The ‘colonization’ story is a staple of science fiction and is growing more popular by the day. As science fiction audiences mature, they weary of space battles and cheesy special effects. Modern audiences care much more about drama, character conflict and plot development. The threat of an alien armada is now less popular than the threat of slow starvation and the challenge of survival against the odds. Colonization stories offer the potential for all these things, and more.
Here are 10 ideas for a science fiction ‘colonization’ story…
1. Identity Crisis
A huge colony ship heads out to colonize a distant world. The crew and passengers are all in suspended animation. After 200 years in deep sleep, they awake with no memory of who they are or how anything works – an unforeseen side-effect of the long sleep. They must piece together their own identities and build a new colony at the same time.
2. The Man Trap
The world is overpopulated, and people are encouraged to colonize a new world. When they get there, they realize they have been lied to. The new world can not support human life. Perhaps it isn’t even on a new world at all, but on the dark side of the moon or the surface of Mars. It is an extermination camp, designed to eradicate the Earth’s surplus population.
The characters break free and take over the facility. But when another group of unwitting “colonists” arrive, they are faced with a tough decision. There is not enough food or air for them all. Their only hope of survival is to take on the role of executioners and exterminate the newcomers.
3. Same Space, Different Earth
Humanity discovers portals to another dimension scattered throughout the globe. The portals lead to another Earth, different to our own, which occupies the same space. Humanity is keen to exploit the resources of this new world, but there is a problem – it is already inhabited.
Evolution took a different path on this alternate Earth, and a different species rose to dominance. While their civilization is not as advanced as our own, they still pose a problem to the colonization effort. Should we trade with the aliens, or take their land by force? With multiple alien nations competing for the same resources, humanity makes both allies and enemies.
4. Free Mars!
The first fully self-sufficient colony on Mars declares independence, but the governments of Earth refuse to recognize it as an independent nation.
This is actually quite an old premise, and those of you who have seen Babylon 5 will be very familiar with the notion of ‘Martian independence’, but it seems like a very rational and inevitable consequence of our future colonization efforts. While the Mars of ‘Babylon 5’, ‘Total Recall‘ and some of Asimov’s work is fairly well populated, I think it would be interesting if a much smaller colony were to declare independence, making its claims to independence much more controversial.
5. The Hermit
A man becomes stranded on an alien world and lives there alone for many years. When a large group of colonists arrive, he becomes a celebrity and receives more attention than he can handle.
The colonists soon fracture into disparate groups, each with their own ideas on how the colony should be run. As each group fights for his approval and backing, our man is caught in the middle.
6. “Botany Bay? Botany Bay! Ve’ve got to get outuv here!”
A group of convicts are sent to a distant world. Their task is to build a new colony and prepare it for the next wave of settlers, but work begins to slow when several members of the expedition are found dead. While at first they suspect one of their own, a convicted murderer, it eventually becomes clear that one of the guards is responsible. His orders come from the colonization authority back on Earth. The convicts are being disposed of in order to ‘purge’ the colony ahead of the main colonization effort.
In case any of you are wondering, the title is a Chekov quote.
A small group of humans pioneers the colonization of the planet Aegir. They discover a primitive alien civilization along the sea shores – the Eldir. At first, the Eldir are little more than a curiosity to the colony’s scientists. But when the first harvest fails and the colonists run out of supplies, their survival depends on their fragile relationship with the aliens.
Ok, so this is a very basic American colonization reboot reminiscent of the Thanksgiving story and the Jamestown colony, but there’s plenty to work with here. I’ve provided details about the Eldir and the planet, so click the links! Check out our planet profiles and alien profiles categories for more planets and aliens.
8. Conspiracy of Change
Humans discover an alien civilization with inferior technology to our own. They have just undergone an industrial revolution and are slowly beginning to understand the universe around them through science and technological invention, but they know nothing of humanity or the worlds beyond their star system.
Humanity begins observing the aliens in secret, using cloaking technology. At first, this is purely for the purpose of scientific study, but our plans quickly change. With a growing population and few habitable planets, humanity begins to colonize small corners of the alien world. They keep their outposts and research centers hidden behind holographic blinds.
Scientists begin working in secret to advance the alien civilization to a point where we can make first contact. They feed information to the alien scientists, increasing their technological progress. But before we can make official contact with the aliens, they must first develop nuclear technology. Feeding the aliens this kind of information is a line some scientists won’t cross… but some will.
9. Past Participants
With the destruction of Earth imminent, humanity begins colonizing the distant past. The colonization effort slowly begins to interfere with the timeline. Each group of colonists that arrive from the future has experienced a different version of history, with increasingly interesting results.
One group is from a fascist timeline, and they try to take over the colony. Another group reports having found the remains of the colony during a future archaeological dig, indicating that the colonization effort will eventually fail.
10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Aliens
Humanity has already begun terraforming a distant planet when a group of scientists (or tourists, or kids) discover an underground cave system teaming with strange alien lifeforms. The company building the colony attempts a cover-up, while the scientists (or kids) attempt to save the underground alien eco-system – the only one yet discovered.
I’ve added the possibility of the protagonists being kids because I think this would make quite a nice, simple children’s science fiction story. It has a strong moral message about protecting life and preserving ecosystems, and it’s always fun to see kids triumph over adults. Set in an underground cave-system with who knows what wonders lurking around the corner, it would make quite a nice kid’s adventure story, like ‘The Goonies‘ or a kind of SciFi ‘Famous Five’. The ‘Sloth‘ character could be a semi-intelligent alien that lives in the caves.