there.
- Though they have no problem using some machinery, most notably internal combustion tractors, it's just electronics that they object to and the entire colony is forced to go without.
- Deconstructed in Schismatrix. Earth chose this route, and is portrayed as a horrible Crapsack World for the half-chapter that it appears.
- In the futurist book 2081, a non-fiction text with an incorporated fiction thread, residents in the fictional narrator's colony have opted not to use much technology more complicated than a bicycle in their daily lives, despite living inside an immense space station. In-character, this is to ensure that they can be self-sufficient far from the Earth; out of character, it gives the author a protagonist who can be as surprised/impressed as the reader, when he visits Earth and sees its advanced devices for the first time.
- Pham Nguyen's homeworld, Adelaide, populated by gray-skinned humans with Asian names. Formerly able to travel between the stars, they nuked themselves back into the dark ages.
- In the Revelation Space universe, the technological progress on Sky's Edge is centuries behind as a result of constant warfare; when a trading vessel enters the system, the planet's inhabitants only buy weapons.
- In Uglies, there is a tribe that was being kept in Stone Age technology for research, complete with blood feuds and lifespans of forty years.
- In the Green-Sky Trilogy there is very little in the way of technological advancement, at least among the Kindar. Partly Justified in that the Kindar are somewhat limited by not having fire (reasonably enough, for a tree-dwelling society) and being forbidden from using metals, glass, and other material from the forest floor or underground. Their social order isn't really encouraging of innovation, either, although Genaa's father is known for developing new technology including "an efficient new sanitation system". That must have been a relief. Green-Sky also lacks warfare and crime, which leaves out many technological developments that started from making better and nastier ways to hurt and kill people.
- Used a number of times in the Star Trek franchise:
- The Original Series: "This Side Of Paradise" in which Star Fleet crew abandon their ship and duty in favor of this way of life.
- The Original Series: "Errand of Mercy" Features an alien society that thrived for eons without technological advancement. Although, they really don't need to use technology. They are, after all Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
- The Original Series: "The Way To Eden" features a group seeking a world where they can set up such a society. In the end, it doesn't work out (both because the planet they've chosen is uninhabitable, and because their leader is a nut), but it's interesting that, out of the whole crew, the one who is most sympathetic to their goal is Spock.
- Next Generation: "Up the Long Ladder", The Movie Insurrection
- Deep Space Nine: "Paradise" included the series' trademark Darker and Edgier take on the trope when two officers returning from a mission beam down to investigate an old automated distress call and end up forbidden to use any of their technology to try and return home.
- A bit of Fridge Logic makes one wonder why the villain of the episode bothered to "maroon" the colonists, rather than try recruiting already like-minded individuals who would not need to be deceived to make her utopian society function. There are some Unfortunate Implications that nobody would ever choose this lifestyle without being tricked into it at least initially
- Stargate SG-1: The Nox seemed like a Hunter-Gatherer (minus the hunting) society who knew special, almost magical stealth and regeneration techniques; the Twist Ending was that they had higher technology than even the Goa'uld, but chose to live very close to nature.
- And look down on anyone who practiced any kind of violence, even in self-defense, without sharing their defense technology that makes such violence unnecessary for them.
- In another episode SG-1 comes across what seems like a stagnated agricultural world that remained primitive and agrarian despite connections to a more advanced race the more advanced race actually nerfed what was once a thriving industrial community through sterilization
- In Stargate Atlantis the Genii have to pretend to be a lot less advanced than they actually are, because the Wraith would pulverize them should they show any signs of being technologically advanced. Now, if only people would learn to keep their secret underground hatches locked...
- This is a fair description of the Rim worlds on Firefly, though most aren't this way by choice. There was also a colony of religious fanatics, who shunned technology.
- There was also a world that was forced to live like the American old west because the colony's resident mega-wealthy civic leader would rather live out his cowboy fantasies than invest anything in developing the economy or improving the local quality of life (although he, hypocritically, had a personal hovercraft and the only personal laser pistol seen on the show).
- The So Bad It's Horrible TV show The Starlost. In this case it is a slower than light colony ship with dozens of domed biomes that have had most of their connections cut. The heroes are from a Biome of literal Space Amish whose biome is breaking down due to the entire spaceship's malfunctioning.
- The BattleTech universe features the periphery government of the Outworlds Alliance. It's composed almost entirely of agrarian worlds with pre-industrial technology, save for a few cities each - with the exception of Home, an Amish planet that pretty much only allows tech for space travel - and they're quite happy that way. Curiously, they also field the most fearsome aerospace fighter pilots known to mankind, who are really the only things keeping unpleasant conquerors and pirates from setting foot on vulnerable Alliance worlds.
- The Hatire Community from Star*Drive is a quasi-example of this trope. While okay with most technology, they prohibit non-essential cybernetics and generally favor a simpler lifestyle. Granted, Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, but only if you abuse it.
- Warhammer 40,000's Imperium of Man has "feral worlds" and "medieval worlds", often intentionally kept in Medieval Stasis or even Stone Age Stasis.
- There are also the Exodites, Eldar who left their empire before its fall due to their disgust at its decadence. They still have considerable technology, but at this point, even the Imperium would have grounds to call them low tech.
- Chozo settlements from Metroid (or at least what's left) are (were) built to be as close to the environment around them as possible, and as a result look a lot further down the tech level scale than you would expect. The Chozo, remember, built Samus's incredible Powered Armor, as well as the machines that recharge it, and were able to alter her DNA during her childhood. They're Space Amish By Choice.
- It could be argued that their technology IS highly advanced, but very subtle and unobtrusive to the surroundings as possible. They didn't go low tech, they just designed their tech to not affect the natural surroundings much.
- In Metroid Prime, lore scans make it clear that the Tallon IV Chozo settlement, at least, did abandon most of their technology to get closer to nature. It worked, too, as they became Sufficiently Advanced Aliens before being yanked back to the planet when the Phazon meteor impacted. Of course, this is still relative; a few of the rooms and corridors of the Chozo Ruins are very technological indeed.
- In the Wing Commander universe, specifically the game Privateer (and its add-on Righteous Fire), the group "The Church of Man" (usually referred to as "Retros" by just about everyone else) is arguably a rather militant variety of Space Amish, with their goal to destroy modern civilization to bring in a more "simple" time. Being Wing Commander, this means they fly spaceships, which your job as the main character is often to blow up. Being zealots, anything that advances their goals is acceptable, even if it includes using stolen alien technology to upgrade the weaponry on their spacecraft, some of which were gotten from the Kilrathi.
- Tazmily Village in Mother 3, though it's also the only settlement left on Earth.
- Vega Strike has a legitimate faction, Purists, whose ideal is "humanity free of changes to the species". That is, they're quite happy to get a new ship or other toys, but don't like unnecessary cyborgization and genetical meddling.
- There's also a splinter group not unlike Retros from Wing Commander — "Interstellar Church of True Form's Return", warlike more about the changed ways of life than the technology itself. Almost everyone else hates them and calls simply "Luddites". The only faction they're friendly to are Purists, who barely tolerate these jerks in turn. Also, the Confederation's Homeland Security is staffed primarily with Purists and they crack down on Luddites like 360 tons of steel at a hyperbolic velocity.
- The D'ni, primary race of the Myst series, are the descendants of the Ronay, who fled to a new world when their home was dying. Most went to a huge and lush paradise of a place, but a steadfast few saw issue with the decadence of their culture and went instead to a cavern complex Beneath the Earth, therein to live in relative simplicity. They've since developed digging and excavating tools the equal of anything made by humans, reactors that can rearrange the atomic structure of rock to form a substance stronger than steel, and retained the Ronay technology to travel to any world in the multiverse simply by describing it clearly in a book. These power might not seem befitting to a simple folk, unless you compare them to the indolent and egotistical culture that the rest of their kind became.
- After almost destroying themselves in a war (and wiping out the dinosaurs in the process), the dragons in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob "spurned the outward trappings of civilization, living more as rustic philosophers." They finally left Earth in the Middle Ages, and now lead a fairly pastoral existence on a terraformed world called Butane in the Kuiper Belt.
- The human family in The Herculoids.
- Tarkon in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Turns out they were once an extremely advanced technological society, and created a massive, benevolent Master Computer to defend the planet during a forgotten war. The forgotten war is implied to have blasted the society back to the iron age, leaving the survivors very gun-shy about embracing high tech. When the planet's Rebellious Princess is taken off-world and exposed to galactic-level tech, she becomes determined to break that cultural taboo.
- One episode of The Jetsons flirts with this, where George and his family settle on an asteroid, making do with what's at hand. They're happy, at least until developers find their paradise.
- In Futurama, there is an Amish Homeworld, only accessible by wooden spaceships powered by two oxen on a treadmill.
- An exceptionally rare LARP instance: The Waypoint System includes a race which does this; the people actually have incredible tech power in the background, they're just not allowed to show it to outsiders, and the majority of the population are unaware of it. The culture is divided so that those who make it are separate from those that use it, and neither understand the nature of what they're dealing with.
- Associated Space features the Free Realm of Sarmatia, a planet whose colonists hide their high tech (aside from medical scanners and such) underground so they can all have fun pretending to be nomadic Horse Warriors like the Mongols.
- Meta-example: Sci fi writers and readers. A surprising amount is not so much about creating a different world but about technology as a justification for the recreation of a pre-modern world. In sci-fi, though we have lots of Tech Porn, that tech often creates a society with hierarchies, tribes, frontiers, great wars, and Cloak and Dagger between powers of comparable size. It is as if readers have a psychology that was bred to deal with a wilder world, and in the modern world they are like a well-fed lion pacing around in its cage ominously and wishing it was back on the savannah.
- Ship-to-ship combat is judged by a Guild that maintains ships several tech levels higher than the rest of the planet - using laser cannon, no less - and provide most of the anachronistic technology used in the series. It later turns out that the entire planet is an artifact, an hourglass-shaped construct where they live on the inside; the sun and stars are fake, and in the middle of the connecting throat (the "Grand Stream") lies the kilometer-sized ship that was used to create it, the titular Exile. Whether it was the original intention or the result of their later civil war, the Guild exists to monitor and maintain the planet (they've been doing a bad job, lately) and, notably, keep the rest of the inhabitants' tech level down. Since said Guild is destroyed in the final episode, things should get interesting in the future.