Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Geek Heaven

I didn't really think of myself as a science-fiction sort until recently. Then I discovered Iain Banks' 'Culture' novels. I was feeling rather bored one day and happened to pick up a copy of Consider Phlebas which happened to be lying around, started to read it and then spent the next couple of days glued to it, stopping only for coffee and wee wees. I've only read that particular culture novel all the way through (I've skimmed the first part of a later one in the series) - the reason being that I need to finish my writing and can't risk getting hooked into another non-essential book. I'm planning, however, once I've finished my work, to buy the whole lot of Bank's sci-fi and read the whole series. It'll be my little reward to myself. I suppose I shall have to get a job as well, but I can probably manage to fit a job search around a Banksathon, somehow.

I discovered a whole load of info on Banks' sci-fi onWikipedia the other day - it's almost terrifyingly extensive and intricate. There are several pages of it. Perhaps the most interesting is this info on 'the Culture' - Banks' wonderfully well imagined futuristic society. 'The Culture' is recognisably socialist (which is, possibly, why Banks' sci-fi is so popular with lefties). Banks is himself a socialist (apparently he campaigned for the SSP) - but it's one of his strengths as an intelligent writer that, although his general sympathies clearly lie with 'the Culture', he does not depict it in a wholly positive light. There is something a little ambiguous in Banks' presentation of this egalitarian society - it is both hugely attractive and yet, slightly worrying at the same time. The key question that Banks seems to raise is this - in a society of plenty, where most causes of suffering have been overcome, where all major discoveries have been made, where there are no more heroic struggles to be waged, where humans have complete control over their own bodies and environment, where production has been almost completely automised and labour abolished... what then?

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