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The War of Earthly Aggression

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"I was born on a Martian street, where the Terran drums did beat..."
"Earthers get to walk outside into the light, breathe pure air, look up at a blue sky, and see something that gives them hope. And what do they do? They look past that light, past that blue sky. They see the stars, and they think, 'Mine.'"
Anderson Dawes, The Expanse

The era of space colonization is a wonderful time to be alive. Humanity has stepped beyond its cradle into a new age of opportunity and plenty. Well, that's how it might look if you're living in the capital of the Terran Empire or The Federation, but what about for all the folks who're actually out there doing the colonizing?

We've got news for you: They aren't happy. They're chafing under excessive taxation, lack of political representation, not getting paid enough (or at all) for their exports, discrimination, incompetent and/or oppressive governance, and a host of other real or perceived injustices that Earth has inflicted on them. Now they've decided to fight for their freedom, spawning a movement that strongly parallels historical insurrections on an interplanetary or even interstellar scale. It's a Civil War... IN SPACE!

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. However, the War of Earthly Aggression is usually depicted in Grey-and-Gray Morality, with both the loyalists and the rebels having good reasons for their actions, and one can often find General Rippers and Psychos For Hire on either side. Occasionally both sides at once.

The trope name comes from "The War of Northern Aggression", a term commonly used in the Southern United States for The American Civil War.note 

Associated Tropes:


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    Anime and Manga 
  • This is one of the most common themes in Gundam. Due to Gundam's influence, it's also a common theme in Humongous Mecha anime as a whole.
    • The original Mobile Suit Gundam had the Principality of Zeon, who declared war on the Earth Federation and then tried to Colony Drop their military headquarters.note  The next couple of stories spring from this conflict (and the Expanded Universe implies that there's some Zeon influence even further down the line.
    • 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 and racial solidarity, both sides end up being led by racist scumbags who want to wipe each other out. And both sides were being manipulated by the Big Bad, who wanted to wipe everyone 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, the Mecha-Mooks attacking the Nirvana turn out to be sent by Earth humans to harvest 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.
  • The Backstory of Legend of the Galactic Heroes had one or two of these in the distant past; in the end, Earth was so thoroughly trounced that by the time of the main story, it's an impoverished backwater way out in the Empire's boonies.
  • The trope is inverted in Aldnoah.Zero, with the former colony of Mars, now known as the Vers Empire, being the aggressor against Earth. Thanks to a combination of Vers's access to vastly superior Lost Technology, resentment towards Earth over resource inequality, and no small amount of Cultural Posturing and Fantastic Racism, the Martian leaders managed to rile their people up enough to mount an invasion against the "inferior", "greedy" Terrans. The war ended abruptly in the catastrophe Heaven's Fall — the partial destruction of the Moon itself — which killed countless people on both sides and resulted in fifteen years of uneasy peace. Then, however, came the assassination of Princess Asseylum, granddaughter of the Emperor of Vers, prompting the already war-hungry Orbital Knights to commence a new invasion and kickstarting the events of the series.
  • The whole plot of Armitage III is based on this, though during the events of the OAVs it's only a threat that Earth is dangling over Mars' head.
  • Macross Delta: Windermere, having already fought a war of independence against the New United Nations, uses this as justification for their subsequent war of conquest, which they claim is for the purpose of "liberating" the New UN's myriad colonies (despite the fact that Windermere has to resort to literal mind-control to get other worlds on their side).

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • The War of the Masters: The conflict between United Earth, which exerts outsize influence in the United Federation of Planets (a deconstruction of the overuse of Humans Are Special and Most Writers Are Human in Star Trek), and a group of rebellious colonies on the Klingon border called the Moab Confederacy, which secedes from the Federation during Star Trek Online's war with the Klingons. Much like the Maquis 40 years earlier, the Moabites see themselves in part as the protagonists of a war of independence against the Federation and especially United Earth. This is due to significant cultural differences, and follows decades of abuse and neglect culminating in a plan to forcibly deindustrialize and resettle multiple border planets to create a DMZ to end the war with the Klingons. Played more neutrally after the Soft Reboot in 2017: it's shown that a number of other member states are starting to chafe against Earth's political dominance as well, but Moab independence leader Elizabeth Tran is too ideological about getting Moab out of the Federation to want to stop it, even after multiple major worlds start going What the Hell, Hero? when the forced resettlement plan is leaked by hackers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Total Recall (1990), humans have built a colony on Mars to extract terbinium ore. The poor living conditions of the workers on the planet have led to the emergence of a resistance group around its leader Kuato demanding independence from Earth.

  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • 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.
    • Heinlein also used this trope in Red Planet (Mars) and Between Planets (Venus).
  • Cleverly defied 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 Possessed.
    • 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 second one works, in part due to 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 President of 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. Oh, and 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 determine 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, only looking forward to all the prime real estate they will be given for participating in the mission.
  • 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 colonizers.
  • 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 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.
    • Weber's own Honor Harrington series is developing this as well. For centuries, the Solarian League has been the 800-megaton gorilla of human-occupied space, believing itself invincible to the "neobarb" (in-universe slur for "neo-barbarian" colonies that backslid technologically) polities around it. Its completely unaccountable bureaucracies and the brutally exploitative actions of their "Office of Frontier Security" make the League The Empire in all but name. Interests within the League have been making deals with the Mesans, and fomenting violence to open the way for OFS in the Talbott Cluster.
  • 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 McAuley'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 known 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." The Martians eventually steal one of the invasion fleets and intimidate Earth into granting them independence.
  • 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 an 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 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. There is a fourth ship on the way, but, by all indications, this one is actually full of settlers.
  • The Rihannsu series has the Romulan equivalent, a civil war that breaks out in part over Romulus' oppression of the Outworlds.
  • The third Alexis Carew novel, The Little Ships, briefly mentions a second one hundreds of years in the past in the context of explaining the current war between New London and the Republic of Hanover. Earth apparently tried to reconquer its colonies, but during the war, a group of planets in Deutschestirne launched a bloody revolt and broke away.
  • Angel in the Whirlwind takes place a couple hundred years after the Breakaway Wars, when the United Nations-controlled Sol system attempted to regain control of its colonies. This ended with the destruction of every major body in the Sol system by Colony Drop.
  • The Hiatus in the RCN series came about when Earth and the colonies fought over colonial independence. Earth took so many asteroid impacts that its continents are now unrecognizable and the Sol system as a whole is a barely inhabited backwater.
  • In Aeon 14: Destiny Lost, the AST (short for Alpha Centauri, Sol, Tau Ceti) acts as The Empire for the era, forcing many smaller polities to build huge navies to ward them off: it's mentioned that New Eden (82 Eridani) cannot win, but has enough ships to make any conquest attempt by the AST a Pyrrhic Victory.
  • Voyager From Yesteryear by James P. Hogan. A probe is sent to Alpha Centauri containing a genetic bank to escape an impending world war. Raised by Robots in a Post-Scarcity Economy, the colonists form a community where money and authoritarianism are meaningless. This causes problems when the authoritarian Earth governments established during the war decide to send an expedition to bring them back into the fold, which proves difficult than expected due to Culture Clash and Superweapon Surprise.
  • In All Tomorrows, the Martian humans cut off all non-essential trade with Earth, crippling the Terran economy and sparking an interplanetary war. In a rare aversion of No Sense of Distance, this war is mostly fought remotely, taking months to send autonomous warships to the enemy's planet. The Terrans blow up Phobos, one of Mars's moons, and Mars causes a polar impact on Earth that kills off a third of the planet. Eventually they make peace, after 8 billion have died, and use LEGO Genetics to modify themselves into one new species, the Star People.
  • In Transpecial, Mars has fought a twenty-year war of independence with Earth, which lasted for most of Suza's childhood and ended a few years ago. Now it's an independent republic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Firefly: Although Earth is 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. The Alliance won and annexed the outer planets.
  • 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.
    • Mars is especially notable as it was under martial law for almost a century, and, differently from the others, it wasn't as the result of Clark taking over and turning Earth Alliance into a dictatorship but utter mismanagement: Mars' first colonists practiced strict population and immigration control as to avoid their population outstripping their expanding but still scarce ability to produce food and only accepted new immigrants with useful skills until Earth suddenly allowed its member nations to exile their undesirables to Mars, and it only got worse from therenote  until Clark was defeated and Interstellar Alliance posed the restauration of Mars as a full nation (with its membership of Earth Alliance depending on Mars' own consent) as a condition for Earth's admission.
  • Comes up sometimes on Blake's 7, but only one episode at a time and one planet at a time. It is the theme of the whole series, but the rebellion seems to be a lot less organized and systematic than most other examples of this trope.
  • Star Trek:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • In The Expanse, Mars is an independent power, but the Martians and United Nations (Earth's government) between them dominate the downtrodden asteroid belt and outer worlds. In addition to hostile relations between the two powers, some Belters belonging to the terrorist/freedom fighter group called the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) carry out their own attacks on both. Conflict between all three factions heats up throughout the series, with dire consequences for all concerned.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "Tempests", Earth's off-world colonies sought their independence but lost the ensuing war against Earth. Many colonists feel that Earth authorities treat them poorly because of the war.
    • In "Summit", the Dregocians, a genetically engineered Human Subspecies, have wrested control of their adopted homeworld Dregocia from the United Coalition authorities and are seeking complete autonomy. They are engaged in a terrorist campaign against Earth in the hope of securing it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 (known as Terra in the game) 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 ("neutral" ComStar secretly against all the Successor States).
    • To elaborate, during the thousand years of history covered in-universe (c.2100 to 3151), there are seven major nations with 200+ star systems (one, the first centered on Terra, destroyed in the late 2700s, a second Terran one formed in 3078), at least ten minor (10-100 planets) nations (with several destroyed across the timeline), between six and twenty Clans (self-exiled, and later returned, warrior cultures) at any given point from 2800 onward, and numerous small (<10 planets) nations and pirate bands. Aside from the Star League (which rose and fell in the game's backstory), since the game's start year of 3025 only one faction in the ENTIRE storyline has ever been able to even come close to dominating all of these factions, and this super-state was formed in a dynastic marriage between two major nations, lasted a single generation, then broke into its two original states again in a civil war. Major struggles against a bigger power involving multiple star systems are a regular feature, and that's not counting minor rebellions and such that don't merit any headlines.
  • 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 millennium) 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 Star Empire's origins in Star Realms. They started off as colonies that felt abandoned to an alien menace and exploited by the Trade Federation. The Star Empire results when a local governor takes power and develops a mighty war fleet to deal with both aliens and the Federation.

    Video Games 
  • Killzone, while not involving Earth itself, involves a separatist movement from a somewhat 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 masse.
    • 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.
  • Inverted in the background lore of Dead Space. Dead Space 3 reveals that 200 years prior to the games there was a so-called "Secession War" during which the (presumably off-Earth) authority of the Sovereign Colonies Council was overthrown by the Terra-centric EarthGov. Given what we know of their competence from previous games and in light of how S.C.A.F. explicitly sacrificed their ability to win the war in exchange for burying all evidence of their Marker research in order to protect humanity, we can safely assume that the war didn't turn out well for anyone.
  • 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.
  • Evolve mentions Basilisk Rebellion, more commonly known as the Mutagen Wars, where the Earth government The Hub fights against a planet over the right to self-govern and genetic modifications. This leads to flame-thrower-wielding psychos and sci-fi necromancers fighting against genetically modified bug people in a hellish war, ending in Hub's victory.
  • Escape Velocity and Escape Velocity Nova both feature wars the Earth-led 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 installments, but the more-or-less chronologically lastnote  has the Earth-centric Terran Star Empire having conquered all human worlds except one (which remains independent and neutral for unclear reasons), while 'earlier' installments have 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.
  • In Halo, humanity's empire expanded over the course of 500 years to include hundreds of planets and moons and tens of billions of people. It eventually became too big to manage from Earth itself, leading to interstellar conflict that, per the Carver Projections, would likely lead to billions of death and the human empire being disintegrated. There are numerous rebel groups fighting against the UNSC, some of which became powerful enough to seize control of whole planets and deploy space navies (albeit of deeply inferior quality to the UNSC's — a standard UNSC destroyer/frigate is considered a capital ship to most of the rebels, the bulk of their craft are small corvettes and missile boats). Some continued their struggle even during the Covenant invasion, but the fact that said invasion crashed headfirst into the Outer Colonies (where most of the Insurrectionist worlds were) pretty much killed the movement dead for a while. The Spartan program was originally implemented to help put down these Insurrectionists. Various literature indicates that at least a few of these planets were successful in retaining their long-term independence (e.g. the unnamed planet Preston Cole likely settled on).
    • The post-Halo 3 media, starting with Halo: Glasslands, reveal 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, especially since the collapse of the Covenant has resulted in a lot of high-tech alien military hardware being sold on the black market. However, most of this is in the Expanded Universe, with the games themselves only occasionally referencing the Insurrection (to date, they've only appeared in the first Halo Wars game).
    • 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, it's also made 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.
    • There are several pre-UNSC conflicts that take place over 400 years before the games, between the United Nations, the Friedens, and the Koslovics, both on Earth and the colonies. The last of those conflicts is the Mars Campaign, where the UNSC first saw action.
  • 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 form a substantial part of the worldbuilding, particularly in the first game.
  • StarCraft has a lot of these.
    • 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). The Confederacy is basically using the Zerg invasions as a convenient tool to put down rebellious worlds and unite all Terrans under its banner out of fear, though this quickly bites them.
    • 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: Wings of Liberty, 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 onto 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 Game Fist 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 is 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, fast-forward 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 are 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.
  • The "A New Hope" scenario of Sword of the Stars is about this.
    • 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.
  • The first Colony Wars is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • The Second Terraformer War of X3: Albion Prelude is the culmination of a decade of rising tensions between the Earth State and their long-lost brethren in the Argon Federation. Earth fears the Argon are researching artificial general intelligence, which caused the war that cut them off from each other in the first place, and deploy an extensive spy network into Community of Planets space with the intent of influencing the future course of their governments. The Argon discover it, see it as an act of war, and turn to AGI to give their navy a fighting chance against the Terrans, who have better ships. The Terrans send a fleet to the border, and the Argon use their AGI drones in a preemptive strike. Then, one year prior to Albion Prelude, an Argon Secret Service operative blows up the Torus Aeternal surrounding Earth to open the way for an invasion, killing millions of Terrans. Things go From Bad to Worse. (Note most of this is All There in the Manual: in-game, the Argon and Terrans seem like Designated Heroes and Villains respectively.)
  • 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 choose to adhere to one of three affinities that 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, where 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. Supremacy's is Emancipation, where they open a warp gate to Earth and conquer it.
  • Crisis of the Confederation pits an Earth-controlled Terran Confederation against a loose alliance of separatist factions led by a body known as the Orion League. The Confederation is still ostensibly a representative democracy, but it has become a de facto corporate oligarchy controlled by Corrupt Corporate Executives according to the Orion League's list of grievances.
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare: The players in the campaign are fighting for the Earth-based United Nations Space Alliance against the Settlement Defense Front, a Mars-based space terrorist organization who view themselves as superior to earthborn humans and earthborn humans as fat cats living off of what colonists have produced. Best of all, they’re led by Jon Snow!
  • Titanfall presents an inverted scenario: the frontier planets are the ones who are being oppressed, forming the Frontier Defense Pact because Hammond Robotics and their Private Military Contractors, the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation, have been aggressively and violently abusing the frontier planets for their resources. Because of this, none of the conflict happens on Earth but in Frontier space (although the aforementioned tropes still apply). The closest the Frontier Militia gets to Earth during the war is when they attempt to sabotage the IMC fuel depot at Demeter (which is the farthest settled point IMC forces can reach via hyperspace travel without running out of fuel).
  • In RayStorm, humans move out to space colonies, only for the people of those colonies to rebel against Earth, and the player character is sent out to stop the rebellion.
  • Stellaris:
    • The trailer for the Overlord Expansion Pack tells the story of how a primitive race of cat-like aliens were uplifted by an advanced spacefaring empire, only for that empire to turn around and colonize their world, leading them to revolt and seek help from other galactic powers. The perspective then switches to the empire's leader, revealed to be a human.
    • In the game itself, of course, you can also do this by allowing unhappiness on distant worlds to build up to the point that they rebel against you. Bonus points if it's because of oppression or slavery, and if you're playing as a human empire based on Earth. Indeed, it is popular for players to create analogues (or even direct copies) of the Imperium of Man or the Terran Federation. The developers, seemingly in anticipation of this, created a pre-made analogue to the latter in the form of the Commonwealth of Man, albeit based on a Lost Colony instead of Earth.

  • 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.
  • In Galactic Maximum, in the Backstory of the Great Solar Wars, The Federation is an alien coalition who showed up to help the colonists secede from Earth.
  • The first arc of Escape from Terra details the United World's brief attempt to bring down the Cerean "rebellion".

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Colony Wars

Far in the future, it is the savage Earth Empire who threaten Humanity's colony worlds.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheWarOfEarthlyAggression

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