Onus \n (ca.1640): Obligation; Responsibility.
Onuissance \ onn-uh-sonns\ n (ca.2280): Historic period known as The Age of Responsibility.
In the 23rd century, Mankind finally grows out of the infant stages of the Industrial Revolution, and accepts its own responsibility to protect its common planet. This period became known as the Onuissance…
These were among my earliest short stories, originally written to be the scripts for a series of graphic novel treatments that I never did create, because I realized the written material was superior to anything that I could have illustrated. In these stories I tried out many of my first science fiction concepts and naming conventions, so some of them may be familiar to those of you (if any!) who have read my other novels.
The introduction follows:
What happens when a civilization cannot sustain itself?
Such was the case for the Greek civilization, the Roman Empire, the Aztec Empire, and the Egyptian Empire. Many other civilizations have risen and fallen. There is no reason to suppose that process will now stop.
Case in point: The combined empires of the United States, China and Western Europe, generally defined by the period known as the Industrial Revolution. These superpowers owe their existence to the Industrial Revolution, for without it, they probably would not have had the wherewithal to survive the onslaughts of other pre-industrial forces, like the Huns, the Native Americans, or the Africans. As a result, America, Europe and China have become the de-facto rulers of the world, capable of doing whatever they please, and frequently forcing other countries to bend to their whims.
However, the Industrial Revolution is also inherently wasteful and dirty. The industrial fallout of the past 200 years has done more to ruin the ecosystem of this planet than all the efforts of the previous 5000 years of human development. In the early 21st century, the sheer load of industrial fallout is colliding with the demands of the population, now approaching 7 billion, and the capacity of the global ecology to absorb so much damage. At some point, the present system will inevitably break down under the weight of its own waste products.
Futurists, knowing this, can spend a great deal of energy guessing what the immediate outcome will be. Possibilities include a new World War that will decimate the planet, an industrial crash that will lead to a new Dark Age, a financial crash that could lead to anarchy, a climactic ecological upheaval that will leave the bulk of the planet uninhabitable, a similarly catastrophic scientific disaster, or any combination of the above.
For the purpose of these stories, I have chosen to bypass the fall.
The Onuissance Cells are about the rise after the fall of the Industrial World… for, as civilizations fall, so do new civilizations eventually rise after them. And, at least for a time, those new civilizations tend to look at what transpired in the past, and as much as they are able, seek to avoid the pitfalls of the last civilization. The rise of civilization after the fall of the Industrial Revolution should be no different. We can expect those descendants to examine their past, work out what grievous practices caused the former empire to fall, and build a new world that seeks to avoid those practices.
As Europe recovered from the Dark Ages, they set about to improve their lot by concentrating on a drive for scientific and social development, a drive away from the ignorance and anarchy of an earlier era. We eventually coined a new term for their Age of Enlightenment: The Renaissance. When historians look back at our time, I expect that the greatest failure they will identify as being committed by us will be our lack of responsibility, to our fellow humans, to all other creatures, and to the planet itself. They will see that our lack of responsibility caused us to pollute our planet, stifle cooperation among men and nations, and critically overextend ourselves in every direction, leading to the inevitable fall. Learning this, they will hopefully conclude that, most importantly, we must keep in our minds and hearts an understanding of our onus, or responsibility, to everything and everyone around us, as we plan and act and grow.
And as this age grows and hopefully prospers, it will eventually come to be known as the Age of Responsibility… or Onuissance.
There is no telling how long it may be before these events occur. Within a few decades… centuries… millennia? Those living today will certainly never know. The best we can hope for is that, if we do our best to live in the spirit of the Onuissance now, maybe the inevitable fall will not be so hard, or so soon.