Subterranean fiction

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Subterranean fiction is a subgenre of adventure fiction which focuses on underground settings, sometimes at the center of the Earth or otherwise deep below the surface. The genre is based on and has in turn influenced the Hollow Earth theory.

The earliest works in the genre were Enlightenment-era philosophical or allegorical works, in which the underground setting was often largely incidental. In the late 19th century, however, more pseudoscientific or proto-science-fictional motifs gained prevalence. Common themes have included a depiction of the underground world as more primitive than the surface, either culturally, technologically or biologically, or in some combination thereof. The former cases usually see the setting used as a venue for sword-and-sorcery fiction, while the latter often features creatures extinct on the surface, such as dinosaurs, hominids or other cryptids. A less frequent theme has the underground world much more technologically advanced than the surface one, typically either as the refugium of a lost civilization, or (more rarely) as a base for space aliens.


Map of the Interior World, from The Goddess of Atvatabar (1892)




  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Journey to the Center of Acme Acres", a series of earthquakes shake up the city, causing Plucky and Hamton to fall into a crater in the ground. They fall for hours before finally reaching the center, which is hollow.
  • The Spider Riders series of books and anime take place in an "Inner World" inhabited by humans and intelligent insects.
  • The anime series Gurren Lagann is initially set in an underground civilization.
  • The Transformers: Cybertron cartoon series features a character, Professor Lucy Suzuki, who believes in the Hollow Earth Theory.
  • The Japanese anime Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu has the protagonists spend much of their time in a hollow Earth called Darius, home of an empire of humanoids that are currently amassing a force to invade and conquer the surface world.
  • The French cartoon Les Mondes Engloutis (known in English as Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea) involves protagonists descending through a maze of underground caves into a subterranean world of different space and time, inhabited by various peoples.
  • Sanctuary has a Season 3 storyline that deals with Helen Magnus and her team finding and visiting Hollow Earth.
  • In Detentionaire, the main antagonist of the series known as "His Eminence" is from a long lost race of ancient reptilian humanoids who retreated beneath the earth and lay dormant for thousands of years.
  • In The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood, Series 5, episode 8 and 9, in the British series Doctor Who takes place in an underground city populated by Silurians, lizardmen who want to have their earth back.



  • Japanese psychedelic rock band Far East Family Band named their 1975 debut album Chikyu Kudo Setsu, (Hollow Earth Theory), although the official English title was The Cave Down to Earth. The album's sleeve notes refer to familiar stories of entrances at the north and south poles, and of an ancient civilisation dwelling inside the Earth with connections to UFOs.[3]
  • The band Bal-Sagoth has, on their album The Chthonic Chronicles (2006), a song about the hollow Earth called "Invocations Beyond the Outer-World Night".
  • Sunn O))) on their album Monoliths & Dimensions has a song called Aghartha.
  • In Coldplay's first full album Parachutes there's a song called Spies. It may refer to a subterranean location, but the lyrics themselves are ambiguous.

Other celestial bodies[edit]

Subsurface fiction may also be set on other planetary bodies:

  • The most common example of a hollow body other than Earth has historically been a hollow Moon. A breathable interior atmosphere allowed various SF writers to postulate lunar life (including intelligent life) in spite of scientific observations of the uninhabitability of the Lunar surface. The subgenre largely died out following the actual Moon landings.
  • The console Strategy/RPG series Super Robot Wars features a Hollow Earth world named La Gias.
  • The role-playing video game Septerra Core takes place on an eponymous world with seven separate layers, similar to the theory of Edmund Halley.
  • The PC Adventure game Torin's Passage features a depiction of the hollow fictional planet Strata, similar to the one described by Edmund Halley.
  • The planet Naboo in Star Wars has a "hollow core," but it is filled with water.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", there is a hollow, artificially created, planet-shaped spaceship whose inhabitants falsely believe that they are living on the surface of a planet.
  • "World Without Stars", the third volume of the French graphic space novel series "Valérian - spatiotemporal agent" takes place mainly inside a hollow planet inhabited by a matriarchal and a patriarchal culture continuously at war with each other.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth, (Oxford, 1992) William Butcher translation.
  2. ^ Standish, David (2006), Hollow earth: the long and curious history of imagining strange lands, fantastical creatures, advanced civilizations, and marvelous machines below the earth's surface, Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-81373-4 
  3. ^ Reported in Julian Cope's Japrocksampler, pp. 246–7.

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