10 Best Science Fiction Planets

By Stephen Cass | August 15, 2008 1:09 pm

arrakis-425.jpg

Most planets featured in science fiction tend to be rather generic. These planets are usually convenient celestial bodies upon which to pitch a narrative tent for a few scenes before the plot moves on. Generic planets also tend to be one-note, reflecting some particular environment on Earth. You have your ice-worlds, desert worlds, lava worlds, jungle worlds, water worlds, city worlds, forest worlds (in particular, forests that look like those near the city of Vancouver), earthquake worlds, and so on.

But sometimes an author will create a world whose presence has a weight and ring of truth, a world that feels like it could happily go on existing on its own terms, with or without a protagonist or antagonist strolling around on its surface. Setting aside obviously artificial habitats like ring words or hollowed out asteroids, here are my top ten best science fiction planets, in chronological order:

  1. Solaris (1961): You may or may not have liked the films, but Stanislaw Lem’s conception of a world so utterly alien that it defies any genuine human comprehension still resonates.
  2. Dune (1965): Best Planet Ever. At first glance, it’s just one of those one-note desert worlds. But Frank Herbert created a complete ecosytem, deep geological history, and a complex native society to go with his sand-covered planet. Dune is no mere backdrop, it drives the plot of Herbert’s complex saga as inexorably as the law of gravity.
  3. Annares (1974): Ursula LeGuin’s novel The Dispossessed featured two worlds, a more-or-less straightforward analog for cold-war era Earth, and the far more interesting Annares, where settlers established an anarcho-syndicate-based society in a bid to be free from authoritarian government. LeGuin created a believable society for Annares—including the unpleasant side effects (such as intellectual conservatism) of trying to create a human utopia.
  4. Mote Prime (1974): In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye, this is the homeworld of the Moties, a species that, due to cosmic happenstance, has been bottled up in its solar system ever since it evolved. Mote Prime is planet which has become a palimpsest, mutely testifying to the endless cycles of technological development and collapse experienced by the trapped Moties.
  5. LV-426 (1979): The dread planet that featured briefly in Alien, and was the location for 1986′s Aliens. In both movies, LV-426 is perfectly portrayed as part of a cosmos utterly indifferent to human concerns, such as staying alive.
  6. Dagobah (1980): The Star Wars franchise is a planet-producing machine: Tatooine, Yavin IV, Alderan, Hoth, Endor, Coruscant, Naboo, etc, etc. But Dagobah sticks out for its organic messiness and claustrophobic atmosphere that stands in contrast to the typical open spaces that provide the large stages for the movies’ space opera.
  7. Lusitania (1986): The setting of Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, Lusitania is the exception that proves the rule—it is fascinating not because it is a rich world, but because its ecosystem has so little diversity, and the implications that has for the book’s characters.
  8. Red, Green and Blue Mars (1993-1996): Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy has become the standard against which all hard science fiction books about Mars are weighed. Beginning in the near future, with the founding of the first permanent outpost on the red planet, and continuing for two centuries as Mars is terraformed, Robinson’s Mars is a meticulously researched and believable fictional version of our solar system neighbor.
  9. P2 (2004): P2 is a world orbiting the nearby Barnard’s star, and it is settled by fantastically advanced exiles from the solar system in Wil McCarthy’s Lost in Transmission. Unfortunately, all their technology can’t make up for some basic deficiencies in the carrying capacity of the Barnard system, and what happens to P2 is reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon, but on a planetary scale.
  10. Nasqueron (2004): A gas giant, home of the maddeningly unconcerned Dwellers, and location of much of Iain M. Banks’ The Algebraist. Nasqueron becomes not just the huge canvas the Banks requires for his sprawling tales, but also becomes an integral element in the plot, as the protagonist struggles to understand the Dwellers.

Image: promotional poster for Dune

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Aliens, Books, Geology

Comments (180)

  1. Ian
  2. Max

    Shame there werent any planets from Dan Simmons Hyperion and the following.

  3. Ian: Ahh! Pern! Yes, that should have made the list.
    Max: While I loved Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, I felt Simmons’ planets were closely tailored to support the narrative arc, rather than established as entities in their own right. I should emphasize that I don’t think this is always (or even most of the time) a bad choice on an author’s part, any more than every movie that doesn’t stop and flesh out the backstory of every minor character is bad. I admit through, I haven’t read the later books, so you could be right about the planets therein.

  4. Ah, planet Hoth, my all time favourite ice moon. Great article, I’ve just added the Star Trek trilogy, Alien and Dune to my Blockbuster list.

    Thanks!

  5. Audun

    I’d say Larry Niven’s smoke ring featured in The Integral Trees deserves mention as a highly creative, non-artifitial setting, even though it is not a planet.

  6. Martin

    Trantor or Terminus from Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy would get my vote.

  7. Xenu

    What about Mesklin from Heavy Planet by Hal Clement. Any place that has 2G at the equator up to +100G at the poles and shaped like a squashed ball has to get a mention. And thats even before I mention the weird chemical soup that the inhabitants deal with.

  8. Ron Delta

    Dude, I just love science fiction planets!

    MJ
    http://www.anondo.alturl.com

  9. Adam

    I like cremetoria from riddick and come on how could you forget cybertron. optimus would be ashamed

  10. ericdano

    Trantor and Terminus. How can you NOT include those? Surely you have read The Foundation Series which bested Lord of The Rings as best Trilogy series? Right? Right?

  11. One Word: “Ringworld”

    The “Ringworld” is an artificial ring about one million miles wide and approximately the diameter of Earth’s orbit (which makes it about 600 million miles in circumference), encircling a Sol-type star. It rotates, providing an artificial gravity that is 99.2% as strong as Earth’s gravity through the action of centrifugal force. Ringworld has a habitable flat inner surface equivalent in area to approximately three million Earth-sized planets. The majority of the surface is land interspersed with shallow, freshwater seas. On opposite sides of the ring are two large deep saltwater oceans, placed in counterbalance to one another. One of the large oceans, known as the “Great Ocean”, contains one-to-one maps of all of the inhabited worlds of known space. The “Other Ocean” has many maps of a single world: the Pak Homeworld. Walls 1000 miles tall along the edges retain the atmosphere. The Ringworld could be regarded as a thin, rotating slice of a Dyson sphere, with which it shares a number of characteristics. Niven himself thinks of the Ringworld as “an intermediate step between Dyson spheres and planets.”

  12. What no Ceti Alpha 5!?

    Khan: “This is Ceti Alpha 5!”

  13. Dan

    Majipoor, from Robert Silverberg’s “Lord Valentine’s Castle”

  14. MiddleO'Nowhere

    Come on, what about Krikkit. I hear it’s an idyllic place, shame about the rest of the universe.

  15. R0e

    Epsilon 3 from Babylon 5?!
    Come on, who doesn’t want an enormously large computer disguised as a planet that can see the edge of the universe?!

  16. Yeah, Majipoor is underrated.

  17. ben

    WHAT?!!!! NO GALLIFRY? You Denied The Doctor!

  18. Meatballion

    I’d like to throw in the Riverworld by Phillip Jose Farmer.

    Who doesn’t love a world created to reincarnate all of mankind to determine if they aew worthy of redemption? I sure do.

  19. SeeKeR

    No Darkover??

    Now where did I put my matrix??

  20. a jonathan cox
  21. SeeKeR

    What no Darkover??

    (Hmm…where did I put my Matrix??)

  22. SeeKeR

    SRY for double posts. Captcha’s suck!

  23. kam

    @ericdano
    So very wrong.

  24. Captian Kirk
  25. Chuck

    Asimov’s Gaia or Nemesis are pretty neat.

  26. Bastek Buddha

    Screw Dagobah. It’s nothing compared Coruscant. Are people actually paid to write these things??? :)

  27. Bastek Buddha

    Me have no good grammar. “…nothing compared to..”

  28. Shifur

    What about Brian Aldiss – Helliconia. Truly an epic planet.

  29. Mr. Burger

    Does Rama not count just because it technically isn’t a planet? Come on. That place changed me.

  30. alexio

    I second the comment about the Ringworld. Sure, it’s stretching the definition of a planet, but that’s kind of the point I guess.

  31. thismaybesatire
  32. Kat

    No Pern?

    They have dragons, for heaven’s sake.

  33. Mark Eret

    Whoa whoa whoa. Not one mention of Rocheworld, the double planet system that orbits so close to each other that they share an atmosphere and the ocean occassionally switches between the two Roche lobes? This list is whack.

  34. Ben

    how about alan dean foster’s midworld? a lot of his books suck ass, but that one was pretty cool. world covered in rainforest thousands of feet high. the characteristics of the different levels (upper and lower hell for the win), the back story…everything about it is great.

  35. Zev

    I’d add the planet from the gene wolf short story “The Death of Dr. Island” It is artificially made, but acording to douglass adams, so is earth, so i think it counts enough to be on this list

  36. Alachast

    Where is Klendathu or Edumea?

  37. I will always be a fan of Klandathyu, it’s a mean planet, a bug planet.

  38. Jarlent

    There were some blatant gaps in this list, I have to say. Asimov’s Gaia is certainly up there, though Terminus was very rarely mentioned at a planet. Now, Trantor, which had billions of ships coming in each day to feed its population, deserved it. But, there are a number of planets like that, from Earth in the Dune Prequels, to Coruscant, to the hive worlds of the Imperium. C.S. Friedman’s Erna deserved mention, being cloaked in tides of energy which can mold evolution and respond to human and non-human desires. As the very planet is seen as a major enemy in the novels, I would say it should certainly have been up there. The Death Worlds of the Warhammer 40k stories would be great.

  39. Amy

    Definitely Magrathea.

  40. Mediya

    On the other hand, I personally believe that Salusa Secundus is the best planet on the Dune universe, following that Salusa Secundus is better than Dune. For many generations it has been the seat of the empire; it has a rich history and has been the backdrop for many of the historical events relayed in the story of Dune.

    However, Dune is the more popular planet. It is quite young and has a simple history, yet it is the only source of spice, powering the Dune empire, and it is the home of Muad’Dib, whom I believe is a bit overrated as a hero. His son, Leto the Tyrant has ruled for far longer than he did.

    Dune did not remain sand-covered for long after the reign of Muad’Dib.

  41. Anil Yilmaz

    I think David Brin’s planets from Uplift trilogies deserve a place here. Especially Jijo, where six races seeking asylum from enemies(including humans) end up and create a unique civilisation.

  42. Stt

    I thought Dagobah was a system, not a planet…?

  43. Dagobah? It’s a big f’g swamp that no one ever wants to visit.

  44. How about planets from Lexx, there are some bizarre ones…

  45. Mnynames

    Honestly, Pern was the first to come to mind, I really did expect it on the list. I know you focused mainly on literary worlds as opposed to cinematic ones (A bold and refreshing choice these days), but what about Thra from the movie Dark Crystal? That’s certainly a very alien world that lives and breathes on its own. On a literary note, Dextra from David J. Lake’s “Right Hand Of Dextra” is certainly worth mentioning. Dextra is a lush world whose life is composed of amino acids of the opposing chirality to our own, making everything inedible. The planet itself is an adversary of sorts in the book, and in the end a saviour as well, via its transformative, intelligent plants.

  46. Anyone for the Discworld?

  47. AlanMcSwain

    Ohhh…You’re all such youngsters!

    The grand-daddy of Sci-Fi planets is Altair-IV from the 1956 classic, Forbidden Planet.

    Fave Quotes:
    (Earl Holloman as the cook) “There nothing to do here but throw rocks at tin cans…and we gotta brng our own tin cans!”

    (Robbie the Robot) “Pardon me. I was giving myself an oil job.”

  48. marmik

    Gee, what about John Norman’s Gor? Now that was a planet that had a lot of diversity – although geographically earthlike, its social and economic construction is incredibly diverse and intricate. Then of course, there are a wide selection of cool planets associated with Dune – for example, my favorite – Ix.

  49. paully

    im just saying no cybertron?

  50. Patrick
  51. Jim

    While I loved, “The Mote in Gods Eye” the motie planet gets very little mention in the book. How can you include Dagobah if there isnt a single lifeform native to that world even mentioned by name in the movie? It’s nothing more than the generic jungle planet in a movie so far outside reality it would be more appropriate to call it fantasy than sci fi. Why no mention of Larry Nivens, “The Integral Trees” that is by and far the most thoroughly developed and interesting planet i’ve seen in sci fi. This is a poorly researched list by far.

  52. LJ

    KRYPTON should be number one on the list, yet it isnt mentioned at all. KRYPTON (the birth planet of Superman for anyone as dense as the author of this article) is by far the most widely recognized fictional planet in all of science fiction, worldwide. Whoever wrote this must be sniffing too much white out.

  53. Improbus

    Hello? What about Earth? A LOT of science fictions happens on that old mud ball.

  54. Qev

    How about the Dragon’s Egg? Sure, it was actually a neutron star, but it had a civilization living on it… :)

  55. How about Planet Vulcan?? Spock would be miffed by this oversite. Its the most “logical” planet!

  56. Kachie

    No Pern? That’s seriously upsetting, considering the planet WAS going on its merry own way before humanity decided to settle upon it. And there are still books being wrote on it! Much more than any of these other places have going for them!

  57. sotheysay
  58. Clavain

    I vote for Yellowstone, home of Chasm City, from the books of Alastair Reynolds. Seriously if you have not read Revelation Space and its sequels, you are missing out on one of the most awesome newer sf writers.

  59. AttackTribble

    I’d second Qev’s recommendation of Dragon’s Egg, by Robert L. Forward, who also wrote Rocheworld (mentioned a little higher up). If you want creativity, how about tracing a whole civilization from non-sentient plants to star travel, on a Neutron star, living in a faster timescale than humans so they live a complete life in 15 minutes. On top of that, work out a way for humans to interact with them that stands up to the laws of physics. And all done with so much heart you *care* about those little five-millimetre across creatures.

    If you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it enough. Slow start, but it keeps getting better.

  60. How about Galifrey?

  61. DutchWagon

    Pern. It fits. Viable Ecosystem. Backstory.
    And, hey, if there happen to be dragons, even if occasionally having itchy dry hide and all, ‘sokay by me :D

  62. Alpha Beta

    Nerds, Nerds, Nerds, Nerds!!

  63. TheBigMick

    Jack L Chalkers Well World, All those hexagonal biospheres all populated by different species ruled over by a computer that created the universe.

  64. Larry

    What no River World? The dead rise on the banks Mark Twain all even big foot.

  65. Juventus

    Risa should be on the list! no better planet than tropical atmosphere and beautiful, willing women!

  66. RobbyRobot

    How about Altair IV?

  67. RobbyRobot

    What about Altair IV?

  68. Coherent

    WHAT, NO ROCHEWORLD???

    Rocheworld is one of the most awesome science fiction constructs ever. Imagine two worlds whirling around each other so close that they actually exchange atmosphere! Flying, literally flying to another planet in an ordinary airplane. Now THAT’S amazing science fiction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocheworld

  69. Alien_Imp

    Pern…..?….I mean come on…we are talking about good sci-fi here..not little girls stories about dragons and unicorns and princesses……my vote definately goes to Nivens Ringword…..and Farmers Riverworld is a close second . Also Heinleins luna in The moon is a Harsh Mistress is a good one too.

  70. Aaron

    With video-games gaining in popularity, its a shame you left out some of the more interesting Sci-Fi videogame planets, such as:

    Mar Sara or Shakuras (Starcraft)
    Hiigara (Homeworld)

  71. Alpha Beta

    Nerds, Nerds, Nerds, Nerds, Nerds!!!

  72. undrgrndgirl

    my favorite alien planet description is that of chewbacca’s home planet in one of the star wars books – unfortunately i don’t remember which book or author…as i recall the wookies live in trees on a gas giant…the trees are so tall and the planet is covered in a dense fog therefore they never see the ground – ever. i don’t do the description justice and its been years since i read the book…

  73. Alex

    How about Bajor?

    I’d kinda like to retire to Bajor someday, find me a wrinkle-nosed woman and settle down!

  74. RJ

    Actually a decent list, though I have four from one series.

    Charon
    Lilith
    Cerberus
    Medusa

    The series is titled ‘The Four Lords of the Diamond’ by Jack L. Chalker.

    And you should have included Bank’s system that was the backdrop for ‘Against a Dark Background’.

  75. Kate
  76. Renato

    what about Midnight? have you watched Docter Who at all???

  77. russ

    What? No votes for “The Priest-Kings of Gor”

  78. G-Man

    Chalker’s Well-world and the 4 Lords of the Diamond should have been included for sure.

    Shora from Joan Slonczewski’s A Door Into Ocean was a fantastic world too.

  79. SBR

    Holy Cow!!!!

    All of you have forgotton Barsoom!!!
    John Carter, Tars Tarkas, Tara of Helium, Wolla, Dejah Thoras..etc, etc…

    Edgar rice Burroughs classic series.

    C’mon.

  80. algernon

    Brian Aldiss Helliconia should feature in the top 3 on any such list – dual sun with a greater season change of some 200 years, complete ecosystems from tundra to jungle to desserts to high glaciers; multiple sentient species wholly adapted to their environment.

    From recent SF publications the most impressive was Iain M Banks gas giant in The Algebraist.

    Ultimately any such top 10 list will be heavily subjective, unless the author does a lengthy poll on the subject – which is not the case here.

  81. Ah, what’s so special about Gallifrey or Pern or Krypton or the other identikit worlds you see littering SciFi? Other than wide exposure.

    Helliconia, now that’s a real place, much like Dune, with a full ecosystem from the planetry down to the microbial interacting with human society. It’s a fascinating read, and sobering..the thought of how much we interact with the natural world whilst being completely unaware of it that the book provokes is a worthwhile one. Aldiss was a long way ahead of his time, writing long before Gaia was fashionable.

    However it’s never been made into a film or a TV show…

  82. I still think being a Nerd is a fun life.

  83. Wow!! Greatest thing!!

    Good work!!

  84. Pelle

    Pyrrus from Deathworld by Harry Harrison was always one of my favourite places. Come on, a whole planet where all forms of flora and fauna wanted to kill mankind. :)

    Also like to second Barsoom. Ah, Dejah Thoris, delightfully pink!

  85. ODT

    May I suggest Theodore Sturgeon’s Xanadu? I’ve sometimes dreamed of living there. Of course, I would then hope to vacation on James H. Schmitz’s Karres…

  86. cak

    I can not take this list seriously without you mentioning Trantor or Terminus. These were great because you got to see them evolve into very different worlds, probably unlike any other planet on the list (except for Mars).

  87. Renee

    Come on Pern, Pern, Pern!!! Hello thread that threatens the planet every 200 years, native firelizards, the lush Southern Region, the high mountains dotted with dragonlairs and lakes where dragons take a swim in the sunshine! I mean what more do you want?

  88. Not saying it deserves to be on this list, but someone mentioned Crematoria from Riddick – no way that gets on a list before Planet Number Two of the M-344/G system does (from Pitch Black). Crematoria was kinda silly. M-344/G-2 was interesting….

  89. Paul Burns

    Another egregious omission is Medea, Harlan’s World. A shared concept spearheaded by Harlan Ellison, with Robert Silverberg and many other collaborators, this was a meticulously researched planetary ecosystem, fully developed and scientifically plausible, and then these same esteemed collaborators wrote stories set thereupon. It was available in the late 80s as a large-format trade paperback. Props to all those who mentioned Niven’s Ringworld, as well.

  90. ash

    Of course you miss the greatest planet of them all, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Who cannot forget a world shaped like a disc that is held up on the back of four elephants that ride on the back of the interstellar turtle the great A’Tuin

  91. psychicjack

    yes, gallifrey, klanthandantu, and discworld are awesome, but what about alpha centauri, the goal of the Space Family Robinson!!!!!

    Lost In Space!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    or the planet from Land of the Giants. Or my personal favorite……

    Zubitar!!!!

    the planet of multiple realities, where the dwellers live on the hollow inside and seek out the doors to elsewhere.

  92. Nicholas

    Trafalmador(sp?)

    TV and a blond. What more can you ask for?

  93. Art

    Did no one mention the city of Diaspar on good old Earth?

  94. Art

    Pern is not Sci-Fi… it’s Fantasy.

  95. Jamie

    I second Heinlein’s Luna, though it’s not technically a planet. Fantastic entirely artificial ecosystem. And revisited (as was his wont) in many stories and longer-format works, not just TMIAHM.

  96. Jamie

    And I would’ve said Zelazny’s Amber too, except (1) not a planet, and (2) fantasy.

  97. Finally!
    I’ve found my people.
    I thought I was alone.

  98. Dagobah – WHY??? If there is a single planet within the Star Wars universe that SHOULD be listed then it should be TATOOINE! Visitors and denziens from thousnads of systems, the Hutt crime syndicate, The Great Pit of Carkoon, The Lars Moisture farm, Imperial seige point of the Outer-Rim territories and of course… The Mos Eisley Cantina! Need I add more – oh and almost forgot the Tusken Raiders (Sand People… or worse)

    And Krypton not being mentioned is ludicrous… Can you not think of a great opening for a movie with a Planetary System on screen (except the blue hue of Tatooine in A NEW HOPE) and not think of Krypton without the John Williams musical motif?

    At least LV-426 got a mention – no mention of it’s original name though (Acheron)…

    Disappointment a go-go…

  99. Jeff

    My favorite is Vernor Vinge’s Arachna in Deepness in the Sky – mmmmmm…. spiders…..

  100. Mike

    Altair IV, Forbidden Planet, home of the ill-fated Krill and Robbie the Robot.

  101. andcares

    I have to agree with Martin, Trantor has got to be there. Asimov created the city-planet-galactic-capital concept (and the Galactic Empire as we know it for that matter!) which is SO used in Star Wars, even with the zero-zero-zero coordinates.

    Coruscant is a later reincarnation of Trantor. Both are impressive.

    I cannot wait to see how Trantor will look in the new Foundation movie.

  102. Richards

    Xeronus from Damian Booth’s “Ambrosian Hell”.

    A world so clogged with life that it’s literally impossible to see the surfance of the planet. With no aggressive instincts nothing dies, and all creatures live off of the abundant energy of their massive sun.

    Then the sun burns out… uh oh!

  103. ROD BLAINE

    Half the people responding to this seem to be missing the point of the article.

    It’s about planets that feel like real places. “Setting aside obviously artificial habitats like ring words or hollowed out asteroids.”

    While the Ringworld, the Smoke Ring, Dragon’s Egg and the Discworld might be fantastic settings, they are _not_ planets; and while Krypton might be a well known part of the Superman mythos, the only things you need to know about it are that it blew up and Kal-El was born there. Besides which neither the Discworld novels or Superman comics are science fiction.

    No, Diaspar’s not a planet either. Neither is Alpha Centauri, and the only thing you know about it in Lost in Space is that it’s a destination. The setting of Land of the Giants has no defining characteristics other than the indigenous culture, and that’s not what this is about. Same with Gallifrey. It’s just where the Time Lords come from. That’s it. Riverworld is not an option either, it’s explicitly engineered to hold the resurectees. Whoever suggested Midnight must surely be joking. Pern is a fantasy setting. And as for Gor….

    Try reading the article as well as the list and it might make more sense. Having said that the inclusion of Dagobah is a bit odd….

  104. I’ll always have a soft spot for Giedi Prime in David Lynch’s Dune.

  105. Digital Cosmos

    Someone mentioned Cybertron. Thumbs up! But i really prefer Unicron. A transforming, planet-eating, planet with a ring around it and the voice of Orson Wells, does it get any better than that?

    I second (or third) Hal Clement’s Mesklin from Mission of Gravity as being noteworthy. It has the most consistent, science-backed and flat-out *wierd* profile.

    The Roche-worlds were memorable but the rest of the book wasn’t. Forward was not in his stride when he wrote that book.

    Since the OP mentioned mars as written by KSR, I need to mention Saturn as written by John Varley. He writes several times about humans living in the rings of Saturn. Each human would be bonded to a vegetable based symbiote that acted as life support and computer guidance. Humans would live for decades without ever seeing another human.
    The Rings are described in beautiful, stark, details.

    Two comments have mentioned Pern as a fantasy rather than science fiction. I have not read much of Pern, just a book and one or a few short stories. While it seems like a fantasy setting, it IS science fiction. I think I read some commentary on this by Larry Niven in which he explains how the world building that Anne Mccaferty used to create Pern was painstakingly backed by science, including figuring out orbits so that Pern intersects that Thread world every however many years, and figuring out a consistent biology for the dragons that isn’t just ‘magic’. I even think that the original humans that arrived on Pern did so on a space ship in the distant past of the planet’s history, though i could be wrong.

  106. Nick

    10 is obviously too low a number. What about Luna seen through the mind of John Varley or the Harsh Mistress of the Dean?

  107. John

    I’m certainly glad that Lusitania was included on this list.

    In most “interplanetary dramas” I’ve noticed it was always easy to use the same “what’s out there” question for every plot device. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    But Card’s Lusitania has almost no mystery at all. There are only eight life forms you can see, the grass, the trees, the vines, the reeds, the snakes, the goats, the birds, the worms, and the pig-like talking hominids. Mystery solved. We know “What’s out there.”

    But how? How can there be only eight native life forms?

    Such an awesome curve ball to the bored sci-fi reader standing at the plate.

  108. saltypepper

    What about Grass, the planet from Sherri Tepper’s novel of the same name?

  109. James

    It is hard to put faith into a list of best science fiction planets who didn’t put Dune first. I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for putting it second and starting it off with “Best planet ever.” Yeah… that would make it number one. Solaris, sure, top 10 material, but not numero uno.

    Get your priorities straight!!

  110. @James (and some others)

    here are my top ten best science fiction planets, in chronological order:

  111. john

    You know, just the fact that i read this brings me so much closer to the answer to the real problem. “why I don’t have a girlfriend”. good luck dudes!

  112. Duane Swab

    I’m sorry, but Larry Niven, Steven Barnes and Jerry Pournelle created a marvelously complex and delightfully unbalanced ecosystem on the planet AVALON, in “The Legacy of Heorot”
    Also, I must nominate the planet Tran, from Jerry Pournelle’s “Janissaries”

  113. drgiggles

    this list needs more Asimov,
    he added so much to the genre he deserves to make the list,
    also coruscant over dagobah anyday

  114. tinfoilhat

    Why no Discworld, it’s an entire planet’s ecosystem,terrain and civilization on a giant disc supported by a gargantuan turtle traversing space.

  115. Lone_Wolf

    Yes, Foster’s Midworld. Read that story decades ago and that planet sticks with me more than any of the fictional worlds I’ve read since.

  116. Sewerrat

    I agree with tinfoilhat, Why is discworld not here? It even has its own sun circling around it making the elephants to lift a foot to let the sun pass every night.

  117. booklady

    I agree with john, Lusitania certainly earned its spot on this list. (And don’t worry, john, girls really get into science fiction, too!! ;-) )

    However, I think Trantor deserves to be on the list, certainly. Asimov’s Gaia as well.

    How about Ben Bova’s versions of Mars and Venus? I read a sample of “Return to Mars” and was so engrossed in the descriptions I had to find his other books *immediately*.

  118. John Stofan

    How could everyone ignore the most famous of all alien planets, star of radio, movies, television. book and comics It’s Flash Gordon and Dr. Zarkov’s visit to the planet MONGO, for heavens sake.
    John S.

  119. Pierre

    I like the planet Kithrup in Startide Rising.

  120. Chris Voigt

    What do people think of Asimov’s Nightfall planet Lagash (Kalgash in the full-length novel collaboration with Robert Silverberg)? Sure, it has only a single twist away from our own planet but what a twist! And I have to say, the full-length novel is such a tour-de-force that in comparison the original short story appears to be little more than an initial plot outline. The novel, 18 years in the past now, may be harder to find than the original story but I would highly recommend it being sought out. And although the story’s genesis is in the Emerson quote that John W. Campbell gave to Asimov I always felt that the line from the Bhagavad Gita would be much more apt: “If a thousand suns suddenly rose in the heavens, standing in the noon sky, blazing.”

  121. LeAnne

    I second that Alan Dean Foster?s Midworld was as unique and fleshed out as Dune. If you haven’t read it, give it a try. Old enough that the library should have it.

  122. Schnibben

    Alot of H.Beam Piper’s worlds were cool such as Zarathustra from little fuzzy and Uller from Uller Uprising. The main point of his stories was the repition of many historical events, but the planets themselves were neat and the explanation of the ecology that leads to the evolution of many of the sentient life forms.

  123. Samwize

    I second the Discworld nomination(s)! Many stories set there, various types, tons of characters, and a Death you just have to love.

  124. Kirk

    What about “10 Best Science Fiction Alien Species?”

  125. stephen smith

    whilst i dont have a particular favourite tits thanks to this site that i have remembered a set of books i read a few years ago …pelle thank you for the deathworld hint ….and the planet i think is cool is pyrrus

  126. c. compton

    what about CS Lewis’s space trilogy. There was such discription about the two places that he visited I fell in love with them. and their people and language and ways. it was precious.

  127. Bob Thayne

    Cool list, Stephen! But ouch, the abuse you have to take after putting your list out there! Some of your choices are awesome, and some are new to me. I need to go read some more.

    This sparked a lot of great suggestions too, although too many people missed the point. Thanks for the effort, Rod Blaine.

    I thought MiddleO’Nowhere’s contribution of Krikkit was hilarious, although there has always been a special place in my heart for Squornshellous Zeta.

    I don’t know that I would have chosen Dagaobah myself. Maybe it’s because I was always disappointed that I didn’t get to see beyond Yoda’s swamp.

    Coruscant over Dagobah? Come on, people. Remove the buildings and the current inhabitants and what do we know about this great planet called Coruscant? That it’s a spheroid?

    c.compton, I like your suggestions of Malacandra and Perelandra, although to me it is Lewis’s writing that is so great, and not the planets themselves.

  128. streamtender
  129. See them all. All great moviez, i really like them.

  130. Altair IV great !!!

  131. DoubleDutch

    What about Kesrith and Kutath,not to mention Pell’s World.

  132. As we await confirmation that life has been detected on Gliese 581 d (the water world) twenty light years way, one constant for 353 planets orbiting other stars seems to be there is no constant. No one would have imagined even ten years ago that we would detect life on planets orbiting other stars before we found it on Mars, yet that easily could be the case. That the planet is nearly eight times as large as Earth but has the same surface gravity (because it doesn’t have a rocky core) makes the discovery even odder.

    As Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz have shown, truth is stranger than fiction.

  133. I would’ve included either Durdane or Halma (both Jack Vance, the first from the Durdane trilogy and the second from the vastly underrated “Emphyrio.”)

  134. about twenty years ago I read a series about a guy who crashed on a world called Tsai. It was so exciting I forgot the titles of the books or the author. Can anyone help me out?

  135. Craig

    What about the many planets, real and artificial habits, of Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy?

  136. Craig

    Or the Silfen worlds of Hamilton’s Commonwealth saga? Or Elan in same series? He’s the master of new worlds.

  137. Anthrope

    What? You mean to tell me that other planets like Gallifrey or Krypton are nowhere to be found? Specifically these two planets deserve to be here, the two countries which basically primarily do science fiction are Great Britain and the U.S., and you mean to tell me that their respective cultural icons’ planets of origin are of less consequence than LV-426 or P2? So apparently Superman and Doctor Who are irrelevant to sci-fi.

  138. morfeo

    Pandora will soon join this list :)

  139. Bob Thayne

    Anthrope, I’m sure Gallifrey and Krypton would both be on a list of planets relevant to sci-fi, but that’s not what this list is.

  140. Jumbybird

    How about earth? From countless sources but the Robot version comes to mind.

  141. Bill Carson

    Mesklin and Riverworld must be on any list of best SF planets!

  142. Kyle

    Lusitania; very cool planet. Glad it’s on the list since Speaker for the Dead rules.

  143. Gab

    I’m a big supporter of lusitania ;) that;s where I plan to buy my next science fiction house , lol

  144. I’ve gotta vote, like so many others, for the grandness of Trantor–Asimov’s descriptions of the world and its place in the far-future Galactic Empire are brilliantly rendered, especially given the time period in which those novels were written (I’ve only read the first one, admittedly).

    LOL to the individual who said Namek of DBZ infamy; you, sir, have my most sincere kudos a-plenty.

    I really loved the–relax, people, it’s an opinion!–visuals of the planet Mustafar in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Could’ve made the list quite justifiably.

    Dune and LV-426 definitely belong on that list. Good work.

  145. Strife

    Lusiatania! Card’s planet is easily my favourite. The Ender Quartet is one of the greatest sf series IMO.

  146. Why not tallon IV? Metroid Prime’s post-apocolyptec alien world is filled with backstory, biological diversity, and a ruined civilization, thier ruins filled with haunting prophecies that are all-too acurate.

  147. No Sirius 6B? PAH! :-)

  148. Tony Carey

    KRYPTON is one of the oldest & most thoroughly imagined planets in science fiction.

    What makes the richly detailed variety all the more remarkable, is that most of the ideas were conceived before much of the advances in our understanding of real-life alien worlds were made. And they still hold up.

    (Except for tall trees in a heavier-than-Earth-gravity environment.)

  149. Dune forever! Krypton is good, but Dune is one of the most komplex Eco-Systems.

  150. beameup

    Why has no one mentioned Perelandra, Malacandra? classics

  151. Hmm, there would seem to become some difficulties while using initial link, because it returns a 404 error

  152. wow i love those, good job! amazing amazing i love this, great job!

  153. - Risa
    - Gaia
    - Darkover
    - Dune
    - Deathstar :-)

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  155. I have to agree with Martin, Trantor has got to be there. Asimov created the city-planet-galactic-capital concept (and the Galactic Empire as we know it for that matter!) which is SO used in Star Wars, even with the zero-zero-zero coordinates. Coruscant is a later reincarnation of Trantor. Both are impressive. I cannot wait to see how Trantor will look in the new Foundation movie.

  156. You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most individuals will approve with your blog.

  157. LOL. The funniest Thing of this Article is to read the whole comments! Great Job! Best whishes from the Darthstar! :D

  158. Damn, this is why i never see starwars!

  159. Squall

    Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Last Days of Krypton” explain what was so wonderful about that jewel of a world. Anyone who thinks it’s just the place that Kal-El was born on needs to read that book, the detail is excellent. Truly: Alas, Krypton.

  160. I am typically to blogging and i really respect your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your web site and keep checking for brand new information.

  161. Another vote for Erna for sure – the planet is central to the way the human culture developed.

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