[The Culture] Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism

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  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    Apogee wrote: »
    redx wrote: »
    redx wrote: »
    Also, a plea for Consider Phlebas:

    It's a great into into the culture. It basically shows the culture by its negative, by the fringes others see of it. On my second re-read, it really dawned on me how much I really liked it.

    The book basically describes a culture-shaped hole, and when you know the other books, filling it is so damn great.

    I'm finishing up the available expanse books (where Nemesis Games has a realllly annoying plot so far, and in general, I'm liking each book a little less..), and then I'll re-read the culture for like... The 5th or 6th time. It's been a few years!

    Counter argument against Phlebas.

    Eaters

    It's not the worst thing to happen in the culture books. Not even close.

    It's one of the 3 least pleasant things to read in the series, and in the running for the grossest.

    Agreed. I really wish it wasn't there, it would be easier to recommend the book without that particular bit (which aside from the shuttle AI-murder wasn't particularly useful in moving the plot).

    I actually really appreciate this about the Culture books, though. Banks is not shy at all about making the reader feel incredibly uncomfortable, because an important part of selling the Culture is depicting the shocking depravity that can occur in a society lacking in the values the Culture represents.

    Zibblsnrt
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    Also RIP shuttle

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  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    Brody wrote: »
    Apogee wrote: »
    redx wrote: »
    redx wrote: »
    Also, a plea for Consider Phlebas:

    It's a great into into the culture. It basically shows the culture by its negative, by the fringes others see of it. On my second re-read, it really dawned on me how much I really liked it.

    The book basically describes a culture-shaped hole, and when you know the other books, filling it is so damn great.

    I'm finishing up the available expanse books (where Nemesis Games has a realllly annoying plot so far, and in general, I'm liking each book a little less..), and then I'll re-read the culture for like... The 5th or 6th time. It's been a few years!

    Counter argument against Phlebas.

    Eaters

    It's not the worst thing to happen in the culture books. Not even close.

    It's one of the 3 least pleasant things to read in the series, and in the running for the grossest.

    Agreed. I really wish it wasn't there, it would be easier to recommend the book without that particular bit (which aside from the shuttle AI-murder wasn't particularly useful in moving the plot).

    It's kind of funny, the first time reading through, that AI murder really doesn't feel especially notable, because its not clear how much AI's are really individuals, but going back and rereading it, it has more weight.

    Oh yeah, reading it as my third culture book (after Excession) I was completely horrified.

  • autono-wally, erotibot300autono-wally, erotibot300 love machine Registered User regular
    edited October 2019
    True. I read it as my first book and was basically thinking (hoping) "so.. He basically disabled a glorfied Amazon Alexa, right?"

    Re-reading, I was like

    "Jesus fuck, he straight up murdered another sentient being"

    autono-wally, erotibot300 on
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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    True. I read it as my first book and was basically thinking (hoping) "so.. He basically disabled a glorfied Amazon Alexa, right?"

    Re-reading, I was like

    "Jesus fuck, he straight up murdered another sentient being"

    The gambling game played with "Lives" got to me more. I can generally deal with dying a violent death, what has always really disturbed me is people idly walking to their deaths.

  • AutomautocratesAutomautocrates Registered User regular
    Not sure what to spoiler and what not to so just in case, on Consider Phlebas.
    The ships death seems to get brought up a lot, at least in this thread, and seen as being particularly brutal but it never really stood out to me. Of all the people Horza kills is it not the only one that is actually a member of the Culture(I suppose outside of the hungry bois, so the only sane member)? Dude has a serious collateral damage problem. At this point hes already killed Zallin and is going to go on to kill Kraiklyn, while wearing the mans face. The ship is a representative of the state and ideas he is at war with, the free company? Not so much, they just had the bad luck to find him. B-rutal.

    Also, yeah, Damage. That's a hell of a game right there.

    That said; this thread is what caused me to start reading them and after about 2 months I just finished Look to Windward as my final book in the culture series. I had a fairly jumbled reading order but I'm honestly glad I didnt finish with Hydrogen Sonata(although I absolutely loved it). Windwards epilogue and preceding chapters were, I think, a perfect point to end on. These books were an absolutely incredible ride and I'm already looking forward to a reread. I find myself entirely unable to pick a least/favorite and now spend far too much of my idle time thinking up ship names.

    If I ever buy a boat it'll be called the Mind Over Smatter, but for a little less of a pipe dream I've started to put some money aside for a Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism tattoo. Gosh these books were fantastic.



    The dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution is one of the pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience refutes.
    -John Stuart Mill
    Winky
  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    Not sure what to spoiler and what not to so just in case, on Consider Phlebas.
    The ships death seems to get brought up a lot, at least in this thread, and seen as being particularly brutal but it never really stood out to me. Of all the people Horza kills is it not the only one that is actually a member of the Culture(I suppose outside of the hungry bois, so the only sane member)? Dude has a serious collateral damage problem. At this point hes already killed Zallin and is going to go on to kill Kraiklyn, while wearing the mans face. The ship is a representative of the state and ideas he is at war with, the free company? Not so much, they just had the bad luck to find him. B-rutal.

    Also, yeah, Damage. That's a hell of a game right there.

    That said; this thread is what caused me to start reading them and after about 2 months I just finished Look to Windward as my final book in the culture series. I had a fairly jumbled reading order but I'm honestly glad I didnt finish with Hydrogen Sonata(although I absolutely loved it). Windwards epilogue and preceding chapters were, I think, a perfect point to end on. These books were an absolutely incredible ride and I'm already looking forward to a reread. I find myself entirely unable to pick a least/favorite and now spend far too much of my idle time thinking up ship names.

    If I ever buy a boat it'll be called the Mind Over Smatter, but for a little less of a pipe dream I've started to put some money aside for a Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism tattoo. Gosh these books were fantastic.



    I think it comes up a lot because its a kind of surprise that you only really notice once you've come to a better understanding of the series. Also, most of the other people whose deaths he is directly responsible for are actively antagonistic towards him, or are able to fight back. With the shuttle, it's clearly very trusting, and doesn't understand whats really happening.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

    The Monster Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

    Steam: Korvalain
  • AutomautocratesAutomautocrates Registered User regular
    That's fair. I didnt read Phlebas first, and Horza comes off to me as man on the war path from the get go so perhaps it struck me less in that regard. It might be trusting and not understand but as far as hes concerned that single shuttle is more than capable of stopping his whole mission. I'm sure he would have spat in a baby's eye(to terrible effect) if one had stood in his way.

    The dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution is one of the pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience refutes.
    -John Stuart Mill
  • BrodyBrody The Watch The First ShoreRegistered User regular
    Yeah, I don't think anyone is surprised by Horza killing it, that's totally in character. I think some of it is just the relative defenselessness of the shuttle makes it feel somewhat similar to him spitting in a babies eye, and also some of it might come from how little a lot of us thought of the death the first time through. It feels almost complicit to realize that you didn't bat an eye at Horza killing this shuttle because it's just a machine, not a person.

    "I will write your name in the ruin of them. I will paint you across history in the color of their blood."

    The Monster Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

    Steam: Korvalain
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    edited October 2019
    The shuttle is the only member of the Culture who we see Horza actually kill in the book, and basically everything we saw about the shuttle was totally benevolent. The shuttle was there for the explicit purpose of saving anyone even if they had nothing to do with or outright hated the Culture, and they were super friendly about it, and if you're familiar with the Culture you know that you have reason to believe the shuttle was just as benevolent as it appeared.

    There's also this pretty intentional juxtaposition to the reader between the fact that Horza just needs to get control of this thing he perceives as an object so he can get off the orbital while what he's really doing is more or less the equivalent of shooting a puppy.

    Winky on
    Automautocrates
  • hlprmnkyhlprmnky Registered User regular
    I started with Consider Phlebas thanks to the myriad of reviews saying “Excellent introduction to the Culture series!” While, from where I stand now, I would say “Look just start somewhere; the real ‘introduction’ to what’s in these books is probably an undergraduate cultural studies curriculum that threads them in as you go, but who has time or money for that in this, the darkest timeline?”, I definitely think Horza’s actions bear a revisit once you have a better grounding in the setting.
    I’m going to get right to that, after I finish Use of Weapons which it develops, as I tuck in, that I may have never actually ...read ...before?
    So, everyone in this thread and especially Winky, please take a moment to bask in the sea-wide, Mediterranean-in-summer warmth of gratitude I feel for you leading me to find an entire fucking Culture novel that I didn’t realize I somehow hadn’t read? Good times.

    _
    iOS: hlprmnky | PSN: hlprmnky_2 | SC2: Callow.126
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  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    I've been thinking a lot about the Culture again because I've been reading Bakunin (and the Culture is pretty fundamentally based in the idea of Bakunin's "federation of communes"). The idea of a State is based in one entity holding a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and using it to enforce laws, and an interesting thing about the Culture's stateless society is how it is meant to illustrate the possibility of equality of rights in a society in which there is no one entity with a monopoly on violence to prevent the strong from exploiting the weak even when there is an astronomical difference in physical/mental capabilities between individuals. What is interesting is that it is explicitly the Culture's extremely strong and deliberately invasive morality towards maximizing the autonomy of conscious individuals that leads to them naturally gravitating towards each other and banding together (and thus forming the Culture). Because the defining aspect of the Culture is aggressively promoting others around them towards a very clear shared moral principle, they naturally stabilize each other as any Mind is going to intercede against another Mind when it feels the other Mind is acting in violation of this principle, and any Mind moving against another on poor pretenses will in turn find other Minds moving against it. In really divisive conflicts (like we see in Excession), entire shifting coalitions of minds will form spontaneously to resolve it. What prevents these coalitions of Minds from becoming entrenched State-like military powers is the moral principle that the Culture is based around in-and-of-itself: maximizing individual autonomy means minimizing the ability for any minority of allied individuals to come into control of the majority of military power and thus become a threat of developing a monopoly on violence.

    The reason this is so effective at minimizing violence is because any use of violence at all that is not demonstrably preventing much greater violence is in direct opposition of the moral principle, so as long as it can be relied upon that most individuals in the society share and will act on the moral principle (and they would be actively excluded from the society if it was determined they did not) the whole society is always working to minimize the violation of autonomy. It's really pretty elegant. The entire Culture is essentially a distributed system working towards maximizing the single principle of individual autonomy among as many individuals as it possibly can, and if you think about it, it makes sense that this is (ideally) far more efficient and stable than a State that delivers rigid laws filtered through an appointed or elected minority of legislators down upon individuals which the state must then must forcibly demand resources from to in-turn operate the violent organizations that enforce those laws as interpreted by a privileged minority of judges; the whole process introduces a number of severe bottlenecks and by default must violate the principle of maximizing personal autonomy in order to function.

    To go all the way into the anarchist argument here; the State can't exist to protect individual rights and freedoms because the State violates individual rights and freedoms simply by even existing and must do so, the only logical reason for the State to exist is to maintain an existing inequality in resources or rights. The Marxist idea of States that exist temporarily to establish the conditions that could lead to true communism was proven to be an abject failure in pretty much every instance, once you give a privileged minority power it is extremely unlikely for them to ever give it up. That's not to say that there aren't many problems that are solved more efficiently by having an elected minority of specialists who coordinate large-scale infrastructure, etc, but there's no reason why such an association should ever be allowed to have special privileges regarding the use of violence (and hence, such associations would never really be a "State" nor would they ever carry the force of law).

    By the by, this is the same reason that anarcho-capitalism is complete fucking nonsense because inequality of property is a direct result of States violently enforcing property law, and is absolutely in no way ever an economically efficient distribution of resources. You cannot have anarchy and capitalism simultaneously because no one "owns" anything under anarchy, you, at best, just have agreements not to take shit which will become increasingly difficult to maintain the greater the inequality you're hoping to maintain (if at any point you amass a large enough force of violence to protect your 'property' such that you maintain a significant inequality of resources against the will of everyone else around you, then you have simply reinvented the State). This is pretty damn important to Proudhon/Bakunin/others because their claims are that economic inequality itself is a direct consequence of the State and has pretty much always been its purpose.

    Relatedly, light googling on the subject of Banks and Bakunin found me this blog post that I quite like and I was delighted to see also mentions The Dispossessed, which is another favorite of mine:
    https://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/anarchist-science-fiction-few-random-thoughts-current-crisis
    For those who don't know, the Culture is a post-scarcity communist/anarchist utopia and it does present a fun vision of a free society. So in terms of SF it gives a glimpse, particularly the novella The State of the Art in which Culture agents visit Earth in 1977 and the obvious contrasts are made:

    "On Earth one of the things that a large proportion of the locals is most proud of is this wonderful economic system which, with a sureness and certainty so comprehensive one could almost imagine the process bears some relation to their limited and limiting notions of either thermodynamics or God, all food, comfort, energy, shelter, space, fuel and sustenance gravitates naturally and easily away from those who need it most and towards those who need it least. Indeed, those on the receiving end of such largesse are often harmed unto death by its arrival, though the effects may take years and generations to manifest themselves."

    I particularly liked the speech by a Culture member noting that, compared to Earthlings, he was the richest man alive as he had access to the vast economic, social and cultural wealth of a vast chunk of the universe but he was also the poorest man alive as he owned none of it. Banks was clearly a man who understood what Proudhon was getting at, the core idea of socialism. He did, however, indicate a certain attachment to central planning (as indicated in The State of the Art and in an interview I read). Suffice to say, if central planning requires hyper-intelligent super-computers to work then just as well proclaim that all we need is fairy dust as well.

    Which is one of the many reasons I love Ursula le Guin's The Dispossessed - it remains my favourite anarchist SF novel precisely because it does not invoke technology much more advanced than we have and, moreover, suggests that a free society will not be perfect, will face difficult decisions, will face problems. The Culture is fun and expresses the mind-set well, but it is utopian. She also clearly understands anarchism and the anarchist mind-set (as shown by The Dispossessed and the excellent short story The Day Before the Revolution). If you have not read her works, do yourself a favour and do so - starting with The Dispossessed! In terms of political investigations of her work, try The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed (pdf)

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  • htmhtm Registered User regular
    edited April 15
    Winky wrote: »
    Relatedly, light googling on the subject of Banks and Bakunin found me this blog post that I quite like and I was delighted to see also mentions The Dispossessed, which is another favorite of mine:

    Yeah, Anarchism in The Dispossessed is basically The Culture with resource scarcity and without the near-omnipotent AIs to manage things.

    Another really good Culture-adjacent book is The Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder. It's a solid space opera full of Big Ideas that, thematically, is kind of an argument with Banks/The Culture--not so much that The Culture is bad, but that it might be insufficient.

    htm on
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