Mammoth, previously unpublished interview with Iain Banks about The Culture

Niall sends us, "a newly-published 5,500 word interview with Iain Banks, conducted by Jude Roberts in 2010 as part of her PhD on The Culture, and includes discussion of how themes of gender, embodiment and violence work themselves out in his novels; published as bonus content for this year's fund drive for Strange Horizons."

"The fundraiser is just entering its final week. We've got more material lined up to publish as we raise more money, including a new "Ancillary Justice" story by the Hugo/Nebula/Clarke/everything-winning Ann Leckie — plus, everyone who donates gets entered into a prize draw for art, games, and books (lots of books). So far we've raised $6,300 of our $13,500 goal; more information, and links to donate, can be found here (main page), here (bonus content) and here (list of prizes). Thanks!"

JR: Could you elaborate on what "humanist" means to you?

IB: I think I fit the dictionary definition of a Humanist pretty well: non-religious, non-superstitious, basing morality on shared human values of decency, tolerance, reason, justice, the search for truth, and so on. My personal take on this goes a little further—as any serious SF writer's would kind of have to unless they reject the very idea of both AI and aliens—to encompass the rights both of these (as it were, still potential) categories, but other than that I'm probably fairly typical.

JR: To what extent does your writing about the Culture endorse the Culture's point of view?

IB: Probably too much. I started out bending over backwards to present the opposite point of view in Consider Phlebas, making it look like the Culture represented the bad guys, at the start, at least, but, let's face it; La Culture: c'est moi.

JR: Many critics and reviewers have claimed that the Culture represents the American Libertarian ideal. Given that this is clearly not the case, how do you characterise the politics of the Culture?

IB: Really? I had no idea. Obviously I haven't read the output of the relevant critics and reviewers. Let's be clear: unless I have profoundly misunderstood its position, I pretty much despise American Libertarianism. Have these people seriously looked at the problems of the world and thought, 'Hmm, what we need here is a bit more selfishness'? . . . I beg to differ. This is not say that Libertarianism can't represent a progressive force, in the right circumstances, and I don't doubt there will be significant areas where I would agree with Libertarianism. But, really; which bit of not having private property, and the absence of money in the Culture novels, have these people missed? The Culture is hippy commies with hyper-weapons and a deep distrust of both Marketolatry and Greedism. One rests one's case.

A Few Questions About the Culture: An Interview with Iain Banks [Jude Roberts/Strange Horizons]

(Thanks, Niall!)

(Image: Iain (Menzies) Banks, Stuart Caie, CC-BY)