How to classify all of (human) time.
What I’ve noticed, is that there are only three (or 8) periods of time that ever get written down. This is in fiction, non-fiction and could-be-non-fiction.
The Caveman Era/Post-Apocalyptic Era
Whether the world is a wasteland or a pristine wilderness, this era covers it. Anything set before the mediaevel era or after the modern period, is set here. This era is known for: zombies, grunting, fighting for resources, sparse human population and trying to build (or rebuild) civilisation.
Tech level: 300,000BC – 10000BC
If Thag and Gork, (or the lone survivors of the apocalypse) build communites larger than 150 people, (about the largest number of people that can live in one place before you start needing locks) then they leave this era.
The Classical Period
This period is the transition between the caveman era and the mediaevel era. People in this period have organised governments, but not into feudal societies. Crucially, knights in armour aren’t really a thing yet. This period is known for: statues, learning, bad representation in movies and inaccurate maps.
Tech level: 10,000BC – ~400AD
The Mediaevel Era
Once people start feudalism, this era begins. This period covers everything that has magic in it and could be described as fantasy. (Except Star Wars. I’ll get to it). This era is known for: knights in armour, blood, dragons and being the basis of endless RPGs.
Tech level: 800-1453 (AD)
(I’m sorry rest of the world that unimaginative developers don’t look past the Ural mountains or the Suez canal when making a ‘historical’ game).
This era ends in 1453 when the walls of Constantinople yielded to Ottoman cannons.
The Renaissance Period
This period covers the time period where swords and guns coexist. It’s known for rosy views of the classical period.
Tech level: 1453- ~1700
The Steampunk Era
Once a civilisation discovers steam power, they enter the steampunk era. This era is known for: Victorians, gunpowder, steam, child labour, disease, colonialism, terrible guns, cannons and lighter-than-air aircraft.
Tech level: c.1700-1914
The steampunk era ends at 1914 tech because WWI forced the end of old steampunk-era ideas, tactics and technology.
The Modern Period
Yes, we live in a transitional period. This period is marked by: social upheaval, increasing speed of communication, improvements in living standards everywhere, the demise of disease and MAD.
Tech level: 1914- c.2035
Residents of this period could either land on another planet and pass into the interplanetary era, or press the big red button and start the apocalypse.
We live too late to consider our planet big, but too early to consider the universe small.
The Interplanetary Era
Interplanetary era stories and civilisations have achieved interplanetary travel and have an identity as species. Once a civilisation reaches the interplanetary era, the apocalypse is nearly impossible. Civilisations that make it here have until the stars start going out.
Tech level: c.2035-100,000,000,000
This era is known for: lasers, superluminal travel (faster-than-light), 2-D space battles in 3-D space and teleportation.
The Poststellar Period
Stars don’t exist anymore. The last brown dwarf has died a lonely death and the universe enters an eternal, cold and dark phase. Any intelligent life here has encased itself in metal and is running on minimal energy, waiting to die.
My favourite depiction of the poststellar period is in the Doctor Who episode: Utopia. No spoilers. (Okay, it’s an 9-year-old episode, but still…)
There’s a chance, that the universe will collapse at the end of its life and bounce back to form a new universe. And maybe, around of of those stars, dust and ice will coalasce in just the right region and…BAM (4.5 Billion years later) intelligent life!
Then we’re back where we started.
Thanks for reading this post. I know I haven’t been posting in a while; that wasn’t because I had too few ideas, but too many.