From iO9:

We love stories that take us to alien planets and let us explore whole new environments. But not every alien planet is totally realistic, especially given how much we’ve learned about exoplanets lately. So we asked six experts to tell us the biggest mistakes they see in fictional habitable worlds — and here’s what they told us.

Until recently, science fiction creators had to imagine alien planets, without knowing that much about real-life exoplanets. But in the past 20 years, we’ve discovered over 1000 confirmed exoplanets, and learned a lot more in the process.


I’ve often wondered why some authors choose to construct their planets the way they do. In some ways, I get it; world building is hard, y’all. It’s taken years — off and on, granted — for me to get most of the world for my upcoming fantasy series together, and that’s just one small piece of a world, not the full thing. Plus, it’s relatively earthlike. Creating an entire new world from scratch, looking nothing like earth? That’s a lot of work.

What does the ecosystem look like? How many suns/moons/rings? Is it inhabited, or abandoned, or a wasteland? These are all good questions for any new world, and I’m not going to go into the hows and whys of answering them here. That’s not the focus of this article. But it does present some pretty interesting quandaries, and some great advice for writers. If you’re going to create an alien world in your books or stories, these are pretty good things to keep away from, and if you’re having trouble, talk to your writing group — that’s exactly the kind of stuff they’re for.

Like most of iO9’s articles, this one’s pretty well-done. Give it a gander, see if you agree, and then come back and tell me what you think in the comments.

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