Science Fiction, moral ambiguity is a common theme, and the question is often brought up as to whether Humanity, as a whole, is as heroic as we tend to think of ourselves. Humanity can land anywhere on the line of Good and Evil. However, it seems that there's an easy shorthand for guessing where humans fall on the morality scale, just by seeing what they call themselves! If Humanity calls themselves "humans" or "earthlings," then they're probably neutral, likely weighted a bit towards the good end. However, if they call themselves "Terrans," they're probably a lot closer to the nastier end of the spectrum. There are probably a few reasons for this:
- People aren't used to the phrase "Terran" or "Terra;" it seems alien and unusual, and divides the audience from the Terran characters.
- Its a generally harsh-sounding word; go ahead, say it in a nasty, authoritative voice a few times, it sounds a whole lot more right when you say "Terran!" like some sort of space fascist barking orders at subordinates, rather than saying it softly and gently.
- its Latin (a language well known for its ability to make anything sound foreboding), and sounds similar to "Terror."
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- Starship Troopers has the aggressively expansionist Terran Federation. Granted, if they didn't conquer the galaxy the Bugs or some other species would.
- In the Honor Harrington series, Earth is renamed "Old Terra", and is the homeworld of the arrogant (and completely incompetent) Solarian League.
- In the Terran Trade Authority book series, the title organization mostly averts this. However, that doesn't stop them from being Obliviously Evil. In one case, the TDA (the TTA's military arm) accidently wiped out an entire planetary population by unknowingly blocking a vital shipment of medicine.
- Terrans in the Stardoc series are characterized primarily by rampant xenophobia against alien species, and by having had the heroine Cherijo Grey Veil declared nonsentient and therefore property because she's genetically engineered.
- Star Trek is a possible Trope Maker here, with the evil, human-run, xenophobic Terran Empire of the Mirror Universe (first appearance TOS: "Mirror, Mirror") acting as a contrast to the benevolent, multicultural, generally nice-guy United Federation of Planets. Then again, the Mirror Universe is pretty much a Crapsack World: The counterparts to the Klingons and Cardassians are as bad as the Terrans, and end up being Eviler Than Thou.
- Blake's 7 gives us the Terran Federation. ZERO CONTEXT EXAMPLE
- In Warhammer 40,000, the Imperium of Man refers to Earth as "Holy Terra." The Imperium is an organization of generally psychotic, xenophobic maniacs willing to incinerate entire planets to eliminate small colonies of Aliens or potential Chaos invasion. The Imperium only comes off as gray because everyone else in 40K is worse, and if they were transposed into any other setting they would be unabashedly and unwaveringly labeled as pure evil.
- Renegade Legion: The Empire of the setting is the corrupt and evil Terran Overlord Government (TOG). Among other things it engages in blood sports, has legalized slavery, and has reduced women to being the property of their father or husband and removed their right to vote.
- BattleTech: The Terran Alliance was the first interstellar human government and it was very tyrannical in its last years before breaking apart from rebellions. The succeeding Terran Hegemony reconquered the rebellious colonies and instituted the feudal system that has plagued the Inner Sphere ever since.
- Partially averted in Traveller. The Terran Confederation were the "Republic" side of a Good Republic, Evil Empire situation with the First Imperium. But when the Terrans won they established the Second Imperium by replacing Vilani nobles with Terran naval officers and managed to screw things up so badly that there was an interstellar dark age within 500 years.
- Played with in StarCraft I when the United Earth Directorate appears in the Brood War expansion pack. While the Terrans are bad the UED are outright fascists: the Terrans' ancestors were rescued from one of their concentration camps that housed mutants, cyborgs, and religious people as well as criminals. Their arrival in the Koprulu sector precipitates several Enemy Mine situations, including between two Terran factions whose leaders had vowed to kill one another.
- Ground Control II's Terran Empire. ZERO CONTEXT EXAMPLE
- Played with in the X-Universe series. The Terrans are characterized by rampant xenophobia and militarism, but when war breaks out between them and their long-lost cousins the Argon Federation, it was the Argon who shot first, and by blowing up the Torus Aeternal ringing Earth and killing millions, no less.
- The Terran Republic in PlanetSide is a ruthless authoritarian regime, though they mellow out and become largely benevolent by PlanetSide 2.
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