The printing press was invented in Baghdad in 796, prompting an Islamic Industrial Revolution. The world is dominated by a Muslim caliphate, though it's recently been attacked by radical secularists in the Americas. The secularists shocked the caliphate by conquering almost a third of the planet, and caused offworld colonies under corporate rule to declare independence. These colonies are apparently building a 'stargate' in trans-Neptunian orbit and claim to have made contact with an alien species.
The current year is 1684.