Science fiction that involves farming?
February 12, 2009 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of examples of science fiction about farming? I am especially interested in illustrated stories, movies, comic books, or anything with pictures.

I think that looking at the history of farming in science fiction might be a fun way to show ideas about what the future might look like, tease out ethical questions, and see if predictions about farming came true. I am especially interested in visual culture, and stuff that would be citeable. Novels with illustrated covers, movies, comics, action figures, toys, would all be interesting. I am especially interested in 19th century America to the present, but if there is something good from the rest of the world that would be fun too.

I found examples of farms on the Tales of Future Past website, but there were no sources. Do any examples come to mind? Thanks for your insight!
posted by tnygard to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Not exactly what you're looking for, but Heinlein has a book called Farmer in the Sky about farmers colonizing a moon of Jupiter. It's got an illustrated cover... It's been a while since I read it, but there are a few ethical questions in there, about owning the land and such.
posted by losvedir at 6:35 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's a 1952 story called "The Space Merchants," by Frederick Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, which describes what may be the first example of vat meat, a huge chunk of chicken breast that eats processed algae that poor laborers harvest from ponds in long, poorly paid shifts. It's a lot like the jobs Tom Joad takes on in The Grapes of Wrath, and the workers are apparently in that position because of debt they accrued in a consumerist culture.

I'm not sure if the story details futuristic agriculture anymore than this excerpt. I haven't read the story, I only heard of the concept.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:42 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Silent Running stars Bruce Dern as a custodian of various plant-based ecospheres that were launched into space on sort of arks after a holocaust on Earth. Probably right up your alley.

You might also mention the Lars homestead in Star Wars--they're farmers of a sort.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:46 PM on February 12, 2009

In Saberhagen's Berserker universe, there's a story about a captured farmer using his skills to kill a Berserker. I'm pretty sure it's called "Pressure" and is in the collection, "The Ultimate Enemy." It doesn't really deal too awfully much with the future of farming though.

Pohl's Jem might be more in that direction. The food producing nations are a bloc much like OPEC is IRL and, later on, I think aliens are enslaved as food producers on an alien world. Pohl's Gateway also series mentioned farming from time, usually in form of either fish farms or yeast grown on petrochemicals, until it was made obsolete by the mining of the Oort cloud for all-purpose CHON, Carbon/Hydrogen/Oxygen/Nitrogen, that could be turned into foodstuffs.

Star Trek in "The Trouble With Tribbles" also mentioned farming; those damned tribbles ate genetically modified seed that was being shipped to a farm planet.

I feel I should, at this point, mention I have kissed girls and don't live in my parents' basement.
posted by codswallop at 6:54 PM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the Dune series, people farm spice.

And in the PC game Alpha Centauri, there are two types of farm you can research as you settle the planet. Tree Farms and Aqua Farms.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:58 PM on February 12, 2009

You would love The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps, though it's more like speculative engineering rather than fiction. The cultivation of algae, both on Earth and in the bubble-membranes of space colonies, is what solves the problems of poverty and resource scarcity that's holding people back from space colonization. Then, most of the 'farming' is basically converting space ore to useful materials through robots and such -- water being the most important, since it enables respiration of the colonies and feeds people. The solution to just about every engineering problem is "fill it with more water." Very aqua-centric.

The book has illustrations in black and white throughout and a big full-color ultra-utopian artist's illustration inset in the middle (See 1, 2, 3, 4).
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:58 PM on February 12, 2009

I'd add my recommendation for Silent Running, as Admiral Haddock mentions above. I sobbed like a little girl when I saw that movie; of course, I was a little boy with perhaps an inordinate fondness for robots at the time, but my neuroses aside, it's a damned good flick.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:17 PM on February 12, 2009

The protagonist of Gateway by Pohl works in, if I remember correctly, a slime or algae mine of some description, and then gets a job as, essentially, a gardener.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:28 PM on February 12, 2009

2000AD's Flesh featured future cowboys going back in time to harvest dinosaurs to extinction.
posted by malevolent at 12:00 AM on February 13, 2009

Day of the Triffids has info about a triffid farm (triffids are fictional walking plants with venomous stings, farmed for their valuable oil). And WALL-E's plot involves a few instances where the Captain (a future-human) describes our present-day farming methods, with some confusion. This article also mentions Idiocracy.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:31 AM on February 13, 2009

Strangers From The Sky is a Star Trek novel that details a secret early First Encounter with vulcans on a pre-warp capable Earth. a Vulcan observation ship crash lands near a floating kelp farm, and some of that farming practice is details.

Variable Star by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson features the son of a Ganymedean physicist/farmer who joins a colony ship and is employed while onboard as a farmer.
posted by jrishel at 5:34 AM on February 13, 2009

cowbellemoo: "You would love The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps, though it's more like speculative engineering rather than fiction.."

Agree with the first part of that sentence, disagree with the second part. It's essentially fantasy and best consumed as such. The elven features of the woman in illustration 4 is but a taste of the New Age silliness that dorkily pops up at least once a chapter.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:59 AM on February 13, 2009

Keith Roberts, a woefully neglected author, did an interesting story about super-mechanized wheat farming that takes place aboard giant combines in Alaska. It is titled The Grain Kings and can be found in the 1976 collection of that name.

A copy is available here...

And here's a link to it at
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:30 AM on February 13, 2009

Ben Bova's Welcome to Moonbase is another bit of speculative engineering that takes seriously what farming would look like in an off planet colony. It's a shame it's out of print. I adored it as a sci-fi nerd kid.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:26 AM on February 13, 2009

I forget how much actual farming is in it, but a lot of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy is about terraforming.
posted by dfan at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2009

John Scalzi's The Last Colony has some intergalactic farming going on.
posted by donovan at 4:39 PM on February 13, 2009

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