Full record for generation ship n.

Definition = generation starship; also 'generation spaceship'
OED requirements antedating 1955
Earliest cite E.C. Tubb, 'Star Ship'
Comment Eva Snyder submitted a 1965 cite from Delany's "The Ballad of Beta-2" for the form "generation ship". However, the actual form used was "remaining-generation-ships", and Jeff Prucher verified that this form has persisted into later reprints, which makes the cite less useful.

Edward Bornstein submitted a cite for the form "generation ship" from a 1990 reprint of Steve Jackson and William Barton's "GURPS SPACE". Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite for the form "generation-ship" from Ursula Le Guin's "The Birthday of the World and Other Stories". Katrina Campbell submitted a cite for the form "generation ship" from a 1992 reprint of Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye's "The Death of Sleep". Katrina Campbell submitted a cite from a 1979 reprint of Brian Ash's "Who's Who in Science Fiction"; Mike Christie checked the 1976 first edition and the term does not appear there. Eddie Janusz subsequently located the cite in a 1977 edition. Mike Stone suggested and Fred Galvin submitted a 1957 cite for the form "generations-ship" from the introduction (presumably by Anthony Boucher) to Chad Oliver's story "The Wind Blows Free" in F&SF. Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1979 reprint of Iain Nicolson's "The Road to the Stars". Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from an article by Peter Nicholls in a reprinted edition of the Clute/Nicholls' Encyclopedia of SF; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1993 first edition. Fred Galvin submitted a 1956 cite from E.C. Tubb's "The Space-Born"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1955 first appearance under the title "Star Ship".

We now have enough cites for the form "generation ship", though we would still like to antedate 1955. We would still like cites of any date for the form "generation spaceship".

Last modified 31 July, 2019

Citations for generation ship n.

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1955 E. C. Tubb Star Ship in New Worlds Sci. Fiction June 125 ‘What I can't understand is why, if the Builders had perfected suspended animation, they had to have personnel at all. Why not staff the Ship with men and women in deep-freeze, send off the Ship, and let them waken when they had arrived?’?‘First, there are two ways by which men can reach the stars. One is by suspended animation as you have suggested, the other is by generation ship, which this is. We have combined both and so avoided the weaknesses inherent in either. The generation ship depends on new blood replacing the old, but the danger is that the new blood will forget what it should remember. Sixteen generations is a long time, Jay. Even with continual use of educational tapes it is still hard for some people to accept the fact that the Ship is nothing but a metal can drifting in the void. To them the Ship is the universe and they just can't imagine anything possibly being bigger. The Deep-freeze method is just as bad. Then the personnel have to rely wholly on automatic machinery, even as we do, but they are far more vulnerable than a generation ship could ever be. And there is another thing. We still aren't certain that they will be fertile after deep-freeze. The animals are, the men and women should be, but no one has ever rested in suspended animation for more than three hundred years before. It was a chance we dared not take.’
1957 Mag. Fantasy & Sci. Fiction July 3 There are few more stirringly imaginative themes in science fiction than that of the generations-ship–the spaceship whereby man may cross the light-years separating us from the stars, even at speeds much less than that of light, creating a self-sufficient microcosm in which the great-great-?-great-grandchildren of the original voyagers may at last make planet-fall.
1965 S.R. Delaney Ballad of Beta-2 (1977) 8 By the time the ten remaining generation ships arrived in the Leffer System, Earth had already established a going-business of trade and cultural exchange, which was already a hundred or so years old ?
1965 S. R. Delany Ballad of Beta-2 7 By the time the ten remaining-generation-ships [sic] arrived in the Leffer System, Earth had already established a going-business [sic] of trade and cultural exchange, which was already a hundred or so years old, with scores of planetary systems.
1976 B. Ash Who's Who in Sci. Fiction (rev. ed) (1977) 14 For those who stay this side of the light barrier there remains the ‘travelling ark’ (or ‘generation ship’)–a vehicle designed for centuries of flight (often in order to escape from a doomed Earth), in which several generations live and die before eventual landfall.
1979 J. Varley Titan (1987) 100 You've read the stories of generation ships where something went wrong and everybody slipped back to savagery?
1988 S. Jackson & W. A. Barton Gurps Space (1990) 86/1 The original ‘colonists’ will raise children and die aboard their ship as it slowly makes its way across the void. It will be a later generation that actually colonizes the new world. Hence the name ‘generation ship’.
1990 A. McCaffrey & J. L. Nye Death of Sleep (1992) 258 It was the oldest of the original EEC generation ships still in space.
1992 A. Steele Labyrinth of Night 198 Even a hypothetical matter-antimatter drive can only attain twenty percent of the speed of light at its maximum velocity, and there is no reason to believe that the Cooties had developed technology of that magnitude. But if they made the journey in a generation-ship or in suspended animation ?
1993 P. Nicholls Encyclopedia Sci. Fiction 480/1 It was probably Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who first saw the necessity for using generation starships in the colonization of other worlds; he presented the idea in ‘The Future of Earth and Mankind’, which was published in a Russian anthology of scientific essays in 1928 but may have been conceived even earlier. Tsiolkovsky here argued for the construction in the future of space-going ‘Noah's Arks’: he envisaged such journeys as taking many thousands of years.
2000 K. MacLeod Cosmonaut Keep (2001) 47 He could have lived with a universe whose interstellar gulfs could be crossed only with generation ships, cold-sleep or ramscoops.
2001 A. Reynolds Chasm City 161 Sky's Edge, of course, was another case entirely. It was the only world that had ever been settled by generation ship. There were some mistakes you didn't make twice.
2002 U. K. LeGuin Birthday of World Foreword p. xiii, In this version of it, Earth sends forth ships to the stars at speeds that are, according to our present knowledge, more or less realistic, at least potentially attainable. Such a ship takes decades, centuries, to get where it's going. No Warp Nine, no time-dilation–just real time. In other words, this is a generation-ship story.