Big Dumb Object
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In discussion of science fiction, a Big Dumb Object (BDO) is any mysterious object (usually of extraterrestrial or unknown origin and immense power) in a story which generates an intense sense of wonder just by being there; to a certain extent, the term deliberately deflates this. Probably coined by reviewer Roz Kaveney, the term was not in general use until Peter Nicholls included it in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as a joke.
Big Dumb Objects often exhibit extreme or unusual properties, or a total absence of expected properties:
- The object discovered in Quatermass and the Pit was made of a material of extreme hardness, such that diamond-tipped drills and acetylene torches would not damage it. At the same time nothing would adhere to it.
- In the movie based on Michael Crichton's novel Sphere, the eponymous object would reflect everything in its presence except people. If it did reflect someone, he was alone, and the individual was accepted as worthy to harness the device's power.
- In Iain M. Banks' novel Against a Dark Background, the Lazy Guns have a lot of mass and yet little weight, and weigh three times as much upside-down as upright.
Such unexpected properties are usually used to rule out conventional origins for the BDO and increase the sense of mystery, and even fear, for the characters interacting with it.
J.G. Ballard's short story, "Report on an Unidentified Space Station" (1982) may be regarded as an exploration of the metaphor of the BDO: in each successive report, the artifact's estimated size increases, people become lost within it.
Selected examples 
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- Apparently inert yet powerful alien artifacts, such as the monolith in Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey series, the object from the film Epoch, and the Excession from Iain M. Banks' novel of that name.
- Any ghost ship, in the sense of a vessel found drifting without a crew, for example the Event Horizon from the film of that name, and the Rama from Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama.
- The Continuum Transfunctioner from the film Dude, Where's My Car? is a parody of the Big Dumb Object, "a very mysterious and powerful device", alternately described as an object whose "mystery is only exceeded by its power" and whose "power is only exceeded by its mystery".
- V'ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
- The Pylons in the TV series Land of the Lost.
- The alien array from Contact.
- The giant black hole known as the Unicron singularity in Transformers: Cybertron.
- The halos of the Halo series.
- The Void ship in Doctor Who.
- The planet Solaris in Stanislaw Lem's eponymous novel and film versions by Andrey Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh.
See also 
- Kaveney, Roz, 1981, Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, issue 22.
- Nicholls, Peter, 2000, Big Dumb Objects and Cosmic Enigmas: The Love Affair between Space Fiction and the Transcendental, in Westfahl, Gary (ed), Space and Beyond: The Frontier Theme in Science Fiction, Greenwood Press, p. 13. "... I decided to write an April Fool's entry. I would pretend that a phrase I’d always liked, originated by the critic Roz Kaveney but not in general use, was actually a known critical term. I would write an entry called 'Big Dumb Objects' in a poker-faced style, suggesting an even more absurd critical term to be used in its place, 'megalotropic sf.'"