I am halfway through Endymion, the 3rd book of Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos series.

In his universe, he basically differentiates between two types of starships, namely torchships and spinships. While torchships are a common trope and thus clear to me, I am not sure what Simmons means by 'spinships'.

Both types seem to have Hawking drives for FTL travel, so I assumed that "spin" refers to the way it creates artificial gravity, in contrast to the constant acceleration of a torch. That would also explain the two different ship types.

On the other hand, it is also mentioned that artificial gravity is created with interdiction fields. Furthermore, it is described that ships spin-up for c-plus travel. So spinship could also simply mean: "Any Hawking drive ship, that is not a torchship."

Did I miss something, or are the details deliberately left out?

  • 1
    Simmons' work generally is not very "hard" in terms of SF, so I would guess he just isn't very interested in the details. Commented May 16, 2023 at 15:19
  • If they both have FTL drives, why is there any type of ship that needs 600 gravities continuously? (the "archangel" ships -- I supposed they are relativistic)
    – nebogipfel
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 15:57
  • It's always better to provide the title of a book rather than call it "third in the series".
    – Spencer
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 18:45
  • There's repeated reference to the ships 'spinning up to c' (e.g. lightspeed).
    – Valorum
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 18:48
  • According to my understanding spinships refers to starships that create artificial gravity through rotation. These ships spin to generate centrifugal force, which creates a sense of gravity for the occupants inside. The rotation simulates the effects of gravity, allowing people to live and move around comfortably during space travel. I dont know what dan simmons was aiming at there but i guess this is the most sense making explanation for the word
    – shanu
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 9:49

1 Answer 1


According to the Hyperion Cantos fandom page, as spinship is:

spinship is a type of vessel used primarily for interstellar travel. Spinships travel under drive to a spinout point on the periphery of a star system, and then glide from the spinout point to the inner system under zero-g

From the novel Hyperion; the Los Angeles is a spinship that one of the characters is working/travelling on:

When the Los Angeles spun back up to a quantum state, I went with her.

I think this means they use a FTL drive, which is based on quantum states (think quantum spin) to get to star systems, then use the gravity of the system to pull them in to their destination. Presumably the spinout point is a designated point in space that is safe for, or accessible to, the drive system - perhaps far enough from gravitational masses as is a common trope for FTL drives. Presumably the drives get their name from the spin points they access.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.