Allow Me to explain. About 50 years ago the foolish practices of the humans combined with natural disasters to destroy most of the world except for this terrible desert...
The term "Wagon Train to the Stars" had more relevance than we thought. Much of humanity has gone to outer space, but apparently all the planets they could settle on were dry, desert-covered worlds.
A big advantage to setting a sci-fi world in a desert is that it's easy to conceptualize, compared to a geographically and culturally diverse world like Earth. The author doesn't have to spend time explaining the history or nuance of the world because there is none.
Alternate version: deserted lands After the End (usually nuclear wars).
Not to be confused with the manga and anime Desert Punk, although it is an example.
See also Cattle Punk.
Desert Planet Examples
Anime And Manga
- Orgos from Desert Coral.
- Trigun was probably the first big one, at least as far as anime goes, though it's also a very good trope example, and justifies the setting very well. Long story short: They were going to terraform the planet (or even just find a better one), but the Big Bad tried to kill everyone and screwed it up.
- Gun X Sword
- Desert Punk, natch.
- Zoids has a considerable amount of this, seeing that the planet Zi is mostly desert.
- Dune and its sequels, by Frank Herbert, may be the ur-example of desert planet sci-fi, though thematically it resembles a Heroic Fantasy more than Desert Punk. Except that in Dune it's not so much The Wild West In Space as The Middle East (In Space.)
- The Santiago books by Mike Resnick.
- The Pit Dragon Chronicles.
- Ian McDonald's Ares Express and Desolation Road are this away from the urban zones. In the cities it's a mix of Dieselpunk and Cyberpunk.
- The parts of John Birmingham's Wave trilogy set in Texas and the Midwest.
Live Action Television
- In Firefly many border worlds and moons, as well as those on the Rim, are only marginally terraformed, generally resulting in them being deserts or borderline. More affluent or Alliance worlds in the Core are more idyllic in terms of atmosphere.
- Any story set on Vulcan
- Reversed on Terra Nova. The general feel of desert punk is there, especially with the Sixers but it's set in the jungles of the Mezozoic. This promises to become even more so if there's a second season now that they're cut off from the 22nd century and on their own.
- The video for Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" takes place in an After the End version, loosely implied to be after an alien invasion.
- Many of the Wild ARMs games have elements of this, as did the anime, with Wild ARMs 3 being the straightest example (the others all have prominent oceans and forests). Crosses over with the Burned-Out Earth, though, since Filgaia as a planet is slowly dying.
- The "Under the Burning Suns" campaign in The Battle for Wesnoth takes place in the distant future of the main setting of the game, centuries after Mages raised a second sun into the sky. Funnily enough, there's a solid gameplay reason for that: Lawful creatures (including mages) are stronger during the day. One way or another, having two suns led to the whole planet going desert. (The campaign features "Desert Elves".)
- Pandora in Borderlands.
- Motavia in Phantasy Star IV. It's naturally a desert planet, but in between Phantasy Star I and Phantasy Star II, it was fully terraformed into a Ghibli Hills world that borders on Crystal Spires and Togas. However, Climatrol was destroyed in II, and since then, the world has been slowly desertifying and monsters have been taking over the wilds, with only the Hunter's Guild to fight them back. Thus, this crosses over with the Burned-Out Earth variant. Obviously, it was a desert planet in the original Phantasy Star, but it was far less "punk" back then.
- Bara Magna in Bionicle
Burned-out Earth Examples
Anime And Manga
- Desert Punk
- Fist of the North Star seems to be about 25% Kenshiro wandering through sand.
- Sand Land
- Combat Mecha Xabungle straddles both types and plays the trope for a surprising amount of humor, but really falls here due to it being Earth All Along.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann for the entire first season, plus some.
- Last three episodes of Excel Saga, though it was only one city. 26 doesn't count.
- The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye
- Ur Example and Trope Codifier: The Mad Max sequels, especially The Road Warrior.
- Terminator Salvation seems to have this as the setting outside of cities.
- Resident Evil Extinction. Though admittedly it is set in the Nevada/Utah desert, which looks like that now.
- Nine, though it's not quite clear in the film whether the entire world is like this or if it's just the place where the dolls live.
- Tank Girl - At least Australia is sand, but we're not sure if it's the rest of the world too.
- The Movie of Kamen Rider Kabuto
- Patrick Swayze film Steel Dawn, which is a western with swords in a post-apocalyptic world.
- The Book of Eli
- Fallout. Justified in the first two games, which took place in post-apocalyptic Southern California. The third game takes place in Washington D.C., however and no explanation is ever given for why it never rains there. The exception is Point Lookout, which is mostly radioactive swampland. The Fallout universe as a whole is designed around the popular conceptions of future technology and the effects of nuclear war that the American public had in the 1950's. Many aspects of it are intentionally unrealistic.
- Rage (soon to be released)
- Pokémon Colosseum. The protagonist is not a plucky 10-year old, but an ex-Pokemon thief that rescues the female protagonist, who looks like a cheap, under-age hooker in the Japanese version. Together they fight their way through the post-apocalyptic badlands of Orre, driving a rusty hover-cycle with an engine presumably stolen from a Top Fuel dragster. Reinforced by the near-total lack of Pokemon (read: organic life) in the desert areas. The only real exceptions are Agate Village (a lovely green village built high in the mountains) and Phenac City, a veritable oasis city whose mayor is secretly the Big Bad.