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Zeppelins from Another World

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Oxford: the city of docking spires.

"A startling number of alternative histories wind up strengthening the marginal technology of airships and zeppelins, for example. This is a matter of flavor rather than logic, but this is a game book, after all."

If your characters have entered a parallel universe that's just a few steps removed from our own, the fastest way to establish it is by sticking a whopping great Zeppelin airship in the sky.

In our world, Zeppelins seemed to be doing pretty well. People adored them; they were seen as extremely glamorous and futuristic. The world-famous LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin had accomplished global circumnavigations, arctic explorations, and aviation feats that people had only dreamed of. Then, on May 6, 1937, the flagship luxury liner Hindenburg burst into flames while landing in New Jersey for no obvious reason, the first major catastrophe caught on film.note  This Hydrogen fire, which killed roughly a third of the passengers and crew on board, created a global panic. No commercial Zeppelin would fly again until 1999, though a few relatively tiny nonrigid "blimps" did continue to operate in small niches such as aerial videography.

More recently, airships are making a comeback for niches such as pleasure cruising, humanitarian aid, replacing helicopters for cargo hauling law enforcement, military surveillance, photography, and scientific research. This resurgence has been enabled by new technologies and designs that mitigate the airships' disadvantages and greatly enhance their lift, safety and speed—by hybridizing them with airplanes and tiltrotors.

It is important to note that the presence of airships doesn't imply that the technology of the Alternate Universe is inferior. Just like with biological evolution, Zeppelins are not "more" or "less" evolved technology, what's used is whatever is the best available fit for the niche. It could just as well be that Zeppelins in the Alternate History were better able to suit the situation than airplanes were, say if there was a massive resource shortage that demanded efficiency and payload over speed, some other economic factor, or simply because there wasn't a Hindenburg-Equivalent, Zeppelins never fell out of favor to begin with. The sudden explosion of airships as a technological phenomenon, followed shortly by their rapid decline, gives them the distinction of invoking a feeling both futuristic and retro at the same time. Thus, they are perfect for a writer wanting to invoke a feeling of Zeerust or Days of Future Past.

Strictly speaking, the name 'zeppelin' refers only to airships with a rigid internal frame, a propulsion and steering mechanism, (though it originally referred specifically to airships made by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin) and no anxiety that users will be put off by the name. Dirigibles and blimps still qualify for the trope. Alternate universe plane-spotters, take note.

So by filling up Earth 2 with bulbous aircraft rather than hovercars or spaceships, you are suggesting a world that is of a similar time period to our own, but just happened to follow a different technological route. It also helps that they have lots of Diesel Punk and Steampunk cred and are sufficiently olde-worlde to be used in fantasy stories too. They are also cool. In fact, when used in a fantasy setting, you're more likely to encounter a thriving airship industry than cars or trains which are clearly too mundane for such a setting no matter how useful.

Sometimes the Zeppelins are just there to show the audience that the movie is set in another world, even if nobody from our world crosses over into it and nobody in that world actually rides in one.

A less extreme sister-trope to Alien Sky.

The transportation of choice for Sky Pirates everywhere. When zeppelins are only used by the villains, it's a Dread Zeppelin. Also see Airborne Aircraft Carrier, Cool Airship, and Floating Continent. Future Copter is a similar trope where ducted-fan VTOL aircraft are used to indicate a futuristic setting.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, a subversion is used as one of the major twists of the series. Our introduction to the nation of Marley is a young Grisha Yeager watching a Zeppelin pass overhead as it prepares to land. The world outside the Walled nation is equivalent to the early 20th century, with Zeppelins still the preferred method of air travel while airplanes are beginning to see increased use.
  • Catnapped!: The alternate dimension known as Banipal Witt runs on blimps and pellets, with a bit of primitive-looking technology mixed in.
  • Drifting Dragons: Airships appear to be the principal means of transportation in the setting.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003): Used as the revelation of the pot twist. After falling through the Gate, Edward finds himself in a world with Zeppelins in the sky... but it's our world: London, mid-WWI.
  • Last Exile: Though it turns out that said zeppelins are actually heavier-than-air ships made to float with the use of Applied Phlebotinum conveniently supplied by a neighboring society that happens to possess somewhat more advanced technology).
  • Pokémon: The Series: Zeppelins and blimps (along with windmills, solar power, and other eco-friendly technologies) are a big part of the "just like ours only better" world. That said, there are also plenty of airplanes, cars, and other "realistic" technology.
  • In the Hunter × Hunter world, airships are the only air transportation system.
  • In K, the immortal Silver King lives in one, called the Himmelreich (German for "Heaven"). Another appears in the movie and second season.
  • Kiki's Delivery Service has a huge polar exploration zeppelin as befits its Retro Universe setting. It also escapes its mooring and crashes spectacularly, proving that Kiki's world, while different, is not all that different from ours. Hayao Miyazaki adores blimps so much, he has been credited as the inspiration for the presence of airships in works like Pixar's Up, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Final Fantasy.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi pulls this off in the Magic World with Great Flying Whales. You can even see a flying ammonite in the first spread.
  • The Ancient Decepticons from Transformers: Cybertron can combine into these (shattering combination records for the franchise in the process).
  • A variation exists in The Vision of Escaflowne, in which lighter-than-air craft float not due to gasses but "levistones" which decrease in mass when charged with an electrical current.
  • Things that look like airships roam the sky in Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion over Mitakihara. This is one of the first indications that something strange is going on. When the truth is revealed, the ships actually catch on fire and crash.
  • Wings of Vendemiaire: One chapter takes place on a zeppelin, and the whole story take places in a world resembling France around the time of World War I.
  • The Witch and the Beast: The first continent's sky is filled with so much zeppelins it can blot out the sun.


    Comic Books 
  • American Flagg!: "Zeps" are the travel mode of choice in the 2031 setting.
  • One of the changes in the Alternate History of Baker Street is the presence of zeppelins as a major form of air transport. The Hindenburg never crashing, combined with World War II never occurring, causes zeppelins to become the dominant form of intercontinental travel.
  • Fall Out Toy Works: Baron has one as his base of operations — in a Cyberpunk story.
  • Figment (Disney Kingdoms): Somewhat literal when Dreamfinder creates a portal to jump into and create the attraction's iconic flying machine.
  • The Invisibles has some of these early on when Dane and Old Tom trip their way to another London.
  • In the Justice League of America Elseworld Age of Wonder, set around the dawn of the 20th century, Lex Luthor travels in increasingly elaborate airships.
  • Lady Mechanika: Zeppelins are commonplace in this world and it's used when a person wishes to travel long distances in comfort.
  • In PS238, which counts as a parallel universe because it's full of superheroes, the distinctly familiar Von Fogg family's not-yet-seen zeppelin is an airborne independent supervillain nation.
  • In The Red Star, the military power of the Soviet-esque Reds is based on their great fleet of "skyfurnaces," which are essentially kilometer-long flying battleships/carriers/troop transports that run on magic.
  • The Ghoul pirates in Requiem Vampire Knight have a whole city made of such airships named Aerophagia.
  • Thorgal has Mayincatec zeppelins. However, it's thanks to the fact that their Physical God (who is actually a descendant of the spaceborne humans who left Atlantis) is capable of creating the gas to float them.
  • Uncanny X-Force: Zeppelins are present in the post-apocalyptic version of the Age of Apocalypse timeline that X-Force visit in search of a MacGuffin.
  • One of the more obvious differences in the Watchmen universe (in which a genuine superpowered being comes into existence in the aftermath of WWII and singlehandedly wins the Vietnam War for America) is the huge zeppelins that hang in the air over New York.note 
  • X-Men Noir: One of the few fantastic things to be found in any of the Marvel Noir stories is the O*N*E Dirigicarrier seen in Mark of Cain. And boy, is it ever fantastic: it's a colossal battleship kept airborne by virtue of having several Hindenburg-like zeppelins strapped to its underside.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire shows why people riding in hydrogen-filled dirigibles shouldn't back-stab badass subordinates packing flare guns.
  • Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. In this Elseworld Batman story set in the Nineteenth Century, the Gotham police have lighter-than-air patrol craft leading to an Interesting Situation Duel when the villain throws the crew out and then battles Batman on top of the gas envelope while the out-of-control dirigible drifts into buildings and gets fired on by the Trigger-Happy police.
  • Presented in Big Hero 6 not as lighter-than-air transport, but as self-supporting wind turbines that (presumably) meet a lot of San Fransokyo's energy needs. In another burst of cultural fusion, they're painted in the style of paper lanterns and carp streamers.
  • Castle in the Sky: They are huge and largely made of metal with cloth used for some of the smaller ones.
  • Zootopia: A small, red, cargo bearing airship can be seen in the Canal District when Judy rides the train into Zootopia at the beginning of the film. While it's inconclusive to say that all air travel in Zootopia has been supplanted by airships, given there are helicopters present when Lionheart is arrested, it does show that they are connected to the special circumstances of this world by being used to deliver cargo within the highly vertical Rainforest and Canal districts.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Autómata: Swarms of blimps float over cities to act as mechanical clouds, dispensing water in rain, presumably to keep the radiation under control.
  • Blade Runner: Despite being set in a futuristic 2019, the Los Angeles appears to be infested with zeppelins, most of which wind their way through the labyrinthine skyscrapers advertising immigration to the Off-World Colonies and various Chinese/Japanese products.
  • The Borrowers (1997) has numerous indicators that is set in a mid-Atlantic retro universe, not least of all being the constant presence of one or more zeppelins in the sky.
  • Captive State: The strange rock-like spaceships that transfer people off-planet are very blimp-like.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness features a sequence of Strange and America Chavez tumbling through several alternate universes' Manhattans. In a Freeze-Frame Bonus, one can spot a zeppelin in flight with the Hydra sigil on its prow, indicating that Hydra won WWII in that universe.
  • Equilibrium: The sky over Libria is full of zeppelins. In at least one scene, the zeppelin has a screen on the side to broadcast propaganda.
  • Iron Sky has zeppelins that can somehow travel through space from the Moon, and open up to release a swarm of Nazi Flying Saucers. They're also dragging asteroids for Colony Drops.
  • Just Imagine is set in the then-futuristic year of 1980, and the sky is filled with zeppelin airliners. Of course, at the time the movie was made (1930), zeppelins really were used as passenger carriers, so audiences at the time would have seen them as futuristic rather than alternate-historical.
  • K-20: Legend of the Mask begins with a few autogyros launching from a zeppelin over the Japanese capital city of Teito in an alternate 1949.
  • Mystery Men: A few can be seen floating over Champion City.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, set in a Diesel Punk version of 1939, opens with the Hindenburg III docking with the Empire State Building. While the building was in fact designed with a mooring mast, the idea was dropped after tests with a U.S. Navy airship showed that wind turbulence caused by the surrounding skyscrapers made it too hazardous. Well, that and the fact that most passengers found the idea of crossing a gangplank 1000 feet above the street more than a little intimidating.
  • Southland Tales: One of the big differences between real 2009 and parallel universe 2009 is the presence of massive perpetual motion-powered Zeppelins.
  • When Stardust's hero finds himself in a a magical alternate reality, one of the major setpieces of his adventure is the lighting-hunting airship Caspartine, captained by Robert DeNiro.
  • Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider #3 takes place in an Alternate Timeline where Shocker managed to take over the world. So, naturally, amidst all the jackbooting and reich-putting going all around, there are Zeppelins with the Shocker emblem in the sky to tell us how fucked up the time stream is.
  • The Three Musketeers (2011) had not just one zeppelin, but an entire battle sequence between two flying ships over Notre Dame. At least one of those flying ships also had a flamethrower and a machine gun, and let's not get started on the ending when an entire fleet of these flying ships is preparing to invade England.
  • V/H/S: Viral: In the Parallel Monsters segment, it is obvious from the start that there is something wrong with the Alternate Dimension Alfonso is exploring, but it's the sight of a blimp with a huge inverted cross on its side that really sells it.
  • Watchmen manages to show a few Zeppelins in the background of some of the shots of New York. This was a thing in the comic book as well, showcasing Dr. Manhattan's ability to synthesize the massive amounts of helium needed.
  • Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls: The unmade Hammer Studios movie which never got past any further than this poster. This was during the early '70s, when Hammer was getting away from its Gothic Horror roots and into Two-Fisted Tales adventure movies, and would often start a movie's development with a poster and title well before they had a full screenplay.

  • In the Ack-Ack Macaque books by Gareth Powell. On an alternate world where the Europe had unified earlier in the 20th century - that version of the European Union created nuclear-powered zeppelins in the late '70s as the answer to the Middle East Oil Crisis. As a result, in the year 2056 people are content to take multi-day air trips to other countries and while jet aircraft is just as advanced as ours if not more so, very few jet fighters have been built when Zeppelins from Another World invade.
  • A Central East: Averted while, at the same time, played straight. Zeppelins have not been mentioned once. At the same time, this is the early 20th century, the zenith of the Zeppelin... and this is Another World where nothing so far has made Zeppelins less popular.
  • In Alastair Reynolds' Terminal World, Swarm is a entire mobile city of zeppelins connected via rope bridges and small dirigible "taxis". Zeppelins have the advantage of being one the safest and fastest methods to travel on a planet where the laws of physics can abruptly change and cause technological failures. Each zeppelin carries multiple redundant weapons, power sources and forms of propulsion, in case the Swarm travels into a Zone where combustion engines or autocannons begin to fail
  • The Robert A. Heinlein book Job: A Comedy of Justice has the main character from a zeppelin-filled world, slipping into a world with no air traffic at all, and then into one with similar technology to our own. One especially well-done part is when he attempts to explain to the readers what an airplane looks like from the perspective of someone who's never seen one before. It's explained that in this alternate reality, heavier-than-air flight is proven to be mathematically impossible and that zeppelins travel at mach speeds.
  • Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series features a world with zeppelins but no jet planes — although small propeller aircraft do exist. Of course, there's little demand for high speed airliners with the gravtubes: London to Osaka in 42 minutes! At one point Thursday has the option of being hidden in a parallel Earth where there are jetliners — presumably, from the sound of things, our world. She says such a thing as a jetliner is impossible.
  • The opening story in Elizabeth Bear's New Amsterdam is a murder mystery set on a zeppelin. With vampires.
  • The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids: The parallel world seen in Genesis of the Cupids prominently includes airships. One particularly large one is stolen by the Imperial Imperator and crashed into the great Clock-Tower in the climax.
  • Kenneth Oppel's Airborn: The premise is an alternate world where, due to the existence of an ultra-light gas called hydrium, airships became the primary means of long-distance travel. Features lots of metaphors. There's still an Eiffel Tower, but it's used for mooring.
  • Aaron Allston's novel Doc Sidhe is set on an alternate world where zeppelins and autogyros are still cutting edge aviation technology, and the climactic showdown takes place on board the major villain's airship.
  • Fritz Leiber's short story "Catch That Zeppelin!" is about an alternate universe where things turned out (mostly) much better than our own. It too includes zeppelins docking at the Empire State building, where a Real Life mooring mast was considered. Needless to say, they didn't use hydrogen to lift them.
  • Harry Turtledove's novel The Two Georges is about an alternate world where the United States never left the British Empire. The first chapter is set on an airship, where the protagonist sees a Air Force biplane fly past and echoes the general view that while such speed is useful for the military, there's just no need for it in civilian life.
    • This is in fact based on the Imperial Airship Scheme, also known as the Burney Scheme, which proposed that Britain's colonies would be serviced by a fleet of airships.
  • S. M. Stirling's books are lousy with zeppelins. One example is the universe of The Draka, where they are widely used by the titular faction.
  • Mortal Engines has a lot of Zeppelins, though it's a post-apocalyptic future version of this world rather than a parallel one. Heavier-than-air flight is reinvented over the course of the series.
  • The War in the Air by H. G. Wells is about the German Empire using giant zeppelins to attack the rest of the world, particularly the United States. While at the time it was written, it was a reasonable extrapolation of the current technology, it suffers from being set 20 Minutes into the Future and so might now be considered an honorary alternate reality.
    • During World War I the Germans did bomb London several times with zeppelins. They did a better job of frightening the civilians than actually destroying strategic targets, but it worked out all the same until they started getting blown out of the sky.
  • Dean Ing's The Big Lifters has a messianic protagonist pushing high-tech zeppelins called "delta-dirigibles" as a way to get big trucks (like the one that killed his grandmother) off of America's freeways.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. Blimps are used for military and rescue operations, but nothing beats the Hieronymus Bosch, a giant luxury airship (30% longer than the Hindenburg) converted for the scientific expedition in "A Season for Slaughter".
  • In Charles Stross's The Merchant Princes Series, one of the two alternate universes featured in detail uses zeppelins for air travel. (The other one has a roughly medieval level of technology, so it doesn't have air travel at all.)
  • L. Neil Smith's alternate history novel The Probability Broach features large zeppelin passenger liners. Interestingly, Smith does not have them simply for style, rather their existence proceeds logically from the nature of his world. The character's claim that zeppelin travel is uncommon in our world because the military subsidizes airplanes so that it can requisition them in emergencies. It does not subsidize the less militarily useful zeppelins, which means the incentives are for companies to develop planes. In The Probability Broach the governments and militaries of the world are much weaker, so are unable to subsidize much of anything. In fact, in the back story a sort of airborne militia try to use zeppelins in combat and are pretty much all shot down, lampshading the uselessness of these aircraft as air superiority fighters.
  • This turns up with the second word of The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, a somewhat Lovecraftian novel set in an alternate late-Victorian London. For the record, the first word is "The". In our universe, when Queen Victoria died, Count von Zeppelin hadn't sold even one of his machines, but he had been banging on about them since 1874.
  • The Red Mars Trilogy has a fleet of automated "air"ships used both for exploration and as part of the early Terraforming effort (ultimately a failure but it turns out somewhat useful anyway), so they're Zeppelins on another world as well. There's solid science backing this: Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, so fixed-wing aircraft have trouble generating lift there - a problem that lighter-than-air vehicles do not share. This is aided by the fact that with lower gravity, airships also require less lifting gas. Later (post-terraforming) a transforming high-tech sailboat turns into a blimp to escape rough seas.
  • Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age features a very well justified abundance of airships. With ubiquitous nano-tech it's so simple to create objects that are lighter than air but stronger than steel that it's the law you have to add weight to things to make sure the atmosphere isn't filled with lighter-than-air-stronger-than-steel grocery bags clogging engines. As to the airships, when you can create these materials you don't have to fill the envelope with anything at all. Vacuum is lighter than everything and thanks to nanopumps cheap to create. Airships are so economical they replace shipping as the bulk transit of choice.
  • Iain Banks' Transition invokes this — a man who frequently travels between universes at one point looks up at the sky when arriving in a new one, searching for zeppelins. As he says, he 'likes it when there's zeppelins'.
  • Michael Moorcock's The Warlord of the Air series is set in a succession of overlapping alternate Earths, where in all of them the powered airship is the dominant method of flight and aerial warfare. An adventurer from our Earth, Oswald Bastable, comes from the late nineteenth century where the only method of flight remains the tethered balloon. Captain Bastable proves to be a natural airship pilot, and eventually becomes of interest to a shadowy group called The League of Trans-Temporal Adventurers who show him new worlds still.
  • The Hubris in More Information Than You Require, a massive zeppelin that the author buys from Emo Philips. Counts as another world because according to this book, Thomas Jefferson was friends with the mole men, axolotls have magical powers, and Enrico Fermi was an alien.
  • In the 1632 series, Marlon Pridmore uses his experience as a balloonist to help the Danes build a dirigible to bring home nutmeg from their Indian colony of Tranquebar. Also, without any experience, but with a lot of brute force, Berni Zeppi helps the Russians build their own dirigible, which they use to beat a Polish-Lithuanian army.
  • The Affinity Bridge, as a function of its Steampunk setting.
  • Dexter Palmer's The Dream of Perpetual Motion opens with the protagonist imprisoned for life on board a high-altitude airship, and then shows How We Got Here.
  • In The Yiddish Policemen's Union, an Alternate History by Michael Chabon, no actual Zeppelins appear, and the technology is for the most part pretty similar to our timeline's. But in a subtle joke on this trope the protagonist finds "a windup zeppelin" amongst other junk in a basement.
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is set in a Post-Peak Oil world, so dirigibles powered by kink-springs and other alternate energies have replaced the now obsolete airliners.
  • Rudyard Kipling's short story "With the Night Mail" imagines a world where airships are the primary means of transatlantic flight - though when he wrote it, this looked like a probable future rather than an imaginary world.
  • The "blimps" that ply the "skies" of the giant living space habitat Gaia in John Varley's Titan trilogy are literally Zeppelins from another world. They aren't machines though: they are living, sentient creatures kept aloft by naturally produced hydrogen. Sometimes they allow people to hitch rides.
    • They're terrified of fire, for good reason. At least partially because of this, they (and most of the main characters) hate "buzzbombs", heavier than air flying creatures that have what amounts to an organic ramjet embedded in their bodies and are described as being something like sharks mentally.
  • The evil aristocracy in The Kingdoms of Evil employs gas-filled flying squid as a means of transportation.
  • In Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, airplanes remain limited to military use, while civilian airflight is accomplished mostly by airship (and later, "space planes"!)
  • The titular Leviathan in the Leviathan series is a living airship in an alternate history with organic technology.
  • In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, given the relative scarcity of oil but plentiful energy thanks to nuclear power, hybrid lifting body airships powered by pebble bed nuclear reactors are the most common mass transportation for both civilian and military purposes in many countries.
  • A variation in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen. While the story mostly takes place on an alternate Earth, the airships in question were, in fact, invented by the Japanese for the Grik, most of whom are too dumb to operate a heavier-than-air craft. They are also shot down incredibly easy with by three P-40s with tracer rounds.
  • Stephen Baxter's Proxima ends with a band of explorers emerging on a world to be confronted by an airship piloted by an angry Roman.
  • Richard Ellis Preston Jr.'s Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin revolves about the adventures of the title Zeppelin. Despite the danger of hydrogen fires, they must be them because of alien obelisks that prevent their using electronics.
  • The tree-walkers in The Memory of Sky (a Great Ship novel) use blimps and zeppelins for travel between the districts inhabited trees - they are slow enough to be safe to maneuver in crowded areas, and agile enough to maneuver in the upper foliage of the wilderness. The zeppelins have combustion engines (whose iron is extracted from corona blood) and fueled by alcohol. The papio, on the other hand, use airplanes with VTOL capabilities, as they inhabit the coral growing from the rim of the world where large open expanses are more common.
  • Anthony Huso's The Last Page and its follow-up Black Bottle are set in a steampunk world full of Zeppelins (and tanks, cars, etc., all of which run on "chemiostatic" engines). They're even referred to as "Zeppelins", despite the fact that this series is not set on an alternate Earth but a made-up fantasy world, making it highly unlikely that Lord Zeppelin would exist, much less have his name associated with airships.
  • In Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long Earth series, zeppelins are the preferred mode of travel between the millions of parallel Earths humanity has discovered. Potentially any vehicle can dimension hop, but zeppelins, or "twains", are justified on the grounds that: A) You retain your altitude, while the ground may not, so flight is highly recommended, B) Millions of uninhabited Earths means helium is plentiful, and C) Zeppelins don't require airstrips to land safely. Technically, the twains are from our world, since homo sapiens only evolved on one Earth, but it's still a story about alternate universes and zeppelins.
  • In World War Z blimps and zeppelins make a comeback due to their low cost, the scarcity of oil, their relatively low noise output compared to planes and helicopters and if they run out of fuel for propulsion, they remain airborne (both of which are vital in a world where zombies outnumber humans at least two to one). The head of the Government's resource management agency notes that he was somewhat less than enamoured with the idea of sending up Americans in hydrogen-filled airships, the only source of naturally-occurring helium in the United States being overrun with zombies, but eventually came around after it was pointed out that we've come on a long way in safe storage techniques for flammable gases since 1937.
  • Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror: Majorly subverted by the heavier-than-air design of the Albatross, and by the whole premise that lighter-than-air travel is hopelessly outmoded.
  • Played with in The Genesis of Jenny Everywhere- the title character, existing in all possible universes at once and accessing the thoughts of other versions of herself in her thoughts, is first described as dreaming of "battling airship pirates over the Alps" amongst other exciting and otherworldly adventures. By contrast, this Jenny's world is implied to be mundane and boring- and yet a couple of scenes later, there's a zeppelin heard flying past in the background. In other words, not every Alternate Universe is that exciting.
  • In Kurd Laßwitz's Auf zwei Planeten (1897) the Martians use a fleet of airships to defeat the forces of the major powers of Earth. However, these airships, while looking a bit like Zeppelins and, at least in their earlier models, sharing their vulnerability to storms, are not gas-filled aircraft, but largely built of the almost weightless material "Stellite" and they make use of the Martian Artificial Gravity technology. Encased in another miracle material, Nihilite, they are invulnerable to projectile weapons.
  • In Somewhither, the empire of Ur from an alternate Earth uses huge combat airships. The protagonist lampshades this trope when he sees one.
  • In Victoria, retrofuturistic airships eventually become an important part of the setting's future history, illustrating both its Super Science and its return to an Art Deco-ish aesthetic.
  • A short story that helped set this trope in stone is Howard Waldrop's "Custer's Last Jump". Presented as a historical article from an alternate timeline, it deals with a Battle of the Little Big Horn fought between biplanes piloted by Sioux warriors and George Armstrong Custer's airship-borne paratroopers. The "Notes" mention a famous film made about the battle: They Died With Their Chutes On.
  • In The Invisible Library, Irene visits a parallel universe where vampires and other mythical creatures are considered normal members of society, and zeppelins are the normal way of air transport. However, no method of wireless communication has been invented; the airships communiate with the ground via devices powered by elf magic, which horrifies Irene, as elves are consistently evil (the stronger ones can travel between the worlds, so every parallel universe has the same elves.)
  • Present in "The Effluent Engine" by N. K. Jemisin: In its Alternate History's version of the Haitian slave revolution, revolutionaries seized the rum distilleries and used their byproducts to inflate airships for the war effort. After winning independence, they became the world's foremost dirigible producers.
  • Books of the Raksura: Downplayed. One remote cliffside city is extremely proud of its unique blimps, which it uses for trade and defense. The Raksura visitors are used to seeing magic-powered Cool Airships, so they studiously avoid mentioning how ridiculous the blimps look in comparison.
  • "The Long Haul" by Ken Liu portrays a zeppelin journey in a world in which zeppelins never went out of fashion and exist alongside jet airliners in the present day.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series, airships - ranging from small personal flyers to spectacular airborne battleships - are very common among the cities of the Red Martians. The Black Martians also have a formidable aerial navy, which features prominently in ''The Gods of Mars'.
  • Mindstar Rising by Peter F. Hamilton. Airships are being used in a global-warming world, but it's mentioned that they are only a viable technology after the development of superstrength monolattice composites built in orbital microgravity factories.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The National Geographic Channel's Aftermath: Life Without Oil special suggests that a civilization without access to abundant fossil fuel may use airships for air travel; most likely thanks to the fact that they need very little fuel compared to propeller or jet-powered planes.
  • There is an airship in the opening sequence of Caprica, and in The Metaverse game New Cap City, a gigantic, heavily armed dirigible circles the virtual city, launching fighter planes and gunning down anyone it sees on the ground.
  • Continuum features a certain future CEO that lives in a penthouse on top of a strange upside-down satellite/Zeppelin that should by all rights capsize immediately, but can fly upright because FUTURE.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel": The Doctor immediately notices that they've slipped into a parallel world when he sees zeppelins in the sky above London.
    • "The Wedding of River Song" opens with a montage of anachronisms ("Do Not Feed the Pterodactyls" sign, Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens interviewed on television, etc.) starting, of course, with a sky full of hot-air balloons. Carrying cars.
  • In The Flash (2014), what little we see of "Earth-3" includes, naturally, airships. Later on, Earth-X also has them, but with swastikas on the side.
  • Played dead straight to the point of an Invoked Trope on Fringe; the first image Walter shows his military bosses in 1985 to prove he's discovered an Alternate Universe is a zeppelin docking at the Empire State Building. They're not seen all the time in other episodes set in the alternate universe, but then again you don't always see airplanes in the real world's sky. Sometimes, the transition from scenes in one universe to another is shown via a quick burst of light and a zeppelin in the sky appearing or disappearing in the sky.
    • In a third-season episode, Fauxlivia meets her fiancé at the aforementioned Empire State Building upon his return from assisting in treating a North Texas cholera outbreak.
  • This trope is heavily downplayed in The Man in the High Castle. Establishing shots of the Nazi-occupied New York occasionally contain zeppelins in the distant skyline. However, the show prefers to use Concorde aircraft (which were invented a couple decades earlier in the series' timeline compared to ours) with its distinctive sonic boom to convey the "this is an alternate universe" feeling.
  • While not entirely clear if The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne takes place in an alternate world, the heroes travel the world in an airship much more advanced than possible at the time. Then again, this isn't even the least likely invention in the show (hovering Time Machine, anyone?). A later story arc features a group of baddies copying the design into an even larger, armored airship complete with cannons in order to help the South win The American Civil War. The reasoning is that battlefield artillery is designed to shoot horizontally (which is wrong, especially if mortars are also used) and can't shoot an airship above.
  • It's a relatively minor instance, but in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Past and Present", SG-1 finds itself on a post-industrial world remarkably similar to our own in the late 19th century. A zoomed-out shot of the city shows a zeppelin floating lazily in the sky.

  • Abney Park is a steampunk band whose fictional persona involves their plane crashing into a time-traveling dirigible, which they then commandeered. They have since become airship pirates.
  • The song Geni e o Zepelim ("Jenny and the Zeppelin" in English) features a villain that rides in in a giant Zeppelin and threatens to blow up the entire city.
  • Trout Mask Replica: In the weirdness of the entire album the song "The Blimp" definitely fits this trope.

  • The Twilight Histories episode “The Big Turk”, set in a world where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk reformed the entire Ottoman Empire into a massive and prosperous Turkish Republic, begins and ends on an airship. Though high-speed rail is also mentioned as a popular mode of transportation. An airship also appears at the end of the miniepisode “Beyond the Indus.”

    Tabletop Games 
  • In a January 2000 Suppressed Transmission column, Kenneth Hite dubbed this trope "Hite's Law", and took it to its logical conclusion: given that airships (along with diverse, radical, and often authoritarian political systems) are the sign of an alternate history, our own history was an Alternate Universe in the early 20th century. See also the notes for GURPS below.
  • Battletech has Zeppelins as support vehicles, in small, medium and even large. In addition, the Star League apparently once used a Zeppelin based design to create multi-platform flying cities.
  • Danger Patrol is centered around Rocket City on Mars, where gargantuan "Magna-Zeppelins" are a common sight shipping large cargoes across the massive city. It's a Planetary Romance setting that plays up Zeerust for all it's worth.
  • Featured very prominently in Dystopian Wars, often as air carriers for flying machines and as the occasional flying fortress bristling with guns. Not only that, they're often up to five times as large as Hindeburg... And there's more than one in every army.
  • Heavier-than-air ships powered by a bound elemental are a recent innovation in Eberron and are prohibitively expensive for most, but they're also an icon of the setting and a symbol of its Dungeon Punk character.
  • In Flying Circus, the Great War stunted technology to the equivalent of the early-20th century, zeppelins and other airships remain a mainstay in Himmilgard. Airships appear through the artwork to bring home the setting's tech level.
  • GURPS, being a generic system, addresses the subject of airship technology from time to time — often in relation to alternate histories, as it turns out.
    • Kenneth Hite (see above) was one of the authors of Infinite Worlds, and one of his contributions was a table to randomly generate alternate technologies for one's randomly generated worldline; it has a note that certain results dictate adding zeppelins regardless of the rest of the universe's tech level. Apparently, alternate history just generates airships.
    • GURPS Steampunk 1: Settings and Style has a box-out discussing what a world or setting needs to justify the survival and prevalence of airships, and concludes that they are actually a logical fit with Steampunk.
    • GURPS All-Star Jam 2004, a 10-chapter compilation of various roleplaying concepts and settings, devotes one chapter (by Brian J Underhill) to airships.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition: While The Hindenburg catastrophe didn't happen in-universe (yet), the zeppelins are on the stage of their swan song anyway. Nothing however prevents players from procuring one and even the default, starting adventure is all about using and then maintaining one on the journey to the Hollow Earth via the North Pole shaft. Nazis are also still toying with their own designs, and few Flawed Prototypes show up in the scenarios provided in the expansions - including one fitted with an extra-flammable rocket engine, because all that hydrogen wasn't already dangerous enough.
  • Mage: The Ascension: A favorite (if blatantly anachronistic) mode of transportation for the Sons of Ether, who for the most part revel in just the type of aesthetic that would spur mad scientist/mages to build large and improbable airships. They mostly keep their zeppelins to offworld Pocket Dimensions to avoid the threat of a Reality-Breaking Paradox if enough Muggles notice the impossible vessels.
  • More like Zeppelins On Another World in Rocket Age. As rocket engines aren't safe in the atmosphere of Jupiter and the other gas giants, ships designed to explore there can be converted into zeppelins.
  • Airship technology turns up from time to time in Shadowrun: in remote drones for aerial surveillance, in huge "cargolifters" for inexpensive bulk transport, and in luxurious cruise ships for the ultra-rich. The finale of the first Shadowrun book takes place at an airfield where a yakuza boss has just flown in on a zeppelin.
  • In the setting of Space 1889, most flying ships on Earth and Mars use "Martian liftwood" to stay aloft, giving them a more ship-like appearance. But on Venus liftwood doesn't work, so the German colony there is patrolled by Zeppelins — on another world in another world.

    Theme Parks 
  • Dreamfinder's Cool Ship at Disney Theme Parks first version of Journey into Imagination.
    • The story behind the airship is a long and complicated one full of What Might Have Been (aptly enough, given this trope): the original plan, back in The '70s, was for the California Disneyland to contain a steampunk-themed area called Discoveryland, whose centrepiece would be a replica of the Hyperion, a Cool Airship featured in the Disney movie The Island at the Top of the World. Unfortunately, after the movie flopped, Disney scrapped their plans for Discoveryland, repurposing most of the work that was already done into Journey Into Imagination over in Florida. Decades later, however, the old Discoveryland plans were dusted off for Disneyland Paris as its equivalent to the Tomorrowland areas in the American parks, with the Hyperion in place. Disneyland Paris's opening was also a flop, because zeppelins are cursed apparently.
  • Homaged in the large model blimp over the entrance to Steampunk HQ in Oamaru, New Zealand.
  • Zeppelins are among the many flying machines developed by the Udara Air Kingdom at Lost Island Theme Park that can be seen in the plans at Skyborne, though experiments in the preshow with Udarinium involving them haven't gone well.

    Video Games 
  • Persona 2 makes special mention of a model blimp mounted to the roof of the aerospace museum. Since rumors can become reality in this game, the fact that enough people suspect it's a real, functioning blimp makes it flyable. The launching of the blimp late in Innocent Sin is a signifier that the basic rules of reality no longer apply, right before everything goes completely to hell in the late game. When it launches again (after a Reset Button) in Eternal Punishment after an early-game dungeon, it's a warning that things are moving faster now even without your contribution.
  • The beginning of Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura sees the player barely surviving a terrible airship crash. Interestingly, it seems heavier than air ships have a shorter than real-life span of use in Arcanum, as the aforementioned blimp IFS Zephyr (incorrectly called a zeppelin) was the first of its kind and on its maiden voyage, but was destroyed with stolen biplanes. Later in the game, succeeding on one quest and providing proof the biplanes flew insures their continued existence.
  • The Final Fantasy games love airships; each main-series game includes an airship in the mid- to late game as easy transport around the world. While many of the earlier games are simply sea-ships with propellers on, Final Fantasy VI and VII (both much more technology-oriented than their predecessors) feature actual zeppelins as their major airships, and Final Fantasy IX brings them back as general-use vehicles in a fantasy Steampunk setting. More recent games have airships that look too advanced to be barely recognizable as dirigibles.
  • Used in TimeShift. Most of the game takes place in an alternate 1940s, so the zeppelins aren't so far out note . The helicopters and giant mechanical spiders, however, make you realize something is more than a little wrong.
    • They are badass zeppelins. They have two giant vertical props, have two heavy-duty AA autocannon turrets, several machinegun emplacements, dedicated lift systems between decks, and self repair capabilities, thus able to fend off a heavy-duty assault by two or three dozen unusually slow jet planes.
  • The Crimson Skies computes games are set in a swashbuckling Diesel Punk 20th century alternate history that has various zeppelins used by both the armed forces and sky pirates as flying aircraft carriers or sky battleships. They often play key points in many levels, serving as the focus of escort missions or in boss encounters.
  • Rowan Software's 1995 alternate universe flight simulator Air Power: Battle in the Skies takes place on a marshy continent with little in the way of roads and railways. Warfare is conducted mainly with aircraft and zeppelins. The player commands a fleet of heavily armed war zeppelins, including the aircraft carrier which serves as the main base for the player's fighters and bombers.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (Both set in separate alternate timelines) feature the Kirov Airships, massive, heavily armoured war Zepplins used by the Soviet Union to bombard ground targets. Cutscenes and promo pictures, as well as the menu screen for Red Alert 3 show them looming ominously over US Cities. This is explained as an alternative approach to aircraft due to the Allies forbidding the Soviets from building a strong conventional air force. While the Soviets do get additional aircraft in Yuri's Revenge, this takes place after the main storyline, giving the Soviets more time to build fast-strike MiGs.
  • Zeppelins seem rather abundantly used by villains in the Dead or Alive series, mostly by the evil DOATEC. Their universe seems to be a mix and match of different eras. At DOATEC, it seems to be a big city with elements of Cyberpunk, then there's the ninja clan villages which seem to be stuck in feudal Japan. Oh, and dinosaurs still roam the jungles for some reason. To top it all off, now there's a time travelling Spartan.
  • In The Saboteur, Nazi zeppelins act like helicopters from GTA. It is worth mentioning that these airships can be shot down in a fiery inferno.
  • Seen in World of Warcraft, usually on the Horde side but sometimes in neutral zones (like Northrend).
    • And originally appeared in Warcraft II on the Horde side thanks to the goblins, whom most others consider crazy for flying in such a contraption. The Alliance's counterpart unit, the Gnomish Flying Machine, was more of a steampunk take on a helicopter, by contrast.
  • An airship features in Damnation, for perhaps longer than it should as the folks from Unskippable point out:
    "So, is nobody going to shoot at it? Because, gee, I wonder what the weakness could be on the airship with the two balloon things.
  • Shadow of the Beast, despite its high-fantasy theme, has airships floating across the sky for no clear reason.
  • Wing Commander spinoff, Privateer 2: The Darkening, featured the planet Bex, complete with flying zeppelins and purple sky in its intro movie.
  • Dealt in Lead No zeppelins yet, but war balloons. During The American Civil War. No, they're not used for observation. They're used for wrecking entire cities.
  • Neo Steam has steam balloons, which are basically hot air balloons with propellers (and possibly full of steam...). Unlike other transportation methods the balloons are free to use once you have bought a map.
    • An interesting detail is that rather than play a stock cut scene, the game remains interactive during the journey, so you can zoom in and out and circle around your character as s/he stands in the gondola while the actual terrain you are traversing unrolls below. The balloons can not be seen from the ground though.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal's Metropolis (a recurring level) had airships with Ratchet & Clank advertising which could be destroyed for a skill point. An early teaser for Tools of Destruction also featured them.
  • SkyGunner displays how different their world is by setting the first stage of the game around one.
  • The Panzer Dragoon series features a large number of various airships. Since you are on a dragon and could just run away from anything that couldn't keep up with you, it's natural enough that it needs a wide array of flying enemies, and since its a steam-punkish universe (with added magic) the vehicles of preference for the evil empire du jour are airships or airshipesque vehicles.
  • Syndicate's isometric view is explained as the player commanding the action from an airship floating above the level.
  • BioShock Infinite takes place on Columbia, a floating city built in 1900. There are zeppelins. You have to take one out in a boss battle. It is awesome.
  • Guns of Icarus has you pilot a zeppelin called the Icarus across a post-apocalyptic landscape, fighting off Sky Pirates along the way.
  • Air units in March of War, which takes place in an alternate version of the 1940s, tend to be airships of some kind.
  • Airships appear late in the game Guild Wars 2, as well as in some of the Living Story updates- they are first developed by the Charr, but are constructed later by the Pact with Human and Asuran inputs. Later on, many of them are stolen and then extensively used by the game's Aetherblade faction.
  • In Wolfenstein (2009), one such zeppelin has been hovering over Isenstadt for the whole game, serving as a headquarters for the Nazi's Veil research. The climactic levels involve BJ infiltrating and destroying it.
  • In Die Reise ins All there's the meteor, Captain nemo's airship, that looks a lot like an airship version of the nautilus.
  • You can see a huge airship flying in the background in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, in much the same way a plane would.
  • In Disco Elysium, these are not seen during gameplay thanks to the top-down isometric perspective, but they are visible in the opening splash screen: rather than seagoing ships, which cannot cross the Pale, large patches of anti-reality which keeps the world's continents — the so-called isolas — seperated, most cargo shipping and passenger travel is accomplished through the use of airships, or aerostats — blocky vessels which resemble aircraft carriers, maneuvering via enormous fixed rotors. Even the equivalent of naval forces use aerostats rather than conventional battleships, such as the Coalition patrol ships off the shore of Revachol which have been a permanent feature of the city's skyline since the end of the World Revolution.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: Piltover's steampunk aesthetic means its lousy with airships especially once the Hexgate is built, making the city a hub of airship transportation. Powder dreams of riding one someday while Mylo boasts he'll shoot one down one day. Mylo never gets to accomplish his dream but at least Jinx got to have a shootout in an airship.
  • Archer has the "Skytanic", existing in what seems to be another timeline than our own, where the Cold War never ended. However, the Hindenburg disaster did happen in this universe, and so Archer spends the whole episode convinced the dirigible is a massive explosion waiting to happen, despite the fact that it's filled with inert Helium. However, he also points out that despite its luxury, a relatively slow-moving airship with a single route is utterly pointless in a world of passenger jets. When arguing, he even points out the irony of building a floating vehicle that doesn't travel much faster than a ship. He's vindicated when the ship's captain is revealed to have placed a bomb on board because his employers lost his retirement package after going bankrupt. There's a Genius Bonus for informed viewers in the Captain's earlier defense of cruise airships, in which he points out that they outcompete ocean liners. This is true, but ocean liners themselves died out long ago.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has regular, reality-based hot air balloons, and massive '''metal''' airships that are truly from another world.
    • The Legend of Korra also has the large metal airships of its predecessor, albeit with 70 additional years of technological development.
  • Batman: The Animated Series was fond of these, as they evoked a 1930s atmosphere. Commentary for "On Leather Wings", which was the first episode of the series, acknowledges that Police blimps never really existed, even in the 1930s, but they decided to use them anyway because of the impression they gave of Batman's world. A later episode features a full-scale zeppelin.

    Real Life 
  • Kenneth Hite, the author of the quote up top, has also said, "From this premise, it is not outside the realm of Plausibility that our history between 1900 and 1936 was, in fact, an Alternate History. It would, at least, explain a lot."


"That Includes the Zeppelins?"

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Main / ZeppelinsFromAnotherWorld

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