1. Meteor
    Offline

    Meteor Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2012
    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Maryland

    How big is too big?

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Meteor, Jan 25, 2015.

    Hello everyone and thanks for taking the time to take a look at this.


    I'm here today to get some advice about space ships. Literally how big is too big? I've seen all types of space ships in scifi and all of various sizes. Most notably ships from Eve online. The biggest ship, I think, is fourteen miles long and eight miles top to bottom. We've got Star Trek after that with some ungodly huge ships and of course there is Star Wars with things like the death star. Geez that thing is big. I've always heard that bigger isn't always better. So what do you guys think? Should I just say screw it and go as big as I want?
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,834
    Likes Received:
    10,013
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    The problem with really huge ships like in the ones in Independence Day (especially the mother ship out by the moon) is that those are so unrealistically big that the mass of the ship would create an appreciable gravity well. That mother ship would have caused far graver damage to Earth through gravitational perturbation than through invasion.

    When the ship is like the 14 mile long daddies you mention, structural realities come into play like the fact that movement operates as a function of a wave and that the force generated by the engines at the rear of the ship would actually probably compact the ship before it ever propelled the ship.
     
  3. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,199
    Likes Received:
    4,209
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    The Death Star had always been unrealistic for me. I mean, thing's the size of a small moon for crying out loud! Imagine a ship the size of our planet. Now imagine the bedrooms located where London would be, the central command station located where Tokyo would be, and the hangar bay located where Boston would be. Now imagine you have to walk there by foot. Now imagine you hear Tokyo!central command station saying you must run to Boston!hangar bay, but you're where Melbourne, Australia would be.

    Yeah, I think you can see how illogical it is. To me, a space ship the size of a football stadium seems believable as you can feasibly walk everywhere in due time. Anything bigger and they'll need super-fast shuttles/teleporters built in strategic points of the ships to get around easily. In the case of a planet-sized ship? I don't think I have the words to convey how big Earth is. It would take a day to go from Richmond, VA to San Francisco, CA by car. It would also take a day to go from Lisbon, Portugal to Moscow, Russia by car. Can you imagine how long it would take to walk there?
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2015
    Wreybies and cutecat22 like this.
  4. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,431
    Likes Received:
    1,059
    Location:
    England
    It depends. Are you going for the pure fiction as in, do whatever you want, it's your story and you are the one that has to write it or are you writing for the reader like wrey who will stop reading halfway through to question why the mothership hasn't been destroyed by the force from it's own engines?

    Sorry @Wreybies I had to get that in there. As authors, we alone have to decide these things as we never know what our readers are thinking while they are reading what we've written. What I will say, however, is if you are going to go into any technicalities, then you need to know that those technicalities are at least, plausible. For example, if you need a mother ship that big, then could your story have one that's actually more of a space station and is actually moved from place to place via some kind of teleporter al-la Stargate? Or how about if you had a bunch of medium sized ships which, once they've travelled to where they are going, they all join together to create one mass ship?

    There are ways around everything when writing fiction. As someone told me today after I'd spent all last week stressing about the corner I'd written myself into and couldn't see a way out, "sometimes, you just need to look at things from a new perspective."
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  5. Lancie
    Offline

    Lancie Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2014
    Messages:
    257
    Likes Received:
    146
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    I suppose it depends on function?

    How many people live on the ship? For how long are they expected to stay there? Is it a floating city or country, and if so, why? Is it more for transport, or a war ship? Does it need to move without other ships noticing? Does it ever need to land? Things to think about.

    I always liked Moya from Farscape. She was huge (and alive), and as such couldn't land on other planets because she'd suffocate under her own weight.

    As long as your ship is realistic for your writing and you weave in the appropriate detail, then you can pretty much do what you like.
     
    Megalith and Link the Writer like this.
  6. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,601
    Likes Received:
    5,875
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    My ships are like large ocean liners. I went with how big they'd need to be to carry about 5,000 people for 40 years. So they have all the functions of a small biosphere.

    A ship this size has to be built in space as the most costly energy-wise is getting off the planet. Once in space there is very little drag and ion engines, while they have little force, can keep firing and over a year or two the ship can accumulate significant speed. In addition, shape is not a critical feature. They need to consider the solar and interstellar wind, but they don't need to be sleek and streamlined.
     
  7. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    George O. Smith's Venus Equilateral stories were about a space station made out of a hollowed-out asteroid. Huge. Over three thousand people aboard. No problem.

    I don't like ships that take a massive amount of material to build, unless you're hollowing out an asteroid. A Death Star? Really? Where do you get all that steel? Even if you get it, how is it economical to assemble it into a Death Star and put it into orbit around a planet you want to destroy? I never bought into E.E. Smith's space opera fantasies.
     
    Wreybies likes this.
  8. Void
    Offline

    Void Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2014
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    229
    The real question you have to ask, aside from the how, is the why? You need to know what the purpose for your ship is, then tailor the size to that purpose. As others have said, these moon sized ships are rather illogical and just come across as showing off.
     
  9. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,018
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    Iain M Banks in one of his novels talks about huge ships as 'vanity ships'; one is the flagship of a fleet and is destroyed in seconds because it is such a huge, cumbersome and unwieldy object.

    If you are going for realism then the more massive the object, the more energy that is required to move it (this is a very significant issue). My ships are small, as small as possible to have life support functions and whatever means of power/ thrust I am using. Edited to add: although I am adding in gravity shielding as an advanced and top secret technology which may change this to some extent.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2015
  10. Void
    Offline

    Void Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2014
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    229
    Pretty much this. Large ships just come across as a dick-waving contest. If that is part of the story, that someone builds a large ship to show off their power, then fine. But having the ships be massive by default is kind of silly.
     
  11. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,018
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    Yes this. Even if you accelerated incredibly slowly without destroying the ship, once you are travelling at a significant proportion of light speed any adjustments in course (unless made over a vast arc- and by vast I mean many times larger than the circumference of our solar system) would result in G-forces (more accurately centripetal acceleration) sufficient to tear the ship apart and probably liquefy the occupants.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2015
  12. Megalith
    Offline

    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    772
    Likes Received:
    309
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Large ships without a reason is definitely a problem. Especially if you don't have technology that works around the the illogical construction and physical limitations. I happen to have monstrous ships in my sic-fi series.(country-sized) They are carrier ships for quick evacuations of large planets. They also don't use standard methods of thrust to achieve transportation and can't land of course. But it is not like it's taboo, just have good reason and at least try a little on functionality, I think it's at least somewhat important for a most sic-fi readers.
     
  13. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    Some SF writers have justified huge ships because they have to be reasonably self sufficient as they patrol different sectors of space. Thus the ship would need manufacturing, food production, research, entertainment, just about anything you would expect to find in a planet based city. And yes, they included internal transport systems.

    The crew would not be expected to move from one end to the other, just as we don't move from one end of a city to the other on a regular basis.
     
    kfmiller likes this.
  14. DeadMoon
    Offline

    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2014
    Messages:
    756
    Likes Received:
    441
    Location:
    fargo, ND
    Dr Who had a very small ship on the outside that was very large on the inside.
     
  15. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,018
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    He also had a sonic screwdriver, which is repeatedly and shamelessly used as one of the worst examples of deus ex machina I have ever seen.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2015
  16. Meteor
    Offline

    Meteor Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2012
    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Maryland
    Sweet, thanks for all of the feedback guys! I think I've found right about where I need to be for sizes and what not. Reading these and thinking about it a little I guess it really does depend on the ship function. That being said I always imagined that our larger technology of today would be fairly compressed and vastly more efficient in the distant future. A lot of the ships featured in my story are going to be war ships. Carriers, battleships, frigates and destroyers or things following those lines. We will, of course, see colony ships and freighters with supplies or some such materials. Anyway, thanks again guys!
     
  17. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,504
    Likes Received:
    1,337
    If you compare an aircraft carrier of today with those used in WWII, you won't see much evidence of technology having been compressed! Ditto with most other warships.
     
  18. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    While electronics may be reduced in size, we have no idea what the size of the engines, fuel storage, and the like will be. They could be huge.

    Then there is living space. Human beings require a certain minimum space to stay healthy and sane unless everybody is in suspended animation all the time. Same goes for food supplies. They have to be made out of something or be loaded at port. The same goes for water. You can recycle, but a basic minimum still will be there.

    If it is a military ship, then there will be munitions, smaller ships for various uses, and even more small ships if it functions sort of like a carrier.
     
  19. DaveOlden
    Offline

    DaveOlden Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2015
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    34
    The Empire, in Star Wars, is a tyranny. I think out-to-intimidate is in their job description.

    (I'm trying to recall what the largest Rebel ship was...)


    "Cut the chatter, Red Tw--" (sorry, I couldn't resist.... :meh:)
     
  20. DeadMoon
    Offline

    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2014
    Messages:
    756
    Likes Received:
    441
    Location:
    fargo, ND
    Dr. Who's sonic screwdriver is a easy out for to many situations.
     
  21. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    You can make it as big as you desire, but there should be a purpose and the technology and the resources that the reader will buy into. Some of it depends on the type of SF novel you're writing and the content of the storyline.

    For example, I could buy into a long range colony ship, expected to house colonists for generations to be larger than a military vessel, even a battleship or dreadnought. But that's just me.
     
    DaveOlden likes this.
  22. FrankieWuh
    Offline

    FrankieWuh Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2014
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    107
    Location:
    Deepest Darkest UK
    On size I'm often reminded of a Star Trek quote:
    "Lieutenant Commander Nyota Uhura: It could hold a crew of... tens of thousands.
    Commander Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, M.D.: Or a crew of a thousand ten miles tall."

    For me size is all about purpose. It's fine if its big. It's just what you do with it that brings size some meaning.
    It could be as big as a sun, and yet still no bigger than a gnat to some races, or the ship could be the size of a molecule but capable of bringing down a god.
    In SF, size is always relative.
     
  23. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,504
    Likes Received:
    1,337
    Longest ship in the world: Seawise Giant at 1,504 feet long, displacement 657,019 tons - broken up 2009
    Current longest: Maersk Triple E class (20 ships) at 1,309 feet & 196,000 tons (the TI class of supertankers are heavier at 441,893 tons)

    Compared with USS Nimitz at 1,092 feet & 110,350 tons

    At the start of WWII the Queen Elizabeth at 83,673 tons was far larger than the Washington treaty limitations of 35,000 tons. OK, this rule was frequently bent, with the Yamato stretching this all the way up to 72,000 tons.

    Point is, warships aren't the biggest ships around.

    Nimitz has a crew of 5,680, the crew of a Maersk Triple E is 19.
     
  24. RachHP
    Offline

    RachHP Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2015
    Messages:
    262
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    England
    Just thought I'd throw in my tuppence -

    I'm a visual-type and would point out that however big or small you decide to make it, there are going to be some people who just can't "see" it. Personally, once something gets outside of things there are Earth-based equivalences for, I find it hard to grasp proportions and at that point (as the reader) there's a certain amount of suspending disbelief and just going along with that I'm willing to do. I'd say most readers/people will go along with you, as long as you're not being obscene (ie 'it was the size of several galaxies and a postage stamp all at once')

    And ultimately, I agree with
    Your justifications are good enough - it's your story, do what you like!
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  25. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    I think you can make very large ships work in the context of a story. Look at Clarke's Rendevous with Rama. The length and diameter of the ship are measured in tens of miles.
     
    DaveOlden likes this.

Share This Page