15 April 2012

What We Will Fight Over: Spacers vs. Terrans

One day in the far future, mankind will have to leave the house, and venture out into the stars to survive. With human population rising to nearly ten billion, coupled with more nations joining the nuclear club, and with our crumbling environment, the time is critical for us as a species to push out into the solar system to beyond to find survival. However, when we finally flung ourselves starward, we shall  see change the human species in ways not seen since the days of the Cro-Magnon man and the Neanderthals, fracturing the future society between the people that went out and the people that stayed behind.
Spacer humans would be transformed by the what Q described to Picard as "wonders you cannot possibly imagine. And terrors to freeze your soul!" into some of an alien species after thousands of years of space travel, colonization, and exploration...what does not kill us, makes us strangler. For the most part, this topic is about human-only galaxies and the genesis of this blogpost came when I read a 2007 review by Alan DeNiro who identifies the future of Space Opera themes would be mankind giving up their humanity to live in the cold void of space

The Path to Interspecies Space Wars: 'Us vs. Them'

The roots of interstellar conflict between the Terrans and the Spacers can be drawn from examples in our own history: the invasion and conquest of Latin America by the Conquistadors, the vast difference between the Western world and the Japanese Tokugawa Shogunate, the American Civil War was partly caused by the different between the Northern and Southern societies and economics  And even today, the political difference between the Red states verse Blue states here in America that threats the integrity of our Republic-Democracy.
Any deep space colonial effort would alter the humans that embark on that one-way trip to the stars, and via the extreme distance from Terra, the Spacers biological modifications, social changes, the threats they encounter out in space, and how technology improves to better the life of the Spacers.
This would also forge them into a new species of sorts, alien to the humans that remained back on Earth.
This sets up in the mentality of 'us vs. them' that would naturally leads to interstellar interspecies wars. 
The flashpoint for these conflicts would come after the initial colonial effort, when these Spacers founded their colonies on exosolar worlds, and after Terra once again becomes overpopulated and overtaxed with supporting the human population, leading to a second mass colonial push into deep space, like what is seen in Asimov's Robot Novels. However, unlike before, the prime interstellar restate is already occupied by the Spacers, and these people living on these worlds would regard the Terrans as nearly alien to them, and the same would be true of the Terrans to the Spacers. Of course, one of the Spacer colonies could grow beyond its planetary abilities to support is population and seek resources in other star systems, and if enough time as passed, Earth could treated by the Spacers as an alien world.  

Factors that Transform Terrans into Spacers:

Interstellar Distances

If we approach how mankind will change and evolve via deep space colonization, where it takes generations to reach the stars, than all we need to do is examine human history. Over 800,000 years ago, we spread out from Africa to over the global, populating the world with variations of human beings and societies.
Space colonization will be no different. At the moment, the closet exosolar planet is located 15 LYs away in the Gliese 876 system, and the most distance is nearly more than  four thousand LYs away, in the OGLE-2006 BLG-109L system (rolls off the tongue doesn't it?) which even at light-speed, the lifetimes of distance between the home system and the colonies, and the between colonies themselves will render them isolated and independent. More over, due to the horrors of time dilation with FTL drive, the distance between stars is not measured in light-years, but in generations.
This distance would also created the need for the starships to become homes for the Spacers, think more of the Babylon 5 or Citadel stations rather than the Battlestar Galactica or the Enterprise D, these types of ships would forge a number of the factors for separating Spacers from Terrans that are discussed below, like society, governments, and even biology, but these mind-shattered distance are the genesis fueling the rise in Spacers being alien to Terrans. This situation  is expertly outlined in the Forever War novel, where William Mandella fights the interstellar conflict leads to him arrive back in the wire hundreds of years later after being deployed. During this gaps in time, Terran society changes, from a society that has their economics based on calories, to one made up of homosexuals only, then finally, to a society of clones that ends the war. All of this was due to the extreme distances between settled star systems, that rendered this soldier an alien among his own people. Unable to live in the new cloned human society, William travels to the middle finger colony founded by 'normal' humans.

Biological Changes

In Dougal Dixon's 1990 book on the future evolution of mankind, Man After Man: an Anthropology of the Future, he outlines a future Earth where global warming is finally reached a point where mankind must escape to the stars to survive, but not everyone is going: "only the most prefect human specimens are being sent to colonize the stars (page 28).Which is the view presented in the film Gattaca and the comic book Shrapnel, where the generically modified were given access to the stars first. However, let us look at it from another POV. The theory of Terraforming planets may not be feasible, causing only a limited number of natural Earth-like worlds, which could doom any exosolar colonization effort to death or permant exile onboard ship. But, with the science of genetic engineering and nanotechnology, it could be possible to Terrform ourselves to met the conditions of the planet, not the planet to ourselves.
This would truly alter the Spacers to much like an alien species from the Terrans. This example is very clear in Man After Man, where five million years after the Spacers left, they return as the Builders (see picture above), and do not recognized Earth as the home of their ancestors. These nearly completely alien Spacer humans processed to harvest the animals of the planet, that were human five million years ago, for food, and strip mining Earth to the point of Earth being a dead world, scoured of life. I also wrote on a similar topic with my flash-fiction serial Custom, where a war with an aggressive insect species, the Nix, forces humanity to bioengineer Terran soldiers to met the condition of exosolar worlds to fight the alien invaders. However, this process is non-reversible, causing the Custom soldiers of the Nix War to be unable biologically to return home to Earth. The very ground they stand on, is the only one they can live on.     


Even here on Terra, early man developed technology based on where they were on the planet, the materials available, and the game they hunted. This is clearly seen in the types of arrowheads used and housing building material used. Whatever space settlers encounter out in among the stars, they will change their technology or invent new technology to confirm to their environmental changes.These spacefaring humans would develop new technology to counter all manner of challenges, either military to encounter threats, or Terrforming technology to create atmospheric standards worlds, and better FTL systems. This would separate the off-world humans from the the Terran bound humans, possible lead to the spaceborne society more advanced, and capable of being the invaders at some future date. This was seen in the different between the Colonial Defense Force and the Earth in the Old Man's War books, and the Robotech Expeditionary Force and the Southern Cross in the ROBOTECH saga.  Of course, given the way that FTL travel screws with time, it is possible that exosolar colonies will be established by settlers  frozen for the trip on a sleeper FTL ships.
One of the better examples of this different in technology between the Terrans and the Spacers, besides the Old Man's War book series, is in the shadows of Blade Runner. In the dark dystopia of 2019, there is a major technological separation between the settlers of the corporate off-world colonies, Replicants. While Deckard is waiting at a spot at the noddle bar,a blimp screams out an advert for the Dominguez-Shimata Company's colonial effort, and sweetening the deal for off-world emigration, each colonists gets a Replicant (and maybe a 40 acres and a mule, too?). This one major element separates the colonial off-world society technologically from their Earth-bound brethren, where Replicants on Earth are illegal and hunted down, they seem to prefect legal on the off-world colonies and a vital element to the colonial effort. This seems to similar to the different between the Earthmen and Spacers in the robot novels of Isaac Asimov.


I am sorry to report this, but when I was examining the idea of a interstellar or even intergalactic government that reaches out across the Cosmo through the hard-science lens, I deduced that would not work. The simple fact is that given the hard science limitations of FTL travel and FTL communications would render a government based on a central world like Terra, or Coruscant, or even Trantor unable to govern over any world much beyond Alpha Centauri with any real-time laws or Representative style government. Can you imagine how long the presidential campaigns would be if they had to travel from star to star? Wee can see from historical examples, that much the Greek city-states or the English colonies of the 17th century, that different styles of government cropped up due to the separation of geography and what population founded the colony.
Spacer colonies would be no different, how humans get out to the stars and what kind of planet they establish their colony would alter the type of government the Spacers would use to govern over themselves. If the colonists are forced to live under domed cities due to the lack of terrforming ability, or if the settlers were able to live on massive ranches with little or no contract with their neighbors, than a different government style of evolve


Founding off-world exosolar colonies would be a one-way ticket to separating yourself from the mother planet and your native culture as much as it was when mankind began leaving Africa 800,000 years ago, to even the English founded Roanoke Colony in 1585, and it will be the same when starship leave the Sol system. The new Spacer colonies will forge their own new society based on many factors, like the politics and background of the colonists who came to found the space colony, and why, who financially  backed the colonial venture, the location and local conditions of the colonial site, and what hardships these Spacers endure during the founding. The Freman society of planet Arrakis in the DUNE novels is shining example of all of the factors, and making the desert wanders nearly alien to the mainstream Imperium culture of the Landsraad.Another disconnection between the starflung settlers and the Terrans could be if embryo space colonization was unitized to found exosolar colonies.
These Spacers would be born at some point in the journey, and most likely educated via robots, these people would completely independent of Terran society entirely, and these genuine spacers would forge their society, that would be liberated from the Old Earth hangups and pitfalls. While this would be a positive on one hand, on the other, this spacers society would be very alien to any Terran that encountered them later.
In the third ROBOTECH series, one of the main characters, Lt. Scott Bernard was born in deep space during the REF mission, lived and education on alien world of Tirol, among the aliens and military members of the REF, making Scott disconnected from the Terran society he encountered during his mission on Earth. His experience being around mostly military personal , made him a bit of a kill-joy and unable to relate well to the non-military Earth rebels and rag-tag survivors of the Invid invasions he met along the way.

New Threats

The different between the average English settler homestead on the undefended frontier of American in the 16th or 17th century and Englishman living back in the home country was partly shaped by the threat of native tribal attack, the threat of French invasion from the north, and much will be the same of the Spacer settlers to a new world...so grab your ray-guns!
What these Spacers will encounter out in the cold depths of deep space will change their society outlook and how their nascent society responses to these threats, will alter the society itself, just look at the Cold War. To counter these threats to their colonial ventures, the Spacers will develop new social order, new military technology, and lost members of their society. If and when the Terrans encounter their starflung cousins in the military hardware, would they recognize them?
This actually happened in the Battletech universe in August of 3049 when the descents of General Kerensky exodus fleet invaded the inner sphere. These clans behaved in such strangle ways, and used the amazing Elemental powered armor, that the mechwarrior thought that it was an alien invasion!
Another of the better examples of how a threat would change the spacefaring humans from the Terrans is found in DUNE's Fremen people. Not only is the desert world of Arrakis completely hostile and forbidding, but is populated with the sandworms, and all of this shapes the Fremen into the Fremen. Also from the DUNE universe, there were hints in the latter DUNE novels that the Honored Matres forged their war skills from something they encounted out in the depths of unexploded space during the Scattering.  

The Human-Only Galaxy in Science Fiction

Running parallel to this general topic, is the human-only galaxy theme, where mankind is the only higher-order of life in the Milky Way. It seems that the major of sci-fi works that deal with separate human societies are also dominated by the human-only galaxy theme. The human exclusive galaxy idea has always fascinated me, mainly because I have always believe in alien life, due to growing up with Star Wars and Star Trek. But even those works that are teeming with alien species have their main characters as humans, and placing very human values and ideas on the alien characters, cheapening the alien characters (just look at Worf).
During the millennium decade, two of the best works of small screen sci-fi, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly have been human-only fictional universes, which both series' creators credit Star Trek with souring them to involving aliens into the stories.

Examples in Science Fiction

The DUNE Novels

Frank Hebert, like Isaac Asimov, developed a rich human-only universe, and used the strangeness of varied human societies to serve the role of the alien species. This made the DUNE universe literally packed with different human societies that vary from the Fremen, the different Houses of the Landssrad (just look at the difference between Caladan and Giedi Prime), to the more trans-humans of the the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, Tleilax and their Face Dancers,Mentats,and of course, the most alien humans in the DUNE universe, the Spacing Guild. DUNE managed to create a universe were alien species were unnecessary, beside the humans societies were strangle enough.

 Battlestar Galactica

 Unlike the classic 1970's BSG, the 2003 Ronald Moore reenvisioned MSF TV series, depicts the Milky Way as void of any life that is not similar to human beings, either that evolved natural on Kobol, artificially created by man in the imagine of man, or that evolved naturally on the second planet to be named Earth. This theme is similar to Asimov's Robot novel, where the human-only universe has several human societies, like the 12 colonies of Kobol, and the Spacers, that developed artificial life, that may or may not be their undoing. BSG took an interesting turn with the finale, where the Spaceborne humans

Isaac Asimov's Robot Novels

In 1954, Isaac Asimov forged one of his greatest novels, the Caves of Steel, and here he lays out the differences that exist between the two human societies: the Spacers and the Earthers. The Spacers are humans that left the Earth due to overpopulation in the past (the book never says for sure) and relays on robots to colonize fifty lightly populated worlds, living in supported luxury. While back on Earth, the population as reached eight billion (!) resulting in the creation of underground cities, while the surface is used for farms to support the population. Once again, Asimov is the master of science fiction, inventing an interesting future were humans are the only intelligent species, and we have separate two the Spacers and the underground dwelling Earthlings. Along the way, humans, like in the Ronald Moore BSG series, create artificial life; humaniform robots in the Asimov universe, and Cylons in BSG. It is through these machine creations of man that we learn deeper about ourselves and our place in the universe.  

Isaac Asimov's Foundation Novels

The Foundation novels tell the story of the fall of the Galactic Empire that spanned one million settled worlds, and how it all came crashing down. During this time of pity savage kingdoms picking at the corpus of the old empire, there was point of light in the galaxy, the Foundation. This institution of knowledge was devoted to founder Hari Seldon's pyschohistory, allowing to predict the future of the galactic society, allowing them to steer the galaxy back towards an 2nd Galactic Empire. During these dark years, the "aliens" of the series were the barbaric kingdoms that surrounded the Foundation on Terminus. Later, we gain the mule and the Second Foundations types also are different societies, but the Foundation becomes the most powerful government in the galaxy.
The interesting element is that the entire galactic society seen in the Foundation novels, is actually the second wave of Earth colonization. The first were the Spacers from the Robot Novels, and their society was incorporated or died off while Earth spread out from the diseased and dying post-Atomic War Earth. The last two novel of the Foundation canon series, Foundation's Edge and Foundation and the Earth (and my personal favorite), citizens of the Foundation discovery the planet of Gaia and the humans that have forged a mental link with the planet's super-organism, like Bliss, and began to the stages of establishing a galactic-wide common conciseness, the Galaxia, breakdown the walls between the different human societies.  


Despite being called the 'HALO-killer' for PS2,    Killzone has a surprise rich and well-developed history that does not make much of an appearance in the games themselves. the developers rather than load their FPS shooter game down with history lessons, they created a website devoted to the background of the Second Helghan War.
The movement to the stars, according to the history of the Killzone universe occurred after a limited nuclear exchange during the 3rd World War, leaving Earth devastated, to the point where off-world colonization was needed for survival. While the Sol system was being colonized, attention was turned to Alpha Centauri, but disappearance of several expedition forced abadonment of a UN colonial mission. Instead, the colonial rights were auctioned off, and the Helghast Corporation won the bidding, then mounted their own colonial venture. Alpha Centauri bore two worlds fit for human habitation, the Terra-like Vekta, and the storm-plagued Helghan. Natutrally, the Helgant settled Vekta, and made Helghan an outpost that served the main Vekta site.
Soon, Alpha Centauri became important waypoint system to the other exosolar colonial efforts, and the Helghan naturally imposed tolls, and the United Colonials Nations began their taxation of the Helghan. This did not sit well with the Helghan, they drew up plans to declare Independence, this forced the UCN to used their military arm, the Interplanetary Strategy Alliance to threat the Helghan. 
The argument over the rights of the Helghan, caused the first war in space for humanity, the 1st Exosolar War. The much strong ISA routed the Helghan corporate fleet, and force the surrender of Vekta at the end of a bloody orbital bombardment. The remains of the Helghast corporation retreated to the hostile environment of Helghan, while the ISA occupied Vekta and transformed it into a UCN world. The Helghast never forgot their bitter defeat, and in 2357, under Scolar Visari, the Helghast invaded Vekta, with the aim to recapture the world, and declare the Alpha Centauri system independent of Earth. This is the events of the original 2004 Killzone game and the PSP Killzone: Liberation. In 2359, the ISA staged a massive invasion of Helghan, with the goal of capturing Scolar Visari, and forced a surrender of all the Helghast. This covers the 2009 sequel and the 2011 third game, and Guerrilla Games is not saying that  there will be a fourth in the series. 


  1. Imagine trying to fight your neighbour. You walk over and hit him on the head. Say he moved to the next town. You need a car. If you go in a bus, you can take some mates with you but to build or buy a bus is expensive. If he emigrates to the other side of the planet you will need a boat or a plane. Bigger vessels but much costlier.

    Say he goes to the moon. Maybe he's Richard Branson. Things change. So far we have never managed to land more than two people on the moon at anyone time. If you build up a colony it's going to take many trips and many years. If you want to invade the moon, you have a problem. Firsly you have to get there in sufficient numbers. This involves getting in orbit, getting to lunar orbit and getting doen to the luna surface. Assume you want your guys to come back, you will have to be able to reverse the process. If you stay, then there is a logistics trail.

    The usual ratio for an attack would be 3 to 1 (in terms of combatants)to dig out a dug in foe. That's potentially a lot of guys.

    The further you go, the tougher it gets and the smaller force you are going to have. Not only that but the defenders are going to be dug in like a tick.

    If there is going to be a war in space, the invaders are going to need a massive technical advantage or be willing to destroy their target and what would be the point of that?

    It makes a nice story but no more realistic than space dogfights.

    On the plus side, I like the article.

  2. Thanks for the comment! You are correct, when you look at a hard science war between Terrans and colonists, it makes little sense to mount such an massive and expensive expedition. I can see inter-solar system war, but will Terrans invade the Sirius system? Unlikely. Those colonists would have be sitting on the secret to being a god or the original Star Wars movies before Lucas raped them.
    I can foresee interstellar wars only if there some sort of FTL system like what we've seen in sci-fi.

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