The Liberation of Earth

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"The Liberation of Earth"
AuthorWilliam Tenn
CountryUnited States
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published in Future Science Fiction
Publication typePeriodical
PublisherColumbia Publications, Inc.
Media typePrint (Magazine)
Publication dateMay 1953

"The Liberation of Earth" is a science fiction short story by American author William Tenn, written in 1950, first published in 1953, and reprinted several times in various anthologies, including 1955 collection Of all Possible Worlds and 1967 anthology The Starlit Corridor. 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".

Critical response[edit]

Nick Gevers has described "The Liberation of Earth" 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. It was also reprinted in the 2016 anthology The Big Book of Science Fiction. Editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer state that it is "considered one of the classic science fiction stories of all time."[4]


  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.
  4. ^ The Big Book of Science Fiction. Vintage Books. July 2016. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-101-91009-2.


  • 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]