The following is a fanletter I wrote to Iain Banks, author of the “Culture” science-fiction series. Alas, I never heard back from him; so I show these to you.
Dear Iain Banks:
I write you about your “Culture” series. I have a modest proposal as to how the Culture might, acting in character, apologize to their Chelgren frenemies.
On the one hand you have the Chelgren, predatory, aspiring to civilization, furious over Culture meddling, egged on by techno-ghosts bent on a blood-price of five billion deaths, to ransom five billion Chelgren in techno-limbo. On the other hand you have the Culture, moralistic, guilty about its inept meddling, whose citizens are bored, eager for games, even dangerous ones, and wealthy even unto techno-reincarnation.
I think the solution is obvious. The people of the Culture will gladly die five billion times for the Chelgren, if it’s part of a game.
I therefore propose a simple gauntlet game, as follows:
Start with a long narrow continent a thousand kilometers long. Culture ships land at one end and leave off people, after scanning their brain-states; the ships then fly to the other end of the continent and wait. The people who manage to get from one end of the continent to the other win the game. This is difficult, as there are large numbers of heavily-armed Chelgren in-between. Those people who do not survive the gauntlet are reincarnated and given the choice of leaving or trying again.
The Gauntlet is a minor Culture fad, with sufficient fan base and repeat business on a slow learning curve to ensure that they will meet the Chelgren-Puen’s quota of five gigadeaths. This of course means five giga-resurrections.
The Chelgren-Puen accepted this somewhat unconventional arrangement, but insisted on restrictions on frequency of brain-state scanning. There are also weapons restrictions. Sometimes a particularly lively firefight is put on time-out, and all action is suspended while Chelgren gods and Ship avatars argue over the rules.
There would have to be a third party for a swing vote. The Third Party’s motivation is neither revenge nor contrition, but profit, for they constructed the battleground, and they are recording the Chelgren Apology as a pay-per-view media event.
The Gauntlet is also an SC training ground. Many agents have won it, some repeatedly; and in the process sent many Chelgren fighters to the Chelgren-Puen. In fact the Gauntlet became easier over time for the Culture, even non-SC. Practice makes perfect. This becomes a problem towards the end; it endangers making quota.
The whole cozy deal breaks down just before meeting quota. The Chelgren fighters quit, from disgust over Culture play-guilt, Chelgren-Puen atavism, and Third Party greed; and also from fear of meeting SC trainees.
We hear reports of revolution amongst the Chelgren-Puen, the release of the limbo Chelgren into their techno-heaven, and the cancellation of the Gauntlet.
Honor satisfied and game over. But with some messy loose ends.
Sincerely, Nathaniel S. K. Hellerstein