Welcome back to Project 15 wherin I share with whoever might care to read it my thoughts, ideas, and processes in preparation for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I am diving into the worldbuilding and backgounding that will inform the eventual 50,000 word edeavor.
In this installment we will begin to discuss the events leading up to the time of the main story. I am placing this story about 3000 to 4000 years in the future. This should provide enough time for several extra-solar worlds to be colonized and for them to develop distinct cultures. I have thought out some highlights of my future history that I would now like to share with you.
There are several stages of future history which are so common to Space Opera sci-fi that they have become known as the Standard Sci-Fi History (Warning: TV Tropes Time sink). These stages are: 1-Exploraiton and Colonization of the Solar System; 2-World War III; 3-Interstellar Exploration and Colonization; 4-Alien Contact; 5-The Cycle of Empires; 6-The Final Empire; and finally, 7-Humanity’s Final Fate.
This series of events is probably best exemplified in Isaac Asimov’s works, from his Robot stories through his Foundation Series. Robert Heinlein also closely followed this formula. Other authors use similar backgrounds, perhaps switching the earlier phases around a bit, perhaps substituting some other global disaster for World War III. Start Trek, for instance, puts World War III first, then Alien Contact followed by the Interplanetary and Interstellar Exploration phases.
My story is going to take place sometime during stage 3, Interstellar Exploration and Colonization.
First, let’s consider the prospect of humanity’s expansion into space, even just inside our own solar system. At present this does not appear to be all that much of a priority among the many political powers. After a flurry of activity in the 1950’s and 60’s the world’s space programs have slowed to a crawl. There have been a few deep space probes launched, a whole slough of satellites put in orbit, a couple non-self-sustaining space stations and a couple unmanned explorations of Mars. Not quite the fabulous space age we imagined back in the Golden Age of sci-fi.
As it turns out, there is just no real compelling reason to go to space. Despite all the chatter about over population, climate change, environmental destruction, and resource depletion, going to space is simply too risky and too expensive to commit a nation’s blood and treasure to when other more immediate concerns stare us right in the face. No one is going to win an election campaigning for another space race when children are starving, families are going bankrupt from their medical bills, cancer is still as deadly as ever, entry level employees can’t make a decent living, the jihad feels ever closer to our doorsteps, and honey bees may be slowly going extinct.
So, it appears that the only way us earth bound humans will ever reach the heavens is through one of two scenarios. Either we get shoved out or pulled along. In the first case some massive catalyst event makes escaping the home world a matter of species survival. In the latter, the visionary efforts of a handful of determined, mega-rich, space nuts dare to go where governments fear to tread. Once their successes show us the way, then perhaps the sleeping giants will awaken and join the game. As it happens, the second scenario has already begun. Space-X and Mars One are two privately funded ventures with the express goal of putting a self-sustaining colony on Mars. I have, therefore, taken this as my jumping off point.
On the ruins of two earlier attempts that lasted only a handful of years before having to be abandoned a viable community was finally established on Mars. Over the next three decades that community grew and became the driving engine behind further exploration and exploitation of the Solar System. The Asteroid Belt yielded valuable minerals and exotic materials which were exported back to Mother Earth. These materials enabled further development and so on. And so, like a flock of penguins diving in the water after the first one is pushed off the cliff, the various political and economic powers eventually joined the fracas.
The establishment of the Central African Multi-Earth Launch facility put the Pan-African Union in the forefront of space logistics and greatly improved the lives of millions of its citizens. With their Linear Accelerators, Lofstrom Loop, Space Elevator, and Laser Assisted Launch facilities, the C.A.M.E.L space ports lowered the cost of surface-to-orbit transport to near commodity levels.
After 300 years or so the solar system became a pretty busy place. The U. N. established the Orbital Guard, headquartered on the Earth-Moon L-5 station, Mandala, to arbitrate among the many competing interests in space. From this perch they monitored the increasing activity in the crowded cis-lunar sphere as well as the outer system. Occasional disputes erupted but a combination of diplomacy and the show of strength always managed to resolve them.
Then tragedy struck. A massive coronal ejection from the sun hits Earth square in the Magnetosphere triggering an electro-magnetic disturbance several times more severe than the Carrington Event of 1859.
The Earth’s power grids were practically destroyed as every current carrying cable was fried. It was as if a hundred thousand EMP bombs ignited over the entire surface of the planet. Worse still, a satellite maintenance drone was in the middle of an orbit changing burn when it was hit by the rush of solar wind. It was sent careening uncontrolled into several satellites one after another which triggered the cascading demolition of nearly every other object in Low Earth Orbit and Geosychronous Orbit. Earth was dark and silent.
It would be nearly three decades before the debris could be cleared enough for anyone to attempt a landing at Kenya Station. By that time the Apocalypse had come. The once great nations of Earth had fallen. Governments toppled, corporations dissolved. Without electricity to power the engines of civilization, Chaos swept across the globe. The lives of those who survived the initial upheavals became poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
It is estimated that as little as a quarter of the pre-cataclysm population survived. Some pockets of civilization remained, but these were widely scattered and under constant threat from the wild Outsiders. Earth was mostly a patchwork of small, near feudal states surrounded by vast lawless territories. Many reverted to tribal cultures out of necessity. The most notable exception to this was Mainland China.
Mars and the Mandala station escaped the devastation and formed the Political and Military powers in what eventually became the Solar Republic. Humanitarian efforts to restore order to the Earth-bound peoples were complicated by the lack of any real authority with global reach. Some progress was made, and in true UN fashion, those new nations who adhered to certain conditions were provided technical and humanitarian support, and eventually granted seats in the Solar Parliament on Mars.
That’s all for now, boys and girls. Watch this space. In the next post we will continue to unfold the future as I envision it.