So, this is going to be kind of a tricky question to answer, because the setting is a science fantasy world, in the sense that, on the surface at least, it looks like our reality and it seems like the laws of physics and math and such are the way they are in our reality, but if you dig deeper with more advanced technology and such, basically if you dig deeper you hit magic, more or less, in line with the so-often-repeated Clarke quote about any sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic, and in this instance it would also be that any sufficiently unknown (in the present, anyway) science is also indistinguishable from magic, because basically in this setting, a lot of things that are considered pseudoscience today, actually turn out to be correct science. So that's just a bit of background, but just, trying to assume that if these unrealistic things were possible, what would the most realistic outcomes be?

So, this part of the setting, it's about 230 years in the future, give or take. The 21st century was largely cyberpunky and Blade Runner/Ghost in the Shell-esque, the technological singularity happened, around the middle of the 21st century, though at first, most humans didn't realize it, the first cyborg hard-takeoff singularity seed AI was basically a human-reincarnated Outer God bootstrapping himself back up to godhood, though this was also a predestination time paradox/temporal causality loop thing happening with him. Anyway this character bootstrapped himself and then went deep stealth, gradually incorporating into networks and eventually human society, including education, politics, and religion, this character was actually into extropianism, anarchist/libertarian ideology, which is not what you would really expect from a godlike AI, but it's sort of like HOLMES IV aka “Mike” from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

So anyway this entity basically gathers a huge movement/exodus/religion around itself, by the 22nd century there's been a not insignificant degree of global flooding, some minor nuclear warfare, (like a little bit more than in World War II, but not much) nanoswarm attacks, super bioplagues, rogue AIs, Judge Dredd-like arcology megacities, a very prolonged global economic depression, the formation of a fascist corporate-government partnership world state, colonization of the moon, the asteroid belt, and somewhat on Mars. The megacorporations originally funded much of the colonization, however, the posthuman AI has largely consolidated power in them now, and many of its followers actually signed up to work there to get away from the Earth and its totalitarian Nazi-esque global corporate state, which now has its own strong AIs, but are behind in this area, though still vastly ahead in overall power, wealth, etc. The 22nd century is defined by both a new sense of exploration and excitement about colonizing the solar system, (similar to the 18th and 19th centuries) but at the same time, a growing tension of first economic and then edging towards military cold war between the very technocratic and “scientific” Earth, and the more individualistic and “religious” space colonies. By this point, transhumans have become commonplace, and scientific discovery has delved well into the realm of discovering or engineering things once thought to be supernatural, like psionics, (to an AKIRA level, basically) early forays into time travel, reality-engineering, etc.

23rd century, things reach a boiling point. Earth's economy is falling apart, they need the Colonial resources, they're threatening to attack; at the same time, the Colonies are having reclamationist ideas, they want to “liberate” Terra, they want the land, (living in space is still hard and dangerous, despite the wealth and independence it affords) it's also couched in terms of a religious crusade/jihad against the Corporates who are basically polluting and destroying the Earth, oppressing everyone, and don't forget, they're all idolaters and heretics and infidels down there too (the “Old Earth” religions have sort of morphed and merged and split to become either the sort of state-church of Terra or the AI-religion of the Colonies).

So, inevitably, by mid-century, someone starts shooting and them someone retaliates and then everyone fires everything and it's an apocalypse of course. Some of the colonies are destroyed, but they're in space/low orbit/high atmosphere, and they have magi-tech shields. Some of the arcologies on Earth have even better shields, (like, if they were ships, they could fly through a sun and not be damaged-level) those are mostly in Europe, the rest of the world is pretty much fried. The total combined destructive power of the weapons used are enough to heat the surface of most of the Earth to the point of a magma ocean, like at least as destructive as Glassing from Halo, if not slightly moreso. Every fault line experiences super-earthquakes, every volcano erupts, the ejecta rains back down, heating the atmosphere to oven-level. The oceans are boiled away at least partially, same goes for the atmosphere. Some of the weapons used are things we can understand, like atomics, antimatter bombs, plasma bombs, and grey goo nanoclouds, but others are more in the magi-tech level tier and are more difficult to accurately guess what the most “realistic” effects would be, like super psionic-attacks, some weapons that eat holes in spacetime and destroy matter and energy, (thus cancelling out some of the heat by making some areas cold… very cold) weapons that turn off the Higgs field in an area temporarily, etc. etc.

So, sorry for being so long-winded, but I felt that was all necessary to finally get to the question: after ALL THAT has happened, what is Earth like? It's still there, I have decided that much, and the ultra-megacity in Eurasia wasn't damaged, and most of the Colonies are still there, but as for the rest, I don't know. Could any species of land organisms survive? How about any undersea organisms? Extremophile microbes? What will weather patterns be like? What about the environment? I know there are wastelands of basically vitrified land, radioactive, many different types of radiation including not just ionizing radiation, particles and photons and such, but reality-eating radiation, “magic-level” radiation with unknown and perhaps unknowable to our present-day minds properties. So, as accurately, and scientifically, and to the highest degree of detail that it's possible to speculate given all this information and certain unavoidable lacks of information, what kind of shape is my Earth in?

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by, "the technological singularity happened"? It sounds like you may just mean some sort of powerful conscious AI suddenly appeared from some sort of breakthrough event. It sounds like you do not mean the singularity idea where some people think all humankind's intelligence can get combined or "evolve" into one coughautistic/soullesscough computer network. Am I correct? $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Oct 26, 2014 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Philipp I.E. Some of the weapons, that are, out of context, basically just handwavium, couldn't be accurately “modeled” in anyone's mind without getting at least a slight “feel” for how this mythos is structured. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2014 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Dronz You are, sort of, correct? I mean the rest of the question spells it out. I mean the technological singularity hypothesis is just that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization. It doesn't necessarily mean a hive mind, that's just one possibility. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2014 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest editing by keeping the detail, which is interesting and seems a shame to remove, but using bold text on the parts that are relevant to the extinction question. $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Oct 26, 2014 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Yeah. I mean I don't like making long questions, also I've never rejected an edit before… I spent about one hour after I finished typing but before posting trimming as much fat and superfluous detail as I possibly could find, going over it many times, deleting parts, until I felt like I couldn't delete any more and still be clear. Sorry? $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2014 at 17:25

4 Answers 4


I think it's pretty clear from your description, that almost nothing would remain alive on earth outside the uber-shields. I think even the non-hand-wavium attacks would suffice to kill practically everything, because you say much of the surface has been heated to magma, and most of the oceans and part of the atmosphere boiled away. And there's lots of radiation and other effects. I think this would pretty much fry to death just about everything, with the possible exception of certain extremely resistant (and probably microscopic) species in the least-damaged places. Even the bottom of the Mariana Trench would have its environment massively altered. Maybe though there is life that exists under the bottom of the trench surface, or in some other isolated places, which doesn't need air, doesn't mind irradiation, can adapt to huge pressure and temperature changes, which isn't destroyed. One fairly major factor is the atmosphere. If you boil the oceans, that adds a huge amount of mass to the atmosphere unless a lot of it actually leaves the planet's gravity well. All the volcanism would also fill the air with ash and other emissions, so the composition and density of the atmosphere would change a lot, but it's impossible to know exactly how. Add your magic and handwavium and you have space to make up some result, though I'd say it's pretty much game over for almost all life on Earth. If anything's still alive outside an unbelievium shield, I'd say it was probably in a remaining sea, or underground.

On the other hand, since you said there was an Elder God who returned for the occasion of an AI, and there is a lot of magic and technology involved, maybe this would wake up some other Elder Gods, and who knows what they'd be up to.

I guess weird time-and-space effects might teleport in some creatures from before the apocalypse, or from some other world or plane, but they'd need to somehow be able to survive the extreme conditions, which would last a long long time.

On another hand, if most of what's considered pseudoscience today turns out to be accurate, and that includes souls and ghosts, then killing everything suddenly may result in a huge number of confused disembodied souls / ghosts floating around. They could probably ignore the ubershields and come possess and otherwise entertain the people living in the shielded communities.

Post-script answers to comment questions:

Heat and fire destroy both bacteria and viruses. So I would say that initial survival would only occur in the areas that were least affected - i.e. in the remaining ocean areas, or underground. Maybe something in the atmosphere might survive (seems unlikely). If you have things like neutron-bomb effects going off everywhere, that might also kill most or all things in places that were theoretically still inhabitable.

But then there are the many problems for continued survival. I would expect atmospheric debris to block out the sun and lead to a heavy greenhouse effect, and so be very dark, very hot, very wet and high-pressure, perhaps with lots of lightning and wind. I don't think much of the atmosphere or ocean would actually leave Earth's gravity well, but I'd have to do more research to confirm - there are astrophysicists who do have ideas about what certain amounts of atmosphere can be held down by what size/density planets, and what levels of heat and opacity will result in what shifts. I.e. eventually the seas might condense back to the surface, or maybe so much boiling and heat would result in a lot of escape into space - I don't know.

I'm also concerned for life in the shielded areas. They now need to be ecologically self-sustaining, with no natural sunlight, and very little usable material left on the rest of the planet. And of course, the ability to sustain the uber shields against any possible way they could be even weakened or leaky is crucial.

As for all the wandering souls, they might start possessing a lot of people in the shielded cities. Whatever shamanic, warding, depossession and exorcism talents were available might be important. Even without such, the psyches of the surviving populations would probably be greatly shaken by the apocalypse... and then by the reappearance of elder gods...

  • $\begingroup$ Okay, this is all really good, this is the kind of information I'm looking for. I'm not entirely sure, whether any bacteria or anything would survive either, also it's kind of hard to predict, if the atmosphere was getting more massive from the oceans partially boiling, but also being blown out into space, would it just end up the same as now? What would weather be like? Would there still be weather? Yeah, the other Elder Gods would wake up, and would be worshiped by the surface state-church, the dead souls would become like wraiths/demons, that's a really good add, also the teleports. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2014 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer. I'm picturing all the ghosts wandering around scaring the heck out of everyone. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Oct 26, 2014 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, they'd be terrifying. Especially considering the psions could see them all the time probably. It's like a science fiction-fantasy-horror all-in-one setting! $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2014 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ I find that I actually often end up having to ask all these questions in two stages… the first stage, I don't even know what my specific question actually is, then the answer clarifies to me what my actual question really is, then I ask that, and then I have my answer! Now I need to ask specifically about atmospheric mass and microbes that match all the criteria you listed. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2014 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ It might also be interesting if a shielded city completely submerged in magma. It could have a nice red sky, and no way to get in or out without being disembodied or using teleportation or some such thing. $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Oct 26, 2014 at 20:45

It's your fiction, you're the boss. If you want stuff to survive, say so.

Everything turning to magma is a good excuse to kill everything off. Ditto Neutron bombs, dirty atomics, grey-goo, and magic-tech effects. Plus climate change, boiling the oceans, etc.

Okay, how would you save anything?

1) AI bootstrapping nature elder-gods, who got involved with ecosystems and weren't on anyone's radar, released by Greens early on (2100s). They can plane-shift out sections of nature, or shield it. Or put it into stasis. Or save the seeds / genomes.

2) Aliens! Spacelifted everything under invisibility cloaks.

3) Magitech can put things back together again. Handwavium!

4) Let's do the time-warp agaaaaain; bring back stuff from the past. Or heck, prevent the war from going so far / getting started at all.

5) Reconstitute genes from remaining species, de-evolving things to backtrack up the evolutionary chain. Use nanotech, if you don't like the regular genetic engineering. We've got a number of organisms sequenced now, and I suspect we'll have a lot more done in the future.

6) Nanotech or magitech to clean up / concentrate the irradiated atoms, and get you some nice clean dirt and water to work with.

As long as the atoms are still there (ie: not blown off into space), it's only a problem of energy and getting things back into the correct order.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, thanks user3082. As you say: it's my fiction, I'm the boss. That's actually one of my very favorite parts about building my own fictional world: I can just say what is or isn't reality and no one can question it because I'm the creator, I alone decide! :D As far as saving stuff from being destroyed, that's not the trouble. It's a whole heck of a lot easier to have some life survive than it is to destroy everything. Your suggestion 6) is the one I'm planning to use to restore things in the end, that part I already know. It's the other part that bothers me! $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2014 at 10:00

Tardigrades are almost unkillable, assuming that some of the earths surface is still their the they could survive. They have been proven to be able to go close to nuclear blasts and some can survive in space for weeks.


If not all the oceans are boiled off, then the early bombardment's survivors include a lot of high-temperature oceanic life that has free-floating spores or larvae. (Why free-floating spores? Because if every volcano erupts, then that has a good chance of killing a lot of the tubeworms and such that live in them.). Depending on how hot the surviving ocean gets, a lot of oceanic life could survive the initial bombardment. They may not survive ocean acidification as the ejecta continues to rain down endlessly, however.

No surface life is going to survive the land being turned to magma. However, if arcology shields aren't right up against the skin of the arcology, then it's likely that things that were next to the arcologies also survive - at least until the shields are dropped or the darkness deprives them of food.

If ALL the atmosphere is heated to oven temperature, only a very few hardy spores survive.

We've found microbes three miles underground; I expect a lot of them to survive the initial bombardment. Someone's got some Deinococcus Radiodurans to set loose on general principles, as well.

Everything inside the arcologies survives - house centipedes, cockroaches, slendermen. Some menagerie animals may be extinct in the long run if there wasn't a full breeding population and no humans or AIs have the will to compensate with genetic engineering. A concerted effort to save species/ecosystems may also focus on wild organisms in the skin between the shield and the arcology.

I think the space colonies should be hit harder than you describe - while it's probably impractical to drop an individual nuke on every prospector out on a walk in their spacesuit, I'd expect to see stuff fired at every large town in space. And not all of it will be fast - there will be slow, small rocks containing a map of Mars or Luna or wherever, a list of population centers, and a seed swarm of gray goo around the controller. There may well also be surviving nanites on Earth.


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