What does dream-skinners mean? Does it mean the people who cheat others in dream, like the people in the film named "Inception"?

In spite of her name (an elegant, whimsical female name which meant Perfumed Winter, and a reference to a long-dead poet), Nguyen Dong Huong was a warrior, first and foremost. She'd spent her entire life in skirmishes against the pale men, the feathered clans and the dream-skinners: her first ship, The Tiger Lashes with His Tail, had died at the battle of Bach Nhan, when the smoke-children had blown up Harmony Station and its satellites; her second had not lasted more than a year

The Tortoise in the Lake was her fourth ship, and they'd been together for five years, though neither of them expected to live for a further five. Men survived easier than ships – because they had armour, because the ships had been tasked to take care of them. Dong Huong remembered arguing with Lady Mieng's Dreamer, begging the ship to spare itself instead of her; and running against a wall of obstinacy, a fundamental incomprehension that ships could be more important than humans.

-- The Two Sisters in Exile by Aliette de Bodard

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a term which has meaning only within this fictional universe, not elsewhere. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 31 '13 at 15:40
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    It's a common convention in science fiction to invent entirely new words, like dream-skimmers, ornithopter or waterbed, and explain them only by context. Part of the enjoyment of reading science fiction is imagining for yourself what they mean or what those things look like. – The Photon Aug 31 '13 at 15:43
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    As the others have said, this is a term used soley in the realm of this book, much like pain shifters, dragonriders, death eaters, hunger games, etc. There's no way to know the answer to this question without reading de Bodard's work. – J.R. Aug 31 '13 at 18:55
  • @StoneyB: Sometimes authors like to embiggen the vocabulary of their fictional universe with additional cromulent words :) youtube.com/watch?v=VNQb8oHZkeo – Matt Aug 31 '13 at 21:52
  • @Matt ... and then there's Tolkien, who embiggened Middle Earth with entire cromulent languages and their linguistically plausible descendants. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 31 '13 at 23:43

Dream-skinners is not a phrase that has some standard meaning in English. Instead, it has a meaning defined by context within the story it appears in; or if the story defines it no further, then the author intends the phrase to be evocative and tantalizing. I haven't read The Two Sisters in Exile so I don't know if Lady Mieng's Dreamer is a ship name, a pilot's name, or what. If it's a ship name, and if ships can dream, then a dream-skinner might be an attacker who overcomes a ship by stripping it of its dreams, or might be a profiteer who steals dreams (supposing they are, somehow, entities that can be stolen and transferred), or might be a technician who manages dreams.

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