Events on Old Earth to AD 2353

General developments on Earth over four centuries

The exact crimes, follies, and misfortunes of Mankind on Earth are not terribly important any more, six hundred years after the planet was destroyed. Neither are the details of their benefactions, ingenuities, and strokes of good luck.

The population grew to 15.5 billion by 2353. Building habitats in space proved to be ineffective as a means of escaping crowding. Conflict and violence did not diminish much: old grudges smouldered on, and new conflicts made for new ones. Crime and terrorism, oppressive measures to suppress them, resource depletion, environmental degradation, climate change, occasional wars, and unwelcome social change combined to produce a motive for assorted people to wish to leave Earth. Habitats in space proved ineffective as refuges from terrorists, intrusive law enforcement, or malign social influences. Result: when it became possible, a small number of intrepid folk fled to the stars.

People of different races and cultures continued to intermarry, ever more so as wealth increased and transport improved. Distinct races dissolved as the majority became polyethnic. This trend was accelerated by the use of genetic engineering to alter, and cosmetic biomodification to obscure, racial features.

Major regional languages continued to gain speakers, and languages with few speakers continued to dwindle and die out. International Standard English, the lingua franca of trade, science, scholarship, higher education, and international culture, gained even at the expense of Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, Bahasa, and Mandarin. When interstellar colonies were established ‘Standard’ was the common tongue of the pioneers, and became the mother tongue of their children.

Mass media, travel, intermarriage, and technical progress continued to drive social change and cultural amalgamation. Local and regional cultures tended to die out, but international subcultures (which people tended to choose rather than inheriting) proliferated.

Advances in neurology and artificial intelligence eroded the credibility of immaterial souls, and therefore of gods. And wider awareness of the variety of religious belief undermined the credibility of dogma. Traditional religion declined. And people turned to ostensibly-nonreligious sources for the ethical guidance, the sense of certainty and purpose, and the ecstatic and transcendental experiences that religion formerly provided.

Emigration from Earth

Colonists travelled to the stars using a highly limited ‘Just As Fast As Light’ technology. A large, expensive, and delicate apparatus was required, and these would function only at a distance from the Sun a little further than the orbit of Mars. These warp encapsulators or flingers would wrap a ship up in a little bubble of highly-distorted space and spit them at lightspeed outwards from the Sun. As a flinger dawdled around its two-year orbit different destinations would come into its narrow field of fire. A flinger placed to serve two or three lucrative destinations would, therefore, also offer also passage to other destinations in the intervals. Thus young and distant colonies were appealingly cheap to get to when the older and nearer ones became expensive.

Warp bubbles travelled in straight lines at lightspeed, minimally affected by gravity. When one entered a strong gravitational field it would distort and tear open, depositing its contents at rest in normal space. No time passed inside the warp bubbles. From the point of view of the colonists, their trips were instantaneous.

Flingers were large, far larger than ships. And expensive. No colony built its own flinger during the Emigration Period. Therefore every colonist’s trip was one-way. Emigration was a desperate, or at least intrepid, act, and very few people every dared it. Only 56 million people emigrated in 260 years.

Avalon (Tau Ceti)

Emigration began in 2091, when enthusiasts from the Interplanetary Society bought one octant of Tau Ceti III from the European Union, and set off to found the colony of Avalon. News of their safe arrival made it to Earth in 2115.

National colonies of 2117

In 2117–18 four major powers despatched pioneers to found colonies in different star systems: China founded Xin Tian Di, India founded Navabharata, the USA and Canada founded Mayflower, and Mercosur (a combine of South American countries) founded Paraíso. These ventures were supposed to build national prestige, but given lightspeed transport and communications they failed at that, and merely swallowed up ships until the voters got bored. Neither did they stake out any national destinies among the stars. The projects were de-funded and mostly sold off even before news reached Earth that their first ships had arrived.

The European Union sold three more octants of Tau Ceti III, allowing New Sunrise, San Pietro, and Ys to be founded adjacent to Avalon.

Religious colonies 2127–2141

The colony San Pietro in Tau Ceti was undertaken by a confraternity of the Catholic church. In a frenzy of emulation enthusiasts of other world religions established their own separatist or utopist worlds: Alhurr (Shia), Covenant (Judaist and Israeli nationalist), Emmaus (liberal Protestants), Fureidis (liberal and modernist Sunni), Hijra (conservative Sunni), Oikos Kyriou (Orthodox and Anglican), and Pentecost (conservative Protestant). Hindu religious separatists dominated migration to Navabharata in this era, pious Chinese went to Xin Tian Di.


In 2125 an enigmatic tycoon called Anchises Inangulo founded a colony named Aeneas. He selected colonists for academic, athletic, and musical achievement, public spirit, health, and ethnic diversity, then paid their way and provided their equipment. He thus provided the only way for poor people to emigrate to the stars without religious subsidies in the 22nd Century.

Later colonies

From 2140 groups started to establish colonies without the backing of either states, eccentric tycoons, or great world religions. These groups fell into six broad categories.

Religious utopists sought to establish idyllic states on radical plans of society founded on religious teaching. Traditional religions were most common at first, but new revelations took over in time. Religious utopists often defied the opinions of economists, sociologists, and political scientists. They sometimes defied planetologists and ecologists too, accepting dubious planets or making scant preparation for terraforming.

Religious separatists sought to escape the corrupting and demoralising influences of an increasingly irreligious society on Earth, but without radical social, political, or economic inspirations. They founded religious societies without any radical social or economic features, within conventional political, social, and economic forms.

Secular utopists sought to establish idyllic states on radical plans of society without religious inspiration. The early examples were based on old, popular schemes such as libertarianism, anarcho-socialism, or corporatism. Later, as the social sciences improved, the plans got much stranger—perhaps sounder, too, but few had a chance to get properly established.

Cultural separatists set up colonies by particular cultures or (increasingly) subcultures to escape the assimilating or censorious world culture. They are distinguished from secular utopias by conventional governments and economies, and from solidarity groups by cultural oddity.

Solidarity co-operatives were groups or communities with personal ties but without shared religious beliefs or a distinct subcultural lifestyle, and which sought emigration without any radical plan of society. Some were formed within large organisations such as the Scouts and Freemasons. Solidarity groups tended to effect comparatively well-planned ventures and establish conventional governments and economies.

Open-access ventures were colonies that accepted anyone who could pay his way, or otherwise ended up with a group of colonists with few social ties, no shared religion or culture, and no radical plan of society. Most were set up as commercial ventures by companies or non-profit co-operatives that bought the colony rights to a planet and block-bought flinger launches in its direction, engaged pioneers to go first at concessional charges (or with subsidies), and later recouped the investment by selling passage.

A given colony venture did not always maintain a continuous nature throughout its history. Religions and subcultures died out, as did utopist movements. Also, the co-operatives and corporations that owned the rights tended to go broke. Emigration to their colonies might cease (especially if the planet was unattractive, or the character of the emigrants known to be pungent). Otherwise ventures of a different character might buy the rights and flinger slots in bankruptcy sales. More subtly, religions and utopist movements developed and changed, so that later migrants had different values from their predecessors.

Emigration to the stars, a hare-brained venture in its first decades, received a major boost to its credibility in 2145–2165. News arrived at Earth (a) that Tau Ceti had reached a population of 100,000, (b) that Avalon had founded a university, (c) that the Indian pioneers had arrived at Navabharata, and (d) that American and Canadian pioneers had arrived at Mayflower. The EU sold off another three octants of Tau Ceti. A new class of less venturesome but more numerous people started taking an interest in emigration. Most took safe trips to the older colonies, but a large class of pioneering types continued to found new colonies on assorted plans.

By AD 2195 Tau Ceti was known to have reached a population of 1 million and to be thriving. By 2200 Xin Tian Di, Navabharata, Mayflower, and Aeneas were known to have at least 100,000 residents and a university each. Paraíso was nearly as populous. A large number of quite sensible and ordinary people wanted to go to Tau Ceti. Some of them risked other colonies instead. There were over fifty other colonies to attract assorted separatists, utopists, enthusiasts, and people who were reassured by the known successes but could not afford passage and freight to the popular destinations.

Trends continued for a century and a half. By 2353 colonies had been despatched to a total of 656 planets within 146 light-years. Eleven were known to be flourishing, with populations of one million or more. Another 22 were known to have populations between 100,000 and one million. 56 million people had emigrated over 260 years. 7.5 million of those were still en route at lightspeed. 200 million were living on the colonies.

No colony ever grew rich and crowded enough to build a flinger and return people or commodities to Earth. Interstellar trade would have been impractical anyway, with decades or centuries between order and delivery, between delivery and payment. So there was never any benefit to be had on Earth from the colonies, other than going to one, or selling passage to those who were going. Colonies were sometimes subsidised by idealists, but mostly colonies had to be financed entirely by emigrants’ sale of the assets they could not take with them.

The Destruction of Earth

At 11:47 Universal Time on the 18th of April, 2353, a catalytic thermonuclear explosion occurred at Rio de Janeiro. There was a dispute escalating between Brazil and the Union of Grand Columbia (a Latin-American confederation) at the time, and the explosion was long assumed to be a weapon that produced an unexpected chain reaction in the atmosphere. In light of subsequent discoveries it might equally have been an accident in a physics lab researching faster-than-light travel.

A wave of nuclear fire swept around the world. Hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen from the air and seas fused, to release floods of particle radiation and a terrific flash of gamma-rays. Habitats in Earth orbit were destroyed by explosive evaporation of their exteriors. A layer of the Nearside of the Moon was melted, and people in even deep tunnels were poisoned by penetrating radiation. 15.6 billion people died. 185 million survived: 200 million on colonies, 7.5 million in warp bubbles en route to colonies, 7 million on the Farside of the Moon and in deep space.

Survivors in the Solar system found their situation untenable without supplies from and markets on Earth. Salvaging what they could, most evacuated through the flingers to advanced colonies where they hoped to found space industries.