Re: Guest Post - For some reason the Culture is just all over the internet lately

1

That was a great series. I learned a lot of literature without having to read long books.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 9:48 AM
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I borrowed CP from my own library and ended up reading about ten pages and having to return it with late fees due. At the library. Where I work. Oh the shame.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 9:54 AM
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Few of the Culture novels, early or late, spend much time within the Culture proper, no? Main one Look to Windward, and I guess maybe Excession which I haven't read in a while.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 10:07 AM
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ones


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 10:07 AM
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2 - apparently literally the only perk I imagined librarians having doesn't exist. Can't you just have them retroactively renew it for you or something?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 10:25 AM
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I'm sure I can get it waived. And maybe it's even a routine matter. But there it sits, on my account.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 10:27 AM
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5,6: It's a privilege we librarians have, but once we use it, we lose the respect of our colleagues forever.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 10:42 AM
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8

My God. It's like constantly having the option to use or not use a doomsday device. How do librarians live with this stress.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 10:53 AM
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9

Booze.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 11:10 AM
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9: So is the character played by Noah Wyle in The Librarian is based on you?

I guess you might not be able to tell us if he is.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 11:23 AM
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3: Not in the Culture, no, but certainly about it.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 11:52 AM
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I'd say Surface Detail and Hydrogen Sonata were just as much about the Culture as CP/PoG/UoW. Maybe not Matter.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 12:07 PM
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12: I don't remember the later books well enough to argue the point. AFAICR Nussbaum likely overstates the case but does have a point. I think they have a lot more non-Culture characters pursuing their own agendas, to which the Culture is largely tangential; more passing a Culture Bechdel Test, if you will.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 12:28 PM
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3, 11: The Interesting Times discussion group are largely Eccentrics, including some non-culture Mind-equivalents, and the Affront stuff is another bunch of antagonists to the Culture, but all the stuff in flashback in Culture proper, and Ulver Seich is the best answer to how you get people to do possibly unpleasant things in a post-scarcity universe.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 3:41 PM
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15

The above was me.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 04- 2-18 3:44 PM
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16

Yes, there are a few things wrong with the linked post, and this really jumped out at me:


it seems strange to describe a society as communist when it expects nothing from its citizens in the way of sacrifice

That is such an LGM thing to say. People like Robin and Loomis don't think that the violence of the revolution is unfortunate and terrible but justified by the utopia that will follow; they think that the utopia that will follow is excused by the bracing violence of the revolution.

And this, from the author in the comments, implies that she has completely failed to understand Banks' ethics:


Banks sees suffering as the worst possible evil so he would naturally come down against artificial hells (which is, you know, the right call in the end). But he doesn't acknowledge that there might be people sent there who genuinely did bad things.

That right there is the sort of thing monsters say.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 1:15 AM
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17

When I worked at the naieldoB, I'm pretty sure having my fines cancelled was not an option that I had. On the other hand, I did get to hold 1000 year old books in my hands, at least some of the time.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 3:05 AM
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16.1: Yes. And communism wasn't even supposed to ask sacrifice, it was supposed to ask for contribution; and the Culture does apparently require contribution from its machine citizens.
16.2: Zakalwe even has that whole speech before he kills the Ethnarch, that the Culture always finds non-violent ways to deal even with the worst people. That may not be perfect, but it beats the shit out of hells.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 5:27 AM
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19

From each according to how needy they are, are something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 5:33 AM
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"From each according to how highly they think of themselves, to each according to how needy they are."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 5:35 AM
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21

I should have been a political philosopher.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 5:42 AM
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22

Moby for Secretary-General.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 5:47 AM
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I want to be Kommissar, so I can be played onto stage by Falco.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 5:51 AM
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Expanding on 16.2, I really think that there is a fundamental division between, on the one hand, people who think that justice is no one being deprived of those benefits which they should have, and people who think that justice is no one avoiding the punishments that they should suffer. And Nussbaum seems to be in the second half, and therefore finds the Culture deeply unsettling.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 5:59 AM
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25

I think that division affects Christianity too.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 6:01 AM
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I think that for some people one of the important benefits that they feel they should derive from their virtue is that they get to enjoy the suffering of the wicked.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 6:17 AM
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27

You could call that "the Jonah Syndrome," and write a book and become a media sensation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 6:31 AM
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24: Nussbaum's (painfully verbose) review of Surface Detail:

Life's a bitch, and then you die, and if you'll forgive another moment of glibness, the whole edifice of the Culture--its egalitarian policies and byzantine political maneuvering, its well-intentioned wars and atrocities--can be summed up as a reaction to this simple axiom, and to the unstated corollary that there is nothing after death, so you might want to make life a little kinder. Surface Detail suggests another type of reaction--instead of trying to make life less cruel and unfair, make sure that there's a place after it where you can settle accounts. Rather than pitting these two approaches against each other Banks opts for what ultimately seems like a hair-splitting distinction between vengeance and sadistic vengeance.
(1) I don't think that's a hair-splitting distinction at all, especially when you're talking about simulated eternities of sadism; and (2) if a society is unable to produce justice in life it won't produce justice in its own hell either. Nussbaum is right that Banks would have written a better novel if he'd explored the pro-hell side more, but that exploration would only have strengthened his point.
the reason Lededje is moved to vengeance is that the Culture will not help her seek justice. When she discovers that the Culture will not take action on her behalf, in part because of Veppers's importance in her society, Lededje is shocked that "his position, his money protects him even here?" (p. 158), and at the end of the novel it seems that Veppers's power, and the Culture's infamous calculus of the greater good, will combine to deprive her of any chance of justice.
While it's made clear in the novel that overt Culture action against the hells would result in a galactic war, with multiple Culture-level civilizations on both sides. The greater good doesn't get much clearer than that.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 6:37 AM
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27: I think it was Tertullian who reckoned that the best thing about heaven would be the faint smell of burning, uneasily similar to the odour of roasting pork, drifting up through the Pearly Gates.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 7:15 AM
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I had never read any good of Tertullian before I read that and now I still haven't. Never mind, since he died a heretic, some of the good roasting odours are presumably him.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 7:42 AM
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28 last: Right. I think it's sort of assumed that if you're reading then you've probably read earlier Culture novels and are aware that they are skittish about direct interventions because they've gone catastrophically wrong in the past.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 8:00 AM
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31 was supposed to read "if you're reading Surface Detail". The italic tags made it disappear for some reason.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 8:01 AM
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33

We haven't moved to the more recent books but I feel like the Culture post series has drawn to a natural close, no? (I know I keep flaking out so I don't think I should promise anything again.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 8:57 AM
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I think, given the nature of the Culture series of posts, people could submit them as an ongoing, unscheduled thing, and if you/we wanted to move on to another sort of reading group, that could happen simultaneously.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 9:12 AM
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35

With the thought of possibly getting new perspectives on some of this, what would people here think about the possibility of posting a link to this very post as a comment to the LGM post?

I loved Excession, haven't read either SD or Hydrogen Sonata. It'll be a while before I get to any of the three, just recently started Tom Jones, which I'm enjoying pretty well.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 11:36 AM
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35.1: That would be interesting.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 12:20 PM
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35. I found Excession hard to read, largely because my clever-names processor and my ridiculous-typography module got all tangled with each other, so it took forever to differentiate the Minds. SD was too long but some parts were quite readable (example: the fighting interludes). HS was strange because I kept saying to myself, "Really? This is a civilization that's about to Sublime? Really?" No love for Matter? I think I liked it better than any of the above-mentioned three, both for world-building and plot.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 12:53 PM
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38

So, Tertullian having been mentioned-- what's the best single volume or chapter to read about Jerome?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04- 3-18 1:10 PM
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Posted by: Sarah | Link to this comment | 04-28-19 7:44 AM
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