Forgotten things in space

Earth was finished. Everybody knew it.

We scanned the heavens. We found another habitable planet. We called it Eden. We built an arkship. A city's worth of people, plus enough equipment to start a civilisation. Pointed it at Eden. Set it going.

Some thought it was humanity's only hope. Some thought it was an exercise in futility. Some offered millions or billions of dollars to be one of those on board. Anything to avoid being left behind.

The situation deteriorated. The arkship receded into the distance. Four decades into its journey, we lost track of it.

The situation deteriorated. Millions died. Tens of millions. Hundreds.

Then a man named Calrus discovered how to travel faster than light.


Eden was finished. Everybody knew it.

We scanned the heavens. We found another habitable planet. We called it Earth. We built an arkship. A city's worth of people, plus enough equipment to start a civilisation. Pointed it at Earth. Set it going.

Some thought it was humanity's only hope. But then, four decades into its journey, it passed something in space...

Discussion (41)

2008-05-05 18:17:23 by Knut:

Ok, what is going on here? Earth sends an arkship to Eden, then discovers FTL, goes to Eden and simultaniously back in time. The settlers on Eden somhow forgets they are from Earth, and goes on to destroy Eden about the same time as Earth does. They launch an arkship at Earth and it crashes with the Earth arkship bound for Eden. Or am i geting it all wrong? Why do the settlers traveling faster than light forget they are from Earth? Do the arkships collide in a really really freak accident or is it some unknown thing that happens to them since it says for the Eden ship? What's up with Mitchel Calrus the schoolteatcher discovering FTL? How far in the future is this set? Before or after the first Crash? Why doesn't Earth communicate with Eden in FTL? Is it removed like teleportation? And by the way, since FTL acctualy was removed in Failure Mode it would have to have been reactivated and then removed a secound time for this to be logical. The stories in Fine structure are complicated to connect. But this one is really just one big questionmark for me.

2008-05-07 21:21:58 by Dannyboy:

A few possibilities occur. First: Earth and Eden are both occupied and dying. Both send out arkships that somehow meet 40 years out. Unlikely as heck for NFTL travel (Not-FTL) given the distances between stars. Second: It takes a very long time to travel between stars and it takes a very long time to build a civilization to the crumbling point. One or two dark ages wouldn't be terribly unlikely given enough time. Any and all information is potentially possible to lose. The logical deduction is that both slow arkships are going to arrive at doomed planets.

2008-05-08 06:45:41 by Mike:

Possibility: In the not-to-distant future (say, 100 years), there is a massive nuclear war, and Earth is finished. Enough technology is scraped together to send a rag-tag ship to Eden. The disaster gets worse, millions die, and those left retreat underground, beginning the events of Crushed Underground. Some two thousand years pass and Earth's atmosphere is rebuilt through the efforts of Mitch Calrus. Humanity begins to rebuild their society and approach nuclear technology again. Mitch and Anne begin causing the Crashes. Perhaps the range of a Crash is enough to extend to Eden, wiping their society back to square one as well. Sometime over the next 10,000 years, the events of the "1970-" chain take place. Mitch and Anne complete their 16 Crash long calculation. I don't really think this is the secret to FTL travel, but we'll go with that for now. Eden civilization, not having Anne there to restrict scientific development, has reached nuclear technology several times and devastated much of their planet. Eden is finished, and an arkship is dispatched for Earth. Naturally, they will have no idea that they are heading for the planet they originally came from. And, coincidentally, they pass an FTL ship from Earth on the way. Just one theory.

2008-06-05 14:01:58 by sikanrong:

is this from a book or something?? am i missing the point? Either way, it was neat to read..

2008-06-05 14:02:44 by sikanrong:

HOLY CRAP - you have the best spam detector ever!!! The square root of minus one!!

2008-06-22 19:20:31 by LeahnNovash:

Which order am I suposed to read this stories on?

2008-07-30 02:36:26 by TheFox:

I suggest you start at the beginning, but it's not like anything makes sense yet anyway.

2008-07-31 07:45:09 by YarKramer:

Hmm ... has anyone else noticed that the row of asterisks consists of an HTML tag with the title "twenty thousand years later"? This could theoretically provide some explanation ...

2008-08-04 14:36:12 by Knut:

No i hadn't noticed that, it must be what he edited a few weeks ago. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what he had changed, and now it seems so obivous. But I still don't get the story or how it fits into the rest of fine structure, in fact it is more incomprehensible now, if there isn't some obscure relativistic FTL shit i am missing here.

2008-08-04 15:32:51 by qntm:

I haven't edited anything, it always said that. However, I am probably going to de-canonised this story and remove it from Fine Structure because, as many of you suspect, it totally doesn't fit anywhere.

2008-08-04 17:36:02 by Boter:

Yeah, I always wonder what the updates are when something like this shows up in "Recently Updated". I hadn't noticed the tag on the asterisks, but I do believe that it's something that would have been there a while. This story works a lot better on its own; even the name "Calrus", when it's not in the Fine Structure subcategory, could get confusing to those with sharp eyes (which many of your readers do).

2008-08-09 17:38:58 by qntm:

Alright, it's done. Forgotten Things In Space is no longer part of Fine Structure. Hope this helps, have a nice day.

2008-08-10 08:23:39 by philipmiller:

yeah... I was really wondering how this could possibly fit in. now I don't have to! Keep writing!

2008-11-05 00:26:19 by tatsumaki:

I think what happened was... Earth civilization kaput Earth dispatches non-FTL arkship to Eden, which will take ungodly amounts of time to arrive Earth discovers FTL technology Sends FTL ship to Eden The FTL ship passes by the slower original ship, arrives on Eden, establishes a colony Twenty-thousand years later, Eden is ruined, Earth has been forgotten Eden re-discovers Earth, sends arkship (FTL technology forgotten?) Eden->Earth ship passes Earth->Eden ship, which has STILL not arrived on Eden So, the original ship will arrive on Eden to find it ruined just like Earth, and the Eden ship will find ?

2008-11-05 01:37:12 by qntm:

Precisely. Both Eden and Earth are completely ruined and now there are two ark ships which will never find somewhere to land. It's not my greatest work, I guess.

2008-11-07 09:12:27 by Erin:

I thought it was brilliant. I've gone through a ridiculous amount of your stories today (as opposed to homework) and this was one of my favorites. Personally, I didn't dwell on the logistics of the two ships, and instead focused on the plight of the two planets, which I was felt was the more thought-inducing of the two concepts.

2008-11-17 23:43:28 by Miranda:

I love this story - it's clear enough to be satisfying and vague enough to be creepy. My take on it is that Earth and Eden are occupied by two different races and are both dying. Coincidentally, their ships pass each other "in the night".

2008-12-27 21:22:57 by Aegeus:

Wasn't this in Fine Structure originally? I though I saw it there a while ago. It's got a man named Calrus, who might be Mitch Calrus again. He seems to show up everywhere in FS.

2008-12-27 23:31:24 by qntm:

You should read the earlier comments. This has been de-canonised as part of Fine Structure because it was causing timeline problems for me.

2009-05-04 03:59:07 by Chris:

This is an ollld one. Basically what happens is this. Earth sends out a STL (slower than light) ship. After it leaves...they then discover FTL drive, and send FTL ships to colonize the same place the STL ship is going (and for whatever reason don't bother to try tracking down and picking up the STL ship). In the classic use of it, the STL crew gets to their destination--and finds it already colonized, etc, etc, short stint as ancient heroes, and have *major* cultural disjunction. I this case, though, apparently the other plant is pretty distant..and has time to use up *its* resources, somehow losing both knowledge of FTL drives *and* their origin world. So we have the classic Repeating History moment of *them* sending out a STL ship...only to meet up with the *original* STL ship still in transit...

2009-06-11 20:56:00 by Jeb:

I really like this story because of the irony of it. Both planets have a fantasy about what they will achieve from this mission and both are soon to be disappointed. The passing in space just increases the irony.

2009-09-01 05:23:19 by Sydney:

Awesome story, dude. Short, elegant, thought-provoking.

2009-10-25 09:53:54 by ben:

Wow, great story, loved it!.

2009-11-23 21:20:09 by Anonmalous:

Here's how I think it happened: Earth starts dying. Sends slow ship. Crashes with Eden->Earth ship. FTL tech developed. Time warped back as passengers go to Eden. Meanwhile, Eden's inhabitants (from Earth-Eden time-warp FTL) wreck planet, send slow ship. Crashes with Earth->Eden ship. Out of the story, Eden invents FTL. Time warped back as passengers go to Earth. Repeat. Where did humans come from?

2009-12-16 21:51:48 by Xartavion:

This story was crystal clear and very succinct (even in comparison to your 300-word feats), considering how much you like to twist us around words in your stories normally (note: it's a good thing, look at all the anguished commentaries you illicit with each proverbial twist of the metaphysical blade!) I'm not sure how it confused people so badly, but having never read it while it was in situ with Fine Structure, I can imagine jumping TO this from some other place would be a bit disorienting. I think it's far stronger as a stand-alone, but still very nicely ties into the Fine Continuum, involving vague events and character references for those familiar with the Structure. My first read through, I was not, so I neglected to comment. After reading Crisis, I came back here and found the confusion of others MUCH easier to understand happening.

2009-12-16 23:29:30 by Xartavion:

CRAP! Have I reached the end of "that which was written" so quickly? Like Icarus straining for the sun, it appears I have burnt myself with mine own exertions! Awesome writing, Sam. You simultaneously drive me to improve my own writing and depress the hell out of me as I don't think I could ever contain such complicated, convoluted and utterly fascinating twists and story lines in my head without hopelessly screwing them all up. I hope you realize just what a ridiculously cult following your digital crack has ensnared.

2009-12-16 23:32:32 by Xartavion:

Alright, I've no idea how I ended up commenting HERE from "We had to destroy..." but when I tried commenting HERE the first time, it ended up over THERE. You can trash the above-comment that is now where it should be, and maybe need to investigate the strange singularity that's throwing comments from Forgotten at We Had To, and vice versa.

2010-02-04 05:50:17 by Anonymous:

I think that Humans went to Earth from Eden, Eden dissolved and became merely a myth. Then Humans go from Earth to Eden, and then Earth becomes a myth. This pattern could go on forever, so it is impossible to tell whether Humans came from Earth or Eden.

2010-02-17 14:34:51 by Anonymous:

Aargh, timeline-figure eights...

2010-07-14 06:25:20 by RevanThreeFortyThree:

Okay, here's what I think happens. We send the first Ark towards Eden, filled with people in suspended animation. We then discover FTL, and send a second Ark towards Eden, which arrives long before the first one. Twenty thousand years later, the people of Eden have forgotten about Earth, lost their FTL technology, and Eden is dying. With no other option, they decide to send an Ark filled with people in suspended animation towards another planet. The planet they choose is Earth; perhaps some references to it remain, or their is a genetic memory within the people. The sublight Ark from Earth and the sublight Ark from Eden pass each other along the way. Also, love your stories and the spamfilter, hate the "names can only contain letters". -Reven343

2010-07-14 06:37:58 by Revan:

XD I can't believe I did that. s/Reven343/Revan343/ -Revan343

2010-07-24 00:52:19 by Sean:

I think I know what happened. So Earth is just about to get destroyed by something. They see Eden, Light-Years away. So then they're seeing Eden just as it were 20-Thousand Years Ago, because that's how long the light from Eden took to get to Earth. So they embark on a journey to Eden, thinking that they could live there. Eden is also about to get destroyed, but they see Earth, just as it were 20-Thousand Years Ago. So you know where I'm going with this, right? Its unknown if they developed FTL tech too, but either way, the 2 Ships WILL pass by each other, so then its unknown what will happen if they make contact (as in, talk to each other) but it is assumed that both of them realize that there is no more place to go, just 2 Ships in the middle of Space, unless they both find another planet.

2010-07-28 16:52:35 by Phayd:

Hover over the astrices. It says "twenty-thousand years later". So, as I interpret the story: It took the original arkship 20,040 years to reach Eden. Since FTL travel was discovered 40 years after its' departure, humans had already colonized Eden and destroyed it in the same manner they had destroyed Earth. They opt to try and repopulate Earth. They pass the original arkship on their way back to Earth. It is the "forgotten thing in space".

2010-09-28 23:39:12 by Publius:

Was the point of writing this to leave the plot ambiguous? It reminds me a lot of The Martian Chronicles. One of the most profound pieces I've read, despite the short length.

2010-10-06 02:36:49 by Himanyo:


2011-09-25 19:26:14 by Mimzy:

20000 years (or so) later comes Elenin?

2012-05-31 03:14:15 by Max:

When they pass, the wording suggests when the ships encounter each other, they both realize they weren't the last of humanity.

2012-07-05 01:46:56 by DanKnight:

All the comments were tl;dr. So this might have been said already. My theory: Earth gets used up. They make an ark, point it at Eden, and away they go. A few years later, FTL is invented. Earth builds a new ark with an FTL drive, and away it goes. The FTL ship reaches Eden, and the colonists start settling this world. Thousands of years later, the great exodus is all but forgotten. Eden is used up, dying and they look for a new planet. A few thousand years without humanity has allowed Earth to reclaim itself. Mother nature has taken hold again. Eden sees this seemingly virgin class M planet, builds an ark, and away they go. Somehow they've lost FTL. Or FTL still takes decades. One or the other. Four decades into the voyage, they pass another ship, heading to Eden. It's the first ark. The one without FTL. Heading from a dead world to a dead world.

2012-11-18 15:44:08 by Erik:

For those commenting on the coincidence of those from Earth choosing Eden as their haven and those from Eden choosing Earth as their haven, consider this: Eden is the closest habitable planet to earth, the only one discovered at the time they sent the ark ship. Earth is the closest habitable planet* to Eden, the first they would discover. It's not a coincidence, it's logistics. *Habitable as far as the people on Eden can determine, given the distance. I think it'd take more time for Earth to become habitable again than to reach Eden, otherwise they'd be better off putting an ark in orbit around a body in the solar system, where it's unlikely to encounter something pulling it off course.

2013-02-03 01:06:07 by diodex:

Stop reading if you want to figure it out yourself. To those who don't get it, I'm 99% sure this is what happened: Earth was deteriorating, and an Ark Ship was sent out to Eden. The Ark Ship was probably moving slower than light, so the journey would take a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG time. Everyone probably died long before the journey finished. Now, back on Earth, a man discovered how to travel faster than light. People went to Eden using this. Now, a LOONG LOOOOONG time later, Eden was deteriorating. The humans had long forgotten about Earth, and they were looking for good planets. They found Earth and journeyed back. They then encountered the original Ark Ship on the way back. 0_0

2013-02-03 01:28:00 by qntm:

What on Earth is going on in this thread? "Here's what I think is happening: <recites the entire story verbatim>"

This discussion is closed.