There is a novel that I can almost remember, from the late fifties or sixties, about conflict and ultimately war between various communities and states on America's west coast after a nuclear war or global disaster of some sort. There were still cities left standing, so the collapse may not have been nuclear.

Actually, it may have been a civil war instead of a war between autonomous governments. Tribes of some sort had formed during the chaos and were fighting the larger government or governments. I think the tribes were depicted as better and more honest than the governments.

I remember reading it in a magazine, so it was probably not a full length novel. I'm fairly sure it wasn't a short story. It may have been a short novel or novella instead.

Telepaths were involved in the war in some manner. At some point, aliens also came into the plot. They were somehow secretly manipulating events behind the scenes, creating a number of the problems that had led to the war.

The story had an almost Pournelle feel to it, but I doubt he wrote it. There was a bit of a survivalist tone as well, and perhaps something of a libertarian feeling, with big government being portrayed as bad, and a belief conveyed that laws infringed on freedom.

Regardless of the political frame behind the story, I remember thinking that there were too many ideas and events stuffed into the story, making it feel like a sketch whatever its length was.

Of course, I read the story a long time ago and various details may have mutated over time. If I remember anything more, I'll update the question.


Your description sounds very much like an old Poul Anderson story: "No Truce With Kings." First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (June, 1963), it won a Hugo Award in 1964, and I believe I first read it in a collection of Hugo-winning short fiction edited by Isaac Asimov. It's set along the West Coast in some sort of post-apocalyptic future, after the USA (and other powerful nation states) have all fallen apart. Some of the surviving communities have embraced feudalism as a way to run things locally without being "loyal" to some huge, abstract governing entity. Instead, you are personally acquainted with the guy who calls the shots in your home town.

There is indeed a sort of civil war taking place in the story, and it turns out that the side that is pushing harder for a very strong central government is being supported by a powerful group called the Espers, who claim that their most gifted members ("the adepts") can communicate telepathically, exercise telekinesis as a weapon, and do other incredible things.

As you recalled, aliens eventually come into it. It turns out (as discovered by the main hero of the story during the war) that the apparent "psychic powers" of the Espers actually are faked with the help of super-advanced technology provided by a small group of aliens who, as you said, have been secretly trying to manipulate events "for your own good" based on their elaborate mathematical calculations of the way things ought to be to make Planet Earth a better place. Neither the aliens nor any of the humans were truly telepathic, however.

As you said, there was a certain libertarian feel to it. In one key scene near the end, one of the "good guys" makes an angry speech to the aliens about how silly they are to have assumed that reestablishing a great big government would automatically be the best possible thing for humanity. (I think he points out that every time in human history that someone has built a mighty empire to control a good chunk of the known world, other human beings have eventually torn it down again, and maybe this means the whole idea of empire-building is fatally flawed where our species is concerned.)

Here's a link to a page that lists all the times that story has been reprinted in one book or another.

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