- Faster-Than-Light Travel; space travel is limited to sub-light speeds and is difficult, time consuming, and expensive
- Space aliens, unless the connection is distant, difficult, tenuous and expensive — and they have no FTL travel either
- Alternative Universes interacting with the universe the characters are in.
- Functional Magic
- Time Travel
- Fundamental inaccuracies regarding space
open/close all folders
- Planetes is a show about, essentially, garbage disposal in space, with the protagonists being responsible for ensuring that orbital debris is disposed of to prevent other spacecraft from crashing into it. Political and social factors back on Earth affected by the rise of commercial spaceflight also play a role in the later development of the plot.
- Most of the early Astro Boy stories were surprisingly grounded in reality, since Tezuka wanted to create a future world his viewers could relate to. For example, in the entire history of the franchise there's been only one mention of a human-built spacecraft leaving the solar system (at the end of The Transparent Giant). Later stories went a little crazy with the alien invaders, though.
- Uchuu Kyoudai is about as hard as it gets, being about two Japanese astronauts who participate in NASA's Project Constellation (which was canceled in the real world).
- The Tintin comic-books Tintin Destination Moon and Tintin Explorers On The Moon, feature a deliberately scientifically-realistic (minus some Science Marches On) depiction of a manned moon mission that preceded NASA's by several years but anticipated several details of it. (Yes, really!). Hergé described his vision for the story as "No moonmen, no monsters, no incredible surprises".
- 2001: A Space Odyssey: For instance, it averts Space Is Noisy and space stations use Centrifugal Gravity rather than Artificial Gravity. Aliens are never seen, and it is left ambiguous whether the events following David Bowman's encounter with the monolith (which would require FTL travel) are literally happening or are all just in his head. (Interestingly, this ambiguity allows the film adaptation to meet the Manifesto while the book by Arthur C. Clarke did not.)
- The Matrix series sidesteps a lot of Manifesto-prohibited tropes by setting the action on Earth After the End with human-created Artificial Intelligence as the villains, and by framing most the spectacular physics violations as happening in simulations in an enormous Virtual Reality system. Unfortunately, the realism of the setting takes a big hit for using humans as "batteries", although the original concept of humans-as-distributed-processors was relatively plausible
- Destination Moon (no relation to the Tintin comic aside from the subject matter) and Project Moonbase. Both these movies had Robert A. Heinlein as a consultant and were very realistic.
- Moon Zero Two, a space adventure movie Hammer made in the 70s. It's meticulously realistic, the only thing it has that is a little iffy scientifically is Artificial Gravity, which they only inserted because they didn't have enough money to do moon gravity effects for the entire movie.
- Moon has been described as "like 2001: A Space Odyssey except it actually makes sense." It was screened at NASA's Space Center in Houston at the request of one of the professors there, due to its realistic depiction of helium-3 mining.
- There are many, many examples in Speculative Fiction literature, and indeed many books and short stories were pretty explicitly written to popularise real scientific and technological issues. Some examples have therefore dated badly as Science Marches On. A very partial list would include:
- From Greg Bear: In The Forge of God, while there are aliens, they are never seen. Instead we see a robotic Horde of Alien Locusts that they dispatch to destroy us. The sequel, Anvil of Stars, is not as adherent, while FTL is still impossible, humans travel between the stars at sublight speeds, and develop Applied Phlebotinum that borders on Functional Magic.
- Paradises Lost, a Generation Ship story by Ursula K. Le Guin. No aliens, no faster-than-light travel, just a slow ship full of humans traveling (mostly out of scientific curiosity) towards a distant, possibly habitable planet.
- Most work by Alastair Reynolds. All of his work averts Space Does Not Work That Way, as he worked for the European Space Agency as an astronomer, and has a doctorate in the same subject.
- Existence is David Brin's take on this trope. Unlike his more famous Uplift series there's no supertech FTL or psionics, and aliens only appear as uploaded "Emissaries" in crystalline Artifacts hurled at STL speeds over countless millions of years and they're all extinct as far as one can tell.
- The majority of Robert Reed's novels and short stories follow most or all of the mundane dogma and are generally fairly scientifically hard:
- The Great Ship series has no FTL and the science is ground in modern-day physics. However, aliens are present and fairly common on the Great Ship, albeit very starfishy, due to the presence of life-extension procedures that make slower-than-light interstellar travel possible.
- Sister Alice. Bar possibly the presence of Subspace Ansible tech - it's never made clear if communication is FTL as characters operate in the span of centuries and millenia - and the climax involving the creation of a new pocket universe, the technology is fantastic - stellar-sized dark matter machinery - but mundane and ground in known physics.
- The Leeshore is mundane to the core. FTL is non-existant, and the only fantastic tech shown is the "i-ply" computronium material and its lesser derivatives which are used as a construction material.
- Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's novel Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise largely fits this trope. The biggest offenders here are near-light-speed travel that is described as a form of teleportation, so virtually no time passes for the ship's crew while decades may pass for the outside world, and a one-time medical procedure that turns a human into The Ageless. Otherwise, most of the other tenets are observed, including the lack of FTL travel, interstellar travel in general being expensive, rare, and time-consuming (from an objective viewpoint, at least) and Absent Aliens. In fact, interstellar travel is so rare that there are hardly more than several hundred starships in existence at the time the novel is set (roughly 20,000 years in the future) despite the presence of thousands of colonies, the vast majority of them being space traders, who represent the only link between the settled worlds (no Subspace Ansible, and normal lightspeed communication is too expensive and useless to most people), with an occasional one-shot colony ship or a religious sect of some sort who managed to scrape together enough money.
- Kevin J. Anderson's Blindfold largely follows the dogma, the biggest violation would be the presence of a bacterium that, when ingested, temporarily allows for a form of Psychic Powers, although the author tries to explain it in a plausible way (it supposedly boosts a person's electrical perception sense to allow for touch telepathy, since our thoughts are little more than electrical impulses). FTL Travel is absent, and the colony of Atlas is completely on its own, being far enough away from Earth that it takes several decades for a ship to reach it. In fact, there have only been four ships arriving to the planet in the history of the colony, including the original colony ship, a prison transport (the prisoners integrated fairly well into the main population), a warship (sent by a militant Earth government, but the invasion was thwarted), and a missionary vessel. Another ship is expected to arrive within a decade. It's heavily implied that Atlas is humanity's only extrasolar colony due to the massive effort it takes to put together an interstellar mission. Additionally, despite the fact that the colony is several centuries old, it still only covers a fraction of the planet's surface. The colony uses both the Feudal Future and We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future tropes. The only means of getting to space involves the use of a Space Elevator that connects the hub of the colony to a ship that has been converted into a Space Station (both are destroyed at the end of the novel, meaning this capability is also lost).
- The Expanse largely qualifies. All of the human technology is largely within what is possible. A notable element is that it even lacks inertial dampners of any sort. Every G of maneuver that their ships pull is passed directly to the crew. Which makes combat maneuvers difficult at best. Though something in the setting is truly alien and there is little idea what it really is.
Live Action TV
- Firefly is arguably on the dividing line: most of the setting is quite mundane - no FTL, no aliens, no teleportation or time travel...and it is one of very few TV series examples to get the properties of space (e.g. no propagation of sounds in vacuum) right. However, there are several instances preventing it from truly fitting the trope:
- At least one notable instance involving psionic powers (which may or may not qualify as Functional Magic)
- Ubiquitous artificial gravity which is not achieved via rotation and ensuing centrifugal force and whose mechanism is unexplained (the rotation variant is seen on stations, such as Neeska's station, but not on ships)
- Too casual interplanetary travel: while FTL is not possible, so that interstellar travel has to be done with generation ships (that is how the system the series takes place in was originally colonized), and all the space travel is intra-system, it doesn't come off as particularly costly or difficult - which even "mere" interplanetary travel should be.
- While the series is generally quite realistic and plausible as far as tech levels go (Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better, no AIs etc.), some tech items/weapons, like the laser pistol in Heart of Gold, are not very plausible: weapons-grade lasers intended to do more than blind someone should be much larger due to the cooling system required and have an external power supply - they should not look like small handguns (unless materials that are superconductive at room temperature and cigarette-pack sized, but high-capacity power cells have been developed in the verse).
- Defying Gravity, although there is some debate about whether or not the Antares' communication system is FTL, even though it is never explicitly stated or even implied to be so. It appears to be FTL, because characters millions of kilometers away will be carrying on a casual conversation without any time lag, but this may just be for the audience's convenience. The characters could in fact have been waiting around for minutes at a time for their friends to respond to their messages offscreen.
- Transhuman Space (a GURPS setting). In the year 2100, there is no FTL, no aliens, no breaking physical laws. But the sheer alienness of the people inhabiting this setting is both realistic and overwhelming.
- Phil Eklund's High Frontier, a boardgame, is about scientifically-plausible exploration and exploitation of the resources in the solar system. The expansion, High Frontier: Interstellar, focuses on the building, launch, and travel of non-FTL colony starships.
- While the space colony management simulator RimWorld is set in a far-future setting, technology is restricted to the plausible (if obviously very advanced). Faster-Than-Light Travel and true aliens are noticeably absent.
- Space Engineers takes place in the year 2077 and eschews almost all science fiction favorites like shields and FTL; only Artificial Gravity generators remain, an Acceptable Break from Reality as magnetic boots would severely limit spaceship interior design. Space Friction is absent, with only an arbitrary maximum speed which can be raised but with many unintended consequencesnote .
- Kerbal Space Program uses only modern or near-future / in-development rocket technology, plus a few abandoned rocket programs like the NERVA nuclear rocket. Aside from some rocket performance skewing for the sake of fun, the game relies on real physics. The only break from the mundane dogma are the Kerbals themselves, who appear as cartoonishly proportioned Little Green Men. Various Game Mods deviate from the dogma, such as the Interstellar mod introducing an Alcubierre Drive