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Earth (novel)

Last modified: 2015-07-04 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: earth | brin (david) | image-alternating |
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Earth is an ecologically-themed epic by science fiction writer David Brin from 1987. The novel is set 50 years ahead of its publication, or 2038. The future setting features heavy sea-level rise due to global warming, necessitating the mass evacuation of the inhabitants of low-lying coastal areas. Some who refuse the terms for resettlement imposed by host countries instead opt for life on ocean barges and old freighters, living off fishing and salvaging scrap from submerged cities. The refugees subsequently declare themselves a nation-state, Sea State, but it apparently remains unrecognized; the book mentions that the UN will not admit it.

The novel's backstory includes a bloody war fought to abolish transnational secrecy privileges, culminating with an international coalition invading and occupying Switzerland, with many Swiss exiles later entering the service of the equally pariah Sea State.
Eugene Ipavec, 20 June 2009

Sea State

Sea State
image by Eugene Ipavec, 14 October 2010

The "Sea State" is a seagoing polity. It's also referred to as the "Albatross Republic," but I think that is just meant to be a nickname based on its flag, which is described on pgs. 402-403 of the second paperback edition as horizontally-divided green and blue (for sky and sea), with a white albatross in flight. Then again, "Sea State" is itself an awful pun, so who knows which name is correct.

Relevant passage:

… the cruiser's flag flapping in the wind … the great bird at the banner's center … flying amid stylized ocean waves … the blue water and the green sky ….

This is the best description of it in the book (the design sounds heavily influenced by Kiribati.
Eugene Ipavec, 10 October 2010

Image-alternating specimen

Sea State
image by Eugene Ipavec, 14 October 2010

Relevant passage:

Watching the cruiser's flag flapping in the wind, Crat blinked suddenly in suprise. For a brief instant the great bird at the banner's center, instead of flying amid stylized ocean waves, had seemed to soar out of a blocky cloud, set in a bloody field. He squinted. Had it been an illusion, brought on by his constant hunger?

No! There! The colors glittered again! The Sea State emblem must have been modified, he realized. Stitched in amid the blue water and the green sky were holographic threads, flashing to the eye only long enough to catch a brief but indelible image.

Once again, for just a second, the albatross flapped sublimely through a square white cross, centered on a background of deep crimson.

This description introduces the added complication that this particular flag is modified, belonging as it does to a vessel of the Helvetian Navy, which is the elite branch of the Sea State's armed forces.

I believe this may be the first reported instance of an image-alternating flag.
Eugene Ipavec, 10 October 2010

In reality, albatrosses in flight rarely if ever flap their wings - they only do that on take-off. They soar on thermals.
James Dignan, 11 October 2010

I find it funny that the bright red Swiss flag in Earth is described as "deep crimson".
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 October 2010