GSV Empiricist

Grey Patterson

The GSV Empiricist, or General Systems Vehicle Empiricist is a ship in Iain M. Banks’ Culture series of novels. In its first physical appearance, the Empiricist is described as having “no single outer hull surrounding [its] hundreds of individual components, just colossal bubbles of air held in place by field enclosures.” And it’s enormous:

Comfortably over two hundred kilometres long even by the most conservative of measurement regimes, fabulously, ellipsoidally rotund, dazzling with multiple sun-lines and tiny artificial stars providing illumination for motley steps and levels and layers of riotous vegetation – belonging, strictly speaking, on thousands of different worlds spread across the galaxy – boasting hundreds of contrasting landscapes from the most mathematically manicured to the most (seemingly) pristinely, savagely wild, all contained on slab-storeys of components generally kilometres high.

In short, it’s a mobile city with a population of ten billion, and I wanted to try to capture a little bit of that scene here. In truth, exploring a space this vast would take hours, even moving incredibly quickly, so I composed the work from the perspective of a static drone, observing the passage of this behemoth. The piece moves throughout the ship, bringing forth several novel acoustic spaces.
(Both quotations are from Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata.)

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