The original working title was, "One thousand years after we lost." The core concept was the same. A young guy grows up on earth under the shadow of alien occupation. Except this would have been more of a time travel story. In the future, the young man in his early 20's attends University, which is only for the top 1% of humans, and becomes part of the ruling class. After university, he becomes a history teacher, focusing mostly on the occupation war and the resistance that followed. At his fancy future university, they have simulation machines that allow a player to see if they could get the humans to win, given the facts on the ground. This came from a long stretch in my youth of playing games like Civilization. Once he cracked the code and figured out how to beat the alien invaders with the humans of the early 21st century, he is contacted by the leader of the human resistance, who also happens to be his obnoxious boss at the college. The resistance has its hands on a time machine, and then sends our intrepid hero back into the past to change the world.
This initial set up evolved quite a bit over the next eight or nine years. The time travel aspect was taken out entirely, and the main story was set to one hundred years after the aliens took the planet around 1912. Although the Teddy Roosevelt inspired, "Rough Riders," didn't come into play till late in the revision process. Around this time, I started a data entry job with the government, and had a few weeks of silly pointless training at a computer. So, I took out my phone and started reading about Theodore Roosevelt, and my inspiration to include him began there, although I always did enjoy his, " Man in the arena," speech that is often feature on the Art of Manliness. Much of the conflict between the Rebels and the Empire started in my utter lack of respect for the rebel alliance in the Star Wars movies. Because without the Jedi, the Rebels lose the fight every time. So, I wanted to go deeper into that idea.
Around the time I was making substantial rewrites of what had become The Liberation of Earth in 2016, there were Marxist anarchist groups like Antifa causing riots here in the United States. I try not to get too deep into politics with this platform, but I feel pretty safe saying that violence committed in the name of your political beliefs is wrong. If you feel the need to add the phrase, "except when...," you're probably part of the problem. This was coming after nearly fifteen years of the United States fighting counter insurgency campaigns against Radical Islamic Terrorists' groups like ISIS and Al-Qaida.
So, I was fascinated at the time with the idea of what made people turn into radical terrorist capable of blowing up grocery markets. This doesn't excuse bad behavior, of course. But if you can understand what turns good men into suicide bombers, then maybe you can stop the next one. There's this idea of continuity of command and control in the United States military. So, the leader of the rebel Rough Riders is the successor of Theodore Roosevelt and the President of the United States, although technically its a government in exile.
Something that interested me was taking a story with Rebels and an Evil Empire, make the successor of the President of the United States the leader of the Rough Riders, and have them be the sort of movement that blows up innocent women and children at a grocery market to kill one Imperial Soldier. Not all of them do that sort of thing, but enough are capable of it to cause public relations issues. Putting the people I would normally identify with, the United States, and put them on the same level as ISIS, allowed me the sort of perspective to think on why they act the way they do.
In the Liberation of Earth, the Rough Riders have been just successful enough to cause problems and barely survive as a movement for nearly a century. They're typically a place for violent angry unsuccessful men to go to vent their rage on an unforgiving world. At first glance, the Empire seems like the better alternative. They have a vested interest in maintaining some level of order throughout the Empire. The Empire is stronger if the trains run on time. But they have a larger objective, and it often doesn't include the needs of the few or the one, especially if they're a member of the lower caste. They don't tend to address Lower Caste problems unless they grow to a macro level, like upgrading the water systems of crumbling cities to stop cholera outbreaks. This isn't out of the kindness of their hearts, so much as the cholera was affecting production levels and they would have to explain to their bosses why the lower caste wasn't working. And sure, if they could save lives, that's great too.
These two perspectives run counterbalance in American society. The managing of our global Empire, where Congress looks at the world from 30,000 feet, and angry people joining radical political movements. These two ends form the magnetic poles of American society, with most people living in the middle somewhere. To find success in any society is to conform to a certain degree, and there are always those that fail to conform at all. I saw this when I moved up from working class society to the middle class.
Walking around my office, I studied what successful people wore, the way they spoke, and how they handled situations. It was when I started copying them, and learning to act like them, did I fit in and find my own success. Because in the middle class, a lot of little behaviors act as signals, like dressing the part or keeping a good haircut, for success that the working class simply don't know. I didn't know them myself, and I imagine many of the people that desire to succeed, but have a hard time succeeding, struggle because they don't know the signals. Sometimes, the ones who never figure them out take up causes and find religion in them, which becomes the Radical Marxists committing violence in Portland, angry far right people storming the capital in Washington D.C., or ISIS suicide bombers in the middle east.
The extreme fringes of movements are typically not stable people. And they distort and destroy any valid positions that their movement might have. Same goes for all powerful governments they shape societies from 30 thousand feet. They're good at fixing things on the macro scale with large scale responses to catastrophes. The vaccine rollout in the United States has been one of the most successful in history. But we saw during the pandemic when the American people got $1200 and powerful corporations got millions of dollars. There are times when the all-powerful response becomes corrupted.
In the Liberation of Earth, the Empire doesn't suffer resistance lightly. When the Rough Riders start to feel good about themselves, they will destroy whole cities from the air in retribution. And if they want to prove a point, they'll go into the city, kill the rebel leaders, then put their heads on pikes to rot so the locals remember who is in charge.
But they keep the trains running on time. There's a fair amount of order and consistency there. And yes, a free and open democratic society is the ideal. But, in this world the choices are,
1) violent political terrorists.
2) violent dictatorship.
The violent dictatorship is probably going to have more food. This is the problem the main characters of the piece find themselves in, one of two terrible choices. Or, is there a third choice? Could we change the world a piece at a time? Is there a way to soften the edges of the dictatorship? To look for problems that can be solved within your domain of competence. Because that's where true change comes in. The angry violent revolution sought by fringe groups seems to be more of a means of revenge against a society that they couldn't succeed in. Movements that express political action through violence are inherently selfish because they are a vehicle for men to destroy. So, find a place in society and change what you can. Even if it's just picking up trash when you walk along the street. Or teaching people to be better than where they came from. Because if enough of us pick up a piece of trash, we'll have a pretty clean road to walk down.