Earth might look good if you're living in the capital of the Terran Empire or The Federation, but what about for all the folks on the offworld colonies?
We've got news for you: The colonies have rebelled against taxes, telepathic Gestapo, and pretty much every other injustice that Earth has inflicted on them, spawning a movement that strongly parallels historical insurrections on an interplanetary or even an interstellar scale.
An interesting note is that, since the Earth loyalists are frequently The Federation, The War of Earthly Aggression has a much higher chance of subverting The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified than any other "rebellion" plot-line. As a general rule, however, The War of Earthly Aggression is usually depicted in morally ambiguous terms, with both the loyalists and the rebels having good reasons for the conflict, and often one can find Psychopaths on either side. Occasionally, both sides.
The trope title comes from "The War of Northern Aggression", a political term for the American Civil War. (Go ahead, guess which side applied the label.) And Knowing Is Half the Battle. So to speak.
Gundam F91 has a group of aristocrats start taking over colonies. Interestingly, they succeed in part because The Federation has started stagnating into uselessness.
In Gundam Wing, the five Gundam Pilots were sent to Earth to beat the stuffing out of the oppressive Earth government and win colonial independence. The Movie shows that this is preferable to the original plan, which would have involved a Colony Drop and taking over in the ensuing chaos.
Gundam X has this in its backstory, which is inspired by the original series. Late in the series we get another war, though this one is also over Newtypes.
Inverted in G Gundam where the Neo-[Whatever] colony nations control the nation they are named for on Earth. And abuse the planet pretty freely.
Gundam SEED plays with this, since while the war was ostensibly about independence, both sides end up being lead by racist scumbags who want to wipe each other out.
Gundam AGE has the UE, which turn out to be Martian colonists who were abandoned by the Earth Federation some 150 years ago and are still bitter.
The war in Martian Successor Nadesico, while originally presented to the Earthlings as an attack by alien invaders, turns out to be something like this.
In Vandread, Earth humans were harvesting body parts from the rest of humanity, who were divided into unwitting colonies.
Mars Daybreak has the type of conditions that usually results in this as a backdrop for the series, though nothing comes of it by the end.
In Insurrection, set in the Judge Dredd universe, a Mega-City One colony grants full citizenship rights to mutants, robots, and uplifts in order to fight off an alien incursion. When the authorities back on Earth demand that status quo be restored, the colony goes into open rebellion and renames itself Liberty, then seeks to inspire other colonies to also rebel.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Neither side is shown to be really evil, per se, it's just that people on the Moon discover that their ecology is on the brink of collapse (due to their exporting almost exclusively agricultural products and never getting imports of things like water in return) and Earth not believing them. Of course, the Moon is much more sympathetic, not only because the story is from their POV, but also because Earth regards them as literal scum of the Earth due to lunar colonization's origins as a Penal Colony.
Cleverly averted in Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy: a policy of "ethnic streaming" (all colonists coming from the same country on Earth) and independence of colonies once they were properly established ensures that, politically at least, The Confederation is more or less stable... that is, if you don't count the Antimatter Syndicates, and, later, the Possesed.
The first extrasolar colonies did not follow ethnic streaming, and so, served as an example for future generations: they were splintered into warring nations and financially bankrupt.
The Red Mars Trilogy seems to have this, where a revolution in the first book is slapped down with orbital lasers and whatnot, but the 2nd one works, in part due much better planning.
Harry Harrison's To The Stars trilogy has a Big Brother-like Earth lording it over interstellar colonies set up to be totally dependent upon each other. Since each colony requires numerous goods (which they are never allowed to stockpile) each made only on one of the other colonies, it would be impossible for a revolt to succeed unless every colony did so at once. Which they do. Earth is not entirely united, though. There are several rogue states that cling to old ideals, such as democracy, the strongest of them being Israel. The last novel makes it clear that a revolution can only succeed with a simultaneous assault on the surface and space.
In The Gods Themselves, the leader of the Lunar separatist group has the long term goal of actually making the moon mobile so it can leave earth orbit and even the solar system entirely. The rebellion, however, is put down by the other separatists holding a quiet vote and deciding he is getting a bit wacky and should step down.
In The Sirens of Titan, Winston Niles Rumfoord creates the Martian civilization using brainwashed disenfranchised people from Earth and sends them on a mission to conquer Earth, arming them only with enough equipment to put up a pathetic fight as Earth unites against the pitiful alien invaders, triggering a world-wide existential crisis which allows for Rumfoord to institute the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent religion.
Martian Rainbow by Robert L. Forward plays with the trope a little. First, a Russian colony on Mars is forcibly conquered by American-led United Nations forces when the Russians won't let anyone else set up colonies there. Then the resulting UN scientific colony is cut off after the leader of that multinational fleet hooks up with a corrupt televangelist, gets himself elected Presidentof the World, and makes all space travel illegal as part of a general anti-science campaign to satisfy his religious backers, who have in the meantime declared him the new Messiah. So the scientists in the Mars Colony, cut off from resupply and rescue, are essentially forced to admit they are now independent, and try to make a go of things. Finally, they send the chief scientist from the Mars base, who happens to be the identical twin brother of the Dark Messiah President of Earth, to assassinate his brother and take his place, and resume legal space travel. Did I mention that both twins are Neil Armstrong's identical grandsons?
In Larry Niven's A World Out of Time, Earth tries to assert its influence on the extrasolar colonies it has seeded. They then go to war by firing relativistic projectiles at each other.
In Charles Harness' The Ring Of Ritornel, Earth has been bombed back to the Azoic after starting a nuclear war against rebellious colonies, and is so execrated that most people have forgotten that "Terror" used to be "Terra".
In The History of the Galaxy series, the First Galactic War starts when the Earth Alliance president orders the invasion of the Dabog colony, one of the many which refused to submit to Earth rule. When the invasion fails due to the farmers proving themselves a little too good at fighting, the fleet admiral nukes the planet. The other Free Colonies band together and turn what was supposed to be a Blitzkrieg into a decades-long war, which Earth eventually loses (due to a betrayal in their top brass). The war turns the colonies into industrial and scientific powerhouses that later form the core of the Confederacy of Suns. Earth is left alone but under watch, populated by only a few million people (most having escaped the horrors of war).
The invasion of Dabog is detailed in the novel Dabog, where it's revealed that the Earth Alliance never made itself known to the colonies. They merely sent spies to infiltrate the colonies and detemine if the colonials would accept additional settlers from Earth (whose population numbers in the hundreds of billions). While the colonials claim they would accept more people, they wish to reserve the right to select appropriate candidates (i.e. people with useful skills and no criminal past). Not liking this, the President sends a strike fleet to Dabog. There are to be no ultimatums, no negotiations. The fleet makes itself known by nuking two cities from orbit. Even the Earth soldiers don't much care for the colonists.
Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint. The conflict (between Mars and Earth) is revealed in the Twist Ending. The protagonists decide to side with Mars.
The Stars My Destination has a very brutal war between the Inner Planets (Earth, the moon, Mars, and maybe Venus as well) and the Outer Satellites. The Outer Satellites have no qualms about nuclear carpet-bombing the Earth, but the Inner Planets are quite eager to use a superweapon, so neither side is particularly noble. The novel never explains the origins of the war, so it's not clear if it is this, or a war that just happens to be between former colonies and former colonisers.
David Weber, author of the Honor Harrington novels, also wrote 4 novels with Steve White set in the universe of Starfire, a tabletop wargame. In one of the novels, Insurrection, the Terran Empire has grown so huge that its central government no longer reflects the interests of the Fringe Worlds, instead listening only to the core Heart Worlds and the the closer-to-home Corporate Worlds. So, the Fringe Worlds declare their independence, and form their own multi-star-system nation. Naturally, the Terran Empire has to send its own fleets out to the Fringe Worlds to try and regain control. And now The Honorverse is doing it too in the war against the Solarian League.
The Company Wars as part of the Alliance/Union universe, a Mêlée à Trois between the Earth Company, the Union (based around Cyteen), and the Merchanter's Alliance (Pell and many freighter-based clans).
Forms part of the background tension in Final Days. The Coalition (which does not even represent the entire Earth, only North America and possibly Europe) has monopoly on wormhole technology and makes sure the colonies are dependent on Earth. When things start to go bad, the top members of government evacuate to the colonies. They make sure to bring with them a lot of troops to persuade the locals to accept their leadership. If Newton colony is anything to go by, things will be rough.
Paul Mc Auley's novels The Quiet War and its sequel Gardens of the Sun involve both covert and overt conflict between an alliance of powerful and reactionary Earth superstates led by Greater Brazil and the European Union, and a loose group of transhumanist colonies spread throughout the Solar System.
Halfway through Jack Chalker's Downtiming The Night Side the protagonist learns from an enemy agent that the Time War he was forcibly recruited into is actually a second front in a future War of Earthly Aggression. Both sides claim to be fighting to protect the future of humanity.
Narrowly averted in Star Trek: Federation. As Earth builds towards World War III its nations call on the colonies to provide support. The colonies ignore them, wanting no part of the homeworld's self-destructive tendencies, and get away with it because warp drive isn't widely available yet.
In Roger Zelazny's series about Francis Sandow (Isle of the Dead and To Die in Italbar novels) the war happened between the books and Earth had become a volcanic wasteland. The second novel is about a quest for retribution which is getting too far. The Earth is repaired in the end.
John Varley’s Red Lightning: Mars, which isn’t much more than a holiday resort at the time, gets invaded and pretty much all that is know about the invaders is that they came from Earth, have guns and wear black. Then Mars gets invaded again, in pretty much the same fashion. And a third time. “‘All nation-states, corporations, power-mad billionaires, and disgruntled liberation groups wishing to invade Mars please take a number and wait your turn.’”
Almost happens in the backstory to Blindfold by Kevin J. Anderson, a mostly hard sci-fi novel. Atlas is a habitable world colonized several centuries ago and, effectively, cut off from Earth due to the fact that it takes decades of sublight travel to reach it. Since then, three ships have arrived from Earth with new settlers. One of these was a prison ship, another was full of missionaries seeking to spread their faith. Both ended up assimilating into the Atlas population. The third ship appeared to be just another ship full of settlers, but was actually a warship sent by a military junta that has established a One World Order on Earth to bring Atlas under their control. The ruse worked very well, at first. When the ship reached Atlas's orbit, the captain came down to maintain the ruse. One of the first people whose hands he shook turned out to be a scientist experimenting with the Veritas drug that allows heightens a person's awareness of another's electrical impulses, effectively allowing him to read the mind of any person he touches. He instantly figured out the truth and set up a plan to thwart the invaders. He, along with a group of dignitaries, visited the ship, and used the command codes he pulled out of the captain to lock everybody out of the systems and set the nuclear missiles to explode in their tubes. The soldiers gave in, and also assimilated into the population. The warship was brought down and now serves as the temple of the Truthsayers.
Firefly: Although Earth was ancient history, the war between the Alliance and the Independents over Unification is the same basic pattern, fought between rich central worlds and poor, far flung colonies.
Babylon 5 had, as well as the Mars Resistance, resistance against Earth by Babylon Five, Proxima 3 and Orion 7. It takes Action from Babylon 5 to end the military blockade of Proxima 3 and to free Mars. Orion 7, which is supposedly part of the Rebellion and not blockaded doesn't show up much.
Came up sometimes on Blake's 7, but only one episode at a time and one planet at a time. It was the theme of the whole series, but the rebellion seemed to be a lot less organized and systematic than the other examples of this trope.
The Maquis were rebelling because they felt the Federation sold them out. In fairness, the Cardassians were committing blatant treaty violations, and the Federation wasn't exactly very quick to respond. That was a pretty complicated situation born of a monumentally stupid redrawing of lines on the map where Federation citizens ended up on the wrong side of the line... some colonies ended up in an ambiguous 'demilitarized zone'. Others ended up in enemy space and were evacuated, but many of the colonists refused to leave. In fairness to the Federation, there were more than a few in the hierarchy that were on the side of the Maquis (and the Cardassians also had to cede worlds as well) - it's just that the Federation didn't want another war. As far as Star Trek goes, this is one of the few political situations that had actual depth and not just good vs. evil.
The most out-and-out example of this trope would be the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe, which is hell bent on conquering every non-human species in the universe. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine shows that eventually they were overthrown, which triggered a reverse insurrection of the enslaved humans. This was the result of the events in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, where alternate-universe Spock (he of the goatee)becomes the Terran Emperor and institutes a series of far-reaching reforms. In Deep Space Nine, we learn that Spock's less-violent and more fair leadership backfired on him, as increasing civil rights given to the former slaves led to successful uprisings and the destruction of the Empire. Like many of the better Deep Space Nine ongoing story arcs, it took something that already existed in the Trek universe and added an extra layer of complexity and realism, subverting the usual idealism of the previous series.
In Warhammer 40,000. The Imperium of Man considers itself the sole authority for all of humanity headed by the Emperor on the Golden Throne on Holy Terra. For over ten thousand years it has been waging a constant (but rather unfocused) campaign of expansion and reclaiming human worlds lost after the Dark Age of Technology. Of course most of that was done before the Horus Heresy and while it never quite stops the Imperium has also spent ten thousand years in decline awaiting a final collapse. Just as soon as Games Workshop advances the plot.
Tech Infantry has the Frontier Worlds Territory and a few other colony-world minor political entities who broke off from the Earth Federation, along with the various internal rebel groups who aren't so much interested in independence as in taking over the whole shebang for themselves.
The backstory of BattleTech has this occurring all the damned time. It's not always strictly, or solely, Earthly aggression as other interstellar empires have had their own share of rulers ranging from ruthlessly pragmatic to downright villainous as well, but Earth has still been at the center of much of it — sometimes openly (Terran Alliance vs. colonists early on, Star League vs. Periphery states later), sometimes not (Com Star in the guise of a neutral service provider secretly vs. all the Successor States).
To elaborate, during the 1000 years (2100s to 3140) of fiction covered in universe, there are 7 major (200+ planets) nations (one, the first centered on Terra, destroyed in the late 2700s, a second Terran one formed in 3078), at least 10 minor (10-100 planets) nations (several destroyed), 20 clans (self-exiled, and later returned warrior cultures), and at least 20 small (<10 planets) nations and pirate bands. Only one faction in the ENTIRE storyline was ever able to even come close to controlled half the galaxy, and it was formed in a marriage between 2 major nations, lasted less than 30 years, broke into its 2 original states again in a civil war. Major Rebellions happen somewhere in the galaxy at a rate of about 1 every 5 years or so, smaller ones...well, constantly.
Dream Pod 9's older franchises tend to incorporate this. In Heavy Gear Earth decides to reclaim its colonies after years (well, more like a millenium) of neglect only to find the Terra Novans are more than willing to fight them rather than each other. Jovian Chronicles also has this, but things aren't so clear cut.
And the Atlanteans. And the Caprician Liberati. And whatever we learn about New Jerusalem in 2012.
SPI's Battle Fleet Mars. The human colony on Mars revolts against Earth's control and tries to become independent.
Traveller has some interesting variants of these. In one Earth (and the rest of the Solomani states) has become an Insignificant Little Blue Planet and does not like it. They join with a number of planets to rebel forming the Solomani Confederation. We are given to understand that the new state is a repressive and unstable Police State unlike the Imperium 's benevolent rule.
In the default campaign setting of Tomorrow's War colonial insurrections are more common than wars between the different nations of earth (hence the rules for "asymmetric warfare") most notably the secession of the New Soviet Federation from the Russian Empire. Though most of the example scenarios are battles between independent colonies on Glory (claimed by a Mega Corp. that allows anyone with the funds to settle) and their allies from earth, resulting in a situation more like the Vietnam war.
Eclipse Phase has another case of earth being substituted for another well-populated planet. Some years after The Fall the Mars-based Planetary Consortium attempted to extend their reach to the Extropian and Anarchist habs in the Belt and Outer System, ostensibly because they were software piracy havens (apparently neither anarcho-collectivists or anarcho-capitalists recognize copyrights). The anarchists banded together with the Titanian Commonwealth to form the Autonomist Alliance and got the Constortium to reconsider.
In Mindjammer the New Commonality of Humankind frequently finds itself surprised when lost colonies refuse to let themselves be assimilated into their superior culture. Most notably the Venu Empire, who reverse-engineered a crude version of 2-space drive and formed a xenophobic theocracy, and in the ensuing war many colonies along the border declared independence as well.
The Moon Shall Rise Again: videogame dealing with a revolt on a moon colony (parodied in an episode of Futurama).
Killzone, while not involving Earth itself, involves a separatist movement from a marginally Earthlike planet breaking away to form a new colony separate from the human colony, forming a totalitarian Nazi-like regime, and then invading the mother planet en-mass.
It's worth noting that the separatist movement in this case is technically no longer the same subspecies as mainline humanity — the planet they were on is incredibly hostile to human life, and even with protective measures, they needed to adapt significantly to survive; they consider ordinary humans inferior and worthy of being enslaved or wiped out.
It actually went both ways, humans hate the Helghast and want them dead, and it didn't even begin with a speciesist conflict. It began with the Helghan Corporation objecting to the UCN's unfair treatment of the corporations they sent to colonize planets for resources, and the ISA was sent to drive them out of Vekta, forcing them to settle on the only other world they had, Helghan.
The Red Faction series is all about this trope, focusing on various La Résistance groups of Martian colonists fighting against an oppressive, Earth-centric government.
Escape Velocity and Escape Velocity Nova both feature wars the Earth lead governments are starting against outer colonies. Who won depended on which side you supported.
Nova has a clear case in the backstory, with the Colonial Council towards the end, but the current batch of Federation/Auroran Wars aren't quite that clear- the entire reason the Federation's direct predecessor was formed was Auroran aggression (granted, then the Auroran Empire ended up getting formed because that government was too indiscriminate in its counterattack).
The Huron storyline in Override seems to be setting this up and then promptly derails it with a massive Renegade incursion and Admiral McPherson unilaterally granting Huron independence in the aftermath.
The Empire series of mods for the original (some of which were later converted to Nova) feature this as a running background theme. It's not actually happening in any of the instalments, but the more-or-less chronologically lastnote They all actually start at the exact same date, but reference each other in Broad Strokes ways, allowing them to be placed in relation to one another has the Earth-centric Terran Star Empire having conquered all human worlds except one (which remains independent and neutral for unclear reasons), while 'earlier' instalments has news and mission-related texts indicating the Empire is considering implementing a policy mandating that all humanity be part of the Empire, so obviously it did happen.
The HaloExpanded Universe revealed that there were rebel elements fighting against the UNSC, some of which continue their struggle even after the Covenant invasion has begun. The Spartan program was originally implemented to help put down the revolts. The post-Halo 3 novels, starting with Halo: Glasslands, note that there are Insurrectionist-leaning planets that were ignored or missed entirely by the Covenant that are threatening to start the civil war right back up again, and with the UNSC in tatters they might actually win this time.
The expanded universe also makes it rather clear that the UNSC is not a particularly nice government in a lot of ways, even if the Covenant is a lot worse.
At the same time, the expanded universe also makes it clear that the Insurrectionists freely use terrorist tactics on civilian populations, including one infamous incident alluded to in Halsey's Journal where a terrorist group killed two million civilians with a nuke.
Marathon. While it doesn't figure into the main conflict much (if at all), Earth's callous and high-handed dealings with its Martian colonies forms a substantial part of the world-building, particularly in the first game.
In the backstory the Confederacy responded to an independence movement on Korhal IV by glassing the place with nuclear missiles. The whole plot kickstarts when Raynor, marshal of a tiny little backwater colony, joins the Sons of Korhal terrorist group out of spite against the Confederacy's suspiciously lengthy response to a Zerg infestation (and imprisoning him and his men for acting on their own).
After the Confederacy is overthrown, the United Earth Directorate decides to seize control of their wayward Koprulu Sector colonies and use the Zerg as weapons, but the Zerg's new Queen proves uncontrollable and wipes out their entire expeditionary fleet.
The Sons of Korhal form the Terran Dominion which is just as repressive as the Confederacy they overthrew. In Starcraft II Raynor starts a rebellion against them, out of revenge for the newly self-declared Emperor's betrayal of his love interest.
The final arc of Heart of the Swarm has Stukov dropping some foreboding foreshadowing that the United Earth Directorate will probably make a comeback to the Koprulu Sector one day.
A galaxy-wide civil war is the setting of Supreme Commander, and while all three sides are shades of grey, the since-replaced Earth Empire started the wars against both the Cybrans and the Aeon, not to mention the Seraphim.
But the Earth Empire collapsed on itself long ago, and the succeeding United Earth Federation was merely trying to hold on its territory while the Crusading Aeons wanted to convert or exterminate by force. The Cybrans' struggle is greyer, as they try to free cyborgs who are essential to the proper administration of the UEF territories. The UEF is really on the defensive there.
The Asian campaign in Empire Earth: Art of Conquest is about Mars rebelling against the Earth government.
In Zone of the Enders, Earth keeps a tight leash on the Martian and Outer System colonies, which is explored more in-depth in the Anime Dolores, I and Gaiden GameFist of Mars. The largest Rebel group turns out to be almost just as bad as The Federation, and that's before their leader goes batshit insane.
'Incoming' was a game centered on a sudden mass invasion of Earth by aliens - the plot gradually goes from defending, to launching an attack on the Moon (delivered via Space Shuttles!), where it is detected that the aliens are teleporting in from - you put a stop to their shenanigans.
Now, fastforward many years. 'Incoming Forces' has you in the perspective of an alien federation whose planets are suddenly invaded by crusading...humans. Yes, those same humans who about 20 years ago were nearly killed. Not the same alien race, mind; Humans were just plain omnicidal at this point.
Not quite this trope, but the whole point of Ground Control II: Operation Exodus is the desperate fight of the Northern Star Alliance against the ruthless Terran Empire. The difference is that the colonies that make up the NSA have rebelled centuries before, and the government they have rebelled from no longer exists, having been taken over by the Draconis Empire, which renamed itself the Terran Empire after conquering Earth. As far as the imperials are concerned, though, all of space rightly belongs to them.
If the morale of a colony's civilian population (introduced in A Murder of Crows) drops low enough they rebel and attempt to kill the imperial population. In Lords of Winter if an entire province rebels they form a rival empire that is hostile to your own.
Details about the conflict are sketchy, but in the backstory of Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro Na, Earth and the Lunar colonists fought a bloody war that ended in stalemate and an uneasy peace.
Factions in Civilization: Beyond Earth can eventually chose to adhere to one of three affinities which deal with how humanity adapts to life on an alien world; mainly Purity - terraforming, Supremacy - cybernetics, Harmony - genetic engineering. They also have their unique victory conditions. Purity's is Promised Land, they open a warp gate to Earth and start bringing in large numbers of new colonists and reinforcements; which is promptly used to claim large chunks of the planet's surface for Earth. While Supremacy's is Emancipation, where they open a warp gate to Earth and conquer it.
Angels 2200 milks the "morally ambiguous" version of this trope for all it is worth: the Terrans have a State Sec and use biological warfare; The Colonials use Child Soldiers as kamikazes and torture their prisoners. On balance the Terrans come out slightly on top, since most of their viewpoint characters are noble warrior types whereas the Colonials' commander tends to do Magnificent Bastard things like deliberately sacrificing his own troops as bait.