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Alien Landmass

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The big floating rock would make a great place for a summer home.

"We're definitely not in the Milky Way anymore..."
Pathfinder Ryder, Mass Effect: Andromeda

A hallmark of Science Fiction, an easy way to signify that a setting is not on our typical Earth is to have strange landmasses — particularly ones that float, form odd shapes that might resemble creatures or parts thereof, or even seem alive in some way — for example, a Turtle Island. Crystal Landscapes are also fairly common.

Sometimes, the trope intertwines with bizarre plant life, making the treetop canopies look bizarre compared to Earth standards, covering the planet with tentacle-like vines, or coloring the landscape with other colors besides the standard brown and green you'd expect to find on a lush world. Animal remains often come into play as well, usually as immense skeletons or crania of dragons, giants and monsters littered around the landscape.

This trope is usually a wet dream for those who like Surrealism, especially Surreal Horror.

Sister trope to Alien Sky and Alien Sea. Contrast All Planets Are Earthlike. See Starfish Aliens for when the aliens are just as weird as their planet. If the planet used to be Earth, see Hostile Terraforming. See also Weird Weather, although that can occur on Earth as well.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Remina: The surface of the planet Remina is a hellscape full of toxic gasses and fog, intestine-like tubes, and "trees" which look more like writhing balls of tentacles. Nearly all of it is black as midnight.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The plane of Zendikar is permeated with active, chaotic magic that constantly alters and reshapes its landscape. Archipelagos of floating islands are particularly common, but also present are things such as kilometer-high cliffs rising from the seas and forests of trees large enough for regular-sized forests to grow on their branches.
    • Serra's Realm, now destroyed, was also known for its floating landscapes, but they moved in predictable patterns rather than Zendikar's "slam into each other at random" approach.

    Comic Books 
  • Negation: The first, prequel issue begins with one hundred abductees waking up on a strange planet where everything feels "wrong". The sun comes and goes as it pleases, the rocks have ribbed surfaces and hook in crescent shapes topped off by horns, and some are covered in odd sludge and are filled with bones. The only edible plants grow eyeballs as fruit. The finale to the prequel reveals that the planet is a testing ground within a parallel universe, and the enemies conducting the experiment are invaders testing the limits of people from our universe.

    Films — Animation 
  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has recurring dream sequences that take place on an unknown and desolate planet, where (in addition to an Alien Sky) the entire landscape is covered with lanky, crescent-shaped landmasses.
  • Strange World: The setting for much of the movie is a bizarre subterranean environment made up of pink, organic surfaces that can move on their own.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alien: The planet LV-426 (a.k.a. Acheron) has rocky formations which are rounded at the top into smooth nubs. Offhand, the rocks greatly resemble bones.
  • Avatar: The movie's Scenery Porn includes the Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora, verdant floating rock formations that are sacred to the Na'Vi. The phenomenon is Hand Waved as an interaction of the planet's magnetic field with its Unobtainium deposits.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Ego's planet is dotted with rock columns with hydrologically improbable waterfalls spilling from the tops, and has lush jungle and arid plains within walking distance of each other. Justified, since Ego is a Reality Warper who built and in some sense is the planet.
  • Superman: The Movie: Krypton is a barren planet filled with jagged canyons and landscapes of almost perfect geometric formation. And that's not counting their crystal buildings, which look like jagged icicles jutting from the ground.
  • War of the Worlds (2005): When Ray leaves the farmhouse looking for his daughter, he finds that a large portion of the surrounding countryside has been rendered red and unrecognizable by the Invader's terraforming abilities.

  • —And He Built a Crooked House—: Subverted. The protagonists finally escape the house only to find themselves in a strange desert landscape with bizarre tree-like vegetation. Turns out they're in Joshua Tree National Park in California.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Ketrans (the long-extinct species of which the Ellimist was once a member) lived on massive crystals that floating through the sky of their home planet; the Ketrans themselves flapped their wings to keep it aloft, with most of a crystal's population assigned to that task at any one time.
    • The Hork-Bajir homeworld was long ago hit by a meteor at one of the poles, rendering most of it uninhabitable but creating valleys near the equator where life can grow. The Hork-Bajir themselves live in huge trees the size of skyscrapers; the valley floors are hidden by a strange mist that they call "the Deep", which is inhabited by monsters. Get past the Deep, and you can find massive craters that lead to the planet's core. Also, you'll find the Arn, the species which genetically engineered the trees to revive the planet after the meteor strike, and then made the Hork-Bajir to tend to them.
  • Books of the Raksura: The continent is dotted with floating islands, many of which have ruins of long-lost civilizations. They're held up by ores that interact with the Background Magic Field and that can be extracted to power floating ships.
  • The Cosmere:
    • In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, the planet Scadrial is a wasteland marked by ever-present clouds, gigantic volcanoes, and drifts of ash, where the few surviving plants are food crops adapted to the terrible conditions. This is revealed to be the result of a Terraforming effort by a divinely empowered human who really didn't know what he was doing, so his successor returns the planet to a more earthlike state.
    • The Stormlight Archive's planet Roshar is scoured east-to-west by devastating "Highstorms", which leave the continent bare of soil and marked by large, drift-like sedimentary deposits. The lee sides of those deposits are the only places suitable for agriculture; some are large enough to protect entire cities. Inverted by the country of Shinovar, which is considered quite weird by most Rosharans for being sheltered enough to have soil and free-growing plant life.
  • The Space Trilogy: Perelandra is set on the shifting, moving islands of the titular planet. Ransom initially assumes they're part of the ocean he crashes into, since the land rises and falls with the waves, only to realize these ever-transforming masses are physical land holding the Queen of the world. In addition to being cool, the shifting islands represent the immortal Perelandrians' willingness to go from joy to joy as Maleldil wills instead of latching onto and idolizing one transient joy to the detriment of all others, as humans and the dark eldils are wont to do.
  • Star Wars Legends: The planet Lan Barell is covered in immense dust seas, with life existing on top of immense plateaus the size of continents and covered in towering cactus forests.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Extraterrestrial (2005): The surface of the blue moon is interspersed with occasional rocky hill topped with strange, spire-like structures, which the segment never describes.
  • Lexx: A large portion of the Cluster's surface either consists of or is covered in large squares, which resemble the pattern of the rubber harnesses worn by Cluster prisoners.

    Video Games 
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth: The "fungal" planet type has a curious blue-green tint, huge carpets of moss in place of grasslands, Fungus Humongous forests, and a mushroom the size of a World Tree for a Marvel.
  • Everything allows players to visit alien worlds with purple grass, green skies, and giant fungi in the shape of trees, among other things.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem Fates: Valla is a mysterious and forgotten kingdom consisting of many landmasses floating in the blue sky (which itself is weird since Valla is at the very bottom of an incredibly deep canyon).
    • Fire Emblem Heroes: Dökkálfheimr is an otherworldly realm full of unusual plantlife, with pink and purple-colored grass, biolumeniscent fungi, strange pear-shaped lanterns, and trees with a glowing pink energy orb visible from twisted bark. Additionally, the moon is a bright blue and there are giant fungi shaped like dragonblood trees in the background.
  • Half-Life: Xen, the final level, is a surreal alien landscape with floating, oddly-shaped landmasses and wonky physics that make it difficult to navigate.
  • Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony: Mars is dotted with floating islands which humans use as colony sites. They can even host ecosystems, as seen in the second stage which takes you to a swamp full of hostile creatures in what used to be the eponymous Lost Colony.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: The world of Lorule is literally falling apart at the seams, and is crossed by deep chasms where the land falls away into an endless black abyss dotted with crumbling chunks of the landscape and waterfalls endlessly pouring the waters over the cliffs.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: The manual for the game includes a picture of the legendary Golden Realm, the resting place of the Triforce. The picture shows a world with a golden sky and endless planks of extremely thin, twisting landmasses balanced precariously on thin columns. However, the lore itself makes it clear no one actually knew what the Golden World looked like before Ganon corrupted it, and later games show it to be just a beautiful, lush world not much different from Hyrule.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Some parts of Hyrule are home to huge stone overhangs, held by rocky pillars and often perforated by large holes that let light down to the lower levels of the area. The largest single formation of this sort is the Cliffs of Quince on the way to Hateno Village, while another forms the "roof" to the inner part of Karusa Valley in the Gerudo Highlands. The Great Cliffs, on the Highlands' edge, similarly consist of a set of straight and narrow stone formations, held up by irregularly-spaced columns and crisscrossing each other over the desert sands.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda:
    • Pictured above is Habitat 7, the first level of the game. Habitat 7 was originally supposed to be the closest analogue the Andromeda galaxy had to Earth, but 600 years later, a Negative Space Wedgie, combined with malfunctioning terraforming equipment, turned it into a spectacle with Weird Weather and floating landmasses. However, it works well to signify to the player that they've been taken very far from home, in a galaxy that plays by its own rules.
    • Kadara is a planet with both alien land and Alien Seas, since the water is full of sulfur and is thus poisonous to most forms of life. The land is littered with endless mountains that have holes bored through them, much like adder stones.
  • No Man's Sky is rife with alien landmasses, from floating islands to naturally-occuring loop-shaped rock formations, and that's just the tip of the iceberg: some planets verge on Eldritch Locations.
  • Obduction quickly conveys the fact that the player is not on earth by placing them in a seemingly normal ravine with floating purple rocks in the distance, and an earth-like planet overhead. Further exploration reveals that the area is a spherical chunk of Arizona which has been transported to some other part of the universe.
  • The Outer Worlds: Terra-2 and Monarch are somewhat Earth-like in their land formations, but the local vegetation and soil are just alien enough to give the surroundings a blend of colors and scenery that you're unlikely to find anywhere on our own planet.
  • Total War: Warhammer III: The Realm of Chaos consists of chunks of warped landscape floating through endless voids. This is particularly evident in the Tzeentch battle maps, which have large pits opening down into eternity where the ground has crumbled away and are dotted with twisting promontories and hills of blue crystal.
  • Vermintide II: The Chaos Wastes, an Eldritch Location warped by otherworldly powers, have strange or outright impossible terrain features, like impossibly tall rock formations and floating landmasses above a sea of cloud. There's also the matter of the landscape rearranging itself with every visit.
    Kruber: Should this mountain be more mountainy and less holey?
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: One of the first sights is Primordia, a lush grassland that acts as the starting area of the game. Its most distinctive feature are two arching landmasses (one, in fact, arcs on top of another) with sinewy "legs" reaching to the ground. It remains a mysterious location, not reachable until much later in the game. Even higher up, there's a floating landmass that becomes the first destination a player must reach once they gain the ability to fly.

  • Homestuck:
    • The Medium of Sburb creates a unique, distinctly alien planet for each player. Examples include the Land of Wind and Shade's bioluminescent forests, blue rock formations and rivers of oil, the Land of Mounds and Xenon's planet-circling canyons, and the Land of Quartz and Melody's crystal mountains.
    • Alternia, the troll homeworld, has trees with blue bark and pink leaves.
    • Things get especially odd in the Dream Bubbles, a combination afterlife, Dream Land, and Eldritch Location whose geography is shaped by the memories of those inside. As a result, the bubbles combine all other Alien Landmassess in the comic, with crystal formations and pink-leaved trees rubbing shoulders with rivers of fire, fleshy trees topped with brains, gold and purple gothic spires, landscapes patterned like chess sets, giant floating lilypads, and regular Earth suburbs.
  • Unsounded: The continent of Kasslyne is composed of titanic Mountain Ogre corpses, relics from the First World before the Gods nailed down concepts like "time" and "species". In most places they're eroded enough to be indistinguishible from Earth rock and soil, but the Avelpit barrens are still dotted with vast skulls and ribcages. And hundred-foot-tall pinky toes.

    Web Original 
  • Bosun's Journal: During the corpocaste era, the people of habitat one developed self-repairing streets by genetically engineering bacterial colonies to gather sand and gravel around themselves to form a protective asphalt shell, which they regrow and repair if damaged. After the cataclysmic war that destroyed shipboard civilization, these living roads slowly mutated and began to grow past their original limits. Millions of years later, these became the streetreefs, tangled, mazelike walls of interlocking columns of asphalt, constantly grown and repaired by the bacterial colonies forming them, still tracing the network of the old road systems, dividing the deserts of Habitat One into a network of isolated pocket habitats, and serving as home to unique ecosystems in their own right.
  • Serina: In the late Hothouse Age, Serina becomes home to a new biome in the form of "sky islands", descendants of the earlier cementree forests that adapted to the evolution of dinosaur-sized grazers, which could simply knock over the protective cement towers built by the trees' symbiotic ants, by growing increasingly close together and building on top of each other for maximum support. Over time, the isolated cementree forests that survived long enough became essentially artificial mountains, with centuries' worth of cumulative growth creating immense ridges of natural cement topped with dense forests. Mature sky islands vary from solitary groves, only as wide as a few city blocks and a few hundreds of meters tall, to others miles in length and tall enough to reach into the clouds, often closely following coastlines for access to silicate sand as building material. These operate as a cross between a mountain biome and a terrestrial reef ecosystem, serving as home for an incredible range of native life as isolated from the animals of the surrounding swamps and prairies as island ecosystems are from those beneath the sea.
  • Voltz Warz: Some bits of rock and earth can be seen floating around in clumps, one being a key part of Captainsparklez's laboratory, and only being able to be accessed by using some type of block that propels you upwards.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The landscape of Mortis is characterized by floating masses of rock and by plants that wither away every night to reveal glowing frameworks of energy.