Planets in science fiction

Planets in science fiction are fictional planets that appear in various media, especially those of the science fiction genre, as story-settings or depicted locations.[1]


Before Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens, the planets of the Solar System were not recognized as worlds, or places where a person could potentially set foot; they were visible to observers merely as bright points of light, distinguishable from stars only by their motion.

In the system of Claudius Ptolemy (fl. c. 150), the Alexandrian astronomer whose works were the basis of all European astronomy throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the planets were lights set into a series of transparent spheres turning around the Earth, which was the center of the one and only universe.[2] Dante (1265–1321), in his Paradiso,[3] describes the ascent of his narrator through the spheres of the Moon, the planets from Mercury to Saturn, and thence to the sphere of the fixed stars and the heavens of the angels. Dante implies that the light of the planets is a combination of light imparted by Divine will and the radiance of the blessed souls that inhabit the spheres. These planets are, however, entirely ethereal; they have light but no physical form and no geography.

Ludovico Ariosto, in his epic Orlando Furioso (1513),[4] jestingly sent his hero to a Moon where everything lost on Earth eventually turns up; but it was not until Galileo discovered (1609–1610) that the Moon had surface features, and that the other planets could, at least, be resolved into disks,[5] that the concept that the planets were real physical bodies came to be taken seriously. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus had already posited that the planets orbited the Sun as the Earth does; combined, these two concepts led to the thought that the planets might be "worlds" similar to the Earth.[6] Public expression of such concepts could be dangerous, however; Giordano Bruno was martyred in 1600 for, among other things, imagining an infinite number of other worlds, and claiming that "Innumerable suns exist; innumerable Earths revolve about these suns ... Living beings inhabit these worlds" in De l'infinito universo e mondi ("Concerning the Infinite Universe and Worlds", 1584).[7]

At the time, such speculation was of a rather rarefied sort, and was limited to astronomers like Christiaan Huygens who wrote a book, Cosmotheoros (1698)[8] considering the possibility of life on other planets; or to philosophers like Campanella, who wrote in defense of Galileo. The concept of life on distant planets was not, however, much utilized in fiction. The most popular target of 17th century "science fiction" was the Moon ("visited" in fiction by Kepler,[9] Godwin,[10] Cyrano,[11] and Defoe).[12] Oddly, none of these fictions made use of the lunar maps contemporaneously created by Hevelius, Riccioli and others.

It was quite some time before such "extraordinary voyages" went beyond the lunar sphere. Eberhard Kindermann sent an airship to the planets in 1744 in Die Geschwinde Reise auf dem Lufft-schiff nach der obern Welt ("The Airship's Speedy Journey to the Upper World");[13] while a traveller from the star Sirius passes inward through the Solar System, stopping at various planets in Voltaire's Micromégas (1752);[14] followed by another outward voyage in Marie-Anne de Roumier-Robert's Voyage de Milord Céton dans les Sept Planètes ("Lord Seton's Voyage Among the Seven Planets", 1765).[15] These stories were generally unscientific and tended towards the satirical rather than the purely entertaining; their subject-matter was probably inspired by the popular writings of Fontenelle, notably his Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes ("Conversations on the Multiplicity of Worlds", 1686).[16]

With the rapid developments in the magnifying and resolving power of telescopes in the course of the 19th century, it finally became possible to distinguish surface features on other planets and even to draw maps of some of them, notably Mars. In 1877, Asaph Hall reported two moons of Mars and Giovanni Schiaparelli found the surface of Mars to be adorned with continents, seas, and channels, and a very suitable habitat for life. From the beginning of the 1880s, fictions – some more, some less scientific – involving travels to and from Mars began to be produced in great quantities, even though the observations of Percival Lowell required reassessment of Mars as a more marginal desert planet.[17] Mars remained a favored destination for fictional travellers down to the early 1960s (see Mars in fiction). Since probes revealed the absence of any indications of intelligent life on Mars, the science fictional Mars has changed to a possible future home for the human race, e.g. through terraforming.

Venus was never quite so popular as Mars, probably because it obdurately refused to display any surface features (it is covered with sulfuric acid clouds only dimly translucent to visible light), making any statement about its nature disturbingly speculative. In 1918, chemist Svante Arrhenius, deciding that Venus' cloud cover was necessarily water, decreed in The Destinies of the Stars that "A very great part of the surface of Venus is no doubt covered with swamps" and compared Venus' humidity to the tropical rain forests of the Congo.[18] Venus thus became, until the early 1960s, a place for science fiction writers to place all manner of unusual life forms, from quasi-dinosaurs to intelligent carnivorous plants, and where hostile interactions with Venusian natives were reminiscent of European colonial projects in Africa and Asia (see Venus in fiction). In fact Venus's surface is hot enough to melt lead, and it is extremely hostile to life.

Various planets of the Solar System were used as settings for science fiction stories in the first half of the 20th century; but dissatisfaction with the limits imposed by science led many writers early on to forsake the Solar System for fictional planets around distant stars. As increasing knowledge of the Solar System made the prospects of life in the vicinity of Earth marginal at best, the extrasolar planet has become almost the only venue for contemporary science fiction.

In many works of science fiction, planets are only described casually, as points of origin and departure, or as interchangeable backdrops for space battles. This is particularly true of space opera. In other works, the planet takes center stage as the primary scene of events, and particular attention is paid to its environment and any culture that may exist on it. Adventure stories that stick to a single, well-described planet are sometimes called planetary romances; some of these planets are not very realistic and are effectively fantasy worlds.

Planets may be treated in different ways depending both on the interests of the author and the genre he or she is writing in. In some stories, a planet is mainly considered as an object in space: the interest of the fiction depends upon its astronomical characteristics, such as its mass, its geological composition, its atmosphere, how many moons it has and what size they are, how close it is to its sun (or suns) and how hot they are. Such considerations are found prominently though not exclusively in the hard science fiction genre.

In other stories, a planet is considered as a world or setting. Such a planet will be described from the point of view of a person dwelling on it, rather than from the point of view of an outside observer: the fiction may describe its geography, its history, and the social and cultural characteristics of its civilizations. Since authors usually adopt human protagonists, such planets are typically described as very hospitable to human life and, other than in geography, nearly indistinguishable from Earth; Brian Stableford calls such planets "Earth-Clones".[19] Conversely some fictional worlds are never more than marginally habitable, which has a profound effect on societies that developed or moved there. Numerous examples of this are to be found in the Known Space stories of Larry Niven.

In some works of fiction, such as Pournelle's CoDominium or Card's Ender's Game series, certain planets are settled by specific ethnic groups. However, in novels set in distant futures, e.g. Dune, the inhabitants have usually forgotten about the original settlers.

While some authors choose to treat a planet in depth, considering it to have a wide diversity of geography, climate, politics and culture, others prefer to characterize their planets by some single global characteristic. Many of these uniform settings have become stereotypes, used in a variety of science fictional works. Such stereotypes include: the planet covered by a single city; the planet whose surface is entirely desert; the planet covered by ocean, with no landmasses; the planet on which it is perpetually winter; the planet that is self-aware; and the planet which has been artificially constructed.

Other planets appear in humorous or comical settings, sometimes spoofing more conventional science fiction. Such planets are often described with no pretense to scientific accuracy; their strange characteristics are primarily intended to amuse.

For the Star Trek universe, a detailed planetary classification system has been devised; it is not actually used by scientists.

Planet lists

For planets from specific fictional milieux, use the following lists and categories:



Film and television


Computer/video games

Other games


Planet types

For a more scientific approach to classifying planet types from Orion's Arm

Ice planets

Ice planets have figured prominently in science fiction, such as Hoth, an ice planet featured in The Empire Strikes Back, or Gethen, an ice planet in the novel The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.

An ice planet named Fichina is featured in the Star Fox video game series.

Lava planets

Lava worlds can be seen occasionally in science fiction. In Star Wars, one such planet is Mustafar, with its heat caused by tidal forces from nearby gas giants. Mustafar scenes take place in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.

A lava world called Solar is also featured in Star Fox 64.

Ocean planets

Desert planets

Mars as a desert planet

Main article: Mars in fiction

Before, and certainly after, the results sent back by the Viking landers, some science fiction set on Mars portrayed it as a desert planet. Science fiction stories that do so include:

Titan as a desert world

Main article: Titan in fiction

Fictional desert planets

Other desert planets have been used as story motifs in fictional works:

Planet Source Year Medium Details Reference
Abydos Stargate and later in the TV series Stargate SG-1 1994 Film
Altair IV Forbidden Planet 1956 Film [23]
Anarres The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin 1974 Novel Not strictly a desert planet; has oceans and is predominantly steppe
Arrakis (aka Dune) Dune by Frank Herbert, and subsequent works in the Dune universe 1965 Novel Homeworld of the Fremen and source of the valuable spice melange [24]
Athas Dark Sun setting for Dungeons & Dragons 1991 Role-playing game
Bara Magna Bionicle 2009 Toy line Large utopian planet struck by a cataclysm 100,000 years previous
Beachworld "Beachworld" by Stephen King 1985 Short story
Byss Star Wars: Dark Empire 1991–1992 Comic book
Canopus III Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Eye of the Beholder" 1974 Animated TV series
Cardassia IV Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Homecoming" 1993 TV series
Ceti Alpha V Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed" 1967 TV series Devastated by destruction of nearby Ceti Alpha VI
Dorvan V Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Journey's End" 1994 TV series
Dozaria Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Indiscretion" 1995 TV series
Fire Lexx season 3 1999 TV series An afterlife planet for the souls of deceased people, who made unvirtuous choices when they were alive. The inhabitants build their cities high above the ground to avoid the deadly heat emanating from the planet's core.
Fyrine IV Enemy Mine 1985 Film
Gamma X Les Maîtres du temps 1982 Animated film
Geonosis Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 2002 Film
Gunsmoke Trigun Manga series
Home Worldwar 1994-2004 book series The homeworld of the reptilian Race. The human designation is Tau Ceti II.
Imecka Dragonball GT 1996 Anime
Jakku Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 Film [25]
Katina Star Fox 64 and Star Fox Assault

Video game

Kerona Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter 1986 Computer game
Kharak Homeworld 1999 Real-time strategy video game Planet bombed by the Taiidan Empire
Khoros Ben 10 2005–2008 Animated TV series Homeworld of the alien Fourarms
Klendathu Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, and subsequent works 1959 Novel Homeworld of the Arachnids
Kolarus III Star Trek Nemesis 2002 Film
Korhal StarCraft and subsequent games in the StarCraft franchise 1998 Real-time strategy video game Once-lush throne world of the Terran Dominion
Korriban Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2003 Computer game
M6-117 Pitch Black 2000 Film Gas giant's moon
Marak's World Hammerfall (and later 2004's Forge of Heaven) by C. J. Cherryh 2001 Novel
Motavia Phantasy Star 1987 Video game Terraformed into a forest planet in Phantasy Star II
Ocampa Star Trek: Voyager 1994–1997 TV series Devastated homeworld of Kes and the Ocampa
Osiris IV Futurama episode "A Pharaoh to Remember" 2002 Animated TV series
Perdide Les Maîtres du temps 1982 Animated film
Plyuk Kin-dza-dza! 1986 Film
Resurgam Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds 2000 Novel
Rock Star Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards 2000 Video Game
Salt Salt by Adam Roberts 2000 Novel
Socorro Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game adventure The Black Sands of Socorro 1997 Role-playing game
Starbuck Galactica 1980 episode "The Return of Starbuck" 1980 TV series
Tallarn and other planets Warhammer 40,000 universe Miniature wargame
Tatooine Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 1977 - 1983 Film
Titania Star Fox 64 for Nintendo 64 1997 Video game
Tophet Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles 1999 Animated TV series
Torga IV Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Ship" 1996 TV series
Toroth Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Desert Crossing" 2002 TV series
Trisol Futurama episode "My Three Suns" 1999 Animated TV series
Tyree Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "Image in the Sand" and "Shadows and Symbols" 1998 TV series
Unnamed planet Snare by Katharine Kerr 2003 Novel
Unnamed planet Star Trek episode "Arena" 1967 TV series
Vega Spaceballs 1987 Film Home planet to Schwartz-master Yogurt
Vulcan Star Trek: The Original Series and subsequent works in the Star Trek universe 1966 TV series Homeworld of the Vulcan race

Alphabetical list

Contains planets not found in the preceding lists.

















This section lists fictional extrasolar planets called "Planet X". For fictional planets in the Solar System called "Planet X", see Fictional planets of the Solar System








Other lists

Parallel Earths

These planets are identical or nearly identical to Earth physically, but have a history that differs to some degree from that of our Earth.

Planets of the Solar System

Artificial planets

Some writers, scientists and artists have speculated about artificial worlds or planet-equivalents; these planets include:

Fantastic planets

Some invented planets have physically impossible shapes, and may be regarded as fantasy worlds:

Comic planets

These planets are not so much carefully constructed worlds as they are humorous backgrounds or gag references in various comedy shows and games:


See also

Similar fictions

Fan fiction


  1. Mann, George (2001). The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Robinson. ISBN 1-84119-177-9.
  2. Ptolemaeus, Claudius (1984). Ptolemy's Almagest. New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-91220-7.
  3. Dante, Alighieri (2001). Paradiso. New York: Signet. ISBN 0-451-52805-0.
  4. Ariosto, Ludovico (1974). Orlando Furioso. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-212576-1.
  5. Galilei, Galileo (1987). Sidereus Nuncius. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-27902-2.
  6. Copernicus, Nicolaus (1995). De revolutionibus orbium caelestium. Amherst: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-035-5.
  7. Singer, Dorothea Waley (1968). Giordano Bruno, his life and thought. New York: Greenwood Press.
  8. "Cosmotheoros (1698)". Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  9. Kepler, Johannes (2003). Somnium. Mineola: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-43282-3.
  10. Godwin, Francis (1995). The Man in the Moon. Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions. ISBN 1-895537-42-8.
  11. Cyrano de Bergerac, Savinien (1965). Other worlds; the comical history of the states and empires of the moon and the sun. London: Oxford University Press.
  12. Defoe, Daniel (2001). The consolidator. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 0-404-63539-3.
  13. Kindermann, Eberhard (1923). Die geschwinde reise auf dem lufft-schiff nach der obern welt. Berlin: Dr. Otto.
  14. Voltaire (1995). Candide: and other writings. New York: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 1-56619-704-X.
  16. Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de (1990). Conversations on the plurality of worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06361-9.
  17. Lowell, Percival (1895). Mars. Boston: Houghton Mifflin and company.
  18. Arrhenius, Svante (1918). The destinies of the stars. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
  19. Stableford, Brian (1999). The Dictionary of science fiction places. New York: Wonderland Press. ISBN 0-684-84958-5.
  23. Wright, Les. "Forbidden Planet (1956)". (Internet Archive). Archived from the original on May 7, 2006. Retrieved May 7, 2006.
  24. "Dune 40th Anniversary Edition: Editorial Reviews". Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  25. Semlyen, Phil. "Empire (2015)". (Internet Archive). Retrieved November 26, 2015.
  26. Blish, James. Cities in Flight (New York: Avon, 1970)
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/28/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.