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Pastoral Science Fiction

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Science fiction set in the countryside which depicts the simple, peaceful life in rural areas, often contrasting it with the anxiety of life in technology-filled cities. While bucolic settings are common in fantasy, it's much rarer in science fiction. Stories set in Arcadia or Ghibli Hills are likely to fall under this category. However, the trope refers not merely to an idyllic setting — many sci-fi stories start in such a place, but often see it destroyed or heavily altered early in the narrative or leave it behind in the first act and not return to it for 400 pages. Pastoral sci-fi refers to a work whose overall tone reflects the atmosphere of such a place — calm, peaceful, and meditative. Drama and excitement may certainly happen here, but the overarching feel of the work remains one of tranquility. The story may include a Green Aesop.

The setting may be the result of a Cozy Catastrophe (or even a true and terrible apocalypse, provided that it was a long time ago and things have settled down in its aftermath). On the other hand, perhaps nothing of the sort happened, and this is a scientifically and culturally advanced, but none the less green, open, and idyllic world, filled with Crystal Spires and Togas and Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology. Or it may be our world, where an alien or time traveler has dropped out of the sky into a rural setting without necessarily destroying the place.

The Noble Savage and Space Amish are likely to inhabit such a story, or conversely, perhaps a Crystal Spires and Togas crowd trying to live a Solar Punk lifestyle. Slice of Life science fiction lends itself well to this genre.

The Trope Namer is Grandmaster and Hugo Award-winning author Clifford Simak, who used this term to describe much of his work, particularly Way Station. The earlier roots of pastoral science fiction have been traced to the late nineteenth century, with Mark Twain and his 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and William Dean Howells and his 1894 novel A Traveler from Altruria, about a socialist utopia where all of the inhabitants share resources and there is no poverty.

To reiterate, this is a science fiction trope. Both fantasies and realistic fiction employ this sort of vibe too commonly for it to be particularly notable, but in science fiction it is rare enough to stand out. The [[ other Wiki has an article]] with more details.

How do you achieve an idyllic Arcadia setting and still have it qualify as sci-fi? One approach used by Simak in several stories was to set the story in the beautiful countryside and have some human-appearing aliens (posessing futuristic tech) blend into the townspeople. The aliens typically hide their advanced technology and their alien identity.

Compare Weird West, Cattle Punk, and Space Western. Contrast Techno Dystopia and Lovecraft Country.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Agriculture Girls! is a farming-based rural story that also involves giant farming robots.
  • ARIA: The relatively primitive, beautiful, canal-laced world.
  • NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind: Most of the manga/film fits the requirements, certainly with Nausicaa's agrarian home valley, and even the alien-seeming but beautifully peaceful fungus forest fits the atmosphere perfectly (as long as you don't give the local fauna a reason to attack you).
  • Space☆Dandy, with its Planet of the Week structure, runs into a few of these:
    • In one episode, the crew ends up on a planet covered with a civilization of sapient plants, and much of the episode focuses on the alien jungle as Dandy becomes one with the forest and helps the plants deal with a creeping threat at the pole.
    • Another episode takes place on a planet mostly covered by an ocean. Dandy spends the time befriending a family of fishermen and trying to catch an enormous, legendary fish-like alien.
  • ∀ Gundam takes place in a fairly rural After the End setting which has built back up to a level loosely resembling the turn of the 20th century; while the eponymous Lost Technology Humongous Mecha isn't engaging in non-lethal skirmishes with returning Moonrace colonists, Loran uses it for things like washing clothes and transporting cattle for farmers.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is a post-apocalyptic slice of life manga about a robot who runs a cafe in the countryside.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman for All Seasons was inspired by the works of Norman Rockwell, and is set mainly in Smallville, Kansas during Clark's upbringing. The art is serene and beautiful, and dialogue is kept minimal.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Iron Giant is set in and around the little rural town of Rockwell, Maine in the 1950's, surrounded by forests, mountains, and the sea. The first words Hogarth teaches the Giant are "rock" and "tree;" he learns about life and death from watching hunters and a deer; and he, Hogarth, and Dean hang out at a local lake. The name Rockwell is a reference to artist Norman Rockwell.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Logan is a dystopian example of this trope. The film takes place mostly on the Great Plains amidst amber waves of GMO grain that's being used to suppress the mutant gene, highways roamed by self-driving trucks, futuristic cars, and Indian casinos, the landscape portrayed as a run-down Flyover Country extrapolated 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • Star Wars frequently flirts with this concept, with many planets still being verdant (or other biomes as it is) with minimal but advanced technology. In Attack of the Clones, the scenes set on Naboo try to evoke this trope, with Anakin and Padme romping about a peaceful, green, Crystal Spires and Togas environment.


  • Alien in a Small Town is the story of a friendly, albeit rather neurotic, Starfish Alien who ends up living among a community of Mennonites in the 24th century. The book is full of descriptions of the quiet beauty of rural Pennsylvania, and the whole thing could be described as a Slice of Life piece.
  • In Always Coming Home, the Kesh have access to knowledge of past ages, but their food comes from foraging and low-tech agriculture. Technology is only used to the extent they can comfortably maintain on their own.
  • Cloud Atlas: The segment Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After takes place in a simple agrarian society on Hawai'i After the End. While the society is not without problems and ends up getting destroyed by the Kona at the end, with the demise of humanity implied to be impending, a lot of the story is about the relatively peaceful lives of the good-natured people there as they adapt to the arrival of a higher-tech visitor.
  • The Dandelion Girl is about a man who travels to the country and happens to meet a girl from the future there.
    Julie: Day before yesterday I saw a rabbit, and yesterday a deer, and today, you.
  • A Door into Ocean is a 1986 feminist science fiction novel by Joan Slonczewski. The novel uses themes such as ecofeminism and revolution without violence. The novel is set in a fictional planet called Shora, which is a moon covered by water. The inhabitants are called Sharers, and they are all female. They control the ecology of their planet and they believe in egalitarianism and nonviolence.
  • Earth Abides, as the name implies, settles into this after the apocalyptic opening. There is drama and tension but it is just in one small community, and most of the latter part of the book just deals with their settling into everyday life.
  • Brian W Aldiss's Helliconia trilogy (1982-1985), about an alien Earth-like planet inhabited by humans and phagors, which are huge, horned, intelligent creatures. The inhabitants are at about a Renaissance era of technological sophistication, with some elites having telescopes. The planet, which has several-thousand year long seasons, is being studied by Earth scientists orbiting it in a spaceship.
  • Tales from the Loop: The book's default setting is a small town in the Swedish countryside overshadowed by a research facility and the titular particle accelerator.
  • The Time Machine: If not for the fact that it was long before Clifford Simak coined the term, the world of the Eloi could be viewed as a deconstruction of the trope. Indeed, the Time Traveler at first assumes this is exactly the sort of future world he's discovered, where man's descendants live in happy idleness and beauty... until he learns the terrible truth that they are cattle for the cannibalistic Morlocks.
  • The Tommyknockers: A dark, dark subversion of the concept. The town of Haven, Maine is a beautiful, quiet little farmland where everyone knows each other, and begins with writer Bobbi Anderson discovering a piece of an alien spaceship buried underneath the town. As the ship begins influencing Haven's residents (by increasing their intelligence and inspiring them to invent fantastic machines), the story takes a horrific turn: the aliens were violent predators who previously destroyed many worlds, Haven has a buried history of dark secrets including adultery, madness, and murder, and the inventions will soon be weaponized to destroy everyone on Earth.
  • Way Station follows a rural man granted immortality by aliens in exchange for secretly maintaining an interstellar teleporter waystation, out in the hills where it's unlikely to be discovered by the world at large.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Police, Camera, Action! does this in the beginning and end of "Highway of Tomorrow" (an episode where the police were Out of Focus the whole episode and the episode's subject was car technology), filmed in mid-2000, where it shows a Volvo crash-test site in rural Sweden (appropriately enough, sci-fi music like that of 1980s Doctor Who is used), and towards the end, when they test-drive a Ford Escort hatchback that cannot go above 55mph. The episode has a lot of science-fiction 1950s references to autonomous cars and driver technology, adding to the sci-fi feel.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Because of how human civilization has spread itself so thinly across the cosmos, BattleTech frequently falls into this. The short story Back End of Nowhere falls squarely into this trope.

    Video Games 
  • Destiny and Destiny 2: Some of the open world areas can veer toward this, especially in the more open and transitional sections of the exploration maps removed from areas with constant fighting. Sections of the Earth maps feature peaceful grasslands and untouched forests left to grow in the wake of the Collapse, and even xenoformed planets like Nessus and Io can feature areas of peaceful tranquility among the bizarre plant life and strange skies. Rather tellingly, one of the hub areas in Destiny 2 is known simply as "The Farm" which serves as a peaceful agrarian location for survivors of the Red War to gather.
  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is full of lovingly rendered visuals of green, rural country set to a hauntingly beautiful (or perhaps beautifully haunting?) soundtrack, as the player tries to deduce where everyone in the area has vanished to.
  • Fallout 4, although a post-apocalyptic environment, can veer into this. A significant part of gameplay centers around settlement construction, with the player setting up homes, farms, water supplies, and defenses, and building new safe places where settlers can move in and live peacefully. While there is plenty of conflict and adventure outside of the settlements, the player is able to create a relatively peaceful and stable bit of civilization within the various small farming towns and villages they build across the Commonwealth.
  • Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon: You play as a Robot Kid on a small island sixteen years in the future from the game's release date. Your creator has tasked you with running a farm and integrating yourself into the local community so you can learn the true value of life. One of the Multiple Endings involves an Alien Invasion.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a Science Fantasy example, albeit one with a heavier emphasis on the "Pastoral" and "Fantasy" than the "Science". This Hyrule became predominantly a post-apocalyptic wilderness when possessed Magitek robots, originally built in the distant past by Hyrule's more technologically advanced ancestors, slaughtered the majority of the kingdom's inhabitants. The places Link visits in the game's present tend to have a tranquil, agrarian/wilderness feel to them, but there are still sci-fi elements like the aforementioned robots, high-tech Shrines where Link must solve puzzles, and a handful of Sheikah scientists who can give Link high-tech equipment and abilities.
  • Myst has this vibe to it, with endless pretty, quiet visuals juxtaposing gardenesque greenery and peaceful seas with bits of abandoned Raygun Gothic tech lying about.
  • Whispers of a Machine is arguably set in a post-science fiction world, as the war between humanity and robots has led to a host of advanced technology being banned. Nevertheless, this trope applies, as the game takes place in an ambiguously Scandinavian town, complete with farmers, scenic vistas and a local tavern.

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe is about a boy growing up in a beachside town with his alien aunts. The characters have Sufficiently Advanced Technology, but the story is more about emotional maturity and acclimating to civilian life. Whether it veers too much into the latter is a topic of debate among fans.