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Living Gasbag
"The giant air-floater from the dark elf lands. Only the brave dare to hunt them, only the strong survive them."
A netch hunter on his quarry (which is pictured to the right), The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Dragonborn

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. Self-propelled forms employ Bizarre Alien Locomotion. May count as a Giant Flyer. May double as a Living Ship, in which case it's probably also a Cool Airship or even an Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Compare Space Whale and Zeppelins from Another World. May provide Balloonacy.

Definitely not to be confused with Gasshole.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • In the film A Tree Of Palme, the (apparently alien) planet is inhabited by a lot of floating jelly-fish like things. One type are referred to as "grass" and they may be the equivalent of plants, though there are also some earthly plants on this planet in a few places.

    Film 
  • Dagora, the Space Monster is a Japanese film involving diamond thieves and a giant space jellyfish.

    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 takes place on a planet completely surrounded by biological gas bags so densely that sunlight almost never reaches the surface - the only sunlight is around the only settlement's decrepit Space Elevator, as its point defenses blast any approaching gas bags.
  • David Brin has used this more than once:
    • In the Uplift series, the Bahtwin were uplifted from a lighter-than-air gasbag species that floated in their homeworld's atmosphere.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Expedition by Wayne Barlowe, and the Speculative Documentary based on it, Alien Planet, feature the many alien species which float above the ground in Darwin IV. One example is the almost-sapient Eosapien.
  • 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.
  • For once Warhammer 40,000 supplies an example that isn't Trying to Kill You. An offhand remark in Ciaphas Cain: Death or Glory mentions skywhales, which the accompanying footnote explains as a creature from Blease's World that lives on airborne pollen and produces hydrogen gas as a byproduct of its metabolism. The creatures are quite placid and the planet's human inhabitants have domesticated several subspecies to turn them into Zeppelins from Another World.
  • Several planets from the Humanx Commonwealth novels have animals like these.
  • The H'rulka in the Star Carrier series by Ian Douglas are a race of colony organisms (think Portuguese man o' war) that live in the upper atmospheres of hydrogen/helium gas giants. The colonies form floating organisms upwards of 200 meters long.
  • The Affront from The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks.

    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: A Personal Voyage, Carl Sagan theorized that life existing on a gas giant planet such as Jupiter would be most likely to evolve into this form.

    Other Sites 
  • SCP Foundation
    • SCP-312 ("Atmospheric Jellyfish"). It's a large jellyfish-like creature that floats in the air by heating atmospheric gasses within itself. It can release water vapor and control air currents to create a cloud around itself as camouflage. It hunts humans and floats above them. If the human looks up at the creature it will suck the human up into itself with a wind vortex and consume it.
    • SCP-1158 ("Arboreal Jellyfish Puppeteers"). SCP-1158 is an airborne, carnivorous predator that resembles a large Portuguese man-o-war (jellyfish). It floats using hydrogen produced from bacterial decay.
    • SCP-1308 ("Hungarian Floater"). SCP-1308 has a number of internal cavities filled with hydrogen gas. It propels itself by flapping its body using muscular contractions.
    • SCP-1784 ("Skywriter Sloths"). The sloths use electrolysis to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. They store the hydrogen in an internal bladder and use it to float in the air. They store the oxygen and use it to supplement their breathing at high altitudes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dark Sun has Floaters, a species of sentient (if somewhat dumb) hydrogen jellyfish.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dragon magazine "Dragon's Bestiary".
      • Issue #52. The Pelin is a large aerial creature that extracts hydrogen and helium and uses it to float, much like a zeppelin.
      • Issue #58. The Sull was a large creature that looked like a flying saucer. It floated by using buoyant gasses that were created by its digestive system and stored in its central hump. It moved around by sucking in air and spraying it (and its buoyancy gasses) out in the appropriate direction.
    • On a smaller scale, there's the Gas Spore, which contains buoyant gas with spores and explodes if hit.
    • The Lurker Above is a large (20 feet wide) monster that generates a gas in sacs in its body that give it neutral buoyancy. It uses its large "wings" to fly around.
  • The stalengers of the Living Land in TORG are floating, gas-filled beings with manipulative tentacles.
  • Mortasheen has the Miasmadusa, which is something like a gas-filled Man 'O War and can rain down deadly toxins on their opponents.
  • Traveller
    • Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #18 "The Bestiary". The Luugiir are aliens who look like small hot air balloons . They convert sunlight into electricity and use it to obtain hydrogen from water. They store the hydrogen in their gas bag, which causes them to float in the air. They have a maneuvering jet that expels air and allows them to move in a specific direction.
    • Challenge magazine #27 "Bestiary". The adult Oegongong aliens use a biological form of electrolysis to generate hydrogen from seawater. They use it to fill the sacs on their back: when the sacs become huge and balloon-like they float into the air and travel over the land where they drop their eggs.
    • FASA's supplement Rescue on Galatea. On the title planet is an aquatic alien creature called the muqath that's like a jellyfish with a shell. It has sacs filled with lighter-than-air gas that it uses for flight.
  • SPI's Universe science fiction RPG. In the list of encounters in the adventure guide, alien #28 has a balloon-like gasbag body with 6 two-foot long tentacles hanging from it. It is a Plant Alien that maintains buoyancy by producing lighter-than-air gasses inside its body out of air and sunlight. It propels itself by squirting gasses out its underside.

    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. StarCraft II adds Overseers, an evolution of Overlords, and Corrupters, who also seem to work on the gasbag principle.
  • 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 that provide the page picture. The native Dunmer domesticate them and use their hides to make leather. They reappear in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Dragonborn, having drifted from Vvardenfell to Solstheim after Red Mountain blew its top.
  • 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.
  • In Mass Effect, Eden Prime has "Gasbags" as part of its local wildlife, being completely harmless according to Jenkins. The tutorial has you optionally 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 franchise has several examples.
    • 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.
    • Koffing are spherical floating bags filled with toxic gases, with pores all over them for releasing those gases. Its evolved form, Weezing, is two Koffing fused together.
    • The Jigglypuff line is a subversion; though gasbags, they don't fly. (Except in the anime. In a few episodes, Harley's Wigglytuff does get airborne, though he has very little control once up there.)
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun: Firestorm has Tiberian Floaters, mutated lifeforms that release tiberium gas.
  • Exactly one enemy in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It promptly explodes.
  • Shadow of the Colossus: The thirteenth colossi (Phalanx) is a giant flying worm with dragonfly like wings that clearly don't do enough to keep it airborn. It also has large gas sacks which it presumably uses for lift, since shooting them with arrows deflates them and brings it down low enough for you to reach.
  • Nethack: The Gas Spores from Dungeons & Dragons also appear here, and they are the bane of all leeroys.
  • Schizm Mysterious Journey has an entire level filled with these. Some of them have mechanical attachments that you can interact with, and one uses a gas from the atmosphere to fill up small blimps for transportation.

    Webcomics 
  • The Oafa from Schlock Mercenary. They're giant, sentient sacs of hydrogen gas who use artificial speakers to communicate. Interestingly they use the same Galstandard Peroxide dialect as the aquatic Schuul.

    Western Animation 

Levitating Lotus PositionFlying TropesLove Floats
Lilliputian WarriorsIndex of Fictional CreaturesLiving Shadow
Blob MonsterBizarre Alien BiologySilicon-Based Life
The Elder Scrolls III: MorrowindImageSource/Video GamesCity Guards

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