So I'm working on a world where 19th century humans discovered a portal to a faraway alien planet, and since it's the 19th century they decide to colonize it.

Just few decades after the discovery there is already a fairly big colony, with roughly 7 million people in it, mostly concentrated around a single big city, with the economy based on extracting and processing the very abundant resources of this planet.

But the problem is, why would people even want to migrate there in the first place?

The living conditions on this planet are absolutely miserable. There's next to no sunlight, the climate is cold, and the city itself is an industrial-mining town suffering from a serious pollution problem. The alien fauna is not exactly friendly to the settlers either. There's all the good stuff, small pests that love to eat any food, clothes or furniture they find, medium sized wild animals that harass the outskirts of the city, and giant monsters that usually manage to destroy a neighborhood or two before the military deals with them. And since these humans are the only intelligent species on the planet there's a lot of these dangerous alien animals running around. Not to mention the more supernatural-alien phenomena that haunt the city every now and then, like the zombie-like plague that appears in the slums every so often, or the alien artifacts that cause humans who find them to go insane. And the food made from plants grown there can be described as barely tolerable at best.

Since most of the populated parts of the colony are located far away from the portal itself, the travel and even contact between the Earth and the alien world are very limited. It takes around one month to travel from the main city back to Earth, and another month to return. So any aid from the homeland, military or economical, takes a while to arrive. And this isolation from central authority made it a heaven for radical elements, so the unrest is high.

Overall there's nothing that the human settlers can't deal with, but it's by no means a nice place to live in, even now. And during the early days it was even worse, since people didn't know much about the dangers of this world.

The government wants this colony to succeed since it provides an incredible amount of valuable resources, like precious metals, coal, oil and rare earth elements. And there is an added bonus in the form of mysterious alien artifacts. But what would attract people to live there over any other place on Earth? For a regular person, life there would be just like living in any other poor overcrowded city on Earth, but with the added cons mentioned above. Why migrate to that place in particular?

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    $\begingroup$ You've answered your own question: there are valuable resources and therefore money to be made. Take a look at the history of gold rushes and the fur trade for examples of towns that were founded to service those enterprises. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ 7 million is very big for the 19th century. Wikipedia says that's the size of 19th century London. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Feb 17 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ Is this other planet called "Alaska" by any chance? You seem to be describing the Yukon gold rush phenomenon pretty well, with an interesting twist. Basically, I don't see any real worldbuilding problem here. You're just asking a straight-up story based question: what reasons do people, characters in a story, have to go to any far away place? Voting to close. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 17 at 22:49

The answer is simple: Money

Even in modern times, mining and rare resource extraction is still horrendously dangerous in many parts of the world yet people in developing countries are still willing to do it. There's a reason why kids in Africa toil away in muddy pits to find gems or coal miners in china put up with conditions that slowly, but surely, kill them. Hell, even in the USA, logging or working on an oil rig are among the most dangerous jobs, yet there are still plenty of people who do them.

People are willing to put up with horrendous conditions because it just pays well. Simple as that.


To further support the migration of people to the colony, you can throw in some "gold rush" characteristics. Humans are notoriously bad at internalizing very long odds, so if there are enough stories about lonesome miners "scoring big" and finding a huge hunk of gold or gemstone or whatever, this could also be hugely motivating for people who are out to seek their fortune. I mean, during the Gold Rush, hundreds of thousands of prospectors risked life, limb, and livelihood and in the end the people who got rich were those who sold the shovels and the jeans.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. However, it's not always money per se. It might be just to escape starvation or even poorer living conditions. If the new job provides you with food, a bed, a roof over your head, and basic medical care then you might work for nothing or for very little. $\endgroup$ Feb 17 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ Money is a great attractor. The thought of the conditions being "temporary" will keep people out there. One can endure an awful lot if they think the miserable situation is temporary..."Just here until I get enought together to be a success back home" $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Feb 17 at 19:26

I can think of several reasons:

  1. They didn't have a choice. It was initially settled as a penal colony, where debtors and other undesirables were sent.

  2. There was a 'gold rush', or something similar. People flooded in to find their fortune, but only a very few actually did.

  3. Settlers were sold a 'bill of goods', and simply lied to about the conditions of the new colony. Once they were there, they couldn't afford to go back. Think similar to old coal towns.

  4. The 19th century wasn't a bundle of fun for most people, so many figured they'd take a chance on something new. If you're poor and destitute, is life there really any different than it would be in London (other than the monsters)?


They are a persecuted religious minority.

salt lake desert


Depicted: Utah. The Mormons went there so no-one would bother (e.g. kill) them and they could do their Mormon thing in relative peace. Even though the territory was pretty hostile it was better than the hostility of their fellow conspecifics. This story has been repeated many times in human history.

So too your world. It is wildly sucky, but sucky in an impersonal manner. It is just monsters and pollution and bad weather. Nothing there hates these folks for who they are, and so it is a step up from where they were.


The government wants this colony to succeed since it provides an incredible amount of valuable resources, like precious metals, coal, oil and rare earth elements

You have historic examples of this already. People have flocked Alaska during the gold rush, exactly because there was the mirage of getting rich by mining gold.

The Klondike Gold Rush was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon, in north-western Canada, between 1896 and 1899. Gold was discovered there by local miners on August 16, 1896; when news reached Seattle and San Francisco the following year, it triggered a stampede of prospectors. Some became wealthy, but the majority went in vain. It has been immortalized in films, literature, and photographs.

Of all the places on Earth, I don't think Alaska ranks very high in the charts of hospitable territories.


To spread the good news of Jesus Christ to humanities lost tribes.

There are so many other good answers already but this cant be left out. Your people have a religion in which some of the core beliefs are spreading the religion and welcoming those who have left back into the fold. (Ie prodigal son adherents, not jehovah's witnesses version). Essentially christianity but feel free to customise.

Once everyone on earth has been converted to your religion, you go in search of aliens to convert, because that's what good Christian's do.

Since the portal was discovered and not made, it seems reasonable that humans have already gone through it, possibly millennia ago, and, gasp, they haven't heard about Jesus yet.


You say 19'th century Earth?

Then just look at history.

Two reasons.

First, think Australia, and think 'penal colony'. They are convicted criminals with a choice - Earth-based prisons, or freedom on this planet.

Second, think America and slavery. They have no choice. They are sent there, thrown through the portal. A no-return one-way ticket against their will. Survive or perish.

Do not place 21st century morals and ethics on a 19th century society. It was what it was. Go with it.


There could be multiple reasons to motivate people to migrate to the new colony.

As pointed by Dragongeek's answer money can be a good attractor and I won't develop that point.

In a similar way, people might consider to join the colony if their living conditions is worse now than it will on the colony.

Another attractor could be a redemption to offer to criminals. That way people could chose to turn themselves in when there're no other alternative than to get caught.

And finally, you could motivate people with medals or by turning them into heroes. Basically any social recognition that would make people proud to be part of this challenging position.

  1. Religious or illogical freedom. This can be seen in are on world

  2. Economic opportunity: if there are resources that be harvested/mind or otherwise gathered and sold on earth for a higher price then the cost it will create economic incentives for migration

  3. Slave or prison colony again this come directly from our world look at Australia.

  4. Scientice aportunaty. If people have gone to the artic for science I'm sure there will be willing to go to this planet.


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