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Mundane Dogmatic

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The setting adheres to the precepts of the Mundane Science Fiction Manifesto, a system of self-imposed restraints on science fiction devised in 2004 (with author Geoff Ryman as the sole named contributor) which is similar in spirit to the constraints of Dogme '95 in film. Such settings are usually hard science fictions, but there are exceptions.note 

A quick overview: The Mundanes promise to eschew...

... while still providing other instances of Applied Phlebotinum that do not break these rules.

The Mundane Science Fiction movement has been critized for ignoring that speculation about future science and technology has always been central to sci-fi. As well, critics have pointed out that yesteryear's "impossible technology" in sci-fi is now reality in some cases.

Thanks to Science Marches On, there is also growing acceptance of very limited FTL based on the Alcubierre Drive and wormholes in more recent works, but it will not be a method of Casual Interstellar Travel, as the former will be prohibitively expensive and dangerous — effectively operating as a form of Ludicrous Speed — and the latter will be incredibly difficult, if not outright impossible, to create with human tech, thus often being scavenged from Precursor ruins.

Equivalent to a 5 on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness.

Solar Punk fiction can include elements of mundane science fiction.note  There may be overlap with Pastoral Science Fiction, as the foundation tenets of MSF are environmentalist and pro-nature.note 


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Space Brothers 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).

    Comic Books 
  • The Fuse is a hard-SF/crime hybrid that depicts life aboard a huge 22nd-century solar-power-generating station in Earth orbit, with realistic depictions of gravity created by rotation and no Space Opera elements.
  • The Tintin comic books Destination Moon and 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.)
  • After Yang, about a near-future family that buys a lifelike android, Yang, to be a "big brother" to their adopted Chinese daughter, Mika. Kang helps her learn about her Chinese heritage and helps soothe her anxiety about being adopted. When Yang starts malfunctioning and is sent for repairs, the parents and the child miss him and the important emotional role he played for the family.
  • Children of Men, which depicts a blighted, dystopian near-future Earth in which no one can bear children anymore. In the film, an authoritarian government tyrannizes the people and refugees are held in cages and camps.
  • 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.
  • Gattaca, about a culture that uses genetic testing to determine social status, including access to professions.
  • 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 of 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. The series skirts Functional Magic in later films when Neo's powers work in "reality", although this may be explainable as a result of cyborg technology in his spine. The series also features widely used anti-gravity technology, which takes it pretty far away from realism.
  • Moon, a film about a lonely miner on the Moon who single-handedly runs a mechanized mining station, with a robot as his companion, 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.
  • 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.
  • Sans Soleil is an experimental travel documentary that mixes in some fiction. It juxtaposes filmed and stock footage images of Japanese horror film, a beauty pageant, intoxicated homeless men, guerilla warfare, and an Icelandic volcano (some of which are color-modified with a video synthesizer) all over a synthesizer score and philosophical narration about memory, as the narrator reads letters from a fictional person.

  • 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:
Examples by author:
  • William Gibson's novels codified the Cyberpunk genre, and aside from some dated ideas of how computers work the technology is all plausible.
  • 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 millennia — 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.
  • Most work by Alastair Reynolds. All of his work averts Artistic License – Space, as he worked for the European Space Agency as an astronomer, and has a doctorate in the same subject.
    • The Revelation Space Series. Travel is limited to slower than light "lighthugger" ships. The universe has aliens, but they are thoroughly alien. A very limited type of FTL travel of the Alcubierre Drive variety is introduced late in the series, but it has some... interesting technical issues.
    • House of Suns has much more fantastic technology than his previous works, but still adheres to the laws of physics even with its faster-than-light travel.
Examples by work:
  • Blindfold largely follows the dogma, the biggest violation being 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). Faster-Than-Light 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Expanse largely qualifies. All of the human technology is largely within what is possible. A notable element is that it even lacks inertial dampeners of any sort. Every G of maneuver that their ships pull is passed directly to the crew. Which makes combat maneuvers difficult at best. However, something in the setting is truly alien, and there is little idea what it really is.
  • In The Forge of God by Greg Bear, 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.
  • All of the Ivan Yefremov's Great Ring books, him being a prominent scientist himself. Even late into the series chronology, when they finally invent the FTL travel, it remains a difficult, complicated and very involved affair.
  • 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.
  • Saturn's Children: Not something you expect from the adventures of a sexbot after humanity's extinction, but it is written with physics in mind. There is no FTL, AI is a mirrored NI and robot society is a natural evolution of our own, space travel is slow, etc., etc.
  • Seveneves: The first two-thirds of the book is clearly speculative science set 20 Minutes into the Future. Space travel is ahead of what we have now (notably, the International Space Station — known as "Izzy" to its inhabitants — boasts a captured asteroid and a section with Centrifugal Gravity) and genetic engineering is also more advanced (but plausibly so) than what we have but all of those things could be realized within a decade or so. The last third contains far more speculative space tech but nothing that would violate known physical laws.
  • Voyage describes an alternate timeline in which NASA's efforts after the Apollo program were dedicated to a manned Mars mission instead of the development of the Space Shuttle at the cost of almost no unmanned space exploration (probes and the like). The only piece of space technology that pops up there not fully developed in Real Life is a nuclear rocket that suffers a meltdown in orbit based on the real-world NERVA program of the 1960s.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Jupiter Moon, the flagship show of British Satellite Broadcating for the eight months that channel existed, was supposed to be a 20 Minutes into the Future Soap Opera with "no little green monsters", just "young people as they are today with their domestic troubles, love affairs and so on" but on a space station orbiting Jupiter, with FTL on the drawing board but very much an aspiration rather than a reality. How much it lived up to that promise is another question — the main plot quickly became about something called "The Apparition".
  • The late-1970s BBC series Moonbase 3 was very determinedly mundane in its depiction of a Moon colony. The creators subsequently blamed this for the show's failure, saying that the realistic depiction of the stresses and dangers of space living made the show darker than intended, to the point that it was downright depressing to watch.
  • Red Dwarf might generously be said to fit into this, at least conceptually. The titular vessel is a heavily automated five-mile-long mining ship, more than capable of holding and processing enough resources to keep both itself and a small crew going indefinitely; it has a ramscoop to allow for interplanetary or interstellar travel; there's explicitly no FTL and no aliens; travelling to and from the ship happened rarely and required bulky spacesuits and cramped shuttles. However, by the second episode the ship had broken the light barrier "because it had been accelerating for too long", and within a couple of years such soft sci-fi staples as time travel, dimension-jumping, teleportation, and psychic powers had become commonplace, with most episodes no longer taking place on the Red Dwarf itself. The joke switched very quickly from "how realistic the Red Dwarf is" to "how low-tech and boring it is compared to everything else they ever encounter''.
  • Star Cops, The BBC's last attempt at an SF show in the 1980s before a virulently anti-SF leadership put a stop to them for a while, was an entirely mundane near-future series dealing with crime and intrigue in a carefully-scientifically-plausible near future with colonisation of the Solar System in early progress.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Phil Eklund's High Frontier 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.
  • Transhuman Space: 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.

    Video Games 
  • Armored Core: Most of the games before the introduction of "primal armor" and related technologies — while the rest of the technologies shown may not be remotely practical or cost effective today, the first few entries in the series are hard science fiction with none of the technologies present requiring the laws of physics to be altered, and most of them currently possible given sufficient funding. The only fantastic elements are the fact that the technologies showcased are commonplace and treated as cost effective. Needless to say, giant robots are unlikely to be used as the mainstays of armed forces, especially not by non-state private military contractors that don't have the luxury of a large tax base. The mechs and energy weapons shown are all possible with technology currently available or on the drawing board, and realistically have heat issues and have weight limits dictated by the square cube law. The entires in the series that have primal armor and other fantastic elements are softer science fiction that falls more in the applied phlebotinum category.
  • Children of a Dead Earth takes place during an interplanetary war in the Colonized Solar System. As one of the hardest science fiction games, there's no aliens, no teleporters, travel takes literal months, and every bit of technology shown has significant real-world mathematics behind it — which one can play with using the Design-It-Yourself Equipment system — and has either been produced or the theory behind it is known and is in testing, such as nuclear rockets, gigawatt lasers, and railguns.
  • 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.
  • Outpost turns around the colonization of a planet orbiting one of the closest stars to ours after Earth is rendered unhabitable due to the impact of a large asteroid. The game was developed with the help of a former NASA scientist and it shows, with absolutely no FTL or aliens to speak of —well, except a disaster that is an "alien virus epidemic" and one research tree about "alien (aerial, terrestrial, and marine) ecology" even if your world is a Venus-like hell or an airless Moon-like one.
  • 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. Some Psychic Powers were added later, with the caveat that these are Archotech creations, with very strict rules on how they work.
  • 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 consequences (such as breaking the game's collision detection, causing ships at high speed to simply phase through each other instead smashing with glorious results). Somewhat complicated with the introduction of jump drives; however, such parts are incredibly difficult to make and consume an insane amount of power, making their utility questionable at best if you don't plan on going too far from your home base.