I recently checked out a copy of Simone Caroti’s scholarly The Generation Starship In Science Fiction: A Critical History, 1934-2001 (2011) (amazon link) from my library — its appendix contains a wonderful list of generation starship novels and short stories (and the very first non-fiction attestations of this fascinating sci-fi concept).
I highly recommend the book for all aficionados of this particular sci-fi subgenre. Be warned, as a certain reviewer points out on amazon, it is a work of serious scholarship not a lighthearted romp projecting future developments. It is not a complete list so I’ve gone ahead and added a few (for example, White’s The Watch Below) and starred them (*). I’ve also included his chronological divisions. I’ve supplied links for the few I’ve reviewed.
If you know of any that I haven’t included or were skipped in Caroti’s study let me know.
I have so many more to read! And plan to make a concerted effort to procure them….
Robert H. Goddard. “The Last Migration” (1918) (non-fiction)
Konstantine Tsiolkovsky. “Buduschchee Zemli i Chelovechestvo” (“Earth’s Future and Manking”). Kaluga, (Russia: Izd. Avtora, 1928). (non-fiction)
J. D. Bernal. The World, the Flesh and the Devil (London: Kegan Paul, 1929). (non-fiction/philosophy)
The Gernsback Age (1930-1940)
*Aladra Septama (aka Judson W. Reeves). “Tani of Ekkis.” Amazing Stories Quarterly, (Winter 1930)
Laurence Manning. “The Living Galaxy.” Wonder Stories, (September 1934)
*Murray Leinster. “Proxima Centauri.” Astounding Stories (March 1935)
*Nat Schachner. “Return of the Murians.” Astounding Stories (August 1936)
Otto Binder. “Son of the Stars.” Famous Fantastic Mysteries, (February, 1940)
Don Wilcox. “The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years.” Amazing Stories, (October 1940)
Astounding Science Fiction and the Golden Age of SF (1941-1957)
Robert A. Heinlein. “Universe.” Astounding Science Fiction, (May 1941.) (rereleased in 1963 novel form with “Common Sense” as Orphans of the Sky)
——-”Common Sense.” Astounding Science Fiction, (October 1941)
Arthur C. Clarke. “Rescue Party.” Astounding Science Fiction, (October 1946)
Robert A. Heinlein. “Columbus Was a Dope.” Startling Stories, (May 1947)
*Judith Merril. “Survival Ship.” Worlds Beyond (January 1951)
*Chad Oliver. “Stardust.” Astounding Science Fiction, (1952)
*George Hay. The Flight of the ‘Hesper.’ (London, Hamilton & Co., 1952)
*Julian May. “Star of Wonder.” Thrilling Wonder Stories, (February 1953)
Leslie R. Shepherd. “Interstellar Flight.” Science-Fiction Plus, (April 1953) (non-fiction)
Clifford D. Simak. “Spacebred Generations.” Science-Fiction Plus, (August 1953)
Milton Lesser. The Star Seekers. (Philadelphia, Pa: John C. Winston Co., 1953)
*Poul Anderson. “The Troublemakers.” Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine (September 1953)
*Arthur C. Clarke. “Jupiter Five.” If (May, 1953)
*John Russell Fearn. 1,000-Year Voyage. (Scion Ltd., 1954)
Arthur Sellings. “A Start in Life.” Galaxy Science Fiction, (September 1954)
Frank M. Robinson. “The Oceans Are Wide.” Science Stories, (April 1954)
*James Blish. Cities in Flight series (excluding They Shall Have Stars, 1956). Earthman Come Home, (Putnam, 1955), The Triumph of Time, (Putnam, 1958), A Life for the Stars, (Putnam, 1962).
E. C. Tubb. The Space-Born. In The Man Who Japed/The Space-Born. (New York: Ace, 1956)
From the New Wave to the Edge of Cyberpunk (1957-1979)
John Brunner. “Lungfish.” Science Fantasy, (December 1957) (review 1, review 2)
Chad Oliver. “The Wind Blows Free.” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, (July 1957)
Brian W. Aldiss. Non-Stop. (London: Faber and Faber, 1958)
Judith Merril. “Wish Upon a Star.” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, (December 1958)
Patrician Fanthorpe and R. L. Fanthorpe, Space-Borne (Badger, 1959)
Edmund Cooper. Seed of Light. (New York: Ballantine, 1959)
J. T. McIntosh. 200 Years to Christmas. Science Fantasy 12, no. 35 (June 1959)
*Fred Saberhagen. “The Long Way Home.” Galaxy Magazine (June 1961)
Domingo Santos. La cárcel de acero. (Edhassa, 1961)
David Rome. “Bliss.” Science Adventures, (January 1962)
J. G. Ballard. “Thirteen to Centaurus.” Amazing Stories, (April 1962)
Judith Merril. “The Lonely.” Worlds of Tomorrow (October 1963)
A. E. Van Vogt. Rogue Ship. (New York: Doubleday, 1965). First published ‘Centaurus II.’Astounding Science-Fiction (1947), ‘Rogue Ship.’ Super Science Stories (1950), ‘The Expendables.’ Worlds of Science Fiction (1963)
Samuel R. Delany. The Ballad of Beta-2. In Alpha Yes, Terra No!/The Ballard of Beta-2, (New York: Ace, 1965)
*James White. The Watch Below, (Whiting & Wheaton, 1966)
*John Clute. “A Man Must Die.” New Worlds SF (November 1966)
Poul Anderson. Tau Zero. (New York: Doubleday, 1970). Fix-up “To Outlive Eternity.” (Galaxy Magazine, June/August 1967)
James White. All Judgement Fled. in If, (December 1967-February 1968)
Alexei Panshin. Rite of Passage. (New York: Ace, 1968)
Fritz Leiber. “Ship of Shadows.” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, (July 1969).
Harry Harrison. Captive Universe. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969)
*Philip K. Dick. A Maze of Death. (Doubleday, 1970)
Roger Dixon. Noah II. (New York: Ace, 1970)
Ben Bova. Exiled from Earth. in Galaxy Magazine, (January/February 1971)
——- Flight of Exiles. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972)
——- End of Exile. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975)
R. W. Mackelworth. Starflight 3000. (New York: Ballantine, 1972)
Arthur C. Clarke. Rendezvous with Rama. (London: Gollancz, 1973)
*Vonda N. McIntyre. “The Mountains of Sunset, The Mountains of Dawn.” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (February 1974)
Harlan Ellison and Edward Bryant. Phoenix Without Ashes. (New York: Fawcett Gold medal, 1975)
*Fred Saberhagen. “Birthdays.” Galaxy (March, 1976)
James M. Ward. Metamorphosis Alpha. (Lake Geneva: TSR, 1976) (game)
*Frank Dartal. Le livre d’Éon. (Fleuve Noir, 1978)
Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Mayflies. (New York: Berkley, 1979)
George Zebrowski. Macrolife. (New York: Harper & Row, 1979)
The Information Revolution and Beyond (1980-2010)
*Élisabeth Vonarburg. “Eon” in L’œil de la nuit. (Le Préambule, 1980)
Damien Broderick. The Dreaming Dragons. (Melbourne: Nostrilia Press, 1980)
*Terry Bisson. Wyrldmaker. (Timescape, 1981)
Thomas Hubschman. Space Ark. (New York: Tower Books, 1981)
*James P. Hogan, Voyage from Yesteryear (Del Rey, 1982)
*Pamela Sargent. Earthseed. (Harper & Row, 1983).
*Chuck Rothman. Staroamer’s Fate. (Questar / Popular Library, 1986)
Robert J. Sawyer. Golden Fleece. (New York: Warner Books, 1990)
*Michael Capobianco. Burster. (Bantam Spectra, 1990)
Frank M. Robinson. The Dark Beyond the Stars. (New York: Tor, 1991)
*John Gribbin, Innervisions. (Roc UK, 1993)
*Shariann Lewitt, Songs of Chaos. (Ace Books, 1993)
Gene Wolfe. Nightside the Long Sun. (New York: Tor, 1993)
——- Lake of the Long Sun. (New York: Tor, 1994)
——- Caldé of the Long Sun. (New York: Tor, 1994)
——- Exodus from the Long Sun. (New York: Tor, 1996)
*Stephen Baxter. Ring. (HarperCollins, 1994)
*Michael Bishop. “Cri de Coeur.” Asimov’s Science Fiction, (September 1994)
Simon Hawke. The Whims of Creation. (Aspect / Warner Books, 1995)
*Molly Gloss. The Dazzle of Day. (Tor, 1997)
Bruce Sterling. “Taklamakan.” Asimov’s Science Fiction, (October/November 1998)
*Alison Sinclair. Cavalvade. (Millenium/Orion, 1998)
Rob Grant, Colony. (London: Viking UK, 2000)
*Adam Roberts, Salt. (Gollancz, 2000)
*Susan R. Matthews, Colony Fleet. (Eos, 2000).
Richard Paul Russo. Ship of Fouls. (New York: Ace, 2001)
Alastair Reynolds. Chasm City. (London: Gollancz/Orion, 2001)
John Clute. Appleseed. (London: Orbit, 2001)
Ursula K. Le Guin. “Paradises Lost.” in The Birthday of the Wold and Other Stories (New York: Harper Collins, 2002)
Y. Kondo, F. C. Bruhweiler, K. Moore, C. Sheffield (Eds.) Interstellar Travel and Multi-Generation Space Ships. (Burlington, Ont.: apogee, 2003) (non-fiction)
Stephen Baxter. Mayflower II. (Hornsea, UK: PS Publishings, 2004)
Ken MacLeod. Learning the World. (London: Orbit, 2005)
Joe Haldeman. Old Twentieth. (New York: Ace, 2005)
*Paul Chafe. Genesis. (Baen, 2007)
——- Exodus: The Ark (Baen, 2009)
Stephen Baxter. Flood. (London: Gollancz, 2008)
——- Ark. (London: Gollancz, 2009)
Elizabeth Bear. Dust. (New York: Bantam Spectra, 2008)
——- Chill. (New York: Spectra/Ballantine Books, 2010)
*Maria V. Snyder, Inside Out (Harlequin, 2011)
*Maria V. Snyder, Outside In (Harlequin, 2012)
*Michael Bishop. “Twenty Lights to ‘The Land of Snow'” in Going Interstellar (Baen Books, 2012)
*Ken Liu. “Mono non Aware” in The Future is Japanese, ed. Nick Mamatas, Masumi Washington (Haikasoru, 2012)
*Jo Walton. “Turnover.” Lightspeed (March 2014)
*Karl Bunker. “The Woman From the Ocean” in Asimov’s Science Fiction, ed. Sheila Williams (July 2014)
*Kim Stanley Robinson. Aurora (Orbit, 2015)
*Kameron Hurley. The Stars are Legion. (Saga Press, 2017)
*Rivers Solomon. The Unkindness of Ghosts. (Akashic Books, 2017)
*Dave Hutchinson. “Acadie.” (Tor.com, 2017)
*Edward Willett. The Cityborn. (DAW Books, 2017)
*Marina J. Lostetter. Noumenon (Harper Collins, 2017)
*Kevin J. Anderson and Rick Wilber. “The Hind” in Asimov’s Science Fiction (November-December 2020)
*Chris Bucholz, Severance (Apex, 2021)
*Adam Oyebanji, Braking Day (DAW, 2022)
142 thoughts on “List of Generation Ship Science Fiction Novels/Short Stories”
Mr. Boaz — Great list! Two comments —
Simak’s “Spacebred Generations” might be better known as “Target Generation” (under that title in his collection *Strangers in the Universe*). At least, I assume it’s the same story.
There’s also a recent book by Greg Bear to add, *Hull Zero Three*.
I think it’s a different story than Target Generation published in Science-Fiction Plus, for their August 1953 issues….
Is Target Generation another one of his shorts with a generation ship?
Thanks for the comment!
Enjoyed your site, Joachim – thanks!
Just read Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three after seeing it listed here (after Rick’s recommendation?). It’s a great story, but it’s not a generation starship story – there are no generations as all the ‘passengers’ are either frozen for the duration of the journey and/or biofactured (it’s not entirely clear). This is probably why it wasn’t listed by Caroti (an excellent read, by the way), although he listed another 2010 story, so he was likely aware of it – it doesn’t fit his definition.
If you know of any others let me know.
I hear that HZT is similar to Pandorum which is some level a generation ship story.
Just realised you’ve got an earlier version of this site at
with comments through 2012. Is there are reason for splitting the site?
I found a story by Ken Liu recently, called ‘Mono no aware’, originally published in 2012 in ‘The Future is Japanese’, edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington, and reprinted in Lightspeed magazine, June 2013.
The story is set on a generation ship a few years after launch, so although it’s not clear how far they’ll get, it fits the Caroti criteria.
But is Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero really a generation starship story? There are no generations, although one baby is born on board before they find a planet.
Yes, the old one you found is simply the update post I made to alert people that I created a more official “page”… I think I made a link to the page in that update….
As for the list itself, most of it is from the scholarly work I cited. So, I’m using Caroti’s definition and he included Tau Zero. Anderson has another short story — Epilogue — with a exploratory seeding ship sent out from Earth as a war approaches that sort of implies that there are generations onboard but never makes it clear…. Torn whether I should add that one or not as well.
But yes, I’ve heard of the Ken Liu story and plan on adding it but I’m in Paris doing research for a month + and haven’t updated/posted much as of late.
Thanks for the comment!
OMG thank you, thank you, thank you for this list!! I have been looking for a book that I had read years ago and couldn’t remember the title, any character names, or the author (pretty much screwed) and now, thanks to you I have found it!! I thought it was called Earthsong, but really it was Earthseed. Seriously on Cloud 9 right now…
I’m glad I could be of help 🙂
Ditto! I’ve been looking for the title of Earthseed for, literally, 20 years. I read it in middle school and remembered the story–particularly the character of Ship–for years and years, but couldn’t remember the title or any of the other character names. This list is a sanity saver. I LOVED this book, but it belonged to the school library and I’ve never been able to track it down–until now. So awesome! And it’s a trilogy! I had no idea. Can’t wait to re-read this and now the rest of the series. Thank you times a million!
Haha, thanks. I haven’t been thrilled with Sargent’s other SF — namely Cloned Lives. But haven’t read that one yet.
Just a reply to Sin’s post of 31 October: I hadn’t seen Pandorum, but have now checked it out. Like HZT, it’s not a generation starship story – there are no onboard generations, just frozen passengers – but it was an enjoyable couple of hours!
Yeah, it becomes confusing when stories have people frozen so that they can be woken up with 100 years left on the journey to prepare things or only when the spaceship lands…
Thank you for this post! A Goodreads user pointed me to it, and I found a novel that I read as a teen and loved. Can’t wait to read that again. Would not have found it without your list 🙂
You’re welcome. Which book?
Great list but it’s missing a book. I’m looking for a book that I read awhile ago. A generation ship in orbit around earth leaves as war breaks out on earth. It travels to another system where rather than colonizing a planet it proliferates itself through building more ship/worlds. It’s the only book I have come across that actually abandons planets as places to live and builds a true space based civilization. Anyone know the name of the book?
Do you happen to know around when it was written?
You may be thinking of Alexei Panshin’s 1968 *Rite of Passage,” which
is listed above, though it doesn’t exactly fit your description. It’s the only one I can think of offhand where the inhabitants take to spaceborne living permanently — though I haven’t read all the books on this list by a long shot! (There are also planetary civilizations in Panshin’s book — the cultural friction between the two groups is a central theme of the story.)
Nemesis by Asimov?
Hmm, isn’t that a space station fitted with “special” technology? I guess… It isn’t exactly a ship designed to establish a new colony…
Possibly Crown of Infinity by John M. Faucette copyright 1968. My copy is an Ace Double with The Prism by Emil Petaja. Story line is that an ancient species simply known as the Masters destroy all the planets of Humans and a space fairing species with whom Humans were at war called the Shraix. A group of 20 Human ships survives due to a newly invented shield. The survivors are sent out in 2 -person ships in a mission called Star Kings with the generational task of destroying the Masters. Story is told from the perspective of an alien Commander of the Worlds of Civilization, the inheritors of the Star Kings.
Here’s a list for comparative purposes:
For what it’s worth, Amazon has 107 novels tagged as generation shi stories:
Thanks, I haven’t updated this in a while….
I suspect some of those tagged are self-published works, which I won’t include on the list….
The Amazon list is a mess with multiple copies of some titles included and some Kindle editions which are almost certainly vanity exercises.
Yeah, it’s a weak list. I don’t think the tagging system is that effective….
But yes, there might be one of two I could include. Especially if they came out in the last five or so years.
Interesting post here, on dealing with boredom aboard generation ships:
He also talks some about what sounds like a very interesting 1970s TV show I’ve never even heard of, called Starlost. Evidently that’s this one (with Keir Dullea!):
(Thanks for this post, btw.)
Starlost is notoriously awful. There’s entire pastiche book of the horrors of making the show written by Ben Bova.
“Bova served as the science advisor for the failed television series The Starlost, leaving in disgust after the airing of the first episode (1973). His novel The Starcrossed, loosely based on his experiences, featured a thinly veiled characterization of his friend and colleague Harlan Ellison. Bova dedicated the novel to “Cordwainer Bird”, the pen name Harlan Ellison uses when he does not want to be associated with a television or film project.”
Thank you for this list Joachim – it’s a fascinating subject…
Also, Maria V. Snyder – Inside Out and the sequel Outside In.
Isn’t that more YA/Romance? I’m tentative about putting it on this list… I know, perhaps it’s a bias I have against Harlequin press (which is the novel’s publisher).
Sure, it’s YA. So, arguably, is *Orphans of the Sky*. Does that matter? Not to me. Good science fiction is still good science fiction.
…I didn’t even know that Harlequin published SF.
I think Harlequin published these two particular books more because they have an established relationship with the author (who normally writes excellent YA/romantic fantasy). Still doesn’t change the fact that these two books are most definitely science fiction, good reads, and belong on this list.
As I pointed out, I had a bias against the publisher. Thus, I wanted to double check the books — that’s all.
I can understand the bias. If it looks like a dog, and barks like a dog, it isn’t usually a cat. 🙂
Hi, I noticed you have Heinlein’s ‘Common Sense’ and Clarke’s ‘Rescue Party’ published in Astounding Oct ’41. Rescue Party was published in 1946 to the best of my checking. (Caroti also shows 1946)
You’re right — thanks.
Generation ships are really just space colonies used as ships. Therefore I would suggest “Only Superhuman” by Christopher L. Bennett might be interesting to those interested in generation ships. I think the whole ships to colonize planets to be a obsolete concept once we inhabit space there will be little interest in returning to a planet.
John Thornton has a ten book series, “The Colony Ship Eschaton” and another series in the works, “The Colony Ship Vanguard” which has 5 books so far. They are all set on colony ships and have really interesting story lines and unusual features. Published in 2013 and 2014.
Unfortunately, I do not include self-published novels on this list.
Hey guys, I am looking for the name of this generation ship novel. It goes something like this: There is this ship that is sent out from Earth to search for extraterrestrial life, and is captained by this guy who basically lives forever. The main character is also someone who has a long life, but every so often they knock out his memory so he doesn’t know who he really is. The main character eventually kills the captain and leads the ship back to earth.
The Dark Beyond the Stars
Thanks! I’ve been looking for this one as well.
Hi, I have been looking for a generation ship short story for years. There is a child who is woken up for his birthday every year. The rest of the year he is in suspended animation. During each birthday, he spends the day with the same group of people, and in effect he sees them from their birth until their death (80 days for him equals 80 years for the others). In doing so, he is being trained to be a caretaker of a second generation of children by observing the first. Any idea what this story is? Thanks!
A bit late perhaps, but I think the story you’re looking for is ‘Birthdays’ by Fred Saberhagen (Galaxy, March 1976).
Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1976
Bought it before I saw the link, but thanks!
Paul, that is exactly it! I had forgotten it was by Saberhagen. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I’m heading to ebay to get a copy right now.
Thanks! Added to the list.
Hi, I am also searching for a generation ship story I have read quite some years ago. As far as I remember it went like this: Two different societies live in a dark world without gravity, unaware that it actually is a powered down starship. At least one society has changed by mutations and grown leathery wings. The hero is an outsider, set in place to reactivate the ship. He makes friends with the non-mutated society, starts a war with the other one and finally succeeds in reactivating the reactor… I’m not sure whether it was a novel or a short story, it might also have been part of some scifi pulp series. Has anyone an idea what story / book / series that might be? Thanks a lot in advance!
One book your list is missing is Voyage from Yesteryear by James P. Hogan (published in 1982 I believe).
Is it any good?
It’s very interesting, it deals with generation ships sent to a planet humans colonized via space probe (DNA sent in probe with information on earth cultures.).
I enjoyed it, in fact I’ll probably read it again soon.
I remember a SF TV story in glorious black and white from maybe1960’s? Storyline is a multigenerational ship who worship ‘Tree’. The main protagonists are two best friends who come to disagreement about the future of the ship. The main character is related to the successive captains who have the true knowledge of the ship and its destination but unfortunately dies without passing this info on to his son. It’s also running out of fuel. The two friends eventually fight and the ‘true believer’ dies.
One of the other characters espouses on the reason why the inside of the ship has rails all around the inside, and as the ship lurches and stops and items move, he realises what these rails are for.
The other character does not wan tthe ship (his home) to ever end and the worship of ‘tree’ is his be all and end all.
I thought it was from ‘Out of the Unknown’ on BBC2 UK but I know beleive this is not so – any ideas out there about this episode/series/book it came from?
I remember this also and am also driven nuts trying recall the name. One line I particularly remember is when the oracle computer (or Tree) is asked a question it answers with the remarkably honest “I have no way of knowing” For some reason I think of Sylvestra le Touzel but given her age it is unlikely.
I will follow David Marshalls suggestion, as another “Quatermass from behind the sofa” victim
I think you are referring to “Target Generation” which was one of the episodes in “Out of this World”, a science fiction anthology series shown in 1962. This episode was an adaptation of “Spacebred Generations”, later retitled “Target Generation”, by Clifford Simak. The short story first appeared in 1953 but, if you look around, you can probably find a copy of “Stranger in the Universe”. a collection of Simak’s short fiction which, in my opinion, is still of interest to modern readers. Sadly, all but one of the television episodes in the series has been lost so you will not be able to watch it again.
An interesting writeup about “Out of This World” here…
Yes, thet seems to be the story all right – I read the summary of the storyline on
and so much of the storyline I had forgotten about from so long ago came back to me.
It’s surprising how much one remembers something from so long ago. I don’t know when the episode was televised – but in 1962 I was 6 years old!
Beware what you wish for. My memories of The Quatermass Experiment shown in 1953 are vivid. I watched the scary parts from behind the settee and still feel the sense of fear. Yet I know from rewatching some of the British SF and horror films made at around the same time that the majority are unwatchable by modern standards. Culture evolves and what was groundbreaking and memorable more than fifty years ago is best preserved in happy memories. Trying to revisit only result in disappointment.. By comparison, have you seen Ascension? To the best of my knowledge, this is the most recent attempt on television to deal with generation ships.
Speaking for myself, I’d never even HEARD of Ascension until reading your comment, David — thanks for mentioning it! Apparently it’s already been shown once as a mini-series (with no SyFy network plans for later seasons); maybe it’ll be re-run or show up on streaming soon…
My bibliography of multigenerational spaceship is 150 titles long. It includes works in in english, french, spanish, italian, german, swedish, danish, norwegian, rumanian, bulgarian, portuguese and catalan. I am planning a book on this theme. It will be expanded from the long essay I published in the french edition of Fantasy & SF in1979 (Fiction n°291 to 294.
Is F.M. Robinson’s The Oceans Are Wide a first version of his later novel?
Cool, will the book be in French (I can read French quite easily)?
I do not think that “The Oceans are Wide” is in any way related to the The Dark Beyond the Stars. That said I have not read the former. He might have been inspired to follow up on some of the themes in the earlier work but only a close read of both will reveal any similarities.
You’ll definitely need to read the book where I got most of this list from (it’s a scholarly analysis of the subgenre) — if you haven’t already. I did ad to the list though….
Does anyone know which of these novels is the one where the population in the ship had to use a sperm bank to reproduce to avoid inbreeding but decades later they abandoned the idea and started reproducing with each other? Thanks!
I have not S. Caroti’s book, but, in the TV-serial Space 2001, the passengers of a generation ark have kept a sperm bank which is destroyed (Mission of the Darians). I mention it in my essay “Les Arches Stellaires et leur Littérature” ( Fiction 291-294).
I forgot to mention that “Mission of the Darians” has been made into a short novel published in England with another instalment of the series.
You should definitely find a copy as it is (I think) one of the few scholarly works on generation ships (in English).
Thank you for this list, and the valuable comments made by you all.
Maybe you can help me with this: it is a novel about what in the end reveals to be a false generation ship, a sort of laboratory on Earth where many generations are born and live unaware they are on Earth and believing instead they are traveling to the stars. I remember that when the situation is exposed, some of them ride on horseback, which could mean the novel is very old. Other than that, I have no more recollections. I was about 10 years old when I read it in the seventies.
Thanks for your help, and again, for all these informations.
A.C.Clarke’s short story “Jupiter Five” (1953) in his Expedition to earth compilation centres on an abandoned alien generation starship found to be orbiting Jupiter, known as the fifth moon Amalthea. A dash of The Sentinel, a pinch of Rama and non-typical Clarke being melodramatic.
Added! Thanks. I’m sorry for the late response, your comment was lost in the comment deluge on this post. hah
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Great list and discussion. I’m looking for the title of a novel I read when I was in my teens as well. It was the story of a generation ship that lost most of it’s crew and only a few generational survivors remained. So much time had passed without a full crew, the surviving generations had lost most of their technical knowledge. They didn’t know what the ships purpose was or how to repair it’s increasingly frequent breakdowns. Probably written in the late 70’s or early 80’s? Any idea of the title?
Sounds a lot like Brian Aldiss’s Non-Stop, though that was written much earlier than what you pose.
The thing is, along with Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky, Non-stop proved VERY influential for later SF authors. A lot of plots with generation ships sound similar!
Hi, B. Aldiss’ “Non-Stop” is a false generation-ship story since it deals with a ship orbiting the Earth.Other false generation-ships stories are “Taklamakan” (already mentioned in this blog) and “J.G. Ballard’s “Thirteen to Centauri”. Do you know more stories in which the ship never lifted off or the passengers believe they are in a generation-ship?Vale. Postscript: In the french TV-adaptation of E.C. Tubb’s “Star-Ship”, the passengers believe that they are nearing another star, but they are circling the Earth until it can be recolonized when the radiations wear off long after an atomic war. At least two french novels deal with a false ship that never lifted off.
The ship in Non-Stop was a generation ship – it was supposed to take 5 generations, iirc, to reach it’s destination but things went wrong and it was parked in orbit for several more generations while the problem was discussed/ignored by the outside civilisation. It was no longer going anywhere, but generations of people still lived all their lives on it.
“Non-Stop” made the multi-generational trip to another star successfully but an alien disease broke out on the ship during the return flight, resulting in altered metabolisms, mutations and social breakdown as the surviving “dizzies” continued to procreate and scrape by in the “ponic jungles” choking the corridors.
Hello Patrick, thanks for visiting! You might have already seen it if you clinked on the link above — I reviewed it years ago: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2010/10/24/a-book-review-non-stop-variant-title-starship-brian-aldiss-1958/
Maybe these aren’t quite “generation ship” in pure sense, but Vernor Vinge’s Fire Upon the Deep trilogy and Octavia Butlers’ Xenogenesis trilogy both are set on ships that have been traveling through space for generations.
Thanks, I haven’t updated this list in a while…
Don’t forget to add Aurora when you update this list. It really is an interesting take on the generation ship subgenre.
Done! Finally…. haha
I was a bit surprised rereading Starship Century: Toward the Grandest Horizon, a compilation of both fiction and nonfiction published 2 years before KSR’s book, that the Afterword by Paul Davies covers the central theme of Aurora – that our biology and that of exoplanets are by no means compatible, nor do we know exactly how much terrestrial ecosystem needs to be carted along to survive long term in space.
KSR’s book is great writing, but boy did it rub a lot of people the wrong way.
I’m afraid I’m out of the loop: why did Aurora “rub a lot of people the wrong way”? I thought it was outstanding!
Great list, I love generation ships. Tau Zero features a Bussard Ramjet, though: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/slowerlight.php That’s a really fun page for learning about various types of slower than light space travel. Also Bruce Sterling’s Taklamakan has scale models of generation ships – in underground caves – made out of styrofoam, I think. Something to do with training astronauts. Trippy image that stuck in my brain for a long while now.
Thank you for your comment. Although, you will notice that Tau Zero was in the original list I reproduced (i.e. Caroti’s) and that we already had a discussion about it in the above comments. My additions to the list are indicated.
I’m trying to find an old book, circa 1935-1955.I don’t know the title or author. Story is about young engineer’s coming of age ritual which requires him to tour the “worlds” within the generation ship that his clan of engineers is maintaining.
Interesting site. I hope someone can identify this story. Thanks
That does sound intriguing. I don’t know what it is though….
You want the “Star Seekers” by Milton Lesser, 1953 (listed above), part of the Winston Juvenile series which had some other young mind-expanding books including “Mists of Dawn”, a time-travel story to Cro-Magnon times that took me some hours of research to uncover.
Re : DECEMBER 24, 2013 AT 5:09 AM
Thanks for all the suggestions but I still haven’t found that book. Some additional details. The ship (an O’Neil cylinder) doesn’t so much leave earth as flee it to avoid being drawn into the war on earth. The novel doesn’t detail the trip to the next star. Rather, the ship leaves and then the story line jumps forward to when earth has recovered from the war and developed a new ship drive. A new non-generation ship leaves earth looking for the ship that left before and discovers them around the new star system. Culture shock ensues since the original ship has had centuries to evolve and are now completely space based. One detail I recall was that the various races in the cylinder had merge to become one race – ‘mulatto’. This was the first time I had come across the term but it appears in other books.
And thanks Stu – I have the same belief – once we get off earth, why get stuck down at the bottom of a planet’s gravity well? Better off to blast the planet into asteroids and harvest what you need. That’s probably what our ancestors did between mars and jupiter …;)
Joachim, just found this generation ship text game Seedship. FYI
Related –> Plaid Had Games came out with a generation ship game. It fell flat — but WHAT A PREMISE! I should have been brilliant.
Searching for a novel where, if I remember correctly, colonists on a generational-colonization ship have “evolved” into post-human low tech species, and the ship, on autopilot, is about to reach destination. It turn out that the food they have been living off are their own cryopreserved ancestors who they don’t realize are original human species. Read as a kid back in the 80s, and the reveal awed and horrified me.
Back in the late ’50’s I read a book about a generation ship – the occupants did not know they were on such a ship, and the ship appeared to be divided into “worlds”. There was a male “hero” with a female “heroine” who were on to the fact there was something special about their environment, and they went through the various worlds and discovered the control room, where they learned the true nature of the ship and the fact that they had arrived at their destination. All I can remember is that there was a chapter in the book called “A Place Called Urth”, which at the time stuck in my mind as it was “Earth” spelled phonetically. This rules out Heinlein and Aldiss’s works. Anyone have any ideas? Should be easy to check – if your book does not have the above-mentioned chapter, it ain’t it! LOL
Thanks in advance
The Star Seekers by Milton Lesser, 1953 (listed above).
That is it – thank you. I recently got a copy and re-read it. Now I know why my 10 yr old mind really liked it… it was written for a 10 yr old… LOL
What about The Stars Are Legion? Another great generation ship adventure in this space.
Added — a year late, but added!
If you are ever updating: Alison Sinclair’s Cavalcade from 1998. Just recently: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, and Dave Hutchinson’s novella, Acadie.
Thank you! I hope to, soon.
Added. As always, thanks!
Molly Gloss. “The Dazzle of the Day”, 1998. An elegant work. Broke my nothing past 1985 rule to read and wasn’t sorry.
correction: “Dazzle of Day”
A coiple of updates:
The recent Edward Willett novel The Cityborn features a gen-ship in which people are still living, years after it has landed, and the Captain and crew are still in charge.
Paul Chafe wrote the first two parts of a gen-ship trilogy. Part 1 was Genesis, mainly set on Earth about creating the infrastructure (physical & political) to build one, and then building it. Part 2 was Exodus and was in three main sections set at different points of the centuries-long voyage. I think even in section 1 the knowledge they were in a spaceship had faded, except maybe for a ‘priest’ class who lived in the crew quarters, not in the giant O’Neil style habitat cylinder.
I’d happily read the 3rd (Revelations) if it ever came out, but it’s been a decade…
Thanks. I’m going through the comments now and trying add some that I missed. It’s hard when I’m somewhat uncertain if the ship or story really contains a generation ship…..If the reader (not you — you explain it!) just lists a story without much explanation.
Slow Trian to Arcturus by Eric Flint & Dave Freer is set on a gen-ship ‘train’ of habitats which have all developed different societies with varying levels of knowledge of science and whether they’re on a spaceship or not. The different habitats are able, in theory, to be dropped off at suitable planets as the ship carries on without slowing down…
The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey (now on TV!) has a giant gen-ship nearing completion when events overtake it as the different warring factions try to comandeer it. It never actually sets off on it’s original mission though, so it might not count.
The Forever Watch by David Ramirez
“The Troublemakers” by Poul Anderson
Stories that might qualify:
“Things Lost” by Thomas M. Disch. But maybe not, because the passengers/crew are unaging and will live through the long voyage.
In White Queen by Gwyneth Jones, aliens in a generation ship arrive at Earth; we don’t see any details of their trip.
At the beginning of Search the Sky by Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, scattered settled planets are connected by generation ships. Most of the novel involves FTL, however.
Hegira by Greg Bear is set on a very large ship, taking a long time to cross between not stars but universes, in some sense only partly explained.
Check out Norman Spinrad’s novella “Riding the Torch” In which the remnants of humanity have abandoned an uninhabitable Earth and are tooling around the galaxy looking for a place to land. Conceptual breakthrough to follow.
I have the edition when it was published as a stand-alone novella. Haven’t read it yet. I’ll definitely add it to this list.
I’m collaborating with someone else. From the spanish writer ‘La cárcel de acero’ (1962). I don’t know if there’s an english edition.
I can’t find it on isfdb.org. Can you provide the author’s name? Thanks!
Try here for a copy — Spanish only, but for what it’s worth…
I see you didn’t put the author’s name on it.
Yeah, because I asked you for the name and you didn’t respond until now…..
Simon Roy’s graphic short story, “Habitat” (2016). He tells the tale of the early (first half century or so) regression of a generation ship.
Thanks! Sounds intriguing…. I’ll update the list.
Two more (possibly already in the comments, sorry!): “The Troublemakers”, by Poul Anderson (Cosmos, September 1953), “Turnover”, by Jo Walton (Novacon 2013 Program Book, Lightspeed March 2014)
Thanks! I’m especially interested in the Anderson as I’m currently doing a read-through of a lot of the 50s generation ship stories.
I can’t recall the name of a story I read decades ago, and would greatly appreciate any help finding it again. Set on a generational spaceship that runs automatically, the people have devolved and their lifespans, it turns out, are really short. So, they grow up, procreate, grow old, and die by the time they’re in their 20s (in standard years), but their view of time is distorted so I don’t think they realize how short that is.🤔
Brian Aldiss’ Starship (variant title: Non-Stop)(1959)? One of the best known of the subgenre… there’s time dilation revealed at the end.
Wikipedia article with the plot spoil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Stop_(novel)
And my review from the first few years of the site: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2010/10/24/a-book-review-non-stop-variant-title-starship-brian-aldiss-1958/
Does this include amateur fiction? Fiction put on the net but never published?
If so there’s “Journey to Alfasfere” by Mike Combs
There’s also an episode of Space: 1999 (yeah I know… that series) featuring a generation ship that got off-track and malfunctioned called “Mission of the Darians”
Thanks again for the inclusions. I do not include amateur fiction or self-published works on this list.
I might add a Generation ship in TV and movie section to the list. I know there’s a Star Trek: Voyager episode as well and a new movie coming out soon.
Great list. I was about to mention van Vogt’s “Far Centaurus”, but then remembered it is about a hibernation starship, not a generation one. This might be an idea for another list.
Thanks for stopping by! I explored about 7 of the short stories in this list relatively recently in a read-through (all are available online). Feel free to join in with the fun and covo!
Here’s the first one in my review series: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2019/11/18/generation-spaceship-short-story-review-chad-olivers-the-wind-blows-free-1957/
The novel “Star Maker” by Olaf Stapledon mentions generation starships in passing, I seem to recall, though it’s been a number of years since reading.
Hello, I am trying to track down a short story I read about 2 years back via an Anthology. Written by an Asian American author – the Architect of the ship biologically integrates with the ship and the design of the ship is envisioned via the Architect’s neural system. Any idea regarding this story/ author?
Thanks – C
When do you think it was written? Is it a generation ship story? My site and knowledge is primarily pre-1985.
Is there any chance it was one of Aliette de Bodard’s stories? In her Xuya universe (which involves among other things Vietnamese descended people in space, and ships that are literally (or their “minds” are literally) children of humans.)
She is of French and Vietnamese descent, was born in the US, but grew up and lives now in Paris. Writes in English.
I think The Freeze-frame Revolution by Peter Watts should be on your excellent list. Thanks.
Thanks for stopping by! According to a fellow reviewer who knows far more about newer SF than me, the novel does not fit the theme (and yes, I suspect the argument could be made about some others already on my list).
“The crew is in a very very long cyro and some are awakened for a few hours or days after thousands of years according to the needs of the ship, but as far as I can remember there is no human reproduction on board, so no generations. Theoretically it would be possible however, and because of the long timespan the story has a bit of a generation ship vibe, but ultimately it is just a cyro ship story about the tension between the crew and the ship’s AI, and between the crew itself. Very original take on the matter, and highly recommended. A timeless classic imo.”
One of our team (Jessica Dickinson Goodman) asked, upon seeing “Space Seed” today, “Anyone know when generation ships became part of SF?”
I referred her here. 🙂
Hello, I am trying to find the first novel in a series that I believe becomes a generation ship story after the conclusion of the first book. Two super intelligent children are born on Earth, a boy and a girl, that are possibly the smartest people on the planet, having conversations at an adult level by the time they are two years old. Eventually as they become older, an impending disaster is set to destroy the earth (might have been magnetic pole reversal plus an asteroid, not sure.) And the super intelligent teenagers are tasked with designing arks to save humanity, and they end up designing a fleet of ark spaceships that use I believe gravity for spaceships. The super intelligent boy also remarks near the end of the novel that he added extra “force attraction” plates to the front of one ship in the hopes that it might allow the one ship to travel faster than light. Has anyone heard of this novel or series?
Hello Sean, do you have any idea when it was written? I know the early stuff (pre-1980) the best so it isn’t ringing a bell but others might come by and help you out.
I want to say it was written in the early 90s, but it’s been over a decade since I last picked it up.
Just come across a fairly recent audio-only series by Peter F. Hamilton called the Arkship Trilogy.
A Hole in the Sky (2021), The Captain’s Daughter (2022) & Queens of an Alien Sun (2022). They’re tagged as YA on Fantastic Fiction.
Thank you! I’ll add it to the list — eventually.