Settling the Frontier
"(It is) ..our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty"Once the Bold Explorers have finished their job and found some exotic new lands or strange new worlds, it's time to take advantage and start a colony or settlement! There are many reasons why people might choose to leave everything they know behind and set off to carve a new life out of an untamed wilderness. They might be seeking freedom, opportunity, or wealth. They might be fleeing an intolerable situation: intolerance, overcrowding, or debt. They may simply have no choice in the matter—far off lands are such a convenient place to store your criminals, dissidents, and other unwanted population. The dangers in settling new territory are great: hostile terrain, hostile wildlife, hostile natives, bad weather, lack of readily accessible resources, and much more. You may end up cut off from your homeland completely. Success is never guaranteed, and many settlements will fail, often with great loss of life. Nevertheless, the biological urge to expand and grow is strong, and new colonies will rarely lack for volunteers (or "volunteers"). Successful colonies can even end up matching or exceeding their homeland in power or resources, leading to plenty of opportunities for conflict. And what about those natives, or small green creatures, who live where you've planned to plant new roots? I guess they'll just have to take their chances. Of course, if you are one of the natives (or small green creatures), living where someone has decided to settle, you may not be very pleased with the notion. If you can't talk them out of the idea, then it's possible that This Means War! This trope tends to be a big part of American and Australian self-identity and mythos, though it is, of course, not limited to America or Australia. See also: Cult Colony, Lost Colony, Penal Colony, Injun Country. Related to The Migration. May serve as a mere setting for a work, or be an active element of the plot. Works in this setting often involve The Pioneer or the Determined Homesteader.
—John O'Sullivan, The Morning Post, 1845
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Anime and Manga
- Toward the Terra: The refugees postpone their search for Terra and colonize a marginally inhabitable planet for a few years. Unfortunately, the humans eventually caught up with them.
- Silver Spoon:
- Mikage's grandmother likes telling stories about the time when the Japanese settled Hokkaido. Wild animals (bears) and natives (Ainu) appear.
- Later there is a two-chapter side story about Hachiken's great-great-grandparents who were Japanese pioneers settling Hokkaido.
- The second episode of To, "Symbiotic Planet", deals with two sets of colonists on the planet Beta Hydra V, from two different factions back on Earth, and the dangers they face from each other as well as from the new, untamed planet.
- In Super Dimension Fortress Macross, following the conclusion of Space War I, which nearly annihilated all life on Earth and reduced the human population to mere millions, a massive space colonization program was started. The idea was to spread humanity out so that if Earth got blasted again, the whole human race wouldn't be at stake. Later series take place either on colony worlds or on large fleets looking for a colony world to settle.
- The musical Paint Your Wagon features the colonization of a new town, No Name City, in the American West.
- The 1923 silent short film Jamestown is a dramatic version of the founding of the first English colony in the Americas, starring Dolores Cassenelli as Pocahontas.
- Pandorum takes place aboard a colony ship launched towards an inhabitable planet from a dying earth. Unfortunately things went wrong...
- In Aliens the planet on which the Xenomorph was first discovered has been terraformed and colonized by the Wayland-Yutani corporation.
- The Ron Howard film Far And Away, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, tells of Irish immigrants who end up participating in the great Oklahoma land run of 1889, where over 100,000 people competed to settle the newly opened territory.
- Cimarron is another film about the Oklahoma land run. The Oklahoma land run came about because the United States, which had previously set aside Indian Territory for the Indians after stealing the rest of America from them, decided to steal that too.
- The Last of the Mohicans is set against the backdrop of the settling of the American Frontier, and the settlers' interactions with the native peoples.
- Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy covers the colonization and terraforming of Mars over the course of 200 years.
- Robert A. Heinlein loved colonization. Being an Eagle Lander, he believed that colonization brings out the best in people and was responsible for American superiority. He dialed it up for his future societies. Specific examples include:
- Starship Troopers: The Terran Federation and the Bugs are at war over real estate. It's taught in schools that any civilization that stops expanding is doomed to extinction at the hands of more aggressive competitors.
- Methuselah's Children: The long-lived Howards hijack a Generation Ship seeking a new homeworld so they can escape persecution.
- Time Enough for Love: Two thousand years after Methuselah's Children the Chairman of the homeworld the Howards eventually established asks the oldest human alive for assistance in establishing a new colony. Lazarus Long also recounts a time he was a settler in the old western American style on another planet.
- Farmer in the Sky: The characters are settlers on the Jovian moon Ganymede.
- Tunnel in the Sky: Gates are used to send people to establish fairly low-tech colonies on distant planets. A survival class on a jungle Death World gets stranded for years and has to build a colony from scratch.
- In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series novel Darkover Landfall, a starship is forced to land on a planet and the passengers start a colony which eventually becomes the planetary civilization of the other books. Problems include hallucinatory pollen.
- The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes: Human colonists on the planet Avalon have problems building their colony. The freezing process they underwent during the trip has damaged their brains, and the planet has deadly predators with Super Speed.
- The Coyote series by Allen Steele is about the colonization of a new planet using slower-than-light technologies, which makes communication with the home world very slow, and frequently surprising.
- C. J. Cherryh's 40,000 in Gehenna, part of her Alliance/Union series, features the Union's attempt to secretly colonize a newly discovered world with 40,000 cloned workers (from a wide variety of genetic lines).
- Nancy Kress's novel Crossfire is about humanity's colonization of the planet Greentree—and the unexpected things they find there.
- The Vorkosigan Saga starts on the newly discovered world of Sergyar, and its colonization is part of the backstory of the rest of the series—especially after Miles' father is appointed governor of the new colony.
- John Scalzi's The Last Colony, and its companion novel, Zoe's Tale, both part of his Old Man's War series, describe the attempt to start a secret colony in order to protect against the possibility that mankind will be wiped out forever by hostile aliens.
- In the Uplift series, Galactic civilization grants temporary colonization rights to clans for terms of thousands or millions of years, but the planets must be abandoned and allowed lie fallow periodically as well, in order that new species with the potential for Uplift can arise. The only planets exempt from this system are species' homeworlds, which they retain until they eventually "fade away". The second trilogy has members of six species, including humans, illegally colonizing the fallow and criminally abused planet of Jijo, seeking redemption through devolution (it's complicated).
- The Undersea Trilogy by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson was one of the first in-depth (if you'll pardon the pun) explorations of the notion of colonizing the bottom of the sea.
- The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg tells the story of several Swedish villagers who claim new land in Minnesota and explore the new country during the mid-19th century.
- The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold is set in a post-apocapalyptic fantasy world where farmers are trying to reclaim and settle new land, some of it deemed unsafe by the Lakewalkers who guards against the dangers.
- The Secret River focuses on the conflicts between Australian settlers and the native Australians, as seen through the eyes of a transported colonist.
- The Long Earth at some point follows a bunch of settlers emigrating onto one of the parallel Earths to start over in a world without industrialisation.
- In Frontier, the main characters are part of a group of settlers heading to Europa.
- David Weber:
- Honor Harrington: A major part of the backstory is the Diaspora of humanity made possible by Faster-Than-Light Travel. By the time this series takes place, most of the settling has already been done, and many of the colonies have launched their own colonies.
- Stephanie Harrington (a spin-off of the previous) is a more direct example, which takes place during the early years of the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Stephanie's family have settled on the wild and untamed world of Sphinx, offering professional skills desperately needed on Sphinx after most of the original settlers died due to a native disease that was very deadly to humans.
- In The Red Vixen Adventures House Darktail's plan to escape Countess Highglider's petty revenge was to save up enough to buy a fleet of colony ships for themselves and their loyal sworn commoners, which was why they couldn't afford to pay Rolas' ransom in "Captive". But after the Red Vixen helps expose the Countess's crimes they get her lands and the plan is sidelined. Up until Salli claims the planet Bloody Margo was using as a secret base in the "Shadow" books and they start a colony there.
- In Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy books, the early history of interstellar exploration involve hundreds of Sleeper Starships being sent through the newly-discovered hypersphere, hoping to find habitable worlds. A sizable percentage were either destroyed or found no habitable worlds in the star systems where they "surfaced" (with no ability to re-enter hypersphere again). Since the nature of hypersphere was unknown in those early years, no navigational devices existed that would function in the anomaly until the eventual development of mass-detectors. The rest ended up creating Lost Colonies, as reliable Hypersphere Frequency (HF) communication was not yet possible. Even the very first extrasolar colony ship, the Alpha (also the largest ship ever built by humans), ended up forming a Lost Colony. Its powerful fusion drives tore the fabric of space/time upon activation, pulling the ship into hypersphere (it was years before scientists figured out what happened and replicated the event to develop FTL Travel) and depositing it somewhere in the Orion Nebula.
- In later novels, most of the "settling" is done by automated robotic complexes sent by Mega Corps in search for new resources, although people show up later, eventually transforming outposts into colonies.
- One later novel has the Confederation of Suns government sending dead people who have undergone Brain Uploading prior to expiring to explore and settle far-off worlds using the "vertical" lines of hypersphere that lead to every star in the galaxy. Why? Because the government is afraid to "resurrect" people (i.e. download them back into cloned bodies) and become like the Harammin Immortal Quota. Thus, the condition to "resurrection" is that the "dead" agree to be "resurrected" somewhere far away from human space.
- In Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, humanity has settled thousands of worlds and explored hundreds of thousands in the 20,000 or so years since the discovery of interstellar travel (which happened in the mid-21st century). The titular character has been around for all this time (thanks to relativistic travel and the CR treatment) and has participated in a number of ventures related to humanity's expansion. In fact, his first "participation" was the test flight of a ship equipped with the Ramsden relativistic drive, during which he explores the Alpha Centauri system and names a habitable planet there Persephone, after his daughter. Instead of returning home, he continues to explore a number of other nearby stars, discovering several more habitable worlds. By the time he returns to Earth, over a century has passed, and humanity begins to build colonization ships to settle the newly-discovered planets. Much later, French helps a group of settlers from San Brendan to terraform Brunnershabn, whose former settlers have destroyed themselves in a nuclear war, into a once-again livable planet now-called Transformed.
- Philip K Dick used this trope constantly, particularly in his '50s and '60s work. Often, the dream of the frontier is juxtaposed with an authoritarian government that has taken over Earth, and his everyman protagonists must choose between an unbearable life under fascism or the hardscrabble freedom of the outer planets. His novels which focus primarily on settling the frontier itself are Martian Time-Slip, The Unteleported Mannote and A Maze of Death.
Live Action TV
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) shows the colonization of New Caprica (though later abandoned) and Earth.
- Earth 2: a group of rebellious humans attempt to colonize an alien planet after their spaceship crashes due to government sabotage.
- The backstory of Firefly as well... "Earth That Was got all used up, so we found a new solar system. Dozens of planets, hundreds of moons." There is also a fair amount of on-going colonization seen during the story.
- Terra Nova features a time-traveling colony in the mid-Cretaceous era established by a dying 21st century earth.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series:
- "This Side of Paradise" has the Enterprise on a rescue mission to a Federation colony, supposedly endangered by deadly radiation.
- In "The Way to Eden", the crew of the Enterprise meet a group of space hippies who hope to create a new colony on a planet they call Eden.
- Outcasts chronicles the story of refugees from wars on Earth who settle on a new world called Carpathia.
- Deadwood depicts the efforts of the eponymous and illegal town to be incorporated into the United States, the influx of new settlers and the dangers of Injun Country.
- The first 3-D Ultra Pinball is based on building a deep space colony and launching a starship.
- Eclipse Phase: before the Fall almost every rocky planet and large moon in the solar system was colonized by the old earth nations and the hypercorps. After the Fall the Pandora gates were discovered, and the major factions controlling the solar system started using them to expand into other systems. The Gatecrashers module includes info for running campaigns where the players are exosolar colonists.
- Puerto Rico is a Euro Game where you send colonists to Puerto Rico. They work your plantations.
- San Juan is a Euro card game closely related to Puerto Rico, but you colonize a different island.
- Age of Empires III (this game has nothing to do with the video game): Send your colonists to the new world. Defeat the natives. Get goods.
- In the default campaign setting of Tomorrow's War the various nations and corporations of earth have colonized several planets. Most scenarios are colonial insurrections or wars between independent colonies.
- In Traveller all the major races (those who have developed Jump drive, meaning Aslan, Droyne, K'kree, Hivers, Vargr, and three human races) rule interstellar empires of hundreds of colonies, and they're settling new ones all the time. The Aslan in particular have a thing for expansion due to the males' drive for land ownership. Aslan have a bad reputation for aggressiveness but they will just as often settle on empty or near empty planets, or trade mercenary service to the local government for land.
- Most 4X games involve creating new colonies of some sort, and often they have frontiers. A typical game starts with a land grab as all sides push onto a virgin world/galaxy/wolaxy. Frontiers move outward throughout the early game, stopping and being consolidated once they meet other sides'. Smaller colonization booms can start with advances like the compass, or Terraforming.
- Master of Orion and its sequels all involve trying to colonize planets in nearby star systems. New colonies are fragile, and have to be protected, but a race that doesn't create enough colonies will find itself helpless in the face of bigger, more powerful enemies.
- The Civilization series features expansion of your Earthly empire through colonization or conquest.
- Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri is a spiritual successor to Civilization where you colonize a new planet in the Alpha Centauri system.
- Civilization: Beyond Earth, the Spiritual Successor to Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri, is where you also colonize a new planet with the added bonus that you are the first faction to arrive on the planet and it's just you versus the environment for a while. Eventually, though, the other colony expeditions from Earth will land and it becomes more of a traditional Civ land grab fest. Additionally, it's heavily implied that expeditions are also sent to other habitable worlds. This is confirmed in Sid Meiers Starships (which is not an example of the trope, as the game doesn't involve settling anything), which states in the intro that multiple worlds had been settled by humans thousands of years ago.
- Galactic Civilizations features alien races competing to colonize new worlds. The game's backstory even explains why all races start this at the same time. Until recently, aliens only used gates to travel between stars. Any other travel was by sublight and took millennia. Arceans planned to trick humans into building a gate with no "off" switch, so that they could invade. However, humans had fusion technology and used it to miniaturize the gates into portable hyperdrives. Then some well-intentioned idiot sent the plans to all other races...
- Occasionally when settling a new world, the player will find that it is inhabited by a (comparatively) primitive race. The player is then presented with an option to leave the natives in peace and settle where they aren't, move the natives together to free up more land for yourself, or just enslave them and take the whole planet.
- Space Empires also uses colonization of new planets as a strategy to expand your empire.
- Sword of the Stars allows you to explore and colonize planets as one of several different races. Bonus points for each race having different requirements for what they consider an "ideal" world. For example, a hellhole for a human may be perfect for a Hiver.
- Ascendancy fits the typical pattern. The main difference is the utter absence of humans. All aliens are of the starfish kind, except for the Minions who are machines and Balifids who look like Intelligent Gerbils.
- Haegemonia: Legions of Iron: humans discover wormholes and start settling other systems. They don't stop even when hostile aliens show up.
- Sins of a Solar Empire combines 4X style expansion with Real-Time Strategy, as three species race to colonize available planets.
- Colonization, a Turn-Based Strategy game from Sid Meier, which involves colonizing the New World as one of four European nations.
- In Outpost, you have a starship of limited that you must decide what items to bring before you shoot it out towards one of several possible planets. You then choose your landing site and start building up buildings and facilities like many a sim-game.
- Outpost 2 is a more typical RTS game and while there is some building going on, ultimately everything you do will be destroyed by the apocalypse (possibly a reference to the first game's UnwinnableByMistake bugs). Though if you finish the campaign by outrunning the threat, the survivors steal a rocket ship and depart to somewhere more hospitable.
- The 1993 remake of The Seven Cities of Gold from Electronic Arts added the creation of colonies in the New World to the original's missions and forts, though the focus of the game remained on exploration and gathering gold from friendly or hostile natives.
- Age of Empires III has the players who chose one of the European powers establishing settlements in the Americas or Asia (with some supplies from their home cities).
- While this is not your goal in XCom Interceptor, as various corporations are the ones who set up mining bases in the Frontier, your task is protecting them from alien attacks.
- In Alien Legacy, you are the captain of one of many colony ships sent from Earth about to be destroyed by a hostile alien race. Your goal is to settle the Beta Caeli system and discover what happened with another colony ship sent to the same system. You build colonies, explore planets, moons, and asteroids, research new technology, and search for traces of your sister ship and the colonies it created 20 years ago.
- Space Colony involves you trying to create colonies on planets so you can exploit them for their minerals, or turning them into tourist destinations. This would be easier if it weren't for the fact that everyone you control is an idiot, insane, or both.
- Star Control III tries to get the player to do this by allowing you to transport members of various allied races to habitable worlds in order to establish colonies that will then start to generate resources. One of the reasons why the fans of the second game hated this one.
- An interesting case in Planetary Quarantine. All planets are settled by STL Sleeper Starships. A few days before waking up the crew and the passengers, a team of carefully-chosen and anonymous experts is woken up to go through the minds and belongings of everyone else for contraband. The idea is that the powers-that-be don't want any of Earth's "baggage" from ending up in its off-world colonies. This includes such ideas as religion, class differences, racism, etc. Any inappropriate property is incinerated, and any unwanted ideas (which somehow got through screening back on Earth) are "corrected" with appropriate tech. Communications with Earth are carefully screened in order to prevent the public back on Earth from knowing the truth. However, the point of the game is that, as you find out, it may be already too late, as contraband items and ideas have already made their way to the new worlds. It's up to you how you want to react to that.
- The intro to Freelancer starts with five Sleeper Starships making a blockade run during the final battle of the 100-year war started in Starlancer and jumping into the unexplored Sirius sector. The game then picks up 800 years later, when the Sirius sector has been settled and split up between four Houses, the descendants of four of the colony ships (the fifth one suffered a breakdown and disappeared): Liberty, Bretonia, Rheinland, and Kusari.
- Escape from Terra: The solar system is being colonized. Mars and much of the Belt seem to be largely independent of the United World while the moon, Venus, and Mercury are (officially at least) under its heel. The first Mars colonists were members of a private space corporation that hijacked the International Space Station when it was scheduled to be decommissioned.
- Freefall takes place on a newly colonized planet in the final stages of terraforming.
- Chakats were designed for exploration and settlement of alien worlds. The more recent Stellar Foxtaurs come in seven breeds specialized for settling different environments with minimal technology.
- The Schoolhouse Rock episode "Elbow Room" is about the expansion of the US from the original 13 states to its current size (not counting Alaska & Hawaii, the "freak states".) It also suggests that if we need to expand more we'll settle the moon.
- Pocahontas: All about the settlers at Jamestown colony and how they interact with the native population that already lives near there.
- Bravestarr: A Sci-Fi Western which focuses on the settlement of New Texas, a planet created to resemble the American Frontier.