Back in the 1940’s a Greek city planner by the name of Constantinos Doxiadis came up with some very useful words for science fiction writers. He wasn’t actually trying to help out the sci-fi field, it just happened that his terms to describe cities larger than any ever seen on Earth are exactly the kind of thing you need to spice up your space-opera epic. The words in question are “Eperopolis” and “Ecumenopolis”, meaning respectively a city that takes up an entire continent (think perhaps of Mega City One from Judge Dredd) and a city that takes up an entire planet (such as Trantor from Asimov’s Foundation series, Coruscant from Star Wars or Holy Terra from Warhammer 40k).
Now that’s well and good, but what if your city takes up more than a single planet?
At this point I’m sure everyone’s going “Well how does that work? How can a city be larger than the planet it’s on?” and that’s a fair question. A single city spanning more than one planet just isn’t possible. Unless the civilisation that built it has technology allowing cheap, reliable, instantaneous interplanetary travel. Think about it. You wake up in your apartment in Earth City, get ready for work, walk down the street to the local Portal, and step through to Mars City, where you catch a hover bus to your office. If travel between the two ecumenopoli is so quick and easy they’d function as a single entity.
So what to call such an interplanetary urban conglomeration?
I suggest an Iliopolis, from rather dodgy Greek for “Sun City” – that is a city on multiple planets orbiting the same star.
Well, that’s fine, but what if the technology can stretch to cities across multiple star systems? Well then let’s call it an Asteriopolis (Star City). A city spread across multiple planets in multiple star systems.
Beyond that it’s asteriopoli all the way down (or up). You could probably come up with a term for galaxy spanning cities, but since we don’t even have a single eperopolis yet I think the problem can wait a while. Fans of scale may want to talk about Megasteropoli for cities that span a hundred or more star systems, but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go.
Iliopolis and Asteriopolis. Use them today!