Follow TV Tropes


Mental Space Travel

Go To

Space travel is expensive. So expensive, that some people wonder if it might be worthwhile to just send a cloning vat and upload the brains of the potential colonists from Earth to the destination planet.

Depending on the technology available, the travelers might have clones of their original bodies on the other end, or they may have to "borrow" someone else's.

May be a form of Twin Maker. Could be called a "Harder" form of Teleportation. Psychic Teleportation is when both mind and body are moved by psychic power. Contrast Mental Time Travel. Usually involves a Subspace Ansible. Compare Sleeper Starship.


    open/close all folders 

  • In Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels the only form of "FTL travel" is to "needlecast" your Ego from one system to another and buy or rent a sleeve on the other end.
  • In Whitley Streiber's novel The Greys, the "Nordics" built the pyramids of Egypt in order to channel souls from their homeworld in the Pleiades to clones grown on Earth. If the clones are killed they can return to their original bodies.
  • In H. P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time the Great Race of Yith escaped their original homeworld's destruction by using their technology to swap bodies with a species that inhabited Earth millions of years ago. The same technology also allows Mental Time Travel, which they use to study Earth's future inhabitants as possible next hosts. They choose an insectoid species that comes after humanity.
  • Piers Anthony's Cluster series features a form of interstellar travel called "Kirlian transfer", in which a person's mind is transferred into a host body on the destination planet (The hosts are volunteers, who get their bodies back when the visitor returns home). It's considerably less expensive than teleporting an entire body over interstellar distances, and considerably faster than traveling by spaceships (which are not capable of Faster-Than-Light Travel). The setting includes a wide variety of alien races, so the host body may not be the same species as the traveling mind, particularly since the protagonists are often traveling to planets that no member of their species has physically visited; getting used to an entirely new set of limbs and sensory organs is a recurring story element.
  • The Century Long Journey by Vladimir Tendryakov has Earth communicating with another race 36 light years away. There is no FTL in any form, so they take a person with eidetic memory, upload his brain, and broadcast it to the other guys. The other planet grows a body for him, learns about Earth, teaches him everything about itself, and sends his mind back.
  • In "The Last Martian" by Fredric Brown (dramatized on X Minus One) the titular character claims he escaped from a hospital on Mars to find the rest of his people all lying dead in the streets. Eventually he came to a copper column in the middle of a colloseum and touched it, then found himself in the body of a factory worker in New York. It turned out the others had abandoned their bodies on Mars and taken over humans to escape a plague. He was left behind because he was moronic by Martian standards - that is, as smart as an average human.
  • Several of Greg Egan's hard science fiction novels are set in a galaxy-spanning far-future civilization where almost all interstellar travel involves transmitting a copy of your consciousness via gamma ray beam and having a new body assembled on-site. They're not much bothered by the fact that the original consciousness usually dies once it's no longer needed, though a character in Incandescence has a moment of horror when they realize they traveled through an unsecured connection.
  • In The History of the Galaxy, this is eventually a solution to using logrs, small alien crystal computers to store the consciousness of a deceased person in a simulated world. While it's possible to copy the consciousness back into a cloned body, this presents a lot of legal and ethical problems. Concepts like inheritance and life insurance, just to name a few. Thus, the resurrection practice is forbidden. Then someone had the idea of exploring distant systems using logrs (which turn out to double as micro-spaceships) and settling habitable worlds there using the "dead", on the condition that they refuse all claims to their former lives and live in isolation from civilized galaxy.
  • Felix Gilman's The Revolutions combines this trope with 19th century occultism, such that a group of magicians performs a ritual to astrally project themselves to Mars (their projected bodies are physical objects with mass) — the true Mars, of which the red, barren dustball orbiting the Sun is only a reflection in our terrestrial plane of existence. They know it's possible because one of their test runs accidentally brought a living Martian back with them when they returned to their bodies. Mars is also a red, barren dustball in its native plane, having been rendered uninhabitable by its own magicians when their experiments into astral projection brought back an Eldritch Abomination from the outermost Solar System, which taught them The Dark Arts and drove them mad with power.
  • In Newton's Wake by Ken Macleod, the folk duo Winter and Calder are cloned from a Brain Uploading centuries earlier. By the end of the book, they've got very used to being transmitted as information and re-cloned on-site, although Winter panics a bit when his girlfriend jokes that they could have been pirated.
  • My Trip To Alpha 1 by Alfred Slote has Voya-Code, where a person's mind and personality are transmitted through space to appear in a highly-functional android duplicate of the traveler's body so they can travel across the galaxy, while their original bodies remain in sleep storage until they return. (An android duplicate differs from the original body in that a small scar called the Computer Entry Scar appears on the small of the android's back). The main protagonist of the story, Jack, uses this to visit his Aunt Katherine on Alpha 1, only to discover that the Aunt Katherine he is visiting is actually a Voya-Code android being used by her house servants, the Arbos, to give away all her property to them. The real Aunt Katherine is still in sleep storage on Alpha 1 and assumes that she is now on Earth and feels like she's been traveling forever when Jack finds her and has her awakened.
  • The Diogenes Club story "Moon, Moon, Moon" involves a mystic society who astrally project themselves to the Moon, where they find that all the strangest romantic speculation as to what the Moon is like is true, because they believe it is. They're also trying to sabotage the Apollo missions, out of fear that if someone physically travels to the Moon, this will impose scientific rationality on it, and "their" Moon will disappear in a Puff of Logic.
  • In John Carter of Mars,Carter somehow mentally transmits himself to Mars and creates a tulpa identical to his own body. This isn't clearly established in the first book (beyond the fact he's back in his original clothes when he returns), but in later ones he takes steps as to what should happen to his Earth body while it's vacated.

    Live-Action TV 
  • As in the literature section above, Altered Carbon features this. Actual space travel is the norm for cargo-hauling, but far too slow for humans. As all humanity automatically has their mind digitized by a "cortical stack" implanted in their brainstems, they have to ability to "Needlecast", or send their mind to other worlds that have been colonized. However, this only works if there is a "sleeve" (empty body) waiting to host their minds. It's shown that airports are now Needlcast ports. Some sort of Subspace Ansible must be in effect, as interstellar journeys only take a matter of minutes, but it's never elaborated on.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • In Stargate SG-1, an Ancient communication device allows two people who touch special "stones" and place them in the device to transfer their minds to the bodies of other people who have touched similar stones, even in another galaxy. It's not entirely clear what it was supposed to do when working properly as it was rarely used under ideal conditions.
    • Stargate Universe: The Ancient communication device reappears here as the main means the Destiny crew have of contacting Earth. The SGC has personnel on standby in case anyone tries to use the device, which could lead to hijinks every now and then.
  • In Dark Matter (2015), the "Transfer Transit" corporation scans the client, puts them in stasis, and grows a clone with their memories on the "destination" planet. The clone dies after three days or when it reports in for "recycling", in which case its memories are transmitted back to the original. However, if the clone is killed without reclamation, the original simply wakes up not knowing what happened to the clone.
  • In First Wave, this is how the Gua get to Earth. While they're able to open "white holes" to send small objects, the process is extremely power-hungry, so sending in a fleet or an army is not an option. Thus, they send small metal orbs that can survive reentry. They contain the consciousness of a Gua, which can then be downloaded into a Half-Human Hybrid husk. It's not clear if the orb is a duplicate consciousness or if the original body is left brain-dead. In the Grand Finale, the protagonists learn that Mabus has received a large orb containing the minds of thousands of trained Gua soldiers, and a cloning facility has already created combat-capable husks for them. The only thing they need is an immense power source for the transfer. Luckily, Cade has just managed to retrieve the Hammer.

  • The Moody Blues cover this possibility in their 1968 song, "Thinking Is The Best Way to Travel".

  • In the Plumbing the Death Star episode about "What Would Be the Ultimate Crime Causing Power?", the only method the Boys can come up with to stop a villain with a body-swapping Death-Activated Superpower is to launch him into space. The only problem is that unless he meets some alien life, the villain will eventually die and have his body launching into an astronaut or some poor businessman working at a skyscraper.

  • X Minus One: In "The Last Martian", adapted from Fredric Brown's "The Last Martian", the titular character claims he escaped from a hospital on Mars to find the rest of his people all lying dead in the streets. Eventually he came to a copper column in the middle of a colosseum and touched it, then found himself in the body of a factory worker in New York. It turned out the others had abandoned their bodies on Mars and taken over humans to escape a plague. He was left behind because he was moronic by Martian standards - that is, as smart as an average human.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the GURPS setting Transhuman Space Infomorphs can transmit their code all across the solar system if they have a shell on the other side. But they can't "write" an Infomorph to a biological brain, at most a computer brain with a Wetware Body.
  • In Eclipse Phase "Egocasting" is by far the most common means of interplanetary travel. It's much faster and cheaper to upload your Ego, transmit it, and download into a rental morph in just a couple hours than to spend weeks or months on a spaceship.
  • Hc Svnt Dracones has DigiTrans, where the client has extensive body and brain scans taken and transmitted to the destination, and then is euthanized just as their clone begins growth. It costs ten times as much as physical interplanetary travel, but the process is complete in 14 hours as opposed to 2-3 weeks. Oh, and Brain Uploading for non-travel reasons costs 2.5x more, but has the option of transfer to different body types instead of an exact copy.