The crews of the starships are funny that way
When they're not on a deck they do not like things quiet
Get thrown in the lockup, confined to the field,
And then, in a rush of filled forms and paid prices,
They exit, all quickly, with nothing to say
Sestina: Midnight stations,
In most Space Opera
settings space travel is commonplace and routine
, but in some settings there are people who spend almost their entire lives in space. These people were born and raised on a starship or space station and can't imagine living on a planet. Often they act as traders
, with an extended family
owning and operating a ship. Recently, with knowledge of the ill effects of extended periods in space, Spacers are increasingly portrayed as genetically engineered subspecies
that do not experience muscular and skeletal degeneration from zero-gravity, are immune to radiation, have prehensile toes... But even if they may be Transhuman
, their main reason for living in space is usually cultural: they consider it their own place. Even if they visit planets occasionally, they do not feel particularly attached to them, and may even consider them unpleasant.
If a Fantasy Counterpart Culture
, they may be comparable to Gypsies or other nomadic Earth-cultures. They often makes excellent engineers and pilots. They usually won't have any government beyond clan elders.
Compare Generation Ship
, where multiple generations are born and live out their entire lives on board a slow-moving ship headed for a distant planet.
are a common subtrope.
Anime and Manga
- The Abh of Crest of the Stars are a genetically engineered race, with key modifications being a third eye to better navigate in three dimensions and the ability to withstand high acceleration and microgravity.
- In Serenity Kaylee refers to their ship as their home. They don't really seem to have another.
- Mal really doesn't anymore. His homeworld was Shadow, a Independent stronghold, which suffered such intense Orbital Bombardment from the Alliance during the Unification War, the entire planet was left a "black rock" afterwards.
- Similarly, Zoe was born on a ship, not dirtside. She literally has no homeworld.
- In Titan A.E. the entire human race ends up as this. Some people, such as Cale, live as second class citizens on space stations and (presumably) planets but the Drifter colonies adhere closely to this trope and even lash ships together for more living space.
Live Action Television
- C. J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe has humanity divided culturally into planet-siders, stationers, and spacers. Spacers are usually organized into merchant clans owning one or more ships. They also have one-night stands in ports to prevent inbreeding.
- One of Larry Niven's stories (two, actually: The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring) features the descendants of stranded astronauts who live in a cloud surrounding a star. They are extremely tall (around 3m) and slim and have elongated toes, as well as a high infant mortality rate due to the lack of gravity.
- There are a number of these in the Vorkosigan Saga
- Elli Quinn, who was born on a space station, regards actual planets as dirty and uninviting.
- An entire Human Subspecies known as "Quaddies", who were genetically engineered with an extra set of hands where their legs would normally be and with a number of other genetic modifications to make them capable of surviving indefinitely in microgravity or freefall, are kind of an enforced example. They're also a former Slave Race rendered surplus to requirements by the invention of Artificial Gravity and were forced to flee Earth.
- In Isaac Asimov's novella The Martian Way men who make a living from salvaging space junk live mostly in space. Despite having gravity on the spacecraft they still suffer from ill-effects from living in space, such as being scrawny and being exposed to too much U.V radiation.
- The "Free Traders" in the Robert A. Heinlein juvenile Citizen of the Galaxy live in nomadic clans whose homes are their starships. They are noted for being somewhat disdainful of planet-dwellers, whom they sometimes refer to as "fraki".
- Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future: the Vacuumorphs, exoskeletal Humans that are used as living space scouting probes that have all of their vulnerable parts sealed up so they can survive the natural elements of outer space without the need of a ship. And its never mentioned that anyone from Earth retrieves them. In other words Vacuumorphs are cursed to stay in high orbit without any way of directly seeing or communicating with the outside universe (except through their surgically attached planetary surveying equipment) and are (presumably) forced to consume nothing but their own recycled natural waste until finally accidentally falling towards and burning up in a random planet's atmosphere. They cannot even travel through space- it is stated that are high-orbit space ship engineers only. Their bodies cannot operate or even survive in gravity at all - and that includes the artificial gravity of an accelerating space ship. They're stuck in near-Earth space.
- Many of the Ultranauts in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space Series have never set foot on anything that isn't man-made. They're a loose and decentralised faction of humanity that are part this trope, and part Loveable Rogue antiheroes (or, sometimes outright antivillains or villains). Though small in their total population, Ultranauts are a very disparate group of people, ranging from normal humans to cyborgs, and from wanderers or traders to the equivalent of space pirates.
- The prequels to Enders Game, particularly Earth Unaware have clans of Asteroid Miners competing with corporate ships. Many of them have lived in microgravity so long they couldn't stand on Earth or even Mars.
- Luckily, Victor arrives to Luna (i.e. the Moon), where gravity is even lower than on Mars. He does spend a considerable amount of time prior to his trip exercising his leg muscles, but he is then forced to spend several months in a tiny cockpit without much chance to move around.
- In Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Gilmore's Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, the titular character and other space traders like him spend most of the time aboard their ships. In fact, laws hard-wired into all ship computers is that, if a space trader spends more than a year on any single world without traveling elsewhere, his ship becomes fair game for anyone wishing to take his place. There are also people living in zero-g (or very low-g) space habitats. When French shows the picture of one to his wife, the person looks barely human.
- The titular captain explains that when he became a space trader (the first of his kind), he quickly realized that someone like that can't ever be truly wealthy (i.e. have tons of money in banks, own companies, live in castles, etc.) due to the nature of interstellar travel. Since traveling between stars takes at least decades from the viewpoint of anyone planetbound (while only a split-second for the traveler), it wouldn't make sense to trust the locals of any planet to remain stable for this period of time. After all, economies can crash, banks can go out of business, and property can be seized by a corrupt and/or dictatorial government. Thus, a space trader must subscribe to the old adage "Omnia mea mecum porto" ("I carry my things with me") and keep all his/her property aboard the ship.
- The Lo'ona Aeo in Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark series are a race of Space Elves who have voluntarily left their homeworld and colonies to live aboard large artificial orbital habitats called "astroids" (not a typo). Some of those worlds (namely, those in the border regions) are given to their Defenders as part of the payment for their services. The core worlds are kept as preserves and museums. Being extremely xenophobic (but also a race of Technical Pacifists), they never directly interact with members of other races, preferring to deal with them through their genetically-engineered Servant Race called Servs. Each Lo'ona Aeo clan typically has its own astroid, the climate of which can be adjusted to any preference. Population Control is in place to prevent inbreeding and to keep "undesirable" genetic lines from propagating.
- Ousters from Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos have been living in space for so long that they are no longer able to survive on Earth-like planets without supportive equipment, mainly to move around in 1 g gravity.
- The main characters from Angel Station hail from a space-dwelling culture which considers planets dirtballs - hostile, filthy and depressing. Honestly, what else could be said of a place at the very bottom of a deep gravity well?
- Close to three-fifths of the population of the Eldraeverse are spacers, and most of them are modified in various ways to be better at space-dwelling.
- Stargate Atlantis has the Travelers, who fled the Wraith in a fleet of starships centuries ago and now wander the stars, keeping one step ahead from the Wraith. They did try to start a colony on a planet late in the series though, but unfortunately due to the Attero device being reactivated, their Stargate ended up going critical and also destroying their largest ship.
- Part of Travis Mayweather's backstory in Star Trek: Enterprise is that he comes from such a family, and thus has a lot more experience in space than most of the crew. Naturally, his family (when they show up) fit as well.
- One of the reasons is because those 22nd century freighters could only safely cruise at warp 1.5, about 4-5 times the speed of light. This means that even the trip to a nearby star would take many months, if not years. When warp 3 drives become more available, freighter captains begin to upgrade.
- GURPS Transhuman Space has the libertarian Duncanites, who invented a parahuman template for life in microgravity. As well as a number of groups that live around the Lagrange points in oftentimes poorly maintained habitats.
- In Eclipse Phase the majority of transhumanity lives in space habitats following The Fall (though there are significant populations on Mars, Venus, and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn). In addition one faction, the Scum, live on converted colony ships.
- In Traveller there are a number of people like this including one human minor race. Free Traders are implied to often live like this. And while not the same thing there are a large number of people who while living on planet have more connection to intersteller life then their homeworld.
- Traveller assumes Artificial Gravity and other high-tech perks. The chief annoyance would be the crowding and the closed space; a Traveller starship would be no more uncomfortable then a ship on the ocean.
- BattleTech: Most of Clan Sea Fox reside in "arcships" converted from warships and mercantile jumpships. Especially following their forced migration to the Inner Sphere.
- Warhammer 40,000 features several examples:
- The Tau Air Caste is an entire caste of space pilots, whose bodies have adapted to living outside of planetary gravity.
- The Eldar are remnants of their fallen empire, and most of them reside in massive Craftworlds, moon-sized spaceships which hold millions of Eldar.
- Spaceship-centric supplements such as Battlefleet Gothic or Rogue Trader explain that "voidborn" are common in the Imperium, due to the massive crews of Imperial vessels and the centuries, if not millennia, they spend in service. This results in bloodlines that have served aboard a specific ship for generations, as well as the occasional feral tribe forming on seldom-used or forgotten decks.
- In Mass Effect, this is one of Shepard's possible backgrounds. A Spacer Shepard's parents were both in the Alliance Navy, meaning s/he was raised onboard starships for most of their life.
- It's implied that this is actually common amongst Alliance personnel, with Joker mentioning that he was born and raised aboard Arcturus Station, headquarters of the Alliance Parliament, while averted with Ashley's family, who's father intentionally tranferred to a planetary colony because he didn't want their childhood to be spent cramped aboard starships and without a proper home.
- There are also the Quarians who live entirely in space, the Migrant Fleet having fled their homeworld centuries previously after a Robot War nearly wiped them out. Living in a sterile environment, lead to their already weak immune systems atrophying, meaning they are now forced to wear isolation suits even on their own ships, as a result.
- Male Morrigi in Sword of the Stars spend their entire lives after the age of three in space, only "descending" upon a planet to trade or mate. Probably accounts partially for the size difference between males and the planet-bound females.
- In UFO: Aftershock, you start on a giant space station called Laputa (no, not that one) that orbits the Earth. Its inhabitants have been living on the station long enough to even forget where they came from.
- The Gatekeepers of Schlock Mercenary are aliens who have, as a result of 100,000 years of genetic engineering, more limbs than can be easily counted and the ability to survive vacuum for short periods.
- In Freefall Winston Thurmad has spacer genes (Gene mods mostly consisting of anti-atrophy measures and an inability to grow hair) and his parents live in an asteroid, but he himself hasn't been in space since the colony ship from home.
- Orion's Arm has Space Adapted People, Vacuum Adapted People (for short periods), and Sailors of the Ebon Seas.
- Void Dogs has "space gypsies" as well as a parahuman whose feet are more like hands.
- While Chakona Space's most well known race of near-perfect, genetically engineered hermaphrodite centaurs prefer terrestrial environments there are also Starwalker Stellar foxtaurs that are designed to withstand microgravity and survive vacuum for about an hour.