As I'm sure most of you have utterly and completely failed to notice, I've begun working on a science fiction setting in the ASB forum, under the working title of A Dance in Aetherium. This setting is the result of months of fooling about in my phone's notes, and has been the primary drain on SoaP's updating rate (along with school and the MoF entries I've made) for almost that entire time. I thought I'd make a Munroist map of the TL's Earth to show it off, and here is the result.
This world can roughly be described as "now-punk"; that is, in the same way as, for instance, steampunk extrapolates and exaggerates the technology and culture of the Victorian era, this world extrapolates and exaggerates the technology and culture of the present day.
In the year 2381 (287 AS, as the modernist sees it), the Earth is characterised, more than anything else, by the division between the great powers and everyone else; to quote Thucydides' account of the Melian dialogue, this is a world where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. The countries that can go into space and colonise planets are so far above the ones that can't in terms of power that we can't quite fathom it, and even among the more 'advanced' interstellar powers there are huge differences in power between the nations that did this first, and were able to corner the market by grabbing all the Earthlike planets in the 'quadrants' (the four sectors of space closest to the sun), and the ones that came later. The addition of completely extrasolar powers into the mix makes everything even more complicated, but overall a small nation on the order of, say, Zimbabwe is far outmatched by even the nations like South Africa that have minor colonial empires, and the gap from there to a great power like Europa is almost equally large.
As in our time there are many different measurements of power, from military capability to population to different GDP measurements, but they almost all agree that the European Federation is on top, and has been for centuries. This is despite the fact that Europa (as it is commonly abbreviated; the word Europe refers only to the landmass) has what is quite possibly the most byzantine government structure ever to be thought up. There are five different types of districts in the Federation (three of them are present on the map, and the other two are used for colonised planets), and to make everything even more complicated, some of the districts (but not all) have joined together to form national associations with some of the powers of the districts shared within the nation. In addition to this, the federal executive consists of two different bodies, the Central Executive Council and the Council of State, whose relationship varies between governments, and there is no single head of state or government to be found anywhere. However, the European economy is strong and autarkic, and its military is the largest in existence, making for a complex yet powerful state not to be trifled with.
The North American Republic, or NAR for short, is the Canadian-coloured nation, and is the USC part of the "Jesusland map" that is TTL North America. It was formed after WWIII (basically D3m Ev0l 'Murkans vs. everyone else, chiefly the Indo-Russian alliance but also the parts of Europe that weren't fighting alongside the Americans- suffice it to say, it was complicated) as a new, improved government for America, and as a compromise between the historical government styles of Canada and the US, it is a parliamentary republic on the German model. Unlike the US itself (the Jesusland parts), which is even more of an elective autocracy than our US, the NAR actually has a claim to being a good, stable, democratic form of government (though, as with every other power, it depends on who's doing the governing). The NAR is a bit of an oddity in that it never achieved much in terms of colonisation, and therefore has a relatively small population base, but still manages to remain one of the greatest powers. It does this by having a high-technology industry and a military that relies on drone ships of up to frigate size.
The US is actually still in existence, despite being royally whacked in WWIII; this incarnation of the Union is ruled from Memphis, Tennessee, and is dominated by right-wing parties. The President of the United States is the closest to a monarch present in any of the Great Powers; he is elected for a single term of ten years, and since Congress is unable to override presidential vetoes, he is able to get his own way in most cases. The US is also notable as one of few powers that spend a large portion of their defence budget on their ground forces, and it's paid off; American heavy infantry troops are decked out in the most modern power armour and use the heaviest weaponry, and American tanks can usually withstand tactical nuclear strikes.
South America is mostly divvied up between two powers these days; the South American Federation (Federación Suramericana/Federacão Sul-Americana) which is relatively democratic if confederal and Brazilian-dominated, and the American Security Pact, an alliance of technocratic countries under Peruvian leadership that's in many ways more of a unified nation than the FSA. The two have sparred for the last century or so, the most prominent incident being when ASP member Bolivia overthrew its technocratic government and joined the FSA, but have never reached open war.
As for India, the perennial second in international power measurements, it's in decline; its government corrupt and weakened by infighting, the only public institution people trust is the military, and its colonies are slipping out of government control. The ascending star in Asia is Russia, whose government almost no one knows anything about; it's claimed that it's still led by an ageing Vladimir Putin, but if this were true he'd be several hundred years old, and so the commonly accepted belief is that the country is ruled from behind the scenes by a cabal of politicians who use the long-deceased Putin's image to maintain a sense of perpetuity to the government.
China went through a brief democratic period in the mid-23rd century, and then went to hell in a handbasket. The nation is currently dominated by three competing governments, all of which have interstellar empires and all of which hate the two others like poison. Though actual warfare has died down by now, the situation is turning out similarly to 20th century Korea, with the three sides waging cold wars of espionage and passive-aggressive rhetoric against one another.
The technology of this world is far beyond our own, as you'd expect from a future scenario. Apart from the rather obvious fact that faster-than-light travel is commonplace, there is also advanced holographic and VR technology in existence, though unlike many cyberpunk scenarios people living in VR the entire time is very uncommon, and generally results in brain and/or eye damage if they ever exit the simulation, along with the osteoporosis and muscular dystrophy you'd expect from someone who's been sitting completely still for several years. Computational technology has also advanced significantly beyond its current state, though not as much as you'd perhaps expect with three centuries of development. There are electronic that can perform basically the same functions as the most sophisticated PCs of 2013, and small earpieces that can simultaneously translate any language known to man and produce intelligible speech.
An interesting aspect of this world is the presence of the Gifted, a blanket term for people who have inherited certain phenotypes (known as Gifts) that sprang into existence during TTL's brief stint with liberal eugenics and genetic alteration. Among these gifts are many traits previously thought superhuman, including slower ageing to create lifespans of several hundred years, perfect eidetic memories that can read a book and recite every word years later, naturally regenerating limbs and vital organs, constitutional changes to allow for the replacement of entire limbs with electronic devices, and even low-level telekinesis; which of these phenotypes were created on purpose and which sprang up by accident due to the combination of several altered genotypes is lost to history.