We learned some interesting facts from Historical Friction. First of all, Beach City was settled almost two hundred years in the past (by someone six generations back from Mayor Dewey, so the time scale checks out). That would just be an interesting piece of trivia if it wasn’t also apparently the first human settlement in the Americas (or at least anywhere near the Crystal Temple), and its founder didn’t know that he was going to reach land. This is quite a bit different from our history, where knowledge of the New World became widespread knowledge about five hundred years before our time.
So where does that leave us? Wondering why everything is so different.
A big change
Before Historical Friction aired we didn’t have any reason to believe that there was much change in humanity’s past. Sure there were odd things like three-dollar bills, different state names, and a wonderful head on the quarter, but since the present day ended up so similar it was easier to assume that everything was more or less the same.
Pushing back the discovery of the New World three hundred years is a big change. There are a lot of guesses we could make about what that means for the situation in the Old World before the discovery, but it can’t have been all that different—unless humanity in Steven’s world was able to advance their technology at an astounding rate, they probably simply discovered the New World with late 1700s technology rather than late 1400s technology.
We eagerly await more hints about the history of Steven’s world. Florida is missing in action, and now we have to wonder why the Old World was less interested in – or perhaps less successful at – exploration than in our own history.
This land is dangerous
Of course we were shown one reason they may have been less successful at exploration: monsters apparently roamed the seas, and the Crystal Gems couldn’t be there to save everyone. Even if explorers found land the monsters may have gotten them. Steven’s world is much more dangerous than ours, and fears of roaming monsters were very much well-founded.
First Pearl, then the mysterious giant woman (a currently unidentified fusion), said that the land was too dangerous for humans. That’s about as direct a statement as you can get that the land was currently uninhabited; though we obviously can’t be sure how much land they meant, at a minimum they meant a very large region.
We don’t have to guess why the land is dangerous: we know from Rising Tides, Crashing Skies that monsters are attracted to the Crystal Gems, and Historical Friction itself showed one attacking people who didn’t even know it was there. What we do have to guess about is how powerful the attraction is—in other words, how rare are monsters back where William Dewey came from?
Certainly rare enough to allow a flourishing civilization. Even saying there are one hundred monsters in the New World for every one in the Old World seems like it might not make them rare enough in the Old World. Apportioning them by land area would have about one monster in the state of Virginia for every monster roaming Europe. Adjust monster densities and ratios to suit your desired havoc levels.
Havoc levels wouldn’t need to be too high if the Gems were responsible for wiping out humanity in the New World before they were corrupted into monsters, but humanity’s fate during the Crystal Gem rebellion is something the show will probably get into later.