Created By: Xtifr on November 27, 2012 Last Edited By: Xtifr on December 6, 2012
Troped

Living Gasbag

A balloon-like alien or magical creature that floats through the sky.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

Index(es): Bizarre Alien Biology, Index of Fictional Creatures, Flying Tropes

Lightweight, floating creatures are a great way to dress-up your Alien Sky. Typically hollow, and filled with a light gas of some sort, these creatures usually resemble blimps or jellyfish or some strange hybrid. They may be large or small. If large, they may be used as transportation by the natives or colonists. If they're filled with hydrogen, expect them to be highly explosive.

They may drift aimlessly, but it's more likely that they can exercise some control over their flight, possibly with small wings, or by emitting puffs of gas. While they are primarily decorative, some may be useful, some may be dangerous, and a few may even be intelligent. If they're intelligent and hydrogen-filled, they will probably have a very rational fear of fire.

Often overlaps with Starfish Alien or Flying Seafood Special. May count as a Giant Flyer. May double as a Living Ship, in which case it's probably also a Cool Airship. Compare Space Whale.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In the second episode of To, "Symbiotic Planet", one of the colonists has been studying some floating spheres, and feels he may have made friends with some. This is later proven to be true when a group of them sacrifice themselves to protect his colony from incoming missiles.

Literature
  • Gregory Benford's The Sunborn has strange alien gasbags discovered on Pluto, which show signs of intelligence.
  • Interstellar Pig by William Sleator has a gas-filled flying octopus.
  • The Leeshore by Robert Reed has a planet completely surrounded by biological gas bags so densely that sunlight never reaches the surface.
  • In the Uplift series, the Bahtwin were uplifted from a lighter-than-air gasbag species that floated in their homeworld's atmosphere.
  • The Gaea Trilogy has the Blimps, floating sapient creatures which live inside of the Living Planet Titan, and often serve as a means of transportation. The one known as Whistlestop gives our heroes a ride in the first book.
  • In The Red Tape War, one of the three beings named Millard Fillmore Pierce is a sapient floating gasbag who is checking out our universe with an eye towards invasion.
  • David Brin's Glory Season has the zoor, flying jellyfish-like creatures which range from twenty meters up. Sailors like to tie ribbons and messages to their tentacles, and the larger ones can lift a child.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's had a couple of examples:
    • 2010: The Year We Make Contact (the second book of The Space Odyssey Series), had the noncorporeal Bowman journeying down through the Jovian atmosphere, where he sees gigantic non-sentient living beings in various geometric shapes floating through the clouds and consuming similar smaller creatures.
    • The story "Meeting with Medusa" featured the discovery of a miles-long jellyfish-like creature floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter. (In biology, medusa is a term applied to certain forms of jellyfish.)
  • Medea: Harlan's World. One of the alien races created for Harlan Ellison's shared world project Medea was a gasbag filled with hydrogen that could float through the air.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe Beldons native to Bespin floated in the gas giant's upper atmosphere and produced Tibanna gas.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Starman Jones. The floating gasbag aliens (which the humans call "hobgoblin balloons") are used by the centaur aliens as spies. They are capable of moving on their own, not just drifting on the wind.

Live-Action TV
  • The Outer Limits revival episode "Tempests" has kilometer-long jellyfish blobs that float through the clouds of the planet Leviathan.
  • In one episode of Cosmos, Carl Sagan theorized that life existing on a gas giant planet such as Jupiter would be most likely to evolve into this form.

Tabletop Games
  • Dark Sun has Floaters, a species of sentient (if somewhat dumb) hydrogen jellyfish.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon magazine #52 "Dragon's Bestiary". The Pelin is a large aerial creature that extracts hydrogen and helium and uses it to float, much like a zeppelin.
  • The stalengers of the Living Land in TORG are floating, gas-filled beings with manipulative tentacles.

Video Games
  • In Starcraft, the Zerg overlords are helium-filled gasbags that move with psychic power. They can carry other Zerg, and their psychic ability is required for controlling a swarm.
  • Halo has The Engineers/Huragok, who resemble large pink tentacled slugs that float above the ground using two gas-bags.
  • Prey has strange floating gas-bag creatures that spit acid living inside of The Sphere.
  • In Star Control, the Slylandro are floating translucent gas bags with glowy bits inside them.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has the Netch, giant flying jellyfish.
  • Pikmin has Jellyfloats, which are essentially hovering jellyfish that suck up their prey rather than sting it.
  • Master of Orion III added a class of races called "Etherians" to the series, consisting of two races, the Eoladi and Imsaeis, who inhabited gas giants. The Eoladi were whale-like gas bags, while the Imsaeis were more like gigantic gaseous jellyfish.
  • Unreal has Gasbags and Giant Gasbags, basically balloons with tiny arms and big eyes, which float towards you slowly and shoot fireballs.
  • Some of the native wildlife on Eden Prime in Mass Effect consists of these. The tutorial has you use one for target practice.
  • Many of the organisms in Metroid float this way, including the titular Metroids.
  • Gears of War 3 introduces the Locust Gas Barge as a means of transportation after the flooding of the Hollow.
  • Meteos has a few: The puffy inhabitants of Yooj, the sentient colorful gas clouds of Brabbit, the umbrella-like fellows from Megadom, and the creatures of Bavoom that drift endlessly in the planet's fierce winds. All of these civilizations live in either nebulae or gas giants and must float by necessity.
  • Apventure to Atlantis. One of the monsters you can encounter is the Air Squid. It fills itself with lighter-than-air gasses and floats around. When it encounters a potential victim it descends and attacks with its tentacles.
  • The Pokémon Drifloon and Drifblim are living floating balloons, and despite having a largely nonthreatening appearance, the former are known to abduct children. Drifblim is mostly peaceful, however.

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • November 27, 2012
    Frank75
    Black Company is fantasy, but has floating whales in a desert, which are considered strange even for a world that knows magic.
  • November 27, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Literature

    Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010: The Year We Make Contact (the second book of The Space Odyssey Series), had the noncorporeal Bowman journeying down through the Jovian atmosphere, where he sees gigantic non-sentient living beings in various geometric shapes floating through the clouds and consuming similar smaller creatures.

    Video Games

    Master of Orion III added a class of races called "Etherians" to the series, consisting of two races, the Eoladi and Imsaeis, who inhabited gas giants. The Eoladi were whale-like gas bags, while the Imsaeis were more like gigantic gaseous jellyfish.
  • November 27, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^ Are they floating or flying? Whale doesn't sound like a floating creature. (It's been too long since I read Black Company.)

    ^ Hmm, I seem to remember another Clarke example. I'll have to hunt it down.
  • November 27, 2012
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Medea: Harlan's World. One of the alien races created for Harlan Ellison's shared world project Medea was a gasbag filled with hydrogen that could float through the air.
  • November 27, 2012
    Chernoskill
    • Unreal has Gasbags and Giant Gasbags, basically baloons with tiny arms and big eyes, which float towards you slowly and shoot fireballs.
  • November 27, 2012
    Astaroth
    • In one episode of Cosmos, Carl Sagan theorized that life existing on a gas giant planet such as Jupiter would be most likely to evolve into this form.
  • November 27, 2012
    StarSword
    Video Games:
    • Some of the native wildlife on Eden Prime in Mass Effect consists of these. The tutorial has you use one for target practice.
  • November 27, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    • Many of the organisms in Metroid float this way, including the titular Metroids.
  • November 27, 2012
    zarpaulus
  • November 28, 2012
    Frank75
    @Xtifr: I'm pretty sure they're floating. Should I check?
  • November 28, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ A more important question: are they gasbags? I don't think a solid creature that floats by some sort of levitation would qualify. Though that may be worth discussing.
  • November 28, 2012
    ZombieAladdin
    What about alternate Earths? The Pokemon Drifloon and Drifblim are living floating balloons, and despite having a largely nonthreatening appearance, the former are known to abduct children. Drifblim is mostly peaceful, however.

    As for actual aliens, here are some more video game examples:
    • Meteos has a few: The puffy inhabitants of Yooj, the sentient colorful gas clouds of Brabbit, the umbrella-like fellows from Megadom, and the creatures of Bavoom that drift endlessly in the planet's fierce winds. All of these civilizations live in either nebulae or gas giants and must float by necessity.
  • November 28, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ It hadn't really occurred to me that there might be fantasy examples, but it certainly seems like the same thing, so it should be fine. Tropes Are Flexible. If there's enough fantasy examples, I might be persuaded to change the name.
  • November 29, 2012
    Arivne
    If this is expanded to include fantasy creatures...

    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons, Dragon magazine #52 "Dragon's Bestiary". The Pelin is a large aerial creature that extracts hydrogen and helium and uses it to float, much like a zeppelin.

    Video Games
    • Apventure to Atlantis. One of the monsters you can encounter is the Air Squid. It fills itself with lighter-than-air gasses and floats around. When it encounters a potential victim it descends and attacks with its tentacles.
  • November 29, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ Is the name really "Apventure", or is the 'p' a typo?

    If the word "alien" really makes people think this doesn't include fantasy, then maybe I should go with Living Gasbag?

    eta: back to the Pokemon example for a moment: is that from a particular game, or are those two critters found throughout the franchise? (My knowledge of Pokemon is near-nil.)
  • November 29, 2012
    PaulA
    ^ It's really "Apventure". It was an early game for the Apple computer, in the days when a native Apple game was unusual enough to be worth commemorating with creative spelling.
  • November 29, 2012
    chicagomel
    They're Gen IV originally (Pokemon Diamond And Pearl), but they show up all over the place (or at least Eastern Unova) in Black and White and their sequels too. And though they're mostly harmless in the dex, they do have a habit of exploding in your face after a few turns in the game. ('The wild Drifblim used EXPLODE!')
  • November 29, 2012
    Xtifr
    Thanks. I went ahead and added Zombie Aladdin's original description. If anyone thinks it needs more details, just let me know.

    eta: feedback on the name is welcome too. Is Living Gasbag better? Something else entirely?
  • November 30, 2012
    dvorak
    The Beach Ball alien from Dark Star.
  • November 30, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^It's been years since I saw it, but if I recall correctly, that didn't float, did it? Didn't it just roll around like...a beach ball?
  • December 1, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Is that page image above from a Yes album cover? I think a few of them have floating creatures like that on them, along with floating mountains and such.
  • December 1, 2012
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Robert Heinlein's Starman Jones. The floating gasbag aliens (which the humans call "hobgoblin balloons") are used by the centaur aliens as spies. They are capable of moving on their own, not just drifting on the wind.
  • December 1, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^ You can click on the image to see what it's from (and no, it's not from an album cover).
  • December 3, 2012
    pawsplay
    RP Gs The stalengers of the Living Land in Torg are floating, gas-filled beings with manipulative tentacles.
  • December 3, 2012
    Xtifr
    Ok, this is starting to look pretty good. Does anyone have any examples from film or animation or comics? At this point, that's what I'd most like to see.

    Also, any suggestions for more indexes? And what about the name? I'm really inclined to change it to Living Gasbag, unless someone objects.
  • December 5, 2012
    Xtifr
    Last call. I'm going to launch tomorrow unless something major comes up.
  • December 6, 2012
    StarSword
    ^Add Flying Tropes to the index list.
  • December 6, 2012
    WaxingName
    Would Kirby count?
  • December 6, 2012
    StarSword
    ^He doesn't generally float through the sky, so I'd say no.

    EDIT: Same goes for the Jigglypuff line in Pokemon.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=fs53ztnkc4agdrfdi390k9ud