Name some cool habitats from Sci Fi books.
May 1, 2014 2:59 PM   Subscribe

What are the coolest, most imaginative habitats (such as cities, rings, orbitals, asteroids, underwater domes, semi-sentient inhabited space whales, anything people live in) that you've read about in Science Fiction books or comics?
posted by signal to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

I thought the Silos in Wool were pretty cool.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:11 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Helliconia, a world that takes 2500 years to orbit its sun, with correspondingly long seasons.
posted by ubiquity at 3:12 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Kim Stanley Robinsons Mars series had some net habitats. From space elevators, to old Martian lava tubes and traveling nomadic rover communities. I don't know of they've all been catalogued somewhere but they were quite vividly described on the books.
posted by dstopps at 3:12 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The shellworlds from Iain M Banks' Culture books. (Not a great article, just what I turned up in a hasty search.)
posted by skycrashesdown at 3:12 PM on May 1, 2014

Peter F Hamilton's sentient bio habitats, with storage for memories and personality

Rama, and other worldships/ space zoos/ collectors

Ian M Banks has a ton, actually:
posted by Jacen at 3:15 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The Monkeys Thought 'Twas All In Fun" is a short story by Orson Scott Card. It involves a huge 'bubble' in space that it turns out is full of smaller 'bubbles,' each with its own climate, topography, etc. Imagine the cube from the movie "Cube" but instead of traps, each huge chamber is a biome where people can live. People are able to move through the membrane-like walls between chambers, so each society/race/culture can build their own utopia in their own 'bubble.'

It doesn't end like I expected, but I enjoyed it.
posted by tacodave at 3:30 PM on May 1, 2014

The symbiotic spaceships in McIntyre's Little Faces.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:57 PM on May 1, 2014

Spoiler alert! The Daban Urnud in Anathem.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:16 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Algebraist has a species that lives in gas giants, and it's done in a very interesting. plausible and memorable way.
posted by philipy at 4:22 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Halo's iconic ringworld is an old idea, but the gargantuan blossom-shaped Ark from Halo 3 was not something I'd ever seen in fiction before.

Riverworld, a classic SF/fantasy series of books, posits a planet endlessly crisscrossed by a single incredibly long river valley, on whose banks are resurrected every human who has ever lived.

Also, the short story "Missile Gap," by MeFi's Own cstross, deals with the teleportation of 1960s Earth to the surface of a "preposterously" large disc, with some serious ramifications for geopolitics.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:33 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

berke breathed is the cartoonist who created "bloom county", and he had some cool habitats...

-the planet of the lusty female commodities brokers.
-the planet of the moderately moral stenographers.
-planet heineken, where wolf women take nitrogen pudding baths.
posted by bruce at 4:57 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thistledown, from Greg Bear's Eon, a habitat carved inside the asteroid Juno containing two cities, which was intended to serve as an interstellar spaceship but became the site of a pocket universe that intersected multiple other universes.
posted by audi alteram partem at 4:59 PM on May 1, 2014

Cities in Flight by James Blish.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:09 PM on May 1, 2014

Arthur C. Clarke's Rama series.

(Edit: oops, someone alrady did this. Sorry.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:13 PM on May 1, 2014

Maybe this will tweak someone's memory: There was an SF story about a moon of Jupiter (? Saturn?) which was a giant living creature, sort of a biological satellite. Inside there was a self-contained biome. But I'm wracking my brain for anything more detailed and can't come up with it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:14 PM on May 1, 2014

chocolate pickle: that sounds like Titan by John Varley. Well worth tracking down, though the third novel in the series gets a bit weird…
posted by monotreme at 5:21 PM on May 1, 2014

The Integral Trees - Larry Niven. A disk of atmosphere around a star with people living in floating trees.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:29 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Monotreme, thank you, that was the one!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:33 PM on May 1, 2014

Sun of Suns does this quite cleverly.

Also, Megastructures (Theoretical). Planet Spaceship (TVTropes).
posted by BungaDunga at 5:54 PM on May 1, 2014

The Coldfire Trilogy had a very interesting setting.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:58 PM on May 1, 2014

2312 by kim stanley robinson has hollowed out asteroids flying between the planets, a train on Mercury that keeps moving along with the sun worshippers and more.
posted by mearls at 6:43 PM on May 1, 2014

Stanford Torus from Titan
posted by j_curiouser at 6:47 PM on May 1, 2014

Ron Forward's Dragon's Egg and its sequel Starquake is a hard SF story of aliens (cheelas) living on a neutron star and their interactions with humans. Made more interesting by the effective time dilation the humans experience relative to the cheelas whose life time is about 40 human minutes.

Fred Saberhagen's The Veils of Azlaroc: Azlaroc is a strange world, not quite planet and not quite star. Much of the landscape is comprised of stunningly regular geometric solids. Once a year a "veil" of energy encapsulates everything and everyone on the planet. This has the effect of allowing different time periods to interact.

Larry Niven's known space is full of weird planets. Besides the well known Ringworld there is (potential spoilers follow if you don't know Known space)
  • Jinx - an egg shaped moon of a jovian primary. Its poles extend out of the atmosphere and the lowland equatorial belt is Venus like. People live in between.
  • We Made It - Its axis is tilted to align with it's orbit like Uranus causing killer winds
  • Plateau - the planet is Venus like except for a single landmass about half the size of California that rises to a height where Earth like conditions exist.
  • Canyon - the habitual zone is in a deep canyon as the air is too thin at the regular surface.
  • Kobold - a tiny artificial habitat built on an asteroid with a neutronium core surrounded by a torus in the Earth's outer solar system.
  • Fleet of Worlds is five planets orbiting a common centre of gravity without a central star
Phillip Jose Farmer's Riverworld is an earth like planet dominated by a single river that winds its way from one pole to the other. The river is bounded by relatively narrow inhabitable strips. Every person who has ever lived has been revived/reincarnated somewhere along the river's banks.

Also his World of Tiers series:
They are set within a series of artificially-constructed universes, created and ruled by decadent beings who are genetically identical to humans, but who regard themselves as superior, the inheritors of an advanced technology they no longer understand. This technology enables the "Lords" (or Thoans, in their own language) to create novel lifeforms, and also to prevent aging or disease, making them effectively immortal. Their technology also allows them to create small artificial universes, and the planets and stars within them, and modify the physical laws (e.g., changing the behavior of gravity) to create unusual or interesting phenomena within these universes. Instantaneous travel within and between these universes is achieved by the use of gates which seem to function as teleportation devices, or as a means of creating wormholes between different regions of spacetime.
Heinlein's Luna City in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress plays with both private ownership of public right of ways and a city no more constrained by vertical building space than Earth cities are constrained by horizontal space. There are lots of interesting bits of the city including a large open area where people can fly like birds (with proper equipment) (best described though in the short story A Menace from Earth).

Jack L. Chalker's Soul Rider (Flux and Anchor) series features a world partially controlled by thought (how people appear, what the physical properties of space are, etc. on some areas are controlled by people with strong monds). It's a weird mishmash of apparent fantasy and sufficiently advanced science. The later books are hard science fiction.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 PM on May 1, 2014

Following up on dstopps' mention of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series - another neat Mars habitat was a secret dome carved out under the polar dry ice cap. They evaporated a bunch of dry ice to make a bubble, and then sprayed the walls with water (which froze, of course) to seal them.

Tony Daniel's Metaplanetary had the inner planets connected by really long tubes, good for transportation, but people lived in them too.
posted by moonmilk at 8:06 PM on May 1, 2014

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe trilogy had awesome worlds. Magrathea, the planet building world, the restaurant at the end of the universe, etc.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:56 PM on May 1, 2014

The planet from Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom's Destination: Void quartet (aka the Pandora Sequence) always struck me as a very well-realized one. Maybe not the most far-out setting, but it definitely had some of the coolest stuff in it. Really interesting story, too.
posted by the big lizard at 9:00 PM on May 1, 2014

cstross's Glasshouse and Zelazny's Today We Choose Faces each has settings made up of disjoint rooms stitched together with wormholes.

There are buttloads of flying and floating islands around. Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky is one of the best.

And there's Dianna Wynne Jones/Miyazaki's titular Howl's Moving Castle, which, although it moves, has a few doors fixed in space.

Stanislaw Lem's living planet Solaris. (Haven't read it.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:35 PM on May 1, 2014

In the computer game Chronomaster (written by Roger Zelazny) the technology has been developed to allow creation of pocket universes. Rich people pay for pocket universes designed to their specifications -- which includes changing the laws of physics if required. It's an adventure-type game and the player has to enter several of these pocket universes in the course of the play.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:08 PM on May 1, 2014

The pocket universes of Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams were nicely done.
posted by N-stoff at 10:57 PM on May 1, 2014

Would you kindly allow SF video games? If so, Rapture and Columbia are beyond cool.
posted by jbickers at 5:31 AM on May 2, 2014

In Megan Lindholm's Alien Earth, the main characters live in a sentient spacefaring pink jellyfish.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:09 AM on May 2, 2014

Frank Herbert's Dune. Rhaomi beat me to Riverworld.
posted by epo at 6:23 AM on May 2, 2014

It's been many years since I've read it, but in the Joe Halderman book Worlds, they lived in a hollowed out asteroid called New New York. There was a deli called the New New Delhi Deli.
posted by bondcliff at 6:49 AM on May 2, 2014

Ian M. Banks's Look to Windward: giant gas dirigible alien habitat things.
posted by Freen at 6:51 AM on May 2, 2014

Sky Whales
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:40 AM on May 2, 2014

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