Created By: zarpaulus on July 1, 2012 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on September 30, 2012
Troped

City on the water

People living in artificial structures in or on the ocean.

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Trope
A fairly common feature in near-future works is cities built on artificial islands in the middle of the ocean. Often they are built to alleviate overcrowding on land, especially when Global Warming causes sea levels to rise and envelop coastal cities, but just as often they are sites for Mega Corps to do things that may or may not exactly be "legal" in most conventional nations.

Related to Underwater City, which is when the colony is under the water instead of on it.

Anime/Manga
  • Ghost in the Shell 2 (the manga) features Poseidon Industrial's artificial island city, where Motoko "Aramaki's" real body is typically located.
    • The second film has an android producing corporation that bases their factory on a ship because they're dubbing the ghosts of young girls into their robots

Film
  • In Waterworld since all known land has been covered by water most people live in "atolls" made from scrap metal. As well as traders who live on boats and the "smokers" who are based on the Exxon Valdez.
  • In Star Wars, the populace of the water-world Mon Calamari live in giant floating cities. One half is above water for the Mon Cals and air-breathing visitors, one half underwater and flooded for the Quarren.

Literature
  • David Brin's novel Existence has artificial islands popping up as sea levels rise. However most of them are resorts for the super-rich or havens for questionably legal biotech experiments. China has a "shoresteading" program for desperate people to try and make the upper levels of flooded mansions in what used to be Shanghai liveable.
  • Gordon R Dickson's Home From the Shore
  • The Undersea Trilogy by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson was one of the first in-depth explorations of the undersea domed city concept.
  • Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash has "Rife's Raft", a gigantic, cobbled-together collection of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean inhabited by huge numbers of refugees, mostly from Asia.
  • David Drake's The Lord of the Isles series includes a vignette in the first book in which Sharina, Nonus, and some useless nobles spend a few days on the Houseboats of the Sea People. They spend their entire lives at sea and live in large structures crafted largely from whale.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four repeatedly mentions military installations called "floating fortresses" that are apparently under construction, but never explains what they are.
  • In Raiders of Gor we meet the Caste of Rencers, who live in a delta connecting a great river and the sea, gathering rence[[labelnote:a multi-purpose plant used for making paper, rope, utensils, cloth, and food]] for trade. They live in small villages built on floating rafts of rence. As the rence rots away underwater they weave new layers on top.
  • The Skeezers in ''Glinda of Oz'' live in a city suspended the middle of a lake. In times of danger they can magically submerge the entire city for protection, turning it into an Underwater City.

Tabletop RPG
  • Classic Traveller supplement The Traveller Adventure. The planet Heguz is an Ocean Planet. It has had two colonies, both set up on large floating bases. Both colonies mysteriously disappeared without a trace.

Video Games
  • A major gameplay element of Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri, as any faction can create sea based settlements as well as the standard land based ones, in contrast to the Civilization series where only land based cities are permitted. The Nautilus Pirates faction starts the game with such a settlement and can create an ocean empire faster than the others.
  • Frequent in RTS games that involve naval combat (most Command & Conquer titles, for example): the ship-building structures are constructed directly at sea.
  • Brink is set aboard The Ark, an experimental floating colony designed to be completely self sufficient.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has the planet of Manaan with the native water-breathing Selkath, which is covered entirely with water except for Ahto City, which is built on the surface of the ocean to accommodate visitors.
In Final Fantasy X, during the Shoopuf ride you learn about the city built over the ocean, which was built just because it could be. Needless to say, it got destroyed by Sin and sank to the bottom.

Webcomics
  • S.S.D.D has the Britannia, a massive ship built on an iceberg that England's wealthy fled to when the Anarchists took over.
  • In The Kenny Chronicles Tarnekis, genetically engineered human-animal hybrids are largely forced to live on converted cruise ships. The sequel series, Ferrets vs. Lemmings takes place on an artificial island.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Certain groups such as The Seasteading Institute and Project Blueseed intend to do this in real life.
  • The unrecognized micronation Sealand is based on one of the Maunsell Sea Forts built during WWII.
  • Frequently seen in nations with sea access and not enough space for new buildings (Japan, Singapore... etc.) as well as countries with an influx of wealthy tourists and investors (Dubai, Bahrain...).
Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • July 1, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Literature
  • July 1, 2012
    randomsurfer
  • July 1, 2012
    Astaroth
    Brink is set aboard The Ark, an experimental floating colony designed to be completely self sufficient.
  • July 1, 2012
    Xtifr
    The laconic says "in or on", but the description seems more focused on "on".

    Literature:
    • The Undersea Trilogy by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson was one of the first in-depth explorations of the undersea domed city concept.
    • Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash has "Rife's Raft", a gigantic, cobbled-together collection of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean inhabited by huge numbers of refugees, mostly from Asia.
  • July 2, 2012
    dalek955
    Correction: Sealand is based in one of the Maunsell Sea Forts, which is very different from an oil derrick.
  • July 2, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^^^ @randomsurfer: That was The Spy Who Loved Me. Karl Stromberg's base Atlantis could be raised up to the surface of the ocean or lowered underwater. He planned to start a nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. and create an undersea civilization afterwards.

    Does this trope include underwater cities? If so:

    Edit: moved/merged examples to Underwater City.
  • July 2, 2012
    KTera
    ^ Underwater City is already its own trope.
  • July 2, 2012
    Andygal
    the territory Choral in The Pendragon Adventure is one big sea, so the people all live on massive floating habitats.
  • July 2, 2012
    surgoshan
    • David Drake's The Lord Of The Isles series includes a vignette in the first book in which Sharina, Nonus, and some useless nobles spend a few days on the Houseboats of the Sea People. They spend their entire lives at sea and live in large structures crafted largely from whale.
  • July 2, 2012
    dalek955
    • In Star Wars, the populace of the water-world Mon Calamari live in giant floating cities. One half is above water for the Mon Cals and air-breathing visitors, one half underwater and flooded for the Quarren.
  • July 2, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Nineteen Eighty Four repeatedly mentions military installations called "floating fortresses" that are apparently under construction, but never explains what they are.
  • July 2, 2012
    zarpaulus
    @K Tera: How about we make this a supertrope.

    While we're at it any better ideas for the name?
  • July 2, 2012
    Xtifr
    This is more of a related trope to Underwater City; an example can be both, but many examples will only be one or the other. (Mermen and aquatic aliens, for example would probably not fit here, while artificial islands clearly don't fit there.) This is, however, a subtrope of the soon-to-be-launched Colonization trope, along with the not-yet-formally-proposed Colonies In Space trope. Maybe Aquatic Colony for a name?
  • July 3, 2012
    Arivne
    The description should be modified to mention that structures under the ocean fall under Underwater City so people know not to add them here.
  • July 3, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Classic Traveller supplement The Traveller Adventure. The planet Heguz is an Ocean Planet. It has had two colonies, both set up on large floating bases. Both colonies mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
  • July 3, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Changed name, added to description.
  • July 9, 2012
    KZN02
    What about structures off the coast of a landmass?
  • July 9, 2012
    zennyrpg
    American Television
    • The main characters in Ocean Girl live in an underwater research station.

    Edit: nix that, fits better in underwater city.
  • July 10, 2012
    amiavamp
    'Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic' has the planet of Manaan with the native water-breathing Selkath, which is covered entirely with water except for Ahto City, which is built on the surface of the ocean to accommodate visitors.
  • July 10, 2012
    Blubble
    Since the trope starter made it clear that it only concerns structures on the surface and not deep down, I think this is ready to publish.
  • July 14, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Okay, still needing three hats.
  • July 14, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Thunder In Paradise: there's an escape-proof, experimental undersea prison named "Sea Quentin" used to house especially dangerous prisoners - and the warden's wife & son. Naturally there's a Prison Break; they're taken hostage, and only Spence can save them.
  • July 15, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ I think that's an Underwater City
  • July 15, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "Aquatic" doesn't indicate it's above water. Water Surface City is a bit awkward, but I can't think of just one word right now that indicates floating on water.
  • July 15, 2012
    Blubble
    Well, simply use the word floating itself? Floating City?
  • July 15, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Maybe
  • July 15, 2012
    LordCirce
    I think that Dun Dun Island from the webcomic College Roomies From Hell is an example of this trope. However, I can't remember if the island is artificial or not. Does it have to be artificial to count?
  • July 15, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ Yes. Does anyone else read that comic and back that up?
  • July 15, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "Well, simply use the word floating itself? Floating City?"

    Except Floating Continent means a flying land mass, so this would just make for a lot of confusion.
  • July 16, 2012
    dalek955
    Maybe City In A Boat? I know it's a snowclone of City In A Bottle, but it is descriptive. Or, possibly Buoyant City or City Afloat?
  • September 21, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Downplayed example, might not fit: In Raiders of Gor we meet the Caste of Rencers, who live in a delta connecting a great river and the sea, gathering rence[[labelnote:a multi-purpose plant used for making paper, rope, utensils, cloth, and food]] for trade. They live in small villages built on floating rafts of rence. As the rence rots away underwater they weave new layers on top.
  • September 21, 2012
    chicagomel
    Does it have to be an island or platform?
  • September 21, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Has to be floating on water and artificial.
  • September 22, 2012
    dparse
    In Final Fantasy X, during the Shoopuf ride you learn about the city built over the ocean, which was built just because it could be. Needless to say, it got destroyed by Sin and sank to the bottom.
  • September 22, 2012
    Dacilriel
    The Skeezers in ''Glinda of Oz'' live in a city suspended the middle of a lake. In times of danger they can magically submerge the entire city for protection, turning it into an Underwater City.
  • September 22, 2012
    Khantalas
    Before it was submerged, Luthe was this in Exalted.
  • September 22, 2012
    TrollBrutal
    In The Phantom Menace Otoh Gunga, aka Gungan City, is an underwater metropolis.

    edit: Ah nevermind, Underwater City indeed.

  • September 22, 2012
    Xtifr
    As the person who suggested the Pohl & Williamson example and the Snow Crash example, I have to point out that the former fits Underwater City, not this. (The definition has been changed a bit since I posted that.)
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