List of ships of the Culture setting

List of ships of the Culture setting

This is a list of spaceships found in the Culture novels 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]



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 "sleeper service" in a suspended animation pun on the transportation service offering.

Common ship types

Class Acronym Description
General Systems Vehicles GSV Mobile habitats and / or factory ships, largest Culture ship type. May be home to billions of people.
Medium Systems Vehicles MSV Smaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
Limited Systems Vehicles LSV Smaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs or MSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
General Contact Vehicles GCV Contact-configured GSVs; Mission-identical to GCUs (see below)
General Contact Units GCU Ambassadors, scouts and light transports; also main warship in peacetime
Limited Contact Units LCU Smaller versions of the above.
General Offensive Units GOU Dedicated main warships
Rapid Offensive Units ROU Dedicated fast warships
Limited Offensive Units LOU Dedicated warships, smaller than GOUs
Demilitarized ROUs (d)ROU Civilianised ROUs used as courier ships, all or most weaponry removed
Very Fast Pickets VFP A euphemism for (d)ROU, used in the same role.
Heavy Lifter HL Dedicated materials mover, smaller than GCUs.


Consider Phlebas

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

The Player of Games

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

Use of Weapons

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


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 (Eccentric) Ostracised for nonconsensual mindreading.
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 n/a Highpoint n/a (Ulterior)
Culture ROU Shoot Them Later Gangster (Eccentric, Ulterior)
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
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
Culture GSV Ethics Gradient Range
Culture GSV Honest Mistake n/a
Culture GSV Limivorous Ocean
Culture GSV No Fixed Abode Ex-Equator (Sabbaticaler)
Culture GSV Quietly Confident,
later Sleeper Service
Plate (Eccentric, Ulterior) 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
Culture Superlifter Charitable View Cliff
Culture n/a I Blame My Mother n/a
Culture n/a I Blame Your Mother n/a
Zetetic Elench Stargazer Appeal To Reason n/a
Zetetic Elench Stargazer Break Even n/a
Zetetic Elench Stargazer Long View n/a
Zetetic Elench Stargazer Peace Makes Plenty n/a
Zetetic Elench Stargazer Sober Counsel n/a
Zetetic Elench Stargazer Within Reason n/a
Affront n/a Kiss the Blade
Affront n/a Frightspear n/a
Affront Light Cruiser Furious Purpose Meteorite Class
Affront n/a Riptalon n/a
Affront n/a Wingclipper n/a
Affront n/a SacSlicer II n/a
Affront n/a Xenoclast Battleship
Homomdan Main Battle Unit Full Refund (Ex-'MBU 604') Empire Class (Convertcraft)
Culture n/a Just Passing Through Cruise Ship, n/a

The State of the Art

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.

Ship Type Name Class Comments
GSV Bad for Business n/a
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]
GCU Cantankerous n/a
GCU Only Slightly Bent n/a
GCU I Thought He Was With You n/a
GCU Space Monster n/a
GCU A Series Of Unlikely Explanations n/a
GCU Big Sexy Beast n/a
GCU Never Talk To Strangers n/a
GCU Funny, It Worked Last Time... n/a
GCU Boo! n/a
GCU Ultimate Ship The Second n/a
GCU It'll Be Over By Christmas n/a
GCU A Ship With A View* n/a
GCU Ablation* n/a
GCU Arrested Development* n/a
GCU Credibility Problem* n/a
GCU Dramatic Exit, Or, Thank you And Goodnight* n/a
GCU Excuses And Accusations* n/a
GCU God Told Me To Do It* n/a
GCU Halation Effect* n/a
GCU Happy Idiot Talk* n/a
GCU Helpless In The Face Of Your Beauty* n/a
GCU Heresiarch* n/a
GCU Just Another Victim Of The Ambient Morality* n/a
GCU Minority Report* n/a
GCU Not Wanted On Voyage* n/a
GCU Perfidy* n/a
GCU Sacrificial Victim* n/a
GCU Stranger Here Myself* n/a
GCU Synchronize Your Dogmas* n/a
GCU The Precise Nature Of The Catastrophe* n/a
GCU Unwitting Accomplice* n/a
GCU Undesirable Alien* n/a
GCU Well I Was In The Neighbourhood* n/a
GCU You Would If You Really Loved Me* n/a
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.

Look to Windward

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.

Ship Type Name Class Comments
(Chelgrian) Winter Storm n/a
(Chelgrian) Piety n/a (Temple ship)
(Chelgrian) Soulhaven n/a (Temple ship)
ROU Nuisance Value Torturer
n/a Vulgarian Superlifter
GSV Sanctioned Parts List n/a
VFP Resistance Is Character-Forming Gangster
OU All Through With This Niceness And Negotiation Stuff * n/a
n/a Someone Else's Problem * n/a
n/a Lacking That Small Match Temperament * n/a
GCU Poke It With A Stick * n/a
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."
n/a Hand Me The Gun And Ask Me Again * n/a
n/a But Who's Counting? * n/a See below for the ship "Me, I'm Counting"
n/a Germane Riposte * n/a
n/a We Haven't Met But You're A Great Fan Of Mine * n/a
n/a All The Same, I Saw It First * n/a
n/a Ravished By The Sheer Implausibility Of That Last Statement n/a
n/a Zero Credibility * n/a
n/a Charming But Irrational * n/a
n/a Demented But Determined * n/a
n/a You May Not Be The Coolest Person Here * n/a
n/a Lucid Nonsense * n/a
n/a Awkward Customer * n/a
n/a Thorough But ... Unreliable * n/a
n/a Advanced Case Of Chronic Patheticism * n/a
n/a Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory * n/a
n/a Conventional Wisdom * n/a
n/a In One Ear * n/a
n/a Fine Till You Came Along * n/a
n/a I Blame The Parents * n/a
n/a Inappropriate Response * n/a
n/a A Momentary Lapse Of Sanity * n/a
n/a Lapsed Pacifist * n/a
n/a Reformed Nice Guy * n/a
n/a Pride Comes Before A Fall * n/a
n/a Injury Time * n/a
n/a Now Look What You've Made Me Do * n/a
n/a Kiss This Then * n/a
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.
GSV Lasting Damage I n/a The original Lasting Damage, assumed destroyed but eventually returned.
GSV Lasting Damage II n/a The recreated backup copy twin of the Lasting Damage.
GSV Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall Equator-class 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.


Civilisation Name Ship type Comments
Culture Don't Try This At Home MSV (Steppe-class)
Culture Eight Rounds Rapid (ex) GOU (Delinquent-class) Potentially an inside joke alluding to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's command of "five rounds rapid" against a hostile "chap with wings" in The Dæmons (Doctor Who).
Culture Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall GCU Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[3] Also mentioned in Look to Windward.
Culture It's My Party And I'll Sing If I Want To GCU (Escarpment-class) 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 Lightly Seared On The Reality Grill GCU
Culture Now We Try It My Way (ex) General Transport Craft (Interstellar-class)
Culture Liveware Problem Superlifter (Stream-class, modified Delta-class) 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 Pure Big Mad Boat Man GCU 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 Qualifier GCU (Trench-class)
Culture Seed Drill GSV (Ocean-class)
Culture Subtle Shift In Emphasis GCV (Plains-class)
Culture Transient Atmospheric Phenomenon GCU
Culture Xenoglossicist LSV (Air-class)
Culture You Naughty Monsters GCU
Culture You'll Clean That Up Before You Leave (d)ROU (Gangster-class)
Nariscene Hence the Fortress Comet (Star-cruiser)
Nariscene Hundredth Idiot, The White Dwarf Chose its name from a Nariscene proverb.
Morthanveld Fasilyce, Upon Waking Cat.5 SwellHull
Morthanveld Inspiral, Coalescence, Ringdown Great Ship Comparable to a GSV; the name refers to three stages in the merger of two black holes.
Morthanveld On First Seeing Jhiriit Cat.4 CleaveHull
Morthanveld Now, Turning to Reason, & Its Just Sweetness Cat.3 SlimHull

Surface Detail

Civilisation Name Ship type Comments
Culture Sense Amid Madness, Wit Amidst Folly GSV (Plate-class)
Culture Me, I'm Counting (ex) LOU (Hooligan-class)
Culture Bodhisattva, OAQS GCU 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 Total Internal Reflection GSV One of the "Forgotten" Culture ships.
Culture Armchair Traveller GCU (Mountain-class)
Culture The Usual But Etymologically Unsatisfactory FP/(d)ROU (Psychopath-class)
Culture Hidden Income n/a (Interstellar-class) Type not mentioned in novel, but possibly General Transport Craft (see Matter)
Culture Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints GOU (Abominator-class) self categorized as PS class, "Picket Ship"
Culture Hylozoist (ex) LOU (Killer-class)
Culture No One Knows What The Dead Think FP/(ex) GOU Previously named Obliterating Angel
Culture Pelagian GSV (Equator-class)
Culture Fixed Grin n/a
Culture Scar Glamour n/a
Culture Labtebricolephile n/a Labtebricolephile means a person or thing that likes living in holes
Culture Dressed Up To Party GSV
Jhlupian Ucalegon Heavy cruiser Ucalegon means "a neighbor whose house is on fire"
GFCF Messenger Of Truth Contact Craft (Succour-class)
GFCF Fractious Person Minor Destructor Vessel
GFCF Rubric Of Ruin Minor Destructor Vessel
GFCF Abundance Of Onslaught Deepest Regrets-class
GFCF Vision Of Hope Surpassed Deepest Regrets-class
Nauptre Reliquaria Partial Photic Boundary Bismuth category

Guardian interview

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

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


  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.,6000,367256,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  4. ^ The State of the Art - Banks, Iain M., 1991
  5. ^ Liveware (from the '' website. Accessed 2008-06-18.)

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