Awhile back, I published a post in which I spoke about a full-length sci-novel that I wrote some years ago. That novel is called Legacies, a story about politics, evolution, and social upheaval that took place in the not-to-distant future. Even though this story remains unpublished, except for a brief stint with a POD operation named Authorhouse, it is still significant to me.
Not only was it my first attempt at professional writing, but most of the short-stories I have written in recent years and currently market are set in the exact same universe. In addition, the same thread runs throughout each story, which is the ongoing explanation of how humanity came to bridge the cosmos and settle on over a dozen new worlds, only to turn in on itself and regress into repression and civil war.
The original Legacies was set in the aftermath of that civil war, so in reality, my short stories were really just a bunch of self-contained pieces leading up to that event. However, as I got going with them, I came to change the original idea to incorporate what I saw as more cutting-edge sci-fi concepts and more realistic ideas. I also tried to amp up the use of historical allegory, and make it more morally ambiguous so that people wouldn’t be saying stuff like “the bad guys are too bad, the good guys too good!”, which is something I’ve been known to say about other people’s books!
In any case, the name of the book was meant as a sort of double-entendre. On the one hand, it referred to how every generations of people seems to find themselves saddled with the baggage of the previous one. On the other hand, it had to do with an ancient prophecy that humanity would find itself becoming caught up in! This latter idea was something I intended to develop with a series of sequels. Since I am still playing around with that idea and don’t want to spoil it, I won’t be mentioning it here!
To break the original novel and its many shorts down succinctly, here is what I envisioned happening to humanity in the future and how it would all lead to the big conflict which preceded the novel itself.
Greenhouse Crisis: Sometime in the 21st century, the world began to suffer from the worst effects of climate change and began to turn to some desperate ideas to stave off collapse. One of these involved relocating heavy industries and mining to off-world sources like the Moon, Mars, Ganymede and the Asteroid Belt. This helped ease the burden on Earth’s own environment, and in time, created an outlet for the world’s population. Keep in mind that this is not all pure speculation. Recently, NASA announced a new series of missions to the Moon. Ostensibly, this mission is being mounted to investigate the Moon’s interior and it’s gravity. However, if you take into consideration that one of the things they will be looking for is water, and the applications for studying the Moon’s gravity, you might get the impression they are thinking long-term with this one! NASA-GRAIL
FTL: The next big leap came when humanity developed a device that was capable of creating a controlled singularity (aka. a hole in space time) that it could use to jump from one region of space into the next. This engine gave the human race the ability to set its sights on the cosmos, as well as explore and even colonize neighboring star systems. Granted, the physics for this idea are nothing short of speculative and fictitious, but if I were to write that humanity was still living in a relativistic universe (meaning that no one had found a way to pass the speed of light, like in Alastair Reynold’s books) than that would have changed things drastically. Perhaps that’s how I will write the next one…
Terraforming: As technology improved, so did colonization methods. Whereas the earliest colonies on the Moon (Tycho), Mars (Jericho), and Ganymede (Galilee) consisted of pressure domes and hydroponic operations, the newer colonies in the neighboring star systems of Proxima Centauri (Euripides), Alpha Centauri (Attica), Lalande 21185 (Kaifeng), Sirius (Khalafa), Vega (Pasargad) and Arcturus (Hephaestus and Aramazd), consisted of settlements built out in the open and transplanted crops grown in the native soil. These in turn further reduced the burden on Earth and its new Solar Colonies, improving the situation at home further and leading to a surge in economic growth (As you can probably tell from the names, I was going for a classical, multicultural feel!)
Sectarian Wars: But, the way I saw it, there would always be a discrepancy between life on Earth and life in the colonies. This was first apparent between Earth and its immediate neighbors, and then between the Core colonies and the outer ones. Whereas life back on Earth was getting easier, life on the new worlds was often harsh and brutal by comparison. Add to the poor conditions tons of colonists who came from diverse backgrounds (many of whom were still fighting back at home) and you had trouble. So, way I planned it, sometime in the 22nd century, a series of conflicts erupted on the colonies whereby colonists took up arms against each other and began fighting their own little wars.
Far from being merely religious in scope, they were the result of generational struggle – one generation of colonists fighting against the next – and poverty giving way to severe intolerance. It was for this reason that Earth and its colonial administration voted on the creation of an expanded professional military which would be charged with keeping the peace and intervening in cases of large-scale conflicts where local police and security forces found themselves to be overwhelmed. This force, known as the TDF (Terran Defense Forces) quickly became a controversial outfit due to the fact that it saved many lives by ending the wars, but also because it represented the long arm of the central, Earth government.
Things are good: After the Sectarian Wars, there was an extended period of stability in the known universe. The colonies continued to grow, the human race continued to benefit from having off-world places to send its excess populations and industry, and demands for colonial reform even began to be honored. This is another aspect of my story which was taken directly from history, in this case, the expansion of European colonial powers in the 18th century.
Essentially, after generations of direct governance or limited self-government, the colonies were united in their demand for reform. Many people in the colonies were frightened that demands for change might be met with another round of intervention from the TDF, but in fact, the central Earth government was in a conciliatory mood. While there were some who felt that Earth should govern the colonies directly, by military force if necessary, the majority seemed to understand that if the good times were to continue, conditions on the colonies needed to be improved.
Passing a series of reforms, collectively known as the Reform Acts, seemed to be the best way to ensure this. In short, these acts granted a fair degree of autonomy to the colonial assemblies, the majority of officials would now be elected rather than appointed. In addition, corporations that were granted leases in the colonies to develop resources and settlements would be required to meet certain minimum standards. These reforms were met with approval from all quarters, and many believed the good times would continue indefinitely.
Things go bad: But, as I hinted at earlier, the good times came to an abrupt halt shortly thereafter, and for a number of reasons. Expansion was becoming increasingly difficult and costly. Political deadlock began to set in due to the difficulty of administering over a dozen worlds, in part because the Reform Acts opened up the Interstellar Congress to criticism and demands for further reform. To top it off, the Earth-centered government found itself in considerable debt after decades of spending on its military, social programs, transfer payments and construction projects.
Eventually, the economy reached a tipping point and the ISX (Interstellar Stock Exchange) crashed. Bad times followed, and with it, some predictable political consequences. The colonies, be they Core or Outer, began to become unruly, largely because they were the hardest hit. The Earth gov began exercising stricter controls as a result, and these had much the same effect as the Sectarian Wars, except that most people resented the presence of TDF forces and the use of force to quell social unrest.
Terrorist Attack: That’s where the curtain raiser for the whole civil war takes place. After years of crackdowns, mass protests and demands for more radical reform, people within Earth’s military and intelligence services began to talk about more radical measures. There were those who said that direct control of the Colonies (i.e. the central government taking direct control of all the colonies and using the military to back them up) was the only solution, but all knew that this would only lead to more problems. What was needed, according to some, was a pretext, the kind of situation where TDF forces would be seen as necessary and even welcomes. Something similar to the Sectarian Wars.
However, nothing came of this talk until an incident which took place on Attica (the Alpha Centauri colony) where a small force of guerrilla fighters attacked the gubernatorial mansion, killed the governor and several members of his family. There was immediate outpouring of outrage, even though many suspected that the entire incident was staged. In any case, TDF forces moved in and secured the colony, located the perpetrators and killed them.
Over the following months, any and all armed dissidents were arrested and tried for treason or lesser conspiracy charges. The era of Martial law had begun, and in time, it spread from world to world as the problems of terrorism and repression spread. After many years, two polarized sides emerged that began to fight for the hearts and minds of all humanity. On the one side, those fighting for central rule and the order it entailed; on the other, those who fought for colonial independence.
Civil War: Herein lies the last phase of the back-story which I cover in my short stories and ended just before the first novel. In this part of the story, an organized leadership emerged from the colonial resistance, one which embraced political reformers, defectors, colonial resistance fighters, and progressives. For years they waged a piecemeal war against the TDF and Earth loyalists, eventually winning after colonial unrest and the size and strength of their forces made the situation untenable for the Earth government.
But rather than give in, the Earth government chose to fight it out, resorting to increasingly despotic and desperate measures which led it to be condemned in the end by almost all sides. Finally, the last of the TDF fled known space and plotted to continue fighting from exile while the resistance secured Earth and promised to create a government that would forge a new charter between the colonies and Earth. Once again, the human race was joined in an almost unanimous feeling of relief and the promise that things would get better, only to find that all accounts had not been settled yet.
And that’s the bare bones of my Legacies universe. If it sounds richly detailed, that’s because I spent a few years building it up. If it doesn’t… well, then you and I clearly have different definitions of what “detailed” means!