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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Science in Fiction: Living Arrangments Part II

This week we're looking at living arrangements in the future, both far and near. My goal is to give your imagination some building blocks for a more interesting, more dynamic, fictional world.

Characters need more than a cube with a roof to interact with. There's more to sci-fi than robots and hard-good replicators. To build a rich world that feels authentic, you need to have a good foundation. So let's dig in...

2) The Earth Home
No, not the space ship cum planet. I'm talking about homes that are buried under ground for insulation, aesthetics, or safety. Like cave-dwelling for the 23rd century.

I'm by no means the first person to suggest this concept for sci-fi. Tolkein wasn't the first author to use this concept either, although his Hobbit Holes illustrate the idea very well. An Earth Home is a human habitation that is buried, grass growing over the top, and happy children playing in the meadow.

Or, if you happen to be writing sci-fi, buried homes under lots of dry ground because the planet you settled was to close to the sun and you don't want to burn to death with the sunrise.

Pros: Because an Earth Home uses local resources it's a viable option for new settlements off of Earth. Any planet we terraform will have Earth plants adapted for the local ecology, and we can use them to integrate our species. Why ship thousands of tons of metal to a new planet when you can harvest the local dirt and trees to build a sustainable, cheap, home?

I would love to see this kind of home used in a book set in the first few centuries of human colonization of space. The juxtaposition of space-age tech and this older style could be beautiful, it could also be a source of conflict for your characters.

Cons: Every house has a con, but I admit a bias here. I would love to live in a home like this, fully connected to the web of course :o)

I think the downsides would be the possibility of erosion, mud walls can't last forever, and native species invasion. On a hostile planet with large carnivores or fierce aliens I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with this style of home. This house also wouldn't work underwater, in deep space, or on a planet that didn't have a breathable atmosphere.

Nautilus Home found HERE, images credited to geekologie. Earth Sheltered Home found HERE. The images of the Woodland House were found HERE, design, copyright, and thanks go to Simon Dale for this beautiful and inspiring home.


  1. I've always been a fan of the earth homes too. They just look so pretty and natural. There are a few of them around where I live. It's entertaining to drive by the earthen lump and wonder what exactly is hidden underneath.

  2. The city my MC is currently living in for Twisted Metal is variations on earth homes. I love the idea of keeping an area looking natural by integrating nature and homes. I love tree houses too. But I think it's harder for a kid to break an arm living in an Earth home than a tree house.

    As an added bonus I could tell Meemaw Brooks that the grandkids were playing on the roof!

  3. So, even though I don't write Sci-fi...I am loving this series. Look at all those cool alternative homes! How inspiring... :-)

  4. Just by-the-by, the British TV series Grand Designs is basically a documentary show on people building fantastically (huge, weird, outrageous, fill-in-the-adjective) homes, and one of their episodes is about the building of the nautilus home :o) Tis a much fun tv show.