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Size Comparison - Science Fiction spaceships
May 19, 2014 12:20 AM   Subscribe

Starship size comparison chart
posted by paleyellowwithorange (79 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
A ship from "Bill, The Galactic Hero" would completely dwarf any of these while using its Bloater Drive.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:42 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


What? No Gundam?

(Seriously, though, this is really cool)
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:46 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


To compare with some nonfictional things:
The very upper-left ship is about the same as length the largest ship ever built.
The ship to the right of that is about the same length as the height of the tallest building ever built.
The giant tube on the bottom left is be about the same size as the island of Manhattan.
The space shuttle orbiter would be 4 pixels across.
The total image size is roughly the size of the land area of Rhode Island.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:46 AM on May 19 [22 favorites]


I love how ridiculously big the Warhammer 40k ships are (they're about 2/3 of the way down the left hand side, below all the Star Destroyers). And they have battering rams on the front.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:56 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]


According to the Red Dwarf novelisations, elevators can take days to go from the "top"
of the ship to the "bottom".
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:03 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I don't see any Culture ships here; your chart is invalid.

(But still very cool, thanks!)
posted by digitalprimate at 1:09 AM on May 19 [15 favorites]


Actually that picture is just the cargo manifest for one of the bays on a Culture GSV.
posted by ryanrs at 1:11 AM on May 19 [44 favorites]


Yeah, the Culture ships would make everything else an indistinct blob.
posted by jaduncan at 1:13 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]


How is this not a double? I'm sure I saw this years ago, and it seems a perfect fit for mefi. Sorry, it is freakin' awesome.
posted by marienbad at 1:33 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


It gets posted to every EVE Online thread. Not sure if it's had its own FPP though.
posted by ryanrs at 1:36 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


The total image size is roughly the size of the land area of Rhode Island.

Of course, this is the only True and Logical metric for measuring Large Things.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:37 AM on May 19 [9 favorites]


Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical? A sphere has the highest volume to surface area ratio and titanium ain't cheap.

Unless they are really really fast there will, relatively, be shit flying at your interstellar spaceship from all directions at velocity so there is no advantage to being pointy or sleek.

All those spaceships look like something a surgeon would remove from your urethra after an unfortunate swim.
posted by vapidave at 1:53 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]


Of course they're really really fast! Don't you know anything about imaginary spaceships?
posted by ryanrs at 1:55 AM on May 19 [11 favorites]


titanium ain't cheap.

They could be made of plastic as they have shields. Alternatively, the current FTL thinking is to create a bubble of spacetime to envelope the ship and accelerate the spacetime, as (i think) there is no limit to how fast it can travel.
posted by marienbad at 1:55 AM on May 19


Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical?

You are Perry Rhodan and I claim my five mouse beavers.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:57 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


I'm looking for Serenity itself and not finding it-- is it too small to show up? Just from the show I'd guess it's no less than 1/3 the size of the Normandy SR2.

It's a shame it just includes ones from visual media. I'd love to see the Nauvoo/Behemoth and the Tachi/Rosi. And I'd have included some real landmarks (maybe Manhattan or some big well-known buildings) for comparison, though it's possible that isn't necessary for me since I've spent a lot longer running around on the Normandy than in any of the places that get used as standard units of measurement.

Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical?

I seem to remember a part in one of the Leviathan Wakes books where the protagonist bemoans the lack of elegance that comes from the ships that are built in space-- with no need for aerodynamics, they end up chunky and hard-angled.
posted by NoraReed at 2:04 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


There's not really any actual pictures of Culture ships (unless you count the old Excession cover art, but it's not clear what ship this is since the descriptions in the book aren't very specific IIRC), and this chart seems to just be ships from actual visual media.

Speaking of efficient spaceship design, I kind of like the Halo ships (bottom right, below the big purple three-pointed thing) since they're pretty much just long rectangles - sure spheres are more efficient, but your cross-section is uniform so you can't angle yourself to reduce your profile. Plus the Halo ships use mass-drivers that run the length of the hull so it makes sense they'd be long and thin.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:19 AM on May 19


vapidave: Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical? A sphere has the highest volume to surface area ratio and titanium ain't cheap.

Well, there could be reasons. Some of the ships are intended to at least be able to fly in an atmosphere if they have to. Sometimes the internal mechanics of the ship are responsible for the shape (for example, some of the Star Trek ships are designed to keep the dangerous, explosive engines away from the crew). Some of the shapes might relate to the interstellar drive (long, pointy ships might cope better with wormholes or portals; ships that fly through hyperspace might need to be streamlined if it offers any resistance.)

Also, I'm not sure how long titanium would remain not-cheap in a universe with easy spaceflight. You could mine asteroids, and if you can power interstellar flight you must have the electricity to refine it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:21 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical?

They should be spherical to minimize the surface area and maximize the strength of the structure, and (if they are very large) to minimize travel distance between parts of a ship.

But if you're going to be flying through a lot of static material (dust, rocks, etc.) I guess a long thin ship would minimize the size of the part hitting that material.

And if you're going to create your own gravity by rotating the ship, you need a wheel (or rotating cylinder). That, or you need a ship massive enough to have its own gravity.
posted by pracowity at 2:31 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Titanium is actually a rather common element on Earth - it's so common that white paint and paper is often colored with titanium dioxide. The problem with titanium is twofold: it's really, really hard to pry it loose from the oxygen it's usually found bonded with, and it has to be smelted and worked in an inert gas environment, because it so wants to get back together with oxygen that it starts to burn/oxidize at a lower temperature than it melts at. That means you can't do what you do with aluminum and just zap the shit out of a big pile of TiO2 - instead, you have to use one of two expensive and difficult processes to produce the pure metal. Of course, if you can do this in, say, hard vacuum, this problem goes away. A society that can make any kind of real spaceship would probably be rolling in titanium.
posted by Punkey at 2:36 AM on May 19 [23 favorites]


I always thought the Star Destroyer triangle is a good design for a warship with hundreds of turrets, since it means you can bring almost all of your guns to bear on anything in front of you, and at least 50% of them on anything to the side. Plus the Empire has always been about overwhelming force (at the cost of expendable soldiers/ships), so reducing your target profile wasn't a consideration. Plus the earlier, smaller triangle-shaped ships were designed for in-atmosphere operation so that was a consideration too.

Contrast to the Halo UNSC style, where the main weapons are the mass-drivers which are built into the super-structure and you aim by aiming the whole ship - a long thin ship means when you aim at a target you minimise the cross-section exposed to return fire.

Speaking of artificial gravity, Babylon 5 was always a good show for battleships with incongruous but realistic spinning sections.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:55 AM on May 19


And I'd have included some real landmarks (maybe Manhattan or some big well-known buildings) for comparison

You're looking for Starship dimensions, previously linked here in '06.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:03 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Those Honorverse ships just look like high-end vibrators
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:13 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical? A sphere has the highest volume to surface area ratio and titanium ain't cheap.

The advantage with a sphere is that it maximizes volume compared to surface area. When you realize that a spaceship in a vacuum is, in fact, the world's best thermos bottle, you then see the disadvantage of a sphere, in that it maximizes volume compared to surface area, which makes cooling hard.

When they were trying to get Apollo 13 back after the explosion in the oxygen tank, the critical item wasn't oxygen, it was water -- water they would evaporate into space to cool the spacecraft. This works on a two week trip, but you can't do that on a long trip.

The largest structures visible on the ISS are the photovoltaic arrays that power the station. The second largest structures visible are the radiators that keep things cool.
posted by eriko at 3:39 AM on May 19 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't the other super star destroyers be even bigger if they didn't assume a baseline of just 6 miles for the "base model", due to faulty stats from West End Games? Not that I'm too fond of the whole Dark Empire series.

Also, while I'm geeking out, where's the Warden?
posted by pseudocode at 4:12 AM on May 19


Is there any theoretical limit to how ginormous fictional spaceships can be? That is, before they become so ginormous that it's not cool anymore?
posted by Fists O'Fury at 4:45 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Is there any theoretical limit to how ginormous fictional spaceships can be? That is, before they become so ginormous that it's not cool anymore?

No. Consider a massive Dyson sphere surrounding an entire galaxy. Still cool.
posted by jaduncan at 4:50 AM on May 19 [10 favorites]


Is there any theoretical limit to how ginormous fictional spaceships can be? That is, before they become so ginormous that it's not cool anymore?
++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.
posted by mfu at 4:53 AM on May 19 [7 favorites]


"The largest structures visible on the ISS are the photovoltaic arrays that power the station. The second largest structures visible are the radiators that keep things cool."

Yes, but the ISS isn't an interstellar vehicle. It's a low earth orbit satellite.
posted by vapidave at 4:56 AM on May 19


Speaking of artificial gravity, Babylon 5 was always a good show for battleships with incongruous but realistic spinning sections.

I loved that about Babylon 5, how the Earth Alliance's clunky spinning ships made it really clear that the humans don't rule the galactic roost the way many science fiction series portray them. The Minbari and Vorlons are flying around in Ferraris and the Earth Alliance comes along in its old jalopy makes the humans need for diplomacy instead of pew pew to solve problems very clear.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:57 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


I think the only real size limit is that once you hit a certain point you've mined out all the materials of the origin planet, so you have to have a massive mining project taking place on other planets. And then you get big enough that you've basically constructed a planet and it no longer counts as a ship, AKA the Death Star. Or, in order to make a big enough ship, you had to use an asteroid or moon as a base for it and so it is less as ship and more a heavily modified asteroid or moon. Kind of like how a mobile home doesn't really count as a vehicle even though you can technically move it around.

That's my guess, anyway.
posted by NoraReed at 5:00 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Is there any theoretical limit to how ginormous fictional spaceships can be? That is, before they become so ginormous that it's not cool anymore?

Size comparison of mecha: shortest is 0.08 metres, biggest somewhat larger.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:04 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


I couldn't find Lowly Worm at all.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 5:11 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]


Knights of Sidonia's Sidonia is estimated to be 20-25 km in length, making it at least as large as the Dune Spacing Guild ship. It looks like a stick with a wad of gum near one end. Supposedly this irregular mass was an asteroid, and the ship was built from that asteroid - the asteroid served as a base for building the ship and was also mined for raw materials for the ship. The ship itself is encased in a layer of ice that serves as a protective skin.
posted by needled at 5:15 AM on May 19


This chart has been around a long, long time. I'm amazed it hasn't been posted here before.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:16 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Robert Reed has written a number of stories set on a ship that circles the galaxy. It's basically a large planet and it's big enough to have entire ecosystems within its vacuoles.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:19 AM on May 19


Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical? A sphere has the highest volume to surface area ratio and titanium ain't cheap.

I believe that the human spaceships in Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy are spherical.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:28 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Is there any theoretical limit to how ginormous fictional spaceships can be?

Yes. If the density gets too high, it will collapse into a black hole.

But before then -- at a certain point, your ship is so long than no material can stand up to the strain of acceleration. The more acceleration you have, the quicker you reach that point -- a structure built for microgravity accelerations could be much larger than a structure built to handle several g's.

Indeed, well before the "collapse into a singularity point" you'll reach the point where your spaceship would be spherical, regardless of what you want it to look like. One of the definitions of "planet" is "a shape defined by hydrostatic equilibrium" -- if you put enough mass in one place, it's going to form a spheroid, period. Exactly which spheroid depends on if it's spinning and what other masses are nearby.

But in microgravity, you can build very long, very gangly looking structures -- see the ISS as an example.
posted by eriko at 6:07 AM on May 19


Here's another take on the topic, which doe include Death Stars, Star Trek's Dyson Sphere, etc.: http://www.merzo.net/
posted by NortonDC at 6:36 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


titanium ain't cheap

I hadn't thought of it until now, but Eve Online quite handily demonstrates that even stupidly expensive ships like Titans, in comparison to a large number of smaller ships, are both not necessarily better, but also achievable within an economy that's sufficiently big in comparison. When the first one rolled off the line it was a major accomplishment for BoB (?); a couple years later Goonswarm was making conga lines of them.
posted by fatbird at 6:57 AM on May 19


The total image size is roughly the size of the land area of Rhode Island.

Of course, this is the only True and Logical metric for measuring Large Things.


Sure, that's big, but how many Rhode Islands is it?

Yup, that'll work.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:24 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I always thought the Star Destroyer triangle is a good design for a warship with hundreds of turrets

It also conveniently puts the command bridge up on a stalk, in case your opponents are unclear as to where to direct their fire.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:29 AM on May 19 [7 favorites]


What really did it for me was the ad on the page that said "Pass Immigration Reform!"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:44 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Is this where I once again make the argument that interstellar spaceships should be spherical?

A curved surface is very space-inefficient for storage. Unless the outer lining of your ship is going to consist of liquid/gas tanks you're going to waste a *lot* of space.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:49 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I dig Jeff Russell's earlier work, as it divided it up into size categories, making comparisoins a bit easier.
posted by MrGuilt at 8:13 AM on May 19


Consider a massive Dyson sphere surrounding an entire galaxy. Still cool.
Definitely still cool, but not technically a ship until you figure out how to propel it.

Maybe settle for a Dyson Bowl? Only a couple hundred million kilometers wide, but that's still enough that this spaceships image wouldn't fill a millionth of a pixel on that spaceship's image.

Plus, it's eco-friendly: solar-powered!
posted by roystgnr at 8:36 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I find myself suddenly compelled to look skywards in case something big comes through the clouds.
posted by arcticseal at 8:41 AM on May 19


One of the things I truly love about Firefly was the extremely well communicated sense of size you are given in the Firefly class ship Serenity. By the end of the series you feel like you could walk around the ship in the dark and know where you are. I'm not sure that had been done so effectively before.

Well, maybe Das Boot.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:42 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I should note, according to the comments Serenity (as well as the Millennium Falcon) is not on this chart because it is too small.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:44 AM on May 19


Well, too small to show much detail would be a little more precise. Serenity would be 8 pixels long and the Millennium Falcon 3.
posted by achrise at 8:52 AM on May 19


Where's the Nostromo?
posted by Brainy at 8:58 AM on May 19


Yep, someone less lazy than me should make mk.3 with a zoom function and reap the sweet sweet adsense booty.
posted by jaduncan at 8:58 AM on May 19


There's also the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds: a Kemplerer [sic] Rosette from The Ringworld Engineers, a set of gravitationally locked planets, now being used as a spaceship to take their race right on out of the galaxy.

Also, where's the Starlost Ark?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:04 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


One of the things I truly love about Firefly was the extremely well communicated sense of size you are given in the Firefly class ship Serenity. By the end of the series you feel like you could walk around the ship in the dark and know where you are. I'm not sure that had been done so effectively before.

A few minutes into the Serenity film there's a long interior tracking shot that takes you on a first person tour of the whole ship.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:18 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


vapidave:

in addition to the already-mentioned heat-disposal (which is as much of an issue when travelling between planets and stars as it is in Low Earth Orbit) and particle damage related cross-section concerns (slower than light ships that travel very quickly will want to present a small cross section to avoid getting blown apart my interstellar dust), there is also the matter of radiation protection.

If you want to use the smallest amount of protection from a nuclear reactor (and when every gram counts in your spaceship, you absolutely want to), you will use a Shadow Shield to protect the rest of your ship from all that radiation. When you want to use a shadow shield, your ship lends itself to a long, cylindrical shape over a spherical one. At best, you end up with a ice-cream-cone shape, with a spherical habitat module at the end of a long stick (like Discovery One in 2001)

also, with a long cylindrical ship, you can do neat things like a gimballed centrifuge, where your crew compartment can maintain proper orientation for artifical gravity whether its coming from ship acceleration or rotating while coasting.
posted by grandsham at 9:31 AM on May 19


Surely the acceleration limitation to spaceship size only applies if parts of your craft are too far away from whatever's doing the acceleration? Otherwise, do what you do in trains: distribute the power plants throughout the structure. In other words, build the biggest spaceship you can. Then build another. Fly them in close formation. Build a bridge between them. Now you have one spaceship, twice the size. Repeat to taste. (NB - may only work while going in straight lines.)

And as for the "everything over a certain size collapses into a sphere" - look into the night sky for some truly enormous structures that maintain coherence...
posted by Devonian at 9:55 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I am trying to figure out what is in that eve titan ship? aren't the ships in eve just populated by a single guy in a pod? I guess it could hold some other ships or rocks or something... but it just seems too big to serve any interesting function except to hold a colony, but I don't think that concept is in eve at all.
posted by jonbro at 10:17 AM on May 19


I love how ridiculously big the Warhammer 40k ships are (they're about 2/3 of the way down the left hand side, below all the Star Destroyers). And they have battering rams on the front.

If anything in the 40k universe has you asking "What is this for!?", the correct answer is "For the Emperor!"

The only exceptions are blood and skulls, which are for the Blood God and the Skull Throne respectively.
posted by Reyturner at 10:22 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


But before then -- at a certain point, your ship is so long than no material can stand up to the strain of acceleration.

Can't you just keep putting engines on outriggers all along the length of the ship? They don't all have to be at the back. I guess at a certain point it starts taking you hours or days to flip the ship, but wouldn't that be the only constraint?

As for efficiency, I'd think a longer cylindrical or cigar shaped vessel travelling behind a large asteroid or moon to minimize collisions would be required for interstellar travel.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:39 AM on May 19


The second largest structures visible are the radiators that keep things cool.

In long-distance travel, out in the cold between the stars, you are going to want to preserve heat, not radiate it. The sphere is the ideal shape for interstellar travel. (Unless your spacecraft are those Star Trek/Star Wars toys that run mainly on magic, and then it just has to look good.)
posted by pracowity at 10:59 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


The ideal shape for interstellar travel is a subaetheric phantoplasm of gravitosmic virtuinos. I mean duh.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I am trying to figure out what is in that eve titan ship? aren't the ships in eve just populated by a single guy in a pod? I guess it could hold some other ships or rocks or something... but it just seems too big to serve any interesting function except to hold a colony, but I don't think that concept is in eve at all.

I think the lore of Eve has implied that while every ship has only one capsuleer (you) who pops out in your capsule every time the ship explodes, there are support crews for the bigger ships as well.
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:16 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


In long-distance travel, out in the cold between the stars, you are going to want to preserve heat, not radiate it.
How much power does your ship use? Space may be cold, but it's also one hell of a vacuum thermos.
posted by roystgnr at 11:23 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]


What's funny to me is how SF spaceships in TV and films have mostly have gotten more primitive over the years. In The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet the spacecraft had pretty mysterious properties, like seamless openings and no visible reaction ports. Nowadays they're all welded plates and big cylindrical engines that shoot fiery red stuff out the back. It's kind of depressing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:39 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


pracowity: In long-distance travel, out in the cold between the stars, you are going to want to preserve heat, not radiate it. The sphere is the ideal shape for interstellar travel. (Unless your spacecraft are those Star Trek/Star Wars toys that run mainly on magic, and then it just has to look good.)

You're already very well insulated in a hard vacuum, since the only way for heat to escape from your ship is radition, not convection or conduction like on Earth -- as others have said, think the best Thermos money can buy. Pretty much any power plant your ship will use is going to be very, very hot, which means you need quite large radiators.

Admittedly, they'll probably have to stick out of your ship, sphere or not., but optimizing to a sphere specifically to "preserve heat" will likely just end up turning your ship into a ball of red-glowing slag.

As I linked to above, Project Rho gets quite down and dirty about the need for radiators, among pretty much every other aspect of "realistic" space travel, combat, etc. It's a really neat resource (that
posted by grandsham at 11:47 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


... was covered on Metafilter at some point in the past I beleive. but the in site search and tag view is down, so I can't find it)
posted by grandsham at 12:26 PM on May 19


Interstellar Etherliner Titanic II. Some years ago I ran across an image similar to the one in the link ( it had a generic filename, no references), and have been trying to find out, on and off, ever since what the hell it was I stumbled on. You solved a little mystery for me. Thank you.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 12:54 PM on May 19


What's funny to me is how SF spaceships in TV and films have mostly have gotten more primitive over the years. In The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet the spacecraft had pretty mysterious properties, like seamless openings and no visible reaction ports. Nowadays they're all welded plates and big cylindrical engines that shoot fiery red stuff out the back. It's kind of depressing.

I find it cheering myself. We're close enough that we're pretty sure what that part of the future will look like.

Still, the latest The Day The Earth Stood Still had plenty of magical tech for you.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:54 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I am trying to figure out what is in that eve titan ship? aren't the ships in eve just populated by a single guy in a pod?

Hi. I own an titan and I know a number of other players that have titans too. You're right that there's only a single pilot pod buried somewhere in the middle. The rest of the ship is needed to carry the pilot's ego.
posted by ryanrs at 3:43 PM on May 19 [11 favorites]


Is there any theoretical limit to how ginormous fictional spaceships can be?
Yes. If the density gets too high, it will collapse into a black hole.

Only if the anti-gravity generators fail.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:53 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


We're close enough that we're pretty sure what that part of the future will look like.

I'm pretty sure we still have no idea what interstellar craft will look like. And anyone who proposes building one on the ground, in Iowa, while wearing welder's goggles, is either completely goofy, J. J. Abrams, or both.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:05 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Residents of Manhattan plunged into darkness under the shadow of my big, black...ego.
posted by ryanrs at 4:52 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Homeworld: check.

Freespace: check.

I am content.
posted by Chutzler at 1:32 PM on May 20


These designs bug me due to my technical background. They really have no design aesthetic, they're just a bunch of squiggly lines. Airplanes, cars, ships, rockets, all have a form followinging function design, but these fantasy spacecraft are barred on the idea of "well just stick a bunch of cruft together". At least the old Star Trek had the idea that the propulsion systems had to look similar.
posted by happyroach at 11:48 PM on May 20


What's funny to me is how SF spaceships in TV and films have mostly have gotten more primitive over the years. In The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet the spacecraft had pretty mysterious properties, like seamless openings and no visible reaction ports. Nowadays they're all welded plates and big cylindrical engines that shoot fiery red stuff out the back.

I think that this is an issue of perspective. Someone in 1951, who was, say, 40 years old, could have seen technology progress from horse-drawn carriages and gaslights through to pressurized airplanes, the V-2 rocket, and the atom bomb. Extrapolating forward using that rate of change gets you out of the realm of practical imagination and into "indistinguishable from magic" very quickly.

Conversely, someone writing or making TV or movies today, again in their 40s and born in the mid-70s, has seen technology generally fail to live up to the more wild predictions of their youth but instead expand in weird ways. (Cf. the 2001 scene with the video pay-phone from the space station. As it turns out it was wrong twice; we don't have space stations like that and we also don't have payphones anymore.) When you project that curve forward, which basically assumes that the big things don't change but the little things do, you end up with a very different kind of science fiction.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:40 AM on May 21


There's not really any actual pictures of Culture ships

Banks did a few drawings/CAD plans that appeared in a now-defunct online fanzine a zillion years ago. This is a cleaned-up version but looks more or less like I vaguely recall.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:01 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


For more fun, add ships from Asher's silly but fun Polity books. ISTR that some Polity ships are large enough to raise tides.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:06 AM on May 21


I'd like to see the Ship of Tzadkiel from the Urth of the New Sun in here too. It was large enough to cause eclipses when it orbited planets.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:39 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


If we referenced "Mystery of the Martian Moons", we could include Phobos and Deimos as starships.
posted by happyroach at 12:19 AM on May 23


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