"The city has a mind. The record of every deed, every thought, every fear and hope and curse that was ever made has been impressed upon Mega-City One's astral twin. There are seething pits as black as sin where memories of Necropolis and the Dark Judges burn and broil. Mutant mayhem stalks the streets. Monsters lurk in every shadow. Block wars still rage, long-dead Sov soldiers fight their neverending Apocalypse, piles of corpses fill whole sectors. And underlying it all, the despair of billions of people who've lived their futile, brutal lives then died, going from nowhere to nothing. This is one sad, sick city!"
Mega-City One is a vast, sprawling, dystopian metropolis covering much of the eastern seaboard of the continent of North America, which slowly coalesced into existence in the first half of the twenty-first century around nuclei such as New York. Its population is huge (for example, 800 million people in 2100), but is often severely reduced by apocalyptic disasters, which seem to afflict the city on a regular basis. Over half the population died in the Apocalypse War, and 65% of the city was destroyed. The population rose and fell again and again over the next thirty years, with 60 million people slaughtered by the Necropolis crisis and a further 350 million eventually being killed by the Chaos Virus. The current population is 50 million. In contrast, the population of today's largest megacity, according to Wikipedia, is nearly 35 million.
Made angry and resentful by staggeringly high levels of unemployment, draconian laws (for example, sugar and coffee are illegal) and awful food such as the ersatz pseudo-protein 'munce', the disaffected citizens are kept in line by the Justice Department, a cadre of unelected 'Judges'. The Judges, an armed elite who live celibate lives of quasi-monastic devotion to the law, have the power to impose heavy prison (or 'cube') sentences or even the death penalty on malefactors. Trial by jury is unknown, democracy is a sham and attacks by rival city-states, rebellious robots or the unquiet dead are worryingly frequent. About the best thing that can be said for life in the city is that it is preferable to scratching an existence in the Cursed Earth, the radiation-blasted hellscape surrounding it.
Mega-City One's mayors have included an orangutan and a serial killer; among its noteworthy citizens are a witch, a baby with the mind of an adult and a sentient polar bear. Perhaps its most famous inhabitant is Judge Dredd, a preternaturally dedicated and single-minded member of the previously-mentioned authoritarian police force who are the de facto rulers of the city. Despite being perhaps the most unswervingly dutiful Judge in the history of Mega-City One, Dredd evinces occasional signs of humanity: he cares for his niece and even has a friend or two. In this respect he epitomises life in Mega-City One, which is harsh and unrelenting yet nevertheless capable, every so often, of creating moments of warmth, compassion or even love.
However, the food is still crap.
All stories that take place in Mega-City One occur 122 years after the date of publication. To find out which year a story is set in, add 122 to the year in which it was written. The date in Mega-City One is currently 2139 AD (this sentence written in May 2017).
- Apocalypse War, The
- Cursed Earth
- Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection
- Judge Dredd, World of, The
- Mega-City One architecture (external link)
- The Judge Child Quest