List of spacecraft in the Culture series

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This is a list of spacecraft found in the Culture novels and short stories by Iain M. Banks. Most ships in this list are members of The Culture, the hybrid society featured in many of these novels. In this setting, each Culture ship, and some others, is also an artificial intelligence with a distinctive personality. Many of these ships are significant characters in the novels.[1][2]

Naming[edit]

The machine intelligences called Minds (and, as a consequence, the Culture starships that they inhabit) usually bear names that do a little more than just identify them. The Minds choose their own names, and thus they usually express something about a particular Mind's attitude, character or aims in their personal life. Warship names are similar in retaining the whimsical nature, though the humour tends to be more cynical and threatening.

Banks composed many of the Culture ships' names very carefully to express the attitude of the ship's Mind, and a few names contain puns where both meanings are appropriate to the ship's attitude. A few of the ship names, like variations on "gravitas" are also installments in running gags.

Some ships' names hint at their purpose, but in a way that is not clear until near the end of the book. For example, Sleeper Service is a sleeper agent whose cover is a suspended animation "sleeper service".

Common ship types[edit]

Class Acronym Description
General Systems Vehicle GSV Mobile habitats and / or factory ships, largest Culture ship type. May be home to billions of people.
Medium Systems Vehicle MSV Smaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
Limited Systems Vehicle LSV Smaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs or MSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
General Contact Vehicle GCV Larger, more capable Contact craft between the size of a GCU and Systems Vehicle; plays similar role to GCUs (see below)
General Contact Unit GCU Ambassadors, scouts and light transports; also main warship in peacetime
Limited Contact Unit LCU Smaller versions of the above.
General Offensive Unit GOU Dedicated main warships
Rapid Offensive Unit ROU Dedicated fast warships
Limited Offensive Unit LOU Dedicated warships, smaller than GOUs
Demilitarized ROU (d)ROU Civilianised ROUs used as courier ships, all or most weaponry removed
Very Fast Picket VFP A euphemism for (d)ROU, used in the same role.
Picket Ship PS A general euphemism for warships, offensive units or ex-offensive units.
Heavy Lifter HL Dedicated materials mover, smaller than GCUs.
Superlifter SL Transport craft or tug, a relatively small craft but powerful for its size, described as taking primary military role in early days of Idiran-Culture War before activation of Culture warship manufacture.

Novels[edit]

Consider Phlebas[edit]

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GCU Nervous Energy Mountain
Culture GCU Prosthetic Conscience n/a
Culture GSV Bora Horza Gobuchul Ocean, later Range The name chosen by the Mind at the center of events after rescue, upon emplacement within a GSV.
Culture GSV Determinist System Largest GSV class mentioned in the books.
Culture GSV Eschatologist (temporary name) Ocean Sent by the Culture to destroy Vavatch orbital.
Culture GSV Irregular Apocalypse n/a
Culture GSV No More Mr Nice Guy n/a
Culture LSV Profit Margin n/a
Culture ROU Revisionist Killer
Culture ROU Trade Surplus Killer
Culture Ulterior GSV The Ends Of Invention n/a
Non-aligned (Ex-Hronish) Armoured assault Clear Air Turbulence n/a Pirate ship, one of the main settings of the book.
Idiran Light Cruiser The Hand of God 137 n/a Utilized by advance force invading the planet Sorpen to rescue Horza.

The Player of Games[edit]

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture Clipper Screw Loose n/a
Culture GCU Flexible Demeanour n/a
Culture GCU Just Read The Instructions n/a Friend of the drone Chamlis Amalk-ney
Culture GCU Of Course I Still Love You n/a Friend of the drone Chamlis Amalk-ney
Culture GOU Limiting Factor Murderer Jernau Morat Gurgeh's ship to Empire of Azad. An allegedly demilitarized GOU.
Culture GSV Cargo Cult n/a Play on the cargo cult concept.
Culture GSV Little Rascal Plate 'Throughput'-ship (ship assembly and crewing).
Culture GSV So Much For Subtlety Range
Culture GSV Unfortunate Conflict Of Evidence n/a
Culture GSV Youthful Indiscretion n/a
Culture LOU Gunboat Diplomat n/a A Special Circumstances craft; its name is a play on the gunboat diplomacy concept.
Culture dROU Zealot n/a
Culture Superlifter Kiss My Ass River
Culture Superlifter Prime Mover n/a
Azadian Battlecruiser Invincible n/a Flagship of the Azad Empire.

Use of Weapons[edit]

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GCU Just Testing n/a
Culture dROU Xenophobe Torturer
Culture GCU Very Little Gravitas Indeed n/a Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[3]
Culture GSV What Are The Civilian Applications? Continent Limited edition Prompt subclass. Can outrun a Very Fast Picket.
Culture GSV Congenital Optimist n/a Rescued Zakalwe from Fohls.
Culture GSV Size Isn't Everything n/a The GCU Sweet and Full of Grace was constructed aboard this ship.
Culture GCU Sweet and Full of Grace n/a

The State of the Art[edit]

Most of the Culture ship names in this collection come from the titles of the chapters in the titular novella; the narrator explains that he has chosen ship names for these titles.

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Bad for Business n/a
Culture GCU Arbitrary Escarpment
(middle series)
Produced by a manufactory of the Yinang Orbitals of the Dahass-Khree, known for ships that are "a bit crazy."[4]
Culture GCU Cantankerous n/a
Culture GCU Only Slightly Bent n/a
Culture GCU I Thought He Was With You n/a
Culture GCU Space Monster n/a
Culture GCU A Series Of Unlikely Explanations n/a
Culture GCU Big Sexy Beast n/a
Culture GCU Never Talk To Strangers n/a
Culture GCU Funny, It Worked Last Time... n/a
Culture GCU Boo! n/a
Culture GCU Ultimate Ship The Second n/a "Ultimate" means "last"
Culture GCU It'll Be Over By Christmas n/a
Culture GCU A Ship With A View* n/a
Culture GCU Ablation* n/a
Culture GCU Arrested Development n/a
Culture GCU Credibility Problem* n/a
Culture GCU Dramatic Exit, Or, Thank you And Goodnight* n/a
Culture GCU Excuses And Accusations* n/a
Culture GCU God Told Me To Do It* n/a
Culture GCU Halation Effect* n/a
Culture GCU Happy Idiot Talk * n/a
Culture GCU Helpless In The Face Of Your Beauty* n/a
Culture GCU Heresiarch* n/a
Culture GCU Just Another Victim Of The Ambient Morality* n/a
Culture GCU Minority Report* n/a
Culture GCU Not Wanted On Voyage* n/a
Culture GCU Perfidy* n/a
Culture GCU Sacrificial Victim* n/a
Culture GCU Stranger Here Myself* n/a
Culture GCU Synchronize Your Dogmas* n/a
Culture GCU The Precise Nature Of The Catastrophe* n/a
Culture GCU Unwitting Accomplice* n/a
Culture GCU Undesirable Alien* n/a
Culture GCU Well I Was In The Neighbourhood* n/a
Culture GCU You Would If You Really Loved Me* n/a
Culture GCU You'll Thank Me Later* n/a

*Names mentioned in the chapter names of the title novella only. All of them belong to ships produced by the Infracaninophile manufactury in Yinang orbital.

Excession[edit]

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GCU Different Tan Mountain
Culture GCU Fate Amenable To Change Escarpment
Culture GCU Grey Area (aka Meatfucker) n/a Ostracised for non-consensual mindreading of biological individuals, earning it the condemnation of other ships not respecting its chosen name in favor of referring to it as the GCU Meatfucker.
Culture GCU It's Character Forming n/a
Culture GCU Jaundiced Outlook Ridge Child ship of the Sleeper Service.
Culture GCU Problem Child Troubadour Early (vs Excession-contemporary) GCU, historical mention. Nominally captained by Zreyn Tramow.
Culture GCU Reasonable Excuse n/a
Culture GCU Recent Convert n/a
Culture GCU Tactical Grace Escarpment
Culture GCU Unacceptable Behaviour n/a
Culture GCV Steely Glint Plains
Culture Ulterior n/a Highpoint n/a
Culture Ulterior ROU Shoot Them Later Gangster Eccentric and Ulterior AhForgetIt Tendency
Culture LOU Attitude Adjuster Killer
Culture ROU Killing Time Torturer A pun on a saying that 99% of war is just killing time, while the rest is the killing time.
Culture ROU Heavy Messing Gangster Possibly a pun on the same phrase in from Glaswegian, or from Ned-ese. Generally if one is said to be "heavy messing" they are considered by an aggrieved party to be interfering or aggravating a situation in which they have little to no stake in.
Culture dROU Frank Exchange Of Views Psychopath
Culture GSV Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The Plate
Culture GSV Death and Gravity n/a Its name is a play on the adage that only death and taxes are inevitable; "taxes" are replaced with gravity, since the Culture doesn't have taxes (or money).
Culture GSV Ethics Gradient Range
Culture GSV Honest Mistake n/a
Culture GSV Limivorous Ocean
Culture Sabbaticaler GSV No Fixed Abode Ex-Equator In Britain the term means a 'rough sleeper' or homeless person. Its name is an observation on itself as a moving starship inherently has no fixed abode)
Culture Eccentric GSV Quietly Confident,
later Sleeper Service
Plate Known as storage ship for biological persons in stasis. The name Sleeper Service is a pun on sleeping car (transport) and sleeper agent (espionage). It also secretly converts itself to be "mostly engine" so it can move unexpectedly quickly - a parallel to sleeper cars (racing).
Culture GSV Uninvited Guest n/a
Culture GSV Use Psychology n/a
Culture GSV What Is The Answer and Why? n/a
Culture GSV Wisdom Like Silence Continent
Culture GSV Yawning Angel Range
Culture GSV Zero Gravitas n/a Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[3]
Culture LSV Misophist n/a
Culture LSV Serious Callers Only Tundra
Culture MSV Not Invented Here Desert The Desert-class was originally a GSV that was demoted to MSV as Culture ship sizes grew. The Not Invented Here is also referred to as an actual GSV twice (Genar-Hofoen was told that the NIH was a GSV by Tish, and he subsequently refers to it as a GSV even after knowing that it is now a MSV) and once as an LSV by the author in narration, but it is predominantly (and self-identified as) a Desert-class MSV
Culture Superlifter Charitable View Cliff
Culture n/a I Blame My Mother n/a
Culture n/a I Blame Your Mother n/a
Culture Cruise Ship Just Passing Through n/a
Culture Convertcraft Main Battle Unit Full Refund (formerly MBU 604) Empire Former Homomdan MBU, now Culture Convertcraft
Zetetic Elench n/a Appeal To Reason n/a Part of the Stargazer Clan
Zetetic Elench Explorer Break Even n/a Part of the Stargazer Clan
Zetetic Elench n/a Long View n/a Part of the Stargazer Clan
Zetetic Elench Explorer Peace Makes Plenty n/a Part of the Stargazer Clan
Zetetic Elench Explorer Sober Counsel n/a Part of the Stargazer Clan
Zetetic Elench n/a Within Reason n/a Part of the Stargazer Clan
Affront n/a Kiss the Blade
Affront n/a Frightspear n/a
Affront Light Cruiser Furious Purpose Meteorite
Affront n/a Riptalon n/a
Affront n/a Wingclipper n/a
Affront n/a SacSlicer II n/a
Affront Battleship Xenoclast n/a

Look to Windward[edit]

Most of the Culture ship names in this novel are only mentioned in a humorous conversation about ship names in Chapter 11, Absence of Gravitas, and do not represent characters in the novel. The Chelgrian ships are not artificial intelligences like those of the Culture.

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Chelgrian Cruiser Winter Storm n/a
Chelgrian Temple ship Piety n/a
Chelgrian Temple ship Soulhaven n/a
Culture ROU Nuisance Value Torturer
Culture Superlifter Vulgarian n/a
Culture GSV Sanctioned Parts List n/a
Culture VFP Resistance Is Character-Forming Gangster
Culture OU All Through With This Niceness And Negotiation Stuff n/a
Culture n/a Someone Else's Problem n/a
Culture n/a Lacking That Small Match Temperament n/a
Culture GCU Poke It With A Stick n/a
Culture OU I Said, I've Got A Big Stick n/a The small print (spoken softly) is a pun on "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
Culture n/a Hand Me The Gun And Ask Me Again n/a
Culture n/a But Who's Counting? n/a LOU Me, I'm Counting provides the answer
Culture n/a Germane Riposte n/a
Culture n/a We Haven't Met But You're A Great Fan Of Mine n/a
Culture n/a All The Same, I Saw It First n/a
Culture n/a Ravished By The Sheer Implausibility Of That Last Statement n/a
Culture n/a Zero Credibility n/a
Culture n/a Charming But Irrational n/a
Culture n/a Demented But Determined n/a
Culture n/a You May Not Be The Coolest Person Here n/a
Culture n/a Lucid Nonsense n/a
Culture n/a Awkward Customer n/a
Culture n/a Thorough But... Unreliable n/a
Culture n/a Advanced Case Of Chronic Patheticism n/a
Culture n/a Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory n/a
Culture n/a Conventional Wisdom n/a
Culture n/a In One Ear n/a
Culture n/a Fine Till You Came Along n/a
Culture n/a I Blame The Parents n/a
Culture n/a Inappropriate Response n/a
Culture n/a A Momentary Lapse Of Sanity n/a
Culture n/a Lapsed Pacifist n/a
Culture n/a Reformed Nice Guy n/a
Culture n/a Pride Comes Before A Fall n/a
Culture n/a Injury Time n/a
Culture n/a Now Look What You've Made Me Do n/a
Culture n/a Kiss This Then n/a
Culture GSV Lasting Damage n/a The Lasting Damage was one of the GSVs that formed the Culture's offensive forces during the early part of the Idiran-Culture War. Later mind-state copied into other ships, it became the Mind of Masaq orbital.
Culture GSV Lasting Damage I n/a The original Lasting Damage, assumed destroyed but eventually returned.
Culture GSV Lasting Damage II n/a The recreated backup copy twin of the Lasting Damage.
Culture GSV Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall Equator Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[3] Also mentioned in Matter.

Names mentioned in a humorous conversation about various Culture ships in Chapter 11 of the novel.

Matter[edit]

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture MSV Don't Try This At Home Steppe
Culture FP Eight Rounds Rapid Delinquent (d)GOU, now demilitarized and serves as a Fast Picket.
Culture GCU Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall n/a Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[3] Also mentioned in Look to Windward.
Culture GCU It's My Party And I'll Sing If I Want To Escarpment Pun on the song It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to, which continues "... You would cry too if it happened to you."
Culture GCU Lightly Seared On The Reality Grill n/a
Culture GTC Now We Try It My Way Interstellar An ancient ship of now-obsolete General Transport Craft type.
Culture Superlifter/GCU Liveware Problem Stream-class Superlifter, modified Delta-class GCU Likely a Special Circumstances operative. The phrase is a joke among computer engineers, suggesting that the problem lies with the user.[5] Destroyed whilst battling a Morthanveld ship which had been taken over by a member of the Iln in the core of Sursamen.
Culture GCU Pure Big Mad Boat Man n/a An inside joke based upon the language of Ned (Scottish) culture. It would be read/heard as "a pure big, mad boat, man" roughly meaning "a very large and deadly serious boat my good man".
Culture GCU Qualifier Trench
Culture GSV Seed Drill Ocean
Culture GCV Subtle Shift In Emphasis Plains
Culture GCU Transient Atmospheric Phenomenon n/a
Culture LSV Xenoglossicist Air
Culture GCU You Naughty Monsters n/a
Culture VFP You'll Clean That Up Before You Leave Gangster-class
Nariscene Star Cruiser Hence the Fortress Comet
Nariscene n/a Hundredth Idiot, The White Dwarf Chose its name from a Nariscene proverb.
Morthanveld Cat.5 SwellHull Fasilyce, Upon Waking n/a
Morthanveld Great Ship Inspiral, Coalescence, Ringdown n/a Comparable to a GSV; the name refers to stages in the merger of two black holes.
Morthanveld Cat.4 CleaveHull On First Seeing Jhiriit n/a
Morthanveld Cat.3 SlimHull Now, Turning to Reason, & Its Just Sweetness n/a

Surface Detail[edit]

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Sense Amid Madness, Wit Amidst Folly Plate
Culture ex-LOU Me, I'm Counting Hooligan Another ship in the Culture is called But Who's Counting?
Culture GCU Bodhisattva, OAQS Initially unknown, later Escarpment Part of Contact's Quietudinal Service (Quietus). Quietus ships added letters OAQS - On Active Quietudinal Service - to their names while they were so employed.
Culture GSV Total Internal Reflection n/a One of the "Forgotten" Culture ships.
Culture GCU Armchair Traveller Mountain
Culture FP/(d)ROU The Usual But Etymologically Unsatisfactory Psychopath
Culture n/a Hidden Income Interstellar Type not mentioned in novel, but possibly General Transport Craft (see Matter)
Culture GOU/PS Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints Abominator Self-categorized as a "Picket Ship"
Culture FP Hylozoist Killer-class ex-LOU
Culture FP No One Knows What The Dead Think n/a Formerly known as the GOU Obliterating Angel
Culture GSV Pelagian Equator
Jhlupian Heavy Cruiser Ucalegon n/a Ucalegon means "a neighbor whose house is on fire"
GFCF Contact Craft Messenger Of Truth Succour
GFCF Minor Destructor Vessel Fractious Person n/a
GFCF Minor Destructor Vessel Rubric Of Ruin n/a
GFCF n/a Abundance Of Onslaught Deepest Regrets Deepest Regrets-class ships are capital ships and the pride of the GFCF fleet
GFCF n/a Vision Of Hope Surpassed Deepest Regrets Deepest Regrets-class ships are capital ships and the pride of the GFCF fleet; the Vision of Hope Surpassed is the flagship for all GFCF forces in the area
Nauptre Reliquaria Bismuth Category 8401.00 Partial Photic Boundary n/a

The Hydrogen Sonata[edit]

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture Ue Mistake Not… n/a The Mistake Not… is of indeterminate ship type and class; it identifies itself as Ue, for Unit (eccentric/erratic). Its full name, which is a private joke amongst other Culture Minds and almost never used, is the Mistake Not My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath
Culture GOU Questionable Ethics
Culture LOU New Toy
Culture ROU Learned Response
Culture LOU Caconym Troublemaker Apparently the precursors to the Abominator-class; although classed as a LOU, Troublemaker-class LOUs are "nominatively camouflaged". In actuality, they are the pinnacle of Culture warship technology, outclassing all previous GOUs. "Caconym" is Ancient Greek, meaning "bad name".
Culture MSV Pressure Drop Shelf
Culture GSV Kakistocrat home GSV of Mistake Not… "Kakistocrat" is Ancient Greek, meaning "very bad ruler".
Culture MSV Passing By And Thought I'd Drop In Desert
Culture GSV Empiricist System Described as being big, even by the standards of System Class ships. It is known to include seven Minds, rather than the more usual three.
Culture ROU Refreshingly Unconcerned With the Vulgar Exigencies of Veracity ex-Thug Fast Picket
Culture ROU Value Judgement ex-Thug Fast Picket
Culture LCU Beats Working Scree
Culture GOU Headcrash Delinquent aboard the Empiricist
Culture GOU Xenocrat Delinquent aboard the Empiricist
Culture GSV Contents May Differ Atmosphere
Culture GSV Just the Washing Instruction Chip in Life's Rich Tapestry
Culture GCU Displacement Activity River
Culture LCU Anything Legal Considered Ridge
Culture Superlifter Zoologist Boulder
Culture GCU Warm, Considering Delta
Culture MSV A Fine Disregard for Awkward Facts original home GCU of Warm, Considering
Culture GSV Teething Problems most recent home/contact GCU of Warm, Considering
Culture VFP Outstanding Contribution to the Historical Process ex-Psychopath
Culture VFP Rapid Random Response Unit Troublemaker Former LOU but now demilitarised
Culture (Culture-Zihdren-Remnanter hybrid) (ex-)GCU Smile Tolerantly The Smile Tolerantly, once an ancient GCU, is now what might best be described as a Culture-Zihdren-Remnanter hybrid. When they learn of it, many of the other ships react with disgust to this hybrid status (amounting to letting another culture mess around with your mind).
Culture GSV Unreliable Witness original home (ex-)GCU of the Smile Tolerantly
Culture LSV You Call This Clean? Blue
Gzilt IR-HAS cruiser 5*Gelish-Oplule regimental cruiser Indefinite Range, High Acceleration/Speed
Gzilt IR-HVW battlecruiser 7*Uagren battle-cruiser Indefinite Range, High Velocity/Weapon-load
Gzilt IR-FWS battleship 8*Churkun Indefinite Range, Full Weapon Spectrum
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Gellemtyan-Asool-Anafawaya (First Class) flagship
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Quiatrea-Anang
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Laskuil-Hliz
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Abalule-Sheliz
Liseiden n/a Fulanya-Guang
Zihdren-Remnanter Ceremonial Representative Carrying Ship Exaltation-Parsimony III
Zihdren-Remnanter Adjunct Entity Oceanic Dissonance
Ronte n/a Melancholia Enshrines All Triumph Interstitial/Exploratory
Iwenick n/a Strategic Outreach Element CH2OH.(CHOH)4.CHO The chemical whose formulation is given in this name is glucose.

Guardian interview[edit]

The following ships have not appeared in any books, however they were named by Iain M Banks in an interview with The Guardian.[3] These ships obtained their names as a result of another (unnamed) involved civilisation criticizing Culture ship naming policy, claiming that such powerful ships ought to have names with a little more gravitas.

  • Stood Far Back When The Gravitas Was Handed Out
  • Gravitas, What Gravitas?
  • Gravitas... Gravitas... No, Don't Help Me, I'll Get It In A Moment...
  • Gravitas Free Zone
  • Low Gravitas Warning Signal
  • Absolutely No You-Know-What

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Excession review (from a bookseller reviews page of the Waterstone’s bookstore chain, Orpington store. Accessed 2008-03-29.)
  2. ^ "Iain Banks writes books about sex and drugs. Iain M Banks is a sci-fi nerd. Are they by any chance related?" - The Guardian, Tuesday 20 May 1997
  3. ^ a b c d e "Iain M Banks Q&A". Guardian. 11 September 2000. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  4. ^ The State of the Art - Banks, Iain M., 1991
  5. ^ Liveware (from the 'webopedia.com' website. Accessed 2008-06-18.)