There’s something to be said for the way realism forces us to take an honest look at society, but when it comes to getting our minds off of day-to-day drudgeries, nothing beats exploring a fictional world. (If you want to be fancy about it, it’s also a great way to rethink the human condition.)
Here’s a list of nine awesome imaginary planets (and other celestial bodies) that we’d visit the second the technology became available.
To keep busy during the flight, we’ve put together an official Interstellar Hyperdrive Playlist to go with the scenery. Enjoy.
1. Asteroid B-612
Origin: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, 1943
The Lowdown: A very small asteroid visible from Earth and discovered by a Turkish astronomer in 1909
- Unbearable loneliness. The only friend you’ll have to talk to is a flower – and a snooty one at that. If you struggle with a short attention span or vegicidal thoughts, you’re probably going to want to get off on the next moon.
- A violent death. Whether you’re burning up in an atmosphere, crashing into barren rock, or being blasted out of the sky by Bruce Willis, there’s really no good way to die on an asteroid.
- Having anything you want (provided that you can draw it). Illustrations come to life in the world of the Little Prince, so let’s hope you’ve invested in some art classes – preferably not of the modern variety.
- Free airfare. All it takes to truck it to another planet is a flock of birds and some serious lassoing skills. For the Premier Executive service, just let a poisonous snake bite you in the desert. You’ll be back home before you can say, “Aaaaaaa!!”
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
– Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a Rock”
Origin: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, 1951
The Lowdown: The farthest planet from the Galactic Center of the Milky Way
- Living on the outermost rim of the galaxy. You’re cut off from the Galactic Empire, your entire civilization consists of research scientists with no practical skills, and your barbarian neighbors are starting to get that hungry look in their eyes.
- Having to compile every last scrap of human knowledge into an Encyclopedia Galactica. Your entire planet will spend 80 years doing it, but at least it’ll save the galaxy from total barbarism. JK! That was just a diversion. Seriously, nobody cares.
- Having the coolest gadgets in the galaxy. Since Terminus is crawling with nerds but has almost no natural resources, technological efficiency is the only option. Think impenetrable personal force fields with generators the size of charm bracelets.
- Blissful ignorance. The less you think about what’s going on, the more chance there is that everything will work itself out. For all you type-B college procrastinators, this spells “v-i-n-d-i-c-a-t-i-o-n.” Eventually. Okay, in about a thousand years.
There’s something wrong with the world today
I don’t know what it is
Something’s wrong with our eyes
– Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge”
Origin: Frank Herbert’s Dune, 1965
The Lowdown: A desert planet covered with sand, salt flats, and the most valuable commodity known to man
- Being unable to walk straight. Not just because your brain’s boiling under the hot sun, but because making rhythmic movements attracts giant, dangerous sandworms.
- Inhabiting the driest planet in fiction. If you’re a bubble-bath, long-walks-on-the-beach, not-stinking-of-B.O. kind of person, having to wear a full-body “stillsuit” that process your expelled body moisture for re-consumption probably isn’t your cup of, well, pee.
- Living on the universe’s one source of melange. This rare and ridiculously valuable psychotropic “spice” prolongs life and assists in interstellar travel. (No, not just in your mind.)
- Traveling by sandworm. All you need to do is summon a worm with the rhythmic vibrations of a “thumper” and then use a pair of “maker hooks” to control it. Cojones not included.
The snake is long
Ride the snake
– The Doors’ “The End”
Origin: Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, 1966
The Lowdown: Earth as envisioned in a techno-savvy future
- The occasional transporter malfunction. Being in several places at once isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be.
- Small fish, big pond. Sure, life on Earth is dandy when you’re busy pushing bonobos around, but for a more cosmic perspective on your species, try a little hand-to-hand combat with Klingon.
- You and the captain make it happen. Before the Priceline sponsorship and string of terrible movies, bumping into Captain Kirk would have made for… quite the… con-verSATION!
- Time travel. How else do all you Voyager fans intend to track down Seven of Nine in the twenty-fourth century? She’s smart, exotic, talented, and has quite the, uh, celestial body.
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere
– Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”
Origin: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, 1969
The Lowdown: A planet whose inhabitants see in the fourth dimension and closely resemble the Hamburger Helper Hand stuck to the top of a toilet plunger
- Living in a zoo. And we don’t mean figuratively. The fact that you’re nothing more than a novelty to the Tralfamadorians will be made abundantly clear to you each day as they press their hand-faces to the glass to watch you answer nature’s call.
- Having no free will. Not just because you’re in a cage, but because – as the Tralfamadorians will tell you – all time exists simultaneously. The only thing that’ll ruin your social skills more than living in captivity is shuffling randomly through moments of your life after you come “unstuck in time.”
- Consequence-free living. Just like that sagacious hipster barista at Starbucks once told you, none of your actions really matter in the (fourth-dimensional) scheme of things.
You may find yourself
In a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself,
“Well, how did I get here?”
– The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”
Origin: Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1979
The Lowdown: A large, ugly planet of the Horsehead Nebula made rich through manufacturing luxury planets
- Existential irony. Magratheans are clever enough to design a supercomputer that can calculate the answers to life, the universe, and everything, but not quite clever enough to figure out what the question is. Seven and a half million years well spent.
- A bad name scheme for its population. If Slartibartfast can tell us anything about the native culture, it’s that your Magrathean children will probably end up with names like Phartiphukborlz or Skwatidungheap.
- Advanced cryogenic technology. On Magrathea, this is how everyone rides out the financial crisis. Sign. Us. Up.
- An awesome job title. Nothing tops going to the ol’ high school reunion and introducing yourself with: “Hi, I’m _____, Maker of Worlds.”
Well, I’m standing next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand
– Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”
Origin: George Lucas’s Star Wars, 1977
The Lowdown: The desert home planet of Luke Skywalker
- A binary star system. If you think carbon emissions are a nuisance on Earth, just imagine what they’d be like on a planet with two suns – and almost no trees. At least Earth’s greenhouse effect involves actual greenery.
- Living in the shadow of the greats. Between Anakin, Luke, and Obi-Wan, there’s no way you’ll ever make a name for yourself. What’s that? You had a really good harvest this year? Well that Skywalker kid singlehandedly saved the galaxy. Twice. But good luck on the college application letter!
- An unbeatably “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Civilized or not, Mos Eisley is the happenin’est spaceport town in the galaxy. Whatever happens in the Mos Eisley Cantina stays, well, on that second Facebook profile your mom doesn’t know about.
- Name-dropping. Imagine being able to able to say that you not only know Luke Skywalker, but actually knew him back when he was still totally underground. You know, because he was a moisture farmer living in a subterranean adobe hut.
I don’t give a damn about my reputation
Never said I wanted to improve my station
– Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”
Origin: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, 1977
The Lowdown: Earth as envisioned in an imaginary past
- A surplus of dark lords. Sauron might seem like a big cheese, what with his trying to overthrow Middle-earth and all, but as it turns out, he’s only Assistant (to the) Regional Overlord. Morgoth Bauglir, who can torture an elf to the point of becoming an orc, is probably the one you want to watch out for.
- Everything else. Seriously, if Middle-earth, the Undying Lands, magic, elves, rangers, hobbits, wizards, dwarves, balrogs, dragons, cave trolls, and an overwhelming sense of purpose in the fight against evil can’t make you happy, nothing can.
T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum and the evil one
Crept up and slipped away with her
– Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”
Origin: James Cameron’s Avatar, 2009
The Lowdown: A richly forested moon of Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri system
- Disrupted circadian rhythms. Bioluminescent plant life might come in really handy for those midnight trips to the bathroom, but if sleep ever pops up on your to-do list, you’re probably going to want the most snug-fitting eye mask unobtanium can buy.
- Being picked last for every sports team. As a puny Earthling, you’ll spend most of your time on Pandora sucking oxygen from an Exopack and staring your Na’vi friends in the solar plexus. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t relish getting picked on by ten-year olds, take your ego elsewhere.
- Jungle cred. Except for maybe the wood sprites, there’s pretty much nothing on the planet that can’t kill you at a moment’s notice. For all you adrenaline junkies out there, that means Pandora’s a killer scar collection waiting to happen.
- The electrochemical equivalent of a planet-wide T3 Internet connection. If you thought downloading iPhone apps was cool, try uploading your soul into another body via a tree.
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic, I’m slippin’ under
With a taste of poison paradise
– Britney Spears’s “Toxic”