And so comes the conclusion to this little experiment of mine. A free novella published over the course of eleven weeks. I’ll get more into this in a follow-up post, but suffice it to say I want to thank everyone who has stuck with me so far. The have surpassed a thousand hits on all the chapters combined last week and I couldn’t be happier. Please enjoy the final chapter of the book now and remember: a share and a like is all that I ask for (and a tv tropes page, but no pressure there…).
After our long, but hopefully not long-winded, look at the real, uncensored history of Prometheus, we have now reached the point of where we should ask ourselves for the final time this one important question which I asked at the beginning of this feed: Did Prometheus have a significant impact on history and why was its story quickly mythologized?
Before answering the first part of the question, based on the information presented in the previous chapters, I want to present a final piece of evidence in the form of the main news feeds of the most popular network uplink in the Solar system on the day of Prometheus’ launch and its retirement:
|Prometheus Launch||Prometheus Decommissioning|
|First Contact Centennial Celebrations||MoJo Vid Star Power Couple No More|
|Elections in Armstrong City: Mayoral Race Close||Second Spring Graffiti on Vaude Embassy|
|Ceres Strikes Continue||Recession on Io Hits Lockheed-Douglas Hard|
|Ripper 2.0 Killer Apprehended on Mars||Eridanus II Legalizes Indigenous Animal Hunt|
|Android Rights Marches Reach Jovian Moons||Ganymede Ban On Android Adoption Struck Down|
As we can see, while the ship and its mission made headlines on both occasions, Prometheus was not the only thing on people’s mind even back then. Both launch and decommissioning were big headlines in all major and minor feeds yet they were not the only news. Earther feeds also talked about the centennial celebrations of First Contact, Lunar feeds the mayoral elections in the capital, Ceres the union strikes after the terrible docking fire the previous week, Mars finally caught its serial killer after five terrifying years of slaughter, androids were fighting for their rights when the Jovian authorities didn’t want to recognize them as people. Prometheus was important, but not of a singular nature. So you might wonder if anything changed after the ship and crew returned from a 12-year-long mission of historical proportions as heroes of the Terran Alliance, having helped shaped a golden era in our history. Again, the ship made headlines, but now, with an ever expanding Terran Alliance, there were still other concerns. Celebrity breakups, racist attacks, economic news, civil rights unrests. And there is our pattern: society, entertainment, economics. Terran nature in a nutshell.
Prometheus and its crew helped shape history, yet history is mainly made up of people and people, on a day to day basis, don’t really think about big and important issues. At least not all the time. The same people who followed the Prometheus’ feeds turned off afterwards and looked for celebrity gossip or companionship, played some games together, looked for porn, built mythologies about great people. Or rather people as a whole decide on societal trends, be it consciously or not.
But how did it all happen? Based on the previous chapters, we can surmise the following: The McBright administration did a lot of propaganda work to further Terran expansion, the meaning of Terran itself, and for all of this they needed a figurehead and Prometheus was just that. Kate Connors was appointed captain of Prometheus for a mission that was supposed to be a glorified lap around the block. What happened later was mostly coincidence and in many ways the mission had so much support that it all started moving on its own. Terran society was in a rut and by the 2160s more fractured than it had ever been in the past 100 years. Not divided mind you, fractured. The Terran experience had become so different for so many different people. There were Earthers, Moonies, Martians, Ganymedians, Ioans, Hanse, station dwellers, humans, androids, all coming together under one big banner: the United Earth Government, commonly known as EarthGov. But Earth was increasingly not central to the Solar citizen experience. The Earth Alliance was neither central to Earth nor an Alliance, which, strictly speaking, is only a lose affiliation, while the state at the time was already a federated republic of almost 20 billion citizen. So then we became the Terran Alliance, and this helped for a while, and now, with our great republic stretching so deep into space and encompassing so many different species, both immigrants, annexed, or otherwise added to our nation, we are at the verge of becoming the Federal Systems Republic within the next two years. It will be interesting to see in what way we will change next.
Much of this book, or feed, or diatribe, as many will doubtlessly call it, was dedicated to the classified and non-classified interviews of Prometheus’ senior officers, first officer, and captain. It is the irony of the small scope of such a work as this that even a work whose focus it is to demystify popular notions about our national mythology would spend so much time on it, but I consider myself of the school of thought that it is better to give you the tools to work things out by yourself, especially for later works and events. From the previous chapters, one thing should have become clear: the crew of Prometheus, and Captain Connors herself, aside from rhetoric, propaganda, memetic status, and actual history are just people. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes oh so dumb, but always people, always flawed. No one, regardless of which political affiliation, actually wants to know the truth about Prometheus: they were people, born into their time, who did the best they could under difficult circumstances, and everyone else in Spacefleet active and senior enough at the time would have acted similarly, regardless of what they say today with the benefit of hindsight. I am often reminded of an analogy to the wars of the 20th century, like World War II. Backed by the industrial might of their nation, the will of their people, and the generation of strategists before them, men like General Eisenhower or Admiral Nimitz made their own special impact on history with their own personal twist to it, but there was a generation of brilliant military leaders who would have one a very similar job in the position if given the chance, because of the way any national effort works. Or, to put it in non-military terms: no matter how great the conductor, a terrible orchestra is still a terrible orchestra even with cheat music, and even a mediocre conductor cannot make the orchestra sound worse when working off of cheat music. And yet there is something interesting about Kate Connors, a certain charisma that inspired many people under her to follow not out of duty but of choice. You could observe it yourself throughout the interviews: almost all of her senior officers either defended her decisions regardless of consequences or had at least one moment of working as a mouth piece for the public defense of their captain. Not many people can command such a loyalty, and this is certainly one of the reasons why Spacefleet, despite all the controversy around it all, still holds her legacy high.
There is great misconception about history, and one that I have mentioned early in this feed, the notion of the Great Man Fallacy, the idea that a great man or woman appears out of nowhere and defines a history. The fallacy is that great men don’t appear just out of nowhere, they are the product of the society they are born into and that shapes them into “great men”. But there is also the misconception then, that because great men are products of society, that great men don’t exist. They do, they are just a product of society. So I will say this to answer part of my own overarching question: Prometheus was an important ship crewed by remarkable people and captained by one of the great women of history in the form of Kate Connors. And like any great person half of it was the work of a great narrative: the granddaughter of the inventor of faster-than-light travel boldly goes into space, defends Terran ideals, and shapes the world we live in, only to come home and retire to a life of tranquility and obscurity. This is great storytelling. And arguably the reason why the Prometheus myth still has so much sway today.
And yet some readers probably ask themselves: so why does this matter? Why did I read this more than two hundred page feed about naval history without even one decent space battle in it? Well, because it is important to our current situation. 80 years after Prometheus was decommissioned, the (still) Terran Alliance is the most powerful star nation in our sector block. After the third Sector Block War helped accelerate the collapse of both the Vaude and the Vanvaude nations, we are the most advanced nation left standing. With our exploration ships ready to go deeper and deeper in to the unknown regions, an industrial base unmatched, and a fleet unbeaten in twenty-nine years, we stand at a crossroads of our history: we are in a position to decide and choose what to do next. 80 years we spent mythologizing Prometheus and early space exploration to the point where galloping around the stars looking for adventures is what we have decided to do to this point. We might have had our phases of consolidation and peaceful building, but trough both our own expansionist policies, both territorially and through exploration, we have made enemies and friends alike, and helped shape galactic politics for decades and centuries to come. Prometheus might not be our founding mythos, but it is the story all the fractured people of our republic know, it is our shared heritage. Whether you live on Earth and Mars, Ariel or Verge, or any number of colonies. Whether you are Human, Android, Leonid, Vanvaude, Vaude, native to your world, a colonist, a refugee, a naturalized citizen, you are Terran or identify as such or at least have it stamped into your ID card. Being Terran means standing on the shoulders of the people who built our republic, the pioneers, the statesmen, the dreamers, the thinkers, who shaped our view of the world. This is powerful, empowering even. Yet it is also so incredibly dangerous.
Strictly on its own terms, mythology is not dangerous. What makes mythology dangerous is if you bring in nostalgia. I won’t give examples, but we all know people of any political persuasion who are co-opting our mythology for them, be it to justify their actions, rally supporters, or appear down to Earth. How often have you heard phrases like “Captain Connors would not have wanted it this way” or “back when I was just a child, my father used to tell me stories about Prometheus”? If you were born within any period over the last eighty years, you will have heard these stories. People constantly invoke the people they perceive to have founded maybe not this idea but embody everything that they think means being Terran. Now this would be no problem, but they are not even talking about the real deal, they are talking about idealizations, about what they think these people were like. And there you have my reason for why you needed to see so many direct quotes: you needed to get an understanding of the characters of these people. These good, flawed, funny, scary, pathetic, dangerously dumb, vindictive, idealistic, beautiful people. One thing all sides of the political spectrum have gotten right: they are the best of us. Because they are us. I think it says something that, modern science being what it is, most people involved are still alive, if trying to live new and different lives, none have tried to tell their story. I do not want to speculate, but I did get one statement from now retired Admiral Kate Connors after receiving a wall of silence from everyone when I approached them about this feed:
No. Now fuck off.
Prometheus had a significant impact on history because it is the history of us, it is the symbol of our unity, of now nearly two centuries of Terran ascendency. It is a narrative you can tie everything into, and it’s just a fascinating tale if you don’t believe in the idea of history being a long narrative. The story of Prometheus was mythologized and revered because we decided to idealize this period in history, instead of asking big questions about their ideals. Writing History is and remains an interpretation of events based on evidence or the lack thereof. When enough historians get together and come to similar conclusions we form a consensus and that gets taught in schools. But then someone turns up new evidence and we groan and we go back to work. I don’t think I have said anything new with this work, at least I sincerely hope I didn’t. I do hope, however, that it is time for the public to open its eyes and look at the world in a more complex manner. Do not be complacent, question everything, and you will be rewarded with the great gift of not just knowledge, but maybe wisdom at some day too. To understand history is to better understand the future.
Stay tuned for more information about the eventual release of the novella in its edited and updated form later this year.