Towards the end of the events of The Longest War, the planned eleventh book in the “main line” of the Shine Cycle, after the “Game of Life” and “High Powers” planned sub-series, there is another group of stories that are worth mentioning before I move on to the next story in the “main line” next month. These have to do with situations on Earth that, at the time, appear to be “the end of the world.” Today’s post is a brief introduction to that group of stories, treated as a whole.
When I first came up with and began developing these ideas, I was still a “dispensationalist by default,” presuming a pre-millennial eschatology because I didn’t know there was anything else. Now that I’ve been convinced otherwise, my plans for this small sub-series were turned upside down; I’m now salvaging what I can to fit into the new model.
This sub-series is, in concept, essentially a triptych. But since most of my ideas for the second come from a draft of a story a friend of mine showed me in high school (not that many of them would fit into the “future history” I now imagine, anyway), I’ll treat it even more briefly here than I will the others, giving only its premise.
The setting is, given the above, of course Earth of the far future—well after the end of the “Game of Life” sub-series, and probably the 30th century or later. What that setting involves, beyond one essential item I’ll get into below, I haven’t fully developed yet—my “future history” timeline is sparse and uneven even in the comparatively near term.
The First Panel: Title Unknown
In the first story, which I originally dubbed Title Unknown (a title which has “stuck” in my notes ever since), Earth has (along with its daughter colonies) been slowly becoming more, and more strongly, Christian. (By “more strongly” I largely mean that faith being put into practice.) The enemies of the Faith would like to put a stop to this.
But that strength is concentrated on Earth, so in addition to various attempts at subversion (I hope to draw inspiration for that from history; there are far too many examples of successful ploys that battered the Church), evil mages (possibly, but not necessarily, allied to the Dragon Empire) set several “world-ending” plans in motion.
If I were to draw directly from the original “spec” for the story, this would include fiddling with the Sun to either go nova or “puff up” in the imminent future (a decade from the start of the story), routing a major asteroid to collide with Earth (in about half a decade) and what seems like another (but is actually a “battle station”) to go into orbit around the wreckage, fiddling with Earth’s core and mantle to make the crust “implode” soon thereafter, and sending a large fleet behind the asteroids. I now know enough science to doubt myself on most of these, and too many of them would require “magical solutions to magical problems”—but I’ll think of something.
The Second Panel
The premise of the second story—if I write it at all—is that the Earth seems to be suddenly falling apart—a return of global warming (after several “little ice ages” and “warm periods”) more catastrophic than the worst present-day doom-sayers have dreamed, continental collapse, etc.—and its survivors must journey across the intervening space to a nearby colony.
This has its own problems in my setting, since by this point several other planets in our solar system and the Belt have all been thoroughly colonized (and won their independence!), and fairly-reliable interstellar travel by several methods is available. On the other hand, the other governments in the system might not have been able or willing to absorb large numbers of refugees, and a break-down in normal travel options might be a nice touch foreshadowing the next story.
The Third Panel
When I uncritically accepted the pre-millennial interpretation of the Revelation of the Apostle John, I thought to draw this story’s setting and background of events directly from that section of the Bible, making it a fitting close to the section of the Shine Cycle set in our universe, and presumptuously calling the story Revelation. But, as I mentioned above, I’ve since come to a different conclusion, making that idea and that title untenable. But some of my subordinate ideas can be transplanted to the new foundation.
After the exodus in what I called “the second panel” above, the fabric of reality in and around the system is found to have unraveled significantly. When mages from the colonies (and perhaps the Shine and Wild Empire or its allies nearby) come to repair this through a “reweave,” they find that the damage—and the events of the previous story—happened because the evil mages somehow had enough power and influence to briefly impose their preferred narrative over the ideal timeline (a notion that will come up in later “main-line” stories in the Shine Cycle, as you’ll see later this year or early next year), and the conflict between two “competing stories” like this inevitably brings such a “breakdown in reality.”
After some initial repairs, the team of mages discovers what they call “True-Earth”—perhaps the ruins of the planet in far better shape than they expected, perhaps a hidden world elsewhere in Earth’s orbit to which the “original true narrative” had been diverted—and use it as the base for further work. They are of course opposed by the evil mages who ruined Earth in the first place, and a “major reweave” is no trivial task at the best of times, but they eventually prevail.
The story ends one step closer to “the end of all things” in my projected version (built on the literary conceit of the Incarnation at the center of all of Time by mere count of years as well as in teleological importance) of the post-millennial eschatology I now believe.