big dumb object n.

a large, mysterious, alien-made artifact encountered in space or on another world

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism


  • 1981 R. Kaveney Science Fiction in 1970s in Foundation June 25

    Niven has ceased to be the acceptable face of technophilia and come to resemble not just his collaborator Pournelle but the Chalkers and the Busbys. Early in his career he brought back into fashion—naively but effectively—the resonances and charms of Big Dumb Objects like the Ringworld: as painted stages go, his Meccano universe was sort of loveable.

  • 1981 R. Kaveney Science Fiction in 1970s in Foundation June 31

    The Big Dumb Object becomes for them a peopled and moralised landscape.

  • 1998 G. Zebrowski Afterword in C. Pellegrino & G. Zebrowski Star Trek: Next Generation: Dyson Sphere (1999) 200 George Zebrowski

    The history of science fiction is filled with large structures; but it is a mistake to consider them as mere genre conceits, ‘big dumb objects’, as some have called them, growing out of the desire to have purely fictional dramatic extravagances.

  • 2003 M. Flynn Wreck of the River of Stars 236 Michael F. Flynn bibliography

    The engineer frowned. ‘I don’t like it when machines act un-predictably. I was on Iskander Pasha when its AI skewed. Can you BDO the net?’ ‘I know my business,’ said The Lotus Jewel sharply. ‘A crew this size couldn’t run a Big Dumb Object.’

  • 2011 P. Di Filippo On Books in Asimov’s Science Fiction Jan. 103/2 page image Paul Di Filippo

    The reader realizes that all along Guy Adams has been brilliantly expounding on a Big Dumb Object in the manner of Clarke’s Rama! Nice fakeout, sir!

Research requirements

antedating 1981

Earliest cite

Roz Kaveny, in Foundation

Research History
Lawrence Person submitted a 1993 cite from the Nicholls Encyclopedia of SF.
Jeff Prucher identified and Mike Christie located a 1981 cite from Roz Kaveney in "Foundation", which may be the first usage.
Sue Surova submitted a 1999 cite from Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski's "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Dyson Sphere".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from Paul Di Filippo in F&SF.
Douglas Winston submitted a 2004 cite from Michael Flynn's "The Wreck of the River of Stars."

We would like cites of any date from other sources.

Last modified 2021-09-12 03:05:38
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.