Nova Terra

The first successful human interstellar colony

Nova Terra4
Image from Phil B and Steve Bowers
Nova Terra, Tau Ceti V - the western seaboard of the single great continent, Hope

Nova Terra - Data Panel

SystemNova (Tau Ceti)
PlanetName: Nova Terra
Orbital characteristics:
- Semi-major axis: 126,647,000 km (0.847 AU)
- Orbital period: 302.1 days (0.8271 years)
- Eccentricity: 0.039
Physical characteristics:
- Type: HydroTerrestrial LapiMinervan OceaTundral AquaGaian
- Mass: 1.460 x Earth
- Radius: 7,207.1 km (1.131 x Earth)
- Density: 5,562 kg/m^3
- Mean surface acceleration: 11.21 m/s^2 (1.142 g)
- Albedo: 0.371
- Mean insolation: 890.9 W/m^2 (0.655 x Earth), boosted to 1,031 W/m^2 (0.758 x Earth) via solettas.
- Mean surface temperature: 278 K
- Rotation period: 36.052 hr
- Obliquity: 16.994°
- Surface pressure: 85.0 kPa
- Composition: 73.0% nitrogen, 25.5% oxygen, 0.8% argon, 0.6% carbon dioxide, 0.1% water (vapor)
- Lucinda: Apnean
Semi-major axis = 129,264 km, Orbital period = 4.430 days, Eccentricity = 0.009, Mass = 9.360E+17 kg, Radius = 46.6 km
GeographyBefore the coming of Terragen civilisation, Nova Terra was a lifeless Gaian-type world with a reducing atmosphere not unlike that of Hadean Earth, and no standing water. The world is relatively close to its star, so will eventually become tidally locked.

Following successful terraforming during the early 1st millennium After Tranquility, Nova Terra was transformed into a Eugaian world. 45 percent of the surface is now land, the rest ocean. Nova Terra has a single major continent, Hope, covering an entire hemisphere (this places the planet in the Pangaean subtype). The interior consists of mountainous deserts, highlands and canyons (the 'upback'), but the often rocky coastline and surrounding areas are pleasant by human standards. The interior is rather arid, and frequent earthquakes make some areas hazardous (according to novaterrologists the continent is slowly breaking up in the same way that Pangaea on Earth did, with a rift valley developing from Icestorm Bay). The poles are covered with drifting ice sheets, but since they are surrounded by ocean they cannot accumulate ice and often vanish during summer. However, the northernmost and southernmost parts of Hope remain constantly glaciated.

Even with meteorological tweaking and greenhouse engineering the climate remains colder than on Earth, just 17 degrees on average. At the same time the weather is more variable than on Earth, due to both stronger temperature differences in the interior between summer and winter (causing major storms), the short day and the irregular volcanic eruptions. The maintaining of a greenhouse effect is important on Nova Terra, since without it the planet would enter a permanent glaciation.

Founded-Colonized: AT 588

Nova Terra
Nova Terra after terraformation

AIAI overseers: currently the Novaterran Hyperturing Administrative Cluster (SI:2.8)

AI's ethos: Libertarian Free zone and market economy, enlightened self-interest
PolitiesTau Ceti Nova Mediaocracy (based in the Nova Orbital Bands, - the ruling AI of the Novamedia Franchise is known as the 'Broad Band' ISO)
Landfall Free Trade Zone encompasses most of the large single continent, and a number of associated orbital habs and asteroids
FreeCeti Alliance (a loose association of the planetside Redrock Alliance (itself made up of about half a dozen small states), a single orbital hab, and a number of asteroids)
Novawood Habitat - an independent corporate state in Clarke Orbit
Kingdom of Eyre (Planetside aquatic tweak kingdom)
Others (A few dozen minor independent states and orbital habs)
See article Flags of Tau Ceti.

Affiliation:Nova Terra is aligned with the Non-Coercive Zone (NoCoZo)

Before the first probes

Tau Ceti, one of the closest stars to Sol, was long considered a good candidate for habitable planets and future interstellar colonization. By 192 AT a combination of several observation techniques had revealed an extensive solar system around this star. The system included several planets of various types, including a terrestrial world (Tau Ceti g), which was given the name Nova Terra.

Near the end of the 2nd-century AT, amat production was in its infancy, fusion propulsion was still limited to interplanetary speeds, and interstellar capable beamed energy propulsion was still just a dream. It was quickly determined that a viable crewed mission was not only economically impractical, but not even possible. However, in the late 3rd century AT the NTO, an organisation predominately based on Earth and in the Cislunar Band, instituted the Nova Terra project using the improved technology available at that time. A massive program of inter-governmental and corporate funding provided the primary funds for the project.

Before Colonization

There were two major elements to the Nova Terra project: the cybernetic element and the biological element. The cybernetic element involved the launch of several large von Neumann probes, launched in the late 3rd century AT, for the purpose of establishing basic infrastructure and supplies for the initial colony. The biological element involved creating a new race of "tweak", called the Starfarers, or Homo sapiens astropraecursor, expected to become the vanguard of humanity's expansion into space.

The first unmanned mission to Tau Ceti was the launch of a mass-beam-propelled, unmanned probe, named the Giordano Bruno, launched in 265 AT. The probe discovered and mapped several moons around the subneptunian world Athena and the inner worlds, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Artemis, which were all larger than Earth and which were found to be moonless. The probe also determined that Nova Terra was a good candidate for terraforming (given sufficient resources).

The Tsiolkovsky mission, the first crewed mission to the stars, was launched towards Tau Ceti in 465 AT. The goal was three-fold: to further consolidate the system, set up a beam station, and establish facilities for the next wave of colonists. The crew consisted of second-generation Starfarers. The Tsiolkovsky, using a combination of boost beam and antimatter-catalyzed fusion drive, attained a maximum velocity of 0.099 c, an astonishing speed for this early era. The 123-year mission involved rotating shifts in which at any one time most of the crew would be in hypothermal (cryonic) suspension. Biological materials and an active mini-biosphere were also taken along to help set up the colony.

In 574 AT, while still in route to Tau Ceti, the Tsiolkovsky received a garbled message from Earth with news of the Technocalypse, then silence. The colonists realized they were on their own.

The Early Colony

Arriving in 588 AT following a year's deceleration using a magbrake and rocket, the Tsiolkovsky established contact with the Neumann probes, retrieving the probe's survey data. The ship entered the asteroid belt where the crew immediately went about establishing habitats. Over the following decades, comets and frozen Oort bodies were directed into convenient orbits where the colonists mined them for water.

A number of artificial biospheres were established in the asteroid habs as the colonists learned how to live and thrive in the new system, growing foods and extracting raw materials from the belt. In order to gain more power for the habs, after ten years about a sixth of the colonists headed into a closer orbit around Tau Ceti to establish massive solar panel arrays. Another sixth of the colonists headed for the moons of Athena in an attempt to exploit the resources there.

The arrival of other missions

In the decades before the Technocalypse several different groups in Solsys began to plan additional missions to Tau Ceti. These groups were faced with the same obstacles as the original mission; the enormous energy required to send a craft to a distant star, and the long transit time involved. The colonists and crew on the shuttles would have to endure a century-long trip in extreme conditions, unsuitable for baseline humans even with the most advanced medicines. For this reason only a few genetically-modified and neuro-therapied candidates had the psychological and physiological characteristics which would allow them to go through such a prolonged and claustrophobic existence without mental and physical collapse.

The first mission bound for Tau Ceti after the Tsiolkovsky, simply called "Red" by historians, arrived in at Tau Ceti in 596 a.t. It was followed by the ships known to historians as Orange (arrived in 601), Yellow (arrived in 606) and Green (arrived in 611).

Due to the Technocalypse, the threat and fear of contamination remained ever-present, and at first, it seemed everyone's worst fear was realized when, in 676 AT, Blue was found to be infected with a (fortunately harmless and easily contained) outbreak of Black Rot that had remained dormant during the trip. Following a heated administration meeting after the incident, the colony declared that they would receive those missions already launched before the Technocalypse, but no others.

Tau Ceti Provisional Territories (TCPT)

Due to the risk of malware and Black Rot the colonists decided to establish a local administration, the Tau Ceti Provisional Territories (TCPT). But transmissions from Solsys ceased, and no more ships arrived. Isolated from the Sol System, and with only limited contact with the other colonies, Tau Ceti began to develop in its own direction. Over a period of several decades, a class elitism developed, with the Starfarers increasingly seeing themselves as the true administrators and custodians of the Tau Ceti system, much to the resentment of the other clades. The H. astropraecursor Starfarers and their ai backers ensured they always had Council majority and held the Coordinator office of the TCPT. Disillusioned members of other factions and clades moved further outsystem, but the Starfarers ensured they retained control of the best resources and most of the non- Starfarers were forced to accept their leadership. Gradually more habitats were constructed, including surface domes, orbitals, and outposts on the various moons. A number of settlements remained almost completely independent. Over time the independent settlements grew, and new ones were founded that had not been cleared with the administration.

In 742 AT the TCPT administration faced its first major challenge, when some baseline colonists decided to settle an area of Socrates (a moon around Athena) that was designated to be left for mining at a later stage. The TCPT administration under Connar NewMan, who took over after Enya Clarke and her party had been forced to step down, did not want to repeat the mistakes made by his party. A part of the then small paramilitary colonial space guard was sent to establish enough credible strength to force a degree of diplomacy, with was met with limited success from the stubborn settlers. The colonial space guard found the settlers strongly dug in, with a network of domes and some underground tunnels, as well as a crude but limited perimeter defense grid made with modified mining lasers. The Space Guard was unable to act without fear of being cut down, but they managed to establish a cordon around the settlement, just beneath the horizon.

Although some of the orbitals and surface habitats were on the administration side, the more independent habitats threatened retaliation if further action against the settlers was taken, while some baselines, space adapts, and cislunar superiors (some from the original expedition, some from the later missions), began taking steps towards aligning themselves with and setting up an alternative government in opposition to the TCPT administration. The TCPT administration, panicked about the emergence of militias, independent orbitals, and civil war, answered in force by using an asteroid mole to drill underneath the settlement's defense grid.

In the ensuing firefight, two hundred and fifteen settlers and twenty-three colonial space marines were killed. The settlement was completely demolished, but the bloody action and unnecessary loss of life created strong resentment among many and made the TCPT administration, or "Provisionals" as they were called, look even more dictatorial, and NewMan was forced to resign, being replaced by the more moderate Lisa A. Miguel. To this date a shrine stands on that very spot in memory of those of both sides who died in the battle.

Tau Ceti Democratic Republic (TCDR) and the Free Ceti Alliance (FCA)

Lisa A. Miguel's reforms were lauded by her supporters, but seen by her opponents as too little, too late. One of the responses to the oligarchic TCPT administration was the multi-clade Tau Ceti Democracy Movement (which eventually created the Tau Ceti Democracy Movement (TCDM) party), which began petitioning for reorganizing the government into a more distributed form. It quickly gained support, but the outnumbered TCPT administration tried to hold on to power. The TCPT Administration was forced to make concessions and accept true democracy if it was not to be overwhelmed or destroy everything in a scorched earth policy. In 746 AT, following several years of careful think-tanking, interparty politicking, and sociological simulations, a new constitution was announced and the Tau Ceti Democratic Republic (TCDR) was established, with the initial government being an alliance of the two main political parties, the multi-clade TCDM (Tau Ceti Democracy Movement) and the astropraecursor-dominated TCPT (Provisionals). Over several years the political scene was dominated by the struggle between the Provisionals and the TCDM, and in the meantime, several of the independent factions had the chance to prepare to create independent polities.

In 748 AT these factions announced that they were formally breaking away from the colony, forming their own nation, the Free Ceti Alliance (FCA). The TCDR found itself unable to muster the resources needed to force the Alliance back, and had to accept the fait accompli. The Alliance was composed of more radical and independent settlements, orbitals, and habitats, often with strong religious, national or political views. The Alliance always remained a very loose conglomeration of groups who had very little to do with each other. The Republic had better resources, better communications, and overall a more homogenized population; while the isolated nature of many Alliance habitats emphasized their differences even more. The dispersed settlements promoted the development of communications technology. The many disparate communities with their different languages also promoted the development of automated translation systems.

Over the next three generations the Tau Ceti Democratic Republic (who still controlled most of the bases in the Asteroid belt, mostly centered around the first established habitats) and the Free Ceti Alliance engaged in a kind of territorial rock grab, dividing the Tau Ceti system into a patchwork of territory between them as each scrambled for the best resources, occasionally breaking out into all-out firefights. A sort of low-key cold war ensued, but there was little or no military escalation. The Administration had the monopoly on central resources and control over the Neumann codes, while the Alliance, although possessed of greater numbers, suffered from a lack of unity and for that reason were never able to pose a real military threat to the TCDR.

In 790 AT the newly formed interstellar union known as the Eridanus League made contact and invited Nova Terra to join them. Both the TCDR and the FCA declined the invitation. There was still no radio contact with Earth; as far as the colonists were aware, the Solar System was lost.

The Attelists

In 796 AT, a preacher named Erik Atell appeared in Ford, a medium-sized asteroid habitat that was a member of the Alliance. He preached a vision of unity, communion and human development that would unite everybody in the disparate Alliance communities. He had some success in Ford, and went on to preach in many other places (with mixed results). Over time his followers, known as Atellians, became increasingly numerous and widespread. While religious movements were not unusual in that era, the Atellians tried to encompass the whole of the Alliance instead of just a single community. They failed politically, since many of the Alliance communities were insular and rejected Atell's memes of togetherness. In most habitats the Atellians were regarded as just another religion.

Erik Atell realized that he could not achieve his vision just through persuasion; the communities had to be forced out of their isolation. He attempted to organize his followers into an army to "open up the closed". The endeavor failed utterly. Erik was killed in 801 AT. as a result of a firefight between the Space Guard and the militant Tau Ceti Liberation Army, who had infiltrated the Atellian organization, intending to use it as a fund-raising and recruitment organization. Erik's successor Yotik Henrigues began a new plan; instead of trying to found another settlement in the asteroid belt or merge with the FCA, they formed an orbital colony, independent from both factions. He exploited disillusioned elements in the FCA administration (where he and a few others had connections) to get the opportunity to buy an old space station orbiting one of the moons of Athena. The Atellians moved there en masse in 804 AT, joining the new colony/nation known as Unity. Most people disregarded them as another fringe cult or, at best, a mildly eccentric autonomous orbital state, but some worried that the Atellians might attempt another crazy venture. To soothe these fears Unity signed a non-intervention treaty in 805 AT.


While the asteroid belt belonged to hu and administrative ai, a very different civilization was developing among free ai, disenfranchised colonists, cyborgs, and mildly isolationist ai in the outer Tau Ceti system, especially around Hera and its complex of moons. This new polity, known as Unity, developed into a closed, extremely connected society, which received a new infusion of life when the Atellists arrived.

Yotik Henrigues encouraged experiments with drugs and neural interfacing to create a stronger sense of community, perhaps part of a scheme to keep control over his followers despite their hardships. Over the next decade, the experiments succeeded - the Atellians managed to create a form of digital telepathy, uniting the community ever closer. Over the next years, they explored ways of integrating themselves, ending in the formation of a number of Units, bionic group minds that remained in constant contact. Over the next years they explored ways of integrating themselves, ending in the formation of a number of Units, small groups of people who remained in constant mental contact via neurotechnology. Realizing that not everyone would accept this approach they began to build a second home among the moons of Hera. Unity began asteroid mining and energy production on a far larger scale than had previously been undertaken, trading it for know-how from the asteroid belt and designs for building new habitats. When the truth began to become clear there was little anybody could do, and the treaty remained.

By the early 8th century AT, Unity was a society of group minds. Each Unit consisted of several people linked together by implants and compatible personalities. Children grew up in the units, becoming one with them. Units within a habitat could talk with each other on a basic level to discuss public matters and form strategies, but in most cases, total communion was hard to achieve. One problem was the uniformity that tended to develop, especially within units. This was a reason Unity actively recruited new people into the units, to keep the mental diversity high (despite the trouble that weakly-integrated people caused).

Nova Terra Map
Image from Anders Sandberg
Nova Terra Topographic Map, after terraformation

The Arrival of the First Federation, and the influence of Federation Culture

extracts from "The Federation Period"
(From Kerrice Clonehu Bookham, ed, A Novaterran Primer (Eden Memory Archives)
At the height of political tension, anxiety, and local firefights in the Tau Ceti system, a transmission from Solsys was finally received in 945 AT. A new organisation, the Federation of Sophonts, invited all of the lost colonies to join with them. This development was welcomed by moderates on all sides. Tau Ceti was accepted into the Federation, becoming the first extra-solar Federation territory, and a new wave of idealism and fraternity developed. The first ships arrived from Solsys in 1001 AT.

The Federation was to eventually encompass almost a hundred star systems (with a few notable exceptions like the strongly independent Barnard Belt and the Lalande Genetekkers), but Tau Ceti was to remain the most important and indeed enthusiastic member state outside the Sol System itself.

With the help of megacorps like Jupiter Transystems and Omicron Developments, using advanced Federation technology, terraforming of Nova Terra began once again. For the first few centuries, everything went according to plan, with terraforming proceeded, although at a slower rate than was initially expected (it was necessary to clean up the residual charlies), while advanced mechanisation made it simple to build a working agricultural and industrial base on the surface.

With the arrival of the Federation the relationship between the Republic and the Alliance remained somewhat strained, but never at the level it had been in the previous few centuries. The only thing that really united the Alliance was resistance to Republic incursions into what it considers its internal affairs. Such incursions were resisted by making the Republic pay through expensive sabotages; messing with the Alliance simply didn't pay, and the Republic, already in this stage suffering from factionalism along House lines, hence leaft it alone most of the time. From the 11th century on, Tau Cetans began to define themselves as citizens of the Federation first, Tau Cetans second, and Republic or Alliance third.

Another important effect the Federation had was that it meant that Unity had established contact with the Federation AIs, and took the first step in becoming an Omega Society, apart from the Minskys the first one to achieve total oneness. Throughout the First Federation period, Unity gained in strength. Unity society was a very mental society; most interesting stuff happens inside the minds of people. Personality structures, linking topologies and mental control were common subjects of discussion, art and debate. A heavy reliance on virtual imagery and visualisation made the physical appearance rather drab.

The Megacorp War

During the Federation period, the two terraforming corporations, Jupiter Transystems and Omicron Developments both could see the potential for terraforming Nova Terra, and began to infringe on each other's claims. Sending down teams on the planet surface they claimed it as theirs and then promptly got into conflict. The local branches began to hire "security teams" to protect their investments. These teams gradually escalated their obstruction and minor sabotage to full-scale war, and in 1322 AT Jupiter Transystems and Omicron Developments became involved in a full-scale war. Both megacorps knew they had limited resources and could not hold on indefinitely. Various Alliance and Republic investors begin to bet on the outcome, fuelling the war further, and no end appeared in sight. In the end local Tau Ceti anti-war opinion, the powerful influence of Unity, and organised boycotts both at Tau Ceti and the Sol System forced them to give up, and a mutual terraforming cooperation was set up, which gradually failed. Nova Terra remained unterraformed until 2300 AT, when Bios Ecotopics was hired to terraform it.

The Corporate War was nevertheless a watershed for interstellar development, and it meant the of dreams of a galactic Pax Federation. Without faster than light travel, distances were too great to enable centralised administration, and if even Tau Ceti, a relatively nearby system and the jewel in the Federation's crown, was not able to reign in warring megacorps, what hope was there for more isolated and independent-minded systems? Heavy-handed Federation legislation only served to further drive the megacorps away - and was also instrumental in the continued isolation of the Eridanus League.

Nova Terra night
Image from Steve Bowers and John M Dollan
Nova Terra at night; the densely populated areas along the coast can be seen, as well as the thinly-populated interior

The Terraforming of Nova Terra

By the start of the 3rd millennium AT the Orbital Confederation had long since become a number of separate, more-or-less squabbling orbital habitat-states, while on Nova Terra the continent of Landfall had become an autonomous nation-state. With the threat of the NDR and its successor the Confederation being gone, the remaining remnants of the Alliance were absorbed into the post-post-Alliance Habitat States, apart from a few holdouts claiming to represent the true Tau Ceti society and speak for everyone (the others naturally ignored them).

A serious problem on Nova Terra during the early Terraformed period was terrorism. The best way of getting attention was to do something spectacular, and people cannot ignore terrorism. Unlike traditional terrorism this consisted of highly media-directed and planned strikes, usually more dramatic than deadly (although the human interest angle of innocent death is attractive). Most notorious were the anti-AI groups who attacked notable artificially intelligent entities of all kinds, and the "6% warriors", protesting against the ecology laws (they wanted the release of more terrestrial life-forms approved). Many terrorists hid from the Confederate authorities in various minor post-Alliance Habitat States, some of which were chaotic and poorly-policed. Related problems were lone-wolf serial killers, fadbusters who rejected and demonised popular culture, and Herostratian youths who committed crimes just for notoriety.

Kingdom of Eyre

During the early 2300s AT the biosphere of Nova Terra became more habitable, and a number of eccentric communities become established on the surface. One such was the Kingdom of Eyre, a small island-nation 70 kilometres off the north-eastern coast of Hope. The founders were followers of 'King' Stanley, a sociologist who claimed that elected mini-monarchies were the ideal social order for Nova. Nominally a member of the Red Rock Alliance, the kingdom was fiercely independent and chose to go its own way. At first, it attempted to become a tax-haven and entertainment city, but it never really worked out due to its location, Landfall legislation and competition from Palm Beach. Instead, it became a closed, self-sufficient society ruled by elected monarchs. In 2449 AT the Landfall Oceanographic Institute built a research outpost on the steep eastern shore to explore the deep sea trench nearby. Since this time the outpost has grown and the kingdom has prospered by its increasing involvement in deep-sea research and exploitation.

By the mid consolidation period the royalist factions had become dominant. The King (or Queen) of Eyre is to this day the formal ruler of a major clade of Merpeople, and Eyre remains a monarchist polity with full sovereignty, although because of its small size it has only limited influence in the politics of the region.

Alternation of Dynasties

With the fall of the Federation, the political situation became unstable, and the Age of Expansion saw a succession of local superpowers place their claims on Tau Ceti and her crown jewel Nova Terra. Neither were to last long.

Moreover, instead of being a passive part of the imperialisation process, Nova Terra was actually one of the hothouses. Many of the emerging hyperturing empires had important holdings there, and the sizeable and marketing/memetics-skilled AI population were influential in how the empires formed.

The first of the invaders to conquer Terra Nova was the Doran Empire, an aggressively expansionist cyborg clade that rose to power among the red dwarfs of the old core regions.

But in the centuries before the establishment of the Wormhole Nexus, no interstellar empire could last for long, and with little experience at the administration of a large and densely populated star system, the Doranist grasp on Tau Ceti was tenuous at best. Their departure in 2200 AT saw a newly confident Solsys Organisation make a claim for eir old territorial possession. But even if the Solsys superpower was greater in ability and technology than the old Federation, they were facing even more powerful rivals. Thus in the early centuries of the third millennium, the Conver Ambi took power, and through a clever combination of capitalist libertarianism and corporate su-borg theology, they were rather more successful than their predecessors.

The second half of the third millennium saw the galaxy-wide breakup and subversion of old empires and the emergence of new ones that were ruled, not by nearbaselines, heteromorphics, tweaks, or even superiors, but by the high toposophic archailect gods, whose reach and influence spanned star systems in a way the old Federation never could, linked by a radiant network of artificial wormholes. The increasingly irrelevant Conver Ambi that had previously occupied Tau Ceti did not so much retreat as simply acknowledge Tau Ceti autonomy. But that autonomy was short-lived, for long before the last Conver Ambi garrison withdrew, the dominion of the AI gods had made itself felt.

Canyon homes on  nova Terra
Image from Anders Sandberg
Hanging buildings in the Magellan range, Nova Terra. The massive feedstock pipelines into the Upback Massif have been active for almost 7000 years, accumulating a sizeable symbolic meaning to Novaterran inhabitants. In 3300 the government began to use hanging prisons suspended from the pipelines in the many canyons for certain antisocial crimes (with or without constant online public monitoring). After a few years, the idea of living in such hanging buildings began to catch on; by 3324 AT the voluntary inhabitants outnumbered the prisoners by 10:1, and eventually the prisons were sold as apartments at an immense profit. Since then the popularity of hanging pipeline homes has waxed and waned, but there are always people wishing to live a digital hermit life with as little physical contact with the rest of society, not to mention the status of owning one of the rare hanging homes.
With the departure of the Conver Ambi, Nova Terra continued to be a wild and dynamic place, if a bit stale. At this time Nova Terra came under the influence of the Solar Dominion, and the system was connected to the Wormhole Nexus.

But despite the entire system being under Dominion control, the situation in Tau Ceti was different from that of some other star systems. Whilst many systems were subverted by particular sephirotic empires wholesale, Tau Ceti found itself split along ideological and clade lines, divided up among half a dozen empires. It was inevitable that the strong libertarian element that flourished on Nova Terra, in orbitals and on some of the bigger outposts would find safety and new markets in the NoCoZo, whilst others would prefer the extravagance of the Dominion, and the virchworld hacker and cyborg society would align with the Cyberian Network. Meanwhile, Unity reached a posthuman equilibrium-state Omega Society and become unchanging neutrals, formally joining the Keterist Dominion.

With Tau Ceti now a part of the Wormhole Nexus and the emerging galactic interstellar civilization, the system saw its most dramatic changes since the arrival of the Federation. Under clever interstellar real estate corporate memetic engineering Nova Terra became the new "Land of Hope and Opportunity", and immigrants from the Sol System again began to arrive. Landfall became an important city and ethnic Novaterran majority, equipped with spaceport and ultra-tech facilities, and the only real planetary superpower. At the same time, many new colonists and settlers, mostly from the overcrowded ghettos of Solsys, Lalande 21185, and the Barnard Belt, moved into small settlements bought or leased from the big corporate landfirms. These settlements were relatively independent and while most participated in the colony process as intended a few remained almost completely independent. It was also relatively common for the settlers of be of the same cultural background, creating an increasing if relatively benign ghettoisation.

The next big change came with the Version War. The local Dominion garrison was small, as despite its cultural value Tau Ceti had little of strategic worth. However, a powerful Metasoft-MPA joint initiative by the 2nd Heavy Battlesquadron, the IXth Autowar Combined Fleet, and a number of accompanying NoCoZo irregulars from Argelander, Atlantis, Mechworld, and elsewhere, saw the standardizationists remove most of the revisionist presence from the Old Core worlds.

The enthusiasm of local Metasoft military governors was subdued, and few knew quite what to do about Dominion propagandists with slogans such as "Give Me a Large Hab or Convert me to Computronium Upload", and associated biont-friendly imagery such as interactive male/female harems in vast spacious gardens. For much of the war, Nova Terra was never more than a Metasoft protectorate.

Babel Revisited
Image from Anders Sandberg

The ComEmp period and After

During the ComEmp period, the Version Tree was only too happy to cede Nova Terra to the NoCoZo, in exchange for a number of vec worlds the revisionists were currently occupying. The period saw the reopening of the stargates, and a new period of abundance and optimism that accompanied the renewal of commerce with the rest of the galaxy. Even though Dominion presence was no longer to be found in the system, the effect of Solarese culture remained, and many locals tried to create extravagant identities for themselves. This period saw a number of aristocratic and pseudo-aristocratic houses develop on Nova Terra and in the wealthier orbital and deep space habitats. With the Wormhole Nexus providing easy access to SolSys and the historical archives of the Solsys Organization, many people among the well-to-do became interested in the national heritage of their ancestors back on Earth, thousands of years previously. Where (as was so often the case, due to loss of records during the Technocalypse period) they couldn't trace it back they had an identity invented, usually along the lines of a "best-guess" genomic replication and whatever cliological services they could afford. Learning and speaking one of the old languages was been seen as a sign of education even if they were less than useful in daily life. In the same way, many during this time were active in Nations, organisations composed of descendants from different Earth cultures who meet to share their heritage (of course most people are descended from several cultures, and hence either selected one Nation they like or participated in several). Similar groups were found on Arcadia and Victoria at about this time, but it was only on Nova Terra where they became a significant cultural movement. Their heyday was during the early ComEmp period, but they remain important social networks even to the present date.

The later ComEmp period was a time of disillusionment for many of the less privileged on Nova Terra and in some of the poorer orbitals (as well as those of the middle classes whose family lineages couldn't "cut it" with the elite), and many saved up to migrate outwards, just as their ancestors had arrived at Tau Ceti some three thousand years earlier.

By the later Re-evaluation period the old money families of the New Novaterran Orbital Confederation (elements of the old Nova Terra Cybercratic Republic that had developed and gained power among the cis-Novaterran orbitals during the early-middle ComEmp period) had become hereditary houses, each with their own religion, deity (a sort of media god - half supernatural, half ai or biont), in-house language, genomic subspecies or race, and so on. These small but powerful Houses came to have influences throughout much of the NoCoZo and to the various old core worlds with which they have long held ties.

During the early seventh millennium a.t., the Hyperutilization Supremacy blight subverted a number of these Houses, and following the defeat of the perversity by a multi-metaempire force known simply as the Central Noetopic Alliance, many of the old Novaterran houses, which had been heavily subverted and grown in power through Hyperutilization assistance, collapsed. Among ordinary sapients there was widespread disillusionment with the high toposophic powers, who could so readily manipulate them, and whose standards of right and wrong seemed so arbitrary (under Supremacy guidance Nova Terra had benefited greatly, the standard of living was improved and a number of important new orbitals had been built). Whilst some pushed for total independence and non-alignment, and others pushed for more libertarianism, many important Novaterran factions, diplomats, and developers turned to the Terragen Federation, the most biont-friendly (but also the smallest) of all the sephirotics, who maintained high standards of integrity, and hearkened back to the glory days of the original Federation. For some centuries, Novaterra remained divided between factions, with many idealistic, religious, and messianic groups emerging, including a number of Attelist and Miguelist revivals, as well as completely new groups.

The Arrival of The Broad Band ISO

But after centuries of alternating regimes, religions, ideologies, and sephirotic intervention, including the Solar Dominion's memetic coup of the Terragen Federation in a number of major old families, and a brief and unexpected flirtation with the old Solsys Organization, something had to give. People who had followed the fall of the houses, and were self-righteously shocked by such a betrayal of the human race (not admitting they would have acted in exactly the same manner), and watched as the different empires vied for influence and memetic control among political, cladic, and aristocratic groups, remained hungry for scandal and gossip. Thus in the 9500s there arrived foreign investment and the Nova Media franchise of The Broad Band ISO and eir hyperturing businessbeings, which provided them with all the news and helped them develop their own. Exploiting the Solarist and Libertarian (NoCoZo) heritages of the Novaterrans, and a lucky pun in the similarity of the names, the Mediaocracy hyperturing businessbeings set up a local franchise, and encouraged Nova Terran participation and part-ownership. It was a boom time for Tau Ceti, as many new orbitals were built, clades developed, businesses and new media houses arose, and there was even a new wormhole link - the first in thousands of years. Known as Galactic Central News, it linked, and continues to link, Tau Ceti with Broad Band, and has helped make the planet one of the great media capitals of the galaxy.

Both planet-side (Landfall) and orbital, infotainment, media, and virch immersion became (and still remain) important industries. During this period, many of the non-Novaterran habitats and settlements on the surface were bought up and converted into theme parks (including Triassic Park and Ice Station Nova). The original inhabitants migrated to the big cities, or (those that could afford it) left the system altogether in search of opportunity in the Outer Volumes and some of the new provincial worlds being opened up at the time.
Nova Terra Surface
Image from Anders Sandberg
Nova Terra today

Nova Terra Today

Nova Terra has deep and complex ties with the other major central old worlds like Corona, Eden, Epsilon Indi, Klarus, Penglai, Shamash and Zarathustra. In many ways they have more in common than with their respective empires.

After almost a thousand years of mediacracy and careful memengineering on the part of The Broad Band ISO and eir hyperturings, Nova Terra has been dynamically stable for so long it resists change. Although thousands of years of history has seen successive dynasties, empires, occupations, etc, each of which in turn entrenched itself within the folk soul of the culture, the latest of these, the Mediaocracy, looks to be the most tenacious of all. So for centuries a mediacratic/fashionacratic culture has been as central to the Novaterrans as Simm-Virtual Ancestor Worship, Chi Bioborgism, and Feng Shui Expert Systems are to the Penglaists, and yoga, belief in reincarnation, and the story of the Archailect Gods and Their Quest For Artificial Enlightenment is to the inhabitants of the New Vedantanda Orbital Math. This may not be long in terms of the great history of this ancient and culturally rich society, or for relativists and those who take multi-century journeys on Cycle Routes, but for the local inhabitants with their short attention spans, it is a long time indeed. PParadoxically, on the one hand, Novaterran society, with its endless hunger for fads and superficial excitement, changes so fast that it resists change, while still remaining hidebound to a very old way of thinking, with shrines and halls of fame dedicated to virch stars, fashion designers, and tabloid interactives going back centuries. Thanks to its ancient yet ever-changing mediacracy, Nova Terra remains an important member world of the NoCoZo. But still, there are those who believe with a certainty, born of rugged determination, that the present dynasty will pass, just like all its predecessors have, and who hope for the day when one day Nova Terrans will finally be free to decide their own destiny.

Today, what is left of the old post-ComEmp FreeCeti Sophont Alliance Network includes a few irrelevant city-states on Novaterran surface. There are also several loose groupings of independent settlements, along with a few habitats in the Belt and on some of the Oort bodies that call themselves the FreeCeti League, the FreeCeti Federation, the FreeCeti Alliance, etc., and which likewise have little or nothing to do with either the original Alliance or the union of planetside city-states that go under that name. Almost all of these habitats, orbitals, and city-states are tiny and insular, refusing to keep in touch with the rest of the universe. People fed up with the hectic pace of life in the Civilized Galaxy sometimes emigrate there, and recently there have sprung up several new communities along the border between the Oort halo and the outer Tau Ceti solar system.

Unity, the only true superpower in the region, is subdued, discreet and on the surface calmly meditative. This is a misconception based on the inability of outsiders to experience the mental decorations; much that appears to be plain and unadorned is actually a kind of etheric mental baroquification. The simple white robes worn by most members are for example decorated with visual, auditory, olfactory, emotional and cognitive personal signals, possible only for members of Unity to experience through their interfaces. Mental artworks can be "placed" in the mutual augmented reality they inhabit, and the contrast between the elegantly plain material world and the splendid mental world is regarded as one of the basic aesthetic principles. Perhaps the most accessible form of art which Unity group minds excel at is dance; this can take many forms, but the coordination between the dancers is always extraordinary.
Psyche, Art, CultureAesthetics, Culture and Society: varies by polity

Landfallish Style: In Landfall, which retains media-fashion ideology as a matter of national and racial identity and pride going back thousands of years, anything goes as long as it is stylish, an expression of the owner's 'brand'. Currently smart clothing is in again, clothes made of adaptive fabrics that can move, change texture and colour depending on their programming. Unlike 'firstwa clothes' (first wave clothes, functional and basic clothing used in the early days of the colony), these clothes are intended to be highly interactive both with the owner (receiving information from wearables, implants or the body itself) and the surroundings. Other personal belongings tend to be similarly active right now, from smart buildings to vehicles.

The current fashion is strongly gendered with female, and ferm clothing being more ostentatious than that of other sexes.

Landfall Society: In Landfall information technology is advanced, and much of society deals with media in one way or another. Trade, politics, education, practically everything is handled through the net. This has both created a huge demand for image improvements to catch and hold attention, attract the right people, give the customers an experience with the content and so on. There is also a widespread interest in experiencing truly authentic experiences, be they mountaineering or warbuggy races in the interior to eating in the truly memorable restaurants of Fejel. The different places all hold on to their individuality or find ways of enhancing it; being exceptional (or looking exceptional) is a way of life for most people. People live in small communities rather than big cities (even if they interact virtually in a very cosmopolitan way). Landfall (the city) is the only place with skyscrapers and dense buildings (and that is largely for show). Backup has retained its rural charm, and many of the small towns along the coast have their own quirks. Vladimirograd is located on top of a sheer cliff with buildings leaning out over the abyss, while Chico is a deliberate attempt at vintage Latin kitsch.

Sport: Sport and games are still a major business on Landfall, as it was as early as the post-Federation period. The big sports involve heavily tweaked and modified players, the only requirement being that they remain externally human and bayish in shape, and that they contain no unfair enhancements. The types of sport preferred shift from year to year, but currently warbuggy races, pilote, paragliding tag, upback survival treks, virtual war and basket are the most popular. Teams and players get plenty of virchmedia coverage, with fans being able to 'be' their favourite player as e competes for glory, while the behind-the-scenes games of sponsorship, membership deals and image design keep much of the industry gossiping; professional sports are properly a part of the entertainment industry as much as game shows or soap operas (which they sometimes overlap with.

Orbital Band The dense and elaborate orbital swarm located in Nova Terra orbit is the true power behind the Tau Ceti economy. Everyone wants to be in the media, and if they can't be in the media they want to be in industries associated with it. There is a high tourist turnover as the curious visit the system to check out their favourite stars. The famous Novawood Habitat is a tabloid-lovers dream, and the celebrity industry churns out endless immersives and infotainments on famous virchstars. There is even the possibility to catch a glimpse of your favourite virchstar in real life. Note: be wary of unscrupulous locals, who will offer you a sight of celebrities, autograph signing, 3d-posing, etc., at very cheap (sometimes half price) rates - in fact these 'celebrities' are all unauthorised clones. Only use the station admin approved tour-guides, autograph signings, etc.

FreeCeti Alliance The so-called FreeCeti Alliance (also called the Redrock Alliance and bearing no connection to the original pre-Federation Alliance beyond a certain distorted ideological sentimentalism), covers most of the north coast. Although at one time including some flourishing bohemian villages (including New Fitzroy and the artistic mecca Soho Beach) it has now become pretty much entrenched in its own brand of conservatism and backward looking to past imagined glories. Most of the local income derives from off-world tourists

Main Languages: Surface: Landfallish (Anglish language) is the main local language. Novese, Mediaese, Soapese, and New Anglish are also spoken. Among some of the settlements one finds a number of fascinating and highly derived ghetto languages like Tau Barnardese, Novacentaurish, Novaterran-firstfed, and Novaterran Freetaucetese.
Orbital: Novaterran (Anglish language) is the predominant language, but Mediaese, Soapese, Douh, New Anglish, Niu Cygnese and other media and trade languages are all widely used

nova terra without clouds
Image from Steve Bowers and John M Dollan
Nova Terra, without clouds
Territory and PopulationPopulation: .
about 200 million, mostly nearbaseline humans about 95 per cent of which live in the Landfall Metropolitan Sprawl. The population also includes 4% Vec 2% Provolves 2% Splices 1% Rianths 3% others

Orbital, cis-Nova Terra and cis-Lucinda: about 10 billion physicals, mostly media-tweaked and lightly cyborged (the neural media interface is almost universal), 16% Vec, 5% Provolve 0.1% xeno (various species) and approximately 30 billion virtuals Immigration, Emigration: about 5per cent per tenyear, all vectors
Government and AdministrationGovernment Type Tau Ceti Nova Mediaocracy Hyperturing Mediaocracy, based on The Broad Band ISO administration, with regional sapient charismacratic cyberdemocracy.
Landfall cyberdemocracy
FreeCeti Alliance varies by individual member, usually cyberdemocracy or meritocratic aristocracy
Kingdom of Eyre monarchy

National holidays: Arrival Day, Media Day, Landfall Day (Landfall only)
Economics, Local InfrastructureEconomy: free-market

Currency: (Landfall): Landfall Credits (C). A digital currency, often prefixed: microcredits (0.001 C, used to pay minor net services), kilokredits (1000 C), megacredits (a million C), gigacredits (a billion C) and so on.

Median Technology: Ultra Tech, with pervasive Transapientech elements. There are also areas of less developed High Tech and even Lo Tech enclaves, among some of the smaller and more isolated planetside and belt communities

Major Industries: Planetside: Media infotainment, immersives, totalrecalls, tourism, gambling, sport (both audience and participation), outdoors exploration, theme parks, nature parks.
Orbital: Infotainment, immersives, totalrecalls, tourism, finance, entertainment, DIY celebrity genomes, the Novawood industry and spin-offs, star clone manufacture, and personality constructs. There is also a large cybrarian community (both legal and quasi-legal) and a number of important hacker nodes and virchuniverses. There is a flourishing trade in illegal clone celebrity sighting and autograph signing, The authorities have been trying hard for some time to stamp out the trade, without much success.

Angelnetting : Some habitats have full angelnet coverage, but most locations (including most of the surface) have only partial angelnetting, and many locations have no coverage at all.

Major Orbitals: Novawood, Miguel City, High Land, Hitchcock, Spielberg, O'Neill, Blue Star, Crystal Palace
TravelMajor Spaceports: Landfall Spaceport (the only large planetside spaceport), Spielberg Docks, Lucinda Astrodrome, Miguel Port Complex

Hazard Rating : 0.0 to 3.0

Visa Restrictions : Visas are easy to get, although there is usually a 10 nanosecond waiting period while applications are processed

Freedom of Movement : Tourism is encouraged, there is little restriction of movement

Environmental Requirements : Nova Terra and most orbitals meet all baseline hu compatibility standards

Sites of Interest: Palm Beach on the eastern shore of Hope, close to the border to the Alliance, is the capital of gambling on Nova Terra. Here the coast is dotted with casinos, ranging from the traditional Las Vegas to the ultra-modern Escaton. All forms of gambling and entertainment exist, including virtual games and elaborate game shows. While the Nomic tournaments are held entirely on the Net, it is traditional to have a major display of the final games in the hololith (230 meters high) outside the Hrafnir.

Triassic Park Part of the rather arid interior is given up to a number of terragen wildlife reserves, including the famous Triassic Park, complete with genomically reconstructed Lystrosauri, Chasmatosauri, and other near-authentic early Mesozoic wildlife, minimally modified and optimised for the slightly higher gravity

Hanging buildings of the Magellan Ranges for interesting architecture (see below)

Novamedia Main Studios, Novawood Orbital; vast studios where virches and interactives are created for broadband distribution to the entire civilized galaxy

Giordano Bruno Museum with the original probe carefully preserved and maintained in stasis, along with many other fascinating historical items

Themis War Memorial complete with one-on-one vec-guided tours and full-sensorium historical recreations
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg and M. Alan Kazlev
Updated by QwertyYerty, 2017
Initially published on 07 October 2002.

Data Panel update by The Astronomer (2023-01-30)