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Hyperspace Is a Scary Place
Bender, Bender, Bender!
"Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations, we could fly right into a star, or bounce too close to a supernova, and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?"
There are very few things about space that are not freaky. Contemporary space shuttles ride pillars of fire and launching one involves spraying 1100 cubic meters of water on the pad as a muffler to keep the craft from being damaged by the noise
. Works such as Robert A. Heinlein
's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
and Larry Niven
's short stories have pointed out that (barring teleportation
) convenient real-space travel between planets has energy requirements on the same order as making significant holes in them
. And let's not even get started on the whole 'infinite void of nothingness between the stars' aspect
. Anything with the power to thrust people across light-years rightly should scare their astropants
, being Another Dimension
or close, sets aside the natural laws that our universe and biologies need. It's sure to be mind-bendingly different
and hostile to conventional life — even more so than the void of space itself. Clearly marked paths
may be slightly safer
, or ships may generate a safe field around themselves while travelling. If it fails, the ship is at best returned to normal space, or at worst the passengers are exposed to incomprehensibly fatal horrors. Authors will often take the time to point out that hyperspace is hazardous and fraught with peril, for both the characters and the ships that have to make passage through it.
But long dissertations on it sometimes just don't make this clear. So, to really make a point about how dangerous and scary hyperspace is, they throw some really weird, scary stuff into their vision of it.
It might cause those who look upon it directly to Go Mad from the Revelation
(so keep those view ports shuttered tight
), and/or infested by Eldritch Abominations
that would have even HP Lovecraft reaching for the absinthe
. If Space Is an Ocean
, Hyperspace is that part of the map marked Here There Be Dragons
See also Eldritch Location
, Alien Geometries
, Acid Trip Dimension
, Ludicrous Speed
and Time Is Dangerous
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Crest of the Stars has a peculiar form of hyperspace which is completely two-dimensional, except for a bubble the ships and missiles generate to travel in. Losing power and having that bubble vanish results in a particularly horrible death; people aren't compatible with two-dimensional topography.
- In GunBuster, this trope is used as joke to scare the younger space cadets by telling them that ghosts appear on ships during hyperspace travel.
- The Space Battleship Yamato's first "space warp" jump is portrayed as a psychedelic experience, with afterimages, Yuki's (Nova's) clothes jumping about a meter to the right, and visions of the Yamato passing over prehistoric Earth, among other things.
- Parodied in Tenchi Muyo GXP, when Wrong Genre Savvy protagonist Seina feels cheated when his first jump into hyperspace features no light show of any kind; he specifically mentions some of the weirdness from Yamato when he describes what he expected.
- In Narue No Sekai, hyperspace used to be much scarier but has been somewhat "tamed" in recent centuries. Strange alien creatures known as Serpents live in the hyperspace network, and their mere presence can destroy a ship mid-transit. The Serpents are completely inscrutable, and nobody has ever been able to determine why they let some ships through and destroy others. It wasn't until the Avalonians (and later the United Stars) figured out how to fight the Serpents that hyperspace became safe and reliable.
- Not strictly hyperspace but the idea of dangerous extradimentional travel is in Martian Successor Nadesico. No ship can safely pass through a Chulip Gate unless at least one member of the crew has a specific kind of nanite in them: the kind that allows this person to perform Boson Jumps, the technology behind the Chulip. The Jovians found Lost Technology that allowed them to infuse these nanites into volunteers, allowing them to use the technology. Which makes everyone scratch their heads when the titular ship, an Earth design, not only jumps through a Chulip Gate but jumps eight months forward in time. Then it's learned the same kind of technology is on Mars, only this one is mixing up with the nanite technology being used to terraform the planet. End result? Anyone born on Mars has a superior ability to the Jovians: able to traverse time as well as space. Then it makes sense since the Nadesico had at least three Mars-borns at the time.
- In the cosmology of Magic: The Gathering, the space between planes (sometimes called the Blind Eternities) will instantly kill anyone other than a Planeswalker or someone without serious magical protection (either fundamentally transforming the nature of the traveler, or bringing along a pocket or tunnel of normal space to ride in or pass through). The constantly-shifting currents of metaphysical energy look pretty bizarre, but at least they don't drive people insane... of course, that could only be because even Planeswalkers will be killed by it before they have a chance to go nuts. And then Wizards introduced the Eldrazi, Lovecraftian horrors with the best of them, the Big Three of which originated in the Blind Eternities before they were locked away in Zendikar. And then Nicol Bolas had to go and get Jace, Chandra, and Sarkhan all together in the same room as the prison lock... Nice job releasing Cthulhu and his two cousins, hero.
- The DCU
- This Multiverse, between the Fourth World, the Anti-Monitor, and Mr. Mind, is a scary enough place as-is (assuming it even exists). But then it was officially stated that the Wildstorm universe was set there too, which brought in "The Bleed", the red gap between worlds (named for the space outside the panels of a comic book, of course).
- The Phantom Zone, also known as the Still Zone or the Ghost Zone. It's complete whiteness in which you can get lost forever. Zauriel, an angel, even called it "limbo" once.
- The entire DC Multiverse is basically contained by an enormous wall at the end of everything called the Source Wall. As seen in one panel◊, the Source Wall is an enormous screaming mass of writhing flesh, possibly composed of everyone who's ever tried and failed to discover the secrets hidden on its other side. Exactly what it looked like at the start is a good question, then.
- And just for fun, Lucifer, who may or may not be in the DCU, once opened a gate into the Void, stated as being beyond the Multiverse. It was completely white, which doesn't sound that worrying until one considers that it goes on forever and literally the only landmark is the gate, which is going to get harder and harder to see... Note: the Void and the Source are definitely not the same thing. Lucifer also once got to the Source... and ignored it as completely irrelevant.
- X-Men: The times we've seen the dimension Nightcrawler passes through, it resembles hell. This plot was also used in the comics with Illyana Rasputin's "stepping-discs", which moved the users through the demon-filled Limbo.
- In the Marvel Transformers comics, there's also at least one instance of monsters living in the void between dimensions used as transport medium. When they got their hands on Ramjet, they tortured, unmade, and remade him until they got bored and tossed him back. The result: a not-all-there Ramjet who is simultaneously Cursed with Awesome and Blessed with Suck: Being "tormented" at the hands of these creatures resulted in his becoming Unicron-class powerful, and keeping a connection to the void that gives him all kinds of Reality Warper tricks (above and beyond what he had during his time as an agent of Unicron). Thanks, evil extradimensional god dudes! On the other hand, he isn't quite sane, and it's all he can do to hold his own atoms together. His presence is poisonous to reality around him. Not so much fun.
- In the IDW Comics "Infestation 2" crossover arc, they get loose and are every bit as horrible as they sound. And are apparently the inspiration for the Cthulhu Mythos. It doesn't seem especially clear that the creatures from this IDW megacrossover are the same as the ones from the much earlier Transformers Cybertron based story, but TF Wiki seems to be sure about it.
- Later, by the Beast Era, they use the much safer Transwarp technology. Which has a chance of dropping you off anywhere, anywhen if you go off course. Fan convention comics reveal that "anywhere" used to include parallel universes and, presumably, void, until a group from one dimension was nice enough to build a safety net. They keep everyone they catch imprisoned in a single large city, able to move freely about it but not leave.
- The IDW G1 continuity is largely an aversion; quantum jumping is surprisingly safe even though a certified scientist goes on the record about how it completely flaunts the known laws of physics. Just don't stand too close to the engines during a jump.
- When facing off against a shadow-wielding enemy, Invincible and his foe get dragged into the shadow dimension. He is warned that there are unseen, horrifying things lurking in there and they make their escape as soon as possible. (These things are likely why the enemy, formerly the sidekick of one of Invincible's father's friends, went insane.)
- Marvel Star Wars introduced "otherspace", a dimension beyond hyperspace, a weird place with its own inhuman inhabitants; the effect is spoiled when said inhabitants are pretty much just big (read: Wookiee-sized) mean bugs, who later turned out to have come from realspace to begin with.
- Fleetway's Sonic the Comic treats the Special Zone in a similar manner as the literature example below. It's a weird place where physics don't really apply, and a planet and an asteroid belt and some swirly things can comfortably be the same place. The characters originally considered it to be some kind of insane 'other place' you really didn't want to spend too long in, and are shocked to later discover it's inhabited. Of course, the locals aren't exactly normal, either.
- The 1976 short comic "Approche Sur Centauri” from the French magazine Metal Hurlant (translated as "Approaching Centauri" when published in the American version of the magazine, Heavy Metal, in July 1977), scripted by Philippe Druillet and illustrated by Moebius, featured a hyperspace pilot who briefly experienced a hellish dimension when the generator overloaded and he was "thrown outside the T/S continuum". Upon return, he insisted "I saw nothing...nothing..."
Films — Animation
- In Interstella 5555, Hyperspace is a very funky and psychedelic place with big shiny objects that can heavily damage your ship. And, during the protaganists' return trip, it's where the Big Bad attacks them as an Energy Being.
- In Big Hero 6, Hiro and Baymax enter what can only be described as hyperspace in attempt to rescue a stranded pilot- it's both beautiful and haunting all at once.
Films — Live-Action
- Disney's (!) The Black Hole features a scene in which using a black hole to travel at right angles to reality sends the characters into Hell. Literally.
- In Event Horizon, the experimental hyperdrive on the eponymous ship takes it to a dimension of "pure chaos and evil", according to one of the people who winds up spending a short while there. What's worse, something comes back to our world. It's a recurring joke among some Warhammer 40,000 fans that Event Horizon is a prequel, while other fans point to Weir as an unnamed Cenobite. At any rate, there's certainly a lot of similarity to both.
- In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Oscillation Overthruster allows vehicles to pass through solid matter, through a bizarre dimension filled with weird creatures. One of the first scientists to experiment with it ends up with his head phased into a wall, and gets possessed by an 8th-dimensional nasty, turning him into the main villain of the film.
- In Star Trek, usually the warp drive either works or doesn't work. But in Star Trek The Motion Picture, a malfunctioning drive creates a Worm Hole that, in addition to being difficult to shut down, also sucks dangerous debris into the ship's path instead of deflecting it away.
- In the film Supernova, hyperspace travel is visually terrifying. It's easy to imagine the energies involved destroying the ships and everybody in them. And what hyperspace does to living tissue if your suspension pod is not functioning perfectly is not something you want to think about.
- In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the "Stargate" sequence after making contact with the Jovian monolith. The montage is interspersed with quick cuts of the astronaut's various horrifying facial contortions, just to drive the point home. When the sequence is done and the astronaut is in the "hotel", his face is covered in wrinkles, and he looks as if he's going insane. In the novel, the latter effect is explained as the result of Dave being kept in a kind of "alien zoo" until he falls asleep, and then they run his memories backwards while transforming him into the Starchild. It's only in the movie that he goes through the process of aging a couple of decades every time the camera pans around to show him looking at an older version of himself in the next room, then becoming that older self when in the next shot. (Yes, it's just as surreal as it sounds). If anyone was being weird in the movie, it was Kubrick.
- In Star Wars: A New Hope, Han Solo invokes this trope by explaining to Luke Skywalker why it's impossible to just blast into hyperspace and avoid Imperial ships: it's too dangerous due to the risk of accidentally hitting something or going off course. See Quotes page. As described in Literature below, however, the dangers are more mundane and along the lines of "Planets and stars are still in the way, and traveling fast enough to cross the galaxy in hours means that you can easily smash into one and vaporize."
- Tom Hiddleston has implied that this is part of what pushes Loki from The Resenter of Thor to the full-blown Big Bad of The Avengers: his previous Freak Out was exacerbated by things he saw between universes after trying to commit suicide by wormhole at the end of Thor.
- In the Lone Wolf series, the Shadowgates allow travel between other dimensions and other planets. However, actually traveling through a Shadowgate is completely inimical to mortals, ravaging body and soul alike. The two times Lone Wolf travels through a Shadowgate in the Magnakai series rob him of Endurance points. In the Grandmaster series, Lone Wolf can eventually learn how to shield his body from the worst effects of Shadowgate travel.
- Larry Niven's Known Space:
- Blind Spot. Since hyperspace is non-Euclidian, a human observer's blind spot "enlarges" to blank out views of this non-space outside the ship. This normally means that view ports seem to disappear into the bulkheads, no big deal — although, in one tale, Beowulf Shaeffer makes the mistake of looking out past his ship's disintegrated hull into it and forgets how to see, even forgets he has eyes, until he can force his gaze back to his control panel. The blind spot has the unfortunate habit of getting bigger as time goes on in the minds of a sizable chunk of humanity. This eventually drives humans crazy; no commercial starship has windows in the bulkheads for fear that 40% of their passengers will be reduced to permanent, incurable insanity.
- Niven's Hyperspace also has a "quantum property" that permanently removes from normal space anything that comes too close to a gravity source.
- In later Ringworld books, things living in hyperspace were also mentioned. The reason that the things in hyperspace are visible is that it turns out that hyperspace is comprehensible near a large mass. It also appears that what's previously been destroying ships in hyperspace near massive objects is the things in hyperspace, which are ''eating them'. This makes Beowulf Shaeffer's wacky theory in The Borderland of Sol actually correct, as well as making it possible to save the Ringworld from Earth.
- Which is a combination of Unreliable Narrator and re-retcon, later described as being a dubious claim at the least, and most likely an outright lie by the Protector discussing the hyperspace creatures.
- In The Mote In Gods Eye, FTL travel via Alderson Drives confuses people and breaks computers, leaving them vulnerable for the first few seconds after jumping into a new star system.
- While no spacecraft are involved in Robert A. Heinlein's And He Built a Crooked House, there is a spot in the tesseract home where the protagonists look past a fourth-dimensional corner and see — nothing. A space where nothing we can understand or perceive exists, not even blackness. The characters decide that permanently covering that particular window is probably a really good decorating idea.
- Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle stories have passengers and crew taking some sort of tranquillizer before a jump, because of the effect hyperspace has on the human nervous system. When Donal Graeme stages a daring raid against an enemy planet in Dorsai!, he uses multiple swift hyperspace jumps to simulate a huge armada attacking his enemy, even though it drives him and his crew to the edge of collapse, with each jump leaving them more and more in pain and disorientation.
- W. J. Stuart's novelization of Forbidden Planet has a scene where Doctor Ostrow looking out a viewplate into hyperspace, seeing nothing, under which is a suggestion of distorted stars rushing past at incredible speed. He turns off the 'plate fast.
- Timothy Zahn's Cascade Point has a hyperspace which shows you Alternate Universe versions of yourself. Implied to be very disturbing, as it's essentially showing you all the other paths your life could have taken. Up to and including "gaps" in the pattern... where your alternate self is dead. For that reason and many others, it's extremely disturbing to most people, to the point that everyone on a ship except the pilot is sedated through the experience.
- Isaac Asimov wrote a Robots story about a computer going mad when asked to design a FTL drive, as the properties of hyperspace meant that humans passing through it were temporarily "dead", and it was programmed to protect human life. And don't forget how the computer hoaxed the crew, during history's first FTL jump, making them think they had died and gone to hell. And filled the pantry with nothing but baked beans. The conflict between its orders and its need to protect human life warped that thing.
- In the novel Foundation and Empire, it is shown that traveling in hyperspace while being close to a big gravity source (like a planet) is harmful and possibly lethal.
- Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar books have a form of magical hyperspace, which happens to be filled with a race of precursors that even some Gods fear. Opening a rift is a really, really bad idea.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe
- The Star Wars Hyperspace is rather less dangerous than some of the other examples, but there are risks. A ship in hyperspace doesn't properly exist in realspace, but can be brought out by gravity wells. In the case of planets and asteroids that means appearing in realspace in time to safely change direction and go into hyperspace again; in the case of stars, black holes, and powered-up Imperial Interdictors it doesn't. That's why it's considered dangerous to stray out of established hyperspace routes, and mapping new ones is hazardous.
- Going through a gravity well of sufficient size overloads your hyperdrive motivator (what you need to get in and out of hyperspace) and kicks you out of hyperspace; when you over load it, it can explode possibly taking the ship with it, so there's actually a safety feature that kicks you out before you run the risk of exploding. That's how a fleet of ships got most of the way through a system-wide interdiction field around Centerpoint station but still had to conduct repairs. One of the ships ended up damaged beyond repair because it tried to go a bit too long with the safety turned off.
- It's also noted that getting Thrown Out the Airlock is instantly fatal when in hyperspace, unlike in realspace when it might take a bit. In Han Solo at Star's End, one of the Han Solo Adventure books by Brian Daley (not to be confused with the Han Solo Trilogy by AC Crispin), turncoat Torm is blown out an airlock into hyperspace. The victim's body is instantly and utterly destroyed.
- One novel describes "Hyper-rapture", a form of madness caused by staring at hyperspace for too long; because of this, starships usually have windows that go opaque while in hyperspace. Staring into hyperspace for an extended period of time, if it doesn't give you "hyper-rapture", is said to make most people increasingly uneasy. It doesn't look "right". Death Star quietly underlines Darth Vader's evil/otherness/disconnect from humanity by noting that he likes staring into hyperspace, and doesn't feel the usual relief when his ship comes out into realspace again; similarly, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor has Cronal liking it. This is mentioned when one of the most evil villains in the Expanded Universe is given a Fate Worse Than Death: by being locked in an escape pod and ejected into hyperspace. One escape pod has enough food and water to keep him alive for months, non-opaquing windows, and a very small area; he'd either go stir-crazy, get hyper-rapture, or survive those long enough to die from lack of supplies. Not to mention that rescue is literally impossible. Very, very bad indeed. As the person who inflicts this punishment on the villain puts it:
"I don't know how long you will survive there. I do know that you will die there.
- In the novelization for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, while the ship, The Salvation, is going through hyperspace, the Terror Walker tries to sabotage the ship's navicomp. While Starkiller battles it, he muses in terror that if the navicomp is deactivated mid-jump, the ship could either be blown to atoms or never return to realspace. Eventually, Starkiller defeats the Terror Walker by puncturing the ship's hull, causing the droid to be sucked out into hyperspace. Starkiller takes a moment to pity his foe, horrified by the thought of what it must be experiencing, even if it's a droid.
- One comic shows that it's actually somehow possible to use hyperspace to go through a planet (though it's described as being more akin to essentially bypassing that section of space) but as the person who does so notes, it's really not recommended outside of extreme emergencies. Presumably has something to do with the fact that gravity wells can yank you out of hyperspace, so the result would be blasting out of hyperspeed within the planet's atmosphere and blowing yourself to bits.
- The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy
Ford: [Hyperspace is] unpleasantly like being drunk.
Arthur: What's so unpleasant about being drunk?
Ford: Ask a glass of water.
- Teleportation is also dangerous:
I teleported home one night
With Ron and Sid and Meg.
Ron stole Meggie's heart away
And I got Sidney's leg.
- As Arthur learns in Mostly Harmless, Hyperspace is even scarier than he suspected; as the resident of a Plural Zone, every time he traveled through it he ran the risk of being catapulted into an Alternate Universe.
- Traveling through a Dark Matter sleeve, as Wowbagger's ship does in And Another Thing, is even freakier, enhancing your emotions, and putting you in touch with aspects of yourself you never knew about. If Hyperspace is unpleasantly like being drunk, dark matter travel is unpleasantly like being knurd.
- Using the Infinite Improbability Drive isn't so much dangerous as it is annoying, mainly because A) it requires tons of difficult math to figure out where you're going, and B) due to the Drive's nature, one isn't guaranteed to leave the jump as the species they start out as (it wears off, though).
- Stephen King's short story "The Jaunt" features a family waiting to be instantaneously teleported from Earth to Mars, in a process that first requires them to be gassed unconscious. The father tells his two children a bowdlerized version of how the technique came to be discovered and why the gas is needed, skipping over the gruesome semi-apocryphal account of the first man to make the trip awake. Unfortunately the son hears enough to be curious about what the trip is like, so he holds his breath when the gas is administered. The father wakes up on the other end to witness his cackling white-haired son clawing his own eyes out: The physical trip is indeed instantaneous, but the mental journey... well... "It's longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!!"
Worse than that, there's a mention of a man who'd set out to murder his wife by sending her through a jaunt gate, and not entering a destination. His lawyers argued at his trial that no-one could actually prove the woman was dead, and the court promptly threw the book at him because the thought of her being lost forever in mid-jaunt, alive, was so horrifying.
- Stephen King's The Dark Tower series introduces Todash space, the space between the worlds, empty except for terrifying monstrosities. "Going Todash" is the act of teleporting between the worlds by passing through Todash darkness either through a door or one's own mind. If one does not make it through from Point A to Point B, it is safe to assume that they are suspended in Todash darkness forever. And they are not alone in that darkness.
- In C. S. Friedman's This Alien Shore, hyperspace (called ainniq) is inhabited by creatures called sana. No one is quite sure what exactly a sana is, as they are imperceptible to human eyes, but common consensus is that the average human being has an extremely short life expectancy upon entering ainniq. There are people who can see sana and navigate starships to safety; the problem is, they also happen to be clinically insane.
- In C. S. Friedman's The Madness Season, humanity allows itself to be conquered/enslaved by a race who has mastered FTL, because the conquerors told (and presumably showed) us that FTL would drive us completely insane; so bad, we wouldn't be able to operate the ship and exit hyperspace. This race is immune to this, however, because they are a Hive Mind, and thus feel no fear of death, and thus cannot go insane. "Without us, you will never reach the stars. Surrender." We did.
- Our protagonist later discovers that this is not fully the case; only that particular method of FTL would drive humans insane.
- Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time has four different ways to travel long distances by magic. Three of them are basically different kinds of hyperspace (the fourth, simply called "Traveling", is truly instantaneous), and all of those are scary in different ways.
- The "Ways", which is a sort of terrestrial hyperspace: mystic gates — usable by anyone — to Another Dimension, which handles distance differently and thus allows shortcuts between the gates. Unfortunately, the Ways have decayed into a lightless, crumbling world haunted by Machin Shin, a terrible ghost-like monster which even the minions of evil fear. It's unclear whether that's because they were built by male channellers, who were doomed to madness, or because there's a Waygate in Shadar Logoth, a particularly cursed city, and that city's evil infected the Ways. But either way, travel through the Ways has to be very quick.
- Less scary is the void accessed by the "Skimming" technique, which allows a channeler to travel on a platform of their creation through an empty void and directly travel to any known destination they choose. There are problems, however: fall off the platform and you fall forever; the platform is created by your perception, so if you lose concentration, you fall; and creating exits from the void where you aren't supposed to is simply a Very Bad Idea.
- Portal Stones are relics from an even earlier age than the Time of Myths. They can be used to take someone to alternate timelines where they might experience their lives if they made different choices, or to alternate timelines where reality itself works differently (including where time passes differently), or straight from one Portal Stone in your world to another. If you want to go a long distance quickly and don't know exactly how to go straight to the other Portal Stone you want, then the second method might be better than nothing, but accidentally experiencing other lives is traumatizing.
- The Gray Limbo in Julian May's Galactic Milieu Trilogy. A virtually addictive "nothing": there's nothing to see, but it's still hard to look away. Can drive a person mad. To top it off, upsilon field transition (a.k.a. jumping to hyperspace) is incredibly painful to intelligent beings, and becomes more so the faster you intend to travel once in the Limbo. So painful, the effective top speed of a craft is determined by how much pain a person can stand without going insane or dying. Humans top out at around 180df (light-years per twelve hours), with two notable exceptions: Jack Remillard, a bodiless brain, who tops out around 400df, and the main antagonist, who figures out a way to enter the Limbo in effectively naked skin just before his Heel-Face Turn, topping out at 18,000df, and then one of the primary causes of his Heel-Face Turn is being given a pain mitigator — whereupon he travels several billion light-years to another galaxy in seven hops. The Ships are a race of giant interplanetary beings who can be convinced to consume a passenger vessel and serve as spaceships through The Power of Love. One of them made the same several-billion-light-year journey in a single hop, albeit dying in the process.
- Continua-craft in Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast don't directly show any scariness as travel is instantaneous. However there is a slight downside in that inventing one or even just working on the math required to invent one will get you murdered by demons. Well, actually hermaphroditic lobster-aliens who just happen to look like demons.
- In a Cordwainer Smith story The Game of Rat and Dragon, ships travel via a kind of Jump drive and hyperspace is a non-issue. On the other hand, there are Horrible Things (humans think of them as dragons, and are terrified — this story was written before Our Dragons Are Different got up any steam) lurking in the darkness of space between the stars. They can be killed with intense light, but human reflexes aren't up to scratch. On the other hand, cats think of them as rats...
- Cordwainer Smith also wrote a number of other stories containing hyperspaces which are scary places. "Scanners Live in Vain" has long travel through normal space induce pain and suicidal urges in unmodified humans; in The Colonel Came Back from Nothing at All the eponymous Colonel has his mind taken to be a pet for something during the test of an experimental "planoform" drive; and Drunkboat has travel through space3 cause temporary insanity and coupled with inexplicable powers.
- Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space universe also doesn't use hyperspace per se, but its FTL is still a pretty bad idea. So bad that using it carries an extremely high risk of retroactively erasing its users from time (i.e. they are made to die before the ship was launched). Even races that have been spacefaring for millions of years stick with slower than light travel. It's been said in at least one of his books that the use of FTL has caused entire civilizations to be retroactively erased from the universe. There's also the shadows, who exist in a different "brane" of reality. Releasing them is a very bad idea.
- Honor Harrington: People become violently ill from "crash translations" through layers of hyperspace, a place where it's possible to run into sharp gravity gradients that will very rapidly shred even the stoutest of ships. It is also dangerous to fight in Hyperspace because the ships weren't designed with hyperspace combat in mind, since the vast majority of combat happens in Realspace. Due to how the ships work (they create a super-dense wedge of gravity, open on the sides and ends, making the ships effectively immune to incoming fire from above or below due to the gravity wedge. So, they don't have any armor plating on the top and bottom of the ships, because the armor would be more effectively used on the vulnerable sides and ends of the ship. In a gravity wave, ships can't use wedges (any ship not generating Warshawski Sails inside a grav wave will get dismembered very quickly, and you can't have sails and wedges at the same time), so even the most heavily armored battleship can find itself getting torn to shreds by a more manueverable destroyer if the angles line up just wrong.
- The Apocalypse Troll, also by David Weber has an even straighter example. The higher levels of hyperspace are described using adjectives such as 'tortured', 'twisted', 'alien' and 'inhospitable'. Messing up a transition at such levels has a very high chance of disintegrating the entire ship into random energy.
- Dragonriders of Pern: Between, through which dragons and fire-lizards teleport, is "black, blacker, blackest", has no reference points, and is freezing cold. It's also the dragon method of suicide... intentional or otherwise. (Going between without a clear mental image of your intended destination is a one-way trip.) It also has no air. Dragons can hold their breaths for a surprisingly long time, but this is rather inconvenient for their human riders. Prolonged and repeated trips through between also terminate human pregnancies. The Weyrwoman Kylara took advantage of this by using trips through between as birth control. This also can save dragonriders battling Thread. In the first book Dragonflight, F'lar avoids being eaten by a wad of Thread that hit his face by going between. The icy cold of between immediately kills the Threads. The series implies that this is the original use of between, a method fire-lizards evolved to help them survive threadfall.
- In the novels that describe C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, entry into "jumpspace" is psychologically traumatic for most humans, requiring them to drug themselves with tranquillisers for the passage. A few individuals are able to tolerate the transfer and remain conscious "in-jump". They are nicknamed "nightwalkers", a term that suggests the mixed feelings with which they are viewed. On the one hand, they make excellent navigators, and are able to react far faster when the ship comes out of jump than their doped-up crewmates. On the other, the rest of the crew wonder what nightwalkers get up to as they wander round the ship while everyone is asleep...
Of course, being a nightwalker is no picnic at first either, because time and space don't properly exist in jumpspace, which is why they're so rare: most sentient minds can't cope with the stress, which is why Hani and Mahendo'sat black out, and humans and stsho need tranq. It's harder on stsho: without tranq, they just die. Hani don't need precautions; the non-nightwalkers are just useless in jump (and they all shed horribly after). Methane-breathers, who knows. One of the scarier things about the kif is the hints that all animal life from their world are nightwalkers. Like Chanur's "pet" kif. And his "dinner". BTW, the kif had no problem doing this to captured humans. Kif don't need tranqs, so...
- One of the shorter stories, Port Eternity, tells the tale of a private yacht trapped in jumpspace by an anomaly, where all aboard, azi and born-men, have to become nightwalkers pretty quickly just in order to survive. And then they have to deal with the other things trapped by the anomaly...
- It's not only your own ship in Jump; during a pivotal moment in the Chanur Novels, the knnn (who do whatever they want for their own reasons) come out of Jump with a captured ship right next to the Pride. The first indication of the Jump is when Tully (the human) starts screaming...
- In the back story of Rim Runners, N G ("No Good") Ramey was wrongly accused of being at fault in a fatal accident, and was denied tranquilizers during a jump as punishment.
- Downbelow Station describes a scary incident involving an overloaded refugee ship, the Hanford, which has had an onboard riot; there were not nearly enough tranqs for those onboard during Jump.
- It's similar, though toned down, in the Hyperspace of her Foreigner universe, where hyperspace causes muzzy-headedness. While this might not seem very bad, hyperspace journeys take a long time in the Foreigner verse, so the unpleasantness gets amplified by social interactions and cabin fever.
- In Brass Man by Neal Asher, viewscreens are usually blanked out while ships are travelling through underspace, but Ian Cormac suddenly finds that he can see something there. Apparently it's part of his ascension to a higher plane of existence.
- In the Broken Sky series, the space between the two worlds (that is, the Dominions and Kirin Taq) is shown to drive anyone not specially trained to live in it insane. Indeed, in one of the later books Kia loses her memory simply from seeing a glimpse of it after a failed jump between worlds.
- Andalite ships are capable of traveling through Zero-Space, a horrible, totally blank, N-dimensional void. Ships passing through are usually safe, but in one book, Ax was catapulted into Zero-Space, and discovered the full effects of the void before being rescued. Not only was he swiftly dying from lack of oxygen, but the non-dimensional nature of Zero-Space forced him to see his own body from all directions, including inside, even as his hearts began to slow.
- Ax also mentions at one point that, when morphing into larger or smaller creatures, mass is taken or stored away temporarily as a balloon in Zero-Space to compensate for the size discrepancy. If the characters sharing terrified looks of their mass floating in the middle of nowhere isn't enough, Ax also mentions that there's a one-in-a-billion chance that an Andalite ship traveling through Zero-Space may run into the mass, which would then be incinerated by the ship's energy shields. Squick. Well, that was the theory... until Ax and the rest of the team were pulled into Z-space by a passing Andalite ship and experience what is described in the first bullet. Essentially they were pulled along in its "wake" instead of being incinerated. Both of the above examples are actually the same incident, which would have killed the team if not for Ax using his thought-speak to contact the Andalites on the ship and getting everyone beamed aboard in time.
- And then there is the time that a Negative Space Wedgie creates a crazy patchwork world derived from the thoughts and memories of the two protagonists (and the antagonist). At the edge of the world is Z-space. One character reaches her arm out into Z-space, and it reverses in on itself and goes back the same way. It goes back to normal when she jerks her arm back in terror, but the experience left her badly shaken.
- The Andalite Chronicles reveals that Z-space travel times between the same two points can vary. In particular, a late chapter has a Z-space rift form around the Sol System, which means that a trip to or from Earth that would normally take weeks or months would now take years. This rift dissipated by the end of the book, opening the way for the Yeerks' first invasion attempt.
- In Perdido Street Station, the universe that the Weaver travels through is described like a spiders' web with strands going through more than just the three dimensions and connecting every aspect of existence. It is implied that the physical universe the main characters inhabit is only one facet of this meta-reality.
- The British Sonic the Hedgehog novels had the Warps of Confusion (a.k.a. the Special Zone from Sonic 1) which Robotnik was able to tap into to teleport his ships around the planet. Anyone who's played the original game knows just how well those areas fit this trope.
- Terry Pratchett
- In the early novel The Dark Side of the Sun, ships travel through "interspace" in which all possibilities are true. Most ships are shielded against the trippy hallucinatory results.
- In another book, Strata, an Elsewhere jump can move your body so far that it takes time for your soul to catch up:
a few seconds of vertigo, a brief agony of despair. Soullag, it was called on little evidence. Certainly something in the human mind refused to travel faster than — it had been experimentally verified — 0.7 light-years per second, so that after even a short jump through Elsewhere-space there was a hollow black time before the rushing mental upwellllll—
- Sergey Lukyanenko has different examples of hyperspace:
- In The Stars Are Cold Toys humans have invented the jump drive, which instantaneously transports a spacecraft 12+ light years in a given direction (the distance is always the same). The jump itself gives any human on the ship euphoria like nothing he or she has ever experiences (the main character compared it to death). At the same time, any alien either dies or goes completely insane during such jump (the aliens have their own, slower, means of FTL). However, two alien races are able to survive the jump with their sanity intact: the Counters (biological computers) and the Kualkua (symbiotic shapeshifters). The former manage this by putting themselves into a coma by mentally dividing by zero and causing an overflow error, and the latter by temporarily pulling the Kualkua collective consciousness out of that particular Kualkua. The sequel, Star Shadow, reveals that jump drive is a product of human belief, not actual science. That is why it only works for humans. There also exists a network of planets connected by Shadow Gates, with the side effect of the Gates reading you and putting you wherever they deem fit. Geometers have managed to combine both types of FTL travel into one: they take the ship into slow FTL hyperspace and then start jumping using the same method as humans. Apparently, this neither produces euphoria in humans nor is fatal to aliens and allows a ship to cross vast interstellar distances in a matter of hours. The protagonist realizes that, as soon as the Conclave finds out about this, Earth is screwed. He doesn't know yet that the system won't work without a human.
- In A Lord from Planet Earth hyperspace behaves pretty normal for FTL flight. But if you happen to use a catapult (one-person emergency FTL device), you experience and contact God - the future collective consciousness of the sentient races.
- In Line of Delirium hyperspace is pretty much Sci-Fi normal, except for several daredevil stunts pulled by the protagonists. Those are launching an escape pod from hyperspace into regular space (without any guarantee of entering regular space anywhere near a planet) and later holding an entire battleship hostage by threatening to leave hyperspace at light-speed. The protagonists leave the ship and drop into regular space; ship and crew manage to survive the light speed space entry, thus being propelled into the future by Einstein's laws. The first novel also mentions that there's always a chance your ship could randomly blow up in hyperspace, if its interphaser doesn't hold hyperspace outside the ship. This is likely more of a risk with privately-owned ships.
- Pavel Shumil takes the Zero-T-systems of the Strugatski's Noon Universe and makes them actual 12D ways in our 4D space. At least one inhabitable planet found is actually a shifted Earth. As the coordinates slowly change, a protagonist is left behind.
- William Gibson's short story Hinterlands describes a point in space between Earth and Mars in which space ships radiating energy at "the broadcast frequency of the hydrogen atom" disappear. Sometimes they return, sometimes with some fragment of an alien culture. The alien artefact may be useless or invaluable. But the returning pilots are always dead on arrival or the strongest of them make it through a few weeks of catatonia or drooling madness before committing suicide.
- In David Drake's RCN series, ships generate a bubble universe around themselves to travel through the "Matrix" (no relation) of fourth-dimensional space, outside the normal universe where the normal physical laws apply. Too much time spent in the Matrix takes a toll on the human brain, and crews start to see things that aren't there, though it's implied that in some cases they may be seeing into alternate realities rather than hallucinating. Entering and leaving the Matrix is also usually quite unpleasant, and unpleasant in an imaginatively different way each time. Except in What Distant Deeps, where Adele becomes omniscient during one extraction.
- In another of Drake's books, Starliner, ships travel through what's officially called "sponge space." Like RCN's Matrix, sponge space took a toll on the mind — it seems mostly a case of sensory deprivation — at least of those maintaining the drive systems out on the ship's hull. Informally, it's referred to as "the Cold," and Cold Crews get a bit warped from spending so much time out there. They're also hard to discipline: what can their officers do to punish them that's worse than their normal working environment?
- In L. E. Modesitt's Gravity Dreams, hyperspace not only requires a Training from Hell to be able to navigate through, it also has a god who wants some reassurance that he is a god.
- The Doctor Who Expanded Universe has lots of stuff about the terrors of the Time Vortex the TARDIS travels through. The series itself, not so much.
- The Gap that Stephen R Donaldson's The Gap Cycle is named after isn't in itself more dangerous than regular space travel, but it does have some... unfortunate effects on the brains of a certain small percentage of humans that pass through it. This "Gap sickness" can manifest as just about any sort of mental illness, it is entirely incurable, and there is no way to predict who will contract it without actually sending them through the Gap and seeing who goes insane.
- The Lost Fleet: Anytime the eponymous fleet enters jump space, the characters always get uneasy feelings and are only too relieved to get out. Jump space is considered so awful that to be thrown out into it is a fate only consigned to those convicted of treason.
- In Xenocide, a highly advanced A.I. is able to move things instantly from any point in the universe to any other as long as it has a clear understanding of the objects/people it's moving, as well as their origin and destination points. It does this by moving them outside of the universe. The weirdest part is that if a person spends any noticeable length of time "outside", they can consciously or sub-consciously manifest anything their brain can imagine and bring it back into the real world with them... including people. Worse, if Jane is unable to keep all the data about the inanimate objects (living things naturally hold themselves together using philotes), the living things make it back among a chunk of matter that used to be a spaceship. God help you if your destination is the vacuum of space. Also, if Jane miscalculates the destination point, you can end up inside a solid object with no way out.
- John Meaney's Pilot stories have mu-space, a fractal space which normal humans have to be sedated for travel through and which has all sorts of weird properties. The Pilots who can traverse it while conscious either have to have their eyes replaced with sockets for computer attachments, or naturally have weird eyes (the first of these is the result of a Pilot giving birth whilst in mu space, and the trait then spreads). The Pilots are implied to be drifting away from what we would recognise as a human perspective.
- The Dresden Files has the Nevernever, an alternate dimension/spirit world that exists alongside our reality. The Nevernever's distances are non-linear and often connected to points in the real world, meaning that it's possible to go into it, walk five feet, and emerge a destination thousands of miles away. Unfortunately, the closest parts of the Nevernever to our world are the lands of Fairie, which are populated by all kinds of dangerous beasts and hostile sentient beings. It's also entirely possible that you will open a portal to the Nevernever and emerge beneath a lake of acid or inside a volcano.
- The Dune universe has hyperspace only being successfully navigated by, well, Navigators, who are creatures so addicted to Spice that it's physically transformed them into something totally alien. The addiction gives them the ability to see into the future and plot a course that will bring them to their destination. One wonders how many ships were lost before they figured out the whole "Mutate the volunteer" aspect. According to the prequel series written by the son (Brian Herbert) of the author (Frank Herbert) of the original trilogies, a lot. Specifically, because of the anti-machine backlash happening during the Butlerian Jihad, Norma Cenva, the inventor of this new type of FTL (another, slower, type exists) is forbidden from installing computers into the ships to reduce the risk of Critical Existence Failure. Thus, the loss rate is 20%. One out of five ships never returns. Considering the armada's ships are mostly crewed by religious fanatics, they don't care.
- Dragonlance has a very tragic example of this. In the Age of Dreams, the Wizard Conclave created five portals to link the five Towers of High Sorcery. Unfortunately, in creating an extraplanar means of rapid transit between them, they also unknowingly created a link to the Abyss. Takhisis, never one to miss an opportunity to come into the world, gave a black-robed mage a dream in which she told him that she was a beautiful woman trapped in another plane and that he was the only one who could save her. He fell for it completely. Ever wonder how the Third Dragon War that Huma fought in started? Well...
- Vonda N. Mc Intyre's short story "Aztecs" (later incorporated into Superluminal) had a variation where the subjective measurement of time was affected; people conscious through the trip tended to die of old age. Passengers were thus kept in suspended animation for the trip to keep them safe. For the captain, however, the trick is to ensure the captain has no method of marking the passage of time. No clocks, and the captain has to have his heart removed and replaced with a quiet rotary pump, ensuring they have no heartbeat they can use to measure time with. Most captains keep the ashes of their own hearts to remind them of the permanency of this... hence the title of the original short story.
- In A Wrinkle in Time, tessering across the fifth dimension is a terrifying experience when done by Mrs. Which. When Meg's father does it...
- In The Tomorrow War by Alexander Zorich travelers in "X-matrix" suffer sensory deprivation. Only a mild annoyance for people who go through this regularly, yes. But less experienced travelers tend to hate it and are mentally destabilized for some time. May also be the reason of spaceship claustrophobia being a much worse problem than on submarines.
- Vladislav Krapivin's Great Crystal series has a few people able to move between the worlds Amber-style. A few of them learn the trick they call "direct transition". The traveler's personal space tears off the rest of continuum and soon pops up elsewhere — at a random place in random world, if he's out of ideas. It's mostly safe, but most avoid doing this, simply because before it comes the ability to percieve and understand that at an arm's length in any direction there's nothingness as complete as it gets — not even airless space. Those painting it with mental representations of possible entry points still feel the same. The boy who first in the books did it needed new pants after one of first jumps and another one passed out hard when moved forcibly by the first... upon losing cat-and-mouse they played with Secret Police in his Crapsaccharine World just for giggles — they weren't easily scared.
- In The Bad Place by Dean Koontz, one character has uncontrolled subconscious teleportation abilities. It wouldn't be this trope, except that he frequently visits an alien planet where space lobsters are used to grow red diamonds. Not to mention, every time he jumps, he suffers a small Teleporter Accident.
- While not hyperspace per se, the dimension dwelt in by the Hounds of Tindalos (in Frank Belknap Long and later H.P. Lovecraft) is a pretty nasty place to be, as if you travel through it, you set the Hound on you. And as they can enter the world through any angle, and will never stop; this is bad to say the least.
- Randall Garrett's "Time Fuze" has the first team to use the hyperdrive jump to Alpha Centauri only to find the star blowing up. When they try to get back to Earth, it turns out the drive makes suns blow up when it departs as well as when it arrives.
- Philip Jose Farmer in "The Unreasoning Mask" posits a means of FTL travel that doesn't harm the passengers, but is Very Bad for the universe: in fact it may have destroyed several earlier universes
- In "Common Time" by James Blish, a person travelling in "over-drive" experiences first experiences his mind (and therefore his perception of time) operating thousands of times faster than his body, and later his body operating vastly faster than his mind - both potentially fatal conditions. (Several earlier expeditions failed to return). It then gets weirder, and the whole thing is possibly kinky.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Brainship series, FTL drive is pretty tame — some people react to it with temporary nausea, and there's always a lingering sense of unreality, but it's perfectly normal and safe. Singularity drive, on the other hand... involves "translating" between two linked, mapped nodes instantaneously by taking a mathematical jaunt through several realities, all of which inflict temporary body horrors on the poor passengers. The usual transit time is on the order of seconds. However, sometimes ships get stuck, at which the horrors can last for weeks. One notable example involved a brainship having to burn out dozens of powerful processors, put down a mutiny, and finish the translation using a handful of known good processors (including the graphics processor for the screens and a processor or two donated from the body of a cyborg), all while looping between two realities that turned your teeth to rotten mush in one and long stabbing needles in another.
- While there is nothing inherently bad about hypersphere in The History of the Galaxy, it's essentially an empty dimension (or anomaly, as the author prefers to call it). It's pitch black there. The only navigational tool that works in hypersphere is the mass-detector, which measures the "energy pressure" around the ship to determine what sort of objects lie in normal space. Early human hyperdrive-equipped ships were flying totally blind, and many were never heard from again (either they ended up in empty systems or materialized inside stellar bodies). All others ended up in random star systems with not enough power for a second jump, resulting in a lot of Lost Colonies. The first human ship to end up in hypersphere wasn't even equipped with a hyperdrive. It was humanity's first extrasolar vessel, the colony ship Alpha (also the largest ship ever built). Propelled by three powerful fusion drives, it was supposed to accelerate to .5c on its way to Alpha Centauri. The drives activate... and the sheer power tears a hole in space/time, sucking the ship into hypersphere.
Additionally, hypersphere is an actual sphere (with the galaxy wrapping around it). At its center, the so-called 10th energy level, there is an energy imprint of the galaxy, around which orbit a number of planets, only one of which is habitable. No electronic device works there due to the "energy pressure" of the entire galaxy converging. However, the same pressure also enables some interesting abilities in living beings, many of these bordering on magical.
- The Diving Universe has perfectly safe and reasonable FTL. However, it also has Foldspace, which is far faster but also far more dangerous. The Fleet tried not to enter Foldspace except in the case of an emergency, because not every ship that goes in comes back out — and even if they do, there's no guarantee that they'll come out in the right place or time. After the Fleet passed into legend, Foldspace drives became a Lost Technology — poorly understood by those who stumbled across them, and thus even more spectacularly dangerous to meddle with.
- In the Confederation of Valor series, Susumi Space requires very specific calculations in order to successfully traverse it. Making even a tiny small mistake can destroy a ship completely. Which is the initial reason why everyone is pissed at Presit in The Better Part of Valor: in looking for a big scoop, she follows the Navy warship Berganitan through a Susumi jump, risking not only her own ship and crew, but the Berganitan as well.
- Tom Godwin's The Nothing Equation is a very creepy version of this trope. The title should give you a clue about what makes it frightening.
- Jerry Oltion's Captains Table TOS novel Where Sea Meet Sky involves a part about an unshielded warp jump on a living creature with a biological warp drive.
- The novel The Deacon's Tale, sets in the Sword of the Stars universe, reveals that traveling through Hiver gates is harmful to other races. The side effects can range from simple nausea to death by miocardial infarction. It's possible they're simply not calibrated for non-Hivers or that the Hivers have genetically modified themselves to survive the process.
- In one of the expanded universe novels based on the Alien films, it's mentioned that the reason people enter cryogenic sleep during space travel is because being awake while a ship is traveling at faster-than-light speeds "does ugly things to your mind." It's also mentioned that, as part of their training, Colonial Marine recruits are required to stay awake during a brief FTL jump so they can experience it firsthand.
- Greg Egan's Orthogonal trilogy applies this trope to orthogonal space, clusters of matter traveling along a different trajectory through time compared to regular matter. All matter acts as Antimatter in relation to orthogonal matter, which means that even orthogonal air is Made of Explodium. The trick is to go in exactly the opposite direction through time as the other matter—then the observer and the matter have Merlin Sickness respective to each other, but are otherwise perfectly safe to touch.
- Traveling through grimspace in The Sirantha Jax Series is considerably faster than the earlier method of Faster-Than-Light Travel, "straight space", but carries much higher dangers. A ship that enters grimspace without a crewman with the J-gene (a "jumper") cannot read the beacons placed by the Makers to guide ships to inhabitable star systems, and will likely be lost forever. Grimspace is hard on jumpers, too: it's a Fantastic Drug to them, and long-term Side Effects Include... brain lesions that eventually result in jumpers jumping and becoming brain-dead on emergence, at which point their ship-mates usually Mercy Kill them. It's called "navigator burnout syndrome" or NBS, and it means jumpers rarely live to their 30s.
- Hyperspace in Babylon 5, while less scary than most hyperspaces in this entry, is still rather nasty. It has random currents that can throw you off course rather quickly if you have a navigational failure, no landmarks to navigate by other than the artificial beacons placed by the various races, and there's even some rumors about things living in it. (They're true, and though some of them are just annoying, there are lots of things that are far from nice.) And then there's the eponymous Thirdspace... Other less nasty but still dangerous problems include freak storms and vortexes that are capable of altering the currents and eddies and throwing ships off course, something that can normally prove fatal. Also, if you try to open a jump point within an already active gate, this will result in a very large explosion.
Hyperspace is in actuality a shadow of Realspace. Gravity wells from normal space create the vortices in Hyperspace, and the drift effect is due to the galaxy being constantly in motion. Hyperspace compresses the space-time continuum so everything is exaggerated while travelling through it. Hyperspace beacons constantly need to be readjusted and hyperspace lanes tend to change over the years. Another unnatural effect of Hyperspace is that it boosts the telepathic abilities of any telepath. Travel beyond the galaxy is said to be the hardest thing any one race can accomplish, and only the ancient First Ones have travelled beyond the galactic rim.
The First Ones have learned to use hyperspace rather well, with the Vorlons folding a pocket of hyperspace in on itself to hide a frigging enormous armada! The Shadows are even worse, being completely at home in the chaotic hyperspace. They never get lost and don't even need to open jump gates, simply phasing between hyperspace and normal space. In essence, the Shadows are true Eldritch Abominations who have made hyperspace their plaything.
And in the Expanded Universe there's the Starshards; weapons from a long-ago war, made up of small pieces of neutronium that literally tear hyperspace apart as they travel through it, leaving a trail of realspace behind it like a comet's tail while at the same time warping the eddies in front of it.
- Star Trek normally doesn't treat subspace as a bad thing. There are some exceptions, though:
- Subspace containing aliens who like vivisecting humans.
- Then there's the problem when subspace extrudes into normal space. Basically, being caught in such a flux means trouble. The energies and particles coming from them are generally not healthy, and stresses can tear starships apart. And you can forget about trying to use Warp Drive (indeed, one TNG episode showed that excessive warp usage was fraying the boundary between space and subspace like an well-trodden carpet). Thus the laser-like focus of the Federation when it comes to Omega molecules (seen in Voyager): just one of them will rip the space/subspace barrier for a radius of several light years. Get too many of these kinds of holes popping up and you can kiss galactic civilization as you know it goodbye.
- Wormholes containing Sufficiently Advanced Aliens the Bajorans thought of as the prophets. Averted in that they're actually quite nice and keep the wormhole open and stable. The Pah-Wraiths, on the other hand...
- The Canon Discontinuity Voyager episode "Threshold" almost treated Warp 10 like this, but the actual results were mind-boggling from a logical, biological, and narrative standpoint.
- Experimental interphase cloaking devices (largely different from the regular, completely safe cloaking devices) seem to operate by taking a ship and crew outside of the normal realm of matter and reality, which allows them not only invisibility but the ability to do things such as phase through solid matter. This can go horribly wrong in two different ways. The first is if a person is exposed to the radiation of a damaged device. They become cloaked. Not only will they be invisible, unable to be seen, they will lack coherence and slip through walls. On a ship, this could mean a sudden jarring motion could send a person into space. The second is if the cloaking device suddenly stops working as the ship phases through solid matter. If a crewmember is lucky, getting stuck in a wall will kill them instantly. (Both scenarios were explored in "The Next Phase" and "The Pegasus", respectively: Geordi and Ro are able to fend off a Romulan in the same phase by throwing him out of the ship and into space; and the final resting place of the Pegasus is inside of an asteroid, half-phased into the rock after the device finally failed.)
- Wormholes are treacherous and difficult to navigate, and cause all sorts of tricky problems with time and space and turning into liquid when you don't quite understand them, and are inhabited by bizarre and dangerous creatures- ranging from gigantic phase-shifting serpents to sentient "Pathfinders" of dubious morality. On the other hand, one episode dealt with the dangers of Starburst, which is a short-range emergency FTL technology that works by temporarily slipping into another dimension and coming out pretty quickly. Somehow, the ship Moya gets stuck and splayed out in other dimensions — one of which causes mind-splitting noise, another which causes visual pain, and a third which causes elation and euphoria, in addition to the normal one — and has to be reassembled by moving all four ships in unison through the dimension while avoiding the interdimensional gatekeeper monster... thing. The problem with that particular starburst involved Moya's pregnancy cumulated with other labor complications. As of some time after Talyn's birth, it is still said him starbursting would be dangerous. He does it even before properly learning to fly, though.
- However, the normal mode of FTL travel for all ships, including Moya, is the Hetch Drive. It appears to move the ship through normal space at FTL speeds, isn't brought up all that much, and appears to be entirely safe.
- The Tomorrow People were presumably safe when jaunting through hyperspace. If they jaunted into hyperspace without protective gear, their bodies would be annihilated. Additionally, hyperspace was seen as a place where time had no meaning, but you'd return to your own time upon leaving. That is, unless some major temporal screw-up had occurred, which ran the possibility of freezing time temporarily.
- Doctor Who
- The Time Vortex in the Whoniverse has been shown to be hazardous to objects that travel through it without proper transport, even killing companion Jack Harkness. It also hosts a few creatures, such as the Chronovores and other beings, and, as of New Who, Reapers. The vortex is viewable directly from a special window on the Doctor's homeworld called the "untempered schism" where one could actually stare at the raw power of time and space, as the Doctor described it. He said that all Time Lord children were instructed to stare at it until they either became inspired, went insane or ran away. The Doctor of course, ran away. (Although there's an argument to be made for all three.) The Master, on the other hand...
- Travel between Alternate Universes requires traveling through the Void, a realm which the Doctor describes as containing absolutely nothing. "No up, no down, no light, no dark, no time". Someone using a specialist "void ship" can sit in the Void through the end of the universe and the start of the next, and while the Time Lords called it the Void and the Eternals called it the Howling, some just call it Hell.
- Stargate Verse
- Played with in the pilot of Stargate Atlantis: Lt. Ford hazes the New Guy (Sheppard) by telling him that Gate travel is horribly painful... then drops the act, admits it's actually a lot of fun, and throws himself backward through the event horizon like it's a carnival ride.
- Played straighter in the original Stargate movie and the first episode of Stargate SG-1, where travel through the Stargate was disorientating, made some people feel sick and everyone came through the other side freezing cold, no matter what the temperature on either side of the gate was. Oh, and it threw you out the receiving gate, no matter how fast you entered it. After the pilot of SG1, Children of the Gods, this was all dropped. This was later explained as being due to Earth's lack of a Dial Home Device, or DHD. Normally, these regularly "update" the Stargates in the Gate Network to compensate for stellar drift. Since Earth's Stargate didn't have one, it was slightly out of sync with the rest of the network until they learned to compensate for it. This resulted in the rough ride. After this, there was only such a rough ride to the home territory of the Asgard (the first eight-symbol super-distant address) and to the Destiny at the beginning of Stargate Universe (even farther than that!)
- Andromeda's Slipstream network isn't particularly scary, but it's like an ever-shifting maze that requires insane amounts of intuition to take the right path and incredible reflexes to steer in. Which is why computer systems cannot fly in it; they have no intuition, so they always only have a 50:50 chance of picking the right path at each branch (and your average trip through Slipstream involves a lot of these branches, so the odds slip with each turn), while lifeforms have between 70% and 99% success rate.
An early episode showed what happens when you put a being who can predict probable futures into the pilot's seat. Trance ends up screwing up so bad, that it throws the ship 300 years back in time. Later on, though, she can be seen piloting without problems. Given what is revealed about Trance's nature later on, it's entirely possible she meant for the time jump to happen. Another episode involves a probe sent centuries before in order to prowl slipstream and map it out. Supposedly, a complete map of the network would allow efficient, safe passage to any ship, whether piloted by a living being or not.
- When Andromeda lost her original crew during the first encounter with the Magog, it took her years (if not decades) to get back to Commonwealth space by making blind jumps without an organic pilot.
- The Consensus of Parts uses Brain in a Jar in order to navigate Slipstream.
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "In the Blood", explorers on a spaceship are trapped in "trans-space," a hyperspace-like dimension that turns out to be the literal bloodstream of the universe, which is actually a living being. The "scary" part comes from the universe's defense mechanisms being similar to those of humans and actively seeking to destroy foreign bodies.
- Van Der Graaf Generator goes with the Nothing Is Scarier version in "Pioneers Over C.". A group of astronauts attempt to use Faster-Than-Light Travel to explore the cosmos, and when they finally break the light barrier, they enter infinite nothingness, losing all sense of time and awareness, unable to return to reality as we know it.
- Warhammer 40,000. Quite possibly the Trope Codifier, or at least a strong contender for the Most Triumphant Example.
- Faster-than-light travel is achieved by jumping into a parallel dimension called the Warp or the Immaterium, which is essentially the Afterlife. A manifestation of the thoughts and emotions of all conscious life, also the location of everyone's souls and the origin, power source and curse of all Psychic Powers, but also a Hell brimming with soul-eating daemons and dark Gods. Ships need special Gellar Fields to keep the entities that swarm through the Immaterium from passing right through the hull and feasting on the minds and souls of all within. Even with the Gellar Field, the ship needs to be covered in holy baroque symbols to prevent daemons from blowing it up, or worse. The normal passage of time is also completely irrelevant; it's impossible to know the exact age of people who do a lot of Warp travel, it's possible (though rare) for a vessel to disappear within the Warp for centuries or even millennia despite the crew only experiencing a few months of difference, and there is at least one documented case of someone entering the Warp and exiting at the same location before they left. One ork Waaaagh! did so as well, but since the future warboss killed the past warboss in order to have his favorite gun twice, the Waaagh! disbanded due to the confusion.
- For bonus logical headaches, consider that the accidental time-travelers were responding to a distress signal (also sent through the warp) from a ship that was surrounded by enemy vessels... when they popped out, the ship they were aiding was nowhere to be seen, but they were in the middle of an enemy fleet, so they sent out a distress signal...
- The Tau, due to lacking any psykers or a strong Warp presence, can't access the Warp like most other factions, and are restricted to the "shallows" of the Warp, "skimming" it instead of immersing their vessels any "deeper" (apparently Space Is an Ocean metaphors are plentiful when describing the Warp, but metaphors are the only effective method of describing a realm of illogical thought). While this means painfully slow interstellar travel even by the standards of the setting, it runs much less risk of daemons raping the flat bit of your neck where your head used to be, although it still has its dangers. Unfortunately this also means that the Tau have less understanding about the dangers of the Warp then Humans or Eldar do and even less understanding about the forces in it.
- Supposedly, they tried to duplicate the Imperium's Warp technology, but eventually decided "Screw this. Too many tentacles."
- Even staying out of the Warp doesn't mean escaping this trope. Sometimes, Warp/realspace overlaps (known as Warp Storms or Warp Rifts) are generated that can swallow planets, star systems, or even entire sectors of space; the largest, the Eye of Terror, is thousands of light years in diameter. It's never a good idea to be on any planet caught anywhere near one of these, as not only does physics take an extended vacation, creating a lovely little World of Chaos, but the denizens of the Warp can freely manifest in an overlap, leaving them with plenty of time for Fun. As luck would have it, warp storms sometimes have beneficial effects as well. At one point the Imperium of Man found a Stone-Age alien species on an uncharted world, and as per normal procedure tasked forces to exterminate them. A warp storm blew up and rendered the star system off limits for about 6,000 years. Then the storm dissipated and the Imperium tried again, only to discover that in the interim the aliens in question, the previously mentioned Tau, had become a spacefaring culture more technologically advanced than the Imperium and fended off the incursion quite handily.
- The Eldar webway tunnels are passages through what is essentially another dimension between the Materium and the Immaterium, and though nicer than the Warp they're still quite nasty. Whereas the Warp is pure chaos, the Webway is more akin to Alien Geometries; rational and internally consistent, yet utterly alien. One of the Primarchs was lost trying to navigate it, and Commorragh, capital city of the Dark Eldar hidden deep within the webway, is an Eldritch Location with architecture that makes Inception look reasonable.
- Of course, being 40 K, some factions just don't care about the mind-breaking horrors inherent to the Warp. The Orks coat their vessels in "teef" to ward off daemons (which work because Orks believe it should), but even if that doesn't work daemonic incursions are treated as a way of breaking up the tedium of long trips. Chaos followers have a much easier time navigating the home realm of their patron deities, but they still need Gellar fields to prevent daemons from coming to collect on their pacts. And the sheer might of the Tyranid Hive Mind plays havoc with the Warp and its denizens, meaning only the most powerful daemons can go anywhere near them, and they can't fight an entire hive fleet by themselves anyway.
- Last but not least, the Necrons utilize impossibly advanced technology so they can simply ignore the warp. Their take on FTL actually works by going faster than light rather than taking a short-cut, plus as a civilisation whose people are made of living metal, they have much less problems related to warp sickness. Of note are their attempts to get the warp to influence their bodies and flawlessly combine metal and flesh (something only Chaos has managed yet) which go seldomly lucky.
- However it seems easier for them to just use the Webway.
- Warhammer features the Paths of the Old Ones, a series of pocket dimension "hubs" connected to each other and to real-world gates by "tunnels" through the realm of magic. Since the Old Ones disappeared, the Paths have been tainted by Chaos. The tunnels are even worse, containing "reality bubbles" that travelers can be trapped in. These may vary from alternate timelines to a daemon's personal playroom. And if you take a wrong turn in the Paths, you may just end up in the Realms of Chaos. Or worse, the Warp.
- The game Fading Suns uses an inversion: hyperspace (what is between the Stargates) actually is the safe way. The real problem is that interstellar space (the traditional boundary is the orbit of system's Stargate) is filled with shapeless Cthulhoid monstrosities going by the lovely name of Void Kraken. (Something about the star, at least for some part of the star's life cycle repels the Void Krakens. The size of this safe zone varies with each system.) Still, spaceships jumping through hyperspace need to be protected by special shields, because otherwise people experience a strongly addictive quasi-religious epiphany. And fun stuff: before the discovery of Sol System's gate, there were several sleeper ships sent out. One of them was referenced in canon. The rest... Well, the general assumption is it's better not to think of what could have happened to the passengers.
- While not used for space travel, Porté sorcery in the RPG 7th Sea involves tearing a bleeding hole in reality, stepping through into an hyperspace-like dimension, and tearing open another hole to get back. No-one knows what this dimension is like, because Porté sorcerers keep their eyes closed while inside it. Within this dimension, voices try to persuade or trick the sorcerer into opening their eyes. It's assumed that the sorcerers who never came back made the mistake of opening their eyes. It's not at all related that the country where most Porté sorcerers live also has ghosts without eyes or hands that appear in its mirrors. No, surely not. In later supplemental material, it is revealed that nearly all magic in the world of Theah weakens a barrier in a shadowy world that keeps an army of eldritch abominations at bay, and that every use of Porté magic to rip a hole in reality also rips a corresponding hole in the barrier.
- In Traveller different cultures have different customs and/or superstitions about it. Among them, Vilani dim their lights (from when having enough power to go into jump was an issue), Aslan clans light a sacramental candle, Vargr, as the violent types, beat up one of their crewmates chosen for the honor, and the Droyne use special coins. Jump space is not so much feared as it is weird. If a jump works wrong one could be misjumped to a random point, which could mean anywhere. If it works really wrong, one stays in jumpspace, and no one knows what happens. Technically, one only stays in Jumpspace for a few trillion (subjective) years. Long enough for protons, stable as they are, to decay and, 168 objective hours or so later, all that emerges is a flash of hard radiation.
- And the utterly forgotten 80's RPG Space Quest had N-Space filled to the bursting with Voidsharks, "Temblons" (think kraken with tractor-beam tentacles) and other horrors that all seemed to find carbon based life a tasty treat.
- Rifts: Regular FTL travel is fairly simple and straightforward, if somewhat anemic as regards speed. Phase drives, however, are derived from the same technology and magic that the Prometheans use. They use this technology to shut portals and gates down on top of ships that are coming in, a fairly horrific action. But then there are the Rift drives. Though they normally travel through a dimension called the Flux Dimension, anyone who has played Rifts know that they're prone to all sorts of horrible things happening...
- Given a nod in BattleTech, where the Kearny-Fuchida jump drive is occasionally poorly looked upon. This is, of course, thanks to a long track record of damn near epic foul-ups that have happened. Time-lost ships, ships that have emerged with massive holes that look like they've been bitten, ships emerging without crew, ships that jumped too close to another ship and were fused, ships where the same happened and the still-living crew were found literally embedded in the bulkheads, and some ships just plain disappearing. Never mind the fact that the Word of Blake apparently figured out a way to keep a ship in hyperspace so their recruits have a more interesting environment to learn in. And it has already been established that looking out a porthole during a jump is just plain stupid...
The things listed above are the exceptions to the rule — K-F Drives are 98% safe, as long as the capacitors don't blow. However, the understood mechanics of jump travel are almost as bad as the parts that aren't understood. Every single time a ship jumps, heat is manifested at the destination prior to the ship showing up. The more mass being jumped, the longer and hotter. But K-F Drives are instantaneous. This means that every time you jump, you're shunting waste heat into the past. For stupendously huge ships, that means your jump effectively starts before you even decide it's necessary, and that Doctor Kearny and Doctor Fuchida not only made space travel possible, but snapped the space time continuum (and possibly Thermal Dynamics) over their collective knees. It's said there are two type of Jump Scientists. One who can recite the theory backwards and forth but make little headway in it... And those who are completely insane but in-between their ramblings they make discoveries.
One of the most dangerous things about the KF drive is what happens when a ship jumps: Any other ship within a radius of about one hundred kilometers will be shredded, at various levels of completeness from "kind of intact" to "on a molecular level" with the higher end being the norm. Though the process is instant, it's been noted that on occasion a destroyed ship will continue to transmit for several seconds after the jump flash ends.
The SLDF discovered that any trip via K-F Drive made all of their attempts at drone warship AI suffer what is described as a "paranoid psychotic break" in which they would lock out all communications and see everything that moved as a hostile that was actively attacking them. Any K-F deployment of drones had to be conducted with the AI powered down, then reactivated by a caretaker crew on arrival.
- The Hedge in Changeling: The Lost can serve as a means of more expedient travel between long distances, provided one is willing to enter an ever-shifting maze and brave the dangers therein. True to the warped logic of its owners, the time it takes to get somewhere depends more on what happens along the way than on actual distance, meaning that getting from Miami to Tucson might require more time (and bloodshed) than from Miami to London. In the Infinite Macabre setting, it's made explicit that yes, the Hedge can be used for interstellar travel, though the base time for navigation is longer.
- Eldritch Skies lives and breaths this trope. As it turns out, the reason why people tend to go mad in the future of the Cthulhu Mythos is not because of secrets man was not meant to know. Rather, it's due to exposure to the hyperspatial entities, and hyperspace itself is The Corruption. As per Eldritch Skies, however, the expected role this would play is averted: the mental effects don't get really bad until Level 4 exposure, Level 1 gives you Psychic Powers and anything lower than Level 5 is treatable.
- The canal network in Heaven's Reach, one of the alternate Exalted settings in Shards, is a sufficiently nasty place that it contains The Fair Folk, who dwell in the crazy-world that is the Wyld in the core setting, and all ships come with anima circuits to keep them from meeting horrific and bizarre fates. While most of the heavily travelled routes have had the evil kicked out of them over the years, the routes that were forgotten after the Malfean War have not.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In the Tomb of Horrors, going astral or ethereal while in the title tomb is not advisable. At all. It's an excellent way to get set upon and flayed alive by Type I-IV Demons.
- In the Spelljammer setting, the space between the Crystal Spheres is called the Phlogiston. While not as disturbing as other examples on this page, it's still dangerous. Besides some nasty creatures living in "The Flow", the multicolored "matter" that pervades it is extremely inflammable. Even a candle will cause a small fireball; any form of fire magic is extremely unadvised there. It as also some weird effects on living beings, like putting asphyxiating creatures into a coma rather than dying. Some travelers have tried using this property to spare resources while cruising the Phlogiston's currents, but there's no guarantee that the subjects would wake up.
- Fasa's old Renegade Legion setting was an interesting example. Tachyon Space wasn't scary per se, but normal matter wasn't capable of coping with it. If a jump lasted too long, you'd melt into a puddle of base elements before exploding into a shower of tachyons.
- Stars Without Number: trying to use a spike drive without someone on duty at all times is a really bad idea. In the sense that you will likely never be seen again.
- In Eclipse Phase, the Pandora Gates created by the TITANs can be... unpredictable. Stable connections will sometimes spontaneously shut down mid-transit, objects and gatecrashers occasionally disappear and never come out the other side, and exposure to the gates themselves can cause hallucinations and psychological side effects. And while according to transhumanity's understanding of their function, transit should be instantaneous, travelers sometimes report experiencing subjective hours or even days in a black void. Some gatecrashers say they heard whispering in the darkness, some recount terrifying experiences of encountering monstrous presences, and an unlucky few even come out the other side of the gate as a gibbering heap, their sanity ripped away by the transport.
- In Deadlands, the Hunting Grounds (the astral plane or the afterlife) double as hyperspace; the one and only human starship designed by Dr. Hellstromme used it for interstellar travel. If you are thinking Warhammer 40K or Event Horizon, you are right. The ship, unlike the Event Horizon, did have some form of Gellar field, but shabby and inefficient, which makes a trip aboard it terrible but survivable.
- Subverted hilariously in Qui Nguyen's play Fight Girl Battle World, in which the Human is told to brace for hyperspace, which then turns out to be funky hip-hop music. Everyone bobs their head in time. The human eventually catches on.
- In the web comic Bohemian Drive, one of the characters talks about the rumors he heard about wormhole technology as he steps into the teleportation booth, describing how it's this twisting, freaky experience. Then he subverts it by admitting that it's actually supposed to be quite smooth, as the welcome guy on the other side greets them with nothing else changing to indicate the change. Link
- Parodied (but of course) in a strip of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
- In Outsider, faster-than-light travel involves jumping between solar system's gravity wells. Miscalculating the jump can result in colliding with the star whose system you're targeting, bouncing off of real space until you eventually re-embed, being stranded in hyperspace, or being liberated into negative hyperspace. There's also the side effect (in non-Soia-Liron organisms, such as humans) of bad dreams and nausea after a jump.