space bum n.

a spacer who wanders aimlessly; a vagrant in space; (also) a spacer who is regarded as contemptible

  • 1938 ‘K. Casey’ Flareback in Astounding Science-Fiction Mar. 133/1 page image Kent Casey bibliography

    Just a space bum, that’s what I am. And now that the lanes are closed for duration of the war even bums like me can’t roam around.

  • 1941 ‘J. Y. Cabot’ Sergeant Shane of the Space Marines in Amazing Stories 98/2 page image David Wright O'Brien bibliography

    I wanted to make sure that the Varda wench wasn’t roughed by those space bums.

  • 1947 R. A. Heinlein Green Hills of Earth in Saturday Evening Post 8 Feb. 145/1 page image Robert A. Heinlein bibliography

    On the swing back they set Rhysling down on Mars at Drywater; the boys passed the hat and the skipper kicked in a half month’s pay. That was all—finis—just another space bum who had not had the good fortune to finish it off when his luck ran out.

  • 1958 H. Ellison Nothing for My Noon Meal in Nebula Science Fiction (#30) May 35 page image Harlan Ellison bibliography

    Of course I had to live. Not at all because I wanted to live; when you have been a space bum as long as me, and nothing to moor you to one rock, and then along comes a woman who dips up life in her eyes and hands and does it all for you—and then she is taken away so quickly[...]

  • 1961 ‘A. Walker’ Oversight of Dirty-Jets Ryan in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Dec. 31/2 page image Anne Walker bibliography

    Well Miss Canary is paying out with ‘The Only Rose on Mars’ when who should peek in but Dirty-Jets Ryan, Joe the Schmoe, and a third party, in tliat order. Now Dirty-Jets is a space-bum who is notable for his habitual bad luck in having to conduct forced landings off base, which is regarded by the Customs sniffers with suspicions amounting to certainty.

  • 1968 A. E. van Vogt Proxy Intelligence in Worlds of If Oct. x. 156/1 page image A. E. van Vogt bibliography

    Exactly as each little island post of Earth’s Pacific Ocean gradually accumulated a saturation of human flotsam and jetsam, so on Spaceport there had gathered a strange tribe of space bums. The tribe consisted of men and women in almost equal numbers, the size of the group being variable. Currently, it consisted of thirteen persons. They were not exactly honest people, but they were not criminals.

  • 1977 B. Volker & N. Kippax Phase II in Contact (#3) Mar. iii. 128 page image

    He could understand Spock’s concern. A base port was not the most savory of places for a young girl. All sorts of traders, merchants and space bums used the port. It was a sailor’s delight, but not the kind of place for an unchaparoned [sic] youngster. ‘C’mon. We can’t just stay here,’ he told Spock gently. The Vulcan nodded, and followed Kirk toward the main information desk.

  • 1987 M. Brooks, R. Graham, & T. Meehan Spaceballs (transcription of film)

    [Dot Matrix] Besides, he’s got a sexy voice. He might be cute. [Barf] But wait, wait, you haven’t seen what she looks like. [Lone Starr] I know what she looks like. If you’ve seen one princess, you’ve seen ’em all. [Princess Vespa] ‘Cute’? I know these space bums. They’re all alike. Fat, ugly— [Lone Starr] Buck-toothed, knock-kneed— [Princess Vespa] —beer-swilling pigs! [Lone Starr] —horse-faced space dogs!

  • 1993 ‘G. Naylor’ Psirens in Primordial Soup 124 page image Doug Naylor Rob Grant bibliography

    LISTER: Is there something good you can tell me about myself? Something laudable? KRYTEN: Laudable... Well, you frequently help me with my laundry duties by wearing your underpants inside out and extending their wear time by three weeks. LISTER: I’m an animal! I’m a tasteless, uncouth, tone-deaf, mindless, revolting, randy, blokeish, semi-literate space bum.

  • 2006 K. Traviss Bloodlines ii. 27 page image Karen Traviss bibliography

    He [sc. Han Solo] sometimes wondered what his life would be like today if he hadn’t met her—if he hadn’t met Luke. A space bum, and an old, tired one at that. Leia had given him a sense of purpose beyond himself and the energy that went with it.

Research requirements

antedating 1938

Earliest cite

Kent Casey, ‘Flareback’, in Astounding

Research History
Suggested, and most quotations submitted, by Bee Ostrowsky.

Last modified 2023-01-20 16:48:14
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.