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Space Is Magic

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Once you leave the surface of the Earth, all bets are off. What we think of as immutable laws of nature are merely local phenomena, and all manner of things unexplainable by anything we know are out there between the stars — planets identical to Earth in every way, elements that no one has ever suspected existed, chemical compounds that don't behave the way "our" science says they should, and creatures with powers that seem paranormal. Why? Because they're from outer space.

See: Applied Phlebotinum, Deus ex Machina, Artistic License – Space.


In Science Fiction, space is rarely deliberately magical, but rather ends up that way due to insufficient research, the Rule of Cool, or excessive handwaving. Thus it's better described by its related tropes. However, when fantasy ventures into the final frontier, space is literally magical. Natural law isn't just ignored; it's shown the door and told not to come back. It's entirely replaced by a Here be Dragons sign. This is typical for fantasy, but when it's applied to outer space, things can get... weird.

The changes in the laws of physics generally do not cause manned spacecraft or the humans aboard to malfunction, shut down, or fall apart. Such a spacecraft is usually contained in a bubble where earth science remains 99.9% reliable.


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  • Inverted in Superman. Kryptonians are nearly identical to humans under a red sun (such as that orbited by Krypton), but under a yellow sun (such as ours), they develop powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

  • The Palaververse: Theia lies in a classical geocentric system: it is orbited by a life-bearing moon with literal lunar seas and a moon-sized sun home to phoenixes that periodically emigrate from its depths in massive solar flares, and is surrounded by a shell of stars composed in good part of pure magic. Beyond that, rather than any sort of actual galaxy, pony astronomers can barely glimpse vast, dark gulfs of space home to enormous beasts that swim through it like whales in a sea, distant systems both geocentric and heliocentric, vast clouds of primal cosmic matter and eldritch abominations.

    Film — Animated 
  • Treasure Planet: The film is essentially an extremely soft science fiction work that approaches this trope by way of Steampunk, a very literal take on Space Sailing, and a base concept that consists of taking a story from pre-industrial times and putting it in space with as few narrative and aesthetic changes as possible, resulting in a nominal outer space setting where things like the law of gravity and hard vacuum are cheerfully absent. Among other things, the movie features literal space galleons, a space port that is for all intents and purposed a port city floating in space and shaped like a crescent moon for some inexplicable reason, pods of space whales, aliens that have as much in common with fantasy creatures as with science fiction aliens and the titular treasure planet with its trove of pirate gold. Comparisons are often made to Spelljammer.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Highlander II: The Quickening, perhaps in an inversion, aliens coming to Earth gain immortality (though they seem hugely long lived already) for as long as there's more than one of them.
  • In the sci-fi thriller Coherence, a mysterious comet passing the earth causes Alternate Timelines to intersect at the dark zone.

  • An aborted trilogy from Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman made this explicit, with the rules of the universe changing radically in different areas of space. This left a human exploration ship in rather bad shape, as while it could navigate well near earth, if it entered the zone where, for example, a circle of magical statues is required for safety there would be trouble.
  • Pretty much everything H. P. Lovecraft wrote relied on this trope. Lovecraft was writing at around the time of Edwin Hubble's discoveries, which cemented the idea of other galaxies as large as the known universe of the time and gave people for the first time an idea of how large the universe was. Lovecraft said that all his fiction was based on the idea that the laws of nature only apply locally, and so his horrors from the stars were literally impossible for us to imagine.
  • The Zones of Thought series by Vernor Vinge plays with this trope, even though it is (on some levels at least) moderately hard sci-fi. The basic idea is that the laws of physics become more lax at increasing distances from a galactic core. In the "Unthinking Depths" at the center of a galaxy, not even thought is possible. The "Slow Zone" further from the core (where Earth is located) uses Mundane Dogmatic physics. In the "Beyond", still further away from the galactic core, more fantastic things like FTL and strong AI become possible, and in the "Transcend", beginning at the farthest edges of a galaxy and extending out into intergalactic space, Space Is Magic.
  • Isaac Asimov's novel The Gods Themselves was written largely in response to this trope. Asimov once heard Robert Silverberg make up an isotope off the top of his head, Plutonium-186. When Asimov pointed out that said isotope does not and cannot exist, Silverberg responded "So what?" Asimov, who was never one to back down from a challenge (even a self-imposed one), decided to work out under what conditions Plutonium-186 could be possible. He concluded that it would have to be a parallel universe where the laws of physics behaved differently than they do here (such as the strong force being a lot stronger than it is in our universe). He went on to figure out how such a Universe would operate, and eventually developed his ideas into what he considered his most ambitious novel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many episodes of Star Trek, from each incarnation of the franchise, treat outer space in this manner. Why do species that evolved on other planets have telepathic or even godlike powers? Because they're from space! How does the Negative Space Wedgie take over the minds of the crew, and how do the waterfalls on the paradise planet run backwards? They're in space, that's how!
  • Few sci-fi series better embody this trope than Farscape. Some characters do claim to have actual magic or psychic powers, but a technological mishap also caused the crew to swap bodies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the Spelljammer setting, the Greek philosophers were right. Each solar system is enclosed in an enormous crystal sphere, which has the stars embedded in its inner surface in the form of glowing crystals. Spaceships are frequently modified ocean-faring vessels. Gravity is uniform; even the ships have an intrinsic gravitational field. The laws of reality within the spheres themselves are wildly variable, with some being geocentric and some heliocentric, while others are Dyson Spheres populated by planet-sized megafauna. Inhabited worlds range from regular planets to asteroid fields with their own atmospheres to Flat Worlds on the backs of giant animals. Space outside the spheres is a flammable substance called Phlogiston that allows for fast travel between the spheres.
    • Likewise, the Ravenloft setting is situated in "the Demiplane of Dread", which is a pocket dimension that serves as a prison for various Big Bads. Looking up in the sky you'd see stars, but in reality the entire realm is surrounded by a thick, endless mist.
    • In 4e, space is just the void between celestial bodies. However, the Astral Sea is basically a port over of the version of space from Spelljammer, but on a higher physical plane than the material universe.
  • Exalted:
    • In Gunstar Autocthonia, the center of existence is the Spiral, a great coil of stars and worlds where the Primordials built their kingdoms. Beneath it is the city of Black Non, a metaphysical black hole where existence ends. Outside its edges is an infinite void of space, scattered through with drifts of asteroids, lonely worlds flung from the spiral or never shaped by the Primordials at all, shimmering Wyld nebulae where the laws of reality break down an existence becomes malleable, terrible alien horrors, and the the Gunstar itself, the world-body of a primordial turned into a spaceship and endlessly fleeing the lords of the Spiral.
    • Heaven's Reach is for the most part a classic Space Opera, but retains supernatural elements such as the spiritual power of Essence, the dark matter intelligences of the Shrieking Hordes that lurk in places where reality breaks down and in the chaotic fringes of intergalactic space, and the negative sub-universe of Terminus where the Tomb-Stars lie.
  • Pathfinder: The setting’s take on outer space owes as much to pulp fiction and cosmic horror as anything else.
    • To begin with, every planet and most moons in Golarion’s solar system are inhabitable, with some being clearer genre shout outs than others — the lush world of Castrovel, home of monster-filled jungles and the fantastic cities of the elves and the beautiful, psychic Lashunta, is directly inspired by the Venus Is Wet trope, while the red planet Akiton, a world of deserts and dried seas home to red-skinned humanoids and four-armed alien barbarians, is in turn a Shout-Out to John Carter of Mars and derivative works. Notably, most interplanetary travel takes place by means of magical gates or travel through alternate planes of reality, actual space travel being largely absent.
    • Beyond the bounds of the solar system and in the depths of space are distant worlds, dark interstellar voids ruled by unimaginable Eldritch Abominations, Space Whales and advanced civilizations, only occasionally interacting with the backwards world of the setting by means of a visiting horror or crashing starship.
    • An inversion of this trope came with the crash of the spaceship Divinity and its cargo of robots, androids and aliens, whose realistic but extremely advanced science is utterly alien to Golarion’s peoples’ understanding of the world — genuine aliens are distinctly unlike anything commonly found in a Medieval European Fantasy world, while the robots and androids break pretty much every established rule for how constructs work in the setting.
  • Starfinder, being set much later in the same universe as Pathfinder, continues the tradition, with a twist. Now, you're equally as likely to find items made from "mundane" Super Science as anything magical, and Faster-Than-Light Travel is accomplished by shifting into a separate plane that absorbs parts of the Material Plane through tech (invented by a techno-deity allegedly to benefit nonmagical species). That said, all the magical aspects of the universe still function perfectly well, and have even added terrifying new threats: the Legions of Hell can now invade your planet with a massive, living Eldritch Starship, for example.
  • Old World of Darkness: The Deep Umbra is a spiritual analog to outer space. It is home to spirits, monsters, insane mages, relatively sane mages (no guarantees), gods, weredragons, and Eldritch Abominations. Celestial bodies represent various metaphysical aspects, and you can visit their spirit-world mirrors. Because in Mage: The Ascension reality is consensual, some books indicate that deep space (beyond the local solar system and its nearest neighbours) is really a part of the Umbra, because humans have only imagined it. For this very same reason, this trope is literally true for the Void Engineers.
  • GURPS Technomancer has this in a technobabbly way. Magic is caused by Oz particles, which were initially scarce on earth. (A nuclear test and a necromantic ritual later though...) However, it's been discovered that there are indeed oz particles in space, radiated by the sun, they just got blocked by the atmosphere along with the other harmful rays.
  • Shadowrun: Inverted. Because space is mainly, well, space, there is no Mana there at all and the Background Magic Field is non-existent. Magic does not work in space and Astral Projection causes the projection to be torn asunder, killing the mage in the process. Magical beings like faeries, vampires, spirits and dragons usually die shortly after leaving the atmosphere.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The galaxy is a dark and wild place, ruled by strange entities and supernatural horrors. The Warp, the immaterial reality where faster-than-light travel happens and demons live, has a habit of leaking into reality through Warp storms, which engulf entire star sectors and make ftl travel impossible while scouring affected worlds with supernatural disasters, and Warp rifts, where the Immaterium spills fully into the material universe to create burning nebulas and great vortexes where reality breaks down. Even in fully material space, the stars are filled with spaceborne monsters, haunted ghost ships, ancient alien superstructures, and more inexplicable anomalies than a planet's worth of scribes could hope to record.

    Video Games 
  • In the Warcraft franchise the space itself (thought it's called the Great Dark Beyond) is quite normal and unmagical, but it exists beside an alternate dimension called the Twisting Nether, a space filled with chaotic magics. Since distances are significantly shorter within the Nether, all teleportation and portal magic works by short-cutting through it. The bad thing is that demons originate from the Nether and the magics required to warp through it are addictive and slightly corrupting. Certain more mystical races such as the Titans choose to instead travel through space.
  • In the StarCraft franchise, the Protoss are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with psychic powers. The overwhelming majority of the Protoss derive their psychic powers from the Khala, a sort of mystical energy that connects all the Protoss together. A certain splinter sect of the Protoss, the Dark Templar, are not connected to the Khala. They draw their powers from "the void", which is explained as a sort of dark energy inherent to the emptiness of space itself.
  • Cosmology in The Elder Scrolls universe is a little weird. For example, the two moons of Nirn are actually the physical corpse ("flesh divinity") of a dead god. And other planets are projections of Alternate Dimensions owned by the Aedra and Daedra puncturing through a murky region known as the Oblivion in which everything floats. Stars and the sun are other punctures in Oblivion, but project into Aetherius, the "immortal realm" and the "realm of magic". Magic flows in from Aetherius, visible in the night sky as nebulae. Also, the Serpent constellation moves around the sky without rhyme or reason and is said to be made of "unstars".
  • While previous games set in the same universe drop tidbits, it's in Sunless Skies that the true nature of space (or the High Wilderness, as it's called) is revealed. There is breathable air, often fraught with toxic mists, and in each segment the laws of reality are dictated by the closest star, or simply don't exist if the distance is too great. Depending on the local star, things can go from quite normal to utterly insane. These vast expanses even have their own unique flora and fauna, making a whole ecosystem with a biome around each star.
  • Devil May Cry: In the first stage of the final battle with Mundus, he teleports Dante and himself to a pocket dimension which has its own galaxy complete with stars and at least one planetoid.

  • A curious — and actually well explained — version appears in Hero In Training. The Trainer takes the main character around The Multiverse to show him that, outside the universe Earth is in, things just work differently. Basically, once you get outside our 'local' universe, all bets are off as to what the local laws of physics are.
  • Homestuck's treatment of the Incipisphere, where all action in Sburb takes place, makes it seem less like space than a collection of celestial bodies orbiting Skaia with the entirety of anything outside of the gravitational pull of planets filled with oxygen. This is a necessity of the game, as characters gain the ability to move between planets without teleportation and you don't want to kill them unfairly.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has firebending be stronger during the day while waterbending is stronger at night, due to the sun and moon respectively. A comet that passes by the world also greatly amplifies firebending depending on how close it is, a solar eclipse makes firebending unusable (and while the effects of a lunar eclipse are never shown, it would presumably do the same to waterbending), and waterbending is stronger depending on how full the moon is. We at least know that the moon has a Moon Spirit, whose existence effects the moon; if the Moon Spirit is captured or physically endangered in any way, the moon glows red, and if the Moon Spirit is killed, moonlight ceases.
    • A meteorite also lands nearby the Gaang in one episode and it can be affected by earthbending.
    • In The Legend of Korra, we learn of Harmonic Convergence, where the alignment of the solar system every 1000 years causes the spirit portals on the opposite poles of the world to merge and greatly amplify the world's spiritual energy, marking a cyclical event where Raava and Vaatu must fight to determine the fate of the world.

    Real Life 
  • This was the main premise of the Celestial spheres theory of the universe. Before Newton, it was understood that objects in the air will fall to Earth, yet the stars and planets could be seen hovering in the sky in fixed positions. Early philosophers reasoned that the observed "rules" for earthbound objects must end at some unknown distance from earth-the beginning of the "outer space" concept.
  • During the very earliest stages of the Universe, just after the Big Bangnote , among other things not only temperature and density were far higher than anything in these times we're living, but also the four different elementary forces of nature were combined into one or more. Anything that could have existed by then would have been quite different of what exists in our epoch.