In science fiction, a desert planet is a one-climate planet where the climate is desert, with little or no natural precipitation. The motif is a common one, and includes both real and fictional planets. In a few stories, the motif is accompanied by elements of hydraulic despotism. Perhaps the most famous examples are Arrakis, the setting for much of the Dune novels of Frank Herbert, and Tatooine of the Star Wars universe.
The desert planet is a recurring motif in science fiction movies, because of the popularity of science fiction symbolism representing isolation or self-reliance, and because of the relatively low cost to Hollywood productions to use a desolate part of nearby Arizona or New Mexico for filming.
Real planets used as desert planet settings
- Main article: Mars in fiction
Before, and certainly after, the results sent back by the Viking landers
, some science fiction set on Mars
portrayed it as a desert planet. Science fiction stories that do so include:
- Leigh Brackett's Martian stories, in which Mars is largely desert with sporadic oases of civilization.
- Larry Niven's "Known Space" novels and short stories (including Eye of an Octopus and Protector), where water is completely alien to the biochemistry of the planet's inhabitants
- Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, where Mars is gradually terraformed from a frozen desert planet to a more hospitable Earthlike environment
- Martian Time-Slip, by Philip K. Dick, in which Mars has been colonized by the United Nations. Scarce water is closely apportioned, and the president of the Water Workers Union is one of the more powerful figures.
- The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, also by Philip K. Dick, set primarily on Mars. Drafted colonists, such as those in the ironically-named Fineburg Crescent region, relieve the bleakness of Martian life by huddling in "hovels" and taking psychedelic drugs.
- Total Recall, in which Mars is inhabited by mutants and labourers, and air is supplied at a tax.
Fictional desert planets
Other, fictional, desert planets have been used as story motifs:
- Abydos in the film Stargate (though there is the possibility that this merely takes place in a desert on an Earth-like planet) However, in the series Stargate SG-1, shots from space of the planet show that it is completely desert.
- Altair IV in the film Forbidden Planet (whilst Morbius' house has a cultivated garden, the backdrop of the starship landing area, presumably representative of the planet at large, is desert)
- Anarres in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed (not strictly a desert planet, as it has oceans and is predominantly steppe)
- Arrakis in the Dune series of novels by Frank Herbert
- Beachworld in the short story of the same name by Stephen King
- Gunsmoke in the manga and anime series Trigun.
- Korhal, a planet in the Starcraft video game franchise.
- Marak's World in Hammerfall and Forge of Heaven in The Gene Wars universe of C. J. Cherryh
- Plyuk, planet where Soviet science fiction movie Kin-dza-dza! takes place.
- Salt, in the novel of the same name by Adam Roberts
- Tallarn and several other planets in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
- Tatooine in the Star Wars novels and movies.
- Kerona in the Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter, computer game
- Kharak in the PC Real-time strategy game Homeworld.
- Klendathu, a barren desert planet which is home to the Arachnids in Starship Troopers.
- Tophet in the Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles
- Trisol in the TV animated series Futurama
- M6-117 (actually the moon of a larger gas planet), the planet in the movie Pitch Black
- the planet in Snare, a novel by Katherine Kerr
- Ceti Alpha V in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (after Ceti Alpha VI had exploded and caused a change in orbit)
- Ocampa in the Star Trek: Voyager pilot Caretaker, homeworld of the character Kes
- The planet called "Starbuck" in the final episode of Galactica 1980.
- Athas, the world of the Darksun setting. An old D&D campaign setting originally by TSR but now under copyright of Wizards of the Coast.