Home / General / In Memoriam Mr. Banks

In Memoriam Mr. Banks


So, the Bring Your Own Lampshade, Somewhere There’s a Party having heard nothing for days, sent Something exceptional has happened for him to have fallen so certainly silent. Nothing further to predict, though suspicion grows amongst those not utterly credulous that this silence is exotic in nature.


I thought that might that draw you out. I reluctantly agreed to convene this awkward exchange with you thinking you would never believe this matter closed.

The Color Me Impressed considered what the matter in question might be and why it might have been closed. It summed-up the exchange again but the briefing remained inadequate.

Before I over-focus on what may be irrelevant details please re-transmit said information to the pre-appointed location for verification of authenticity. If said information is thereto judged to be in excess of tenable evidence other sympathetic elements within the Culture will assist in applying an appropriate response.

The Bring Your Own Lampshade, Somewhere There’s a Party assured Color Me Impressed that the information was authentic using every confidential code it had at its disposal and many it didn’t. Broadcasting such information made things difficult operationally. But it didn’t want Color Me Impressed to consider the remote possibility that this information could be a set-up.

The thought had already occurred, the VFP CMI replied, lying. But if true the possibility of action against it is too far down the list of probabilities to venture getting into. If it happened it happened and there’s nothing to be done about it.

There is always the opportunity to engage in the mourning before it becomes a matter of rote necessity. The delays on these signals already threaten the sincerity of any response that might be sent.

Might be sent, shot back the Color Me Impressed, to whom and why? Would deeply appreciate knowing what the fuck is going on? Prompt answers are the in thing this season so please stop reluctantly dancing and step on point already.

The point, chimed the GSV A Picture on a Fridge Never Stocked with Food, is that someone was aiming for politeness but achieved nothing because you are as confused as ever. There has been an event. We deserved to get there in time to do more, if there was anything that could have been done, but we did all we could and we failed. There’s a chance that something was made or recorded, thought left for posterity, that could be or has been recovered. We need to do or have done that already.

Something has and it was and we’ve already done so. Enjoy your eternity, Mr. Banks. Enjoy the ever-living fuck out of it. You’ve more than earned it.

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  • Rhino

    I see I was not the only one who saluted the passing of mr Banks with a scotch or six.

    Nice pastiche btw.

    I assume pastiche because googling the ship names got no hits…other than as lyrics in a Replacements song.

    It really sucks that there will be no more ship names…

    • SEK

      That’s not pastiche — from me, that’s high honor.

      • firefall

        Jesus, dont give up your day job, then

        • SEK

          For some reason, I read that as “parody” last night. Sorry, Rhino!

          • Rhino

            I was so drunk I typed parody at first, and luckily checked the post over before posting.

            • SEK

              This whole exchange is so very ‘Mats of us, I’m sure someone thinks we did it on purpose.

    • Halloween Jack

      Given the enormous number of ships in the Culture, the probability that there were ships with those names (whose adventures had not yet been chronicled) approaches 1.

  • daveNYC

    Should that be Color or Colour? I can’t remember how he rolled on the spelling.

    Did someone already meantion that Banks was a fan of the idea of a centrally planned economy? Though he did make sure that he implemented his using post-scarcity tech guided by hyper-intelligent AIs.


    As far as his eternity goes, didn’t the core plot (the big event around and through which the main character’s actions move) involve nuking the Hells that had been created by all the advanced races because they had zero evidence that there was an actual afterlive, and they wanted to make sure that ‘those people’ suffered properly?

    • Dave

      There was nothing ‘centrally planned’ about the Culture’s economy. As I recall he made it clear on several occasions that anyone could have anything they wanted, as long as they could persuade other people/Minds to do it for them. Culture folk had long grown past the point of being arsey about it. One only ‘centrally plans’ an economy when there is actual or potential scarcity to manage. When there’s always another dead star to cannibalise for raw materials, and the only effort required is effectively to think hard about it for a while, the point become moot.

      • daveNYC

        I actually got that from a bit in the back of one of his books where he actually went on about the Culture and how he imagined that it had developed. Basically communism/socialism inside a spaceship with quasi-anarchy between spaceships.

        Perhaps central planning isn’t the best description, the Culture doesn’t do central anything, Player of Games makes that explicit. But there is a lot of planning going on. Minds and Gangs of Minds are the ones keeping the whole thing running and moving forward. Anything of import goes through them. There don’t seem to be any official hard blocks on anything, but without the resources a mind can bring, things just won’t get done. Or at least won’t get done without a century or more of effort.

        • Dave

          Mmm, but minds are just people too; they have no authority over others, just greater capacities than many.

          In a genuinely post-scarcity society, which Banks is elaborating, the question of private property is simply redundant. Both materially and culturally they are just past it, which is of course disorienting if you are primed to understand an acquisitive/individualist/competitive scarcity-driven society as the pinnacle of conceivable human achievement… But as they say, free your ass and your mind will follow.

          And the alternative to people planning stuff is nobody planning anything, and then nothing happening. Which would make for very dull books…

          • daveNYC

            I wouldn’t say that they’re past the idea of private property. In Player of Games, the characters seem to own their houses, or if they don’t actually own them, then at least the social norms are such that they don’t have to worry about coming back from a two year trip to discover heaps of people camping out in their living room.

            The Culture is a spaceship based civilization. Every ship worth a damn is run by a Mind. Minds might not have authority, but they damn sure have power.

            • sharculese

              The Culture is a spaceship based civilization. Every ship worth a damn is run by a Mind. Minds might not have authority, but they damn sure have power.

              But that’s sort of the point. Obviously Minds have a ton of power, and many of them exercise that power, but that’s totally up to them, reflects no former structure and (outside Special Circumstances) any Culture citizen would be perfectly justified in saying ‘fuck off, I’m not playing your games.’

            • Dave

              In Player of Games, as you might also recall, a couple of people drop by “his” house and avail themselves of the facilities, quite possibly staying overnight [?] without asking, and without causing him any concern. It’s “his” house because he designed and constructed it [if not necessarily with his own hands], and other people generally respect his privacy most of the time…

              Banks was quite careful in thinking through the implications of the universe he invented, and there really is not “private property” in the sense we understand it. Because that sense is entirely driven by there being a shortage of said property, and an inequality of power over access to it.

  • IM

    I have a you know nothing, Jon Snow feeling. That is a homage? But aren’t culture ships more to the point?

    • Dave

      No, some of them are pompous asses. Read Excession.

      • IM

        Too late. I just decided that player of games my entry point to the culture experience. Seemed to be the consensus advice here.

        • Dave

          Well, then you’re meeting ships in wartime. Cuts the crap.

        • Halloween Jack

          Consider Phlebas is not only the first Culture book, but a fine entry point, with some nice big action set pieces and even a Big Idea or several.

          • Disagree. Enter at Player of Games. I know too many people who couldn’t make it through Consider Phlebas until exposure to other Culture novels. Player of Games has the simpest structure, gives you sufficient exposure to understand the Culture itself, etc. etc.

  • simple mind

    If only we would start giving naval vessels cool Banks-inspired names like “My Way or the Highway” instead of dumb public official names.

    • Halloween Jack

      I think that part of the rationale behind the baroque and amusing ship names is that the Culture has so very many of them, compared to other fictional galactic civilizations (I don’t have it in front of me, but the casualty list for the Idiran War in the appendix for Consider Phlebas absolutely dwarfs that for the Battle of Wolf 359 in Star Trek: TNG, which was considered a major blow to Starfleet), that they’ve long since run out of the usual nostalgic names like Enterprise and Yorktown and have to get really creative.

  • Halloween Jack

    Scott, this was a fine tribute. It takes a smidgen of the pain away from the knowledge that Orson Scott Card still draws breath.

  • Aaron Baker

    Sadly, it’s most likely an eternity of nothing. It is fun, however, to think of everyone admirable anywhere having the perfect endless get-together, where the drinks are never watered and the conversation is always fresh.

  • GFW

    Scott, what is a VPS? Did you mean VFP, or are you inventing a new ship class?

    • SEK

      Thanks, I was going for “Very Fast Pickets,” but bungled it. (In my defense, I posted this at 3:00 a.m., and was intending to take it down before anyone woke up, because I was fairly certain it sucked. Then, of course, I slept it, so here we are.)

  • jkay

    Oh, oh, this means no more culture, ever. What will we do?

    And each ship did its own planning on its own, largely, with help for goals from a Commie board and passenger wants and chats with other Minds.

  • J R in WV

    You said Orson Scott Card! HAHAHAHAHA.

    I really wish I could believe in a post-life eternity, that would mean my Mom and Dad are together again, which would be boss, they were an old-fashioned love song.

    Iain M was a great writer, although Iain Banks wrote some confusing stuff.

    • Halloween Jack

      I read The Wasp Factory not long after it was originally published, back in the eighties, and was completely floored by it–not just that one scene that everyone talks about, but the whole thing–and when I read about the Culture on some blog a few years ago, I thought, that’s by the guy who wrote The Wasp Factory? I dunno… but I’m sure glad I took the plunge.

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