This term also refers to a type of fictional star drive
, used in the novel Bill the Galactic Hero
by Harry Harrison
The drive functions in a manner similar to a rubber band. A stationary rubber band can be stretched in one direction, with one end staying stationary and one end moving outward as the band stretches. If one then holds the extended end fast and releases the end that was originally still, that end will now retract to the far point. The band did not actually move, it only stretched, but the controlled stretch-and-release created physical displacement.
The Bloater Drive works in the same fashion. The space craft "bloats" growing huge. One end stays fixed in the origin system, and the other extends toward the destination as the ship expands. Once the nose of the ship reaches its destination, it shrinks again to bring the tail end along.
In the book, sloppy piloting allowed the origin planet to slip into the room where Bill worked (as a fuse-tender sixth class). He was cautioned not to touch the (relatively) tiny world by a co-worker as it drifted past him.