In Gordon R. Dickson's Hour of the Horde, an individual from a heavy world is presented as molded by its home to be faster due to the reaction time required from falling faster. While many science fiction works present heavy worlders as stronger, this seems an unusual presentation. What was the first fictional presentation of this idea?

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    Probably worth noting that Hour of the Horde was published in 1984.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Sep 30, 2021 at 18:32
  • Wasn't this part of the explanation for Superman's speed?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 30, 2021 at 18:35
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    Does a normal person count as a "heavy-worlder" in a lower-gravity environment? If so then Burrough's John Carter demonstrates extraordinary strength and speed in relation to the various Martian races.
    – DavidW
    Sep 30, 2021 at 18:49
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    Going the other way, does the answer require human/humanoid heavy-worlders? If not, then the Cheela are probably the fastest example...
    – DavidW
    Sep 30, 2021 at 18:51
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    I looked and really couldn’t find anything specific but this is the kind of scientifically-explained superpower pseudo-science explored by DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes (1958) and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (1969). In fact Marvel’s GotG’s Charlie-27 character, coming from Jupiter, and having higher muscle mass density is one of the archetypical “heavy planet stronk” fictional characters. Sep 30, 2021 at 18:56

5 Answers 5


In Edgar Rice Burroughs's 1912 short story "Under the Moons of Mars", later folded into the novel A Princess of Mars, John Carter finds that his Earth-gravity-adapted body gives him a distinct advantage in Mars's gravity. He exhibits this on his first encounter with Tars Tarkas and his band of Martian warriors:

While the Martians are immense, their bones are very large and they are muscled only in proportion to the gravitation which they must overcome. The result is that they are infinitely less agile and less powerful, in proportion to their weight, than an Earth man, and I doubt that were one of them suddenly to be transported to Earth he could lift his own weight from the ground; in fact, I am convinced that he could not do so.

My feat then was as marvelous upon Mars as it would have been upon Earth, and from desiring to annihilate me they suddenly looked upon me as a wonderful discovery to be captured and exhibited among their fellows.

The respite my unexpected agility had given me permitted me to formulate plans for the immediate future and to note more closely the appearance of the warriors, for I could not disassociate these people in my mind from those other warriors who, only the day before, had been pursuing me.

  • As part of my answer to this other question, I read the whole thing.
    – Spencer
    Sep 30, 2021 at 22:32
  • This is also made into the film John Carter (2012). The Princess of Mars was renamed John Carter of Mars. (Although, the plot wasn't changed so John became the new princess.)
    – Phi
    Oct 1, 2021 at 15:18

1939's Heavy Planet by Lee Gregor aka Milton Rothman

...who whirled with the quickness of one who maneuvers habitually under a pressure of ten thousand atmospheres...

It mentions pressure, but as the title says, it's a high gravity planet.

  • The precise technical definition of atmospheric pressure is the force exerted on a surface by the air above it as gravity pulls it to the gravitational center. Atmospheric pressure is commonly measured with a barometer comprised of a column of mercury in a glass tube which rises or falls as the weight of atmosphere changes.If an atmosphere exists, then it is a correlative measure to gravity; likewise, a heavy-weight atmosphere as manifested as high atmospheric pressure, could have an equivalent high-gravity planet. Sep 30, 2021 at 19:55
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    @SillybutTrue "eschew surplusage" - Mark Twain Sep 30, 2021 at 20:16

As a starter, I'll offer the family d'Alembert series by E E Doc Smith from 1964. From the first novel 'The Imperial Stars':

Jules, in the lowest position, had more time than did any of the others; but he did not have a millisecond to spare. In the instant of the break he went outward and downward along the arc of the ninety-eight-foot radius of his top-hung flying ring. His aim was true and the force of launching had been precisely right.

The protagonists are trained gymnasts, but the underpinning strength, speed, and reflexes come from both training and having lived for generations on a 3G world:

Of those who had heard of it, comparatively few knew that its surface gravity was approximately three thousand centimeters per second squared—more than three times that of small, green Earth.


I'm going to chance it ( once again by memory alone) by saying Deathworld by Harry Harrison from 1960/1961

IIRC the people from Pyrrus (the Deathworld planet) lived in twice the gravity of Earth and were really fast in combat

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    Good example. I always forget how old the early Harry Harrison novels are now.
    – Michael
    Sep 30, 2021 at 19:37
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    IIRC, the people from Pyrrus were fast because they had been under very heavy selection pressure that rewarded quick thinking and acting.
    – Sam Azon
    Sep 30, 2021 at 22:05

Silly But True suggested comic book examples from the 1960s and1970s of people who were very strong because they came from heavy gravity planets.

Michael suggested the Family D'Alembert beginnng with "The Imperial Stars" by E.E. Smith in If, May, 1964. Humans from a high gravity colony planet, they posses both enhanced strength and speed.

Organic Marble suggested "heavy Planet", Astounding Science Fiction, August, 1939, by Lee gregor (Milton A. Rothman). As his quotation shows, the heavy planet aliens in the story are not only strong but also swift.

The classic heavy planet aliens in science fiction are the Mesklinites in Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, Astounding Science Fiction April-July 1953, but that is too late to be the first example of either strength and speed.


In Galactic Patrol by E.E. Smith, Astounding Stories Sept. 1937-1938, the Valerian space marines are human colonists from the hight gravity planet Valeria, and they have enhanced strength, and possibly enhanced speed.


Edgar Rice Burroughs Depicted Earthman JOhn carter as being much stronger than the human looking typs of Martians, becaue of the heavier gravity of Earth, beginning in A Princess of Mars (1912).

There wwere 25 years between A Princess of Mars, 1912, and Galactic Patrol, 1937, and 11 years between the start up of Amazng Stories, first of the science fiction pulp magazines, in 1926 and Galactic Patrol. That seems like plenty of time for the superior strength of people from higher gravity planets to become a science fiction trope, and possibly also for their superior reflexes and speed to become a trope.

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