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Big Dumb Object - Wikipedia
"In discussion of science fiction, a Big Dumb Object (BDO) is any mysterious object (usually of extraterrestrial or unknown origin and immense power) in a story which generates an intense sense of wonder just by being there; to a certain extent, the term deliberately deflates this. Probably coined by reviewer Roz Kaveney,[1] the term was not in general use until Peter Nicholls included it in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as a joke.[2]

Big Dumb Objects often exhibit extreme or unusual properties, or a total absence of expected properties:

• The object discovered in Quatermass and the Pit was made of a material of extreme hardness, such that diamond-tipped drills and acetylene torches would not damage it. At the same time nothing would adhere to it.

• In the movie based on Michael Crichton's novel Sphere, the eponymous object would reflect everything in its presence except people. If it did reflect someone, he was alone, and the individual was accepted as worthy to harness the device's power.

• In Iain M. Banks' novel Against a Dark Background, the Lazy Guns have a lot of mass and yet little weight, and weigh three times as much upside-down as upright.

• The eponymous Dome from the Stephen King novel and television show. The dome is large and transparent unless touched by a person; it gives a slight electric shock when touched for the first time by someone, but not afterwards. It cannot be penetrated, even by a MOAB, and is seemingly causing a lot of mysterious things in Chester's Mill, the town that the dome is enclosing, including causing all electronic devices near it to explode, visions, and, in one character, premature birth. Such unexpected properties are usually used to rule out conventional origins for the BDO and increase the sense of mystery, and even fear, for the characters interacting with it."

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objects  scifi  sciencefiction  bigdumbobject  iainbanks  stephenking  michaelcrichton 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The Early Days of a Better Nation: Use of Calculators
However friendly he was to the radical left, Iain had little interest in relating the long-range possibility of utopia to radical politics in the here and now. As he saw it, what mattered was to keep the utopian possibility open by continuing technological progress, especially space development, and in the meantime to support whatever policies and politics in the real world were rational and humane.
politics  kenmacleod  iainbanks  from instapaper
february 2014 by anglepoised

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