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Hollow Earth Science Fiction

What is Hollow Earth Science Fiction?

The concept of a hollow Earth—a spherical shell with a habitable interior—is a significant motif used in science fiction. It has roots in religion and pseudoscience. For example, the idea of Hell. Another example, the astronomer Edmond Halley postulated a hollow Earth to explain Earth's magnetic phenomena. It is an idea that has endured in literature for centuries and has become a Sci Fi tradition. In modern examples of the sub-genre, the use the hollow Earth motif is nostalgic and evokes a sense of wonder.

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Other Features of Hollow Earth Science Fiction

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  • Level of Real Science

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    Low. The hypothesis of a hollow Earth has been dismissed by the scientific community since the late 18th century, but there was a period when scientists theorized about its structure and mechanics. The science used in Hollow Earth (even when based on sound scientific principles) stories to discover, explain, and inhabit is generally speculative.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    Variable. With the creation of another civilization, community, or habitable space where a community can grow, there is of course potential for social commentary and the exploration of philosophical ideas. Indeed, some authors create the world within our world to do just that.

    Other Hollow Earth stories are pure adventure with an emphasis on discovery and entertainment. These types of Hollow Earth stories tend not to explore grand ideas.

  • Level of Characterization

    Variable. There are some typical adventure types in this sub-genre and they don't have much depth. However, some stories do offer well developed characters who delve into the Earth's depths for meaningful reasons.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Moderate. Hollow Earth stories are not epic sagas, but they are a fun adventure full of discovery, which makes for an engaging plot with plenty of forward momentum.

  • Level of Violence

    Variable. Many stories are journeys of discovery and discovery doesn't always mean violence. Sometimes though violence erupts between differing societies—it just depends on the story.

Related Science Fiction subgenres

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    Voyages Extraordinaires. Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth is the paradigm of this sub-genre and many others have followed its example.

  • Science Fantasy. Hollow Earth stories can get a little fantastical as the journey delves deeper.

  • Social Science Fiction. Using a hollow Earth setting is just one way for Sci Fi authors to create an alternate society through which to explore social structures.

  • Pulp Science Fiction. The pulps embrace the hollow-Earth motif.

  • Lost Worlds. There is a whole world within the Earth—it was lost, but now it's found.

Hollow Earth Science Fiction isn't for you if...

If you're claustrophobic. Well, not exactly, the empty interior of a planet isn't exactly a small space, but some people with claustrophobic tendencies may find the setting a bit uncomfortable.

Hollow Earth Science Fiction Books
  • 1 Journey to the Center of the Earth


    By Jules Verne. The paradigm of the Hollow Earth sub-genre begins with a journey down an extinct volcano.

  • 2 The Hollow Earth


    By Rudy Rucker. The protagonist has a few misadventures and ends up escaping with Edgar Allen Poe to the South Pole and the entrance to the Earth's interior, where some interesting physics are at work.

  • 3 Pellucidar


    By Edgar Rice Burroughs,. Some of the best known Hollow Earth stories are in this action adventure series.

  • 4 Plutoniia


    By Vladimir Afanasevich Obruchev. This book is a kind of introduction to palaenotology by a geologist—so there is some sound science in this book. The theory of the hollow Earth is that the Earth solidified in hollow form and then a comet created a hole by which we can enter.

  • 5 Malignos


    By Richard Calder. This is a far-future story where altered and unaltered humans battle. The altered humans were driven underground once and engineered a sort of macrostructure within the Earth.

  • 6 Asgard


    By Brian Stableford. Asgard is a mysterious and inexplicable planet—so just what is at its center?

  • 7 Circumpolar!


    By Richard-A-Lupoff An old school adventure story about an alternate Earth.

  • 8 The Digging Leviathan


    By James P. Blaylock. A bit more Steampunk than Hollow Earth because it ends just as the machine journeys down.

  • 9 Etidorpha


    By John Uri Lloyd. Secret societies and kidnapping start the narrator on his journey. The journey is geographical and spiritual in nature.

  • 10 Underland


    By Mick Farren. The last book of the Renquist Quartet blends the supernatural, alien, and historic in this Hollow Earth story. If you're intrigued by nazis and UFOs, this is the book for you.