“In the great commons at Gaia’s Landing we have a tall and particularly beautiful stand of white pine, planted at the time of the first colonies. It represents our promise to the people, and to Planet itself, never to repeat the tragedy of Earth.”
— Lady Deirdre Skye, “Planet Dreams”
The player’s first choice, upon beginning a new game, is to pick the faction that he will try to guide to ideological supremacy this time. There are precisely seven options to choose among, each with a portrait and a quote, which serves as a brief introduction to the faction via the character.
For reasons that become apparent later, it is no coincidence that the first of these choices is the faction formally named “Gaia’s Stepdaughters”, or “Gaians” for short, led by the Scottish-born Lady Deirdre Skye. In a nutshell, they are the environmentalists, but it is worth taking a moment to analyze the first impression given by the faction select screen.
First off, our leader is a woman. This, in and of itself, is interesting to note, especially in conjunction with the name of the faction. She isn’t wearing anything obvious other than some relatively plain jewelry. Nor does she style herself with an ornate title. “Lady” connotes some respect and dignity, but in the sense of a member of an aristocracy or oligarchy rather than as the sole supreme leader of the faction.
The overall effect is to bring to mind a certain core current of the modern Green movement, especially where that movement intersects with radical feminism and a spiritual outlook reminiscent of the hippies or New Age style female-centered paganism. Like all of the other factions, this one comes with its own potential set of negative stereotypes that Reynolds studiously avoids in the canon (except when placing words in the mouths of rivals). In particular, it would have been easy to make Lady Deirdre (she goes by her first name in the game’s formal diplomacy and in the interface) a vapid or silly mystic. Instead, she’s a whip-smart biologist whose mysticism turns out to have terrifying applications.
From this perspective, it is a lot easier to see what Lady Deirdre and her Gaians think was the tragedy of Earth. Men, in their hubris and self-destructive competition, poisoned the land, chopped down all the trees, and wrecked society by losing touch with their place in Nature. After all of this Captain Planet style villainy gone amok, the only choice was to take to the stars and try to start over – this time doing it right. And the pines – Earth plants on an alien world – serve to represent this promise by remaining pristine and unconsumed even amidst the cramped, early domes of the first colonies.
It’s also interesting to note a couple more things from this first impression. First, the mystic, neo-Pagan perspective shines through in that this sacred promise was made to both the people and to the new Planet itself. And, second, that the formal name of the faction is “Gaia’s Stepdaughters” rather than the more obvious “Gaia’s Daughters”, or even “Gaia’s Orphans”. This choice is really interesting, as it implies a much more fraught relationship between the members of the faction, their previous home, and their new home here on Chiron (or Planet, as the new colonists commonly refer to it). They see themselves as wayward stepchildren, adrift, looking to make something of their previous broken home.