Created By: Ilstefan on March 10, 2012 Last Edited By: StarSword on June 12, 2016

Terrible Terrans

Use of name Terrans for humans indicates humans are bastards.

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In 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."

Put simply, in science fiction, it seems that "Terran" has become shorthand for "Nasty Human."

See also Planet Terra.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Literature 
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • In Escape from Terra most inhabitants of Terra, or "Terries" are portrayed as clueless straw socialists at best and corrupt imperialists are worst. At least until seduced by Cerean anarcho-capitalism.

Indexes: Added Alliterative Appeal, Humans Are Indexed, Speculative Fiction Tropes, This Index Earth

Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • March 11, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • 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.
  • March 11, 2012
    fulltimeD
    This does seem to be a regular pattern
  • March 11, 2012
    willofthesmith
    Well reasoned, it could work. I am afraid, though that I cannot contribute to the examples.
  • March 11, 2012
    zarpaulus
    There's probably some more under "Planet Terra"
    • Starship Troopers has the aggressively expansionist Terran Federation. Granted, if they didn't conquer the galaxy the Bugs or some other species would.
    • The Terran Hegemony of Battle Tech.
    • 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.
  • March 11, 2012
    aurora369
    In Traveller, the nastier Earthlings prefer another moniker, "Solomani". During the late Third Imperium, the Solomani Confederation is pretty much a fascist state centered around Solar System.
  • March 11, 2012
    nman
    • In the X game, Rebirth, Terrans are extremely militaristic, and will shoot the player character on sight. In the sequel, Terran Conflict, they aren't as antagonistic, but it is still clear that they are armed to the teeth and extremely distrusting of anyone, even humans, from other planets.
  • March 12, 2012
    zarpaulus
    • In Escape From Terra most inhabitants of Terra, or "Terries" are portrayed as clueless straw socialists at best and corrupt imperialists are worst. At least until seduced by Cerean anarcho-capitalism.
  • March 12, 2012
    GuyIncog
    ^^^^To add to the Battle Tech example, Earth itself is referred to as Terra by all factions - and all factions are willing to wage all out war for control of Terra.
  • March 12, 2012
    ChunkyDaddy
    • Subverted in Battle For Terra, where the Terrans are the peaceful "alien" species living on Terra, and humans are the invaders who are bent on terraforming Terra, which would result up in all native life on Terrans going extend
  • March 12, 2012
    LooneyToons
    • Averted completely in E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman novels, in which the common usage followed a different linguistic line and used "Tellurians" (from the Latin "tellus", earth) instead of either Terrans or Earthlings.
  • March 12, 2012
    Thanatologist
    So it's basically Humans Are Bastards and Humans Are Good / Humans Are Average / Puny Earthlings rolled into one?
  • March 13, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^It's about the use of "terran" to refer primarily to the former.
  • March 13, 2012
    sgamer82
    • In the Honor Harrington series, Earth is renamed "Old Terra", and is the homeworld of the arrogant Solarian League.
  • March 13, 2012
    DeathCloud
    Averted in Freespace where Terran is used to refer humans all the time. No mater if it's Galactic Terran Alliance and later Galactic Terran Vasudan Alliance (good guys) or rebel Neo Terran Front (bad guys)
  • March 26, 2012
    Ilstefan
    I'll probably just cut down the name to "terrible Terrans" and launch it tomorrow if there are no objections.
  • March 26, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Literature:
    • 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.
  • February 11, 2014
    XFllo
  • February 11, 2014
    Damr1990
    as for the Starcraft Example, i'm not entirely sure if it counts or if its more of a subversion, sure, they are descendants of criminals there has been constant power Struggles through history... but The Humans on Earth are Even worse, to the point that in the Brood War Expansion, the momment they show up, various factions of mortal enemies who hate each other decide to stop their war, and pull an Enemy Mine and make sure they get removed of the Equation before continuing their hostilities with each other... so, yeah, on the starcraft universe Terrans are mean, but Humans are even worse
  • February 11, 2014
    StarSword
    This has been Up For Grabs for over two years. I guess I'll take it over.
  • February 11, 2014
    zarpaulus
    ^ Formatted as an example:
    • Starcraft example.
      • Subverted by the United Earth Directorate when they appear 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.
  • February 11, 2014
    StarSword
    ^I wrote my own version, but that's better. I'll swap it in.
  • February 11, 2014
    TairaMai
    • Babylon Five: Colonists on Mars aren't too fond of Earth. "The sands run red with Earther blood." Given that President Clarke bombs Mars, some in Earth hate them right back.
  • February 12, 2014
    DAN004
    What's the differeNce with Puny Earthlings?
  • February 12, 2014
    StarSword
    ^That's "Humans suck compared to aliens," although the long, rambling description doesn't help. This is about humans calling themselves "Terrans" being an indication that they're assholes.
  • February 12, 2014
    jatay3
    Subverted in Annderson's Technic Civilization series. The Terran Empire is often resented but never comes off as totally evil.
  • February 12, 2014
    StarSword
    ^That's Not A Subversion. That's a plain aversion.

    Can we get a little help with the ZC Es in the draft?
  • February 12, 2014
    DAN004
    In Crash Nitro Kart, Planet Terra coexists with Planet Earth. The Terran racer, Krunk, believes his planet to be the real Earth compared to ours. When he loses his boss race, though, he no longer holds that belief.
  • February 12, 2014
    Thunderforge
    The Ancients in Stargate SG 1 call themselves the "Alterans" (taking the name that they originally were called before splitting off from the Ori). They aren't so much evil as Neglectful Precursors, but considering that they speak modified Latin and have the root word "terra", it seems this trope applies.
  • February 12, 2014
    zarpaulus
    I think I can help with the Battle Tech ZCE

    • 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.
  • February 12, 2014
    StarSword
    @DAN: What does that have to do with Terrans = Bastards?

    @Thunderforge: Actually no. "Alteran" explicitly comes from "alter", a Latin root meaning "other". The Ori are quite literally calling them "The Others".

    @zarp: Thanks for that. Added.
  • February 12, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Krunk is, well, an enemy. :P
  • February 12, 2014
    somerandomdude
    The Terran Republic in Planet Side is a ruthless authoritarian regime, though they mellow out and become largely benevolent by PlanetSide 2.
  • February 13, 2014
    ElectricNova
    Blake's 7 has the Terran federation, the main antagonists who are totalitarian and corrupt.
  • June 11, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    The name sounds like Humans Are The Real Monsters at first glance. Perhaps change it to Good Humans Terrible Terrans?
  • June 12, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ Terrible Terrans is already okay, though I'm not against your name if it's proven that we really need it.
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