Heat Death of the Universe: 18 Sci-Fi Stories Set at the End of Time

Do you ever find yourself drawn to stories rife with doom and gloom, worlds filled with imminent peril, that will soon lead its characters down a path of no return? We’ve all had moments where we wanted to explore an environment set close to the end of everything. To feel the fear of uncertainty, hope in its fragility; such powerful emotion can be captivating. In today’s post, we’re listing 18 fictional movies or universes faced by ultimate destruction.

1. The Last Question

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One user commented, The Last Question is an Isaac Asimov short story set during the final stages of the heat death of the universe. The universe-spanning supercomputer spends much of it figuring out how to reverse entropy as things spin down.

The Books of Magic also has a bit at the end, where death shuts the door on everything after the last subatomic particle decays at the end of the heat death, and destiny’s book reaches its previous page.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has a chapter or two set in a fancy restaurant that uses time travel tech to rock itself back and forth across the Big Crunch to entertain its diners.”

Another user added, “‘When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights, and lock the door behind me when I leave.’ – Death of the Endless.”

2. “The Late Philip J Fry”, Futurama 

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“The Futurama episode “The Late Philip J Fry” has several characters witness the end of the universe.

“The game Iron Lung takes place after an event called “The Silent Rapture” where all planets, stars, and other celestial bodies disappear out of nowhere,” one user shared.

3. Outer Wilds

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One Redditor shared, “It’s a spoiler for the game, but Outer Wilds is set at the very last minutes of the universe, where every star is reaching its end.”

Another user added, “I’ve never said this before: thanks for the spoiler… I’ve heard a lot of good things about Outer Wilds, and now I want to play it!”

4. Book of the New Sun

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“Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series takes place in the far future where the sun has dimmed, and the darth is cooling, but it’s technically more science fantasy. Still a good read though,” one Redditor shared.

5. “Utopia”, Doctor Who

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One online user shared, “The Doctor Who episode “Utopia” is set in the year 100 trillion and focused around the last of humanity trying to escape the end of everything. One of the characters points out that when they arrive, it’s not night; instead, no stars are left.

“The follow-up episodes reveal what happened to the humans after they left.”

One user asked, “Wasn’t Me also at the end of time waiting for the doctor?”

Another user answered, “The timelords also hid Gallifrey at the end of time after returning from Trenzalore.”

6. Xeelee Sequence

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One user commented, “The end of the Xeelee Sequence takes place close to the death of the universe. They are dense, heavy sci-fi but interesting stories.”

7. Tau Zero

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“Anderson’s Tau Zero involves a relativistic ship that broke and accelerated, constantly reaching the end of the universe. It’s one of the relatively rare hard sci-fi approaches to the concept,” posted one user. 

8. Manifold Time

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One Redditor also shared, “I’ve got to put in “Manifold Time. “I can’t remember the author; it’s Steven Baxter, I think. It covers some very horrifying glimpses into the future of the universe, and Humanity’s ultimately futile attempts to survive the heat death of the universe.”

Another user added, “The crazy weird thing about Manifold Time is that it’s sort of set POST heat death. (But also looking back at 2010).” 

9. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy features a restaurant where you can watch it end. Order the steak. It’s really good,” one user posted. 

10. No Man’s Sky

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One user shared, “I’ve talked about this here before, but No Man’s Sky is a pretty unique take on this trope.

“The whole game, you’re dealing with a number of anomalies and threats to the broader galactic community, but by the end, it’s revealed that they all share a source. More than that, you discover that the universe itself is merely a simulation, an entire artificial multiverse made just as a digital experiment, and all the evils you’ve endured result from its bitter end. The world has exactly 16 minutes left until the whole computer is destroyed… but there’s never a point where you can actually save it. The technology used is so advanced that entire centuries if not millennia, can be processed in mere seconds, so the resolution is to make the best of however many eons the universe has left.

“This situation becomes a lot bleaker when you learn about the backstory regarding the simulation’s creators and where the player characters came from, but that’s another can of worms entirely.”

The OP of the thread added, “Sounds cool, thanks! I didn’t know that the game had a good story in the end.”

11. Final Fantasy XIII

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“The third part of Final Fantasy XIII, “Lightning Returns”, takes place during the last 13 days of the universe. Though the end is coming about in a very fantasy-like fashion rather than a Big Freeze, so I don’t know if it counts,” one Redditor added. 

12. The Time Machine 

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One user posted, “The last parts of The Time Machine novella has the time traveller going millions of years ahead to observe a dying Earth.”

Another user replied, “Iirc, the last time I visited, with the deep red sun and the goopy thing barely moving from the black remnants of the oceans, was only in like 900k CE. But it’s been decades since I last read it so that I could mix that up with millions of other books.”

Another user replied, “Nah. He goes into the future and meets Weena etc., like 800K years into the future from his own time. All the shenanigans going on there with the museum, etc.

“Then he jumps even further ahead and watches the end days of the Earth as the sun expands, and there is barely anything to qualify as life left. At the time the book was written, it was just thrown in that it was tens of millions of years later. From there, he returns to his own time to tell his dinner guests the story.”

13. Psycho Shop

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One user shared, “Psycho Shop by Alfred Bester is a classic sci-fi novel that deals with a pawn shop that is travelling through time to the end of the universe. Only about 300 pages, it is very digestible and has lots of fun characters and a few historical what-ifs, and it was written in the 50s by the author who received the first-ever Hugo award. The descriptions of the event in question are beautiful and very imaginative, to say the least.”

14. Iron Lung

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“The Indie horror game Iron Lung takes place in a universe where some sort of rapture made every habitable planet and star in the universe disappear except for a small moon with an ocean of blood on it so that it might be a sort of Armageddon but seems to be the end of that universe.”, one user shared. 

15. Chrono Trigger

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One user posted, “Does Chrono Trigger with its End of Time as an important location count?”

The OP answered, “Thanks, that’s a classic…! The focus of Chrono Trigger is time travel more than the end of the universe. Imho it’s hard to cover both topics in the same work. If one can always go back to a time when they don’t have to think about the end, why would they care about it?”

16. The Rats Nest

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One Redditor shared, “The Rats Nest is a cannon set within the SCP universe. The SCP wiki, for the uninitiated, started as a small group creative writing project where the main creative works are fictional quasi-scientific reports and experiment logs about objects that appear to violate the laws of nature as we understand them, referred to as SCP’s, Anomalies, or Anomalous Objects. Bottles of infinite water, Statues that kill you when you stop looking at them, Lizards that are impossible to kill, etc.

“Over time as the contribution base grew, the project has outgrown its roots, and more classical prose has taken a strong footing in the form of tales. Getting too far into the weeds of the SCP wiki as a whole would take forever, but suffice it to say that the stories typically involve ‘magic’ items and people trying to use the scientific method to understand them.

“A foundational part of the SCP wiki is also that anyone can contribute; canons, tales, and the main wiki are the result of many different authors with different strengths and weaknesses working together to write stories set in a ‘single’ mostly coherent story universe. In this context, a Canon is a collection of tales that center around one coherent interpretation of various SCP works and typically focus on a single theme, group, or style of literature—enough exposition.

The Rats Nest canon, as a whole, is pretty fascinating. The premise is that, at some point, God was killed, and God’s death is what led to the birth of anomalous objects into the world. Without God holding everything together, reality starts to deteriorate into irreality slowly. Some of the tales within this Canon take a very literal interpretation of this. One of them chronicles a series of letters sent back and forth between the people actually responsible for killing God (And features some of the most metal prose I’ve read in a while).

“Some other tales take a more metaphorical approach, with the Death of God being represented by the advent of the scientific method overtaking religion as the driving force by which Humanity makes sense of a world that does not want to be understood. God was killed when we started looking at the way things worked, and the harder we look, the less sense everything makes.

“The final story in the Canon, titled ‘1’, is simple enough to understand with no further context than I’ve given above, assuming you are tolerant of jargon and OK with just accepting some sci-fi bull s- in your sci-fi stories. It’s a short read and works best if you don’t have the ending spoiled, I think, so I’d recommend you give it a read. If you liked that, you would probably enjoy other tales in the identical Canon.”

The OP answered, “Thanks for the detailed introduction! I had only read a few SCP, and I found ‘1’, funnily enough, to be a great introduction to what I understand to be a general mythology of this fictional monument. Very well written as well. Is The Rat’s Nest a reference to the setting of this story?”

17. Dying of the Light

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A user posted, “Dying of the Light. It’s not set in a dying universe, but it does take place on a planet that is about to be in perpetual darkness.”

18. Disco Elysium

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“Disco Elysium, while it doesn’t focus on this, is a world where the fabric of reality has been unwinding for some time. The Pale, essentially a void of nothing, is slowly consuming everything and everyone—consuming their thoughts, emotions, and physical selves last. Travelling through it is extremely difficult. The protagonist loses his memory because of Pale exposure (and copious drinking, but mostly Pale exposure),” one user shared. 

Do you know some of the movies or series listed above? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Source: Reddit.

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