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"I kind of take it for granted that our great-grandchildren will regard us as a sort of precursor species. That they won't think of us as human and if we could see them, we probably wouldn't think of them as human either."
- William Gibson

Slowboat  
  An interstellar craft carrying people.  

Larry Niven originated this term, which came to have several uses.

Having located a world the right distance from the star to which it was sent, the ramrohot probe would drop and circle until it found a place at ground level which matched its criteria for atmospheric composition, average temperature, water vapor, et cetera. Then the ramrobot would beam its laser pulse back at the solar system, and the UN would respond by sending a colony slowboat.

Unlike the ramrobots, the man- carrying slowboats could not use interstellar ramscoops. They had to carry their own fuel. It meant that the slowboats took a long time to get where they were going, and there were no round trip tickets. The slowboats could not turn back.

Technovelgy from The Ethics of Madness, by Larry Niven.
Published by If in 1967
Additional resources -

Joe Haldeman finds a slightly different use for this word in his 1979 story The Pilot:


('The Pilot' by Joe Haldeman)

“Our next guest is a woman with a marvelously rare occupation.” Occupation! He smiles offcube and the picture scale diminishes to include her as well, not smiling, trying not to fidget on the filthy leather chair. “She is a spaceship pilot . . .’’I am a spaceship."... but no ordinary rocket jock. She pilots a slowboat between the Earth and the outer solar system— the asteroids, even as far as Saturn. Her name is Lydia Meinenger and she's a fellow New Yorker.” New Yorker. "Lydia, would you tell us something about slowboats; how they — ”

“In the first place,” she interrupts, "they aren’t slow. They go much faster than anything you use in the Earth-Moon system. The name is a hangover from the old robot tugs that crawled along on Hohmann transfer orbits, to minimize fuel use. A Hohmann tug took six years to get to Saturn; I can make it in thirteen months. Nine months, with a Jupiter flyby. But 1 can’t do that with passengers.”

"Because of the radiation?”

"That’s right.” Warm like summer sunshine. "They can't wrap everyone up in lead, the way I am.”

Compare with the city ship from Star of Wonder (1953), by Julian May and generation ship from Star Ship (1955) by EC Tubb. The New Frontiers from Robert Heinlein's Methuselah's Children was effectively a generation ship - except everyone lived so long! Also, see the multi-generation space voyage from The Return of the Murians (1936) by Nat Schachner.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Ethics of Madness
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to The Ethics of Madness
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Slowboat-related news articles:
  - AI Tries To Replicate Famous People

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