History Main / TheCulture

25th Mar '13 3:24:54 PM Xtifr
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-->You might call them soft, because they’re very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they’re soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be.
--->--''Use of Weapons''

The Culture is the main protagonist civilization of nine ScienceFiction novels (and some short fiction) by IainMBanks:

* ''[[TheCulture/ConsiderPhlebas Consider Phlebas]]'' (1987)
* ''[[TheCulture/ThePlayerOfGames The Player of Games]]'' (1988, typically considered the best introduction to the series)
* ''[[TheCulture/UseOfWeapons Use of Weapons]]'' (1990)
* ''The State of the Art'' (1991) A collection of short fiction, some of it set in The Culture universe.
* ''{{TheCulture/Excession}}'' (1996)
* ''Inversions'' (1998)
* ''Look To Windward'' (2000)
* ''[[TheCulture/{{Matter}} Matter]]'' (2008)
* ''[[TheCulture/SurfaceDetail Surface Detail]]'' (2010)
* ''The Hydrogen Sonata'' (2012)

The eponymous Culture is a star-spanning "empire" organized along socialist/libertarian/anarchist principles, achieved through post-scarcity technology. The seven or eight humanoid species that founded the Culture along with the others which joined later live without want, and without the need to work; practically anything they can ask for, they can receive. This is largely because the organic Culturniks are under the benevolent [[strike:de-facto dictatorship]] guidance of the AI [[DeusEstMachina Minds]] that control the starships and space habitats the entire Culture lives on.

For some, even utopia can wear thin without a sense of direction. Therefore, the Culture gleefully throws its weight behind Contact -- an agency/program/conspiracy that exists to help other species and governments in the galaxy reach the Culture's standard of living without being too disruptive of their societies. And for the cases where standard diplomacy, or even open warfare, would not help, there exist... Special Circumstances, the Special Ops wing of Contact that intervenes as discreetly as possible (but as messily as needed) to make the universe a better place, at least by the Culture's standards.

The novels mostly follow the interaction between the Culture and other species and societies -- both less and ''more'' powerful than themselves.

----
!!This series provides examples of:

* AFormYouAreComfortableWith: Avatars provide a human-scale representation of a Mind that's easier for humans to interact with and relate to. While some of them are just robots to give a human something specific to talk to, others are more advanced and act as personality filters as well. A Mind can express multiple distinct personalities by using different avatars for different purposes, none of which [[YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm even begin to do justice to]] [[DeusEstMachina the real thing]].
* AllLoveIsUnrequited: The Culture's fluid attitude to relations makes this a somewhat rare problem. Appears a lot, however, in ''Inversions''.
* AlternativeNumberSystem: The Culture uses base 9. Although this is never spelt out, the implication is that people citizens (with their natural preference for base 10) have struck a compromise with the machine citizens (with their natural preference for base 8); the willingness of Culture citizens to grant machine intelligences full citizenship status and even become dependent on them is a repeated plot point.
* AnachronicOrder:
** ''Use of Weapons'' alternates between two storylines, one running normal, the other back to front.
** ''Look To Windward'' is about 1/4 flashbacks. It's even a [[MemoryGambit plot point]].
** ''Excession'' alternates between the present and flashbacks, too.
* ApocalypseHow: The epilogue of ''Consider Phlebas'' gives the final tally of casualties of the Idiran-Culture-War in terms of sentient beings lost, destruction of ships, infrastructure, stars, etc. Spheres are Dyson Spheres, Orbitals are miniature (3 million kilometres wide) {{ringworld}}s and Rings are full-size {{ringworld}}s.
-->''Statistics. Length of war: forty-eight years, one month. Total casualties, including machines (reckoned on logarithmic sentience scale), medjel and non-combatants: 851.4 billion (± .3%). Losses: ships (all classes above interplanetary) - 91,215,660 (± 200); Orbitals - 14,334; planets and major moons - 53; Rings - 1; Spheres - 3; stars (undergoing significant induced mass-loss or sequence-position alteration) - 6.''
** Two of these star destructions are elaborated upon in ''Look to Windward''.
* ArtificialGravity: Standard on ships in the series. The orbitals use CentrifugalGravity, and the standard antigrav units in armorsuits don't work there, as a unlucky mercenary finds out.
* AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence: The Sublimed. This tends to occur when a civilisation reaches a certain tech level or societal stage. The Culture is theoretically capable of this, but they're suspicious of the fact that nearly all the other civilizations that sublimed didn't leave ''anybody'' behind. The only civilization known to have partially sublimed (the Chelgrians) is not exactly an encouraging role model either, since [[spoiler: the Sublimed Chelgrians believe ''genocide'' is a form of justice.]] Individual Culturniks can Sublime independently of everyone else.
** It's also mentioned that those Sublimed races that bother to have any communication with corporeal beings have indicated that they consider the Culture immature, hedonistic, or even selfish for ''not'' embracing sublimation at their level of development.
* AuthorAppeal: You would be forgiven for assuming that Special Circumstances is made up entirely of sexy bisexual women and their sardonic knife missile partners, and who associate exclusively with roguish men who oppose The Culture's methods.
* BackupTwin: Mindstate backups are a routine safety measure in the Culture. Since warships are guaranteed to be revived after their destruction and war can at times be slightly confusing there have been cases of real {{Backup Twin}}s meeting when it turned out the original wasn't really destroyed.
* {{Badass}}: Culture warships are deliberately designed to be somewhat gung ho, and are built to back it up. This results in said ships often putting themselves away for long storage in times of peace, because they'd get bored otherwise, and ''no-one'' wants them getting bored. If they do get bored you might just end up with another ''[[EccentricMentor Sleeper Service]]'', or if you're ''really'' unlucky, another ''[[TortureTechnician Grey Area]]'' (a.k.a [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Meatfucker]])
** The Abominator class picket ship ''Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints'' qualifies. The GFCF, who are Culture wannabes [see the Fan Boy entry], are under the impression that they're approximately equal to the Culture in technology and capable of handling Culture warships (and they are... when it comes to ordinary, centuries old Torturer class ships and they attack five to one). They are vastly disabused of this notion when they lose one third of their entire fleet, including their flagship, against this one ship. As far as the ''Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints'' is concerned, it was just a fun little skirmish that let it flex its muscles a bit.
* BatmanGambit / GambitPileUp: The drone's escape in the first chapter of ''Excession''. [[spoiler: Much else of ''Excession'' too.]] [[GambitIndex gambits]] are a hobby for the Minds.
** You could also say the entire plot of TheCulture/{{Surface Detail}}. [[spoiler: If Vatueil is in fact Cheradenine Zakalwe, we know that the Culture never took their eye off him after (or during) the events of Use of Weapons. A major part of Yime Nsokyi's plot is about how Special Circumstances tried to recruit her, and when she rejected them, they recruited and manipulated her anyway, without her knowing, simply because she was perfect for what they had intended. While she forms a rather insignificant part of the plot of the book, this proves that Special Circumstances don't let go of anybody, and are perfectly capable of the type of extreme manipulation that would be required to get Vatueil to win the war for the Anti-Hell side. They knew how we would act and put him in the right place. All along we are told that the Culture is staying out of the War, only paying a passing interest in case it spills into the Real, even though they very much have opinions about it, they are staking their entire reputation and their own Culture principles on not getting involved, and yet, if Vatueil is Zakalwe, they were more involved than anyone else, but still allowing themselves to be distant. If Vatueil had just been some random dude and the rest of the book had been identical, we couldn't conclusively say the Culture planned every moment of that book.]]
* BenevolentAlienInvasion: The purpose of Contact. Depending on the visited culture's relative level of technology/power, the approach used varies from just being present as a good example, to covert operatives acting behind the scenes, mercenary engagements, gunboat diplomacy and (as a last resort) open warfare. Most of the Culture believe that it's always for the affected civilization's best interests however, even if they disagree. A major source of dramatic conflict in the books is the level of interference which is acceptable, and whether they even should be interfering in the first place. The Peace Faction of the Culture disagrees completely, to the point of semi-secession. The Zetetic Elench of ''Excession'' are a breakaway group of the Culture, who believe it's better to be be shaped by the cultures they meet, instead of the reverse.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: The Culture's whole [[PlanetOfHats hat]] can be nicely summed up as "Space Hippies". Hippies with ''really'' big sticks. When outsiders are quizzed on the topic of The Culture and Warfare, the standard response is just: "Don't fuck with the Culture." A particularly apt example would be the fate of the Chelgrian conspirators in ''Look to Windward''. If you threaten the lives of 50 billion citizens, then there are people in the Culture who will find you, will use their most potent weapons against you, will learn all your fears, and will kill you in the most anatomically and ''philosophically'' horrific way possible.
** Several villains (including the Azadian Emperor and Veppers) hate the Culture for being weaklings who still appear to have flourished against the odds. Both seem to ignore the fact that you don't get as powerful as the Culture without having the capability of being very, very nasty indeed. But only when necessary.
** To quote the protagonist of ''TheCulture/UseOfWeapons'':
--->"You might call them soft, because they're very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they're soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be."
** Reinforced in the Hydrogen Sonata. The Mistake Not..., a powerful Culture Ship, manages to talk down a rival warship (from an avowedly martial civilisation) from attacking it by saying that the peaceful Culture have had to gradually become more martially capable from their very inception, in comparison to other races that typically start off less peaceful and gradually learn to tone down. Not to mention what the Mistake Not...'s full name is...
* {{BFG}}: The short story ''A Gift from the Culture'' mentions a antimatter-powered handgun capable of firing 10^8 W of plasma. The protagonists reflects that he would be able to level the entire city around him, in the end opting for just shooting down a starship. The gun is officially rated as a general purpose "peace" weapon not suitable for full battle use. Cheradinine Zakalwe, mercenary extraordinaire from ''Use of Weapons'', packs an arsenal of more capable arms. And, amusingly enough, an arsenal of ''less' capable, but more entertaining, arms. He seems to think that the Culture's coherent radiation energy weapons simply aren't enough fun, what with them being small, convenient, and not really bothering to waste energy on visual effects. There's a scene in which Zakalwe blows up several targets (large chunks of ice, dyed black) with a relatively primitive weapon, simply for the fun of watching it make them go boom. There's more to BFG status than merely doing a lot of damage, after all.
** ''Consider Phlebas'' features a subversion - [[spoiler: a very powerful plasma gun, probably more powerful than anything the mercenaries had, small enough to be disguised as a tooth.]]
* BizarreAlienSexes: The dominant race of the Empire of Azad has three sexes: One is male, the 'apex' has ovaries and "[[NightmareFuel a kind of reversible vagina]]", and the female has a womb. The only non-sexual difference between the sexes is the [[KickTheDog eugenically bred-in]] lowered intelligence for non-apices. Sexism here sees females as breeders and domestics, males as workhorses and disposable soldiers.
%%* BodyBackupDrive
* BrainUploading: Common in the Culture: long term storage, leisure or simply the desire to have a safe backup are all motivations for Brain Uploading. The Chelgrians from ''Look to Windward'' carry devices that store their state of mind during death so they can be sent on to heaven.
* BrickJoke: Banks uses this a lot; not for comedy, but to forcibly ram home a real [[SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale sense of scale]] to the reader. In ''[[TheCulture/ConsiderPhlebas Consider Phlebas]]'', we are introduced to megaships: cruise ships that weigh over a billion tonnes, are several hours' walk from end to end, sail round orbital ringseas because they ''aren't designed to stop'' and take several years to reach maximum speed. Over a hundred pages later, [[spoiler: the protagonist is onboard a General Systems Vehicle, and enters one of its General bays - at the edge of vision, in one of the far corners, a megaship is being packed away for transit...]]
** Also, he mentions a ship called ''But Who's Counting'' in ''Look to Windward''. The answer to the question comes a few books afterwards, in the name of the ''Me, I'm Counting'', which is one of the Culture ships in TheCulture/SurfaceDetail.
* TheButcher: in ''Use of Weapons'', the [[AxCrazy brutally insane]] character is referred to as "The Chairmaker". It makes sense considering what the chair is made of.
* BunnyEarsLawyer: a lot of the Special Circumstances ships. Also a lot of the Special Circumstances agents. ... the more sane ones seem to oscillate between CrazyAwesome and PsychoForHire. Pretty much every Culturnik can turn into one: the guy who's getting stoned thanks to the glands implanted into his brain, spending his days involved in orgies and his nights playing [[DeepImmersionGaming the much more involved local version of WoW]] might suddenly decides to build by himself ships capable of [[FasterThanLightTravel traveling at 10 light years per hour]]. Keep in mind that the Culture managed to become one of the most powerful and feared civilization while being [[BrilliantButLazy laid back]].
* CantArgueWithElves: Surprisingly averted. Despite the Culture being canonically ''the'' perfect civilization, no member who ever gets caught up in a debate can ever fully defend its ideals. Then again, this would be considered a positive aspect by The Culture, which looks down upon blind nationalism and ideological inflexibility.
* CentrifugalGravity: Orbitals, large enough that they need force fields to keep from tearing themselves apart.
* CombatTentacles: Never really used as such, but it's made clear that a lot of the activity the Affront engage in would not be possible for the average Culture citizen without wearing a special contact suit or having their genes modified.
* CoolShip: The whole range between 200km long arks in space carrying hundreds of millions of people and warships which can obliterate whole star systems, every single last of them controlled by those wacky godlike [=AIs=]. Also, most of their names are slightly on the humorous/cynical side. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_(The_Culture) See for yourself.]]
* DataPad: Some Culture citizens who don't want to use Neural laces have Tablets.
* DeadpanSnarker: Drones in general, and Diziet Sma's escort drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw from ''Use Of Weapons'' and ''State Of The Art'' in particular. A lot of the Minds are snarky. Especially the [=GCUs=].
* DeadPersonImpersonation: The Changer impersonates the Captain of a group of SpacePirates in ''Consider Phlebas'' [[spoiler: and the protagonist of ''Use of Weapons'' is a particularly despicable example of this]].
* DeathIsCheap: The Culture, as well as many other advanced societies, offer citizens the ability to backup their memories so that they can be reincarnated in a newly grown (or manufactured if they happen to be AIs) body if they get killed. Partially subverted in that some people deliberately choose not to use said technology, often because high risk sports are not exciting without the fear of death (did we mention how damn eccentric the average Culture citizen is?).
** However, death is also permanent: the characters are aware that a memory backup will still be another person when it is awakened for the benefit of their friends or employers, and for that particular instance of themselves, life is still over. Doesn't bother them very much as the Culture sees the copy as having equal value as the original.
*** However, Mind State copies are occasionally transmitted as raw data when long distance communication isn't possible, resulting in a temporary mental copy of the person transmitted. These copies are usually deleted when they are no longer required, without any rancour or bitterness.
** The Culture apparently have the technology to pull off a genuine ''transfer'' of consciousness, but it's high-tech even by their own standards. Also not too useful for preventing accidents, since accidents don't tend to happen when a Mind is watching you ''that'' closely.
* DeathSeeker: Major Quilan in ''Look To Windward'' [[spoiler: and also the Masaq' Orbital Hub Mind.]]
%%* DeepImmersionGaming
%%* DeflectorShields: Fields.
* DeusEstMachina: The Minds.
--> ''"Never forget I am not this silver body, Mahrai. I am not an animal brain, I am not even some attempt to produce an Al through software running on a computer. I am a Culture Mind. We are close to gods, and on the far side. We are quicker; we live faster and more completely than you do, with so many more senses, such a greater store of memories and at such a fine level of detail."''
** For Minds, base level reality is ridiculously boring. So they [[MindScrew don't actually live in it.]]
*** To briefly elaborate, a Mind can perform its day to day functions with a minuscule amount of its processing power. The rest of it can be used to mentally simulate 12 dimensional universes inside their own "heads". The only problem is that it can become very addictive.
* DoAnythingRobot: Drones, thanks to their forcefields.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: A leader in ''Use of Weapons'' is guilty of rounding up unpopular ethnic minorities and sending them away on trains, supposedly for [[ReleasedToElsewhere resettlement elsewhere]], but they are never seen again, a reference to NaziGermany . BilingualBonus; he has the title "Ethnarch," which means ''leader of a race.'' Very much the kind of title a Hitler {{Expy}} would award himself.
** There's also that Commandant in ''Excession''. [[spoiler:He gets a MindScrew from the ''Grey Area'' and dies horribly.]]
* DownerEnding: In the first novel, ''Consider Phlebas'', [[spoiler:every character except two dies, and one of them is said to have chosen suicide later on in life. The other lived a long happy existence, and is probably still around at the present date of the books]]. If you start the series with that book, beware: it's very depressing. ''Matter'' probably also qualifies.
%%* EnemyMine
* EpunymousTitle / TitleDrop / YouAreTheTranslatedForeignWord: As is alluded to at the beginning of the novel, in the Culture's language, Marain, the sobriquet Morat in the name of Jernau Morat Gurgeh translates to "the player of games". Towards the end of the novel, an Azadian who knows about the Culture refers to him as Morat, "the player of games". Their middle names are effectively self-chosen official nicknames. {{Lampshaded}} when another character comments that Gurgeh should have chosen another name: "gambler."
* EveryoneIsBi: Members of the Culture can change sex and sexual orientation at will. In ''The Player of Games'' the main character is considered somewhat odd because he has never been a woman or had sex with a man.
* EvilChancellor: At the beginning of ''Matter'', a king's chief adviser and closest friend murders him, and then immediately sets himself up as a RegentForLife.
* ExpositionOfImmortality: A number of different entities across the Culture novels are either effectively immortal - drones and Minds certainly don't age or get ill - or very long-lived; most Cultureniks will have a lifespan approaching four centuries, potentially longer if they spend time in Storage or opt to have their consciousness uploaded. Most Culture warships, as an example, were created during the Idiran War which occurred roughly 600 to 1600 years before the later novels (post-''Consider Phlebas'') timeframes. Any ship Mind who remembers or actively participated in the Idiran War is, therefore, several hundred years old. Many drones are stated to be thousands of years old, constructed in the early days of the Culture as a society; their age reflected in their larger bodies and less advanced technologies.
* {{Fanboy}}: The GFCF in "Surface Detail". They are a less advanced species who have seen the power of the Culture and try to imitate it as much as possible whilst singing the Culture's praises publicly. However, everything they do is slightly off. They don't believe in granting AI's sentience rights, are perfectly happy with the idea of multiple mind state clones existing at the same time (something that does happen in the Culture, but try to avoid it as much as possible), and flat out get the whole ship naming idea wrong. Normally, the Culture likes civilisations following its example. Normally...
** As it happens, there is a very good reason for that.
* FasterThanLightTravel: ''And How!'' The Culture literally doesn't have a ship that goes less than 500-1000 lights. Some of the faster demilitarized warships go upwards of 11 000 times the speed of light, and in Excession, a member of one of the largest ship classes hits approx. 223 000 times the speed of light![[hottip:*:Albeit only by packing much of its volume solid with engine.]]
* FeudalFuture: Not quite the future, but within the science fiction universe of the series, there are a number of non-Culture humanoid societies who could have stepped out of MedievalEuropeanFantasy. Notably, ''Matter'' and ''Inversions'' use this type of setting to a great degree.
* FluffyTheTerrible: Having a battleship that can destroy solar systems on a whim controlled by omnipotent [=AIs=] called (for example) ''Problem Child'' kinda qualifies. A more literal example appears in ''Use Of Weapons'', when Diziet Sma is aboard a warship that chooses as its avatar a small furry creature that asks Sma for a cuddle. In the same conversation:
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' Xeny; you are a million-tonne starship; a Torturer class Rapid Offensive Unit. Even -
-->'''Xenophobe:''' But I'm demilitarised!
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' Even without your principal armament, I bet you could waste planets if you wanted to -
-->'''Xenophobe''': Aw, come on; any silly GCU can do that!
* FromASingleCell: To make destroying the Culture harder, every single Ship of the Culture is able to rebuild it without help from others. This is just one of their backup plans.
* GenderBender: Culture citizens can change their sex at will (over a period of months).
* GeniusLoci: Every orbital, hub or other population center is controlled by one or more Minds.
* GiantFlyer: Appear in both ''Look to Windward'' and ''Matter''.
* {{Gorn}}: In the Empire of Azad, this is the favored programming, but is kept hidden from tourists. Common programs include footage of soldiers raping women in conquered territories and televised punishments consisting of rape and torture. Also, some musical instruments are made out of people's bones (music critics).
* HandCannon: Some novels in TheCulture have these.
* TheHandler: Diziet Sma to Zakalwe. Also Flere-Imsaho to Gurgeh.
* {{Heaven}}
* TheHedonist: The [=AhForgetIt=] Tendency, for citizens who think the Culture proper is too serious(!!)
* HegemonicEmpire: The Culture itself.
** Intentionally averted by the Zetetic Elench, one of the Culture's offshoot civilizations, who explicitly set out to be influenced rather than to influence others. They seem to be even less cohesive than the Culture as a result, since having any worlds at all would rather defeat the point.
* HomosexualReproduction: A major plot point in ''Excession'' revolves around the common lovers' practice of simultaneous pregnancies: after one half of the couple gets pregnant, they both change sexes (which stalls but doesn't abort the pregnancy), the other person gets pregnant, and then the now-male one becomes female again.
* HuntingTheMostDangerousGame: The old King Beddun, a tertiary character in ''Inversions'', has hunted illegal poachers.
* HypocriticalHumor: Generally not called attention to, but several books show the Culture being NotSoDifferent than traits they criticize in their enemies. ''Use of Weapons'' has a lot of these: Skaffen-Amtiskaw considers Zakalwe AxCrazy (OK, he is) but Skaffen-Amtiskaw has a scene where he brutally slaughters some bandits in an incredibly {{{Gorn}}y way, basically having the machine-equivalent of an orgasm while he does it; Zakalawe acts really TriggerHappy when he sees a room full of Culture weaponry to the disapproval of his partners, the question of why the supposedly peaceful Culture has created so many weapons isn't answered; Zakalawe is disgusted by a decadent (non-Culture local) party where the guests deliberately gave themselves [[BodyHorror sickening looking]] (but painless and reversible) injuries. Earlier in the novel, Sma is on a Culture ship where out of boredom, everyone decided to get colds. What is interesting though is that the Culture accepts it's being hypocritical. It just doesn't care. It's actually the reason why the main male protagonist in ''Excession'' wants to switch to an entirely different species.
* TheImmodestOrgasm: The norm in the Culture on account of the use of body modification to increase sexual pleasure. The first time Zakalwe has sex with a Culture woman, he is really startled and afraid he's hurting her.
* InsignificantLittleBluePlanet: See ALongTimeAgoInAGalaxyFarFarAway below. The appendix of ''Consider Phlebas'' says Earth is Contacted in the 22nd Century.
* [[spoiler:KillEmAll]]: As mentioned above the ending of ''Consider Phlebas'' [[spoiler: manages to kill everyone but the Mind they were looking for]]. ''Matter'' doesn't really fare a lot better. It's also the approach that some [=ROUs=] employ. Surprisingly enough ''not'' the philosophies of the ''Shoot Them Later'' and ''Killing Time''. Well, when they're not faced with someone who [[TooDumbToLive wants to pick a fight]].
* LiteraryAllusionTitle: Both ''Look to Windward'' and ''Consider Phlebas'' are lines from Creator/TSEliot's ''The Waste Land''.
* LeaningOnTheFourthWall: Xide Hyrlis in ''Matter'', addressing people secretly monitoring him for entertainment, though given an in-story reason to do so.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfRules: Azad from ''The Player of Games'' is described to the protagonist like this:
--> "The idea, you see, is that Azad is so complex, so subtle, so flexible and so demanding that it is as precise and comprehensive a model of life as it is possible to construct. Whoever succeeds at the game succeeds in life; the same qualities are required in each to ensure dominance."
** Since any place in the hierarchy of the "Empire of Azad" is assigned by one's success in an Azad tournament, this may be a case of SelfFulfillingProphecy. Though as it turns out, Azad really ''is'' a model of the player's approach to life: the Culture player's strategies mirror the Culture's basic philosophy and the Emperor's are purely imperialistic. [[spoiler: So much so that when the Culture player actually ''wins'', the Emperor goes AxCrazy and the entire empire revolts. At least partly because the Culture lied to the Culture player. It's not a nice friendly game, the result may very well determine whether the Azad Empire is taken over by the Culture or not. At least that's what the Culture ''told'' the Emperor, but, by the time the reader finds this out, the reader has long since discovered that the Culture also has no compunction whatsoever about lying, when necessary. One possible interpretation is that the Culture had no plans to come in and take over, because the Minds involved knew that simply adding that to the stress the Emperor (and the Empire) was under would cause him to snap. Another is, well, yes, they ''would'' come in, all guns blazing. The question is very definitely not settled by the time the book ends, but rendered rather moot by the Emperor going nuts and killing the gathered heads of the Empire's government. It may be a case of FridgeBrilliance on the Culture's part if they actually believed in the accuracy of Azad. If their player lost, the Empire would be a credible threat to their way of life. If he won, they just proved they don't need to bother with an invasion, because they have just proven to the Empire that the Culture is effectively superior and can out compete them into extinction if need be]]
* LongevityTreatment: Citizens are genetically engineered to live for centuries, longer if they feel like it.
* ALongTimeAgoInAGalaxyFarFarAway:
** Earth is only mentioned in the short story ''The State of the Art'' where a Culture ship and its crew visit our planet (in 1977). Humanity is totally oblivious to their presence. The mainline novels occur in the timeframe between AD 1300 and AD 2100. [[note]]''[[TheCulture/UseOfWeapons Use of Weapons]]'' very briefly implies one of the characters has been to Earth; it's Diziet Sma, whose recounts her time on Earth in ''The State of the Art''.[[/note]] The epilogue of ''[[TheCulture/ConsiderPhlebas Consider Phlebas]]'' describes the Culture-Idiran War of the book's setting as part of a translation once Earth is contacted. The war's date is fixed between the 13th and 14th Century AD.
** The name of the ''Bodhisattva OAQS''[[note]] '''O'''n '''A'''ctive '''Q'''uietudinal '''S'''ervice [[/note]] (in ''TheCulture/SurfaceDetail'') vaguely implies Earth has made at least a very small cultural contribution by the time of that book's setting (sometime in the 27th+ century AD).
%% * MalignantPlotTumor: ''Matter''
* MeaningfulName: The ships names reflect their Mind's personality or function. TheOtherWiki provides a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_%28The_Culture%29 full list]].
* MechanicalEvolution: it's been at least twelve thousand years since Minds stopped being anything resembling an AI that could be designed by a team of humans.
* MechanicalLifeforms: A lot. The Culture's Drones and ships, the Nauptre Reliquaria from ''Surface Detail'' and [=HegSwarms=] are some of the examples.
* MemoryGambit: The Chelgrians' scheme in ''Look to Windward'' involves one.
* MentalFusion: Minds are capable of this to varying degrees. An Avatar normally acts like a direct embodiment of a Mind, but only represents a tiny fraction of its attention; Avatars become independent beings when separated from the Mind for some reason, but retain its memories and have no trouble slotting right back in when reunited with it; a Mind can directly control and subsume thousands of Mind-subcores, which can split off in the same way if the ship needs to launch shuttles or weapons platforms; and for the biggest example, Culture capital assets like GSVs or Orbitals are actually controlled by more than one Mind unit, linked to provide greater stability and power.
* AMillionIsAStatistic: The postscript on the [[StealthPun Culture Wars]] as noted in ApocalypseHow relates the deaths of trillions in a dry, deadpan tone. It's not even a big war by galactic history standards (or maybe it was; the description is a bit inconsistent).
* MindOverManners: Culture Minds, drones and ships are all quite capable of mind reading, but it is one of the society's biggest taboos. The one ship that regularly engages in mind-reading and -manipulation is disdainfully referred to as ''Meatfucker'' by its peers even centuries after its disappearance from the galaxy. To put this in perspective, calling the ship in question ''Meatfucker'' instead of its chosen name is considered such an insult that most Minds would commit suicide in shame over it.
%%* TheMinnesotaFats: The Excession.
* MyGirlIsASlut: As The Culture is a free-love society, there is no stigma attached to promiscuity in either gender. They generally go with the EthicalSlut philosophy. The heroine of ''Use of Weapons'' does receive some snark from her RobotBuddy for her sexual habits, such as having an orgy with the entire crew of a starship, but no one looks upon her badly for this, and the male protagonist of the novel is definitely attracted to her. In fact, in one book the protagonist is called a barbarian because [[EveryoneIsBi he doesn't sleep with men]] and hasn't ever done a GenderBender. Although in ''Excession'', the male protagonist ReallyGetsAround, and sort of subverts the free-love ideology, by promising a degree of monogamy to someone (who [[YouHaveBeenWarned warned him multiple times what it would cost him]]) and then [[spoiler: [[StupidityIsTheOnlyOption cheated on her while she was pregnant.]]]]. [[WomanScorned She]] [[BreakTheCutie did]] ''[[UnstoppableRage not]]'' [[AxCrazy take it well.]]
* MyGirlIsNotASlut: On the other hand, the parts of ''Excession'' that aren't driven by the TitleDrop are driven by one woman who abstains from the Culture's sexual mores after her immediate youth.
* {{Nanomachines}}: Multiple occurrences e.g. an assassin made of [[{{Nanomachines}} e-dust]] and a [[{{Nanomachines}} memoryform]] [[ScaramangaSpecial gun disguised as a tooth]].
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Both averted and played straight. Even the Culture warships, that are capable of levelling star systems, have snarky names like the ''Frank Exchange of Views'' or the ''Attitude Adjuster''. However, warship class names are things like ''Gangster''-class, ''Psychopath''-class, and ''Torturer''-class. Also counts as {{Meaningful Name}}s, since it shows how the Culture really feels about going to war.
* [[NotUsingTheZWord Not Using The C Word]]: ''Inversions'' is set in this universe, but the Culture is never named as such. Special Circumstances gets a name check.
%%* NiceJobBreakingItHero: ''Matter''. Also collides with DontTouchItYouIdiot, due to the small problem of the SealedEvilInACan that ''someone'' [[SchmuckBait decided to open!]]
* ObfuscatingStupidity: The protagonist's sidekick-drone in ''The Player of Games'' is instructed not only to wear a significantly larger hull, but also to occasionally shoot sparks, bump into things and pretend not to understand more than the Culture's own language in order to mask its true level of sophistication. [[spoiler: In the end it is revealed, that even its inner hull was a disguise. He was in fact the drone that manipulated the protagonist into embarking onto the mission in the first place.]]
* OutOfTheInferno: In ''Consider Phlebas'' a Culture ship actually hides itself in the upper layers of a sun.
* OverlyLongName:
** People in the Culture have multi-part names including the star system, world and place where they were born or constructed, their family name -- or a name relating to the role they were built for, their given first name and a name chosen for themselves, in the order Star-World Firstname Chosenname Familyname Placeoforigin, e.g. "Sun-Earther Iain El-Bonko Banks of South Queensferry." In general use, they use the given name and family name.
** Chelgrian names can be even longer: one character observes that Culture names function as addresses, but Chelgrian names function as biographies. A Chelgrian character who is from the highest social class, has served in the military and then entered a monastery and grieves for his wife (killed in war) has all of these attributes reflected in his full name.
** The ''Mistake Not...'''s full name is extremely long, so even other ships abbreviate it.
* PlanetSpaceship: The General Systems Vehicles. You know that bit at the beginning of ''Franchise/StarWars'', where the Star Destroyer swallows up the Tantive IV into its docking bay? Picture a ship that could do that... to the Death Star. Twice.
%%* PlotParallel
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: The average Culture citizen lives for about 300-400 years as a perfectly healthy young adult. One can become truly immortal by choice, but most avoid doing so because it is considered tacky. The minds and drones, of course, do not age at all and may be millennia old. A biological Culture Citizen can choose to stop their ageing or suspend telomeric degeneration but full blown biological immortality (which has been medically possible for thousands of years) is seen as being rather tasteless.
* RidiculouslyHumanRobots:
** While the drones are not anthropomorphic in any way, they can at times be more relatable than the human characters. They are also built with an aura or field which changes color to reflect their current emotion.
** Avatars, on the other hand, which are constructs sometimes used by Minds to talk to and interact with humans, can be realistic enough to fool humans at close range and even cursory scans by other ships (they can also be obviously robotic if the Mind so desires). If separated from the Mind for some reason, they can essentially become superhumans in their own right.
*** It's entirely possible for a normal human to serve as an avatar, if this amuses the ship and human in question, resulting in a ''Literally'' Human Robot. This is seen as a bit creepy for the most part.
* RunningGag: Due to ship naming conventions in the Culture (or more precisely the lack thereof) it is said that an unnamed civilization once criticized the Culture's ships for having names lacking in gravitas appropriate to their immense power. The Minds appear to have decided to have a bit of fun with this, some of them naming ships things like "Stood Far Back When The Gravitas Was Handed Out", "Gravitas... Gravitas... No, Don't Help Me, I'll Get It In A Moment...", "Low Gravitas Warning Signal", "Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall" and "Gravitas Free Zone".
* SapientShip: The Culture's ships have the ability to repair and modify themselfes and are under the control of godlike Minds.
* ScaryDogmaticAliens: While the Culture has a [[OutgrownSuchSillySuperstitions rather condenscending view]] of the religious beliefs of other civilizations, most outsiders see the Culture's view on religion (often described as some variant of "militant secularism") as frightening and cult-like.
** Played straight with the Idirans.
%%* SealedEvilInACan: [[spoiler:The Iln from ''Matter'']]
* ShoutOut: One Culture ex-warship in ''Matter'' goes by the name of ''[[FiveRoundsRapid Eight Rounds Rapid]]''.
* SlidingScaleOfRobotIntelligence: Most depicted knife-missiles and drones fall into the close-to-human band of the spectrum, while Minds, as mentioned above, are depicted as something of a [[DeusEstMachina scale-breaker]].
* SociopathicHero: Special Circumstances employ them on a regular basis. Some exiled-Minds are also Sociopathic Heroes.
* SomeCallMeTim: Culture citizens, both humanoid and drone are bearers of [[OverlyLongName overly long names]] but commonly go by a shorter version. One of the closest examples to the trope is Diziet Sma, whose actual name is much longer and is nicknamed "Dizzy" by her RobotBuddy.
* SpaceJews: The ScaryDogmaticAliens of ''Consider Phlebas'', the Idirans, actually have the term "jihad" used in the "translation" of their speech, and Banks is obviously drawing from at least some aspects of the West vs. Middle East conflict (the Idrians' fanatical religious views only came about as a result of unprovoked invasions by their enemies (eg. the Crusades leading to Islamic Fundamentalism) and the protagonists' arguments against the materialistic, interfering nature of the Culture mirror much contemporary 'anti-Western' feeling.
* SpaceNomads: Most people in The Culture live their lives on space craft which travel around, and consider planetary life to be a weird concept.
%%* StarshipLuxurious
* StateSec: ''Contact'' and ''Special Circumstances'' nominally serves as the Culture's Foreign Office and Secret Service, respectively. However, when war comes around, ''Contact'' then serves as a military arm, while SC takes care of military intel and special operations.
* [[TheydCutYouUp They'd Cut You Up]]: Diziet Sma says this to a Contact colleague who plans to stay on Earth.
* TechnicalPacifist: The message of the Culture to the universe could be summarized as "make love, not war: you have no chance of beating us anyway."
* TechnologyMarchesOn: While the Culture was always ridiculously technologically advanced, it's kind of noticeable that details like the very instant message/message board discussion-like Mind communications only started being mentioned in more recent books, written after the internet entered popular use.
* TitleDrop: There is one in ''Matter'':
--> Holse smiled sadly. "Matter, eh, sir?"\\
"Matter." Hyrlis sighed.
* TractorBeam: Effectors are sometimes used this way.
%%* {{Transhuman}}: Well, duh.
* TranslationConvention: Marain, the Culture's official language, doesn't distinguish between genders, but the novels still do the way we normally do. Many other concepts embodied in the language itself seem to be hard to translate, as a narrating drone in ''State of the Art'' complains about having to do just that.
** There are also complaints from the narrator in ''Player of Games'' about having to translate pronouns of a three-gendered species from Marain to English.
* {{Utopia}}: the Culture.
** [[WordOfGod Straight from the horse's mouth]]: [[http://nerdworld.blogs.time.com/2008/02/29/iain_banks_the_matter_intervie/]]
--->''' ''Do you think of the Culture as a utopia? Would you live in it, if you could?'' '''
--->Good grief yes, to both! What's not to like? ...Well, unless you're actually a fascist or a power junkie or sincerely believe that money rather than happiness is what really matters in life. And even people with those bizarre beliefs are catered for in the Culture, albeit in extreme-immersion VR environments.
* UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans: This is Special Circumstances entire reason for existence:
-->'''Zakalwe:''' I thought the rules were meant to be the same for everybody.
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' They are. But in Special Circumstances we deal in the moral equivalent of black holes, where the normal laws -- the rules of right and wrong that people imagine apply everywhere else in the universe -- break down; beyond those metaphysical event-horizons, there exist... special circumstances. That's us. That's our territory; our domain.
-->'''Zakalwe:''' To some people, that might sound like just a good excuse for bad behaviour.
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' And perhaps they would be right. Maybe that is all it is. But if nothing else, at least we need an excuse; think how many people need none at all.
** Crucially, the Culture's own utopian society is not in itself dependent on morally reprehensible means.
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: Bora's species, the Changers, in ''Consider Phlebas'' can change (over a period of days) to look like anyone they want.
* WeWillHavePerfectHealthInTheFuture: People in the Culture actually exercise a great degree of control over their physiology, from common functions such as ignoring pain from injuries, to more exotic functions such as gravitational adaptation (in ''Player of Games'', though in that case it kicked in automatically, and in ''Excession'', where this is done willingly). In ''Use of Weapons,'' some people decide to give themselves colds out of boredom, implying that they wouldn't have them otherwise. So, yes, the Culture ''has'' cured the common cold.
* WeaponOfMassDestruction: Anything a Culture ship might use during space combat qualifies, with gridfire and antimatter bombardment probably straying into DoomsdayDevice-territory. (Gridfire, incidentally, involves using the ''fabric of space and time'' as a weapon.) Along with some of their ''handheld'' weapons, as well. The pocket-size gun in ''A Gift from the Culture'' comes to mind.
* WhatMeasureIsANonHuman: Played with. The Culture has sentient drones, space ships, space suits, ''guns''. All are considered citizens, in their own way.
** To the extent that even a nanoscale tattoo / personal protection device has a name and is a citizen. Excession gives a brief elaboration; namely that if a device's functioning is above a certain threshold of AI sophistication, it has the "right" to be considered a sentient, and thus potentially a Culture Citizen.
%%* WeWillNotUsePhotoshopInTheFuture: Avoided in ''The Player of Games''
* YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm: it's literally impossible for a human mind to contain enough information to understand how a Mind works or thinks, which is why it's easier to interact with avatars. Can be averted to a ''very'' limited extent by augmenting the human. This can also cause some significant trauma for an entity like an avatar if it gets cut off from its parent Mind, because it no longer has the mental power to ''comprehend its own memories'' properly.
----

to:

-->You might call them soft, because they’re very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they’re soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be.
--->--''Use of Weapons''

The Culture is the main protagonist civilization of nine ScienceFiction novels (and some short fiction) by IainMBanks:

* ''[[TheCulture/ConsiderPhlebas Consider Phlebas]]'' (1987)
* ''[[TheCulture/ThePlayerOfGames The Player of Games]]'' (1988, typically considered the best introduction to the series)
* ''[[TheCulture/UseOfWeapons Use of Weapons]]'' (1990)
* ''The State of the Art'' (1991) A collection of short fiction, some of it set in The Culture universe.
* ''{{TheCulture/Excession}}'' (1996)
* ''Inversions'' (1998)
* ''Look To Windward'' (2000)
* ''[[TheCulture/{{Matter}} Matter]]'' (2008)
* ''[[TheCulture/SurfaceDetail Surface Detail]]'' (2010)
* ''The Hydrogen Sonata'' (2012)

The eponymous Culture is a star-spanning "empire" organized along socialist/libertarian/anarchist principles, achieved through post-scarcity technology. The seven or eight humanoid species that founded the Culture along with the others which joined later live without want, and without the need to work; practically anything they can ask for, they can receive. This is largely because the organic Culturniks are under the benevolent [[strike:de-facto dictatorship]] guidance of the AI [[DeusEstMachina Minds]] that control the starships and space habitats the entire Culture lives on.

For some, even utopia can wear thin without a sense of direction. Therefore, the Culture gleefully throws its weight behind Contact -- an agency/program/conspiracy that exists to help other species and governments in the galaxy reach the Culture's standard of living without being too disruptive of their societies. And for the cases where standard diplomacy, or even open warfare, would not help, there exist... Special Circumstances, the Special Ops wing of Contact that intervenes as discreetly as possible (but as messily as needed) to make the universe a better place, at least by the Culture's standards.

The novels mostly follow the interaction between the Culture and other species and societies -- both less and ''more'' powerful than themselves.

----
!!This series provides examples of:

* AFormYouAreComfortableWith: Avatars provide a human-scale representation of a Mind that's easier for humans to interact with and relate to. While some of them are just robots to give a human something specific to talk to, others are more advanced and act as personality filters as well. A Mind can express multiple distinct personalities by using different avatars for different purposes, none of which [[YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm even begin to do justice to]] [[DeusEstMachina the real thing]].
* AllLoveIsUnrequited: The Culture's fluid attitude to relations makes this a somewhat rare problem. Appears a lot, however, in ''Inversions''.
* AlternativeNumberSystem: The Culture uses base 9. Although this is never spelt out, the implication is that people citizens (with their natural preference for base 10) have struck a compromise with the machine citizens (with their natural preference for base 8); the willingness of Culture citizens to grant machine intelligences full citizenship status and even become dependent on them is a repeated plot point.
* AnachronicOrder:
** ''Use of Weapons'' alternates between two storylines, one running normal, the other back to front.
** ''Look To Windward'' is about 1/4 flashbacks. It's even a [[MemoryGambit plot point]].
** ''Excession'' alternates between the present and flashbacks, too.
* ApocalypseHow: The epilogue of ''Consider Phlebas'' gives the final tally of casualties of the Idiran-Culture-War in terms of sentient beings lost, destruction of ships, infrastructure, stars, etc. Spheres are Dyson Spheres, Orbitals are miniature (3 million kilometres wide) {{ringworld}}s and Rings are full-size {{ringworld}}s.
-->''Statistics. Length of war: forty-eight years, one month. Total casualties, including machines (reckoned on logarithmic sentience scale), medjel and non-combatants: 851.4 billion (± .3%). Losses: ships (all classes above interplanetary) - 91,215,660 (± 200); Orbitals - 14,334; planets and major moons - 53; Rings - 1; Spheres - 3; stars (undergoing significant induced mass-loss or sequence-position alteration) - 6.''
** Two of these star destructions are elaborated upon in ''Look to Windward''.
* ArtificialGravity: Standard on ships in the series. The orbitals use CentrifugalGravity, and the standard antigrav units in armorsuits don't work there, as a unlucky mercenary finds out.
* AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence: The Sublimed. This tends to occur when a civilisation reaches a certain tech level or societal stage. The Culture is theoretically capable of this, but they're suspicious of the fact that nearly all the other civilizations that sublimed didn't leave ''anybody'' behind. The only civilization known to have partially sublimed (the Chelgrians) is not exactly an encouraging role model either, since [[spoiler: the Sublimed Chelgrians believe ''genocide'' is a form of justice.]] Individual Culturniks can Sublime independently of everyone else.
** It's also mentioned that those Sublimed races that bother to have any communication with corporeal beings have indicated that they consider the Culture immature, hedonistic, or even selfish for ''not'' embracing sublimation at their level of development.
* AuthorAppeal: You would be forgiven for assuming that Special Circumstances is made up entirely of sexy bisexual women and their sardonic knife missile partners, and who associate exclusively with roguish men who oppose The Culture's methods.
* BackupTwin: Mindstate backups are a routine safety measure in the Culture. Since warships are guaranteed to be revived after their destruction and war can at times be slightly confusing there have been cases of real {{Backup Twin}}s meeting when it turned out the original wasn't really destroyed.
* {{Badass}}: Culture warships are deliberately designed to be somewhat gung ho, and are built to back it up. This results in said ships often putting themselves away for long storage in times of peace, because they'd get bored otherwise, and ''no-one'' wants them getting bored. If they do get bored you might just end up with another ''[[EccentricMentor Sleeper Service]]'', or if you're ''really'' unlucky, another ''[[TortureTechnician Grey Area]]'' (a.k.a [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Meatfucker]])
** The Abominator class picket ship ''Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints'' qualifies. The GFCF, who are Culture wannabes [see the Fan Boy entry], are under the impression that they're approximately equal to the Culture in technology and capable of handling Culture warships (and they are... when it comes to ordinary, centuries old Torturer class ships and they attack five to one). They are vastly disabused of this notion when they lose one third of their entire fleet, including their flagship, against this one ship. As far as the ''Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints'' is concerned, it was just a fun little skirmish that let it flex its muscles a bit.
* BatmanGambit / GambitPileUp: The drone's escape in the first chapter of ''Excession''. [[spoiler: Much else of ''Excession'' too.]] [[GambitIndex gambits]] are a hobby for the Minds.
** You could also say the entire plot of TheCulture/{{Surface Detail}}. [[spoiler: If Vatueil is in fact Cheradenine Zakalwe, we know that the Culture never took their eye off him after (or during) the events of Use of Weapons. A major part of Yime Nsokyi's plot is about how Special Circumstances tried to recruit her, and when she rejected them, they recruited and manipulated her anyway, without her knowing, simply because she was perfect for what they had intended. While she forms a rather insignificant part of the plot of the book, this proves that Special Circumstances don't let go of anybody, and are perfectly capable of the type of extreme manipulation that would be required to get Vatueil to win the war for the Anti-Hell side. They knew how we would act and put him in the right place. All along we are told that the Culture is staying out of the War, only paying a passing interest in case it spills into the Real, even though they very much have opinions about it, they are staking their entire reputation and their own Culture principles on not getting involved, and yet, if Vatueil is Zakalwe, they were more involved than anyone else, but still allowing themselves to be distant. If Vatueil had just been some random dude and the rest of the book had been identical, we couldn't conclusively say the Culture planned every moment of that book.]]
* BenevolentAlienInvasion: The purpose of Contact. Depending on the visited culture's relative level of technology/power, the approach used varies from just being present as a good example, to covert operatives acting behind the scenes, mercenary engagements, gunboat diplomacy and (as a last resort) open warfare. Most of the Culture believe that it's always for the affected civilization's best interests however, even if they disagree. A major source of dramatic conflict in the books is the level of interference which is acceptable, and whether they even should be interfering in the first place. The Peace Faction of the Culture disagrees completely, to the point of semi-secession. The Zetetic Elench of ''Excession'' are a breakaway group of the Culture, who believe it's better to be be shaped by the cultures they meet, instead of the reverse.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: The Culture's whole [[PlanetOfHats hat]] can be nicely summed up as "Space Hippies". Hippies with ''really'' big sticks. When outsiders are quizzed on the topic of The Culture and Warfare, the standard response is just: "Don't fuck with the Culture." A particularly apt example would be the fate of the Chelgrian conspirators in ''Look to Windward''. If you threaten the lives of 50 billion citizens, then there are people in the Culture who will find you, will use their most potent weapons against you, will learn all your fears, and will kill you in the most anatomically and ''philosophically'' horrific way possible.
** Several villains (including the Azadian Emperor and Veppers) hate the Culture for being weaklings who still appear to have flourished against the odds. Both seem to ignore the fact that you don't get as powerful as the Culture without having the capability of being very, very nasty indeed. But only when necessary.
** To quote the protagonist of ''TheCulture/UseOfWeapons'':
--->"You might call them soft, because they're very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they're soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be."
** Reinforced in the Hydrogen Sonata. The Mistake Not..., a powerful Culture Ship, manages to talk down a rival warship (from an avowedly martial civilisation) from attacking it by saying that the peaceful Culture have had to gradually become more martially capable from their very inception, in comparison to other races that typically start off less peaceful and gradually learn to tone down. Not to mention what the Mistake Not...'s full name is...
* {{BFG}}: The short story ''A Gift from the Culture'' mentions a antimatter-powered handgun capable of firing 10^8 W of plasma. The protagonists reflects that he would be able to level the entire city around him, in the end opting for just shooting down a starship. The gun is officially rated as a general purpose "peace" weapon not suitable for full battle use. Cheradinine Zakalwe, mercenary extraordinaire from ''Use of Weapons'', packs an arsenal of more capable arms. And, amusingly enough, an arsenal of ''less' capable, but more entertaining, arms. He seems to think that the Culture's coherent radiation energy weapons simply aren't enough fun, what with them being small, convenient, and not really bothering to waste energy on visual effects. There's a scene in which Zakalwe blows up several targets (large chunks of ice, dyed black) with a relatively primitive weapon, simply for the fun of watching it make them go boom. There's more to BFG status than merely doing a lot of damage, after all.
** ''Consider Phlebas'' features a subversion - [[spoiler: a very powerful plasma gun, probably more powerful than anything the mercenaries had, small enough to be disguised as a tooth.]]
* BizarreAlienSexes: The dominant race of the Empire of Azad has three sexes: One is male, the 'apex' has ovaries and "[[NightmareFuel a kind of reversible vagina]]", and the female has a womb. The only non-sexual difference between the sexes is the [[KickTheDog eugenically bred-in]] lowered intelligence for non-apices. Sexism here sees females as breeders and domestics, males as workhorses and disposable soldiers.
%%* BodyBackupDrive
* BrainUploading: Common in the Culture: long term storage, leisure or simply the desire to have a safe backup are all motivations for Brain Uploading. The Chelgrians from ''Look to Windward'' carry devices that store their state of mind during death so they can be sent on to heaven.
* BrickJoke: Banks uses this a lot; not for comedy, but to forcibly ram home a real [[SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale sense of scale]] to the reader. In ''[[TheCulture/ConsiderPhlebas Consider Phlebas]]'', we are introduced to megaships: cruise ships that weigh over a billion tonnes, are several hours' walk from end to end, sail round orbital ringseas because they ''aren't designed to stop'' and take several years to reach maximum speed. Over a hundred pages later, [[spoiler: the protagonist is onboard a General Systems Vehicle, and enters one of its General bays - at the edge of vision, in one of the far corners, a megaship is being packed away for transit...]]
** Also, he mentions a ship called ''But Who's Counting'' in ''Look to Windward''. The answer to the question comes a few books afterwards, in the name of the ''Me, I'm Counting'', which is one of the Culture ships in TheCulture/SurfaceDetail.
* TheButcher: in ''Use of Weapons'', the [[AxCrazy brutally insane]] character is referred to as "The Chairmaker". It makes sense considering what the chair is made of.
* BunnyEarsLawyer: a lot of the Special Circumstances ships. Also a lot of the Special Circumstances agents. ... the more sane ones seem to oscillate between CrazyAwesome and PsychoForHire. Pretty much every Culturnik can turn into one: the guy who's getting stoned thanks to the glands implanted into his brain, spending his days involved in orgies and his nights playing [[DeepImmersionGaming the much more involved local version of WoW]] might suddenly decides to build by himself ships capable of [[FasterThanLightTravel traveling at 10 light years per hour]]. Keep in mind that the Culture managed to become one of the most powerful and feared civilization while being [[BrilliantButLazy laid back]].
* CantArgueWithElves: Surprisingly averted. Despite the Culture being canonically ''the'' perfect civilization, no member who ever gets caught up in a debate can ever fully defend its ideals. Then again, this would be considered a positive aspect by The Culture, which looks down upon blind nationalism and ideological inflexibility.
* CentrifugalGravity: Orbitals, large enough that they need force fields to keep from tearing themselves apart.
* CombatTentacles: Never really used as such, but it's made clear that a lot of the activity the Affront engage in would not be possible for the average Culture citizen without wearing a special contact suit or having their genes modified.
* CoolShip: The whole range between 200km long arks in space carrying hundreds of millions of people and warships which can obliterate whole star systems, every single last of them controlled by those wacky godlike [=AIs=]. Also, most of their names are slightly on the humorous/cynical side. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_(The_Culture) See for yourself.]]
* DataPad: Some Culture citizens who don't want to use Neural laces have Tablets.
* DeadpanSnarker: Drones in general, and Diziet Sma's escort drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw from ''Use Of Weapons'' and ''State Of The Art'' in particular. A lot of the Minds are snarky. Especially the [=GCUs=].
* DeadPersonImpersonation: The Changer impersonates the Captain of a group of SpacePirates in ''Consider Phlebas'' [[spoiler: and the protagonist of ''Use of Weapons'' is a particularly despicable example of this]].
* DeathIsCheap: The Culture, as well as many other advanced societies, offer citizens the ability to backup their memories so that they can be reincarnated in a newly grown (or manufactured if they happen to be AIs) body if they get killed. Partially subverted in that some people deliberately choose not to use said technology, often because high risk sports are not exciting without the fear of death (did we mention how damn eccentric the average Culture citizen is?).
** However, death is also permanent: the characters are aware that a memory backup will still be another person when it is awakened for the benefit of their friends or employers, and for that particular instance of themselves, life is still over. Doesn't bother them very much as the Culture sees the copy as having equal value as the original.
*** However, Mind State copies are occasionally transmitted as raw data when long distance communication isn't possible, resulting in a temporary mental copy of the person transmitted. These copies are usually deleted when they are no longer required, without any rancour or bitterness.
** The Culture apparently have the technology to pull off a genuine ''transfer'' of consciousness, but it's high-tech even by their own standards. Also not too useful for preventing accidents, since accidents don't tend to happen when a Mind is watching you ''that'' closely.
* DeathSeeker: Major Quilan in ''Look To Windward'' [[spoiler: and also the Masaq' Orbital Hub Mind.]]
%%* DeepImmersionGaming
%%* DeflectorShields: Fields.
* DeusEstMachina: The Minds.
--> ''"Never forget I am not this silver body, Mahrai. I am not an animal brain, I am not even some attempt to produce an Al through software running on a computer. I am a Culture Mind. We are close to gods, and on the far side. We are quicker; we live faster and more completely than you do, with so many more senses, such a greater store of memories and at such a fine level of detail."''
** For Minds, base level reality is ridiculously boring. So they [[MindScrew don't actually live in it.]]
*** To briefly elaborate, a Mind can perform its day to day functions with a minuscule amount of its processing power. The rest of it can be used to mentally simulate 12 dimensional universes inside their own "heads". The only problem is that it can become very addictive.
* DoAnythingRobot: Drones, thanks to their forcefields.
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: A leader in ''Use of Weapons'' is guilty of rounding up unpopular ethnic minorities and sending them away on trains, supposedly for [[ReleasedToElsewhere resettlement elsewhere]], but they are never seen again, a reference to NaziGermany . BilingualBonus; he has the title "Ethnarch," which means ''leader of a race.'' Very much the kind of title a Hitler {{Expy}} would award himself.
** There's also that Commandant in ''Excession''. [[spoiler:He gets a MindScrew from the ''Grey Area'' and dies horribly.]]
* DownerEnding: In the first novel, ''Consider Phlebas'', [[spoiler:every character except two dies, and one of them is said to have chosen suicide later on in life. The other lived a long happy existence, and is probably still around at the present date of the books]]. If you start the series with that book, beware: it's very depressing. ''Matter'' probably also qualifies.
%%* EnemyMine
* EpunymousTitle / TitleDrop / YouAreTheTranslatedForeignWord: As is alluded to at the beginning of the novel, in the Culture's language, Marain, the sobriquet Morat in the name of Jernau Morat Gurgeh translates to "the player of games". Towards the end of the novel, an Azadian who knows about the Culture refers to him as Morat, "the player of games". Their middle names are effectively self-chosen official nicknames. {{Lampshaded}} when another character comments that Gurgeh should have chosen another name: "gambler."
* EveryoneIsBi: Members of the Culture can change sex and sexual orientation at will. In ''The Player of Games'' the main character is considered somewhat odd because he has never been a woman or had sex with a man.
* EvilChancellor: At the beginning of ''Matter'', a king's chief adviser and closest friend murders him, and then immediately sets himself up as a RegentForLife.
* ExpositionOfImmortality: A number of different entities across the Culture novels are either effectively immortal - drones and Minds certainly don't age or get ill - or very long-lived; most Cultureniks will have a lifespan approaching four centuries, potentially longer if they spend time in Storage or opt to have their consciousness uploaded. Most Culture warships, as an example, were created during the Idiran War which occurred roughly 600 to 1600 years before the later novels (post-''Consider Phlebas'') timeframes. Any ship Mind who remembers or actively participated in the Idiran War is, therefore, several hundred years old. Many drones are stated to be thousands of years old, constructed in the early days of the Culture as a society; their age reflected in their larger bodies and less advanced technologies.
* {{Fanboy}}: The GFCF in "Surface Detail". They are a less advanced species who have seen the power of the Culture and try to imitate it as much as possible whilst singing the Culture's praises publicly. However, everything they do is slightly off. They don't believe in granting AI's sentience rights, are perfectly happy with the idea of multiple mind state clones existing at the same time (something that does happen in the Culture, but try to avoid it as much as possible), and flat out get the whole ship naming idea wrong. Normally, the Culture likes civilisations following its example. Normally...
** As it happens, there is a very good reason for that.
* FasterThanLightTravel: ''And How!'' The Culture literally doesn't have a ship that goes less than 500-1000 lights. Some of the faster demilitarized warships go upwards of 11 000 times the speed of light, and in Excession, a member of one of the largest ship classes hits approx. 223 000 times the speed of light![[hottip:*:Albeit only by packing much of its volume solid with engine.]]
* FeudalFuture: Not quite the future, but within the science fiction universe of the series, there are a number of non-Culture humanoid societies who could have stepped out of MedievalEuropeanFantasy. Notably, ''Matter'' and ''Inversions'' use this type of setting to a great degree.
* FluffyTheTerrible: Having a battleship that can destroy solar systems on a whim controlled by omnipotent [=AIs=] called (for example) ''Problem Child'' kinda qualifies. A more literal example appears in ''Use Of Weapons'', when Diziet Sma is aboard a warship that chooses as its avatar a small furry creature that asks Sma for a cuddle. In the same conversation:
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' Xeny; you are a million-tonne starship; a Torturer class Rapid Offensive Unit. Even -
-->'''Xenophobe:''' But I'm demilitarised!
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' Even without your principal armament, I bet you could waste planets if you wanted to -
-->'''Xenophobe''': Aw, come on; any silly GCU can do that!
* FromASingleCell: To make destroying the Culture harder, every single Ship of the Culture is able to rebuild it without help from others. This is just one of their backup plans.
* GenderBender: Culture citizens can change their sex at will (over a period of months).
* GeniusLoci: Every orbital, hub or other population center is controlled by one or more Minds.
* GiantFlyer: Appear in both ''Look to Windward'' and ''Matter''.
* {{Gorn}}: In the Empire of Azad, this is the favored programming, but is kept hidden from tourists. Common programs include footage of soldiers raping women in conquered territories and televised punishments consisting of rape and torture. Also, some musical instruments are made out of people's bones (music critics).
* HandCannon: Some novels in TheCulture have these.
* TheHandler: Diziet Sma to Zakalwe. Also Flere-Imsaho to Gurgeh.
* {{Heaven}}
* TheHedonist: The [=AhForgetIt=] Tendency, for citizens who think the Culture proper is too serious(!!)
* HegemonicEmpire: The Culture itself.
** Intentionally averted by the Zetetic Elench, one of the Culture's offshoot civilizations, who explicitly set out to be influenced rather than to influence others. They seem to be even less cohesive than the Culture as a result, since having any worlds at all would rather defeat the point.
* HomosexualReproduction: A major plot point in ''Excession'' revolves around the common lovers' practice of simultaneous pregnancies: after one half of the couple gets pregnant, they both change sexes (which stalls but doesn't abort the pregnancy), the other person gets pregnant, and then the now-male one becomes female again.
* HuntingTheMostDangerousGame: The old King Beddun, a tertiary character in ''Inversions'', has hunted illegal poachers.
* HypocriticalHumor: Generally not called attention to, but several books show the Culture being NotSoDifferent than traits they criticize in their enemies. ''Use of Weapons'' has a lot of these: Skaffen-Amtiskaw considers Zakalwe AxCrazy (OK, he is) but Skaffen-Amtiskaw has a scene where he brutally slaughters some bandits in an incredibly {{{Gorn}}y way, basically having the machine-equivalent of an orgasm while he does it; Zakalawe acts really TriggerHappy when he sees a room full of Culture weaponry to the disapproval of his partners, the question of why the supposedly peaceful Culture has created so many weapons isn't answered; Zakalawe is disgusted by a decadent (non-Culture local) party where the guests deliberately gave themselves [[BodyHorror sickening looking]] (but painless and reversible) injuries. Earlier in the novel, Sma is on a Culture ship where out of boredom, everyone decided to get colds. What is interesting though is that the Culture accepts it's being hypocritical. It just doesn't care. It's actually the reason why the main male protagonist in ''Excession'' wants to switch to an entirely different species.
* TheImmodestOrgasm: The norm in the Culture on account of the use of body modification to increase sexual pleasure. The first time Zakalwe has sex with a Culture woman, he is really startled and afraid he's hurting her.
* InsignificantLittleBluePlanet: See ALongTimeAgoInAGalaxyFarFarAway below. The appendix of ''Consider Phlebas'' says Earth is Contacted in the 22nd Century.
* [[spoiler:KillEmAll]]: As mentioned above the ending of ''Consider Phlebas'' [[spoiler: manages to kill everyone but the Mind they were looking for]]. ''Matter'' doesn't really fare a lot better. It's also the approach that some [=ROUs=] employ. Surprisingly enough ''not'' the philosophies of the ''Shoot Them Later'' and ''Killing Time''. Well, when they're not faced with someone who [[TooDumbToLive wants to pick a fight]].
* LiteraryAllusionTitle: Both ''Look to Windward'' and ''Consider Phlebas'' are lines from Creator/TSEliot's ''The Waste Land''.
* LeaningOnTheFourthWall: Xide Hyrlis in ''Matter'', addressing people secretly monitoring him for entertainment, though given an in-story reason to do so.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfRules: Azad from ''The Player of Games'' is described to the protagonist like this:
--> "The idea, you see, is that Azad is so complex, so subtle, so flexible and so demanding that it is as precise and comprehensive a model of life as it is possible to construct. Whoever succeeds at the game succeeds in life; the same qualities are required in each to ensure dominance."
** Since any place in the hierarchy of the "Empire of Azad" is assigned by one's success in an Azad tournament, this may be a case of SelfFulfillingProphecy. Though as it turns out, Azad really ''is'' a model of the player's approach to life: the Culture player's strategies mirror the Culture's basic philosophy and the Emperor's are purely imperialistic. [[spoiler: So much so that when the Culture player actually ''wins'', the Emperor goes AxCrazy and the entire empire revolts. At least partly because the Culture lied to the Culture player. It's not a nice friendly game, the result may very well determine whether the Azad Empire is taken over by the Culture or not. At least that's what the Culture ''told'' the Emperor, but, by the time the reader finds this out, the reader has long since discovered that the Culture also has no compunction whatsoever about lying, when necessary. One possible interpretation is that the Culture had no plans to come in and take over, because the Minds involved knew that simply adding that to the stress the Emperor (and the Empire) was under would cause him to snap. Another is, well, yes, they ''would'' come in, all guns blazing. The question is very definitely not settled by the time the book ends, but rendered rather moot by the Emperor going nuts and killing the gathered heads of the Empire's government. It may be a case of FridgeBrilliance on the Culture's part if they actually believed in the accuracy of Azad. If their player lost, the Empire would be a credible threat to their way of life. If he won, they just proved they don't need to bother with an invasion, because they have just proven to the Empire that the Culture is effectively superior and can out compete them into extinction if need be]]
* LongevityTreatment: Citizens are genetically engineered to live for centuries, longer if they feel like it.
* ALongTimeAgoInAGalaxyFarFarAway:
** Earth is only mentioned in the short story ''The State of the Art'' where a Culture ship and its crew visit our planet (in 1977). Humanity is totally oblivious to their presence. The mainline novels occur in the timeframe between AD 1300 and AD 2100. [[note]]''[[TheCulture/UseOfWeapons Use of Weapons]]'' very briefly implies one of the characters has been to Earth; it's Diziet Sma, whose recounts her time on Earth in ''The State of the Art''.[[/note]] The epilogue of ''[[TheCulture/ConsiderPhlebas Consider Phlebas]]'' describes the Culture-Idiran War of the book's setting as part of a translation once Earth is contacted. The war's date is fixed between the 13th and 14th Century AD.
** The name of the ''Bodhisattva OAQS''[[note]] '''O'''n '''A'''ctive '''Q'''uietudinal '''S'''ervice [[/note]] (in ''TheCulture/SurfaceDetail'') vaguely implies Earth has made at least a very small cultural contribution by the time of that book's setting (sometime in the 27th+ century AD).
%% * MalignantPlotTumor: ''Matter''
* MeaningfulName: The ships names reflect their Mind's personality or function. TheOtherWiki provides a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_%28The_Culture%29 full list]].
* MechanicalEvolution: it's been at least twelve thousand years since Minds stopped being anything resembling an AI that could be designed by a team of humans.
* MechanicalLifeforms: A lot. The Culture's Drones and ships, the Nauptre Reliquaria from ''Surface Detail'' and [=HegSwarms=] are some of the examples.
* MemoryGambit: The Chelgrians' scheme in ''Look to Windward'' involves one.
* MentalFusion: Minds are capable of this to varying degrees. An Avatar normally acts like a direct embodiment of a Mind, but only represents a tiny fraction of its attention; Avatars become independent beings when separated from the Mind for some reason, but retain its memories and have no trouble slotting right back in when reunited with it; a Mind can directly control and subsume thousands of Mind-subcores, which can split off in the same way if the ship needs to launch shuttles or weapons platforms; and for the biggest example, Culture capital assets like GSVs or Orbitals are actually controlled by more than one Mind unit, linked to provide greater stability and power.
* AMillionIsAStatistic: The postscript on the [[StealthPun Culture Wars]] as noted in ApocalypseHow relates the deaths of trillions in a dry, deadpan tone. It's not even a big war by galactic history standards (or maybe it was; the description is a bit inconsistent).
* MindOverManners: Culture Minds, drones and ships are all quite capable of mind reading, but it is one of the society's biggest taboos. The one ship that regularly engages in mind-reading and -manipulation is disdainfully referred to as ''Meatfucker'' by its peers even centuries after its disappearance from the galaxy. To put this in perspective, calling the ship in question ''Meatfucker'' instead of its chosen name is considered such an insult that most Minds would commit suicide in shame over it.
%%* TheMinnesotaFats: The Excession.
* MyGirlIsASlut: As The Culture is a free-love society, there is no stigma attached to promiscuity in either gender. They generally go with the EthicalSlut philosophy. The heroine of ''Use of Weapons'' does receive some snark from her RobotBuddy for her sexual habits, such as having an orgy with the entire crew of a starship, but no one looks upon her badly for this, and the male protagonist of the novel is definitely attracted to her. In fact, in one book the protagonist is called a barbarian because [[EveryoneIsBi he doesn't sleep with men]] and hasn't ever done a GenderBender. Although in ''Excession'', the male protagonist ReallyGetsAround, and sort of subverts the free-love ideology, by promising a degree of monogamy to someone (who [[YouHaveBeenWarned warned him multiple times what it would cost him]]) and then [[spoiler: [[StupidityIsTheOnlyOption cheated on her while she was pregnant.]]]]. [[WomanScorned She]] [[BreakTheCutie did]] ''[[UnstoppableRage not]]'' [[AxCrazy take it well.]]
* MyGirlIsNotASlut: On the other hand, the parts of ''Excession'' that aren't driven by the TitleDrop are driven by one woman who abstains from the Culture's sexual mores after her immediate youth.
* {{Nanomachines}}: Multiple occurrences e.g. an assassin made of [[{{Nanomachines}} e-dust]] and a [[{{Nanomachines}} memoryform]] [[ScaramangaSpecial gun disguised as a tooth]].
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Both averted and played straight. Even the Culture warships, that are capable of levelling star systems, have snarky names like the ''Frank Exchange of Views'' or the ''Attitude Adjuster''. However, warship class names are things like ''Gangster''-class, ''Psychopath''-class, and ''Torturer''-class. Also counts as {{Meaningful Name}}s, since it shows how the Culture really feels about going to war.
* [[NotUsingTheZWord Not Using The C Word]]: ''Inversions'' is set in this universe, but the Culture is never named as such. Special Circumstances gets a name check.
%%* NiceJobBreakingItHero: ''Matter''. Also collides with DontTouchItYouIdiot, due to the small problem of the SealedEvilInACan that ''someone'' [[SchmuckBait decided to open!]]
* ObfuscatingStupidity: The protagonist's sidekick-drone in ''The Player of Games'' is instructed not only to wear a significantly larger hull, but also to occasionally shoot sparks, bump into things and pretend not to understand more than the Culture's own language in order to mask its true level of sophistication. [[spoiler: In the end it is revealed, that even its inner hull was a disguise. He was in fact the drone that manipulated the protagonist into embarking onto the mission in the first place.]]
* OutOfTheInferno: In ''Consider Phlebas'' a Culture ship actually hides itself in the upper layers of a sun.
* OverlyLongName:
** People in the Culture have multi-part names including the star system, world and place where they were born or constructed, their family name -- or a name relating to the role they were built for, their given first name and a name chosen for themselves, in the order Star-World Firstname Chosenname Familyname Placeoforigin, e.g. "Sun-Earther Iain El-Bonko Banks of South Queensferry." In general use, they use the given name and family name.
** Chelgrian names can be even longer: one character observes that Culture names function as addresses, but Chelgrian names function as biographies. A Chelgrian character who is from the highest social class, has served in the military and then entered a monastery and grieves for his wife (killed in war) has all of these attributes reflected in his full name.
** The ''Mistake Not...'''s full name is extremely long, so even other ships abbreviate it.
* PlanetSpaceship: The General Systems Vehicles. You know that bit at the beginning of ''Franchise/StarWars'', where the Star Destroyer swallows up the Tantive IV into its docking bay? Picture a ship that could do that... to the Death Star. Twice.
%%* PlotParallel
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: The average Culture citizen lives for about 300-400 years as a perfectly healthy young adult. One can become truly immortal by choice, but most avoid doing so because it is considered tacky. The minds and drones, of course, do not age at all and may be millennia old. A biological Culture Citizen can choose to stop their ageing or suspend telomeric degeneration but full blown biological immortality (which has been medically possible for thousands of years) is seen as being rather tasteless.
* RidiculouslyHumanRobots:
** While the drones are not anthropomorphic in any way, they can at times be more relatable than the human characters. They are also built with an aura or field which changes color to reflect their current emotion.
** Avatars, on the other hand, which are constructs sometimes used by Minds to talk to and interact with humans, can be realistic enough to fool humans at close range and even cursory scans by other ships (they can also be obviously robotic if the Mind so desires). If separated from the Mind for some reason, they can essentially become superhumans in their own right.
*** It's entirely possible for a normal human to serve as an avatar, if this amuses the ship and human in question, resulting in a ''Literally'' Human Robot. This is seen as a bit creepy for the most part.
* RunningGag: Due to ship naming conventions in the Culture (or more precisely the lack thereof) it is said that an unnamed civilization once criticized the Culture's ships for having names lacking in gravitas appropriate to their immense power. The Minds appear to have decided to have a bit of fun with this, some of them naming ships things like "Stood Far Back When The Gravitas Was Handed Out", "Gravitas... Gravitas... No, Don't Help Me, I'll Get It In A Moment...", "Low Gravitas Warning Signal", "Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall" and "Gravitas Free Zone".
* SapientShip: The Culture's ships have the ability to repair and modify themselfes and are under the control of godlike Minds.
* ScaryDogmaticAliens: While the Culture has a [[OutgrownSuchSillySuperstitions rather condenscending view]] of the religious beliefs of other civilizations, most outsiders see the Culture's view on religion (often described as some variant of "militant secularism") as frightening and cult-like.
** Played straight with the Idirans.
%%* SealedEvilInACan: [[spoiler:The Iln from ''Matter'']]
* ShoutOut: One Culture ex-warship in ''Matter'' goes by the name of ''[[FiveRoundsRapid Eight Rounds Rapid]]''.
* SlidingScaleOfRobotIntelligence: Most depicted knife-missiles and drones fall into the close-to-human band of the spectrum, while Minds, as mentioned above, are depicted as something of a [[DeusEstMachina scale-breaker]].
* SociopathicHero: Special Circumstances employ them on a regular basis. Some exiled-Minds are also Sociopathic Heroes.
* SomeCallMeTim: Culture citizens, both humanoid and drone are bearers of [[OverlyLongName overly long names]] but commonly go by a shorter version. One of the closest examples to the trope is Diziet Sma, whose actual name is much longer and is nicknamed "Dizzy" by her RobotBuddy.
* SpaceJews: The ScaryDogmaticAliens of ''Consider Phlebas'', the Idirans, actually have the term "jihad" used in the "translation" of their speech, and Banks is obviously drawing from at least some aspects of the West vs. Middle East conflict (the Idrians' fanatical religious views only came about as a result of unprovoked invasions by their enemies (eg. the Crusades leading to Islamic Fundamentalism) and the protagonists' arguments against the materialistic, interfering nature of the Culture mirror much contemporary 'anti-Western' feeling.
* SpaceNomads: Most people in The Culture live their lives on space craft which travel around, and consider planetary life to be a weird concept.
%%* StarshipLuxurious
* StateSec: ''Contact'' and ''Special Circumstances'' nominally serves as the Culture's Foreign Office and Secret Service, respectively. However, when war comes around, ''Contact'' then serves as a military arm, while SC takes care of military intel and special operations.
* [[TheydCutYouUp They'd Cut You Up]]: Diziet Sma says this to a Contact colleague who plans to stay on Earth.
* TechnicalPacifist: The message of the Culture to the universe could be summarized as "make love, not war: you have no chance of beating us anyway."
* TechnologyMarchesOn: While the Culture was always ridiculously technologically advanced, it's kind of noticeable that details like the very instant message/message board discussion-like Mind communications only started being mentioned in more recent books, written after the internet entered popular use.
* TitleDrop: There is one in ''Matter'':
--> Holse smiled sadly. "Matter, eh, sir?"\\
"Matter." Hyrlis sighed.
* TractorBeam: Effectors are sometimes used this way.
%%* {{Transhuman}}: Well, duh.
* TranslationConvention: Marain, the Culture's official language, doesn't distinguish between genders, but the novels still do the way we normally do. Many other concepts embodied in the language itself seem to be hard to translate, as a narrating drone in ''State of the Art'' complains about having to do just that.
** There are also complaints from the narrator in ''Player of Games'' about having to translate pronouns of a three-gendered species from Marain to English.
* {{Utopia}}: the Culture.
** [[WordOfGod Straight from the horse's mouth]]: [[http://nerdworld.blogs.time.com/2008/02/29/iain_banks_the_matter_intervie/]]
--->''' ''Do you think of the Culture as a utopia? Would you live in it, if you could?'' '''
--->Good grief yes, to both! What's not to like? ...Well, unless you're actually a fascist or a power junkie or sincerely believe that money rather than happiness is what really matters in life. And even people with those bizarre beliefs are catered for in the Culture, albeit in extreme-immersion VR environments.
* UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans: This is Special Circumstances entire reason for existence:
-->'''Zakalwe:''' I thought the rules were meant to be the same for everybody.
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' They are. But in Special Circumstances we deal in the moral equivalent of black holes, where the normal laws -- the rules of right and wrong that people imagine apply everywhere else in the universe -- break down; beyond those metaphysical event-horizons, there exist... special circumstances. That's us. That's our territory; our domain.
-->'''Zakalwe:''' To some people, that might sound like just a good excuse for bad behaviour.
-->'''Diziet Sma:''' And perhaps they would be right. Maybe that is all it is. But if nothing else, at least we need an excuse; think how many people need none at all.
** Crucially, the Culture's own utopian society is not in itself dependent on morally reprehensible means.
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: Bora's species, the Changers, in ''Consider Phlebas'' can change (over a period of days) to look like anyone they want.
* WeWillHavePerfectHealthInTheFuture: People in the Culture actually exercise a great degree of control over their physiology, from common functions such as ignoring pain from injuries, to more exotic functions such as gravitational adaptation (in ''Player of Games'', though in that case it kicked in automatically, and in ''Excession'', where this is done willingly). In ''Use of Weapons,'' some people decide to give themselves colds out of boredom, implying that they wouldn't have them otherwise. So, yes, the Culture ''has'' cured the common cold.
* WeaponOfMassDestruction: Anything a Culture ship might use during space combat qualifies, with gridfire and antimatter bombardment probably straying into DoomsdayDevice-territory. (Gridfire, incidentally, involves using the ''fabric of space and time'' as a weapon.) Along with some of their ''handheld'' weapons, as well. The pocket-size gun in ''A Gift from the Culture'' comes to mind.
* WhatMeasureIsANonHuman: Played with. The Culture has sentient drones, space ships, space suits, ''guns''. All are considered citizens, in their own way.
** To the extent that even a nanoscale tattoo / personal protection device has a name and is a citizen. Excession gives a brief elaboration; namely that if a device's functioning is above a certain threshold of AI sophistication, it has the "right" to be considered a sentient, and thus potentially a Culture Citizen.
%%* WeWillNotUsePhotoshopInTheFuture: Avoided in ''The Player of Games''
* YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm: it's literally impossible for a human mind to contain enough information to understand how a Mind works or thinks, which is why it's easier to interact with avatars. Can be averted to a ''very'' limited extent by augmenting the human. This can also cause some significant trauma for an entity like an avatar if it gets cut off from its parent Mind, because it no longer has the mental power to ''comprehend its own memories'' properly.
----
[[redirect:Literature/TheCulture]]
3rd Mar '13 7:07:22 AM Revoran
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Added DiffLines:

* SpaceNomads: Most people in The Culture live their lives on space craft which travel around, and consider planetary life to be a weird concept.
21st Jan '13 12:42:38 PM Xtifr
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Added DiffLines:

* PlanetSpaceship: The General Systems Vehicles. You know that bit at the beginning of ''Franchise/StarWars'', where the Star Destroyer swallows up the Tantive IV into its docking bay? Picture a ship that could do that... to the Death Star. Twice.
19th Jan '13 7:34:42 AM desdendelle
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* AnachronicOrder: ''Use of Weapons'' alternates between two storylines, one running normal, the other back to front. ''Look To Windward'' is about 1/4 flashbacks. It's even a [[MemoryGambit plot point]].
** Also ''Excession''.

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* AnachronicOrder: AnachronicOrder:
**
''Use of Weapons'' alternates between two storylines, one running normal, the other back to front. front.
**
''Look To Windward'' is about 1/4 flashbacks. It's even a [[MemoryGambit plot point]].
** Also ''Excession''.''Excession'' alternates between the present and flashbacks, too.



* BodyBackupDrive

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* %%* BodyBackupDrive



* DeepImmersionGaming
* DeflectorShields: Fields.

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* %%* DeepImmersionGaming
* %%* DeflectorShields: Fields.



* EnemyMine

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* %%* EnemyMine



* FanBoy: The GFCF in "Surface Detail". They are a less advanced species who have seen the power of the Culture and try to imitate it as much as possible whilst singing the Culture's praises publicly. However, everything they do is slightly off. They don't believe in granting AI's sentience rights, are perfectly happy with the idea of multiple mind state clones existing at the same time (something that does happen in the Culture, but try to avoid it as much as possible), and flat out get the whole ship naming idea wrong. Normally, the Culture likes civilisations following its example. Normally...

to:

* FanBoy: {{Fanboy}}: The GFCF in "Surface Detail". They are a less advanced species who have seen the power of the Culture and try to imitate it as much as possible whilst singing the Culture's praises publicly. However, everything they do is slightly off. They don't believe in granting AI's sentience rights, are perfectly happy with the idea of multiple mind state clones existing at the same time (something that does happen in the Culture, but try to avoid it as much as possible), and flat out get the whole ship naming idea wrong. Normally, the Culture likes civilisations following its example. Normally...



* HypocriticalHumor: Generally not called attention to, but several books show the Culture being NotSoDifferent than traits they criticize in their enemies. ''Use of Weapons'' has a lot of these: Skaffen-Amtiskaw considers Zakalwe AxCrazy (OK, he is) but Skaffen-Atiskaw has a scene where he brutally slaughters some bandits in an incredibly {{{Gorn}}y way, basically having the machine-equivalent of an orgasm while he does it; Zakalawe acts really TriggerHappy when he sees a room full of Culture weaponry to the disapproval of his partners, the question of why the supposedly peaceful Culture has created so many weapons isn't answered; Zakalawe is disgusted by a decadent (non-Culture local) party where the guests deliberately gave themselves [[BodyHorror sickening looking]] (but painless and reversible) injuries. Earlier in the novel, Sma is on a Culture ship where out of boredom, everyone decided to get colds. What is interesting though is that the Culture accepts it's being hypocritical. It just doesn't care. It's actually the reason why the main male protagonist in ''Excession'' wants to switch to an entirely different species.

to:

* HypocriticalHumor: Generally not called attention to, but several books show the Culture being NotSoDifferent than traits they criticize in their enemies. ''Use of Weapons'' has a lot of these: Skaffen-Amtiskaw considers Zakalwe AxCrazy (OK, he is) but Skaffen-Atiskaw Skaffen-Amtiskaw has a scene where he brutally slaughters some bandits in an incredibly {{{Gorn}}y way, basically having the machine-equivalent of an orgasm while he does it; Zakalawe acts really TriggerHappy when he sees a room full of Culture weaponry to the disapproval of his partners, the question of why the supposedly peaceful Culture has created so many weapons isn't answered; Zakalawe is disgusted by a decadent (non-Culture local) party where the guests deliberately gave themselves [[BodyHorror sickening looking]] (but painless and reversible) injuries. Earlier in the novel, Sma is on a Culture ship where out of boredom, everyone decided to get colds. What is interesting though is that the Culture accepts it's being hypocritical. It just doesn't care. It's actually the reason why the main male protagonist in ''Excession'' wants to switch to an entirely different species.



* MalignantPlotTumor: ''Matter''

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%% * MalignantPlotTumor: ''Matter''



* MechanicalLifeforms

to:

* MechanicalLifeformsMechanicalLifeforms: A lot. The Culture's Drones and ships, the Nauptre Reliquaria from ''Surface Detail'' and [=HegSwarms=] are some of the examples.



* TheMinnesotaFats: The Excession.

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* %%* TheMinnesotaFats: The Excession.



* NiceJobBreakingItHero: ''Matter''. FacePalm. Also collides with DontTouchItYouIdiot, due to the small problem of the SealedEvilInACan that ''someone'' [[SchmuckBait decided to open!]]

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* %%* NiceJobBreakingItHero: ''Matter''. FacePalm.''Matter''. Also collides with DontTouchItYouIdiot, due to the small problem of the SealedEvilInACan that ''someone'' [[SchmuckBait decided to open!]]



* PlotParallel

to:

* %%* PlotParallel



* SealedEvilInACan: [[spoiler:The Iln from ''Matter'']]

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* %%* SealedEvilInACan: [[spoiler:The Iln from ''Matter'']]



* StarshipLuxurious

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* %%* StarshipLuxurious



* {{Transhuman}}: Well, duh.

to:

* %%* {{Transhuman}}: Well, duh.



* WeWillNotUsePhotoshopInTheFuture: Avoided in ''The Player of Games''

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* %%* WeWillNotUsePhotoshopInTheFuture: Avoided in ''The Player of Games''
19th Jan '13 2:55:26 AM Jinren
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* MechanicalEvolution: it's been at least twelve thousand years since Minds stopped being anything resembling an AI that could be designed by a team of humans.
19th Jan '13 2:49:22 AM Jinren
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* AFormYouAreComfortableWith: Avatars provide a human-scale representation of a Mind that's easier for humans to interact with and relate to. While some of them are just robots to give a human something specific to talk to, others are more advanced and act as personality filters as well. A Mind can express multiple distinct personalities by using different avatars for different purposes, none of which [[YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm even begin to do justice to]] [[DeusEstMachina the real thing]].


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* YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm: it's literally impossible for a human mind to contain enough information to understand how a Mind works or thinks, which is why it's easier to interact with avatars. Can be averted to a ''very'' limited extent by augmenting the human. This can also cause some significant trauma for an entity like an avatar if it gets cut off from its parent Mind, because it no longer has the mental power to ''comprehend its own memories'' properly.
13th Jan '13 8:30:48 AM zarpaulus
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* DataPad: Some Culture citizens who don't want to use Neural laces have Tablets.
6th Jan '13 6:50:43 PM sadron
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The Culture is the main protagonist civilization of eight ScienceFiction novels (and some short fiction) by IainMBanks:

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The Culture is the main protagonist civilization of eight nine ScienceFiction novels (and some short fiction) by IainMBanks:
29th Dec '12 8:38:25 AM kilian
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* AlternativeNumberSystem: The Culture uses base 9.

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* AlternativeNumberSystem: The Culture uses base 9. Although this is never spelt out, the implication is that people citizens (with their natural preference for base 10) have struck a compromise with the machine citizens (with their natural preference for base 8); the willingness of Culture citizens to grant machine intelligences full citizenship status and even become dependent on them is a repeated plot point.
29th Dec '12 1:39:11 AM JimmyTMalice
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** The ''Mistake Not...'''s full name is extremely long, so even other ships abbreviate it.
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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/article_history.php?article=Main.TheCulture