What about arguably the most famous and most successful planet in science fiction? Dune, a desert planet, was a monocosm.
Which planet of the Dune series?
I guess you're talking about Arrakis, and is exactly what a monicosm is.
Herbert is one of the best world builder ever.
He got the world of Arrakis by looking at real world environments and then added layers on top of them, the melange, the sandworms, what kind of people could live there, what kind of society and most importantly cults and religion could spawn.
"Herbert wanted to write a novel on the desire in Western societies for messiahs—someone on a white horse who comes to fix the sorry mess we’re in. He spent two or three years researching the topic.
Then he wrote a magazine story on how the USDA was controlling sand dunes in Oregon. And he had a eureka moment.
He realized that a world of dunes and its harsh environment would be the perfect place for a messiah to rise and surge out among the vast entirety of human civilization. Thus, Herbert’s amazing world-building.
"Working on that book kindled an interest in religion, the psychology of leadership, and how each affected the minds of followers. Herbert researched, collected notes, and read nearly 200 books as he dove into the topic, building a database of story ideas as he went.
Herbert’s 1957 trip to the dunes of Oregon turned out to be a moment of inspiration. Seeing how the piles of sand held such sway over the life and landscape around them sparked an interest in ecology. He imagined a world overtaken by desert, and a lone planetologist obsessed with reclaiming it. This seed found fertile ground, growing into early outlines of what would become the setting of Dune—but the true soul of the book wasn’t born until the environment was fused with his research into the psychology of a messiah and his follower"
Similarly if we encountered a planet identical to earth but where the sea level was 2km higher, we'd think of it as an ocean planet, no matter the biological or climatic differences between different ocean areas. All the while, aliens from a less watery world would certainly classify ours as an ocean planet. Or if we found a planet with the atmosphere of Venus, we might call it a fog planet, though any lifeforms living there might see in wavelengths that can penetrate that fog.
I find Starwars stupidly annoying about it, where a planet is usually a single place and present no variation. Seeing that there are swamps on Dagobah, I expect there also must be nice sunny beaches somewhere.
The different planets are single places, with settings chosen to fit the needs of the storytelling. Think of them as backdrops in a stage play. As far as the films are concerned anything not on screen might as well not exist, and the rest of the various planets don’t need to be consistent with a realistic broader universe. Trying to paint them all in would waste scarce screen time and confuse the audience.
Arguably this is one feature that made the “Star Wars universe” hopeless to adapt to try to tell stories with broader context. If you start trying to flesh out the details, the planets, galactic government, spaceship technology, concept of the Jedi, etc. all start to fall apart, because they were never very carefully designed in the first place, but just hacked together to meet the particular needs of the original story.
Dune is far from the only scifi monobiome.
The planet Hoth, where the Rebels have their base, at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, is an ice planet. The planet Winter in Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness is an ice planet. There are dozens of others, many of which are documented here:
Note exceptions like Naboo: One of the few planets in the Star Wars movies where a story takes place across wider areas of a the planet. Suddenly there's a planet with varied biomes.
The monobiomes in Star Wars are monobiomes because there was no visual reason to expand, so they just made it the same in most cases.
In the case of Winter the planet is cold - in the middle of an ice age - but while the planet is all cold, it is not all identical. Ursula Le Guin explicitly drew maps , showing the glaciers, but also glacier free areas, mountain ranges, oceans, rivers. It's a cold world, but diverse within those limitations. It's not a single identical place. And the cold serves a purpose of setting the cities apart from the adversity of escaping over the ice shield.
I'd argue it's a great example of knowing to break the rules: Make it an interesting ice planet with stark differences between different areas. The problem is not specifically that something is an ice planet or a desert planet, but that something is uniform to the point that describing one place describes the entire planet. The easy way of avoiding that is to not make it an ice or desert or forest planet, and so if you need a tutorial on how to build your world, that's probably your best bet. The hard way is what Ursula Le Guin did with Winter of creating a diverse and interesting world within narrow constraints.
It's not assumed that the student will follow the rule once they've finished the course. But during the learning period they're discouraged from breaking the rule because the overarching goal is to have them develop a broad technical skill set that they can then refine back down into their own particular style.
Admittedly, this was before the Cambrian explosion.
Dune is a carefully-thought-out world with a consistent ecology. Hoth isn't a "world" at all in the worldbuilding sense; it's a few miles of snow for a setpiece to happen in. And that's okay, if you only need it for half an hour and a setpiece. There's nothing wrong with choosing to write fantasy adventure with space opera trappings. But if you want to write science fiction set on a compelling world, you need to understand why Dune is interesting and Hoth is not.
Indeed -- this was one of his goals when writing the series.
Three in a month (that I've seen, at least) isn't a lot, but for HN it's enough to make me notice.
There was recently a thread about crafting plausible maps (aka "mapmaking", a related topic).
So far, Incandescence is the toughest of his novels that I've read, and the main world is an extreme and beautiful conception where the ambient forces are all peculiar and the inhabitants are figuring out their cosmology as the novel goes on.
That said, I really could have used more diagrams while I was reading. I only found out after finishing that Egan has a whole bunch of Java applets on his website explaining the experiments that the main characters in the novel carry out, and why they give the results they do.
His more far-out books are fully recommended though if you want your mind blown with some exotics physics..!
There are a few things I really liked on the site and believed very strongly were important to continue disseminating. My particular interest was in some of the rocket designs and space colonization material. The author has done a good deal of genuine original research and covers some very granular design details.