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Sci-Fi Spaceships That Contain Worlds Within Them

Sometimes the spaceship really is bigger on the inside.

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  • Photo Credit: NASA / Unsplash

One of the coolest aspects of science fiction is imagining a future beyond our own world. Sometimes that means exploring different planets, but often that means we find ourselves on massive ships capable of housing all of humanity for generations. 

Sometimes, those ships can even be worlds of their own. Some are biological, some are designed to function like a planet, and some simply test the limits of space and time. Here are some of our favorite sci-fi spaceships that contain entire worlds within them.

Rendezvous with Rama

Rendezvous with Rama

By Arthur C. Clarke

When scientists first spot the ten trillion-ton object outside Jupiter’s orbit, they think it’s an asteroid. Except, it isn’t moving like one. It’s an alien spacecraft. Built with cities on the inner surfaces, a Cylindrical Sea, massive spires, treacherous cliffs, tides, and storms, the Rama is unlike anything humanity has ever seen

Unfortunately, there’s no indication what the aliens want or what they’ll do when they get there. It’s up to a team of skilled scientists to breach the hull and find out.

The Stars Are Legion

The Stars Are Legion

By Kameron Hurley

The Legion is a collection of world-ships designed to carry life through the stars. The endless war over control of the Legion has led to worlds dying and ships decaying. Stuck together, forced to rot in space, all that changes when people find Mokshi, a ship capable of leaving the Legion. The only problem? Just one person can board it, and she has no memory of who she is. As Zan struggles to find the truth, she has to travel through the vast layers of the world encountering people she doesn’t understand and elements she never knew existed. Will it be enough to save her world, or will it ensure its demise?

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth

By Tamsyn Muir

In the middle of an asteroid field, made of three concentric rings, The Mithraeum houses the Emperor as he tries to regain power and protect his planetary system from the Resurrection Beasts. It’s a somewhat straight-forward space station, but with a river capable of interstellar travel, thanergenic planets, and necromancers in the mix, even the Mithraeum houses plenty of oddities and secrets within its metal walls. It’s gothic, it’s gloomy, and as Harrow struggles to maintain her grip on reality inside it, it’s an absolutely mind-bending ride through the cosmos.

Escaping Exodus

Escaping Exodus

By Nicky Drayden

Seske Kaleigh and her people live by hunting gigantic space beasts and carving them hollow. Adalla is one of the beast workers, woken from stasis to make building materials from bones and create a mass transit system through the cardiovascular system. Over the next decade, they’ll live off the flesh of the dying beast, only to hunt another down and start the process all over again. As the beasts dwindle, some wonder what happens when the creatures that allow humanity to survive die out … 

Nightside by Gene Wolfe

Nightside the Long Sun

By Gene Wolfe

The Whorl was sent to colonize a distant planet centuries ago. By now, however, it’s been so long and the ship is so vast that the people living aboard aren’t exactly aware they’re living on a spaceship. They don’t have the technology to make necessary repairs, and the AI that runs it are worshipped as gods. Patera Silk only wants to satisfy these gods, but when he accidentally discovers a new god and the nature of the world he lives in, he almost sets off a rebellion that could destroy everything. 

A Desolation Called Peace

A Desolation Called Peace

By Arkady Martine

A space station, a fleet, and an alien armada. There are many facets to the spaceships in this world. The Weight of the Wheel, filled with context in true Teixcalaan fashion, bears the burden to propel the Empire forward. But when faced with an indecipherable alien species, context is perhaps the only thing that can save them. That and connection. 

This is less about the intricacies of an individual ship and more about how technology can make everything interconnected, which opens wide entire world in the blink of an eye.

orphans of the sky

Orphans of the Sky

By Robert A. Heinlein

When a mutiny killed most of the officers of the generation ship Vanguard, it changed everything. Now, generations later, the original purpose of the ship has been lost. It’s simply the “Ship,” and to the people aboard, it’s the entire universe. They feed the convertor to keep the lights on and the air flowing. Farmers tend their crops.

In the outer edges of the ship where the gravity was weakest are muties—deformed humans who are seen as abominations. But could these people know more than anyone realizes? And if they do, how can they convince the rest of the inhabitants that the “Ship” was actually meant to fly?


Record of a Spaceborn Few

By Becky Chambers

The Exodus fleet survived by learning how to work together. No job is too small, no person unnecessary. Many ships are from places few outsides have ever seen, creating a tapestry of life and culture. And humanity has finally been accepted into this galactic community. But opening doors goes both ways. As some choose to explore alien cities and nearby planets, others believe their way of life is under attack. After all, if the purpose of a ship is to travel, what’s the point of staying in one destination?

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown

The Scourge Between Stars

By Ness Brown

The starship Calypso is injured. The crew's attempt to colonize a planet failed, and worse, they’ve managed to find their way into the middle of an alien war, taking hits from weapons they can’t predict with devastating consequences. And now, something is hunting them inside the walls. It’s a huge problem for a huge ship, with Wards comprised of massive cities. There are farms and silos, all designed to carry humanity through the void of space. But with enemies attacking from both inside and out, it’s up to acting captain Jacklyn Albright and her team to find a way to survive. Otherwise, the ship is doomed.

Featured image: NASA / Unsplash