Map Thread XX

Did Napoleon secure Iberia, if so, how?
Yes it did, mainly because of two factors:
The Spanish monarchs fled to New Spain as did the Portuguese ones fearing a real invasion (there were no Sucesos of Aranjuez nor Fernando VII's coup against its father Charles IV and all the ensuing drama that led them to move to France for "mediation", which was an excuse of Napoleon to imprison them). And so, the Spanish population felt abandoned by their monarchs, henceforth the Spanish popuar resistance to the French was more passive and not as an aggressive guerrilla fight as in OTL.
Then, with this "easier" war in Spain, the French Army had sufficient forces to mantain the occupation of Portugal and securing its ports against the British by 1910, creating puppet governments in both states BUT with local rules allied with Napoleon, as he understood that neither the Spanish nor Portuguese people were willing to have a foreign monarch.
Why did the French directly annex Roma, instead of leaving it as a puppet?
They did annex the Italian Departments as in OTL, giving them some internal autonomy after the victory over the UK in 1817; it is assumed that a Roman Republic will be created in the future, when the socio-economic conditions are favorable.
What did France actually do different to assure victory in Russia?
Assuring Ottoman direct support on the war (as it was intended in OTL but failed to obtain) from the South, and convincing Sweden to join to regain Finland (after a pro-French coup in the country).
Then, with 3 fronts opened (the main OTL french one, other front in the Black Sea and the Finnish one), the Russian Bear was finally defeated by mid-1813, when Saint Petersburg was captured by a combined Franco-Swedish army, after the capture of Moscow and Kiev (this one by the Ottomans).
Could you please explain in detail the actual invasion of Britain, where was the British navy for example?
Thanks :)
It started with the Great Irish Independence War, starting as a rebellion in October 1814, which opened the rebel-controlled ports to the French Navy to start transporting troops to the island, as an important amount of the British Navy was still returning from America after the end of the "British Reconquest of New England".
Aided by the remnants of the Spanish fleet who survived Trafalgar, by April 1815, the whole of Ireland was liberated and declared an independent Kingdom under a regency by the Parliament.
The British Navy was, still, the greatest navy in the world, but losing Ireland to the Franco-Spanish fleets hurted them, with Irish-pirate raids undermining its power in the Irish Sea.
Then, after securing Man Island in September 1815, the "Great liberation of Britain" , with landings in North Wales, Man Island, Cornwall and Lancaster.
After small successes in the first months, with the help of Scottish insurgents against the English from mid-1816, a combined force of French, German, Irish, Scottish and Danish troops reached and captured London in January 1817.
Are the Channel Islands French or is the fact that they still have an outline (rather than now being some unnoticed islands of the coast) suggest the violet around them is referring to the English satellite rather than- Huh. Kind of odd, actually.
They are French, annexed to the Empire directly.
You would think the Irish would be shown as under French sway. Not worth it, I guess.
The Irish are not a French vassal nor satellite, they are simply allies, as the "Liberation of Ireland" (as mentioned before) was not a matter of French invasion, as it was a national uprising which had French support.
How many of the areas with the French outline in Europe are republics?
Not many; Switzerland, Illyria, and some could argue the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has a republican system of government.
And is Gibraltar Spanish, French, or English?
A French dependency, with promises of its return to Spain in an unspecified future.
Nice to see the Illyria area as it’s own thing. Did France shedding so much land in the north come after Napoleon?
The Illyrian provinces did extend that north in OTL, I just added Slavonia and the rest of Habsburg controlled Croatia.
 
In 1956, the Soviet scientist Pyotr Borisov proposed to block the Bering Strait with a dam, and install powerful pumps operating on atomic energy inside the dam in order to improve the climate of the northern territories of the USSR (Namely Krasnoyarsk Kray, Kamchatka Oblast, Magadan Oblast, Nenets NO, Yamal-Nenets NO, Koryak NO, Chukotka NO, Komi ASSR, Yakut ASSR, Alaskan ASSR). He considered the ocean currents to be the determining factor of low temperatures, namely the warm Gulf Stream and the cold Anadyr current. Borisov's plan was to slow down the movement of Pacific waters, and open free passage for warm Atlantic waters through the Arctic Ocean. According to his calculations, warming should have occurred in several years of the project's implementation, and the climate of the northern territories could become comfortable and livable.
The construction of the Bering Dam was the most ambitious Soviet project of the Khrushchev era. It is now clear that the project has led to catastrophic climate change in the vast territories of the planet. Disruption of the circulation of the Gulf Stream caused its complete stop in the Atlantic and the rise of cold masses of water from the depths, which led to the "freezing" of the Eurasian continent.​

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(So, Russia has never sold Alaska, but the twist is that after the revolution, Alaska did not become “Tsarist Taiwan” either.)
 
That's just asking for a shit-ton of secessionist movements and ethno-cultural conflicts

Could be multiple levels of federalism: the world government at top, the first level is geo-regions, the third level nationalities however defined, with certain powers reserved for the differing levels.
 
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The Mariner's Valley is the longest-inhabited and most densely-populated region of Mars. Before the Earth Origin theory gained favor among modern historians, it was thought to be the cradle of humanity. Its steep cliffs retain a thick, oxygen-rich atmosphere in the rich valleys below, while shielding them from the brutal dust storms which once constrained the inhabitants of Xanthe and Araby to cling to life in craters and caves.

While the continual growth of cyanobacteric algae in the northern ocean has gradually thickened the atmosphere and made life feasible at higher and higher altitudes, the Valley remained the economic center of the northwestern Martian world up through the 11th century. This made control of the Straits of Capri - the sole conventional entrance to the Valley - the most valuable geopolitical prize on the planet.

In the late 7th century, the Province of Xanthe had led the western coalition to a smashing victory on the fields of Osuga against the County of Fadoua, ending its Governor's attempt to unify the province of South Margaritifer and seize control of the Straits. Xanthe's continued aggressive expansion in the decades which followed, both into the crater confederations of West Xanthe and the coastal lands along the Straits raised fear across Western Mars that it, too, would make a play to become a regional hegemon.

The peripheral powers which formed the Copratian League to oppose Xanthe's ambitions - the canyon confederation of Ius and the newly-unified and rapidy-growing Province of Kasei - faced a critical geographic problem. Separated from each other by Xanthe, they faced the fear that a Xanthean fleet which could cut communication through Da Vinci Bay could strike a critical blow to one of the allies before the other even learned that a war had begun.

A solution came from an unlikely source - the then-desolate county of Echus, which had recently turned to Kasei for protection against the steppe hetmans which plagued its river settlements. Towns in its southern periphery had contact and limited trade with the hermit kingdom of Hebes, from which it was separated by 12 kilometers of the highland 'Death Zone' - lands so high that the air was too thin for life to survive permanently. Specially-acclimated people who were reared at extreme heights could climb up the Echus cliffs and survive the passage to the other side. Hebes folk legends claimed ancient heroes had once done the same across the 70 kilometer gap between southern Hebes and the Marinerian county of Ophir.

This hope, thin as it was, was enough for Kasei to try. Countless bold and hardy highlanders perished in subsequent attempts to recreate legend - but eventually, it was done, with the help of sealed goatskins full of low-altitude air and the discovery of a midway chasm deep enough to allow rest. Using similar methods, adventurers were later able to find a second, shorter route through the county of Nia via the uninhabited Hydrae Chasm to the source of the Maja river in the isolated county of Juventae. The now-famous Hebesian and Hydrean Runs were open.

For the first generation of the 8th century, mail runners regularly carried secret dispatches across both routes, keeping the allies connected during several brutal wars with the Xanthean Caprisian League. After the 724 defeat of the Copratian fleet at Batoka Bay, these paths became the only form of communication between the Valley and the outside world.

Ultimately, they were not enough. Caprisian forces finally subdued Ius in the bloody battle of Calyport, while Kasei was first forced to cede the rich craterlands which had once been its heartland, then collapsed under invasion from the province of Tempe and the resurgent plains hetmanates. For its part, Xanthe was able to enjoy the fruits of victory for only thirty-odd years before a disputed gubernatorial succession led to civil war and conflict with the new leading Marinerian power of Melas.

Knowledge of the Highland Runs was lost for generations until evidence was rediscovered by archivists in the mid-12th century. Today, with a much thicker atmosphere than existed in the 7th century, the two Runs are popular among hikers and marathoners who see them as an opportunity to relive history - providing a much-needed boon to the struggling economies of Hebes and the north Marinerian states.
It seems that you have thought a lot about the Mars terraforming concept and know a lot more than me! I'd love to hear any more advice you have - I really like this setting and was thinking about fleshing it out more later, since I've already put a lot of effort into generating the heightmaps and hydrology files. DM me if you are interested.
Thank you for your answers! I’m flattered, but most of my knowledge is just casual interest in space exploration and vague recollections of post-apocalyptic stories.

One of the most relevant would be Toxic Stars, where Mars was forced to survive on its own after all civilisation on Earth and Luna was instantly destroyed by an unexpected cataclysm. Unfortunately, the thread is long dead and the author hasn't been online since 2019; but the worldbuilding is incredible, and I'd still recommend you to read the story in its entirety. Florida/Ictoria in 6500 AD, a far-future medieval setting where our history and legacy have all but passed into myth, is also a good reference. And of course, the Mars Trilogy is a respected classic for good reason. As for technical reading, the blog of Casey Handmer (an ex-NASA JPL physicist) is one of the best layman’s resources available for Martian colonisation topics. His free e-books, How to Get to Earth from Mars: Solving the Hard Part First and How To Industrialize Mars: A Strategy For Self-Sufficiency are both invaluable references.

Sorry about the late reply; between office work, re-reading the entirety of Toxic Stars, browsing two dozen articles and skimming three books about human life on Mars, it took far more time than I'd have liked to finish this brief writeup. For your consideration, here are my thoughts on fleshing out your scenario into a proper hard sci-fi setting:


1. The Last War, the Great Dying, the Long Night and the Second Dawn: your setting requires a cataclysm devastating enough to destroy an interplanetary civilisation to the point that all historical knowledge was lost, but not devastating enough to render humanity extinct or Mars and Earth uninhabitable. A solar flare or asteroid strike would not be sufficient; an interstellar civilisation of this scale would have advanced enough that hardening vital infrastructure against such known threats would likely be well within their means (not to mention that both events would only affect a single world, not the rest of the system). Nuclear war won't cut it either, since neutral states will not be targeted; all societies will suffer a collapse in technological capability and living standards, but at least a few will be able to maintain continuity of government and the electrical grid throughout the subsequent dark age, ready to rise again after a century or two (or far faster, if help from off-world survivors is available).

I would suggest a system-wide war, triggered by geopolitical tensions between the major colonial powers on Earth; this would draw in the rest of Sol into the conflagration. Extensive use of nuclear and orbital strikes, designed to deny valuable infrastructure to the enemy, leads to widespread devastation and irreversible loss of advanced technology across the entire system. As the war draws to a close, a secret bioweapons facility belonging to the losing side was unknowingly struck by kinetic kill vehicles targeting a nearby spaceport, accidentally releasing an engineered plague (artificially high transmissibility, extremely long incubation period, near-universal mortality rate - a la Blue Death, Simian Flu or Captain Trips).

A last-ditch measure originally meant to be unleashed only after a domestic vaccination programme had been completed, the actual virus was a flawed prototype which swiftly mutated beyond its creators' worst fears. Carried by refugees to hitherto safe zones and neutral locations, the plague spreads like wildfire unnoticed; detection and treatment was stymied by devastated healthcare infrastructure and pervasive social instability across Sol. By the time the first deaths occur, it is already too late for any organised effort at epidemic mitigation, doomsday sheltering, or even last-ditch "fling a light into the future" knowledge preservation - the wholesale collapse of interplanetary civilisation came about within less than a single year, with mass deaths occurring so quickly that the vast majority of bodies were left unburied. As civilian authority and military command chains rapidly disintegrated, desperate field commanders attempted to create "firebreaks" against the plague by launching nuclear strikes against major refugee concentrations and infected population centres. This not only proved to be too little, too late; but combined with the war's earlier devastation, the firebreaks were enough to tip the climate scales and trigger a nuclear winter: the homeworld's number of plague survivors, already small, is now winnowed by hunger, cold and radiation to the point of near-extinction. Mars, thankfully, is spared a similar fratricide due to the lack of any ground-based ICBM installations. A few kinetic strikes, however, was still launched against Watney's Landing, the largest city (and thus, the largest infected population) on Mars; the first human footsteps on the Red Planet is scoured away in fire.

On Earth and Mars, the few who are either naturally immune or miraculously survived the plague retreated to the countryside, swiftly regressing into hunter-gatherer tribes as the exceedingly few technical specialists that remain dies of hunger, violence or old age. Physical books were the quickest storage medium to decay, with magnetic tapes following suit within a few decades and solid-state drives in a century or two; but knowledge of a precursor civilisation is still common on Earth due to the sheer extent of recognisable ruins across the homeworld.[1] On Mars, the few extant settlements were forgotten after only a few generations: either vaporised by WMD strikes, dismantled for supplies by first-generation survivors, buried by dust storms in non-terraformed regions, or worn down by geological processes in terraformed ones.

Survivors on space stations, Lunar cities or asteroid bases are not so lucky; for those left without access to off-world transportation, starvation and suicide are their most common fates. While the orbitals and satellites will eventually reenter the atmosphere and disintegrate, any permanent structure located in stable locations with vacuum (airless moons, asteroids, L4/L5 objects, deep-space stations) will survive more or less indefinitely; ripe for Mars to discover when the time is right.

[1] Note that this creates a potential plot hole: conditions on Earth (climate, geography, natural resources, precursor resources) are so much more favourable compared to Mars that realistically, it should be Earthers who would first re-industrialise and take the lead in contacting Mars.

2. Terraforming and genetic engineering: completely transforming Mars into an Earthlike world is the sort of endeavour that would take a thousand years to finish, if not longer. Realistically, a civilisation that successfully terraformed Mars would almost certainly be advanced and dispersed enough that a system-wide civilisational collapse is unlikely.

For humans to survive on Mars, we would need both the right air mixture and the right atmospheric pressure. Sea level atmospheric pressure on Earth is 1,013 milibars; ideally, a 200 mbar atmosphere is enough to allow a physically fit human to breath from an oxygen mask without a pressure suit, while the Armstrong Limit of 68 mbar is the absolute lower limit. Below this level, surface bodily fluids begin to boil, and oxygen delivery can only be accomplished with a pressure suit.

By comparison, Mars' atmospheric pressure stands at a paltry 6.5 mbar. Terraforming would first involve raising the level of CO2 in the Martian atmosphere by a factor of 40, through melting the CO2 frozen into the regolith and the southern polar cap; this would not just thicken the atmosphere, but trigger a runaway greenhouse effect that would gradually warm Mars over the centuries.

As far as terraforming methods go, neither "nuking the poles" nor "crashing comets" are actually viable approaches in practice. The sum total yield of all existing warheads are only equivalent to 45 minutes of sunlight, so the nuclear option would barely shift the scales even if carefully buried beneath the ice caps. The comet option suffers from roughly the same logistical problems: the sheer quantity needed for terraforming purposes exceeds known reserves of comets, the energy and time required to redirect icy bodies from the outer solar system inward is utterly cost-prohibitive, and actually crashing so many comets into Mars would resurface the entire planet and kick up enough dust to trigger a nuclear winter, ruining the whole "warming Mars" objective for centuries to come.

There are three viable approaches: the first to add heat, and the second and third to prevent that heat from escaping after it had arrived. They should all be simultaneously executed for maximum effect.

First, orbital mirrors: capable of being made extremely thin (to save on material and weight) and curved (to concentrate sunlight on a particular area), a series of mirrors 100 km on a side could be constructed with as little as 40 tons of material - technically feasible for launch on a Falcon Heavy, then flown with solar wind pressure to Mars. So imagine the sheer scale of mirror arrays that could be constructed and launched by the great starships of the future, centuries from now; Martian subsurface resources could be melted down without any surface infrastructure, while carbonate and nitrate rocks can simply be vaporised to release more greenhouse gases.

Second, dark lichen: by decreasing the Martian albedo (the amount of light reflected back into space, currently 15%), Mars could be made to absorb more heat energy from the sun. Dark-colored lichen (a symbiosis of fungi and cyanobacteria), gene-engineered to survive on the harsh surface, could be distributed across the planet; they would further grow and propagate essentially for free, saving enormous amounts of human time and effort.

Third, greenhouse gases: CO2 is good at blocking thermal radiation across many wavelengths, but not nearly the best option out there; it does alllow some heat to escape through the atmosphere and back into space. To alleviate this, human-produced perfluorocarbons (PFCs), with thousands of times the lifespan and Global Warming Potential of CO2, should be produced by rock-eating factories and pumped into the atmosphere as fast as possible. This can be accomplished over many decades by massive, automated, nuclear-powered digging machines, targeted at specific sites with natural resource abundance.

These processes, enacted in tandem, could likely give Mars a warm, wet atmosphere in only a few centuries. But this only means that humans can walk round with nothing more than an oxygen mask and warm clothing; the vast majority of plants and animals are both oxygen-hungry, and unable to tolerate high CO2 levels regardless of how much O2 is available. Mars will need a higher level of oxygen on a per-area basis than Earth due to its low gravity; but converting half of the CO2 atmosphere into O2 would severely damage the greenhouse effect, cooling the planet once more.

As a result, I'd definitely argue for speeding up the timeframe to viable habitation by pairing the terraforming process with aggressive genetic engineering - not just for humans, but all Earthen life brought to Mars. Altering the lifeform is far easier and more cost-effective than altering the planet: more efficient photosynthesis to counter the weaker Martian sunlight for plants, and CO2 and radiation tolerance gene-mods for both animals and plants (likewise for humans, but with the option of making do with a filter mask, protective gear and underground habitats).

And taking a page from Toxic Stars, why stop there when far more extensive augmentations could be developed, allowing human life to flourish on Mars long before the terraforming process has come to a conclusion? High cancer rates and short lifespans need not be inevitable, if Martians have already been artificially adapted before the Fall. This could also become a good narrative device, with augmented Martians effectively being a distinct subspecies compare to "baseline" Earthers; with both sides not knowing any kind of human other than their own, first contact between the two worlds would be a deep shock to both societies - their biological differences becoming a potential spark for future conflict.

Your cyanobacteria idea is actually quite workable, but instead of using comet impacts as the delivery mechanism (due to the problems I've stated above), I'd instead suggest a network of massive, automated dispersal satellites: extremely hardened against decay, and "armed" with enormous reserves of cyanobacteria reentry capsules in storage. Not targeted by any side during the Last War (everyone wanted Mars as a living prize, not a dead rock), the network survived even as human civilisation collapsed, periodically launching payloads of cyanobacteria onto the Martian surface for centuries afterwards. Some eventually succumbed to system malfunctions, debris impact, or simple decay; others were actually able to exhaust their cyanobacteria stores before going dark. By the time civilisation reemerged, the entire network had long since ceased functioning - but they had succeeded in their task, the cyanobacteria colonies producing enough oxygen to not just sustain life in the Mariner's Valley, but gradually expanding its reach to previously barren lands. The people of Mars were unknowingly saved by ancient machines that they never knew - the satellites, their station-keeping thrusters exhausted, had long since reentered the atmosphere; while the ravages of millennia ensured that of the reentry capsules, nothing but unrecognisable scrap remains.

3. Power generation: this will be the greatest obstacle to primitive Martians achieving their own Industrial Revolution, let alone regaining access to orbit.

The advent of industrial civilisation on Earth was made possible by the widespread availability of easy-to-access energy sources, anthracite coal being the most important; we used that energy to tap progressively harder-to-access energy sources, radically increasing the complexity of our civilisation. But should our globalised world undergoes a systemic collapse, some scholars have theorised that a second Industrial Revolution may very well be impossible - all easily-accessed energy sources have long since been exhausted, which precludes accessing higher-order sources such as deep-sea petroleum deposits and nuclear power. Without an electrical grid, the materials needed to sustain industrial civilisation (steel for machinery, potash for fertiliser, silicon for semiconductors, etc.) simply cannot be produced en masse. And unlike past collapses, this one will be global in scale - there will be no outside capital, resources and knowledge to restart the cycle.

Now imagine restarting industrial civilisation on Mars - a functionally energy-dead world. All of the above problems are now exacerbated a thousandfold.
  • No fossil fuels, the most easily-accessed energy source for a preindustrial civilisation.
  • No wood (and therefore, no charcoal) in non-terraformed regions.
  • No hydropower in non-terraformed regions.
  • No wind power outside regions where the atmosphere has thickened.
  • Geothermal hotspots are few and far between, need considerable quantities of liquid coolant to operate, and will have major heat dissipation problems wherever the atmosphere remains thin (less atmospheric density means less heat convection; the majority of heat transfer will have to be either radiative or coolant-induced).
  • Uranium ore deposits are of questionable viability: they may have mostly decayed away in naturally-occuring reactors, and in any case requires substantial industrial infrastructure to refine.
  • Solar power suffers from both weaker irradiance (50-60% compared to Earth) and Martian dust storms capable of reducing power generation to zero.
  • Virtually no precursor ruins, which means no preprocessed metals and alloys available to be reclaimed.
Even with a terraformed, breathable Mars, I'm struggling to see how widespread industrialisation could be triggered while strictly sticking to hard sci-fi. Without any abundant, easy-to-access energy source, a perfectly viable outcome would be Martian societies reaching a stable, low-tech equilibrium: your "medieval Mars", but lasting more or less indefinitely until Earth had advanced far enough to reestablish contact once more.

I know that "precursor ruins jumpstarting technological development" is a well-worn cliché, but perhaps this narrative option should still be given consideration. Some inspiration could be taken from "softer" sci-fi fiction: for example, combining BattleTech's "lostech" concept (super-hardened factories and data cores, capable of surviving centuries of neglect) with Horizon: Zero Dawn's self-replicating machines and Project Firebreak (an installation designed to stabilise the Yellowstone Caldera, doubling as a source of unlimited geothermal power). Note that self-replicating robots would be absolutely critical to achieving Martian autarky (if we can make them work), so they're not at all out of place in a hard sci-fi setting.

Imagine a fully-automated, self-sustaining factory: physically hardened against decay beyond anything imaginable by 21st-century standards, maintained in pristine condition by a swarm of self-sustaining maintenance drones, and containing enough technical manuals and scientific data for even a preindustrial nation to jumpstart their sciences, if not to resume production right away. Buried miles underground to take advantage of a rare geothermal hotspot, this experimental installation was completed just after the Last War began; mothballed (but with its maintenance drones activated) before the Fall and forgotten afterwards, only to be stumbled upon millennia later by Martian explorers from a nation of your choice.

Option 1 (fully-operational factory): the exact products that the factory specialises in producing (raw materials, agricultural tools, industrial tools, consumer goods, medicine, genemods, ground vehicles, aircraft, surface-to-orbit vehicles. military weaponry, etc.) is up to you; different end products would result in radically divergent outcomes. A great power gaining control would be transformed into an unstoppable juggernaut, eventually unifying the Red Planet and landing the first Martians on Earth. A minor power would have neither the resource self-sufficiency nor the population to fully exploit their spoils and embark on global conquest; they will either willingly trade their technology and finished goods away in exchange for keeping their own sovereignty (which would lead to a broader dispersal of tech advances across Mars), or more likely be conquered by a great power (which goes back to the "juggernaut" outcome).

Option 2 (geothermal reactor and data archives only finished components, rest of factory never built): this is probably a better path narrative-wise, as Option 1 would either make the discovering nation overwhelmingly dominant, or trigger a global war for the factory's spoils. Even without any production capabilities, a functional geothermal reactor alone would be sufficient to bypass the energy source problem; the discoverers can tap into the factory's local grid for their energy needs, eventually allowing their own primitive electrical grid to be built. This would also lead to a far more "natural" pace of technological development: having an effectively infinite power source and some scientific theory is great, but all Martians will still have to build their own infrastructure from the ground up. This will take enough time that scientific advancements will be able to diffuse across national borders, resulting in a more equitable distribution of technological bounties; ultimately leading to Mars remaining divided between nations and empires, instead of being united by force. By comparison, Option 1 would have resulted in the controlling power having enormously superior technology compared to everyone else; I'm pretty sure that you don't want your setting to have railgun tanks and power-armored infantry slaughtering helpless horse cavalry, like something out of an ISOT fic.

The data archives within would be almost entirely technical in nature, allowing Martian sciences to advance by leaps and bounds after they are translated (all existing Martian tongues would be descended from the most prominent Earth languages spoken by pre-Fall colonists; the manuals would almost certainly be translatable with dedicated effort - English being the equivalent of ancient Latin or Egyptian hieroglyphs at worst, not something completely undecipherable like Linear A). The lack of any historical and cultural data is regrettable, but the mere existence of the reactor would prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there was a precursor civilisation; gradually leading to the Earth Origin theory becoming the dominant paradigm.


I hope that my thoughts had been of some help; of course, you don't have to use any of my ideas if you think they won't be a good fit. I'm looking forward to reading the finished setting - and of course, feel free to DM me if you have any further questions.
 
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The Illyrian provinces did extend that north in OTL, I just added Slavonia and the rest of Habsburg controlled Croatia.
Ahhh, I worded that poorly. I meant if they dropped their territories in Holland and northern Germany during or after the reign of Napoleon. Also, Illyria have as its king a Bonaparte, a Beauharnais, a marshal, or is it like with Italy, where Napoleon had a personal union going, with a Ban or Viceroy running the show for the current emperor?
 
Ahhh, I worded that poorly. I meant if they dropped their territories in Holland and northern Germany during or after the reign of Napoleon. Also, Illyria have as its king a Bonaparte, a Beauharnais, a marshal, or is it like with Italy, where Napoleon had a personal union going, with a Ban or Viceroy running the show for the current emperor?
Oh sorry for the misunderstanding; after the surrender of Russia and the establishment of French hegemony in Continental Europe, Napoleon, seeing the unrest happening in the former Batavian Republic, re-estabished it, as it was more useful for him as a puppet-Dutch state than as a part of France; with it, he returned north german territories to the Confederation of the Rhine.
Illyria is a republic, governed by Jean-Baptiste Bessières, Marshal of the Empire and a good friend of Napoleon, with native rulers taking over the local administration of the provinces.
 
Thank you for your answers! I’m flattered, but most of my knowledge is just casual interest in space exploration and vague recollections of post-apocalyptic stories.

One of the most relevant would be Toxic Stars, where Mars was forced to survive on its own after all civilisation on Earth and Luna was instantly destroyed by an unexpected cataclysm. Unfortunately, the thread is long dead and the author hasn't been online since 2019; but the worldbuilding is incredible, and I'd still recommend you to read the story in its entirety. Florida/Ictoria in 6500 AD, a far-future medieval setting where our history and legacy have all but passed into myth, is also a good reference. And of course, the Mars Trilogy is a respected classic for good reason. As for technical reading, the blog of Casey Handmer (an ex-NASA JPL physicist) is one of the best layman’s resources available for Martian colonisation topics. His free e-books, How to Get to Earth from Mars: Solving the Hard Part First and How To Industrialize Mars: A Strategy For Self-Sufficiency are both invaluable references.

Sorry about the late reply; between office work, re-reading the entirety of Toxic Stars, browsing two dozen articles and skimming three books about human life on Mars, it took far more time than I'd have liked to finish this brief writeup. For your consideration, here are my thoughts on fleshing out your scenario into a proper hard sci-fi setting:


1. The Last War, the Great Dying, the Long Night and the Second Dawn: your setting requires a cataclysm devastating enough to destroy an interplanetary civilisation to the point that all historical knowledge was lost, but not devastating enough to render humanity extinct or Mars and Earth uninhabitable. A solar flare or asteroid strike would not be sufficient; an interstellar civilisation of this scale would have advanced enough that hardening vital infrastructure against such known threats would likely be well within their means (not to mention that both events would only affect a single world, not the rest of the system). Nuclear war won't cut it either, since neutral states will not be targeted; all societies will suffer a collapse in technological capability and living standards, but at least a few will be able to maintain continuity of government and the electrical grid throughout the subsequent dark age, ready to rise again after a century or two (or far faster, if help from off-world survivors is available).

I would suggest a system-wide war, triggered by geopolitical tensions between the major colonial powers on Earth; this would draw in the rest of Sol into the conflagration. Extensive use of nuclear and orbital strikes, designed to deny valuable infrastructure to the enemy, leads to widespread devastation and irreversible loss of advanced technology across the entire system. As the war draws to a close, a secret bioweapons facility belonging to the losing side was unknowingly struck by kinetic kill vehicles targeting a nearby spaceport, accidentally releasing an engineered plague (artificially high transmissibility, extremely long incubation period, near-universal mortality rate - a la Blue Death, Simian Flu or Captain Trips).

A last-ditch measure originally meant to be unleashed only after a domestic vaccination programme had been completed, the actual virus was a flawed prototype which swiftly mutated beyond its creators' worst fears. Carried by refugees to hitherto safe zones and neutral locations, the plague spreads like wildfire unnoticed; detection and treatment was stymied by devastated healthcare infrastructure and pervasive social instability across Sol. By the time the first deaths occur, it is already too late for any organised effort at epidemic mitigation, doomsday sheltering, or even last-ditch "fling a light into the future" knowledge preservation - the wholesale collapse of interplanetary civilisation came about within less than a single year, with mass deaths occurring so quickly that the vast majority of bodies were left unburied. As civilian authority and military command chains rapidly disintegrated, desperate field commanders attempted to create "firebreaks" against the plague by launching nuclear strikes against major refugee concentrations and infected population centres. This not only proved to be too little, too late; but combined with the war's earlier devastation, the firebreaks were enough to tip the climate scales and trigger a nuclear winter: the homeworld's number of plague survivors, already small, is now winnowed by hunger, cold and radiation to the point of near-extinction. Mars, thankfully, is spared a similar fratricide due to the lack of any ground-based ICBM installations. A few kinetic strikes, however, was still launched against Watney's Landing, the largest city (and thus, the largest infected population) on Mars; the first human footsteps on the Red Planet is scoured away in fire.

On Earth and Mars, the few who are either naturally immune or miraculously survived the plague retreated to the countryside, swiftly regressing into hunter-gatherer tribes as the exceedingly few technical specialists that remain dies of hunger, violence or old age. Physical books were the quickest storage medium to decay, with magnetic tapes following suit within a few decades and solid-state drives in a century or two; but knowledge of a precursor civilisation is still common on Earth due to the sheer extent of recognisable ruins across the homeworld.[1] On Mars, the few extant settlements were forgotten after only a few generations: either vaporised by WMD strikes, dismantled for supplies by first-generation survivors, buried by dust storms in non-terraformed regions, or worn down by geological processes in terraformed ones.

Survivors on space stations, Lunar cities or asteroid bases are not so lucky; for those left without access to off-world transportation, starvation and suicide are their most common fates. While the orbitals and satellites will eventually reenter the atmosphere and disintegrate, any permanent structure located in stable locations with vacuum (airless moons, asteroids, L4/L5 objects, deep-space stations) will survive more or less indefinitely; ripe for Mars to discover when the time is right.

[1] Note that this creates a potential plot hole: conditions on Earth (climate, geography, natural resources, precursor resources) are so much more favourable compared to Mars that realistically, it should be Earthers who would first re-industrialise and take the lead in contacting Mars.

2. Terraforming and genetic engineering: completely transforming Mars into an Earthlike world is the sort of endeavour that would take a thousand years to finish, if not longer. Realistically, a civilisation that successfully terraformed Mars would almost certainly be advanced and dispersed enough that a system-wide civilisational collapse is unlikely.

For humans to survive on Mars, we would need both the right air mixture and the right atmospheric pressure. Sea level atmospheric pressure on Earth is 1,013 milibars; ideally, a 200 mbar atmosphere is enough to allow a physically fit human to breath from an oxygen mask without a pressure suit, while the Armstrong Limit of 68 mbar is the absolute lower limit. Below this level, surface bodily fluids begin to boil, and oxygen delivery can only be accomplished with a pressure suit.

By comparison, Mars' atmospheric pressure stands at a paltry 6.5 mbar. Terraforming would first involve raising the level of CO2 in the Martian atmosphere by a factor of 40, through melting the CO2 frozen into the regolith and the southern polar cap; this would not just thicken the atmosphere, but trigger a runaway greenhouse effect that would gradually warm Mars over the centuries.

As far as terraforming methods go, neither "nuking the poles" nor "crashing comets" are actually viable approaches in practice. The sum total yield of all existing warheads are only equivalent to 45 minutes of sunlight, so the nuclear option would barely shift the scales even if carefully buried beneath the ice caps. The comet option suffers from roughly the same logistical problems: the sheer quantity needed for terraforming purposes exceeds known reserves of comets, the energy and time required to redirect icy bodies from the outer solar system inward is utterly cost-prohibitive, and actually crashing so many comets into Mars would resurface the entire planet and kick up enough dust to trigger a nuclear winter, ruining the whole "warming Mars" objective for centuries to come.

There are three viable approaches: the first to add heat, and the second and third to prevent that heat from escaping after it had arrived. They should all be simultaneously executed for maximum effect.

First, orbital mirrors: capable of being made extremely thin (to save on material and weight) and curved (to concentrate sunlight on a particular area), a series of mirrors 100 km on a side could be constructed with as little as 40 tons of material - technically feasible for launch on a Falcon Heavy, then flown with solar wind pressure to Mars. So imagine the sheer scale of mirror arrays that could be constructed and launched by the great starships of the future, centuries from now; Martian subsurface resources could be melted down without any surface infrastructure, while carbonate and nitrate rocks can simply be vaporised to release more greenhouse gases.

Second, dark lichen: by decreasing the Martian albedo (the amount of light reflected back into space, currently 15%), Mars could be made to absorb more heat energy from the sun. Dark-colored lichen (a symbiosis of fungi and cyanobacteria), gene-engineered to survive on the harsh surface, could be distributed across the planet; they would further grow and propagate essentially for free, saving enormous amounts of human time and effort.

Third, greenhouse gases: CO2 is good at blocking thermal radiation across many wavelengths, but not nearly the best option out there; it does alllow some heat to escape through the atmosphere and back into space. To alleviate this, human-produced perfluorocarbons (PFCs), with thousands of times the lifespan and Global Warming Potential of CO2, should be produced by rock-eating factories and pumped into the atmosphere as fast as possible. This can be accomplished over many decades by massive, automated, nuclear-powered digging machines, targeted at specific sites with natural resource abundance.

These processes, enacted in tandem, could likely give Mars a warm, wet atmosphere in only a few centuries. But this only means that humans can walk round with nothing more than an oxygen mask and warm clothing; the vast majority of plants and animals are both oxygen-hungry, and unable to tolerate high CO2 levels regardless of how much O2 is available. Mars will need a higher level of oxygen on a per-area basis than Earth due to its low gravity; but converting half of the CO2 atmosphere into O2 would severely damage the greenhouse effect, cooling the planet once more.

As a result, I'd definitely argue for speeding up the timeframe to viable habitation by pairing the terraforming process with aggressive genetic engineering - not just for humans, but all Earthen life brought to Mars. Altering the lifeform is far easier and more cost-effective than altering the planet: more efficient photosynthesis to counter the weaker Martian sunlight for plants, and CO2 and radiation tolerance gene-mods for both animals and plants (likewise for humans, but with the option of making do with a filter mask, protective gear and underground habitats).

And taking a page from Toxic Stars, why stop there when far more extensive augmentations could be developed, allowing human life to flourish on Mars long before the terraforming process has come to a conclusion? High cancer rates and short lifespans need not be inevitable, if Martians have already been artificially adapted before the Fall. This could also become a good narrative device, with augmented Martians effectively being a distinct subspecies compare to "baseline" Earthers; with both sides not knowing any kind of human other than their own, first contact between the two worlds would be a deep shock to both societies - their biological differences becoming a potential spark for future conflict.

Your cyanobacteria idea is actually quite workable, but instead of using comet impacts as the delivery mechanism (due to the problems I've stated above),I'd instead suggest a network of massive, automated dispersal satellites: extremely hardened against decay, and "armed" with enormous reserves of cyanobacteria reentry capsules in storage. Not targeted by any side during the Last War (everyone wanted Mars as a living prize, not a dead rock), the network survived even as human civilisation collapsed, periodically launching payloads of cyanobacteria onto the Martian surface for centuries afterwards. Some eventually succumbed to system malfunctions, debris impact, or simple decay; others were actually able to exhaust their cyanobacteria stores before going dark. By the time civilisation reemerged, the entire network had long since ceased functioning - but they had succeeded in their task, the cyanobacteria colonies producing enough oxygen to not just sustain life in the Mariner's Valley, but gradually expanding its reach to previously barren lands. The people of Mars were unknowingly saved by ancient machines that they never knew - the satellites, their station-keeping thrusters exhausted, had long since reentered the atmosphere; while the ravages of millennia ensured that of the reentry capsules, nothing but unrecognisable scrap remains.

3. Power generation: this will be the greatest obstacle to primitive Martians achieving their own Industrial Revolution, let alone regaining access to orbit.

The advent of industrial civilisation on Earth was made possible by the widespread availability of easy-to-access energy sources, anthracite coal being the most important; we used that energy to tap progressively harder-to-access energy sources, radically increasing the complexity of our civilisation. But should our globalised world undergoes a systemic collapse, some scholars have theorised that a second Industrial Revolution may very well be impossible - all easily-accessed energy sources have long since been exhausted, which precludes accessing higher-order sources such as deep-sea petroleum deposits and nuclear power. Without an electrical grid, the materials needed to sustain industrial civilisation (steel for machinery, potash for fertiliser, silicon for semiconductors, etc.) simply cannot be produced en masse. And unlike past collapses, this one will be global in scale - there will be no outside capital, resources and knowledge to restart the cycle.

Now imagine restarting industrial civilisation on Mars - a functionally energy-dead world. All of the above problems are now exacerbated a thousandfold.
  • No fossil fuels, the most easily-accessed energy source for a preindustrial civilisation.
  • No wood (and therefore, no charcoal) in non-terraformed regions.
  • No hydropower in non-terraformed regions.
  • No wind power outside regions where the atmosphere has thickened.
  • Geothermal hotspots are few and far between, need considerable quantities of liquid coolant to operate, and will have major heat dissipation problems wherever the atmosphere remains thin (less atmospheric density means less heat convection; the majority of heat transfer will have to be either radiative or coolant-induced).
  • Uranium ore deposits are of questionable viability: they may have mostly decayed away in naturally-occuring reactors, and in any case requires substantial industrial infrastructure to refine.
  • Solar power suffers from both weaker irradiance (50-60% compared to Earth) and Martian dust storms capable of reducing power generation to zero.
  • Virtually no precursor ruins, which means no preprocessed metals and alloys available to be reclaimed.
Even with a terraformed, breathable Mars, I'm struggling to see how widespread industrialisation could be triggered while strictly sticking to hard sci-fi. Without any abundant, easy-to-access energy source, a perfectly viable outcome would be Martian societies reaching a stable, low-tech equilibrium: your "medieval Mars", but lasting more or less indefinitely until Earth had advanced far enough to reestablish contact once more.

I know that "precursor ruins jumpstarting technological development" is a well-worn cliché, but perhaps this narrative option should still be given consideration. Some inspiration could be taken from "softer" sci-fi fiction: for example, combining BattleTech's "lostech" concept (super-hardened factories and data cores, capable of surviving centuries of neglect) with Horizon: Zero Dawn's self-replicating machines and Project Firebreak (an installation designed to stabilise the Yellowstone Caldera, doubling as a source of unlimited geothermal power). Note that self-replicating robots would be absolutely critical to achieving Martian autarky (if we can make them work), so they're not at all out of place in a hard sci-fi setting.

Imagine a fully-automated, self-sustaining factory: physically hardened against decay beyond anything imaginable by 21st-century standards, maintained in pristine condition by a swarm of self-sustaining maintenance drones, and containing enough technical manuals and scientific data for even a preindustrial nation to jumpstart their sciences, if not to resume production right away. Buried miles underground to take advantage of a rare geothermal hotspot, this experimental installation was completed just after the Last War began; mothballed (but with its maintenance drones activated) before the Fall and forgotten afterwards, only to be stumbled upon millennia later by Martian explorers from a nation of your choice.

Option 1 (fully-operational factory): the exact products that the factory specialises in producing (raw materials, agricultural tools, industrial tools, consumer goods, medicine, genemods, ground vehicles, aircraft, surface-to-orbit vehicles. military weaponry, etc.) is up to you; different end products would result in radically divergent outcomes. A great power gaining control would be transformed into an unstoppable juggernaut, eventually unifying the Red Planet and landing the first Martians on Earth. A minor power would have neither the resource self-sufficiency nor the population to fully exploit their spoils and embark on global conquest; they will either willingly trade their technology and finished goods away in exchange for keeping their own sovereignty (which would lead to a broader dispersal of tech advances across Mars), or more likely be conquered by a great power (which goes back to the "juggernaut" outcome).

Option 2 (geothermal reactor and data archives only finished components, rest of factory never built): this is probably a better path narrative-wise, as Option 1 would either make the discovering nation overwhelmingly dominant, or trigger a global war for the factory's spoils. Even without any production capabilities, a functional geothermal reactor alone would be sufficient to bypass the energy source problem; the discoverers can tap into the factory's local grid for their energy needs, eventually allowing their own primitive electrical grid to be built. This would also lead to a far more "natural" pace of technological development: having an effectively infinite power source and some scientific theory is great, but all Martians will still have to build their own infrastructure from the ground up. This will take enough time that scientific advancements will be able to diffuse across national borders, resulting in a more equitable distribution of technological bounties; ultimately leading to Mars remaining divided between nations and empires, instead of being united by force. By comparison, Option 1 would have resulted in the controlling power having enormously superior technology compared to everyone else; I'm pretty sure that you don't want your setting to have railgun tanks and power-armored infantry slaughtering helpless horse cavalry, like something out of an ISOT fic.

The data archives within would be almost entirely technical in nature, allowing Martian sciences to advance by leaps and bounds after they are translated (all existing Martian tongues would be descended from the most prominent Earth languages spoken by pre-Fall colonists; the manuals would almost certainly be translatable with dedicated effort - English being the equivalent of ancient Latin or Egyptian hieroglyphs at worst, not something completely undecipherable like Linear A). The lack of any historical and cultural data is regrettable, but the mere existence of the reactor would prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there was a precursor civilisation; gradually leading to the Earth Origin theory becoming the dominant paradigm.


I hope that my thoughts had been of some help; of course, you don't have to use any of my ideas if you think they won't be a good fit. I'm looking forward to reading the finished setting - and of course, feel free to DM me if you have any further questions.
This reminds me of a video series by Preston Jacobs about the post-apocolyptic sci-fi origins of the deep history behind the medeival "furniture" of ASOIAF

 
Oh sorry for the misunderstanding; after the surrender of Russia and the establishment of French hegemony in Continental Europe, Napoleon, seeing the unrest happening in the former Batavian Republic, re-estabished it, as it was more useful for him as a puppet-Dutch state than as a part of France; with it, he returned north german territories to the Confederation of the Rhine.
Illyria is a republic, governed by Jean-Baptiste Bessières, Marshal of the Empire and a good friend of Napoleon, with native rulers taking over the local administration of the provinces.
Gotcha, gotcha. Got a bit confused with Germany as it has Munster around, as it and nearby areas had been chopped up IOTL to go to Holland, Berg, and Westphalia, where Napoleon’s brother, nephew, and other brother ruled. For a time. I notice you mentioned quite a few republics here, actually. Did Napoleon wind backwards on his attempts to set his family on thrones everywhere and went to become a republican of sorts again?
 
Serbia is a tad large and I cannot see them keeping Banat. The Ustashe called themselves Goths and plenty of the German government went along with that idea, perhaps due to all the Austrians in the government who saw the Croats more favorably due to the opposition to Hungarians and Serbs. I don’t see the Germans going out of their way to prop up republics in Central Asia (which I believe already had plenty of sometimes forcibly settlement there by Europeans) as the Nazis would want the Soviets to keep the manpower and resources under Soviet intros, so as to centralize thing and have everyone like cattle. The border you have for Denmark is implausible for a couple reasons. If the Danes kept what they were doing, pretending to have ‘invited’ in the Germans and to provide them loads of food without the Germans needing to occupy it, then it would be bad press to slice off land form a model protectorate. Especially as it is the one border the Germans didn’t make claims on, due to the plebiscite. Which, fun fact, the Prussians were supposed to have down over half a century before, but refused to. Hitler also thought that the land Denmark gained after WWI made it perfectly sized o be a reichsgau. So it would be all or nothing. What is the status of the Faroe Islands? British occupied, independent? I do not mind that Brittany is independent here as another mentioned, as the Germans are clearly taking as much as they can. They actually may have bitten off more than thy could chew, needing to settle and either integrate, deport, or swamp the tens of millions in the Low Countries and France. Do you have the Channel Islands as still being German occupied? If you ever go a map in a different format, without these thick borders, might want to label it as integral German territory, as well as getting a port in Brittany. I know the Germans also wanted to make a huge city in Norway for a hundred thousand people but, again, biting off more than they can chew. How successful would you say the annexations were here? Ahhh, and the Germans would probably want to annex Venice for the history of it, though I am going to assume it is a bit of a buffer zone here. Some ‘misunderstandings’ between the Germans and Italians. Not sure if Hungary wanted all of Slovakia, but maybe it is safest for them like this. If the Turks get Cyprus you might want to consider them also getting the slice of land the Germans occupied on their border IOTL and Rhône’s and the various other islands just off the coast of Turkey, which they didn’t renounce claim of until after WWI. They would be a lot closer, so the Turks would have a more realistic chance of taking it. A little surprised Albania never took land from Greece, or had it given to them, but just getting a populatoin exchange so Greeks and Albanians were each on separate sides of the border might be enough for them.
As a matter of fact none of them would exist. Croatia would probably be split between Italy and Germany because both were absolutely appalled at the tier of atrocities being committed by the Ustashe, Serbia deleted entirely because there's simply nobody to run it, OTL they had to get Nedić to accept being the governor practically at gunpoint, and even the noted collaborationist Ljotić considered the Germans a punishment from God.
 
Thank you for your answers! I’m flattered, but most of my knowledge is just casual interest in space exploration and vague recollections of post-apocalyptic stories.

One of the most relevant would be Toxic Stars, where Mars was forced to survive on its own after all civilisation on Earth and Luna was instantly destroyed by an unexpected cataclysm. Unfortunately, the thread is long dead and the author hasn't been online since 2019; but the worldbuilding is incredible, and I'd still recommend you to read the story in its entirety. Florida/Ictoria in 6500 AD, a far-future medieval setting where our history and legacy have all but passed into myth, is also a good reference. And of course, the Mars Trilogy is a respected classic for good reason. As for technical reading, the blog of Casey Handmer (an ex-NASA JPL physicist) is one of the best layman’s resources available for Martian colonisation topics. His free e-books, How to Get to Earth from Mars: Solving the Hard Part First and How To Industrialize Mars: A Strategy For Self-Sufficiency are both invaluable references.

Sorry about the late reply; between office work, re-reading the entirety of Toxic Stars, browsing two dozen articles and skimming three books about human life on Mars, it took far more time than I'd have liked to finish this brief writeup. For your consideration, here are my thoughts on fleshing out your scenario into a proper hard sci-fi setting:


1. The Last War, the Great Dying, the Long Night and the Second Dawn: your setting requires a cataclysm devastating enough to destroy an interplanetary civilisation to the point that all historical knowledge was lost, but not devastating enough to render humanity extinct or Mars and Earth uninhabitable. A solar flare or asteroid strike would not be sufficient; an interstellar civilisation of this scale would have advanced enough that hardening vital infrastructure against such known threats would likely be well within their means (not to mention that both events would only affect a single world, not the rest of the system). Nuclear war won't cut it either, since neutral states will not be targeted; all societies will suffer a collapse in technological capability and living standards, but at least a few will be able to maintain continuity of government and the electrical grid throughout the subsequent dark age, ready to rise again after a century or two (or far faster, if help from off-world survivors is available).

I would suggest a system-wide war, triggered by geopolitical tensions between the major colonial powers on Earth; this would draw in the rest of Sol into the conflagration. Extensive use of nuclear and orbital strikes, designed to deny valuable infrastructure to the enemy, leads to widespread devastation and irreversible loss of advanced technology across the entire system. As the war draws to a close, a secret bioweapons facility belonging to the losing side was unknowingly struck by kinetic kill vehicles targeting a nearby spaceport, accidentally releasing an engineered plague (artificially high transmissibility, extremely long incubation period, near-universal mortality rate - a la Blue Death, Simian Flu or Captain Trips).

A last-ditch measure originally meant to be unleashed only after a domestic vaccination programme had been completed, the actual virus was a flawed prototype which swiftly mutated beyond its creators' worst fears. Carried by refugees to hitherto safe zones and neutral locations, the plague spreads like wildfire unnoticed; detection and treatment was stymied by devastated healthcare infrastructure and pervasive social instability across Sol. By the time the first deaths occur, it is already too late for any organised effort at epidemic mitigation, doomsday sheltering, or even last-ditch "fling a light into the future" knowledge preservation - the wholesale collapse of interplanetary civilisation came about within less than a single year, with mass deaths occurring so quickly that the vast majority of bodies were left unburied. As civilian authority and military command chains rapidly disintegrated, desperate field commanders attempted to create "firebreaks" against the plague by launching nuclear strikes against major refugee concentrations and infected population centres. This not only proved to be too little, too late; but combined with the war's earlier devastation, the firebreaks were enough to tip the climate scales and trigger a nuclear winter: the homeworld's number of plague survivors, already small, is now winnowed by hunger, cold and radiation to the point of near-extinction. Mars, thankfully, is spared a similar fratricide due to the lack of any ground-based ICBM installations. A few kinetic strikes, however, was still launched against Watney's Landing, the largest city (and thus, the largest infected population) on Mars; the first human footsteps on the Red Planet is scoured away in fire.

On Earth and Mars, the few who are either naturally immune or miraculously survived the plague retreated to the countryside, swiftly regressing into hunter-gatherer tribes as the exceedingly few technical specialists that remain dies of hunger, violence or old age. Physical books were the quickest storage medium to decay, with magnetic tapes following suit within a few decades and solid-state drives in a century or two; but knowledge of a precursor civilisation is still common on Earth due to the sheer extent of recognisable ruins across the homeworld.[1] On Mars, the few extant settlements were forgotten after only a few generations: either vaporised by WMD strikes, dismantled for supplies by first-generation survivors, buried by dust storms in non-terraformed regions, or worn down by geological processes in terraformed ones.

Survivors on space stations, Lunar cities or asteroid bases are not so lucky; for those left without access to off-world transportation, starvation and suicide are their most common fates. While the orbitals and satellites will eventually reenter the atmosphere and disintegrate, any permanent structure located in stable locations with vacuum (airless moons, asteroids, L4/L5 objects, deep-space stations) will survive more or less indefinitely; ripe for Mars to discover when the time is right.

[1] Note that this creates a potential plot hole: conditions on Earth (climate, geography, natural resources, precursor resources) are so much more favourable compared to Mars that realistically, it should be Earthers who would first re-industrialise and take the lead in contacting Mars.

2. Terraforming and genetic engineering: completely transforming Mars into an Earthlike world is the sort of endeavour that would take a thousand years to finish, if not longer. Realistically, a civilisation that successfully terraformed Mars would almost certainly be advanced and dispersed enough that a system-wide civilisational collapse is unlikely.

For humans to survive on Mars, we would need both the right air mixture and the right atmospheric pressure. Sea level atmospheric pressure on Earth is 1,013 milibars; ideally, a 200 mbar atmosphere is enough to allow a physically fit human to breath from an oxygen mask without a pressure suit, while the Armstrong Limit of 68 mbar is the absolute lower limit. Below this level, surface bodily fluids begin to boil, and oxygen delivery can only be accomplished with a pressure suit.

By comparison, Mars' atmospheric pressure stands at a paltry 6.5 mbar. Terraforming would first involve raising the level of CO2 in the Martian atmosphere by a factor of 40, through melting the CO2 frozen into the regolith and the southern polar cap; this would not just thicken the atmosphere, but trigger a runaway greenhouse effect that would gradually warm Mars over the centuries.

As far as terraforming methods go, neither "nuking the poles" nor "crashing comets" are actually viable approaches in practice. The sum total yield of all existing warheads are only equivalent to 45 minutes of sunlight, so the nuclear option would barely shift the scales even if carefully buried beneath the ice caps. The comet option suffers from roughly the same logistical problems: the sheer quantity needed for terraforming purposes exceeds known reserves of comets, the energy and time required to redirect icy bodies from the outer solar system inward is utterly cost-prohibitive, and actually crashing so many comets into Mars would resurface the entire planet and kick up enough dust to trigger a nuclear winter, ruining the whole "warming Mars" objective for centuries to come.

There are three viable approaches: the first to add heat, and the second and third to prevent that heat from escaping after it had arrived. They should all be simultaneously executed for maximum effect.

First, orbital mirrors: capable of being made extremely thin (to save on material and weight) and curved (to concentrate sunlight on a particular area), a series of mirrors 100 km on a side could be constructed with as little as 40 tons of material - technically feasible for launch on a Falcon Heavy, then flown with solar wind pressure to Mars. So imagine the sheer scale of mirror arrays that could be constructed and launched by the great starships of the future, centuries from now; Martian subsurface resources could be melted down without any surface infrastructure, while carbonate and nitrate rocks can simply be vaporised to release more greenhouse gases.

Second, dark lichen: by decreasing the Martian albedo (the amount of light reflected back into space, currently 15%), Mars could be made to absorb more heat energy from the sun. Dark-colored lichen (a symbiosis of fungi and cyanobacteria), gene-engineered to survive on the harsh surface, could be distributed across the planet; they would further grow and propagate essentially for free, saving enormous amounts of human time and effort.

Third, greenhouse gases: CO2 is good at blocking thermal radiation across many wavelengths, but not nearly the best option out there; it does alllow some heat to escape through the atmosphere and back into space. To alleviate this, human-produced perfluorocarbons (PFCs), with thousands of times the lifespan and Global Warming Potential of CO2, should be produced by rock-eating factories and pumped into the atmosphere as fast as possible. This can be accomplished over many decades by massive, automated, nuclear-powered digging machines, targeted at specific sites with natural resource abundance.

These processes, enacted in tandem, could likely give Mars a warm, wet atmosphere in only a few centuries. But this only means that humans can walk round with nothing more than an oxygen mask and warm clothing; the vast majority of plants and animals are both oxygen-hungry, and unable to tolerate high CO2 levels regardless of how much O2 is available. Mars will need a higher level of oxygen on a per-area basis than Earth due to its low gravity; but converting half of the CO2 atmosphere into O2 would severely damage the greenhouse effect, cooling the planet once more.

As a result, I'd definitely argue for speeding up the timeframe to viable habitation by pairing the terraforming process with aggressive genetic engineering - not just for humans, but all Earthen life brought to Mars. Altering the lifeform is far easier and more cost-effective than altering the planet: more efficient photosynthesis to counter the weaker Martian sunlight for plants, and CO2 and radiation tolerance gene-mods for both animals and plants (likewise for humans, but with the option of making do with a filter mask, protective gear and underground habitats).

And taking a page from Toxic Stars, why stop there when far more extensive augmentations could be developed, allowing human life to flourish on Mars long before the terraforming process has come to a conclusion? High cancer rates and short lifespans need not be inevitable, if Martians have already been artificially adapted before the Fall. This could also become a good narrative device, with augmented Martians effectively being a distinct subspecies compare to "baseline" Earthers; with both sides not knowing any kind of human other than their own, first contact between the two worlds would be a deep shock to both societies - their biological differences becoming a potential spark for future conflict.

Your cyanobacteria idea is actually quite workable, but instead of using comet impacts as the delivery mechanism (due to the problems I've stated above),I'd instead suggest a network of massive, automated dispersal satellites: extremely hardened against decay, and "armed" with enormous reserves of cyanobacteria reentry capsules in storage. Not targeted by any side during the Last War (everyone wanted Mars as a living prize, not a dead rock), the network survived even as human civilisation collapsed, periodically launching payloads of cyanobacteria onto the Martian surface for centuries afterwards. Some eventually succumbed to system malfunctions, debris impact, or simple decay; others were actually able to exhaust their cyanobacteria stores before going dark. By the time civilisation reemerged, the entire network had long since ceased functioning - but they had succeeded in their task, the cyanobacteria colonies producing enough oxygen to not just sustain life in the Mariner's Valley, but gradually expanding its reach to previously barren lands. The people of Mars were unknowingly saved by ancient machines that they never knew - the satellites, their station-keeping thrusters exhausted, had long since reentered the atmosphere; while the ravages of millennia ensured that of the reentry capsules, nothing but unrecognisable scrap remains.

3. Power generation: this will be the greatest obstacle to primitive Martians achieving their own Industrial Revolution, let alone regaining access to orbit.

The advent of industrial civilisation on Earth was made possible by the widespread availability of easy-to-access energy sources, anthracite coal being the most important; we used that energy to tap progressively harder-to-access energy sources, radically increasing the complexity of our civilisation. But should our globalised world undergoes a systemic collapse, some scholars have theorised that a second Industrial Revolution may very well be impossible - all easily-accessed energy sources have long since been exhausted, which precludes accessing higher-order sources such as deep-sea petroleum deposits and nuclear power. Without an electrical grid, the materials needed to sustain industrial civilisation (steel for machinery, potash for fertiliser, silicon for semiconductors, etc.) simply cannot be produced en masse. And unlike past collapses, this one will be global in scale - there will be no outside capital, resources and knowledge to restart the cycle.

Now imagine restarting industrial civilisation on Mars - a functionally energy-dead world. All of the above problems are now exacerbated a thousandfold.
  • No fossil fuels, the most easily-accessed energy source for a preindustrial civilisation.
  • No wood (and therefore, no charcoal) in non-terraformed regions.
  • No hydropower in non-terraformed regions.
  • No wind power outside regions where the atmosphere has thickened.
  • Geothermal hotspots are few and far between, need considerable quantities of liquid coolant to operate, and will have major heat dissipation problems wherever the atmosphere remains thin (less atmospheric density means less heat convection; the majority of heat transfer will have to be either radiative or coolant-induced).
  • Uranium ore deposits are of questionable viability: they may have mostly decayed away in naturally-occuring reactors, and in any case requires substantial industrial infrastructure to refine.
  • Solar power suffers from both weaker irradiance (50-60% compared to Earth) and Martian dust storms capable of reducing power generation to zero.
  • Virtually no precursor ruins, which means no preprocessed metals and alloys available to be reclaimed.
Even with a terraformed, breathable Mars, I'm struggling to see how widespread industrialisation could be triggered while strictly sticking to hard sci-fi. Without any abundant, easy-to-access energy source, a perfectly viable outcome would be Martian societies reaching a stable, low-tech equilibrium: your "medieval Mars", but lasting more or less indefinitely until Earth had advanced far enough to reestablish contact once more.

I know that "precursor ruins jumpstarting technological development" is a well-worn cliché, but perhaps this narrative option should still be given consideration. Some inspiration could be taken from "softer" sci-fi fiction: for example, combining BattleTech's "lostech" concept (super-hardened factories and data cores, capable of surviving centuries of neglect) with Horizon: Zero Dawn's self-replicating machines and Project Firebreak (an installation designed to stabilise the Yellowstone Caldera, doubling as a source of unlimited geothermal power). Note that self-replicating robots would be absolutely critical to achieving Martian autarky (if we can make them work), so they're not at all out of place in a hard sci-fi setting.

Imagine a fully-automated, self-sustaining factory: physically hardened against decay beyond anything imaginable by 21st-century standards, maintained in pristine condition by a swarm of self-sustaining maintenance drones, and containing enough technical manuals and scientific data for even a preindustrial nation to jumpstart their sciences, if not to resume production right away. Buried miles underground to take advantage of a rare geothermal hotspot, this experimental installation was completed just after the Last War began; mothballed (but with its maintenance drones activated) before the Fall and forgotten afterwards, only to be stumbled upon millennia later by Martian explorers from a nation of your choice.

Option 1 (fully-operational factory): the exact products that the factory specialises in producing (raw materials, agricultural tools, industrial tools, consumer goods, medicine, genemods, ground vehicles, aircraft, surface-to-orbit vehicles. military weaponry, etc.) is up to you; different end products would result in radically divergent outcomes. A great power gaining control would be transformed into an unstoppable juggernaut, eventually unifying the Red Planet and landing the first Martians on Earth. A minor power would have neither the resource self-sufficiency nor the population to fully exploit their spoils and embark on global conquest; they will either willingly trade their technology and finished goods away in exchange for keeping their own sovereignty (which would lead to a broader dispersal of tech advances across Mars), or more likely be conquered by a great power (which goes back to the "juggernaut" outcome).

Option 2 (geothermal reactor and data archives only finished components, rest of factory never built): this is probably a better path narrative-wise, as Option 1 would either make the discovering nation overwhelmingly dominant, or trigger a global war for the factory's spoils. Even without any production capabilities, a functional geothermal reactor alone would be sufficient to bypass the energy source problem; the discoverers can tap into the factory's local grid for their energy needs, eventually allowing their own primitive electrical grid to be built. This would also lead to a far more "natural" pace of technological development: having an effectively infinite power source and some scientific theory is great, but all Martians will still have to build their own infrastructure from the ground up. This will take enough time that scientific advancements will be able to diffuse across national borders, resulting in a more equitable distribution of technological bounties; ultimately leading to Mars remaining divided between nations and empires, instead of being united by force. By comparison, Option 1 would have resulted in the controlling power having enormously superior technology compared to everyone else; I'm pretty sure that you don't want your setting to have railgun tanks and power-armored infantry slaughtering helpless horse cavalry, like something out of an ISOT fic.

The data archives within would be almost entirely technical in nature, allowing Martian sciences to advance by leaps and bounds after they are translated (all existing Martian tongues would be descended from the most prominent Earth languages spoken by pre-Fall colonists; the manuals would almost certainly be translatable with dedicated effort - English being the equivalent of ancient Latin or Egyptian hieroglyphs at worst, not something completely undecipherable like Linear A). The lack of any historical and cultural data is regrettable, but the mere existence of the reactor would prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there was a precursor civilisation; gradually leading to the Earth Origin theory becoming the dominant paradigm.


I hope that my thoughts had been of some help; of course, you don't have to use any of my ideas if you think they won't be a good fit. I'm looking forward to reading the finished setting - and of course, feel free to DM me if you have any further questions.
We need more mars maps and TLs. Too good.
 
As a matter of fact none of them would exist. Croatia would probably be split between Italy and Germany because both were absolutely appalled at the tier of atrocities being committed by the Ustashe, Serbia deleted entirely because there's simply nobody to run it, OTL they had to get Nedić to accept being the governor practically at gunpoint, and even the noted collaborationist Ljotić considered the Germans a punishment from God.
And the Germans react to these atrocities by killing everyone in the former Yugoslavia?
 
743B4806-C2B1-48A7-8E20-DD39E64DA39E.png

An attempt at making the antediluvian world of Project PARAGON from the SCP Wiki.

In Purple are the Children of the Night (Homo nocturnus / SCP-1000).

In Green are the Fae (Trans stellaris / SCP-4000).

In Blue are the “tall men”, rulers of the region named Abaddon.

In Yellow is Homo antediluvianus, and the Empire of Apollyona.

In Red-orange are the Daeva, or Homo sanguinus.
 
1940 La France Continue (1944).png


A map of Europe on February 29, 1944 from the timeline 1940 - La France continue la guerre (France fights on).<

  • In France the allies prepare to begin Operation Cobra, the advance to the Dordogne River and the liberation fo Southwesterns France.
  • The Italian front continues to be stagnated along the Gothic line.
  • The Yugosalav front is also stagnant after the brutal uprising in Belgrade and the liberation of the city.
  • The Soviets have liberated part of Romania and stabilized the front along the Carpathians, in the center they continue their advance across Poland, while one by one Warsaw and other Polish cities revolt against the Germans. East Prussia is already threatened by the Soviet advance.
This map is canon.
 
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Thank you for your answers! I’m flattered, but most of my knowledge is just casual interest in space exploration and vague recollections of post-apocalyptic stories.

One of the most relevant would be Toxic Stars, where Mars was forced to survive on its own after all civilisation on Earth and Luna was instantly destroyed by an unexpected cataclysm. Unfortunately, the thread is long dead and the author hasn't been online since 2019; but the worldbuilding is incredible, and I'd still recommend you to read the story in its entirety. Florida/Ictoria in 6500 AD, a far-future medieval setting where our history and legacy have all but passed into myth, is also a good reference. And of course, the Mars Trilogy is a respected classic for good reason. As for technical reading, the blog of Casey Handmer (an ex-NASA JPL physicist) is one of the best layman’s resources available for Martian colonisation topics. His free e-books, How to Get to Earth from Mars: Solving the Hard Part First and How To Industrialize Mars: A Strategy For Self-Sufficiency are both invaluable references.

Sorry about the late reply; between office work, re-reading the entirety of Toxic Stars, browsing two dozen articles and skimming three books about human life on Mars, it took far more time than I'd have liked to finish this brief writeup. For your consideration, here are my thoughts on fleshing out your scenario into a proper hard sci-fi setting:


1. The Last War, the Great Dying, the Long Night and the Second Dawn: your setting requires a cataclysm devastating enough to destroy an interplanetary civilisation to the point that all historical knowledge was lost, but not devastating enough to render humanity extinct or Mars and Earth uninhabitable. A solar flare or asteroid strike would not be sufficient; an interstellar civilisation of this scale would have advanced enough that hardening vital infrastructure against such known threats would likely be well within their means (not to mention that both events would only affect a single world, not the rest of the system). Nuclear war won't cut it either, since neutral states will not be targeted; all societies will suffer a collapse in technological capability and living standards, but at least a few will be able to maintain continuity of government and the electrical grid throughout the subsequent dark age, ready to rise again after a century or two (or far faster, if help from off-world survivors is available).

I would suggest a system-wide war, triggered by geopolitical tensions between the major colonial powers on Earth; this would draw in the rest of Sol into the conflagration. Extensive use of nuclear and orbital strikes, designed to deny valuable infrastructure to the enemy, leads to widespread devastation and irreversible loss of advanced technology across the entire system. As the war draws to a close, a secret bioweapons facility belonging to the losing side was unknowingly struck by kinetic kill vehicles targeting a nearby spaceport, accidentally releasing an engineered plague (artificially high transmissibility, extremely long incubation period, near-universal mortality rate - a la Blue Death, Simian Flu or Captain Trips).

A last-ditch measure originally meant to be unleashed only after a domestic vaccination programme had been completed, the actual virus was a flawed prototype which swiftly mutated beyond its creators' worst fears. Carried by refugees to hitherto safe zones and neutral locations, the plague spreads like wildfire unnoticed; detection and treatment was stymied by devastated healthcare infrastructure and pervasive social instability across Sol. By the time the first deaths occur, it is already too late for any organised effort at epidemic mitigation, doomsday sheltering, or even last-ditch "fling a light into the future" knowledge preservation - the wholesale collapse of interplanetary civilisation came about within less than a single year, with mass deaths occurring so quickly that the vast majority of bodies were left unburied. As civilian authority and military command chains rapidly disintegrated, desperate field commanders attempted to create "firebreaks" against the plague by launching nuclear strikes against major refugee concentrations and infected population centres. This not only proved to be too little, too late; but combined with the war's earlier devastation, the firebreaks were enough to tip the climate scales and trigger a nuclear winter: the homeworld's number of plague survivors, already small, is now winnowed by hunger, cold and radiation to the point of near-extinction. Mars, thankfully, is spared a similar fratricide due to the lack of any ground-based ICBM installations. A few kinetic strikes, however, was still launched against Watney's Landing, the largest city (and thus, the largest infected population) on Mars; the first human footsteps on the Red Planet is scoured away in fire.

On Earth and Mars, the few who are either naturally immune or miraculously survived the plague retreated to the countryside, swiftly regressing into hunter-gatherer tribes as the exceedingly few technical specialists that remain dies of hunger, violence or old age. Physical books were the quickest storage medium to decay, with magnetic tapes following suit within a few decades and solid-state drives in a century or two; but knowledge of a precursor civilisation is still common on Earth due to the sheer extent of recognisable ruins across the homeworld.[1] On Mars, the few extant settlements were forgotten after only a few generations: either vaporised by WMD strikes, dismantled for supplies by first-generation survivors, buried by dust storms in non-terraformed regions, or worn down by geological processes in terraformed ones.

Survivors on space stations, Lunar cities or asteroid bases are not so lucky; for those left without access to off-world transportation, starvation and suicide are their most common fates. While the orbitals and satellites will eventually reenter the atmosphere and disintegrate, any permanent structure located in stable locations with vacuum (airless moons, asteroids, L4/L5 objects, deep-space stations) will survive more or less indefinitely; ripe for Mars to discover when the time is right.

[1] Note that this creates a potential plot hole: conditions on Earth (climate, geography, natural resources, precursor resources) are so much more favourable compared to Mars that realistically, it should be Earthers who would first re-industrialise and take the lead in contacting Mars.

2. Terraforming and genetic engineering: completely transforming Mars into an Earthlike world is the sort of endeavour that would take a thousand years to finish, if not longer. Realistically, a civilisation that successfully terraformed Mars would almost certainly be advanced and dispersed enough that a system-wide civilisational collapse is unlikely.

For humans to survive on Mars, we would need both the right air mixture and the right atmospheric pressure. Sea level atmospheric pressure on Earth is 1,013 milibars; ideally, a 200 mbar atmosphere is enough to allow a physically fit human to breath from an oxygen mask without a pressure suit, while the Armstrong Limit of 68 mbar is the absolute lower limit. Below this level, surface bodily fluids begin to boil, and oxygen delivery can only be accomplished with a pressure suit.

By comparison, Mars' atmospheric pressure stands at a paltry 6.5 mbar. Terraforming would first involve raising the level of CO2 in the Martian atmosphere by a factor of 40, through melting the CO2 frozen into the regolith and the southern polar cap; this would not just thicken the atmosphere, but trigger a runaway greenhouse effect that would gradually warm Mars over the centuries.

As far as terraforming methods go, neither "nuking the poles" nor "crashing comets" are actually viable approaches in practice. The sum total yield of all existing warheads are only equivalent to 45 minutes of sunlight, so the nuclear option would barely shift the scales even if carefully buried beneath the ice caps. The comet option suffers from roughly the same logistical problems: the sheer quantity needed for terraforming purposes exceeds known reserves of comets, the energy and time required to redirect icy bodies from the outer solar system inward is utterly cost-prohibitive, and actually crashing so many comets into Mars would resurface the entire planet and kick up enough dust to trigger a nuclear winter, ruining the whole "warming Mars" objective for centuries to come.

There are three viable approaches: the first to add heat, and the second and third to prevent that heat from escaping after it had arrived. They should all be simultaneously executed for maximum effect.

First, orbital mirrors: capable of being made extremely thin (to save on material and weight) and curved (to concentrate sunlight on a particular area), a series of mirrors 100 km on a side could be constructed with as little as 40 tons of material - technically feasible for launch on a Falcon Heavy, then flown with solar wind pressure to Mars. So imagine the sheer scale of mirror arrays that could be constructed and launched by the great starships of the future, centuries from now; Martian subsurface resources could be melted down without any surface infrastructure, while carbonate and nitrate rocks can simply be vaporised to release more greenhouse gases.

Second, dark lichen: by decreasing the Martian albedo (the amount of light reflected back into space, currently 15%), Mars could be made to absorb more heat energy from the sun. Dark-colored lichen (a symbiosis of fungi and cyanobacteria), gene-engineered to survive on the harsh surface, could be distributed across the planet; they would further grow and propagate essentially for free, saving enormous amounts of human time and effort.

Third, greenhouse gases: CO2 is good at blocking thermal radiation across many wavelengths, but not nearly the best option out there; it does alllow some heat to escape through the atmosphere and back into space. To alleviate this, human-produced perfluorocarbons (PFCs), with thousands of times the lifespan and Global Warming Potential of CO2, should be produced by rock-eating factories and pumped into the atmosphere as fast as possible. This can be accomplished over many decades by massive, automated, nuclear-powered digging machines, targeted at specific sites with natural resource abundance.

These processes, enacted in tandem, could likely give Mars a warm, wet atmosphere in only a few centuries. But this only means that humans can walk round with nothing more than an oxygen mask and warm clothing; the vast majority of plants and animals are both oxygen-hungry, and unable to tolerate high CO2 levels regardless of how much O2 is available. Mars will need a higher level of oxygen on a per-area basis than Earth due to its low gravity; but converting half of the CO2 atmosphere into O2 would severely damage the greenhouse effect, cooling the planet once more.

As a result, I'd definitely argue for speeding up the timeframe to viable habitation by pairing the terraforming process with aggressive genetic engineering - not just for humans, but all Earthen life brought to Mars. Altering the lifeform is far easier and more cost-effective than altering the planet: more efficient photosynthesis to counter the weaker Martian sunlight for plants, and CO2 and radiation tolerance gene-mods for both animals and plants (likewise for humans, but with the option of making do with a filter mask, protective gear and underground habitats).

And taking a page from Toxic Stars, why stop there when far more extensive augmentations could be developed, allowing human life to flourish on Mars long before the terraforming process has come to a conclusion? High cancer rates and short lifespans need not be inevitable, if Martians have already been artificially adapted before the Fall. This could also become a good narrative device, with augmented Martians effectively being a distinct subspecies compare to "baseline" Earthers; with both sides not knowing any kind of human other than their own, first contact between the two worlds would be a deep shock to both societies - their biological differences becoming a potential spark for future conflict.

Your cyanobacteria idea is actually quite workable, but instead of using comet impacts as the delivery mechanism (due to the problems I've stated above),I'd instead suggest a network of massive, automated dispersal satellites: extremely hardened against decay, and "armed" with enormous reserves of cyanobacteria reentry capsules in storage. Not targeted by any side during the Last War (everyone wanted Mars as a living prize, not a dead rock), the network survived even as human civilisation collapsed, periodically launching payloads of cyanobacteria onto the Martian surface for centuries afterwards. Some eventually succumbed to system malfunctions, debris impact, or simple decay; others were actually able to exhaust their cyanobacteria stores before going dark. By the time civilisation reemerged, the entire network had long since ceased functioning - but they had succeeded in their task, the cyanobacteria colonies producing enough oxygen to not just sustain life in the Mariner's Valley, but gradually expanding its reach to previously barren lands. The people of Mars were unknowingly saved by ancient machines that they never knew - the satellites, their station-keeping thrusters exhausted, had long since reentered the atmosphere; while the ravages of millennia ensured that of the reentry capsules, nothing but unrecognisable scrap remains.

3. Power generation: this will be the greatest obstacle to primitive Martians achieving their own Industrial Revolution, let alone regaining access to orbit.

The advent of industrial civilisation on Earth was made possible by the widespread availability of easy-to-access energy sources, anthracite coal being the most important; we used that energy to tap progressively harder-to-access energy sources, radically increasing the complexity of our civilisation. But should our globalised world undergoes a systemic collapse, some scholars have theorised that a second Industrial Revolution may very well be impossible - all easily-accessed energy sources have long since been exhausted, which precludes accessing higher-order sources such as deep-sea petroleum deposits and nuclear power. Without an electrical grid, the materials needed to sustain industrial civilisation (steel for machinery, potash for fertiliser, silicon for semiconductors, etc.) simply cannot be produced en masse. And unlike past collapses, this one will be global in scale - there will be no outside capital, resources and knowledge to restart the cycle.

Now imagine restarting industrial civilisation on Mars - a functionally energy-dead world. All of the above problems are now exacerbated a thousandfold.
  • No fossil fuels, the most easily-accessed energy source for a preindustrial civilisation.
  • No wood (and therefore, no charcoal) in non-terraformed regions.
  • No hydropower in non-terraformed regions.
  • No wind power outside regions where the atmosphere has thickened.
  • Geothermal hotspots are few and far between, need considerable quantities of liquid coolant to operate, and will have major heat dissipation problems wherever the atmosphere remains thin (less atmospheric density means less heat convection; the majority of heat transfer will have to be either radiative or coolant-induced).
  • Uranium ore deposits are of questionable viability: they may have mostly decayed away in naturally-occuring reactors, and in any case requires substantial industrial infrastructure to refine.
  • Solar power suffers from both weaker irradiance (50-60% compared to Earth) and Martian dust storms capable of reducing power generation to zero.
  • Virtually no precursor ruins, which means no preprocessed metals and alloys available to be reclaimed.
Even with a terraformed, breathable Mars, I'm struggling to see how widespread industrialisation could be triggered while strictly sticking to hard sci-fi. Without any abundant, easy-to-access energy source, a perfectly viable outcome would be Martian societies reaching a stable, low-tech equilibrium: your "medieval Mars", but lasting more or less indefinitely until Earth had advanced far enough to reestablish contact once more.

I know that "precursor ruins jumpstarting technological development" is a well-worn cliché, but perhaps this narrative option should still be given consideration. Some inspiration could be taken from "softer" sci-fi fiction: for example, combining BattleTech's "lostech" concept (super-hardened factories and data cores, capable of surviving centuries of neglect) with Horizon: Zero Dawn's self-replicating machines and Project Firebreak (an installation designed to stabilise the Yellowstone Caldera, doubling as a source of unlimited geothermal power). Note that self-replicating robots would be absolutely critical to achieving Martian autarky (if we can make them work), so they're not at all out of place in a hard sci-fi setting.

Imagine a fully-automated, self-sustaining factory: physically hardened against decay beyond anything imaginable by 21st-century standards, maintained in pristine condition by a swarm of self-sustaining maintenance drones, and containing enough technical manuals and scientific data for even a preindustrial nation to jumpstart their sciences, if not to resume production right away. Buried miles underground to take advantage of a rare geothermal hotspot, this experimental installation was completed just after the Last War began; mothballed (but with its maintenance drones activated) before the Fall and forgotten afterwards, only to be stumbled upon millennia later by Martian explorers from a nation of your choice.

Option 1 (fully-operational factory): the exact products that the factory specialises in producing (raw materials, agricultural tools, industrial tools, consumer goods, medicine, genemods, ground vehicles, aircraft, surface-to-orbit vehicles. military weaponry, etc.) is up to you; different end products would result in radically divergent outcomes. A great power gaining control would be transformed into an unstoppable juggernaut, eventually unifying the Red Planet and landing the first Martians on Earth. A minor power would have neither the resource self-sufficiency nor the population to fully exploit their spoils and embark on global conquest; they will either willingly trade their technology and finished goods away in exchange for keeping their own sovereignty (which would lead to a broader dispersal of tech advances across Mars), or more likely be conquered by a great power (which goes back to the "juggernaut" outcome).

Option 2 (geothermal reactor and data archives only finished components, rest of factory never built): this is probably a better path narrative-wise, as Option 1 would either make the discovering nation overwhelmingly dominant, or trigger a global war for the factory's spoils. Even without any production capabilities, a functional geothermal reactor alone would be sufficient to bypass the energy source problem; the discoverers can tap into the factory's local grid for their energy needs, eventually allowing their own primitive electrical grid to be built. This would also lead to a far more "natural" pace of technological development: having an effectively infinite power source and some scientific theory is great, but all Martians will still have to build their own infrastructure from the ground up. This will take enough time that scientific advancements will be able to diffuse across national borders, resulting in a more equitable distribution of technological bounties; ultimately leading to Mars remaining divided between nations and empires, instead of being united by force. By comparison, Option 1 would have resulted in the controlling power having enormously superior technology compared to everyone else; I'm pretty sure that you don't want your setting to have railgun tanks and power-armored infantry slaughtering helpless horse cavalry, like something out of an ISOT fic.

The data archives within would be almost entirely technical in nature, allowing Martian sciences to advance by leaps and bounds after they are translated (all existing Martian tongues would be descended from the most prominent Earth languages spoken by pre-Fall colonists; the manuals would almost certainly be translatable with dedicated effort - English being the equivalent of ancient Latin or Egyptian hieroglyphs at worst, not something completely undecipherable like Linear A). The lack of any historical and cultural data is regrettable, but the mere existence of the reactor would prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there was a precursor civilisation; gradually leading to the Earth Origin theory becoming the dominant paradigm.


I hope that my thoughts had been of some help; of course, you don't have to use any of my ideas if you think they won't be a good fit. I'm looking forward to reading the finished setting - and of course, feel free to DM me if you have any further questions.
Wow, this is amazingly detailed! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all of this out - I'm really flattered. I will definitely take a look at the stories you recommend in detail when I have more time for map things. I really love the biowar idea and the concepts about automated tech continuing to work after the collapse of civilization - gives a very cool lost tech vibe which might compound the advantage of holding territory which has those sorts of pre-collapse artifacts and the risk of re-opening those lost caches...

I did have one specific thing I wanted to raise with you - is there enough info out there to predict where areas of heavy colonization actually would be in the early stages? Either for mineral extraction reasons or increased habitability in an unterraformed/in-progress-terraformed environment? In doing the background for the one map I thought only very vaguely about the pre-collapse colonization patterns, e.g. with the Indian/Middle Eastern placenames in northern Kasei, Slavic in the Maja basin, and Anglo/American in Marineris. For me, I figure establishing the pattern of colonization from the start is a clear first step in imagining the world which would result, but the few concepts I have already read about (the two I mention in the post + KSR's Green Mars) have very different projections for that.

As I alluded to above, I am in the middle of a big move atm and so will have very limited time for this sort of thing for the next little while, but in the long run if you are interested I would love to work on this with you and anyone else you know who might have expertise on it as a shared world. I honestly only started on this concept to learn those hydrology tools, and I am much weaker in the worldbuilding/writing department than in mapmaking. I would be glad to openly post the ocean, altitude, and placename files I have for people to use when I have my computer set up again.
 
One of the most relevant would be Toxic Stars, where Mars was forced to survive on its own after all civilisation on Earth and Luna was instantly destroyed by an unexpected cataclysm. Unfortunately, the thread is long dead and the author hasn't been online since 2019; but the worldbuilding is incredible, and I'd still recommend you to read the story in its entirety.
This is a fantastic post overall but I would like to specifically second that, yes, this, if you, reader of things, are at all interested in spooky, cosmic horror, sci fi, weird, or just good fiction, Toxic Stars is absolutely worth it; I think about that story probably at least twice a month and read it probably at least once a year
 
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