Robin de Voh
writer, developer, nerd

Nanoprep 2015 Day 3: the Colony

By Robin de Voh on 2015-10-13

That's a good question, kid. Let's see here.

The spacecraft Hermes IV landed on Tau Ceti e about 120 years ago, which would make it around 2140. It had landed in a field of tall red grass and just sat there for a number of hours while atmospheric checks were being done. The crew had been picked specifically for personalities compatible with long, isolated journeys. Of course nobody would have survived the 150+ years of travel if they hadn't had rotating shifts and cryogenic hibernation. However, with a crew of 3 active at any time, for about half a year a shift, there was more than enough opportunity to get into conflict. There wasn't much talking most of the time. Some spoke to some of the 500 permanently frozen colonists, but that didn't help their popularity either.

At some point, the atmospheric checks had been completed and the air seemed breathable. Not a perfect match for Earth air but aside from possible lightheadedness, it should be fine. Captain Max Brading was first in the airlock, having the right to take first stab at breathing this new air. It wasn't an old tradition -- Hermes IV was the fourth Hermes craft, but the first to not explode after launch -- but they felt it to be an appropriate new tradition. They were pioneers, they felt quite strongly that they could create their own traditions.

He stepped out and inhaled deeply. The atmospheric tests had been right and he was indeed light-headed now. He coughed slightly and told the rest of the crew to come out.

After confirming their surroundings were safe -- no local lifeforms detected so far -- they started the reviving process for the frozen colonists and unloading the gear they'd need to start the colony.

Now, the next bit is a bit boring, it's just about building the town and becoming self-sustaining. Some stories about fighting the eventually discovered wildlife and domesticating some of them and finding a sentient species they at first fought with but eventually made a mutually beneficial peace with.

What I want to tell you about is something entirely different. It's about how we came to Tau Ceti e's current name. So after about 25 years, things had settled into a sort of rhythm, there was a form of government - the town council, as you all know - and life around here started to feel less like colony life and more like regular life. Except our new home planet still hadn't been named.

It took around 12 years for a message to arrive either way back then and we had sent out our initial message a year or so after landing. When the response from Earth finally came, we were told the honor of naming the planet was ours, but we needed to do it soon as they were planning on a PR move to get the people of Earth more invested in the colonies.

So a town meeting was called by the council and everyone showed up, even Captain Max, who had been deposed soon after the colony had been started and at the time lived in a shack on the other side of Lake Don't-Swim-Here. Once everyone was in the We-Built-It town hall, suggestions for a name were shared freely. Notes were made, votes were cast and eventually there was a shortlist of 5 possible names. Then there was a sudden silence as many in the town hall realized the same thing. A hushed murmur spread.

Both the crew and colonists had been hand-picked to be hardy and deemed to be a good fit for what amounted to a pretty isolated and cut-off lifestyle. Everybody was expected to deal with the fact that their entire families were long dead and that they could never return to Earth.

But when it came to language use, they just weren't very creative. Nobody thought to bring a linguist or two.

So, in answer to your question, that's why Tau Ceti e is now called 'It's-Nice-Here'.

Hmm? Oh, no, you really don't want to know the names that didn't make it. Now, who wants some That-Blue-Plant soup?

This is how I imagine the process went to name 'We Made It', a planet in Larry Niven't Known Space. That name always bothered me, but in a funny way.