Planet Janet, I love you!

How would you go about designing your own planet?

The planet is a funny thing. Think about it: we’ve got snow on both ends, and it gets warmer near the middle.  There’s reasons and forces behind this, and so no two planets should ever be the same, am I right? That’s why when we’re asked to make our own planet for whatever reason, like say . . . the Daily Post prompt – I’m thinking that the first thought off the top of most reader’s heads is, ‘how can we do something without copying Earth?’ At least, we would hope so.

Star Wars filming location in Tunisia.
Halfway around the world . . . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even better is when someone comes up with a planet with a single climate, more commonly known among the trope-mongerererers as a “single-biome” planet. The idea is silly, to say the least, and yet they exist in our most beloved and favorite science fiction franchises (note: fantasy need not apply, since we’re already suspending belief and assuming that magic is part of the equation – it’s pointless in that case to point out that single-biome planets are practically impossible.) The most notable might be Dune, the classic Frank Herbert messiah epic about a desert planet that becomes the birthing ground for a new galactic order – the entire planet is a desert, and water is such a scarce commodity that spitting on someone is considered a friendly act (as long as you’re smiling. And you probably won’t find that written in the book.)

Star Wars is bespeckled with single-biome worlds, similar to the pinholed black backdrops used in the original movie’s space scenes when George Lucas was probably shooting in a barn or something; planets seem to crop up with great distiction: Tatooine, the desert planet (Dune was first, just so we’re all on the same page.) Hoth, the ice planet. Yavin IV, the jungle planet. Dagobah, the swamp planet. Coruscant, the city planet. Endor, the forest moon (this definitely counts.) The Death Star, “that’s no moon, that’s a space station.” Now, we could see this as an example of Lucas being lazy; but there’s another factor in play here. The Star Wars universe would seem to be plagued with these worlds, these impossible story-stoppers, only they don’t seem to stop the flow, and the fans. Why? Well, part of it might be that – #1 – Star Wars is part fantasy. Part of it might be that – #2 – it’s just awesome and shut up. Part of it is probably that – #3 – when you have a good story, the larger setting takes a backseat to the action. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly the second and equal parts of the other two, personally.

(Image credit: David Morgan-Mar)
Il Mondo ad Anello de "I burattinai"...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So we have options, right? Make it like Earth, or just base it all around a single biome. The second option gives you a chance to really focus on the aspects of that biome, so it’s not without its advantages. You can also get really weird, like in Larry Niven’s Ringworld, where the planet is a giant ring – manufactured, of course – and the physics involved with that play a role in the story; it’s an idea that cropped up three decades later in Microsoft’s awe-haw-hawesome first-person-shooter video games of the Halo franchise (I don’t care what you say, I love Halo, I just don’t play with others because it’s too hard to stay alive!) Then I’m pretty sure – although I’ve never had the chance to read the books – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is based on a flat, disc-shaped world. I just checked this with Wikipedia, so now I’m sure. What other weird options are there?

So finally we get to this question: what would my planet be like? it would exist on a flat plane, like Discworld. It would be suspended in space, deepest in the middle and tapering out to the edges, all water. On its surface would float an archipelago, and an invisible dome of gravitational force would hold in a sustainable atmosphere. The surface of the water would be coaxed into waves by tidal forces caused by two rotating satellite moons. It would rotate slowly, giving cycles of day and night their due, and the inhabitants would be and do whatever they would like, as long as it doesn’t involve skiing or ice skating (even then, with some technological advances these novel pursuits would not be out of reach.) I’m certain there would be a thriving surf culture, and plenty of fish, as well as island wildlife for food, an assortment of plant life, and lots of unique dances and stuff. Lots and lots of beautiful wahines and the guys are all hard-working and industrious.

Best of all, true to the Daily Post prompt’s name, I’d call my world Planet Janet – among other reasons, our worldly anthem’s chorus can go, “Planet. Janet. I love you!”

So that’s a lot of parentheticals for one post, right (whoa, did you just notice that?) Hopefully that didn’t bug you too much. What do you think, is my tropical island planet too unreal? DARN the physics!! What’s the oddest planet you’ve ever heard of?

This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.


  1. Great, I’ll never be able to watch Star Wars the same again. Then you have films like Avatar. Pandora is also a single-biome jungle world (sorry, a gas planet’s inhabitable moon) that is so alive it’s kind of scary. I would feel like I was being watched all of the time. No privacy when the plants can actually communicate with each other AND the natives in order to tattle on you. Kinda gives a whole new meaning to “hearing it through the grapevine.” It’s true that Star Wars is far more popular without much consideration to the worlds vs Cameron’s complete detailed story on how Pandora works. Maybe as an audience, people find politics far more intriguing than science? Or maybe we’re all just nerds and like to debate the possibilities. 🙂

    • Well I heard a podcast once about world-building – it might have been Writing Excuses. They touched on the idea of single-biome worlds. Can’t remember much about it except that they pointed out that in our physical reality it’s highly improbable.

      I believe Star Wars carries a lot of weight based on the story and the characters. Still, I wonder: if it came out today, in a time when we are more technologically sophisticated, skeptical, and picky about our films and special effects, would we appreciate Star Wars as much?

      • Hmm, that’s a good question, because I think Lucas set the bar that a lot of today’s films are compared to due to the complex storyline, characters, politics, etc. and taking into consideration 90% of it was paid for out of his own pocket, it was the cinematic masterpiece of the 70’s. I’d like to see someone make a masterpiece by today’s standards without a Hollywood budget and have it turn out just as amazing as the Star Wars series. That would be far more impressive, I think.

  2. Well, what about Star Trek 3, where the environment changed every 15 minutes. Too much variety?

    Planet Janet sounds like fun, maybe with a couple of archipelagos, so there’s someplace to go…

    • Well with Star Trek 3 it’s a little different; instead of an established planet with a single biome we are looking at a previously lifeless rock that has been bombed with a device to terraform said planet, and so I’m fairly certain that the constant flux of the environment is more of a rapid evolution than anything, which is to be expected from a realistic terraforming project – I mean, you don’t just install an ozone layer like its drywall and blow in air (someone call in Liberty Maid, I want to put this to the test!) – or maybe you do, but in the suspension of disbelief I think we tend to favor transitions rather than bolt-ons, if you get my drift. But yeah, having an environment that changes so frequently is not very conducive to survival!

      I could do multiple Archipelagos, but we’d have to keep them peaceful or they might start shooting sea turtles at each other!

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