Ship Names

I’m going to assume that many (if not most) of you are familiar with Iain Bank’s The Culture, and the naming system of Culture ships.

My ship in Elite Dangerous, the M/V Longshot is Culture-ishly named. (M/V stands for “My Vehicle”) airframe number Rat.01.
I also have a Culture-ishly named Imperial Cutter (about the size of a small frigate) – “Great Big Grey Area

For the sake of randomness, what would you name your ships?

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Here’s a closeup of Longshot after an exploration-run coreward, with the version 2.1 paint-wear effects showing what 3,000+ light-years of jumping around stellar coronas’ll do you your paint. I have a bad habit of working my ships very close to the overheat zone.


  1. sillybill says

    Long Shot was also the name of the quantum hyperdrive ship the Puppeteers lent to Louis Wu for his exploration of the galactic core. He discovered the core was exploding, leading to the exodus of the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds.

    I’ve read way too much sf, but strangely never even heard of the Culture novels till I read comments about SpaceX naming two of their robot barges after Culture ships. I’ve never been able to find any at used book stores so am slowly buying new ones.

    How about “Lather, Rinse, Repeat”? Obviously a SC ship/Mind.

  2. says

    Long Shot was also the name of the quantum hyperdrive ship the Puppeteers lent to Louis Wu for his exploration of the galactic core. He discovered the core was exploding, leading to the exodus of the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds.

    That’s right!! That must be where the name came from – when I was thinking about names, I thought that’d be a great name for an explorership. I read all the Niven/Pournelle and just the Niven books many times back in the 70s and 80s.

    I’ve never been able to find any at used book stores so am slowly buying new ones.

    I think it’s great stuff. I accidentally started with Consider Phlebas and was floored.

    How about “Lather, Rinse, Repeat”? Obviously a SC ship/Mind.

    I like that one!

  3. Dunc says

    “Great Big Grey Area” is a bit close to the name of the GCU (Eccentric) “Grey Area” in Excession – the one with the decidedly unsavory reputation.

    If I have to pick just one, I’m going with “Total Gravitas Failure”.

  4. says

    Naming ships? I’d be too busy referring to them as “he” and “him” to drive batty the magas who would be driven batty by something like that to spend time thinking of actual names… :D

  5. says

    Total Gravitas Failure

    I really like that one.

    I’ve read Excession – I wonder if that’s where I got the Great Big Grey Area from. This is interesting; I feel like I’ve been unoriginal but it’s all subconscious. These are books I loved and I guess I absorbed them so thoroughly that Longshot is just what explorer ships are supposed to be named.

  6. Dunc says

    Tabby Lavalamp, @ #4: Of course, in the (main) language of The Culture, the standard personal pronouns for all sentient entities are gender-neutral. Most biological members of The Culture are able to change sex over a period of a few months with nothing more than an effort of will, and it’s considered somewhat unusual for a Culture citizen to spend their entire life in the same gender.

  7. sillybill says

    Marcus, I just finished Consider Phlebas.
    I’ve never laughed as much or had my mind boggled as much reading other sf authors as I have with the Culture – smart ass computers and their avatars, a guy who had 57 cocks and needed 4 hearts to keep up the blood pressure, a virtual war in ‘Hell’, entire planets turned into art projects, etc. Too bad he’s dead and there won’t be any more.

  8. Dunc says

    Marcus, have you read The Hydrogen Sonata? It’s got the best-named ship of all time: unclassified, normally referred to as “Mistake Not…”, its almost-secret full name is “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 Mere Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath”.

    You do not want to piss it off.

  9. says

    The Hydrogen Sonata is great. I think it’s my favorite of all his works. And, “Mistake Not…” is probably the best ship name ever. And, no, I would not want to piss Mistake Not… off even a little bit. It makes yaweh’s wrath sound like bronze-age pikerdom.

    There are a lot of ships in Elite:Dangerous land named Demeisen – I’ve bumped into about 3 (which means there are a lot) I’m not sure if it’s an auspicious name.

  10. cartomancer says

    I’ve not read the Culture novels (or, indeed, any Iain Banks come to think of it). I have played a number of naval and spaceship tabletop wargames though. I tend to choose one-word names for all my ships, beginning with the letter V. So we’ve had Vicious, Vicissitude, Violator, Verecundia, Volcanic, Victualler (that one was a supply ship), Virulent, Valedictorian, Voidwards, Vivisectionist, Vampiric, Veneral, Viceregent, Viridian and Vestal. And one Roman trireme called the Hammer of Archimedes, just to be different.

  11. bmiller says

    Loved Hydrogen Sonata. I actually lost it a bit when Iain passed away. Something about The Culture just fascinates me. A far better view of a possible and human “paradise” than the insipid imaginings of Christians and Muslims (or Buddhists)

    “tis a shame that physics mean we will never see the technology needed to build such a Culture.

  12. brucegee1962 says

    I haven’t read any Banks, but I see most of his books are on Audible, and I’ve gotten on an Audible SF kick recently. Where would you all recommend I start?

  13. says

    My ship name? “Don’t Say Stupid Shit”.

    I assume that’s probably a Rapid Offensive Unit. Great name. I’d be inclined to shut up and listen. Speaking of which, Shut Up And Listen would probably make a good name, too.

  14. says


    (wince) Nice!

    And one Roman trireme called the Hammer of Archimedes

    That’s great! I suspect a Roman trireme named “Pythagoras’ Cup” would be inauspicious.

  15. says

    Actually, along with the Don’t Say Stupid Shit, I would also want the Non Temetis Messor and the Nihil Privatus. (Discworld ‘Latin’ for Don’t Fear the Reaper and Nothing Personal), because I have those on two inscription rings I wear every day.

  16. Dunc says

    brucegee1962 @ #13: Good question… First thing is to realise that there’s a difference between Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks – the former is used for his literary fiction (which I haven’t read much of), and the latter is used for his sci-fi. Most (but not all) of his sci-fi is set in the same continuity – these are the “Culture” books.

    In the sci-fi, you basically have a choice between going at it in chronological order starting with Consider Phlebas, or not… Many people (myself included) think that Player of Games is a more accessible introduction. Or you could just dip your toe in with the novella The State of the Art, in the anthology of the same name, in which The Culture visit Earth, and are not impressed by what they find…

    Of the non-Culture sci-fi, I’ve only read Against a Dark Background (which I found heavy going) and The Algebraist (which I enjoyed a great deal).

    I have to admit, a small part of me is kind of glad that he’s dead, as it means I’ve got a chance to catch up…

    Oh, and his book about whisky (and Scottish roads) called Raw Spirit is well worth reading. Finally, there’s a great hour-long BBC show, also called Raw Spirit, in which he discusses his life, work, and impending death, available on YouTube here.

  17. Ketil Tveiten says

    Clearly everyone would enjoy a peek at .

    If I were in charge of, say, the US Navy or something similar, I’d make sure the latest fanciest high-tech ship got christened the Grey Area, on the off chance that someone caught the reference and they ended up getting referred to as “Meatfucker-class frigates”.

    One of my favourites is Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall, being the capstone to the running ‘gravitas’ joke. My own ship would probably be named If Everyone Around Is An Asshole ….

  18. says

    I’d agree that The Player of Games is a good introduction. It’ll either suck you in or scare you away.

    With regards his literary work, I’ve read The Bridge and The Wasp Factory. The latter gave me nightmares. The former boggled my mind and made me think of Connie Willis’ Passage (which is also very interesting).

    Thank you for the link to the video; I did not know that existed.

  19. Ketil Tveiten says

    For those who haven’t read it, I recommend Feersum Endjinn, which is a really weird take on the post-SF/”science fantasy” genre. Some people (for obvious reasons) find it hard to read (one character talks in purely phonetic writing), but just persevere and you will be rewarded.

  20. Ketil Tveiten says

    Well, no-one’s going to call that the Meatfucker, right? Maybe Expensive Disfunctional Fucker, given the price-to-performance ratio, but that just hasn’t got the same ring to it.

  21. Dunc says

    Marcus @ #19: Yeah, I’ve read The Bridge, and it boggled my mind too… In my case, it’s probably helped by the fact that I’ve lived almost all of my life within around 20 miles of the titular bridge.

    Do find time to watch (or at least listen to) the video, it’s well worth it. He’s a very interesting and thoughtful chap (as if you couldn’t tell from his work).

  22. Ketil Tveiten says

    Dunc @ #24: Just finished watching, that was a great interview. You made my evening. Always nice to be reminded what a great mind is like.

  23. jimb says

    Well, I can’t come up with my own ship name at the moment, but the home NAS is named “SleeperService” – seemed appropriate.

    In addition to his fiction, have a look at “Raw Spirit” – basically a travelogue of visiting various Scotch distilleries.

    Wonderful writer. I miss him.

  24. Andrew Dalke says

    “Be Seeing You”. “I Did Not See That Coming”. “Pawn in Game of Life”. “Think Blue, Count Two, and Look For A Red Shoe”. “Skylark Aleph Null”. “Slower than 12 Parsecs”. “Smell of Unrequited Love”. “Slippery Slope”. “Closing the Overton Window”. “Fold, Spindle or Mutilate”. “Hey Y’all, Watch This”. “Failure To Communicate”. “Msssspp” (pronounced “Mississippi without any i’s”). “Gravitational Constant”. “Five Rounds Rapid”. “Impervious to Tropes”. “Big Stone Coin”. “Vulcan Death Grip”. “This Machine Kills Fascists”. “Zero, One, Infinity”.

  25. kestrel says

    One of my father’s brand new boats turned turtle the moment we launched it and dumped thousands of dollars of equipment into the river. I suggested he name it the “Imminent Disaster”.

  26. jrkrideau says

    @ 10 cartomancer

    Wouldn’t be British, would you? It sounds like the Grand Fleet at anchor!

    Love Verecundia even if I had to look it up.

  27. Johnny Vector says

    Well I don’t have a ship, but if I did I’d probably name it after my bass amp, The Lord High Electrocutioner. It’s okay, they say I’ll be fine.

  28. Andrew Dalke says

    “Shortcut to Tipperary”. “A Rocket Ship Built for Two”. “You Rang?”. “Global Surveillance Microstate”. “Treasury of Dad Jokes”. “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Eta Carinae”. “More What You Call A Guideline”. “Áccéntéd”. “Last Argument of Peasants”. “Perfect Hash”. “This Ain’t E-Prime”. “Decidedly Overrated”. “If Found Please Return To Earth”. “A Complex Desultory Philippic”. “What Does This Button Do?”. “Quaintly Charming”. “Slartibartfast Fan Club HQ”. “Reversing Polarity for Fun and Profit”. “Rodent of Unusual Size”. “Dillon-Wagoner Graviton Polarity Generator Inside”. “Paper Jam On Toast”. “Contributing to Entropic Heat Death”.

  29. dashdsrdash says

    It’s not “if I could name a Ship”. It’s, “if I were a Ship’s Mind, what would I name myself?”

    Better To Do The Right Thing

  30. seachange says

    Cross Communication, Stochastic Polysemic Reiffication, Love is a Verb, and I Hope You Dance, Buster