Hitting the Books: Nero, fiddling from orbit as Earth burns

Six Ideas for the Finish of the World
by Steve Beard

f145f4d0-ea14-11e9-afff-c080fe3507bd Hitting the Books: Nero, fiddling from orbit as Earth burns

What occurs when the lights exit, not only for one particular person, however all of humanity? Ragnarok, Armageddon, the Hour — people have lengthy grappled with the concept that the world would possibly simply up and finish someday. Even within the 21st century, we’re no nearer to figuring out the answering to this elementary query.

After all that hasn’t stopped the world’s present crop of rich business magnates from taking steps to enhance their possibilities of survival. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have each expressed curiosity in leaving an more and more sizzling, crowded Earth behind and blasting off to reside among the many stars. However how would that work for the remainder of us? Not very nicely in any respect if writer Steve Beard’s imaginative and prescient of this future seems to be true. In Six Ideas for the Finish of the World, Beard mixes scientific analysis with experimental fiction to craft dystopian eventualities that make your Black Mirror nightmares appear like Depart It to Beaver reruns.


One 12 months after the ratification of the Paris Settlement on local weather change by United Nations members, the Eiffel Tower was bathed in inexperienced lights and the hashtag #SmileForThePlanet was flashed around the globe. It was November 2016.

The US was the primary nation to withdraw from the settlement. Different nations adopted go well with. China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria had been quickly constructing new coal-fired energy crops on the charge of 1 every week. Carbon dioxide emissions from smokestack industries climbed quickly through the 2020s, trapping a lot daylight within the Earth’s ambiance and retaining its warmth.


The planet baked. Because the oceans steadily evaporated, much more fogging vapour was trapped within the ambiance. Crops and bushes withered. ‘Runaway local weather change’ was a phrase on everybody’s lips.

There have been some visionaries. Baron Rothschild shipped a lot of his banking business into orbit. The Iranians launched manned satellites and prayer rooms into area from their Imam Khomeini Spaceport. The previous dotcom billionaire Jeff Bezos fired off 1000’s of rockets from the Florida House Coast as he constructed his ‘Las Vegas within the Sky’ within the 2030s. Payloads delivered, the rocket levels dropped into the Atlantic Ocean, to be salvaged and reused.

The Zurich-based insurance coverage large Swiss Re reported an enormous spike in storms, floods, droughts and wildfires around the world in 2039. Folks started to organize for the melting of the Earth’s ice caps. There have been end-of-the-world events. The 2040s was the period of the nice migrations from the South to the North, the wars between the East and the West, the pogroms, massacres and regime adjustments. It was additionally when the world’s elite made the ultimate transfer into Earth orbit.

There was a clamour among the many mass of the world’s left-behind inhabitants to be permitted entry to the relative security of what was referred to as ‘Skyland’. However the terrific expense of rocket journey meant that solely billionaires and authorities officers might afford it. Shanty cities sprang up across the Kennedy House Heart in Florida, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Jiuquan Satellite tv for pc Launch Heart in Mongolia. On occasion, a few of the shanty dwellers had been crushed by a falling rocket.

Cargo cults constructed reproduction spaceports from tin and cardboard on the Earth’s equator, the place it was agreed there was one of the best probability of utilizing the planet’s rotational pace to realize lift-off. Pirates scoured the shrinking seas hoping to seek out jettisoned rocket levels and promote them on the black market. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Nairobi put in zero gravity chambers of their public squares, boasting of their worth first as coaching centres, then as grief-counselling centres.

The rockets burned brightly within the night time sky for a few years. Oil and gasoline had been pumped out of the bottom at an astonishing charge to gas the rocket commerce. The Center East oil fields had way back burned themselves out within the serial Gulf Wars. Daqing, Texas and Siberia had been now the world’s oil states.

In 2051, the Skylanders positioned a complete ban on Earth emigration to its orbital palaces and lodges. However they nonetheless needed soybean, rice and wheat from the planet’s farms. They needed fish from its oceans, beef from its stockyards and alcohol from its breweries. They ordered up huge portions of supplies, greater than they might ever want. And, in return, they rained down on the planet the one issues they needed to give – their rubbish and their cash.

The warlords who protected the Earth’s oil fields and spaceports grew wealthy from the rocket commerce. They spent their wealth on circuses, hunts and video games. They did not reward their scientists and engineers, although. And so the technological base supporting the rocket financial system steadily dwindled. There was an
rising variety of rocket crashes, spaceport fires and bandit raids on the oil refineries.

The rocket commerce ended with the Nice House Hilton Hearth of 2052. A rocket launched from Florida with a payload of espresso beans exploded when it docked with the cargo port of the orbital lodge. 1000’s of Skylanders died. The fireplace lasted for months.

After this disaster, the Skylanders seceded utterly from Earth. They stopped all commerce, all communications, all journey. The lights went out of their area properties. Earth despatched imploring messages to Skyland. However the one response was radio silence. Hypothesis mounted that the Skylanders had stockpiled foods and drinks in orbital reservoirs. It was thought they had been planning to strike out for brand new worlds within the big starships they’d been secretly constructing for years. Or else it was assumed they’d retreated into cryo-sleep and had been ready out the tip of the world, aspiring to return solely after they thought the planet’s ice caps had replenished themselves.

Depending on the area markets of Skyland for thus a few years, the industries of Earth discovered it laborious to restructure themselves. There was a normal decline. The oil rigs of Russia and China rusted, the spaceports decayed. The data of learn how to construct the rockets was misplaced, buried deep inside damaged computer systems or scattered throughout forgotten deserts. The nice equatorial cities grew to become slums, dry with warmth and darkish with smog. Tens of millions died of starvation, malaria and diarrhoea.

Skyland had all the time wanted 1000’s of rocket boosters to remain afloat. Their entire habitat was constructed on resisting the great gravitational pull of the Earth. After the House Hilton Hearth, although, the Skylanders misplaced confidence in rocket expertise.

Maybe they misplaced confidence in all expertise. Who is aware of what crazed rites they performed as their casinos and temples slipped from orbit, broke aside and fell to Earth? The fragments from their area properties pelted the tin homes of shanty city dwellers in Paris and New York.

Even now, on a transparent night time, the burning stays of the Skylanders can typically be seen showering by the ambiance. It makes for a wondrous sight.

Excerpt from Six Ideas for the Finish of the World by Steve Beard, © 2019 Goldsmiths Press

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