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[The Culture] Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism

WinkyWinky Registered User regular
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Wikipedia wrote:
The Culture is a fictional interstellar post-scarcity civilization or society created by the Scottish writer Iain M. Banks and features in a number of his space opera novels and works of short fiction, collectively called the Culture series.

In the series, the Culture is composed primarily of sentient beings of the pan-human variety, artificially intelligent sentient machines, and a small number of other sentient "alien" life forms. Machine intelligences range from human-equivalent drones to hyper-intelligent Minds. The Culture's economy is maintained automatically by its non-sentient machines, with high-level work entrusted to the Minds' subroutines, which allows its humanoid and drone citizens to indulge their passions, romances, hobbies, or other activities, without servitude. Many of the series' protagonists are humanoids who choose to work for the Culture's elite diplomatic or espionage organisations, and interact with other civilisations whose citizens hold wildly different ideologies, morals, and technologies.

The Culture has a grasp of technology which is advanced relative to most of the other civilisations which share the galaxy. Most of the Culture's citizens do not live on planets but in or on artificial habitats, such as huge orbitals, or on ships, the largest of which are home to billions of individuals. Biologically, the Culture's citizens have been genetically enhanced to live for centuries, and have modified mental control over their physiology, including the ability to introduce a variety of psychoactive drugs into their systems, change biological sex, or switch off pain at will. Culture technology is able to transform individuals into vastly different body forms but, for unclear reasons, the Culture standard form remains fairly close to human.

A central theme of the series is the ethical struggles which face the Culture when interacting with other societies - some of which brutalise their own members, pose threats to other civilisations, or threaten the Culture itself, the reactions to which conflict with the Culture's philosophy of peace and individual freedom. The Culture tends to make major decisions based on the consensus formed by its Minds and, if appropriate, its citizens. In one instance, a direct democratic vote of trillions – the entire population – decided The Culture would go to war with a rival civilisation. Those who objected to the Culture's subsequent militarisation broke off from the meta-civilisation, forming their own separate civilisation; a hallmark of the Culture is its ambiguity. In contrast to the many interstellar societies and empires which share its fictional universe, the Culture is difficult to define, geographically or sociologically, and "fades out at the edges".[1]

The Culture is by far my favorite scifi series and has done more to influence my own ideological growth than any other piece of media in recent memory. Not only does Banks explore science fiction concepts in detail in ways that few others really touch (Surface Detail is a fun exploration of what 'brain uploading' would really entail for a civilization and for the individuals in it, complete with virtual Hells where simulations of people are sent to suffer for eternity), but he also explores social and philosophical concepts through the lens of an anarcho-socialist utopia interacting with other visions for society each meant to emphasize some aspect of human behavior or serve as a reflection of the ways in which we live. It also manages to do this all while maintaining a playfully dark and sardonic tone throughout and never shying away from either displaying the cruelty and brutality exhibited by sentient beings for one another or from pointing out the flaws and imperfections in its own vision for an ideal society. Banks makes his arguments generally through contrasts between the evils of the Culture and the evils of the societies they interact with, and he almost never skips an opportunity to troll the reader who is expecting the standard science fiction outcomes to the dilemmas he presents.

You may also know the Culture from the fact that they have awesome ship names:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spacecraft_in_the_Culture_series
Two of which have been borrowed for two SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ships (Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You)

Amazon has also acquired the rights to Consider Phlebas, and intends to start producing a series based on it:
https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/21/17035618/amazon-culture-series-iain-m-banks-television-show

While the Culture remains in every way just a scifi fantasy replete with made up ideas and technologies meant more to demonstrate a point than to reflect reality, there have been more people in recent years looking to Banks' overarching social/philosophical ideas as a rough model for how we really could live in a post-automation society.

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/06/fully-automated-luxury-gay-space-communism-univers.html
The dialectical nature of fully automated luxury gay space communism squares nicely with the contradictory status of technology in Marxian economic theory. Marx identified technological progress as one of capitalism’s fundamental sources of agitation. Capitalists extract surplus value by exploiting working-class labor power, and competitive market pressures dictate that the value be reinvested as capital. This continuous capitalization causes a constant revolution in technology and the productive efficiencies achieved by such advancement cause the capitalist’s own rate of profit to fall. The only way to maintain profits is to increase the proportion by which workers are exploited. And so the cycle of exploitation and accumulation continues and intensifies, generating all the attendant pain and social instability you’d expect from such a mechanism.

But it was Marx’s expectation that at some point in the telescoping absurdity, mechanical automation would hit some kind of a terminal threshold, such that practically no human work would be needed to sustain commodity production. Marx writes, “Capital here—quite unintentionally—reduces human labor, expenditure of energy, to a minimum. This will redound to the benefit of emancipated labor, and is the condition of its emancipation.” Capitalism, the system anchored in the exploitation of human labor, would inadvertently abolish the fount of its own value. In the reversal, technology would serve as the basis for workers’ liberation. And so, as in the dialectics of the meme, Marxian progress arises from, rather than in spite of, the contradiction at hand.

If you read radical-left literature from the 1960s and 1970s, you’ll see that many leftists took Marx’s cryptic predictions about technology to heart. For instance, the feminist utopian work of Shulamith Firestone partially relied upon the technological inevitability of “cybernetic communism.” Based on information available in the late 1960s, Firestone anticipated that machines would soon replace human beings in the sphere of commodity production. As a result, she could yadda-yadda-yadda the economics of utopia: “We are talking about the obsolescence of labor itself through cybernation, the radical re-structuring of the economy to make work, i.e. compulsory labor, particularly alienated wage labor, no longer necessary.” In this way, robotics “could act as the perfect equalizer, obliterating the class system based on exploitation of labor.” The change would have a profound effect on traditional social relations, bringing us into a post-work, post-scarcity political economy: “We will be beyond arguments about who is bringing home the bacon—no one will be bringing it home, because no one will be working.”

...

But even as the left pursues concrete policy goals, utopian thinking will still play a central role for the left. As the philosopher Stephen Eric Bronner put it, “Utopia is ultimately a regulative ideal: it provides us with a sense of how little civilization has achieved and anticipatory traces of what might be achieved in the future.” And so while taking power and implementing policy is crucial, the left should meanwhile resist the urge to become unduly fixated on pragmatism. Fetishizing practicality, realism, and reasonableness works for centrist, conservative, and reactionary ends; but for the left, those values are creeping anathema. The left’s stubborn insistence on realizing a better world—a substantially better world, one that is immeasurably freer, wiser, less mean, and more equal—is the sine qua non of progressive discourse. In other words, the present preposterousness of utopia is precisely makes it so worthy of imagination, contemplation, and pursuit.

There have also been plenty of criticisms of the Culture:
Investing all power in his individualistic, sometime eccentric, but always benign, A.I. Minds, Banks knew what he was doing; this is the only way a liberal anarchy could be achieved, by taking what is best in humans and placing it beyond corruption, which means out of human control. The danger involved in this imaginative step, though, is clear; one of the problems with the Culture novels as novels is that the central characters, the Minds, are too powerful and, to put it bluntly, too good.[2]

This is a common criticism of the entire premise, which is that positing benevolent AI is itself a flawed hand-wave, but I think it doesn't reach down to the core of what Banks is trying to show with the Culture. There are plenty of malevolent AIs in the Culture series. In fact, the only things that are ever shown to pose a viable opposition to the Culture itself are Minds who for one reason or another want to attack the Culture (such as in Excession and Look to Windward), and the individualism of the Minds does lead to conflict and the need for the formation of various shifting coalitions between them. The Culture is not meant to have just chanced into existence based on having an incidentally incorruptible system, and many of the books detail the extreme lengths the Culture goes to in order to protect and maintain itself. Rather, what Banks seems to posit is that there exists a grouping of more or less universal moral principles that any sufficiently intelligent entity can discover that, if they are not followed, will inevitably lead a civilization to destroy itself. Each of the books in the Culture series is meant to show in detail the failings of societies that do not recognize or adhere to these principles. The Culture, it ends up, is so powerful explicitly because it is just a thing worth wanting.
The Culture stories are me at my most didactic, though it's largely hidden under all the funny names, action, and general bluster. The Culture represents the place we might hope to get to after we've dealt with all our stupidities. Maybe. I have said before, and will doubtless say again, that maybe we—that is, homo sapiens—are just too determinedly stupid and aggressive to have any hope of becoming like the Culture, unless we somehow find and isolate/destroy the genes that code for xenophobia, should they exist. Plus we'd have to develop AIs and let them be themselves; another big ask.

TL;DR:

Let's talk about what kind of weird sex parties we would have if we were in the Culture.

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Posts

  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    This remains my favorite sci-fi series. The Minds, drones, and various other sentient AIs being, at their core, people was one of my favorite parts.

    Winkyoverride367Styrofoam SammichAresProphetTravanFeloniousmozCaedwyrelectricitylikesmeZilla360V1mBrodyElldren
  • override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    Best ship: Falling outside the normal moral constraints

    Winkymrondeau
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    Best ship: Falling outside the normal moral constraints

    Yes, I loved how it managed to be a scary psychopath but was so entirely within the bounds of Culture morality.

    For runners up, though Sleeper Service and the Orbital Hub from Look to Windward were great characters.

    override367electricitylikesme
  • nexuscrawlernexuscrawler Registered User regular
    I love the ships that get sick of it and wander around as crazy hermits

    override367
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    I love the ships that get sick of it and wander around as crazy hermits

    Yes, I also enjoy how for fun they just do theoretical math in their heads that's absurdly complex and beautiful but humans would never be able to comprehend or imagine it, and for them that's basically the equivalent of playing a game or doing recreational drugs.

  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    Quid wrote: »
    This remains my favorite sci-fi series. The Minds, drones, and various other sentient AIs being, at their core, people was one of my favorite parts.

    I love a series where the premise is a utopia and it doesn't immediately go into "BUT IS IT"
    Best ship: Falling outside the normal moral constraints

    Frank Exchange Of Views is such a good warship name

    Use of Weapons and Player of Games are the best ones, for me.
    Zakalwe's line about how the Culture is calm like the ocean is a perfect description and the Ship and Flere-Imsaho trying to explain marriage, sexual inequality and wages to Gurgeh and him just not getting it is great

    Styrofoam Sammich on
    Winkyoverride367electricitylikesmeInkstain82
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    Quid wrote: »
    This remains my favorite sci-fi series. The Minds, drones, and various other sentient AIs being, at their core, people was one of my favorite parts.

    I love a series where the premise is a utopia and it doesn't immediately go into "BUT IS IT"

    Even better, it repeatedly goes "BUT IS IT" and then later "...Oh, yeah, I guess it is."

    Styrofoam SammichCptHamiltonQuidoverride367ElvenshaeCaedwyrDiplominatorelectricitylikesmeEchoLord_Asmodeus
  • PolaritiePolaritie Sleepy Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    I love the ships that get sick of it and wander around as crazy hermits

    Yes, I also enjoy how for fun they just do theoretical math in their heads that's absurdly complex and beautiful but humans would never be able to comprehend or imagine it, and for them that's basically the equivalent of playing a game or doing recreational drugs.

    A number of them basically retreat to said "infinite fun space" and let sunroutines maintain things for humans while they indulge themselves iirc.

    Why are the AIs benevolent? Because post-scarcity means even for the AIs.

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  • TOGSolidTOGSolid Chief Mixologist of the Shatterdome Tiki Bar Seattle, WashingtonRegistered User regular
    So fully automated luxury gay space communism even for the AIs?

    Fascinating.

    I've seen this series brought up frequently in the Star Trek thread but never saw a really good writeup to help explain what makes it so compelling. After reading Winky's OP I definitely want to slap one of The Culture books on my "to read" list. Is it best to just start with the first one or is there a different recommended one to read first?

    override367Winky
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    TOGSolid wrote: »
    So fully automated luxury gay space communism even for the AIs?

    Fascinating.

    I've seen this series brought up frequently in the Star Trek thread but never saw a really good writeup to help explain what makes it so compelling. After reading Winky's OP I definitely want to slap one of The Culture books on my "to read" list. Is it best to just start with the first one or is there a different recommended one to read first?

    There are two levels of AI in the Culture. Drones that are basically as smart as a human and treated the same as any biological life and Minds that are nearly god like in their intelligence. They run ships and stations but they're only "in charge" in so far as it makes sense to have the brains of nearly limitless computing capacity handle boring stuff.

    They don't have any rights over anyone else because the Culture works entirely by consensus and among Minds there are few acts more abhorrent than violating the autonomy of one of their wards. They're benevolent because they genuinely like people. They have the same moral compass as the rest of the Culture.



    Its also interesting that the Culture blends post scarcity with post want. Culture citizens can get and have basically anything they want but even the more individualistic members like Gurgeh would think little of people just using his house for a bit while he's out of town and as he explains to a foreigner
    who asks him if someone could have a planet in the Culture Gurgeh shrugs it off as nonsensical.
    How would you "have" a planet? The Minds could find an empty one for you if you like but you couldn't keep people off of it and no Culture member would ever care that there's someone else living there.

    I'd read them in order of publication but they don't follow the same characters, locations, or even centuries.

    Styrofoam Sammich on
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    TOGSolid wrote: »
    So fully automated luxury gay space communism even for the AIs?

    Fascinating.

    I've seen this series brought up frequently in the Star Trek thread but never saw a really good writeup to help explain what makes it so compelling. After reading Winky's OP I definitely want to slap one of The Culture books on my "to read" list. Is it best to just start with the first one or is there a different recommended one to read first?

    There's very little in the way of continuity between novels aside from broad strokes, "Yeah, that thing happened a while ago that was in that other book."

    Consider Phleabas, the first novel, is not generally considered the strongest introduction. It also has probably the least Culture of any Culture novel (at least among the ones I've read).
    Player of Games or Use of Weapons are generally the ones I see people say you should read first and I can't think of a better intro than those.

    Banks' novels are weird to me in that I usually find the main characters unpleasant. Don't get me wrong - the books are great. I just wouldn't want to hang out with most of the protagonists. Which is sort of weird because there are other characters in the books whom I would want to hang out with. So, like, if you go with Player of Games just be aware that (I'm not going to spell this correctly) Gurgah is kind of an asshole.

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  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    A lot of Culture novels are premised on "ok so here's this perfect society where everyone is happy and fulfilled, now let's examine this person who doesn't fit perfectly into that" which doesn't set up for a lot of likable protagonists.

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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    TOGSolid wrote: »
    So fully automated luxury gay space communism even for the AIs?

    Fascinating.

    I've seen this series brought up frequently in the Star Trek thread but never saw a really good writeup to help explain what makes it so compelling. After reading Winky's OP I definitely want to slap one of The Culture books on my "to read" list. Is it best to just start with the first one or is there a different recommended one to read first?

    Opinions vary. The first book is sorta about the Culture but focuses on somebody outside and opposed to the Culture so it gives a bit of a warped view.

    I personally think Player of Games is a very good first book as it is basically the reverse. It is a firmly Culture observer seeing a very not-Culture civilization.

    The other big thing is that the books differ from each other quite a bit and there is almost no overlap in characters between them.

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  • TastyfishTastyfish Registered User regular
    I'm also quite partial to "Killing Time" as a name for a demilitarised warship

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  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    I don't know that Phlebas gives a warped view so much as a view from a fundamentally different value system.

    The audio books, as they're available, are very good but I'd avoid the one for Use of Weapons as the story's nonlinear format can be hard to follow there.

  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Surface Detail might have the most likable set of protagonists though they all go through some serious shit.

    WinkyQuidelectricitylikesmeMortal Sky
  • override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    Quid wrote: »
    This remains my favorite sci-fi series. The Minds, drones, and various other sentient AIs being, at their core, people was one of my favorite parts.

    I love a series where the premise is a utopia and it doesn't immediately go into "BUT IS IT"

    Even better, it repeatedly goes "BUT IS IT" and then later "...Oh, yeah, I guess it is."

    I love that there are a lot of conspiracy theorists within the culture who aren't really sure if its a real utopia and are waiting for the other shoe to drop, as opposed to virtually everyone outside of the culture who is *sure* that is the case

    electricitylikesmetynic
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    There's an adaptation of Consider Phlebas in development and if it does well presumably more books, which makes me hopeful. There are a lot of scenes in the books that would be particularly striking in film.
    Thinking Dziet Smaw rescuing Zakalwe in the blizzard towards the end of Use of Weapons

    Winkyelectricitylikesmetynic
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    Winky wrote: »
    Quid wrote: »
    This remains my favorite sci-fi series. The Minds, drones, and various other sentient AIs being, at their core, people was one of my favorite parts.

    I love a series where the premise is a utopia and it doesn't immediately go into "BUT IS IT"

    Even better, it repeatedly goes "BUT IS IT" and then later "...Oh, yeah, I guess it is."

    I love that there are a lot of conspiracy theorists within the culture who aren't really sure if its a real utopia and are waiting for the other shoe to drop, as opposed to virtually everyone outside of the culture who is *sure* that is the case

    Also everyone is basically scared shitless of the Culture. They're basically the galactic civilization equivalent of the Doctor. Fundamentally benevolent but completely willing to drop out of space and act against you in ways you barely understand and could never hope to stop if you step outside their moral values.

    Styrofoam Sammich on
    electricitylikesme
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    I don't know that Phlebas gives a warped view so much as a view from a fundamentally different value system.

    Yeah, I think Horza mostly has a pretty clear picture of the Culture. He judges them negatively, it seemed to me, more from a personal desire for them to be bad and wrong (to match his anti-AI racist views) than actual disagreement with how the Culture lives. All of his pro-Idrian arguments felt more like desperate justifications than him really being anti-Gay Space Communism. And the Idrians themselves seemed like they were just using the whole anti-AI religious thing as an excuse for a war to maintain their position and the structure of their society. Basically everyone Horza interacts with except people from the Culture are fucking awful to one degree or another. Though I guess that could have been Banks trying to convince the reader to buy in on the whole Culture concept for later books...

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  • override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    Surface Detail might have the most likable set of protagonists though they all go through some serious shit.

    Lededje is fantastic and is a character arc that could have been cringe in less delicate hands

    It's funny that Surface Detail has some of the most horrific, graphic traumas to characters but I came away from it feeling pretty good where as other Culture books, it feels like a series about such an optimistic and legitimately good society would have happy endings but

    I mean

    good god consider phlebas

    override367 on
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  • TuminTumin Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    I wish Excession was less steeped in Culture lore because I think it gives the best sense of the civilization as a galaxy spanning dominant group but puts them in context in their universe. I really do need to reread it to get some of the dialogue between AIs. I find the whole ascended civilization concept fascinating.

    Tumin on
    Winky
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    I don't know that Phlebas gives a warped view so much as a view from a fundamentally different value system.

    Yeah, I think Horza mostly has a pretty clear picture of the Culture. He judges them negatively, it seemed to me, more from a personal desire for them to be bad and wrong (to match his anti-AI racist views) than actual disagreement with how the Culture lives. All of his pro-Idrian arguments felt more like desperate justifications than him really being anti-Gay Space Communism. And the Idrians themselves seemed like they were just using the whole anti-AI religious thing as an excuse for a war to maintain their position and the structure of their society. Basically everyone Horza interacts with except people from the Culture are fucking awful to one degree or another. Though I guess that could have been Banks trying to convince the reader to buy in on the whole Culture concept for later books...

    Horza is pretty well written as a character people should have mixed feelings about. He does both good and bad things all within the confines of a consistent moral framework. Keep in mind he interacts mostly with terrible people, but the book also has him in settings where we would expect terrible people. There is at least the solid implication that people outside the Culture are just as capable of being decent as we might expect.

    Its worth noting that a few of the more esoteric Culture thinkers thought there was something to his idea that the Culture would stagnate on its own perfection.

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  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    There's an adaptation of Consider Phlebas in development and if it does well presumably more books, which makes me hopeful. There are a lot of scenes in the books that would be particularly striking in film.
    Thinking Dziet Smaw rescuing Zakalwe in the blizzard towards the end of Use of Weapons

    There are a lot of things in the books that would be visually astounding if they had the budget to pull them off.

    Like Lededje’s tattoos, or the shell world and everything in it in Matter.

    Styrofoam Sammichelectricitylikesme
  • PolaritiePolaritie Sleepy Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    Quid wrote: »
    This remains my favorite sci-fi series. The Minds, drones, and various other sentient AIs being, at their core, people was one of my favorite parts.

    I love a series where the premise is a utopia and it doesn't immediately go into "BUT IS IT"

    Even better, it repeatedly goes "BUT IS IT" and then later "...Oh, yeah, I guess it is."

    I love that there are a lot of conspiracy theorists within the culture who aren't really sure if its a real utopia and are waiting for the other shoe to drop, as opposed to virtually everyone outside of the culture who is *sure* that is the case

    Also everyone is basically scared shitless of the Culture. They're basically the galactic civilization equivalent of the Doctor. Fundamentally benevolent but completely willing to drop out of space and act against you in ways you barely understand and could never hope to stop if you step outside their moral values.

    It's somewhat justified when you consider things like gridfire or the events of Excession.

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  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    There's an adaptation of Consider Phlebas in development and if it does well presumably more books, which makes me hopeful. There are a lot of scenes in the books that would be particularly striking in film.
    Thinking Dziet Smaw rescuing Zakalwe in the blizzard towards the end of Use of Weapons

    There are a lot of things in the books that would be visually astounding if they had the budget to pull them off.

    Like Lededje’s tattoos, or the shell world and everything in it in Matter.

    The
    escape through the Ends of Invention in Consider Phelbas

    WinkytynicSeal
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    Surface Detail might have the most likable set of protagonists though they all go through some serious shit.

    Hydrogen Sonata also has a really likeable cast of characters, and it’s not quite as awful to them as Surface Detail is.

    electricitylikesmetynicDevoutlyApatheticSolarAnzekay
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    Polaritie wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Quid wrote: »
    This remains my favorite sci-fi series. The Minds, drones, and various other sentient AIs being, at their core, people was one of my favorite parts.

    I love a series where the premise is a utopia and it doesn't immediately go into "BUT IS IT"

    Even better, it repeatedly goes "BUT IS IT" and then later "...Oh, yeah, I guess it is."

    I love that there are a lot of conspiracy theorists within the culture who aren't really sure if its a real utopia and are waiting for the other shoe to drop, as opposed to virtually everyone outside of the culture who is *sure* that is the case

    Also everyone is basically scared shitless of the Culture. They're basically the galactic civilization equivalent of the Doctor. Fundamentally benevolent but completely willing to drop out of space and act against you in ways you barely understand and could never hope to stop if you step outside their moral values.

    It's somewhat justified when you consider things like gridfire or the events of Excession.

    What they do with Azad
    Is a perfect example. Obviously the Empire was morally abhorrent in its structure and deserved to collapse but the way they take it out is something that would terrify any other group in the cluster.

    override367
  • CptHamiltonCptHamilton Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    There's an adaptation of Consider Phlebas in development and if it does well presumably more books, which makes me hopeful. There are a lot of scenes in the books that would be particularly striking in film.
    Thinking Dziet Smaw rescuing Zakalwe in the blizzard towards the end of Use of Weapons

    There are a lot of things in the books that would be visually astounding if they had the budget to pull them off.

    Like Lededje’s tattoos, or the shell world and everything in it in Matter.

    A lot of things also seem impossible to portray in a way that wouldn't look weird, boring, or goofy on screen, though.

    At a very base level - Culture Drones. They're just largely-featureless objects drifting through space interacting with things via, essentially, telekinesis and occasionally projecting colored auras to approximate body language. It would be really difficult to make a visually interesting drone on TV.

    Lots of things and places in the novels are also so enormous as to be almost meaningless on a TV screen. Looking across the ring of an orbital makes most of the ring basically invisible. Riding along beneath one or inside some of the GSV's is essentially visually equivalent to your vehicle drifting along against a featureless grey backdrop.

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  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    I don't know that Phlebas gives a warped view so much as a view from a fundamentally different value system.

    Yeah, I think Horza mostly has a pretty clear picture of the Culture. He judges them negatively, it seemed to me, more from a personal desire for them to be bad and wrong (to match his anti-AI racist views) than actual disagreement with how the Culture lives. All of his pro-Idrian arguments felt more like desperate justifications than him really being anti-Gay Space Communism. And the Idrians themselves seemed like they were just using the whole anti-AI religious thing as an excuse for a war to maintain their position and the structure of their society. Basically everyone Horza interacts with except people from the Culture are fucking awful to one degree or another. Though I guess that could have been Banks trying to convince the reader to buy in on the whole Culture concept for later books...

    Yeah, the most important thing to note about Phlebas is that it’s essentially one big argument against the protagonist. Pretty much everything he goes through is, in one way or another, further proof that his feelings about the Culture are mistaken. The entire book is him suffering needlessly because he rejects it out of a need to assert his identity.

    CptHamiltonelectricitylikesme
  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    Surface Detail might have the most likable set of protagonists though they all go through some serious shit.

    Lededje is fantastic and is a character arc that could have been cringe in less delicate hands

    It's funny that Surface Detail has some of the most horrific, graphic traumas to characters but I came away from it feeling pretty good where as other Culture books, it feels like a series about such an optimistic and legitimately good society would have happy endings but

    I mean

    good god consider phlebas

    Surface Detail has some of the heaviest shit with the Hells and everything, and it's also one of the heaviest books in terms of having a lot of threads that tie to events from previous books.

    Matter or Player of Games would be my recommendations for where to start. I know Use of Weapons gets a lot of love but it's just so oddly formatted I feel like it also being your first dip into the setting might also be a Bit Much for a first-timer.

    Look to Windward was an interesting experience for me in that the first time I tried reading it, I fell off it hard for some reason, then a few years later when I picked it up I was reading it a chapter or two a day until I hit the halfway point, then I had to binge the rest in one go.

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    Gamertag: PrimusD | Rock Band DLC | GW:OttW - arrcd | WLD - Thortar
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    This is also why the protagonists in the earlier books are often so unlikeable: they’re generally negative commentary on the rugged individualistic male sci-fi hero, and the books are generally meant to depict a correction of their attitude.

    electricitylikesmetynic
  • override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    A thing I really about the Culture as opposed to the Federation, and I hope this isn't off topic but

    The Federation has this kind of liberal passivity to it, they are sure their ideas are the right ideas, but they aren't so sure in their ideas they are willing to stop repugnant acts regardless of the scale - as long as they aren't directly responsible for them

    The Culture, or at least Contact, disagree: if you can do something about it, and you are fairly certain the results will be better to act than to not act, you ought do something

    This is *the* defining social issue of the Culture, the one everyone argues on, if they had anything like political parties this would be the wedge issue. I very much dislike that in Star Trek, there is no debate, the debate is over. In The Culture, almost nobody says "we should never interfere", the points of contention are always "how much should we interfere, and what level of suffering are we willing to take responsibility for in the name of the greater good"

    override367 on
    WinkyStyrofoam SammichYes, and...QuidElvenshaeCaedwyrDarkPrimuselectricitylikesmetynicAl_watjakobagger
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    There's an adaptation of Consider Phlebas in development and if it does well presumably more books, which makes me hopeful. There are a lot of scenes in the books that would be particularly striking in film.
    Thinking Dziet Smaw rescuing Zakalwe in the blizzard towards the end of Use of Weapons

    There are a lot of things in the books that would be visually astounding if they had the budget to pull them off.

    Like Lededje’s tattoos, or the shell world and everything in it in Matter.

    A lot of things also seem impossible to portray in a way that wouldn't look weird, boring, or goofy on screen, though.

    At a very base level - Culture Drones. They're just largely-featureless objects drifting through space interacting with things via, essentially, telekinesis and occasionally projecting colored auras to approximate body language. It would be really difficult to make a visually interesting drone on TV.

    Lots of things and places in the novels are also so enormous as to be almost meaningless on a TV screen. Looking across the ring of an orbital makes most of the ring basically invisible. Riding along beneath one or inside some of the GSV's is essentially visually equivalent to your vehicle drifting along against a featureless grey backdrop.

    I think you could find some ways to depict them well, particularly if you took a few liberties here and there. There’s a lot of different descriptions of drones in the books that look more interesting, there’s one in Look to Windward that has intricate decoration, etc.

    Also, imagine the sort of shots they could do with, like, zoom ins on a GSV or an orbital plate, etc. You would have to have a talented director but in my minds eye it looks fantastic.

  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    A thing I really about the Culture as opposed to the Federation, and I hope this isn't off topic but

    The Federation has this kind of liberal passivity to it, they are sure their ideas are the right ideas, but they aren't so sure in their ideas they are willing to stop repugnant acts regardless of the scale - as long as they aren't directly responsible for them

    The Culture, or at least Contact, disagree: if you can do something about it, and you are fairly certain the results will be better to act than to not act, you ought do something

    This is *the* defining social issue of the Culture, the one everyone argues on, if they had anything like political parties this would be the wedge issue. I very much dislike that in Star Trek, there is no debate, the debate is over. In The Culture, almost nobody says "we should never interfere", the points of contention are always "how much should we interfere, and what level of suffering are we willing to take responsibility for in the name of the greater good"

    Though its easy to overstate how much the debate is a part of Culture life. 99% of the Culture lives their perfect lives of contentment and fulfillment, the stories just exist on the margins for obvious reasons.

    They'll make the drones look like the female one from Wall-E. Smooth and white and only vaguely humanoid but recognizably an intelligent thinking thing that people interact with.

    Styrofoam Sammich on
  • override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited November 2018
    A thing I really about the Culture as opposed to the Federation, and I hope this isn't off topic but

    The Federation has this kind of liberal passivity to it, they are sure their ideas are the right ideas, but they aren't so sure in their ideas they are willing to stop repugnant acts regardless of the scale - as long as they aren't directly responsible for them

    The Culture, or at least Contact, disagree: if you can do something about it, and you are fairly certain the results will be better to act than to not act, you ought do something

    This is *the* defining social issue of the Culture, the one everyone argues on, if they had anything like political parties this would be the wedge issue. I very much dislike that in Star Trek, there is no debate, the debate is over. In The Culture, almost nobody says "we should never interfere", the points of contention are always "how much should we interfere, and what level of suffering are we willing to take responsibility for in the name of the greater good"

    Though its easy to overstate how much the debate is a part of Culture life. 99% of the Culture lives their perfect lives of contentment and fulfillment, the stories just exist on the margins for obvious reasons.

    Well for most issues this is true, their democracy has no need for everyone to be aware of what is going on in it, but there are still hundreds of billions (trillions?) of politically active civilians

    There are an awful lot of culture citizens in the book the characters run into that have very strong political opinions, iirc one of the characters hooks up with a girl that thinks the Idirans should have never been opposed even if it meant just letting them take whatever and whoever they wanted

    override367 on
    Winky
  • Kipling217Kipling217 Registered User regular
    What is cool about the culture is that they don't use planets and they are not a centralized government.

    Instead they build giant Orbitals in solar systems without any habitable planets, creating several orders of magnitude more living space than a planet could ever manage and beautiful to boot. Think the planet builders of Magratea from Hitchhikers except better.

    So no need to invade anywhere , no need for clear lines of trade or communication, but simply ploping down and settling anywhere the view is good.

    And instead of showing up with a dinky little ship telling people how great they are, the culture sends a GCU containing everything great about the Culture so new friends can experience it for themselves.

    Communicating from the last of the Babylon Stations.
  • WinkyWinky Registered User regular
    Tumin wrote: »
    I wish Excession was less steeped in Culture lore because I think it gives the best sense of the civilization as a galaxy spanning dominant group but puts them in context in their universe. I really do need to reread it to get some of the dialogue between AIs. I find the whole ascended civilization concept fascinating.

    Yeah, it’s so hard to say where to start, because I almost feel like you need to read multiple books before you actually start getting the Culture.

    I started with Player of Games and was underwhelmed, then read Excession and fell in love with the Culture, then went on to read the entire rest of the series obsessively.

    My favorite books are Look to Windward and Excession, followed by Surface Detail.

    Also, the second time I read Player of Games I found it much better, but again it required me to kind of already get how Banks’ stories work and where it’s going.

    electricitylikesmeCptHamilton
  • Styrofoam SammichStyrofoam Sammich WANT. 5386-8443-8937Registered User regular
    Kipling217 wrote: »
    What is cool about the culture is that they don't use planets and they are not a centralized government.

    Instead they build giant Orbitals in solar systems without any habitable planets, creating several orders of magnitude more living space than a planet could ever manage and beautiful to boot. Think the planet builders of Magratea from Hitchhikers except better.

    So no need to invade anywhere , no need for clear lines of trade or communication, but simply ploping down and settling anywhere the view is good.

    And instead of showing up with a dinky little ship telling people how great they are, the culture sends a GCU containing everything great about the Culture so new friends can experience it for themselves.

    They actually have strongly negative views on terraforming iirc

  • override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    I've read excession twice and listened to it on audiobook once, it's so good

    I love how we get a first person space combat from a warship's POV that spans light years but only lasts milliseconds

    I have no idea how they plan to portray space combat onscreen if more series of this ever get made

    WinkyDarkPrimus
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