In the sci-fi novels by Iain M. Banks in The Culture universe, ships play an important role. They are not ordinary space ships, but artificially created sentient beings with (mostly?) three Minds. The size of these ships is large - descriped by categories like Ozean class or Continent class. Ships are habitated by other persons, humans and AIs as well (and animals and plants and stuff, too, of course). In the novel Excession, some of the main characters are ships. Every reader of Banks culture novels will remember the Culture ship names ...

After reading this list you will have gathered that Culture ships tend to name themselves whatever the hell they like. However, you may be puzzled by the recurring appearance of the word "gravitas" in there. We've got the GCU Very Little Gravitas Indeed from Use of Weapons, the GSV Zero Gravitas in Excession, and the GSV Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall from Look To Windward.

Spotting this trend, a number of people questioned Iain M. Banks, the author of the Culture novels. He responded saying that it is basically a running gag within the Culture itself. One of the Involved civilisations (i.e. different civs which have an involvement with the Culture) found it a little surprising that ships with such awesome power and intelligence would be given names like I Blame Your Mother and Space Monster. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to choose names with a little more gravitas?

Supposedly one of the Culture ship manufacturies immediately responded to this by beginning to name all their newly-created ships No Gravitas Here, Dwindling Gravitas, Absolutely No You-Know-What and the like, and continued to do so for quite some time.

Banks claims to have a growing list of about 20 "gravitas" ship names at home, but no way to use them up until his next Culture novel.

One of the neat things about Iain M. Bank's novels is the wonderful names of all the Culture ships. Snarky, amusing, whatever... just another reason to read his stories. Thanks to, Ian Young and Robert Keogh.

Consider Phlebas

GCU Nervous Energy
GCU Prosthetic Conscience
GSV The Ends Of Invention (ex-Culture)
GSV Eschatologist (temporary name)
GSV Irregular Apocalyse
GSV No More Mr Nice Guy
GSV Determinist
GSV Bora Horza Gobuchul
LSV Profit Margin
ROU Trade Surplus
ROU Revisionist

The Player of Games

Clipper Screw Loose
GCU Flexible Demeanour
GCU Just Read The Instructions
GCU Of Course I Still Love You
GOU Limiting Factor
GSV Cargo Cult
GSV Little Rascal
GSV So Much For Subtlety
GSV Unfortunate Conflict Of Evidence
GSV Youthful Indiscretion
LOU Gunboat Diplomat
dROU Zealot
Superlifter Kiss My Ass
Superlifter Prime Mover

Use of Weapons

GCU? Just Testing
dROU Xenophobe
GCU Very Little Gravitas Indeed
GSV What Are The Civilian Applications?
GSV Congenital Optimist
GSV Size Isn't Everything
GCU Sweet and Full of Grace


GCU Different Tan (Mountain Class)
GCU Fate Amenable To Change (River Class)
GCU Grey Area
GCU It's Character Forming
GCU Jaundiced Outlook (Ridge)
GCU Problem Child (Troubadour)
GCU Reasonable Excuse
GCU Recent Convert
GCU Tactical Grace (Escarpment Class)
GCU Unacceptable Behaviour
GCV Steely Glint (Plains)
Highpoint (ulterior)
Shoot Them Later (eccentric;ulterior)
LOU Attitude Adjuster (Killer)
ROU Killing Time (Torturer Class)
dROU Frank Exchange Of Views (Psychopath Class)
GSV Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The (Plate)
GSV Death and Gravity
GSV Ethics Gradient (Range)
GSV Honest Mistake
GSV Limivourous (Ocean)
GSV No Fixed Abode (Sabbaticaler, ex Equator)
GSV Quietly Confident (Plate)
GSV Sleeper Service (Plate)
GSV Uninvited Guest
GSV Use Psychology
GSV What Is The Answer and Why?
GSV Wisdom Like Silence (Continent)
GSV Yawning Angel (Range)
GSV Zero Gravitas
LSV Misophist
LSV Serious Callers Only (Tundra)
MSV Not Invented Here (Desert)
Zetetic Elench ships
Appeal To Reason
Break Even
Long View
Peace Makes Plenty
Sober Counsel
Within Reason
Affront ships
Kiss the Blade (Battle Cruiser)
Furious Purpose
SacSlicer II
Misc. ships
(MBU) Full Refund (Empire Class- Homomdan Convertcraft Vessel)
Superlifter Charitable View (Cliff)
Cruise Ship Just Passing Through
Added Value
I Blame Your Mother
I Blame My Mother
Heavy Messing - ex-culture ship

The State of the Art

GSV Bad for Business
GCU Arbitrary
GCU Cantankerous
GCU Only Slightly Bent
GCU I Thought He Was With You
GCU Space Monster
GCU A Series Of Unlikely Explanations
GCU Big Sexy Beast
GCU Never Talk To Strangers
GCU Funny, It Worked Last Time...
GCU Boo!
GCU Ultimate Ship The Second
GCU It'll Be Over By Christmas
The following are all Culture ship names from The State of the Art, but their classification is unknown.
A Ship With A View
Arrested Development
Credibility Problem
Dramatic Exit
Excuses And Accusations
God Told Me To Do It
Halation Effect
Happy Idiot Talk
Helpless In The Face Of Your Beauty
Just Another Victim Of The Ambient Morality
Minority Report
Not Wanted On Voyage
Sacrificial Victim
Stranger Here Myself
Synchronize Your Dogmas
Thank you And Goodnight
The Precise Nature Of The Catastrope
Unwitting Accomplice
Undesirable Alien
Well I Was In The Neighbourhood
You Would If You Really Loved Me
You'll Thank Me Later

From Look to Windward

Winter Storm (Chelgrian)
Piety (Chelgrian temple ship)
Nuisance Value ROU
Vulgarian Superlifter
Sanctioned Parts List GSV
Resistance Is Character-Forming VFP

The following few are from a conversation between two un-named people, using the ship names to put their points across -

All Through With This Niceness And Negotiation Stuff OU
Someone Else's Problem
Lacking That Small Match Temperament
Poke It With A Stick GCU
I Said, I've Got A Big Stick OU
Hand Me The Gun And Ask Me Again
But Who's Counting?
Germane Riposte
We Haven't Met But You're A Great Fan Of Mine
All The Same, I Saw It First
Ravished By The Sheer Implausibility Of That Last Statement
Zero Credibility
Charming But Irrational
Demented But Determined
You May Not Be The Coolest Person Here
Lucid Nonsense
Awkward Customer
Thorough But ... Unreliable
Advanced Case Of Chronic Patheticism
Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory
Conventional Wisdom
In One Ear
Fine Till You Came Along
I Blame The Parents
Inappropriate Response
A Momentary Lapse Of Sanity
Lapsed Pacifist
Reformed Nice Guy
Pride Comes Before A Fall
Injury Time
Now Look What You've Made Me Do
Kiss This Then

Back to the real list -

Grey Area/Meatfucker (mentioned in passing)
Soulhaven (Chelgrian temple ship)
Lasting Damage GSV
Lasting Damage I GSV
Lasting Damage II GSV
Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall GSV

Hooray, I get to add to this!

From Matter, we get the following.


  • MSV Don't Try This At Home
  • MSV Qualifier
  • ex-GOU Eight Rounds Rapid
  • GOU You'll Clean That Up Before You Leave
  • GCU Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall (reappearing from Look To Windward)
  • GCU It's My Party and I'll Sing If I Want To
  • GCU Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill
  • GCU Pure Big Mad Boat Man
  • GCU Transient Atmospheric Phenomenon
  • GCU You Naughty Monsters
  • GSV Seed Drill
  • GCV Subtle Shift in Emphasis
  • Stream-class Superlifter Liveware Problem
  • Erratic-class Now We Try It My Way
  • LSV Xenoglossicist


  • Comet-class star-cruiser Hence the Fortress
  • White Dwarf-class Hundredth Idiot, The


  • Cat.5 SwellHull "Fasilyce, Upon Waking"
  • Great Ship "Inspiral, Coalescence, Ringdown"
  • Cat.4 CleaveHull "On First Seeing Jhiriit"
  • Cat.3 SlimHull "Now, Turning to Reason, & Its Just Sweetness"

From Surface Detail:


  • LOU Me, I'm Counting
  • PS Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints (Abominator-class Picket Ship, Special Circumstances)
  • GSV Dressed Up To Party
  • GCU Bodhisattva OAQS. (on active Quietus service)
  • GSV Total Internal Reflection (Forgotten)
  • GSV Sense Amidst Madness, Wit Amidst Folly
  • Fixed Grin
  • Beastly to the Animals
  • Scar Glamour
  • Hylozoist
  • Weaponisationed Module Bliterator
  • Labtebricolephile (Eccentric)

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