Host: With Prosperity Day just around the corner, we’re taking an in-depth look at our colony’s history. With us today is Dr. Anna Vasquez, historian at the Gibson City University. Dr Vasquez is the author of three popular books on Old Earth history, and a specialist on early Gibson history. Dr Vasquez, welcome to our program.
Dr Vasquez: Thank you Linda, pleasure to be here.
Host: Dr Vasquez, you recently published a paper on the First Settlers. Can you run us through it – who or what were the First Settlers?
Dr Vasquez: Certainly. After the Pioneers landed on Gibson, it took them a while to actually start exploring the world. They were just busy setting up the first settlement, the one that eventually became Gibson City. Serious long-range exploration of Gibson only began after the year 10. In the year 17, one such survey groups made a discovery – a small cluster of ruins, deep in the forest about a thousand kilometers west of Gibson City.
Host: That must have caused quite a stir.
Dr Vasquez: It did. It was immediately obvious that the site was too big, and too old, to be the remains of a lost survey team. So, naturally, when the reports reached the City, everybody jumped to conclusions. “We found aliens!” The media jumped on it immediately, reports went viral on the VR net, people started seeing UFOs in the sky above Gibson City. The excitement lasted for twenty hours, until more detailed reports were filed the next day.
Host: The remains are well documented now, and can be visited in the Pioneers’ Museum. But what were these ruins like when they were first discovered?
Dr Vasquez: They were badly damaged, flattened you could say, but a few walls still stood erect. Everything was a jumbled mess, and overgrown by dense foliage. The team cleared away the trees and brushes and identified six distinct buildings out of the total eleven that were eventually dug up. They realized what they had found was not alien when they uncovered Latin characters on one wall. Big letters that spelled “ORAG”.
Host: So that’s what ended the “aliens” hype?
Dr Vasquez: It certainly is, Linda. The public immediately lost interest. Most people just thought “oh, it’s an abandoned survey site” and concluded it held no significance. But that’s an incorrect assessment. The ruins predate the arrival of the Pioneers by about two hundred years.
Host: So humans visited Gibson two hundred years before it was colonized? But weren’t the Pioneers the first expedition to the Perseus Arm? How is that possible?
Dr Vasquez: There seems to be only one conclusion that fits: After the Pioneers left Earth, Stardrive technology was refined and faster ships were constructed. At least one of these ships traveled to the Perseus Arm, overtaking the Pioneers. Its crew landed on Gibson, either on a temporary mission, or as part of a colony that failed. Since they set up a camp with permanent structures, we call them “First Settlers”.
Host: Were any additional ruins discovered?
Dr Vasquez: That’s the holy grail of planetary survey teams, and there are rumors about new ruins every other year or so. But no, no additional ruins or artifacts have ever been found.
Host: Aren’t the odds of two missions landing on the same planet impossibly small? We live in a big galaxy.
Dr Vasquez: Not necessarily. Remember that Fleet Command searched for a suitable colony world for years before it discovered Gibson. And Gibson is very earth-like, anybody who finds it is likely to be interested.
Host: So what happened to them? Why didn’t they come back? Why didn’t anybody else come to settle Gibson? And what are the implications about the history of humankind, and the colonization of the Milky Way galaxy?
Dr Vasquez: Linda, these are the questions that keep me up at night.
I had originally included a bit about the First Settlers in my Prosperity Day write-up, but I felt that article was getting too long (the First Settlers are still mentioned in the Prosperity Day timetable). So I cut it and expanded it into an interview. This is a format that was used to great effect in Gateway, by Frederik Pohl. Gateway is one of those books I highly recommend for the worldbuilding alone, though it’s also a really interesting story.
The purpose of this article is to expose one of the more obvious mysteries of the conworld to the reader, and ideally get them wondering about the setting’s deeper background. I think every work of fiction, every conworld, needs secrets and mysteries, and plenty of them. To me, that is a big part of what makes a work of fiction engaging.
When I create a world, I usually know all its secrets. Sometimes I have several possible solutions or explanations and haven’t picked my favorite just yet, but I always know the answers. I never spell them out when I can avoid it.
Finally, I’ve always liked false documents like this. Back in my tabletop RPG days, I would always create newspaper clippings, fake maps and diary pages, and the like, to hand to the players.
- First Published on Reddit: Colony World Gibson: Who were the First Settlers?