World in the Sky
"Hallelujah."This is less a World Shape, and more a series of world pieces. Landmasses, with or without internal seas, float suspended in an atmosphere. They can range in size from tiny "islands" to huge continents with vast civilizations. Impossiblenote under physics resembling ours, worlds of this type are usually found exclusively in fantasy. What keeps them hovering? Where does the gravity come from? What's keeping the atmosphere in place? Nobody knows, but maybe A Wizard Did It. Do not expect the outcome of falling off the side of one of these pieces to be properly explored. Sci-fi version will generally be landmass floating inside gas giant's atmosphere. Compare Shattered World, for broken worlds IN SPACE! and Floating Continent, which usually exists in a more normal world with people also living on the surface below. See also The Sky Is an Ocean, which is almost always used in worlds like these. Also, Ocean Punk, for an actual ocean, can sometimes be a Post-Apocalyptic Earth.
— Countdown Voice, BioShock Infinite
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Anime & Manga
- Edolas from the Anima arc of Fairy Tail was an Earthlike land with an assortment of floating islands, including the one carrying the Exceeds' homeland of Exteria, and another that the King used to store the Magnolia La'cryma.
- The Mu world of RahXephon is not quite a World In The Sky: there's one landmass. However, that piece of land quickly got overcrowded, so the Mu built gigantic flying cities that allowed the vast majority of them to live anywhere over the vast ocean.
- Eva Procorpio in Shakara lives in a floating villa on (?) the planet Terraqueouis, a world which seems to consist entirely of floating villas.
- The Mighty Thor: Marvel's Asgard was always depicted as a huge island floating in extradimensional space.
Films — Animation
- The beautiful Australian animated short film The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005) is set in a gothic-Steam Punk world of floating islands and floating Victorian-style cities wreathed in smoke and criss-crossed by bridges. Airmen in steam-driven iron dirigibles trawl the aerial trading routes between city-states. Universities send explorers and cloud biologists on expeditions into "uncharted air". There is downward gravity: people can fall off airships into unknown depths.
Films — Live-Action
- It's implied in the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon that Ming's kingdom is actually a collection of floating continents in atmosphere. Near the end of the movie, Flash suggests escaping the Hawkmen's world by making parachutes and jumping down to Arborea, and Dr. Zarkov doesn't rule it out.
- The novel The Shattered World (1984) by J. Michael Reaves is set entirely in a "world" consisting of floating islands (actually pieces of a former shattered planet) surrounded by a sphere of breathable air, each with its own ecosphere and some degree of (magically enhanced and directional) gravity. The islands are stabilized and kept from crashing into each other by magical rune stones created by the mages who originally saved mankind from being wiped out when the planet crumbled. The only way of crossing the void from one fragments to another is flying airships, since the void has no gravity, which means that fragments may float "upside down" over each other and vegetation can overgrow an island completely.
- An unusual, real-physics variation occurs in Larry Niven's Integral Trees, set in the "smoke ring": The smoke ring is a toroidal cloud of gas and matter which orbits a very low-output neutron star, which in turn orbits a sun-like star in a binary configuration. It includes a ring of breathable atmosphere, in which reside a number of flying plants and animals, including some humans who've "gone native".
- TP* novel by Vitaliy Babenko has another relatively hard example. Possibly inspired by the same discovery of Io's gas "doughnut". One of antagonists keeps teleporting a kidnapped boy to different planets For the Evulz and one of planets is a similar air torus, where everybody keeps falling indefinitely. It's inhabited by seemingly hostile archaeopteryx-like creatures. Later another antagonist gets stuck there forever.note Archaeopteryxes turn out to be sentient and possess teleporter technology, but don't see humans as worth contacting — they treat their guest as a pet and keep him in a pennage. Oh, and it was overuse of teleporters that destroyed their rocky planet and twisted gravity to hold its atmosphere in a torus.
- Arianus, from the first book of The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, is a series of continental islands floating at different levels. Apparently, they're made of a sort of coral filled with floaty gas.
- The Edge Chronicles features a small city built on a floating rock, which in turn was anchored to a city built upon a far larger floating rock. Which had "gardens" of stones similar to it, that occasionally grew large enough to become less dense than air and float away into the sky. The floating city was kept from floating away via a combination of many huge anchors and a lump of impossibly dense material that was deposited by special lightning bolts and exploded extremely violently if broken in anything other than twilight and as such grains of it were incredibly valuable.
- The Ellimist's world is stated to be this, in the Animorphs book The Ellimist Chronicles. Or rather, it's caused and maintained by the Ellimist's people — the surface is too inhospitable to live on, so they live on chunks of crystal held aloft by their flying residents. Their names are more like addresses, they have strictly scheduled free-fly and rest time, and not much else about their culture (such as where they actually get food) is given much detail.
- In The Player of Games, one of the character wants to build one of those, because it would cooler than the artificial worlds usually made by the Culture (which just show how blasé the Culture citizens can be: Ring Worlds and sapient spaceships with hundreds of millions of people living inside can be deemed boring). The Culture's technology would allow it to build such a world, except that it would be a lot of energy and matter lost on a whim.
- Karl Schroeder's Virga series takes place inside a Hollow World filled with air, where people, ships, entire cities, and man-made miniature "suns" float around. To the inhabitants, their world is the sky, filled with islands of matter. Virga also inverts this trope, since technically, their sky is the world.
- In the Forgotten Realms series The Empyrean Odyssey, a succubus attempts to escape Mount Celestia by falling off the side. She keeps falling through clouds until finally giving up, and it is implied you can fall forever and never reach ground. As soon as she starts flying up, she emerges from the clouds at the same place she entered them.
- In Minla's Flowers by Alastair Reynolds, the protagonist is forced to land on a world with dozens of floating continents: the shattered remnants of a shield designed to camouflage the actual surface from the Absolute Xenophobe Huskers. The camouflage fragments have some form of anti-gravity, allowing them to hover several thousand meters in the air, where they have flipped over and subsequently gathered water and vegetation. The fragments hold a human society that uses zeppelins and primitive airplanes for travel.
- Warhammer 40,000
- The setting features an entire planet of floating islands, some about the size of a pebble, others entire cities. Of course, these Islands are floating in orbit around a black hole, so yeah...
- Also the Vespid homeworld, which is described as an immense gas giant with islands of rock floating at levels in the atmosphere where displacement would dictate that they float in the super-dense gasses.
- Multiple floating islands provide the name of the Tabletop Game Skyrealms Of Jorune.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The Ravenloft setting consists of chunks of landscape — the Core, Clusters, and Islands — adrift in a directionless zone of supernatural Mists. Each piece of landscape has its own gravity and own climate, and appears to have its own sky and horizons, but travel too far, dig too deep, or fly too high and you'll still wind up at the Misty Border. One of the domains, Aerie, is actually a Floating Continent of the conventional sort as well.
- Planescape: the outer plane of Ysgard consists of continents floating atop immense rivers of earth flowing forever through an endless skyscape.
- This trope also applies to the Elemental Plane of Air, where the rare floating bits of land are highly valuable. Falling isn't so much an issue due the plane's "selective gravity" trait, which allows visitors to choose which way is "down" for them at any time.
- The Astral Plane can have shades of this trope also, in areas where matter is present.
- The Spelljammer campaign also introduces "air-based worlds" as possible setting (along with the classical earth planets, fire suns and water worlds), which have no solid ground but can include some floating islands.
- Sufficient numbers of floating continents turn up in the Mystara setting to suggest this trope, both in outer-world Floating Ar (A Wizard Did It) and orbiting the inner sun of the Hollow World (The Immortals Did It). Subverted in the former case, as the people of Ar still depend on resources from the land or sea beneath them.
- Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies takes place within a dome thousands of miles across, filled with floating islands ranging from near-continents with their own seas to tiny islets. There's also a region called the Sky of Stones filled with floating boulders.
- In Urza's Saga from Magic: The Gathering we find Serra's realm where angels rule over peasants who can't travel from one farmland to another. Seen in this card.
- Jupiter in Rocket Age has sky islands that form in the atmosphere from collected debris. The islands become a haven for various fast breeding creatures for the short time before they sink under their own weight deeper into the atmosphere.
- The Lady's Rock setting for Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition combined floating sky-islands with the principles of Discordianism.
- Venus in Eclipse Phase has a dozen or so "aerostat" habitats in the upper atmosphere. Basically balloons filled with an Earth-like atmosphere and inhabited, the planet's atmosphere is so dense that they float.
- Ara Fell features a series of floating continents, on one of which the story takes place. In the storyline of the aborted sequels, these continents are revealed to be a prison created by the allaround evil Shadow Spawn and on which all living creatures dwell, and their collapse is the story's final aim.
- Skies of Arcadia would be the most obvious example, although there are hints that it may not always have been that way. Though there is solid ground below, it's not habitable and no-one even knows it's there until events late in the game.
- Ar tonelico
- Ever since the Grathnode Inferia, the floating continent flocks of Sol Ciel, Metafalss and Sol Cluster (each preserved from destruction only by its central Server Tower) are the only habitable place in Ar Ciel, what with the Sea of Death below and the plasma Blastline above.
- Metafalss isn't even a continent. The people are living on the mechanism that was supposed to build the Tower for temporary use. During the course of the game, they create an entirely new floating continent separate from the Tower because Metafalss was quite literally falling apart. The only tower that was actually designed from the start to live on was the First Tower, Sol Ciel.
- The land of Etheria in King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride is made of floating, beautifully vegetated rocks in the sky.
- The Emperor's New Groove Playstation 2 game.
- The SNES game Bahamut Lagoon takes place almost entirely on floating continents, called "lagoons".
- Outland in World of Warcraft consists of the blasted shards of Draenor, home of the orcs and ogres, which now hang suspended in an interdimensional void. The Skywall and Firelands sections of the Elemental Plane, as seen in some dungeons, raids, and daily zones, give this idea as well.
- The "border world" of Xen in Half-Life consists of strange islands floating through a nebulous void.
- Samorost and Samorost 2 take place in a world like this except IN SPACE with very unusual islands/planets including ones that seem to made of giant driftwood. Machinarium takes place in the same world though seemingly on a much larger landmass (which also has a sky, unlike the ones from Samorost).
- The Ray's Maze series of World Builder graphical adventure games includes a setting known as "The Void", which is made up of hunks of dirt and rock varying in size between a pebble and a large island floating in a breathable atmosphere. Presumably infinite in size, it appears as though it even rains there, and falling off whatever you're standing on is a common way to die. While flying between islands is pretty much unknown (the "jump doors" of the series are the primary means of transport), two prominent features of the setting are the Lost Technology left behind by the Precursors and the giant voidbeast.
- The Shadow Shard of City of Heroes, a world shattered by a mad godlike being (it's implied that this world is an alternate version of Earth). It's also implied that the entire Shadow Shard is really inside the mind of said "god" and that the non-human inhabitants are all fractions of his shattered psyche.
- The setting of Sacrifice features several floating islands in a vast void. This is only vaguely explained as "In the early days when the world was torn asunder terrible magical energies were released and blah blah blah blah blah..." And yes, it actually says the blahs.
- The freeware game Skyrates, set in the land of Skytopia is entirely made of these.
- The Age of Spire in Myst IV: Revelation consists of giant floating mountains in orbit around what looks like a neutron star. The physics are sufficiently well-described to trigger massive fan speculation on exactly how it works. Supplemental materials explain that when the core of the world became too magnetically active, the planet tore itself into pieces as the core pushed away the rest of the planet. Now the fragments' aggregate gravity pulling inward is in equilibrium with the magnetic push outward. Fortunately for Sirrus, the fragments also had enough gravitational mass to keep an atmosphere.
- Narayan from Myst III: Exile also uses this concept, with lighter-than-air inflatable pods keeping chunks of vegetation afloat.
- Septerra from Septerra Core. Its shape (and purpose) plays a part in the storyline.
- The game Netstorm: Islands at War is set on Nimbus, a world of flying islands that the inhabitants maneuver to fight the occupants of other islands. Note that the islands themselves never move relative to each other during the actual game, they are just land on which you can build. They also can't be destroyed (but the things you build on them certainly can). Making scientific sense was not high on the agenda.
- A twist in Pokémon Platinum: the Distortion World consists of floating islands, not all of which share the same gravitational orientation. At one point you get to Surf vertically between two islands.
- Both the Rage Of Mages and Spellforce series use the "long ago there was a cataclysm that shattered the world into floating islands, but some great mage or other managed to prevent it from falling apart completely." Oddly enough, in both series this property of the world is more backstory than anything, as the locations look pretty much like you'd expect a typical fantasy world to look (forests, deserts, snow wastes, active volcanoes) and the characters are almost never confronted with "world's edge". In Spellforce, at least, it's little more than a Hand Wave for why the game world is composed of a number of completely disparate maps that can only be reached via portals — the technical reason being that it uses Real-Time Strategy style maps coupled with Role-Playing Game style backtracking, and this is what it ends up looking like.
- The MMORTS Time of Defiance is built around this trope.
- Tail Concerto takes place on an archipelago of floating islands, surrounded by an impenetrable air reef (or "Airleaf", as the game misromanizes it, but then again, Atlus translations weren't always well-researched back then).
- Solatorobo takes place in the same universe as Tail Concerto, and also reveals that the floating islands are actually the remenants of a Post-Apocalyptic Earth
- In Hoshigami Ruining Blue Earth, the entire known world is a floating continent. And every time someone uses magic, it saps a little of the energy of the elemental spirits holding the continent up.
- The Neverhood and other locations in the same universe float in a vast, mostly-empty blackness. The Hall of Records actually explains why this is, but it's hard to get through because it's just so freaking long.
- World 4 in Dragon Quest Monsters 2 is this trope.
- Apparently Hotline Tetris leads to such a world.
- The Granstream Saga takes place on 4 floating islands (and a huge flying battleship), one for each element: Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth in that order.
- Some of the planets in both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 appear to be floating in a blue sky with nothing below them. In fact, the Mushroom World (the Mario Bros.' home planet) is actually floating in a blue sky background in the second game's map of World 1! That is, there are blue skies and clouds, and sometimes faint multitudes of stars, in all directions. In these regions of the universe, space itself resembles a surreal version of Earth's daytime sky, with planets, moons, asteroids, and sometimes even stars floating around in it. It is possibly the most literal image of this trope.
- Bug! has each level look like a series of huge Floating Platforms, and if you fell off any of them, you went splat.. in mid-air, as there was actually no ground below. Subverted as the entire level took place on a stage set, as Bug was a movie star
- Baten Kaitos takes place on several islands floating above the Earth, which was tainted during the War of the Gods to the point where it became uninhabitable.
- The prequel Baten Kaitos Origins expands on this premise. Not only do you learn the Earth beneath the Taintclouds is very much inhabited and actually quite pleasant if a little gloomy, but you also get to travel back in time and not only witness but take part in the War of the Gods.
- Wizard 101 is a mixture of this and Shattered World. It use to be a single world but fighting between the Titans broke it apart and the islands are currently held in orbit by magic.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the inhabitants of Skyloft think their world is this, but they're really just a Floating Continent above a more normal world.
- The End seems to qualify. It's a floating continent made of a type of white stone, with obsidian towers and is the home dimension of the Endermen.
- There's also the old fan-made map "skylands". No points for guessing why it's called that.
- The Aether mod adds a new dimension made up entirely of floating continents.
- Skylanders takes place in a world called, of course, Skylands: a giant cluster of floating islands that contain different game areas for the player to interact with, including several villages, castles, caverns and factories.
- Project Nomads is set in a ruined steampunk world, where people pilot floating chunks of land.
- Gamindustri in Hyperdimension Neptunia and its remake is this trope, with each nation floating in the sky in separate landmass, connected to each other by cables. There's no know landmass below. Other games set Gamindustri on continents surrounded by oceans, however.
- The land of Atmos in Stormhawks is one of these, with the different teras ranging in size from large enough for a big city to small enough for a farm or two. The extremely dangerous and uninhabitable solid ground below is known as the Wasteland.
- Skyland takes place a couple centuries in the future when the world has been torn apart into floating "blocks" rotating around the Earth's previous core.
- Code Lyoko: The four main sectors of Lyoko are composed of floating islands above the Digital Sea. The Mountain Sector, in particular, evokes this trope.
- Such a setup, with floating islands in a limitless sky after a great catastrophe shattered the planet, and people traveling around with airships, exists in the French cartoon Dragon Hunters ("Chasseurs de dragons" 2004, German "Die Drachenjäger"). In this series, there's a definite "downward" direction, meaning you can fall off or jump off an island, and there are waterfalls. Populated fragments range in size from those sufficient for a house and small farm to those the size of a good-sized island, and even pebbles may float in the air over the surface of bigger landmasses. (It is never explained why some stones float and others don't, but hey, it looks cool.) Some populated fragments are tethered together with rope bridges. Uncommon in such settings, magic in Dragon Hunters is almost nonexistent, and where it exists it is part of the scenery, such as an enchanted fairy-tale spring or monsters breathing fire. The characters have clockwork and bamboo technology but no steam tech or magic items.
- Ellie the Ace has the land of Lockhart.
- Gases may leave a planet's atmosphere but stay near the planet's orbit forming a gas torus. At least 2 such clouds are observed in Solar system: Jupiter's moon Io and Saturn's Enceladus, similar doughnut may exist for Saturn's Titan. The former two have weak gravity (allowing to lose gases quickly), active volcanoes (allowing to replenish what was lost) and orbit a primary with a strong magnetic field. Of course, none of them would allow earth-like life, but it was the study of Io's plasma torus that inspired Niven's Integral Trees novels. While highly unlikely, it isn't entirely impossible for the torus to have thick breathable atmosphere.