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Terraforming Science Fiction

What is Terraforming Science Fiction?

Terraforming means Earth-shaping and refers to the process of engineering a planet, or other body like the moon, to sustain human life. It is a hypothetical process that involves modifying the atmosphere, temperature, topography and ecology of a planet, moon, asteroid, or other celestial body to mimic Earth and support terrestrial life.

The term "terraforming" was coined in 1942 by Sci Fi writer Jack Williamson in his story "Collision Orbit," which appeared in Astounding. However, the concept predates the use of the term. For example, in H.G. Wells' 1898 The War of the Worlds, the invading aliens want to reverse-terraform Earth for their own uses. The setting of a Terraforming Sci Fi story is often Mars because of its proximity to Earth and because of its plausibility. However, other bodies in our solar system have been used as well, like Venus and Jupiter's moon Europa.

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Other Features of Terraforming Science Fiction

  • Level of Real Science

    High. Terraforming is a scientific endeavor and it is one that scientists have explored readily--NASA has even held debates on the topic.

  • Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications

    High. The terraforming of an extraterrestrial body presents many philosophical and ethical questions that are explored and addressed in the stories of Sci Fi.

  • Level of Characterization

    Moderate. Characterization may take a bit of a backseat to scientific explanations from time to time, but characters in Terraforming Sci Fi are developed enough to overcome the challenges of living in an alien environment and turn into survivors.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    Moderate. Works within this sub-genre will spend much time explaining the science and technology involved, which can pull the reader away from the plot and storyline. However, terraforming is a huge project and projects create a sequence of events and a natural plot line.

  • Level of Violence

    Low, usually. The conflicts of Terraforming Sci Fi stories are not violent; they have to do with the challenges of living in an alien environment, adapting, and changing that environment.

Related Science Fiction subgenres




    Colonization Science Fiction. Terraforming is often employed prior to human colonization of another planet.

  • Dystopia/Utopia. Terraforming another planet can be an escape from a dystopian society with the possibility of establishing a utopian society.

Terraforming Science Fiction isn't for you if...

If you don't like long-winded scientific explanations.

Popular Terraforming Science Fiction Books