Re: Culture: Ideology: Consider Phlebas

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Oh hey. I'm not reading along, BUT your mention of social Darwinism reminds me that I just read in the last couple days that apparently Emerson's nemesis, Hofstater, created the myth that Gilded Era capitalists were big believers in Social Darwinism. I don't know more about this, but it's interesting to contemplate that perhaps SD is a retrospective myth more than a once-live ideology.

Of course, if Banks doesn't know that, it probably doesn't matter for his portrayal, but like Renaissance smears of Scholasticism, it's always interesting when we treat ideological slander as settled fact.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 9:15 AM
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Feel free to skip as this is just nitpicking and not contributory to any argument but: I agree Horza believes in a form of social/civilizational Darwinism, but it's not clear the Idirans do; we don't hear a lot from them directly. He says explicitly that Idiran beliefs are very different from his, but he sees them as "on the side of life" - so I'm guessing something like, their beliefs are weird and destructive, but they're the kind of thing that evolves, creates/destroys, and finally loses out to something new, and as long as it's a militant counterforce to Minds-Above-All-ism he sees it as valuable to the cause.

(For example, their beliefs seem to include a very strong species exceptionalism, viewing all other species as soulless biotomatons, which to me suggests a lot more straight determinism than Horza has.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 9:22 AM
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2: Good point, but I think the speciesist hierarchy you mention fits in the broad frame of Social Darwinism. I focused on the capitalist elements, but of course fascism and Japanese militarism were parts of the same story. My major point was that the presented enemy actually wasn't especially religious in any easily recognizable form.
1: Yes! The one source I've half-read on this says similar things about Hofstader. SD was definitely live though, but it wasn't just one thing, it was parts of many different things.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 9:52 AM
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2: agreed. The Idiran religion is described as, in broad terms, "a place for everything and everything in its place". That doesn't sound tremendously Social Darwinist. "The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate/ God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate" is a recognisable religious sentiment, but it's very far from Social Darwinism, I would say.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 10:07 AM
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The Idirans fought to "'calm, integrate and instruct' these other species and bring them under the direct eye of their God". White Man's Burden much?* The broader point remains: the alleged antithesis of the Culture, a bigoted religious ideology, is hardly given a showing. The hostile ideology we do see actually looks very secular, and I think is most elegantly explained as a knock on capitalism. Which is kind of boring, however true it may be.
*What the phrase was taken to mean; I couldn't care what Kipling intended.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 10:48 AM
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White Man's Burden much?*

Or, indeed, Ummayyad Caliphate much.

As I say, we do actually hear broadly what Idiran religion is about, and I don't think "life should be a no-holds-barred struggle for success in which status and rank go to those best able to win it for themselves" is a very good description of it at all.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 10:52 AM
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I mean, the idea of the White Man's Burden was not very Social Darwinist. It was all about helping the lesser races along at your own expense.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 10:53 AM
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This may be retreating into schoolboy analytic modes ("this plot element is didactic in that it illustrates...") but building on the OP, a lot of what you see in CP is chaos that is not productive or evolutionary but meaningless and tragic. The raid on the monastery which is doomed by lack of up-to-date intelligence; the kid leaping to his death because he missed the safety briefing; various other deaths. Of course I'm sure someone on Horza's side could poke holes, since his worldview is unfalsifiable, but the sense I get is that Banks is undercutting him.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 11:07 AM
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Oh, and obviously the outcome of the duel that Kraiklyn forces.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 11:08 AM
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||
Minivet, that paper you linked on the Chettiars was very interesting. Thank you.
|>


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 11:16 AM
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As I say, we do actually hear broadly what Idiran religion is about, and I don't think "life should be a no-holds-barred struggle for success in which status and rank go to those best able to win it for themselves" is a very good description of it at all.

The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself!"


Posted by: Opinionated Wanda | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 11:44 AM
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6.2: As I said, historical Social Darwinism was a total hodgepodge. That said, I don't think Banks is arguing against any particular system of ideas, just invoking the cultural memory of a generic set of ideas (as JRoth points out). That cultural memory AFAIK falls into two rough categories: cut-throat internal competition, as you describe, often associated with capitalism; and cut-throat external competition between races, associated with fascism and militarism (which are also associated, however wrongly, with internal cohesion). It is entirely consistent with my interpretation for the Idirans to be internally harmonious and externally bloodthirsty.
As to their religion:
"We did not come in to rescue you out of compassion.  Failure is its own reward."
These are pretty much the first words we hear from an Idiran. The speaker,  Xoralundra, is later described as "a kind and humane officer--he supposed the old Querl would be considered a moderate". That's the peaceable end of the spectrum. In the latter passage: "But there were Idirans who were real fanatics, who despised all other species." One of the latter, of a fallen medjel comrade: "'His poor slave soul is at rest, then,' Xoxarle boomed.  'His tribe can ask for no more.'" That's the nasty end.
7: (1) Historical Social Darwinism included factions who were all about about helping lesser races (or classes, or individuals, or all three). (2) As I said, what matters is the memory, not the intent. (3) Even interpreted charitably, the Idiran species hierarchy fits at least as obviously into late 19C imperialism as into any actual religion; and I'll guess that that period and its ideologies were far closer to the surface of Banks's thinking.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 11:47 AM
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6.1: I stand to be corrected, but AFAIK the Umayyads didn't look like the Idirans in any way. They were religious, and they conquered, but they did not proselytize; conversion gradually spread out largely through non-Muslims seeking advancement, generally against the wishes of the rulers. Even if Idiran conversion is limited to lip service ("the prayer itself was in a dead Idiran language he didn't understand.  He had been told rather coldly that it was the gesture that mattered.") that is inconsistent with Islam, where that gesture would involve a declaration of faith, and thus movement into the Muslim tax bracket, which the Ummayads emphatically didn't want.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 12:03 PM
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From the epilogues:

The Idirans were already at war, conquering the species they regarded as inferior and subjugating them in a primarily religious empire which was only incidentally a commercial one as well. It was clear to them from the start that their jihad to "calm, integrate and instruct" these other species and bring them under the direct eye of their God had to continue and expand, or be meaningless.

I'm not sure what this tells us about their religious beliefs, but ISTM they're much more prescriptive than descriptive, and I think of learning-from-the-world-as-it-exists as a basic aspect of Social Darwinism. Possibly theirs was more to do with requiring their God be worshiped uniformly across the known universe? Thinking of when Xoralundra insisted Horza to repeat a prayer despite his soullessness: "only the behavior of devotion was required; his heart and mind were of no consequence."

10: Glad you found it so.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 12:06 PM
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Oh hey, we quoted the same section.

Basically I think Banks designed his universe with a great deal of complexity, and as one consequence we do not need the Idirans' beliefs to resemble Horza's for them both to land on the same side; their coincidence is almost accidental. (Outside the books in the scope of this part of the discussion, but the Homomdans also had a core outlook very different from the Idirans, yet fought alongside.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 12:10 PM
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13 Mossy is right here. In many cases conversion was, if not actively discouraged at least not encouraged because it would mean giving up the jizya tax which was paid to the state.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 12:10 PM
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As the sections quoted make clear, the Idirans are also not trying to proselytize. They don't even believe other species have souls!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 1:21 PM
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That's the view that gets me through dinner.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 1:24 PM
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I've been going through USDA statistics to make the case that as far as food goes, we are already in a post-scarcity society, by expressing all our production in pounds per capita per day, and it drew me into the rabbit hole of live weight vs. carcass weight vs. meat weight.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 1:28 PM
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I don't think you can prove cows have a soul because the carcass weight is lower than the live weight. They lose blood really quickly when you kill them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 1:29 PM
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I'm also not sure where you're getting the idea of the Idirans being ruthless capitalists. We learn very little about their society and I certainly don't remember encountering any Idirans engaged in banking or investment or private enterprise or employment or really any sort of capitalist activity at all.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 2:11 PM
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The Idirans strike me as being more like a caricature (with more than a little truth) of the Prussian Junker than about Muslims. Dueling scars, bacchanalian feasts, heavy gambling, racist world view, authoritarian, etc. The religious part doesn't fit all that well but the rest seems pretty close.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 6:00 PM
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This thread seems as good a place as any for me to observe that every time I read the name "Bora Horza Gobuchul," I hear it being read in the voice of the Swedish Chef.

And inevitably I want to follow it up with a mental "bork bork bork!"


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 7:51 PM
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Consider Phlebas and Ferb


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 8:06 PM
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Consider the Phlebas of the field


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 9:22 PM
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22: I think you may be thinking of the Affront.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-29-18 11:35 PM
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Mind you, I definitely do not think the Idirans are a caricature of Muslims either.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 1:43 AM
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21: In the appendices: "a primarily religious empire which was only incidentally* a commercial one as well". It's a very minor point, and unnecessary, but it shows a certain unity among the Culture's enemies, and with Banks's RL positions.
*But not so incidentally that Banks omitted it.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 6:32 AM
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26. Rats, you're right. I've been reading too much Banks lately and sometimes there is bleed through.

The funny thing about the Affront is that the Culture seems to more or less accept them.

That being said, Banks' villains are on the whole totally cardboard mustache-twirling, cape-wearing, evil-with-no-smidgeon-of-good Snidely Whiplash types. I just started rereading "Surface Detail" and Veppers is pretty much the epitome.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 6:34 AM
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In general: from the interview linked in the OP:

The Idiran empire was to be the antithesis of the Culture: deeply religious, racist (well, speciesist), centralist, warlike and basically fascistic.
"Centralist" AFAIK isn't in common currency. I interpret it to mean something like "totalitarian": society is highly hierarchical, with the center making the important decisions and imposing strong ideological conformity and discipline; we see this in, for instance, the uniformity of Idiran ship and personal names, the discipline of Idiran troops, the inbred loyalty of the medjel.
The anti-Cultural vices Banks lists are therefore: religion, racism, totalitarianism, militarism, fascism. The latter four are concerns central to modern secular westerners, and the objects of criticism (or praise) in those secular western discourses are primarily other secular westerners. In the novel the anti-Culture position is presented not by a pious Idiran but by the secular human Horza, spouting a parody Nietzscheism which is parodied back at him by the Eaters. The claim I stand on is narrowly that CP is not about religion, and doesn't make any particular points against any recognizable religion in the real world. The points it does make are mostly against the futility of zero-sum competition, as Minivet points out in 8 and 9, and as I do in the OP.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 6:41 AM
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Horza, spouting a parody Nietzscheism

Something I appreciated about Consider Phlebas is that it's told mostly from Horza's point of view, and writes him more or less sympathetically, and yet his anti-Culture philosophy ends up looking like pretty weak shit nonetheless. He basically crashes around the galaxy causing, or at least participating in, a bunch of pointless death and destruction, and yet he considers himself to morally superior to the Culture.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 8:45 AM
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To the note of "centralist" in 30: doesn't the existence and capacity of the Idirans sort of belie Banks's materialist assertion in his notes? That is, if it's inherently futile to exert centralized power over three-dimensional space, how did the Idirans get as far and as powerful as they did? If it's "in the long run" it's long-run enough to not be much of a tendency to rely on.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 8:48 AM
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8 to 31; great minds.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 8:48 AM
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32: well, as I say, I think that Banks abandoned that idea pretty much from the start. The prologue of CP makes it clear that it is impossible for even a single very small ship with a top-quality Mind flying it to hide from a search for any length of time.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 8:51 AM
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32: The Idirans don't dominate 3D space because they primarily take and hold planets, and they eventually lose in part because the Culture production base is dispersed and capable of flight. Nonetheless, it's a very good point.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 8:59 AM
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33: I somehow missed 8. I'll bet in the Culture no one ever gets pwned.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 9:03 AM
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35: I don't see the distinction. If they can take and hold planets, why not Plates and Orbitals, or various lower-tech equivalents?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 9:09 AM
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37: Because, apparently, they don't want to; their religion sees them as insignificant. So, yes, Banks loses the point.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 9:13 AM
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Though it doesn't explain why none of the other races they conquered were able to do a Culture-type defence and thus avoid being conquered. They wouldn't have had religious attachments to planets.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 9:19 AM
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39: There could be dozens of refugee fleets wandering the void offscreen. But the Idirans were conquering only inferior races, so presumably not.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 9:24 AM
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Although, actually, the Changers could have been such refugees: most of them wanted to move their asteroid away from the Idirans.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 9:26 AM
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Oh, good point.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 9:43 AM
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||

Past 40 and I don't want to step on the other thread.

I'm not going to go into any details...yet, but there's a good chance I'll be looking to move back to NYC. I loved living in Astoria but it seems to have really gotten expensive in the last few years. Any recommendations as to neighborhoods to live in with good subway (I know) access to Manhattan would be great. I'll be looking for a one bedroom place, maybe a studio. Just general now, I'll probably know more in a few weeks.

|>


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:07 AM
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As to the Idiran religion. On review, I was wrong, their theology isn't obviously reconcilable with Social Darwinism as it is remembered. That said, it is an odd religion. The Word of God is revealed in the genome of the Idirans (this was the bit that misinterpreted) and there are no immortal souls, just for two.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:19 AM
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/I misinterpreted


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:20 AM
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43 Probably a mistake to drop that in this thread...


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:24 AM
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Unless the Idirans are a caricature of Muslims.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:25 AM
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there are no immortal souls

I think there are, it's just that only Idirans have them - because they're immortal themselves. One of them scoffs at the idea that a mortal human (or specifically Changer) could have an immortal soul.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:27 AM
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43: I assume this is something to do with the things you have occasionally mentioned. My sympathies.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:28 AM
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48: True. Though IIRC the Idirans are described as "practically" immortal, not literally so.
Good luck Barry.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:30 AM
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Thanks.

Maybe I'll have time to read Banks.

49 It does in a kind of roundabout way and stupidly because it's going to bite this person in the ass.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:36 AM
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Other oddities. Its principal value apparently is order. AFAIK every major religion includes some manner of hierarchy (hence the etymology), but I know of none that make it central, except maybe traditional Chinese religion, especially in its Confucian variants. But AFAIK even that was predominantly concerned with interpersonal propriety, where the Idirans seem to have something far more cosmic going on.
Also odd: an actually existing theocracy, with fully unified state and religion. I can think of only a handful: the states of the military orders, VC, maybe lamaist Tibet and current Iran (CP was written against the background of their revolution and war with Iraq, maybe relevantly).
Equally odd, an expansive empire which is actually primarily motivated by religion. We've mentioned the Ummayads, who weren't; the Ottomans and AFAIK the Mughals were similar. In the European empires the evangelism was always incidental to other stuff, AFAIK never state led, and frequently at cross-purposes with the imperialism. Other candidates? Maybe Iran again? The Fulanis? Some of the South Asian Buddhist states? Tang-era Tibet?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 10:55 AM
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34. "... it is impossible for even a single very small ship with a top-quality Mind flying it to hide from a search for any length of time."

If you travel in hyperspace, you leave a trail that disperses after a while, more or less like the wake of a ship. So yeah, if the enemy is in hot pursuit it's pretty hard to get away unless you have really superior technology. If you aren't being actively pursued it's not at all impossible to hide somewhere. If you are a Mind and being hunted at close range your mass (or whatever it was in CP) can give you away but the detectors are short range, so you can't really do an exhaustive search.

There are examples in the series of Ships whose location is unknown. If you are being chased, you just head out for a long time, maybe even to one of the Magellanic Clouds, or further. Just lay low. What's the next nearest galaxy in our Local Group? One can imagine an Orbital or other structure doing it as well. There's a lot of universe out there.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 11:02 AM
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Do the writers at Tor.com read unfogged?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 12:57 PM
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The gall of these people. Does anyone know an IP lawyer?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 8:48 PM
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IP Freely.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-30-18 8:51 PM
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"So yeah, if the enemy is in hot pursuit it's pretty hard to get away unless you have really superior technology. If you aren't being actively pursued it's not at all impossible to hide somewhere."

Yeah, exactly. But the first sentence is why Bank's original idea about how it's impossible to run a centralised state in space (as in Some Notes on the Culture) is wrong or at least no longer right by the time of CP.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 12:22 AM
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52.last: I think the expansion of the early Caliphate might have had something to do with religion?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 12:31 AM
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Caliphate also qualifies as "an actually existing theocracy, with fully unified state and religion" as of course does the Roman Empire and many other empires of the time in which the ruler also served as chief priest and/or was deified.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 12:35 AM
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59: How are you enjoying things under theocrat ERII?
All the examples you cite are states, usually hereditary monarchies, where religion was co-opted as one of the instruments of power. The priesthood as a rule wasn't actually in control. Of course there will be edge cases like AFAIK Iran today.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 1:59 AM
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When your definition of a theocrat excludes Mohammed I think it might be time to re-examine it.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 2:46 AM
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How are you enjoying things under theocrat ERII?

Yeah, we're done here.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 2:47 AM
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You implicitly include ERII in your definition in 59 last (indicating what a bad definition it is). I'll happily admit Mohammed I as a theocrat, but none of his successors, unless someone who knows points out individuals.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 2:58 AM
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I'm in the middle of rereading "Matter", and it's fascinating how many of the weaknesses and gaps that we've been discussing about Culture intervention, other equiv-tech civilisations and how the Culture relates to them, Culture citizens going rogue and trying to do Contact by themselves, and so on are addressed in it. It's giving me a strong impression that he wrote it deliberately at least in part to deal with all the questions people had been asking about the previous books.

It's also, I would say, the best Culture novel outside the first three...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 3:13 AM
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64: I've been thinking similarly about Excession. (Detested Matter. Wanton cruelty and self indulgence. That's the one with extended speeches in blank verse? The later books really blur in my mind.)


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 3:21 AM
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I don't know which one has extended speeches in blank verse - are you thinking of Surface Detail? It isn't Matter, at least not in the first half. Matter's the one with the Shellworld and the mediaeval court politics, Surface Detail is the one with the tattooed woman and the Virtual Hells.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 3:27 AM
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66: They're definitely in Matter then. After someone or other is murdered in battle. I get the whole world-is-a-stage thing, but really.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 3:35 AM
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I think Matter is the only Culture novel I haven't read.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 3:39 AM
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67: oh, I think I know the bit you mean. Flowery language (explicitly lifted from various plays).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 3:44 AM
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RL plays or in-universe?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 3:52 AM
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In-universe. It's the king's youngest son giving a eulogy for his father, and he's a bit of a literary type so he borrows appropriate bits from plays he knows.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 4:09 AM
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Can't say there's much wanton cruelty by Banks standards, though. Are you sure that isn't Surface Detail you're thinking of? It has entire chapters describing the torments of hell.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 4:10 AM
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72: I'm thinking mostly of the ending. I also disliked Surface Detail. I dislike all the later books, mostly for bloat. For my money, only Look to Windward is in the same league as the first three.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 6:16 AM
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I liked rereading Matter, having somewhat forgotten the plot since I first read it. There are great set-pieces (Banks is really good at set-pieces, I think), such as the ancient city under the waterfall, the way the archeological dig works out in the end, the ending (which well set up early on), etc. I guess some people's mileage may vary.

As for Surface Detail, the various set pieces/vignettes with Vauteuil are excellent. I find the Hells stuff mostly boring and stupid. I can't imagine it happening in real life without a level of coercion that is totally against everything the Culture stands for. I have read enough "Hell is real" fiction (Niven and Pournelle's "Inferno" comes to mind, or Blish's "Black Easter") that over the top gruesomeness and torture just aren't that interesting to read about again. ISTR recall that before I started rereading the series, Surface Detail was my least favorite Banks. It's not as bad as all that on rereading, but it's no Look To Windward.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 6:36 AM
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What I really hated in Surface Detail was the untouchable industrialist. "Rich people can get away with murder" is a banal plot for a Culture novel.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 6:43 AM
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Agreed on 74.2 and 75.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 6:53 AM
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76. Agree. I forget whether the Enablement is part of the Culture, or just in the neighborhood, but Veppers' wealth is out of place for a civ that appears to be pretty heavily involved, lower case, with the Culture. The Enablement seems to be more of a place they'd be sending SC folks into to force change. Maybe lower-ranking (the E is level 5 or 6, compared to 8 for the Culture) civs get some breaks on the norms of behavior?


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 7:02 AM
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2nd 76.
Ajay, I'm curios what you're liking about Matter. I remember it as a bloated mess, all the great scenery notwithstanding.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 7:05 AM
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The Enablement definitely isn't part of the Culture - it has money and private property and scarcity.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 7:07 AM
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78: from a worldbuilding point of view, it gives a much better view of non-Culture equiv-tech societies and how they relate to the Culture and to each other. It broadens the field of view; all the societies we've seen up till then have been at war with the Culture or being interfered with by them. In "Matter" we get to see that there are lots of other societies that aren't in either category, and they're all playing their own political games with each other.
We also get to see very clearly that Culture technology isn't necessarily superior to everyone else's, which removes the deus-ex-machina element in some of the earlier books. There's stuff here that the Culture actually can't deal with, not just isn't willing to deal with for ethical reasons.

It has a few good SC-doing-cool-stuff set pieces, but not too many (which is a weakness of Use of Weapons). It has an actual family as the centre, which is otherwise missing from the Culture novels; and they think about each other in ways that make them feel like a family, they aren't entirely driven by terrible deeds in the past and a lust for revenge or expiation. (Again, a weakness of Use of Weapons.) And what all three of the main characters do really matters; there's no pointlessness to their actions (unlike Look to Windward).

I don't know which bits of wanton cruelty you mean; as I say, I'm only about halfway through the reread but I don't remember anything too striking. Yes, characters die, but that's par for the course. In Matter they generally die well.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 7:16 AM
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80: Good points. The cruelty is just the impression that stuck with me, not necessarily accurate. What bugs me in the later books is a sense of waste. Where the early books take all this great stuff and builds it into great novels, the later books felt increasingly like great stuff being dropped on the page from a great height.
In fairness I would likely be more charitable if Banks hadn't set such a high standard for himself at the beginning.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 7:29 AM
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Dan Brown never had that problem.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 7:53 AM
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79. Yeah, I guess it's actually pretty obvious the Enablement isn't part of the Culture, even though they are involved with each other. So far the book does not make it utterly clear which civs have Hells. Are there Hells in the Culture? It is clearly stated that they aren't involved in the War in Heaven.

80.last. Characters die in a way that if one were a little cynical, one would conclude the whole plot had actually been set up by SC. (Trying not to be over-spoilery, here, but if you have read the book you can probably catch my drift.)

81. Re: Matter, are you referring to cruelty of the major bad guy, or other stuff?

As part of my reread I read "Inversions," which is actually quite good, and fairly short for a Banks novel. Similar medieval-ish setting to the on-ShellWorld parts of Matter.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 8:36 AM
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83.1: the Culture surely can't have hells, right?
I'm not really in a position to opine though; I read Surface Detail when it came out but I've no real desire to read it again.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 8:39 AM
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83.3: That, and the Ancient Evil at the end. Like I said, it's just the impression I happened to get.
83.1: Suffice to say things aren't quite what they appear.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 8:47 AM
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So far the book does not make it utterly clear which civs have Hells. Are there Hells in the Culture? It is clearly stated that they aren't involved in the War in Heaven.

I think it was pretty clear the Culture didn't have Hells. They didn't intervene in the WiH, not because they had any ambivalence on the moral question, but because it was a consensual simulated war and it was generally agreed that the Culture's involvement would make everything too one-sided.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 9:00 AM
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Maybe lower-ranking (the E is level 5 or 6, compared to 8 for the Culture) civs get some breaks on the norms of behavior?

The later books gave me the impression that there are explicit or implicit spheres of influence and pecking orders where great-power diplomacy and agreements often prevent the Culture from doing its normal meddling (or use SC as deniably as possible). We know there are, for example, lots of agreements delineating how civs may transfer technology to civs at other tech levels, avoiding too fast an increase. The meddling with the Chelgrians was deadly secret too.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 9:11 AM
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I'm sure it's been said before, but watching y'll discuss the Culture, induced me to start reading CP. I'd started long, long ago, but stopped for some-reason-or-other. So now I'm starting again, and over halfway thru it. Thanks, Unfoggedtariat!


Posted by: Chet Murthy | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 9:49 AM
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86. I doubt the Culture would approve of Hells, but the walls 'o text about them imply that there are (were?) secret ones.

Also, it's a stretch but the Culture seems very libertarian about its members being able to do pretty much anything they want as long as there is no coercion involved. In a lot of the books people put a mind state into a clone or blank and then send it into great danger. They seem fairly cavalier about it, as the choice to do it was made "freely." Banks brings up a lot of the issues with copying or destroying mind states in Surface Detail but largely fails to resolve them, at least as far as I've gotten in my SD reread. Perhaps he just wants us to think about the issues.

87. That's particularly clear in The Hydrogen Sonata, not to mention Matter.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 11:16 AM
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86.1: Secret, yes; secret within Culture, no.

86.2: I don't think that qualifies as a Hell. If everyone goes in voluntarily, can come out anytime they want, and there are safeguards against them forgetting it's a simulation, it's not a societal torture prison, just a high-tech fetish club.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 11:54 AM
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What if you're wrong about how easy it is to come out?


Posted by: Opinionated Paul Ryan | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 11:57 AM
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88: I got halfway through the Culture books a few years ago and then stopped (for no particular reason; life got in the way) but following along with these threads has really made me want to begin them again.


Posted by: Seeds | Link to this comment | 01-31-18 9:04 PM
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This is late, but I want to say that I really appreciated Mossy's article and I'm looking forward to the other two parts. (this thing is going to be massive.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 3:04 AM
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As part of my reread I read "Inversions," which is actually quite good, and fairly short for a Banks novel. Similar medieval-ish setting to the on-ShellWorld parts of Matter.

He really likes that sort of setting. It's where Zakalwe keeps ending up (though this is handwaved as being because that's the sort of war he's best suited for). Early Modern - basically between 1618 and 1815 in our terms.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 3:08 AM
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93: Despite disagreeing on everything! Thank you, that's very gracious.
Even later, thanks for your post, and for the group.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 6:13 AM
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I, for one, would appreciate a Crooked Timber style wrap up post with all the links to the various Culture posts in one place so I can return to them once I finally read the books.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 6:37 AM
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I would appreciate if it stays massive because my life is ridiculous for the next few weeks (health stuff, DSA stuff) and it's possible I'll write something before that eases but I somehow doubt it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 6:44 AM
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Are there Hells in the Culture? It is clearly stated that they aren't involved in the War in Heaven.

But they are involved. One of leaders is a SC mercenary.

(I agree that like many later Culture books it could have done with some trimming.)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 6:56 AM
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Since this thread is open, and I doubt it's worth it's own post: what do people think of Asher's Polity series?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 7:11 AM
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Since this thread is open, everyone should go read Harkaway's Gnomon.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 7:19 AM
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I'm still reading Earthsea. It turns out that nobody ever figured out it was worth the effort to make stories about wizard school interesting until the 1990s.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 7:25 AM
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Hrmphf.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 7:31 AM
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101: The second book is much better. No wizard school.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 7:39 AM
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101: I skipped Harry Potterr because I had read Earthsea. I figured between Roke and Tom Brown's Rugby school I could interpolate.


Posted by: Blank Stare | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 7:58 AM
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Despite disagreeing on everything!

Almost everything.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:02 AM
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I figured between Roke and Tom Brown's Rugby school I could interpolate.

"Flashman and the Tombs of Atuan".

10/10 would read.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:03 AM
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And there's actually a character to do that with, right? The supercilious guy who leaves without graduating to be court magician for someone.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:08 AM
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What, no spoiler alert?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:17 AM
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What do you care, it doesn't have flying broomsticks or Alan Rickman.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:21 AM
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I loved Die Hard. You have to assume that an explosion that large in an office building will cause some broomstick to fly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:22 AM
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I feel obliged to point out that Earthsea has an airborne action sequence that beats the shit out of all of HP combined.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:27 AM
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I hope it comes up soon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:29 AM
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I take it you haven't gotten to the Ged/Supercilious rap battle yet?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:31 AM
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106. Flashman would be interesting as an SC agent. Of course, he'd probably want to be Displaced back at the first sign of danger.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:32 AM
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113: I think I stopped reading just at the start of that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:34 AM
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Quite similar to a lot of the Flashman books - he's always getting blackmailed or trapped into working as a secret agent for various noble (and ignoble) causes.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:35 AM
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106.last Hard same.

One of lifes's minor disappointments is that there is no new Flashman left for me to read.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:37 AM
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115: If that isn't a joke, I suggest quite earnestly you start reading again at least until you get through that. The main action of the book actually starts there.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:37 AM
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I will start again. I was just a bit bored because nothing happened between the cloaking of the village and where I stopped. That was over 10% of the book.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:40 AM
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It's a really short book, Mobes.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:41 AM
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And actually a lot of stuff happened, you just don't know its significance yet.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:42 AM
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I hope so.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 8:49 AM
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99: I read Prador Moon randomly, I think on the strength of a shelf recommendation at Borderlands. Felt more like a big shoot-em-up rather than space opera, with most of the creativity used up on specific ways the bad bugs were gratuitously evil. I don't think I got through the full book, so maybe it was building up to more that I missed; I see it's one of 16 novels set in that universe?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:08 AM
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123: For that book, no, there's not much more to it. I've only read I think four of them myself. I raise them because they strike me essentially as unauthorized prequels to the Culture books, a human-AI civilization that maybe could evolve into the Culture.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:17 AM
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Which of the books would you point a Banks fan to?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:18 AM
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Neal Asher? Ugh, really. Large amounts of gratuitous nastiness everywhere and not many appealling characters.
It has a lot of things in common with Banks; it has a civilisation run by AIs, it has smartarse robots, it has enormous spaceships and covert operations and warfare and imaginative set pieces. But it's just all grubby and painful and unpleasant.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:26 AM
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If you want something more Banks-ish, then Ken MacLeod - especially the Fall Revolution. Alistair Reynolds, maybe. Paul McAuley, especially the Quiet War series.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:28 AM
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You can get most of those things from Star Wars novelizations.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:28 AM
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I can get most of them from the daily news.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:30 AM
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125: Honestly I'm not sure which ones I've read. For the Culture angle certainly avoid the Spatterjay subseries. I think Brass Man is a standalone which also incorporates some of the worldbuilding.
126: Seconded. They're notably unpleasant.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:41 AM
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127. IMHO a good place to start with MacLeod is "The Cassini Division." It contains spoilers for other books in the series but it is quite Banks-ish.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:44 AM
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Speaking of wizard school, after the first 50 pages of "The Name of the Wind" I was not expecting the vast majority of the book to take place at wizard school. But it was good! Maybe the second volume has less wizard school.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:48 AM
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I think there might be some interest to find in the contrasts. In the Polity the AIs took over by force; they're basically benign, but they aren't exactly friendly to humans; IIRC the AIs are strongly hierarchical, sorted by raw power; the state is centralized; there is indubitably a state (maybe "polity" was even a deliberate riposte to "culture"?); mostly planetary, not space-based; human society is messy and violent, especially around the edges. Kind of like the Culture but everyone is still kind of vicious. Banks with far less optimism, maybe.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:52 AM
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Inside of a human, it's too dark to be violent.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:53 AM
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NEWS TO ME


Posted by: OPINIONATED JOHN HURT | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 9:57 AM
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(maybe "polity" was even a deliberate riposte to "culture"?)

Oh, I think it unquestionably was. I get the impression that he is trying to write the Culture as he thinks it would have to be, given that we live in a dark, gritty universe full of dark, gritty people drinking dark, gritty coffee.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:00 AM
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The Polity thing I'm just chucking out in hopes someone has actually read the books and remembers enough to have an angle. Asher is a Brexiter, frex.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:01 AM
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Applause for 135.

Posted elsewhere: I like to imagine an Alien Queen watching that bit of the film, pausing it, turning it to an adult Alien beside her and cooing "Ooooh! Weren't you tiny? Look at your little face!"
("Awwww, mum...")


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:02 AM
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Asher is a Brexiter, frex.

Yep, that's unsurprising.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:03 AM
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||

Posting spotty. Learning all about gerrymandering! I have a post in the chamber as soon as I get a chance to throw it up, though.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:04 AM
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I'm starting to get worried about the PA Supreme Court decision being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Somebody should reassure me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:05 AM
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maybe "polity" was even a deliberate riposte to "culture"

I don't know, I think a lot of space-opera SF digs deep for synonyms for "state" or "alliance" or something in between that hasn't been used to death. Federation, Confederation, Integration, Union, Coalescence...


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:22 AM
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No one's used "Coagulation" yet? (Formally, its citizens are Coagulates. Informally they're known as Clots.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:28 AM
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143: If that wasn't used in _Blood Music_ then I think the opportunity has already been missed.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 11:04 AM
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The Smearing.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 11:38 AM
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141: Love to, but I'm not sure I can. All I can say is that if Kennedy's with us and everyone stays alive, we've got five votes who aren't crazy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 11:45 AM
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This wasn't the kind of question where you are ethically required to be honest.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 11:51 AM
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Kennedy's with us, and all our judges are alive. We've got five votes.

Is that better?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 12:05 PM
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Yes. Thank you.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 12:07 PM
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148 I really don't like to think about how old some of our judges are.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 12:09 PM
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Please, someone, post reassuring actuarial tables.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 12:10 PM
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What did I just say?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 12:10 PM
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151: There aren't any. We've got three judges who are in the frankly terrifying zone, age-wise. (And of course I'm counting Kennedy as 'ours'. He certainly hasn't been reliable in the past, but he's said good things on gerrymandering specifically.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 12:38 PM
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There's nothing to worry about! I sold RBG life-extending serum with genuine unicorn bile!


Posted by: Opinionated GP | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 1:14 PM
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And I sold her opium and tried to put a finger up her butt.


Posted by: Opinionated D.O. | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 6:40 PM
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That was great.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 6:40 PM
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Banks was pretty good on the naming front. The Affront, the Mercatoria, the Beyonders, the Gerontocracy of Sorpen, the Cluster Epiphany Five Disconnect. The latter brought unfortunately to mind by the sticking of psychoactives up people's butts.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 7:47 PM
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Thinking a little more on Banks's space nomadism thing, some scattered points. As others have said, the unconquerability-of-habitats point works much better at lower tech levels than we see in the novels. If in 2140 Tesla Trojan Titanium declares independence I think its plausible that the US would have a very hard time mounting an expedition to recapture it (though not such a hard time nuking it, as Banks acknowledges, but handwaves). In the novels, when we visit one of the Culture's founding Rocks* in Excession, its flights and peregrinations are described as being in the distant past, many millennia previous. But the whole discussion really depends crucially on the technology assumed to be available, which makes it kind of intractable.
*The only Rock we ever see, right?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:06 PM
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But pushing the peregrinations into the early history raises other problems. Banks assumes self-sufficient autarkic habitats. How are these habitats developed, and why? Technological advance involves increasing specialization,* and those specializations need a bigger economy to be viable; and this is true in planned economies as well as market ones. If you're genuinely post-scarcity maybe you can fold everything you need into one habitat, but there again one has to assume a huge amount of magictech to get to that point. Implying, pre-scarcity, that any habitats are likely to depend heavily on trade with or aid from each other and from the terrestrial metropolis, so making escape impractical.
*See jet turbines and ball-point pens mentioned around here recently.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 10:42 PM
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And this kind of loops right back to the defending Utopia thread. Ajay mentioned naval arms races, and I compared the Culture to various maritime empires, fighting by mobility and distance. But ships (and planes, and spacecraft) are expensive, and the money ultimately has to come from the land.
Pericles paid for his navy with new silver from Laurion; the Spanish on the credit of American silver; the Dutch and British on the credit of their mercantile economies. Of course ships can carry trade, which generates revenue; but trade just connects bits of land to one another. Banks posits essentially the building of new land in space, but I think totally skips over how that point is reached. Until your magictech arrives, spacecraft wouldn't be self-sufficient space economies, they would be extensions of planetary economies.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 1-18 11:17 PM
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Frex, apparently some Congressman is chattering about forming a Space Corps. Which sounds super cool. But what would an actual, useful, Space Corps look like today? Presumably a lot like the NRO or NASA: technicians in clean rooms and offices building and programming remote-controlled robots. The cool spacey bits would just be the teeth at the end of a very long earthbound tail.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 12:10 AM
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In a way maybe Banks actually falls into one of the same traps as the conservative American SF he was writing against: his pioneers are rugged communities not rugged individuals, but their self-sufficiency would be equally mythical, at least for a long time at the outset.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 1:46 AM
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apparently some Congressman is chattering about forming a Space Corps. Which sounds super cool.

Just as long as they remember to obey Directive 595.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 2:31 AM
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162: he doesn't discuss that period, but I'm not sure it's a trap - the energetic cost of spaceflight would be a strong driver towards greater self-sufficiency. Yes, there would be a long period where the colonies were dependent on the home planet, but there would be powerful incentives to reduce that dependence as quickly as possible.
It's an interesting question; how complex does a machine have to be, to be self-reproducing? An 18th century ocean-going sailing ship plus crew could, given time and raw materials, produce another 18th century sailing ship. The only thing they probably wouldn't be able to make more of would be the guns. And the crew, of course.
(And there are incidents of this actually happening, to an extent, after expeditions were shipwrecked; not to mention many, many less serious examples that still involved ships making major repairs to themselves using local resources.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 2:41 AM
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And the crew, of course.

That's why you put in at Tahiti every now and again.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 3:26 AM
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Beat to Quarters was the best.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 5:25 AM
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That's why you put in at Tahiti every now and again.

Historically, I think, putting in at Tahiti has been associated with reduction in crew size. Certainly in captain numbers.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 5:58 AM
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the energetic cost of spaceflight would be a strong driver towards greater self-sufficiency.
For bulk products, yes. But if it comes to microprocessors? Also there's a kind of paradox in that one of your key enablers for self-sufficiency would be very cheap energy; and that same cheap energy might reduce the need for self-suffiency by reducing shipping costs.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 6:08 AM
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I think the driver in the case of microprocessors is transit time; six months from Earth to Mars, etc.
Cheap energy - yes, sort of? I mean, solar energy is very cheap in space but that hasn't really impacted launch costs. But this is all just handwavery on my part. I'll go and dig out my copy of "Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience" and see if it has any light to shed


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 6:26 AM
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There are Ships and Orbitals under construction in a couple of the books. The impression I get is that the materials are all scavenged from the detritus of the star system they are being built in, so there is no need to trade with other systems. Not sure how much I buy this; not all systems have all the elements in the abundance you need, and so on. I think that in this, Banks waves his hands a bit. Similarly, as with the paperclip maximizer, once you get one manufacturing facility that can reproduce itself, you're all set. More hand waving about how that happens. I don't think he ever addresses the Ship power sources; they seem to be associated with hyperspace in some way, like the drives. /wave /wave.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 7:20 AM
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Didn't he talk somewhere about how they're really smug about the symmetry/neatness that if you clean up all the asteroids and dust in a star system you have enough matter to build one entire Orbital?

Also not impossible they have enough supertech to transmute elements - they do have basically unlimited energy from the Grid, another handwave.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 10:01 AM
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it's funny how our expectations of what's plausible gets conditioned by genre conventions. Faster-than-light travel is considerably less likely than Orbitals or essentially limitless energy, but we're so used to it from sci-fi stories that it never draws any attention.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 10:51 AM
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If you're going to tell a sci-fi story without it being almost entirely about the tedious difficulty of getting any place in space from any other place in space, you need to assume faster-than-list travel. It's like saying "In real life, the plumber would be probably be more creeped out and afraid of losing his job than horny."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 11:02 AM
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I'm fine with Handwavium as long as it's clearly billed as such. For the Culture books, it's pretty clear that the interest is primarily in exploring how a post-scarcity society might look, not so much in how it got there.

It's like saying "In real life, the plumber would be probably be more creeped out and afraid of losing his job than horny."

Rule 34.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 11:13 AM
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"Miss, you've got to understand that when I say I need to 'sweat in this pipe,' it involves heating copper to temperatures that melt solder. You shouldn't even be this close to me unless you have a shirt on."


Posted by: Opinonated Plumber | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 1:11 PM
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173. Charlie Stross has written a couple of novels ("Saturn's Children," "Neptune's Brood") where there is no FTL travel. His ships move at a fraction (I forget how big a fraction) of the speed of light, but the crews are humanoid robots/androids who are extremely long lived or can just turn themselves off during the boring parts.

Humans barely exist in that universe, but the robots are as human as "real" humans, if not moreso in terms of how their minds work.

174. Handwavium is definitely abundant in the Culture universe.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 2:31 PM
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177

In Alastair Reynolds's Revelationverse, handwavy supertech is needed just to get you up to appreciable fractions of lightspeed.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02- 2-18 3:14 PM
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178

175 is great.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 02- 3-18 1:25 AM
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179

Also not impossible they have enough supertech to transmute elements

If the mediaeval alchemists had succeeded in finding the Philosophers' Stone, would we now be living in the culture? Or could the PS only make gold?

(I'm reminded of some comment by Lenin to the effect of "Under advanced communism, I think we shall use gold to make toilet seats, but under present conditions we need the stuff to trade." Lenin can, I think, be forgiven for not predicting the Trump Tower.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02- 3-18 6:11 AM
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180

179 me.

174. Rule 34 is also by Charlie Stross. Worth reading.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02- 3-18 6:12 AM
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