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 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 drone, put in place simply to watch the passage of this massive construct. Its motion through the ship brings forward several novel acoustic spaces.
(Both quotations are from Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata.)