The Liberation of Earth

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"The Liberation of Earth"
Author William Tenn
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science Fiction short story
Published in Future Science Fiction
Publication type Periodical
Publisher Columbia Publications, Inc.
Media type Print (Magazine)
Publication date May 1953

"The Liberation of Earth" is a science fiction short story by William Tenn, written in 1950, first published in 1953, and reprinted over a dozen times in various anthologies and in 1955 in the William Tenn collection Of all Possible Worlds. The story, which Tenn described as having been inspired by the Korean War,[1] portrays Earth as the battleground between two powerful alien races, the Troxxt and the Dendi, who repeatedly "liberate" it from each other.

At the time the story begins, the Troxxt and the Dendi have long since abandoned the (literally) shattered remnants of Earth as being too dangerous for civilized people; humanity is nearly extinct, with the few survivors having descended into starving savagery as they struggle for air.

Plot Summary[edit]

The story is told from the point of view of the future descendants of the humans that were nearly annihilated by throughout the course of these constant "liberations". Each alien race convinces the inhabitants of Earth to assist them in their war against the other race, always making sure to paint themselves as the force of good and the opposing race as the evil aggressors. When the Earth is then “reliberated” by the other alien race, the inhabitants of Earth are reproached for having believed the lies told by their previous occupiers. This cycle of liberation and re-liberation continues until the Earth is left a shell of its former self. During the course of the occupation, most of the human race has been killed, its ecosystem has been destroyed, and the planet’s unstable orbit threatens to fling them all into space. The future inhabitants of Earth barely resemble their human ancestors, leading desperate lives on a ravaged planet, and ran from “water puddle to distant water puddle, across the searing heat of yellow sand”, “sucked air”, and “frantically grabbed at clusters of thick green weed”.


Written during the Cold War, the story functions as an allegory for the Korean War in particular, but can also be linked with other Cold War conflicts. In the case of the Korean War, Korea was used as a battlefield in a conflict that had more to do with outside forces than Korea itself. Similarly, despite Earth’s lack of involvement in the war between the alien races, the planet became the battlefield for a conflict only tangentially related to its inhabitants, and bore a disproportionate amount of the resultant damage and losses.

Critical response[edit]

Nick Gevers has described "Liberation" as "great",[2] and Locus columnist Rich Horton described it as "one of 1953's best shorts".[3] It was included in the anthology Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 15 as one of the best science fiction short stories of 1953.


  1. ^ Tenn 2001, p. 186.
  2. ^ Rodger Turner, Webmaster. "The SF Site Featured Review: Immodest Proposals". Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  3. ^ "Locus Online: Rich Horton surveys the Best of 1953". 2004-02-20. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  • Tenn, William. Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn, Volume 1. New England Science Fiction Association, 2001. ISBN 1-886778-19-1.

External links[edit]