Century of Progress

Author’s Note: This story is set in the Goddess of Anarchy universe. Reading its main narrative beforehand is not necessary, but recommended nonetheless.
Content warning for: forced labor, charismatic religion, genocidal colonialism.

To my new colleague, as well as his comrades,

Attached you will find a short introduction to this world, its history, and its ruler. May you find it helpful in understanding me and my people, and what we have endured at the hands of His rule. In reading the following, remember that He is not to blame so much as the ideology He embodies. These ideas can live in anyone, and they will despoil your world if you let them. It only took him a century. So read this with care, and remember the signs.

Yours truly, 

An Enemy of Progress

A Short Introduction to this World, its History, and its Ruler

I am a historian, a term I have only learned recently thanks to my correspondence with your wider network. I am probably the first of my kind on this world; this society is preoccupied with the future, and does not like to consider its origins. But I have learned of times before the current regime, when there were those who remembered our people’s oral traditions and transmitted it across a great number of generations. Unfortunately, these storytellers were all hunted down in the early years of our century, put against a wall and shot for remembering anything more than His leadership. And so I am alone in remembering, and doubly so in my writing.

Where to begin the story of my world? Of its prehistory, it should be clear, I cannot say much. Only in the lurid recounting of His coming do I see some trace of what came before it. As He has described it in the numerous volumes afforded to His words, the original state of this world was one of ignorant stagnation, of savages who did not even know the art of fire. I have seen anatomical studies which might dispute that claim, but that is a conclusion I have obviously had to draw myself. Whenever the sciences might disagree with Him, the relevant facts are either silenced or censored. This we all know.

In any case, I have no problem with the suggestion that at the time of His coming, my people were not as ‘technologically advanced’ as they are now. This is pretty much a given when a dominant society prescribes its own standards of advancement. What I suspect is that they knew more and different things than He would have liked, but that they still proved susceptible to the magical allure which He presented. From our present perspective, it is quite obvious that there was nothing supernatural about His original miracles. He merely used His knowledge of local biology to perform effective medical treatments and dose His audience with potent hallucinogens. Combined with a bit of charismatic stagecraft, these were the right ingredients for founding a miracle cult, the same one He has maintained for over 100 years. I suppose this illusion of miracle is another reason we are not allowed to look back; hindsight reveals His trickery. Thus we keep our eyes to the present, continuously amazed at the magic of His methods. And He, by always staying two steps ahead of the sociotechnical baseline, has managed to sustain our faithful ignorance.

His pattern of subjugation now established, I can speak of the historic particulars. After He had arrived and planted the seedling of His rulership, the first few years were spent in a storm of exploration, conquest, and enclosure. Clearly His aim was to chart and subjugate as much of the world as possible, so that no unexpected or uncontrolled challengers could contest His rule. As His cult of modernity spread across the continent He arrived on, it would build the infrastructure that enabled His empire along the way. The advance paused only at the oceans, mountains, and deserts that proved too dangerous to cross immediately. Here, it would gather its strength and, with the help of some new technology in seafaring or personal insulation, strike out across the relevant barrier to conquer anew on the other side. While is whispered that at least a few of these expeditions were wiped out by wily natives and unknown diseases, His armies would always prove successful after a few tries, with His now iron-clad fist coming down even harder than usual. Before too long-the informal estimation ranges from ten to thirty years-our entire globe was under His singular and absolute authority. Here is where His reign would truly begin.

The period of conquests was followed by a final and complete census, where particular attention was paid to the full scale of ‘resources’-living and lifeless alike-which occupied His new domain. It is this survey which allowed for exploration to turn to exploitation, with almost all former soldiers turned to the industries of mining, forging, farming, and dressing-in just about that order. Without the proper material basis, so would He preach, no part of our glorious future could be completed in time. So arose a generation of uniformed workers, made to fit His model of effective production or else perish on its fringes. Though there was no escaping His jurisdiction, I have seen evidence of scattered vagrant communities, frequently hunted and imprisoned by the large police force He prioritized. As with His initial acts of leadership, there was a utilitarian brutality about His managerial edicts; as long as the plan was being followed, nothing else much seemed to matter to Him. Yet based on the public correspondence I have been able to acquire from this period, it also seems like He wasn’t enjoying Himself at this time, a marked contrast with those periods which preceded or followed it. From what I can tell, the personal joy of His rulership revolves around power and innovation, not just the raw accumulation of riches. As such, we might regard this time of exploitation as an awkward interlude, which maybe explains its relative shortness. Within less than a decade, He declared that the sufficient amount of ‘seed’ resources had been gathered, and a significant part of the population would now be able to apply to what He called Liberty Status. A new stage of His game had begun.

With the gradual coming of Liberty, His ultimate intent became increasingly clearer. Those of the correct abilities and aptitudes were transferred into new educational institutions; here they would learn the social and technical skills required for rapid innovation, their plans and ideas applied to the massive manufacturing capacity which had already been built up. Technological inventions abounded, the productive gains of which allowed a growing fraction of the population to be Liberalized. Soon the cities which had once only housed workers became adapted to their needs and wants, and their intermingling would produce a new, carefully managed culture. Liberty lead to a newfound appreciation of speech, speed, and show, concepts that had never before been celebrated publicly.

But with the rise of press and entertainment came the potential for satire and criticism, elements which had been severely repressed in earlier times. To the surprise of many, His regime came to encourage such expressions among the Liberalized, even spreading the knowledge of earlier abuses and oppressions themselves. These latter disclosures were of course made into propaganda: look how many we have lifted out of poverty! However, there was also something genuine about His overall honesty and encouragement: from this point onwards, He would encourage the greatest minds of any generation to challenge Him, to prove that they could join His game as a fellow participant. The only rule was that they would have to do so on an individual basis, by proving their personal expertise in one discipline or another. Indeed, to discourage any collective uprisings, His regime also spread stories of the Red Rebellion, a worker’s insurrection which was supposedly struck down harshly in the time before Liberty. Whether this event ever actually took place, I have not been able to verify myself. What matters is that the Red Rebellion Myth made for a demoralizing story, thus helping to channel any objections to His rule into an individualized and officially sanctioned form. From cultural critiques to civilian complaint channels, much was being said while little was being done. He could not have wished for a more loyal opposition. This was probably exactly as He had planned it.

At this point, I am but a few steps away from reaching my own times, since no fundamental social changes have come to my world since the introduction of Liberty status. To be sure, the membership of this class was expanded more and more over time, but the working class has not been eliminated altogether. Indeed, much of our labor may have been outsourced rather than properly automated, now that we have the opportunity to import it from elsewhere. The latter capacity is a result of the Doors, a more permanent version of the interdimensional travel system that must have brought Him here to begin with. Ever since this system was first installed two decades ago, it has allowed for a constant stream of information and production to flow between the realms of His fellowship, leading to new forms of entertainment and consumption. However, what is remarkable about this transport network is what it is mostly lacking: passengers. Almost no people have flowed between these interconnected worlds; this suggests that migration is not beneficial to the larger project of His organization, or at least not in an uncontrolled form. So far, the main exception to this travel restriction has been the group of individual He deems His equal. These are generally inventors, warriors, and charismatic personalities among the Liberty class, those who impress Him to the extent that He affords them their own playing field on a random and yet unconquered world. I suspect that He acquired His present fief in much the same manner, which implies that our present subjugation is the result of sheer misfortune. What a dour conclusion that is to draw.

I have now offered you a rough overview of the history of my world, one which now brings me to the calamities of the present. As you know, His latest area of interest has been space travel, and He is increasingly adamant about bringing the other planets in this solar system under His rule. As various proves made their way across these planets we inhabit, His sight of course fell upon your world, which turned out to be much less quiescent than He had expected. Perhaps it is our nature as counter-planets which caused your proper estimation to elude Him so far, but it has brought us to a dangerous decision point either way. He is not yet aware of your world’s capabilities, or of this secret communications network which has allowed me to contact you in the first place. Before either of these advantages are jeopardized, I would encourage you to reciprocate this message with a history of your own world and society, so that we may combine our strength against any who would seek to oppress us. I believe that great good could come of our cooperation!

Despite the optimism I hold about our endeavor, I must end this missive with a word of warning. For the sake of comprehensiveness, I have sought numerous times to extrapolate realities from the logistics network upon which my world now depends. Based on the variety of goods or data we receive, I can confidently claim that at least a hundred worlds must be part of His collective. While this may seem like a small assembly compared to the infinite expanse which lies beyond it, I would remind you that new tyrant-athletes are recruited every day, and so we should expect their numbers to grow exponentially. I expect that He will want to turn the conquest of your world into one of His many challenged, sending a cadre of candidates to subjugate you for the sake of His technocracy.

Fortunately, there is one surefire way of identifying these infiltrators, beyond their tendency to be loud and obvious about the virtues of their ideology. What you need to know is that He and His fellows share a single name, a common identity which suggests that they all serve some greater authority. It is strange to think that He would care for anything beyond His ego, but perhaps He is one with the principle His name implies; I believe they call this a gestalt divinity. Whatever the case, it is imperative that you remember this shared title, for it denotes the concept His agents will appeal to. Here, then, is my final warning: Beware those who speak in the name of Progress.

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