In Star Wars and Star Trek, the main way to get around the galaxy is to use warp speed or flip on your hyperdrive, which is a bit like hitting the gas pedal as hard as you can so you'll get there a bit quicker. There's more science to it than that, involving subspace fields and hyperspace and all that jazz, but the end result is that you're traveling very quickly. But besides speed, what other faster than light alternatives are there? Check out our list of other ways to get there in scifi.
- The Holtzman Effect: In the Dune series, the spice melange was able to increase your lifespan, heighten your senses, and let you see safe paths through the space-time continuum. Of course, in order to use this last benefit, you had to live in a micro-gravity environment while being constantly saturated with spice. Plus, it would mutate your body into something fairly hideous. However, in order to actually fold space and make this travel happen, you'd need a Holtzman Drive, which used subatomic energy fields to fold space and let you travel over vast distances in the blink of an eye. Without a navigator, you might not make it to your final destination.
- The Infinite Improbability Drive: In order to get around traveling over the enormous distances in space, Douglas Adams created this drive in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to avoid "all of that tedious mucking about in hyperspace." It was invented by a student who was sweeping up after a party, and decided that if such a machine was a virtual impossibility, then it had to logically by a finite improbability and went from there. Basically, when you activate the drive (which is an electronic brain hooked up to a Brownian motion generator... like a cup of tea) it causes you to pass through every point in the universe at exactly the same time. Then you just drop down the improbability levels, and hope you come out where you need to be.
- The Stargate: In the universe of Stargate, you can travel over huge interstellar distances simply by stepping into the giant Stargate, and popping out on the other side where another giant gate exists. You could select which gate you wanted to travel to by dialing a "code" on the gates and locking the nine different chevrons into place. They were constructed as a network by a race of ancient alien beings, and basically open up wormholes for travelers to jaunt through.
- Jaunting: In Stephen King's short story "The Jaunt" (found in the Skeleton Crew anthology) the technology exists to teleport people over huge distances. However, you have to be put to sleep for the trip, and revived on the other end. If you travel through while awake, very bad things happen. In fact, they send a convicted murderer through while awake, in exchange for him getting a full pardon. When he comes out the other end, he mutters "It's eternity in there" and then dies of a massive heart attack. In the story, a father tells his children about these bad things, and of course the son holds his breath when they hose them down with sleeping gas, so he can see what it's like. It ain't very pretty.
- Artificial Black Holes: In the movie Event Horizon, the ship (of the same name) creates artificial black holes by using a gravity drive, and this allows them to fold space in order to travel large distance quickly. As usually happens with a technology like this, something goes wrong along the way. In this case, the ship literally ends up in hell, and seems to become possessed by an evil entity. Everyone goes a little bit nuts, Sam Neill tears his own eyes out, and that's about enough to make you not want to try out this method of travel.
- Cryogenic freezing/sleep: In Alien and countless other science fiction books/movies, travelers often enter a suspended animation hypersleep so they don't go insane from space madness when their trip takes 40 years to complete. The downside is, everyone else you know in the world will continue aging at a normal rate, while you're frozen in place. This is why all of Ripley's friends and her daughter were dead once she was found drifting in Aliens some 57 years later. This doesn't mean that the ship you're in will be traveling faster than the speed of light, but when you wake up on the other side it'll feel pretty instantaneous, which is what really matters.
- The Wave Motion Engine: Whether you know it as Starblazers, or under the original title Space Battleship Yamato, they both traveled the same way via the Wave Motion engine. This enormous device powered the entire ship, allowed them to fire the Wave Motion Gun, and also had to ability to make them jump quickly through space using tachyon energy. Since they had to travel 148,000 lightyears to bring back a device that would cleanse the earth of deadly radiation, this came in pretty handy. However, this could not be used constantly, since both the place of origin and the destination had to be locked in "phase," and if this wasn't done correctly the ship could destroy the universe.
- FTL Drives: In the world of Battlestar Galactica, the ships of the colonial fleet and the Cylons alike both travel over large distances by using FTL drives. While a bit of a misnomer, since the ship actually teleports instantaneously rather than rocketing at speeds great than the speed of light (a la Star Trek) to a new destination, it still has the desired effect. The process by which this works is not actually discussed on the show, but we do know that the drives are powered by the ore Tylium, and that ships can even jump out of a planet's atmosphere. The constantly jumping episode "33" shows just how much they rely on this technology, and how the Cylons use it to stay a step behind, or a step ahead in some cases.
These are just the tip of the iceberg, so what's your favorite way to flit across lightyears?