Re: The Culture-List (Iain M. Banks)

Mark Grant (
Sat, 27 Sep 1997 16:17:10 +0000

On Fri, 26 Sep 1997, The Low Golden Willow wrote:

> Spontaneous Order/Self-ownership... pretty much, but the Culture doesn't
> have property. How does that work? I don't know.

But they essentially eliminate property by making it sentient; anyone in
the Culture can own anything non-sentient if they persuade something to
make it for them. As I see it, they're just less attached to property,
since they know that they can always build a replacement for anything they
lose or give away.

His latest Culture novel ('Excession') is based around this; a Culture
scout-ship discovers an alien artifact which is doing things which Culture
science believes to be impossible... what happens in such a 'nice'
conflict-free, society where anyone can have anything they want when they
suddenly have a unique object to fight over?

It's not as much fun as some of his other books and far less coherent,
but it's the first to concentrate on the AIs rather than organics, touches
on the Culture's decision to avoid the Singularity, and shows that he
understands the issues. Plus he includes uploading, identity transfer,
backups etc for the first time.

> The Culture books are not hard SF, and don't try to be.

But OTOH it's not soggy SF; it does stay within its own rules. I think his
main attraction is that he understands the potential power of advanced
technologies. 'The State Of The Art' -- in which a Culture scout-ship
discovers Earth in 1977 -- blows away most other alien contact stories,
particularly movies like 'Independence Day', or, god forbid, Star Trek;
the question is not whether the Culture can come in and take over -- the
scout-ship alone could easily defeat the combined military might of Earth
-- but whether they have the moral right to do so...

Or, in other words, I think he's well worth reading, even if you don't think
the Culture is a plausible society 8-).


'What's one more meaningless act of violence on that zoo of a planet? It
would be appropriate. When in Rome; burn it'
- GCU Arbitrary, 'The State Of The Art'

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