Deneb in fiction

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The planetary systems of stars other than the Sun and the Solar System are a staple element in much science fiction.

General uses[edit]

Deneb may be referred to in fictional works for its metaphorical (or mythological associations, or else as a bright point of light in the sky of the Earth, but not as a location in space or the center of a planetary system:

  • Qi Xi (206 BCE – 220 CE), "the night of sevens," festival honoring a Han dynasty legend. The young cowherd Niú Láng (Altair) meets by chance and marries Zhī Nŭ the weavergirl (Vega), seventh daughter of the Celestial Goddess; the two live happily together and have a pair of children (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae). The Goddess, furious that Zhī Nŭ has married a mere mortal, orders her home to resume her day job weaving colorful clouds. Niú Láng follows her, but is not unnoticed by the mother, who angrily uses her hairpin to scratch a wide river in the sky—the Milky Way—to separate the lovers forever. Once a year all the magpies in the world take pity on them and fly up to heaven to form a bridge over the star Deneb in Cygnus, so that they may be together for a single night.[1]
  • High Sierra (1941), film written by John Huston and W. R. Burnett, and directed by Raoul Walsh. On his way to a planned heist in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) meets Velma (Joan Leslie). Under the night sky one romantic evening, he points out various stars to her: [ROY] "... you see different stars at different times. They change with the seasons. See that other bright star sorta northeast of Vega? That's Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, I think. I'm getting kind of rusty..."
  • Eden (1959), novel written by Stanisław Lem. A starship crew—a captain, a doctor, an engineer, a chemist, a physicist and a cyberneticist—crash land for an unknown reason on an alien world they call Eden. They make a series of increasingly odd discoveries, culminating in contact with the totalitarian doubler civilization, ruled by a dictatorship that denies its own existence and is thus impossible to destroy. After a day of upsetting events, the crew sit around a camp stove talking, then: "... When they extinguished the stove, they were plunged into total darkness. The stars above sparkled intensely in what seemed a peculiarly low sky. "Deneb," said the Physicist softly. The men looked up…"[2]
  • Cygnus X-1 (1977-1978), duology of progressive rock songs by Rush. In this allegory, a space explorer uses the black hole Cygnus X-1 as a portal to Olympus where he encounters a Nietzschean conflict, couched in terms of Greek mythology, between the Apollonian and Dionysian world views. The star Deneb (also in Cygnus, four times closer to the Earth) serves as his guiding light to the more distant, invisible singularity: "I set a course just east of Lyra/ ... /Flew into the light of Deneb/Sailed across the Milky Way/ ... /Headed for the heart of Cygnus/Headlong into mystery ..."[3]


Map of the Denebian Aar, from the 1943 Captain Future story "Star of Dread".

In the listing below, the majority of literary references to Deneb occurred in the score of years after 1943, the star's banner year as a cynosure when its spectrum was selected as one of the stable anchor points by which all other stars' spectra would be classified.[4] There followed a hiatus of 30 years, until a cluster of works representing renewed interest in the star appeared around the year 1990.

  • Stellaris: Infinite Frontiers (2016), a book based on the game Stellaris (also 2016). The story unfolds at Deneb, the preset empire "Commonwealth of Man"'s home system.
  • Tékumel (~1940– ), novels and games by M. A. R. Barker. Deneb is the home star of the bazháq a six-legged riding beast (riding beasts are extremely rare on Tékumel), found in the mountains and grassy plains of the Tané peninsula, west of Mu'ugalavyá.
  • #15. Star of Dread (1943) and other books in the Captain Future series, number written by Edmond Hamilton. Captain Future is Curtis Newton, a brilliant scientist and adventurer who roams the Solar System solving problems, righting wrongs, and vanquishing supervillains. All of the planets of the system and many of the moons and asteroids are suitable for life, and most are inhabited by humanoids. Future and his sidekicks the Futuremen visit the planet Aar in the Deneb system (see graphic), which is the origin of Earth humans, as well as many manlike races across the Solar System and beyond.[5]
  • "Uncommon Sense" (1945), short story by Hal Clement. After his two-man crew mutinies, skipper Laird Cunningham disables his space-boat and maroons the craft on a sun-blasted'moonlike planet of Deneb.[6][7]
  • "Dead Ahead" (1950), short story published as "Ultimate Quest" in Super Science Stories and written by Jack Vance as by John Holbrook. The story's protagonist Chiram's spaceship passes by Deneb: "Dead ahead was Deneb—the line of their way around the universe."[8]
  • "A Place in the Sun" (1956), short story written by Stephen Marlowe as by C. H. Thames, published in Amazing Stories. The elan (personality essence) of Galactic Federation special agent Johnny Mayhem is instantaneously transmitted from Canopus to Deneb City on Deneb IV—the site of recent civil disturbances—where a dead body is waiting for him in cold storage.
  • "The Feeling of Power" (1958), short story by Isaac Asimov. The Terrestrial Federation is at war with Deneb, and it depends on hand-held devices similar to the digital pocket calculators that would be unavailable until after 1971. Asimov would later substantially abandon using any real star names such as Deneb in his stories.[9]
  • "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" (1960), short story by Mack Reynolds, published in Amazing Stories. Deneb is mentioned in a conversation of a couple of aliens in a bar.
  • "The Machine that Won the War" (1961), short story by Isaac Asimov. This story also involves a war with Deneb.
  • Roadside Picnic (1972), short Russian-language novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (English trans 1977). Aliens from the star Deneb visit the Earth and sojourn briefly in six areas that subsequently become known as the Visitation Zones.[10]
  • Hyperion (1989), first novel in the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons. Humanity has spread across the galaxy, and makes profligate, casual use of farcaster technology to travel instantly between any two points in space (to its ultimate rue). Deneb Drei (Deneb III, in German) and Deneb Vier (Deneb IV) are inhabited planets in the Deneb system.[11]
  • The Rowan (1990), and other novels in "The Tower and the Hive" series by Anne McCaffrey. Jeff Raven is a native of Deneb VIII, home to a large population of untrained "Wild Talents"[12]
  • Honor Harrington (1993- ), series of novels written by David Weber. The Deneb star system is where the Honorverse's rules of war, the Deneb Accords (similar to the Geneva Conventions) were negotiated under the sponsorship of the Solarian League.

Film and television[edit]

Star Trek[edit]

The items in this subsection all refer to works in the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry.

  • "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (1966), second pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by Samuel A. Peeples. The powerful—and dangerous—newly minted telepath Gary Mitchell reminisces with his old friend Captain Kirk about a wild shore leave they once spent together on Deneb IV, a planet of paranormal adepts, where he had already displayed high psychic potential. Mitchell embellishes his side of the account with the tale of an intense romantic encounter with a Denebian woman.
  • "I, Mudd" (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by Gene Roddenberry and David Gerrold (uncredited). The USS Enterprise is hijacked by a mysterious android and taken to an unnamed planet, populated by hundreds of thousands of his fellows, and by one Harcourt Fenton Mudd, a hapless con-man known to Captain Kirk. The androids, assisted by Harry Mudd, plot to commandeer the Enterprise, take over the galaxy, and control—and serve—humanity forever in a sort of cosmic nanny state. The crew of the Enterprise overcome their robotic captors by using the classic ruse of beguiling them with paradoxes, but not before Mr. Spock has occasion to remind Mudd of the penalty for fraud on Deneb V: capital punishment, with the means freely chosen by the condemned. (Compare Rigel: "Mudd's Women".)
  • "The Trouble with Tribbles (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by David Gerrold. The USS Enterprise pulls into Deep Space Station K7 where trouble immediately starts with the crew of a Klingon battle cruiser on shore leave, and the Enterprise suffers an infestation of tribbles, adorable balls of fluff that multiply without bound and eat everything in sight. Things go from bad to worse, as Korax, the Klingon first officer, calls Captain Kirk a Denebian slime devil and the tribbles all die of an unknown cause—later revealed to be the unintended consequence of a Klingon plot.
  • "Encounter at Farpoint" (1987), two-hour pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. Captain Picard and the crew of the newly built USS Enterprise-D examine the mysterious Farpoint Station in orbit around Deneb IV, which the enigmatic Bandi are offering to the Federation—all as he labors under the judgmental gaze of a powerful alien entity that calls itself Q. At Farpoint, Picard wants to fire on a mysterious hostile craft, but is warned off by Q, so he sends an away team instead. Mysteries multiply as the team, the crew, and Picard discover that the station is both more and less than it seems, but the enigma is finally resolved and everything is put to rights, to the apparent—if temporary—satisfaction of Q.

Other film and television[edit]

Deneb is the Alpha star in the constellation Cygnus.
  • Blake's 7 (1978-1981), television series created and mostly written by Terry Nation. Roj Blake, a political dissident is arrested, tried and convicted on false charges and deported to the prison planet Cygnus Alpha. He and two fellow prisoners commandeer an abandoned alien spacecraft, rescue two more prisoners and are joined by an alien guerrilla with telepathic abilities. The group conducts an ineffectual campaign against the totalitarian Terran Federation. Similar to Star Wars in its theme of free spirited rebels versus the oppressive empire, the series is notably different in tone: the rebels are quarrelsome, depressive, pessimistic, cynical.[13]
  • Babylon 5 (1993–1998), television series developed and written by J. Michael Straczynski. Deneb IV is a large Earth settlement and the largest colony market in its part of the galaxy.[14] It is one of 23 colonies in the Earth Alliance, one of the galaxy's major powers (although not the most powerful) in the Babylon 5 universe, and a hotbed of prophecies, religious zealotry, racial tensions, social pressures and political rivalries.[15]
  • Aquila (1997-1998), British children's television show created by Andrew Norriss. School chums Geoff and Tom discover a long abandoned artifact which they come to realize is an ancient spaceboat—named the Aquila—that crashlanded during Roman times. Over the course of several episodes they master functions of the craft that include flight, invisibility, lasers, and holographic video recording. The boys have many thrilling adventures. Late in the first season they learn that the Aquila is a lifeboat from a derelict battle cruiser in far orbit around the Sun, built thousands of years ago by the vanished race of Yrillians from the planet Deneb.[note 1]


  • The Silver Surfer #1 et seq (1968- ), comic books created by Jack Kirby in the Marvel Comics universe. Zenn-La is the third planet of Deneb (Deneb III), best known as the homeworld of the Silver Surfer. Zenn-Lavians, humanoid in appearance, have lifespans of thousands of years.[16] Zenn-La has a tumultuous history: No less than three times it is totally destroyed, with all its biosphere and all its inhabitants, and subsequently recreated in toto, alternately exiling and appealing for help from the Surfer, and oscillating between cultures of hedonistic apathy and scientific zealotry.


  • Traveller (1977), role-playing game developed and published by the Game Designers' Workshop. The Domain of Deneb is a region of the Imperium in the universe of Traveller game. It includes the Deneb Sector, whose capital is at Deneb itself. In the Traveller universe, Deneb is closer to Earth and shines with less intrinsic brightness than the actual star.
  • Descent: FreeSpace – The Great War (1998), computer game developed by Volition and published by Interplay Entertainment. Deneb is the location of two major battles fought by the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance. The first Battle of Deneb occurs in 2335 between the Shivan Super Destroyer Lucifer with its fleet and a joint Terran-Vasudan force; during the melee the Lucifer disappears, slips through subspace, and launches a devastating surprise attack on Vasuda Prime. The second Battle of Deneb occurs in 2367 between the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance and the Neo-Terran Front in a 72-hour long fight for control of the system. The planets of Deneb include Cygnus Prime, Deneb II, and Deneb III.
  • Earth & Beyond (2002), online role-playing game developed by Westwood Studios and published by Electronic Arts. The Deneb system lurks in the outskirts of the inhabited universe.
  • Vendetta Online (2004), online role-playing game developed and published by Guild Software. Two of the three great factions in the Vendetta Online universe are the Itani Nation, reputed for their advanced science and light maneuverable ships, and the Serco Dominion, a warrior culture with slow, heavily armored vessels. In the year 4063 a Sercan invasion of Itani space culminates at Deneb, the last bastion before the Itani home system of Eo. The Sercan navy is carrying the day, and just beginning to destroy the last Itani remnants among the icy boulders of Aeron's Icefield, when suddenly the Akanese Obsidian Armada drops into normal space to succor them and turn the tide. The Serco retreat, their invasion stalled. Deneb remains the boundary between the factions' territories.[17]
  • Stellaris (2016), computer game developed by Paradox Development Studio. One of the starting systems available for players to choose in the game, and the starting system of the default faction the Commonwealth of Man, is Deneb.
  • Deneb, along with other stars in the Winter Triangle, Summer Triangle, and Winter Hexagon, comprise parts of the Tellarknight archetype in the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game. Together with the other defining vertices of the Summer Triangle, Vega and Altair, "Satellarknight Deneb" is released in the Duelist Alliance Booster Pack (2014), with Stellarknight Delteros representing the Summer Triangle itself.

See also[edit]

Deneb is referred to as a location in space or the center of a planetary system unusually often in fiction. For a list containing many stars and planetary systems that have a less extensive list of references, see Stars and planetary systems in fiction.

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Given the spaceboat Aquila's name, it is somewhat surprising that the writers did not choose to make the Yrillian planet of origin Altair (Alpha Aquilae) rather than Deneb (Alpha Cygni).


  1. ^ Yuan, Haiwang; Williams, Michael Ann (2006). Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales from the Han Chinese. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. pp. 105–107. ISBN 1-59158-294-6.
  2. ^ Lem, Stanisław (1989). Eden. trans Marc E Heine. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. p. 46. ISBN 0-15-127580-7.
  3. ^ "Cygnus X-1 Lyrics". LyricsFreak. Stanza 2. Retrieved 2012-02-13.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ Garrison, R F (December 1993), "Anchor Points for the MK System of Spectral Classification", Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 25: 1319, Bibcode:1993AAS...183.1710G, retrieved 2012-02-14
  5. ^ Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Hamilton, Edmond M". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 538. ISBN 0-312-13486-X. Hamilton spent much of the early 1940s creating the juvenile Captain Future series complete with a future history of various human species originating in the Deneb system, a collection at the same time better written and less lively than his groundbreaking trademark space operas.
  6. ^ Benford, Gregory (2000). Nebula Awards Showcase 2000. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 150. ISBN 0-15-600705-3.
  7. ^ Soyka, David. "Nebula Awards Showcase 2000". SF Site. Retrieved 2012-02-13.
  8. ^ Vance, Jack (2005). "Dead Ahead". 3. Multiple editors. Oakland, California: The Vance Integral Edition. p. 34. ISBN 0-9712375-1-4.
  9. ^ Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Asimov, Isaac". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. pp. 55–60. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
  10. ^ Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. "Introduction..." Roadside Picnic. New York: Macmillan. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  11. ^ Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Simmons, Dan". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 1111. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
  12. ^ Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "McCaffrey, Anne". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 747. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
  13. ^ Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Blake's Seven". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 133. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
  14. ^ King, Larry. "Planets of the Earth Alliance". Science Fiction Timeline Site • Babylon Five History Page. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  15. ^ Spelling, Ian (1996-11-21). "'Babylon 5' Plans Explosive 4th Season". Chicago Tribune (reprinted from The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  16. ^ Gruenwald, Mark; Sanderson, Peter (1987). The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition. 15. New York: Marvel Comics.
  17. ^ "The Chronicles of Exile: Section 10". Vendetta Online. Retrieved 2012-02-19.