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In my low-fantasy world there is a place where the environment has been frozen by magic in some kind of temporal stasis. It's an antarctic type of environment, with mountains and huge ice sheets: basically a polar desert. The internal rules of the place are the following ones:

  • The stasis affects only what was already there when the stasis magic was cast. Living beings can freely traverse the place and bring new things inside the area without them being affected by the stasis.
  • Things inside the stasis area cannot be altered in any way. There is no workaround for it.
  • The area affected by stasis moves naturally with the rotation of the planet and the tectonic movements of the continent where it's located, but inside the area things affected by the stasis cannot be moved in any way that changes the distance between them.
  • The stasis affected only solid and liquid matter.

This magic is now lost forever, and in general the whole setting has become a low-fantasy one where people cannot access magic powers in any way. A cult in this world is pushing their believers to explore the place as much as they can. With these premises, some of those believers came up with the idea of building a settlement in this place. What kind of physical issues would they face?

Some problems that came to my mind are the following:

  • Drinking. Liquid matter inside the area is in stasis, so they need to find alternative sources of water or other liquid nutrients.
  • Food. Agriculture is impossible unless they bring some soil from outside the stasis zone and build some greenhouse-like structure. Breeding animals has the issue of needing to feed them.
  • Building. Ice or rock inside the area can't be carved and you can't dig in any way, so they would have to bring stone blocks from outside the stasis zone to build anything.

Is there something else that comes to your mind? I'm more interested in the problems than in the possible solutions. My goal is to create the lesser amount of exceptions to the laws of physics to allow for such a settlement to be built, while maintaining everything else as realistic as possible.

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    $\begingroup$ In fact, any interaction between something that is affected by "temporal stasis" and something that isn't should cause a TIME PARADOX or worse. So, your situation is logically impossible. Aka they plain cannot interact with that space, so no alteration of stasis is possible without breaking said effect. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    May 30, 2023 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ For now I would ignore any issue related to temporal paradoxes and such, because the entire situation is sustained by magic. But it's surely something I need to find a proper explanation for. $\endgroup$
    – Soel
    May 30, 2023 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ After writing my comment to Negdo's answer, I thought I'd point a few things out here. (a) The science-based tag is a killer because there's no such thing as "temporal stasis." That means you need to define (within the limits of known science) what "temporal stasis" means - but the moment you capitulate to do that, you have complete control over your own question and don't need our help. In short, there's really only two "yes, you can do that" answers to this question: (a) magic and (b) Clarkean magic. The former is answered "your magic spell works as follows" and the (*Continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 30, 2023 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ ... latter is answered "your technology works as follows." But they're fundamentally and semantically the same thing. Thus, where do you want to go from here? As-asked, the only answer is Negdo's. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 30, 2023 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @JBH I think that my goal is to gather a list of reasons that would make living in that place very hard or outright impossible. I'll definitely need to bend the rules of my world to allow for such a settlement to exist, but I'd like to do it as little as possible while mantaining a realistic physics-based approach overall. Should I edit my question to rephrase it? $\endgroup$
    – Soel
    May 30, 2023 at 21:39

5 Answers 5

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No, it is not possible.

You said even the air is in stasis. That means living beings cannot actually move into the region as "frozen" air is blocking the way. Unless the place lack atmosphere alltogether.

That is ignoring the issues with your region being in temporal stasis. The act itself would tear the planet apart. Then you have the issues if being in selective temporal stasis. Does dead skin-cells count as living? Does hair? What about light?

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  • $\begingroup$ Fair point. I suppose that the air must not be in stasis for something to be able to move inside the area. Thanks. As for the other questions, I edited the question to clarify those aspects. $\endgroup$
    – Soel
    May 30, 2023 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ +1 let's add to the pain. The phrase "temporal stasis" is SciFi technobabble for "narrative necessity requires us to stop something that's normally unstoppable and how we do it is irrelevant." True "temporal stasis" requires that all chemistry stop. That's a big deal! As Negdo points out, the entire universe would continue to move and suddenly that chunk of something stopped. I doubt a village would tear the planet apart, but it would rip through the planet in about a day (in a lovely spiral pattern) and be left behind in open space. Sometimes technobabble good, science bad. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 30, 2023 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ The galaxy is "falling" towards the Great Attractor at 2,160,000 km/h, the solar system is traveling at 828,000 km/h relative to the galactic core, and the earth at 107,000 km/h around the sun so, assuming "best" case and the two slower speeds subtract from the larger and the resultant direction of motion is straight down (orthogonal) to the surface, the village would pop out of the other side of the planet in just over 37 seconds. $\endgroup$
    – vir
    May 30, 2023 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ And if you subtract the atmosphere then everything else is a perfectly reflective, perfectly frictionless surface - freaky to look at and impossible to move in. (Light absorption and surface friction both involve interaction.) $\endgroup$ May 31, 2023 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ @vir That presumes a preferred frame of reference, though: velocity relative to the Sun. You'd get an entirely different velocity vector if you measured relative to Alpha Centauri, or to Sirius, or to the center of the Andromeda Galaxy, or etc. etc. That's an even bigger reason why it doesn't make sense as-is I think: the concept of something having zero velocity, full stop, is nonsensical when there's no preferred frame of reference. $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    May 31, 2023 at 20:06
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A funny kind of issue would also be, that moving in this place would be hard/dangerous/painful.

Since nothing moves out of the way, we can imagine that everything in the stasis is of absolute hardness.

  • You want to walk on dirt? It is extremely uneven as it doesn't compress as you walk on it.
  • Walk on grass? Grass doesn't bend, you have to walk on top. AND since it doesn't bend and is fairly thin and pointy you are likely to get sliced, speared and prodded.
  • Nice walk through forest? Every branch, leaf, webbing, is 100% solid, you will keep bumping into these things.
  • Walking around river? Swarm of mosquitoes are now an impassable clouds of very low density walls.
  • Riding a horse? Hope you don't hit a fly because, it will either stop you, or go through you.
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    $\begingroup$ But here's an interesting one -- walking on ice is much easier than it would normally be! Ice is slippery because the pressure of a weight upon it causes a microscopically thin layer to melt, lubricating things and reducing friction between solid ice and boot bottom; but if it can't melt, then it's no longer slippery, it's just like walking on any other rock. $\endgroup$
    – addaon
    May 31, 2023 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ @addaon Yup, ice just might be one of the best way to move around. Like walking on glass. $\endgroup$
    – Dvorkam
    May 31, 2023 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ This is exactly the kind of answer I was searching for, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Soel
    May 31, 2023 at 8:22
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    $\begingroup$ +1 This was also a plot point in C.S. Lewis's "The Great Divorce". $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    May 31, 2023 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ It was also a plot point in an old Ducktales comic book. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Jun 1, 2023 at 7:53
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Your main problem, really, is trying to settle in the Antarctic. There's a reason population density at the poles is low. It's because, to put it midly, it effin' sucks. It's super cold, there's turbo wind, the ground is snow and ice, and then from time to time you have to deal with polar bears.

So what you're trying to accomplish is already a challenge without the magic element.


If it happened recently, you're going to have problem with shelter on top of everything else.

It's bad enough that all the materials have to be imported, but then you can't stake anything to the ground, and you can't dig for foundation. That means any sort of shelter will only have its own weight to not be blown away by the wind.

And I'll reiterate, Antarctica has some pretty strong winds, as your polar desert is bound to have too.


If it happened long enough ago, there's nothing in your set of rules that says the time-frozen ground has to be the top layer.

It's certainly conceivable that a new ice sheet would form over that time-frozen ground given enough snow fall and enough time. Which would then at least give you something to stake a tent into, possibly even enough ground for proper foundations.

You could melt snow to get water. That would be your main limiting factor though in the size of the settlement, how much snow you can melt to meet the needs of the colony without depleting the resource.

Still fat chance getting some crops though, but that's again more of an Antarctic issue than a magic issue. But if the zone isn't too large, it's possible to have hunting expeditions to catch some fish or grab some berries. The one plus side of freezing temperatures is you don't need a refrigerator for conservation, you can just leave it outside.

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  • $\begingroup$ No polar bears in Antarctica. Penguins, some other birds, lots of krill (in the ocean,) and lots of cold. There polar bears in the Arctic region, as well as some other mammals and birds. $\endgroup$
    – JRE
    May 31, 2023 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ I was refering to both poles as a whole, but really the point is even in the coldest places on Earth the fauna is more than capable of killing you. $\endgroup$ May 31, 2023 at 13:22
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The area is going to be incredibly dangerous to travel in

Mist, normally fairly harmless, gets you wet, now it is a cloud of immovable tiny sharp objects, running through mist would be lethal, walking through it could be, I realize it is in an arctic area, but, your travelers should not go near any bodies of stasised water.

Suspended snow, snowflakes would be tiny razors, I don't know how much damage a single flake would do if you walked through it, but, I can't imagine it being pleasant. dust would pose similar concerns.

I don't know what the safest time to travel would be... if they have something akin to flashlights, bright, powerful directed lamps, traveling at night might be the safest option as one can use the light to avoid dense particle clouds.

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As an alternative that mostly meets your definition of stasis:

  • Stasis that is not "frozen" stasis, simply, you can't change anything longterm.

Has parallels with:

  • Groundhog's Day - You can do things, its just always the same the next day.
  • Westworld - Far nefarious reasons, it all resets for entertainment.
  • Matrix - Society is just frozen at yr. 2000, almost nobody notices.
  • Battlestar Galactica - Society keeps looping and returning to yr. 2000.
  • Star Trek 7 (Ribbon) - Everybody just loops the same day again and again.

If you entered such an area, you could move, the air would just go back to some default state. You could interact with the creatures there, just attempting to accomplish anything would be negated somehow. Possibly a reverse Orpheus or Zelda style effect, where you look away for even a moment and the creatures reset. Building anything or attempting long term changes might just cause feedback and be swept away (you attempt to build the pyramids, and people just spontaneously attack and carry the stones away).

Could have strong to weak variations, so that in some its not terribly difficult to break 1 or 2 creatures free, while in others even moving 1 anywhere near escape would cause enormous "almost contrived" issues. Might have some that exist just to lure in new "participants" or "contestants." Siren lure versions.

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