The Culture of "The Culture"

BookThe Culture of "The Culture"

The Culture of "The Culture"

Utopian Processes in Iain M. Banks's Space Opera Series

Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and Studies, 65


January 5th, 2021

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In a career that spanned over thirty years, Iain M. Banks became one of the best-loved and most prolific writers in Britain, with his space opera series concerned with the pan-galactic utopian civilisation known as "the Culture" widely regarded as his most significant contribution to science fiction. The Culture of "The Culture" focuses solely on this series, providing a comprehensive, thematic analysis of Banks’s Culture stories from Consider Phlebas to The Hydrogen Sonata. It explores the development of Banks’s political, philosophical and literary thought, arguing that the Culture offers both an image of a harmonious civilisation modelled on an alternative socialist form of globalisation and a critique of our neo-liberal present. As Joseph Norman explains, the Culture is the result of an ongoing utopian process, attempting through the application of technoscience to move beyond obstacles to progress such as imperialism, capitalism, the human condition, religious dogma, patriarchy and crises in artistic representation. The Culture of "The Culture" defines Banks’s creation as culture: a utopian way of doing, of being, of seeing: an approach, an attitude and a lifestyle that has enabled, and is evolving alongside, utopia, rather than an image of a static end-state.

'[The Culture of "The Culture"] stands as an invaluable contribution to the study of Banks’s CULTURE series, in particular its relation to the space opera subgenre and the history of utopian thinking.'
Chad Andrews, Science Fiction Studies

Author Information

Joseph Norman is Visiting Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at Brunel University, London.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
The Culture Series (List of Abbreviations)7
1. World Systems: Imperialism, Interventions, the Technologiade47
2. Thinking the Break: The Culture as Postscarcity Utopia79
3. Posthuman Culture: Senescence, Rejuvenescence, (Im)mortality 121
4. The Handy Wo/Man: Feminism, Space Opera, Ambisexuality 151
5. Reason Shapes the Future: Atheism, Humanism, Quasi-Religion 189
6. Whole-Tone Scales Reaching Forever: Art in Utopia, Utopian Art 223
Concluding Postscript269