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Alien races in the Culture Universe

Several alien races and civilisations are described in the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks. Some of them are so called sublimed races. Others are not and are called Involved species if involved in galactic or intergalactic affairs.

Sublimed races

The Sublimed are those alien civilizations in the Culture series of science fiction works by Iain M. Banks who have left the known dimensions of space time behind ("subliming") to take up residence in several higher dimensions. These higher dimensions seem to lack many of the constraints on the development of complexity found in our four dimensions.

Individuals and Minds are capable of subliming, and this is described as an ever-present temptation for beings that are bored with or tired of the limited space and time as we know it.

Chelgrian (partly sublimed)
Dra'Azon
Padressahl
Xinthian?
Zihdren

Involved species

An Involved society is a highly advanced group that has achieved galaxy-wide involvement with other cultures or societies. There are a few dozen Involved societies and hundreds or thousands of well-developed (interstellar) but insufficiently influential societies or cultures; there are also well-developed societies known as "galactically mature" which do not take a dynamic role in the galaxy as a whole. In the novels, the Culture might be considered the premier Involved society, or at least the most dynamic and energetic, especially given that the Culture itself is a growing multicultural fusion of Involved societies. The Involved are contrasted with the Sublimed, groups that have reached a high level of technical development and galactic influence but subsequently abandoned physical reality, ceasing to take serious interventionist interest in galactic civilization. They are also contrasted with what some Culture people loosely refer to as "barbarians", societies of intelligent beings which lack the technical capacity to know about or take a serious role in their interstellar neighbourhood. There are also the elder civilisations, which are civilizations that reached the required level of technology for sublimation, but chose not to, and have retreated from the larger galactic meta-civilization.

The Involved are also contrasted with hegemonising swarms (a term used in several of Banks' Culture novels). These are entities that exist to convert as much of the universe as possible into more of themselves; most typically these are technological in nature, resembling more sophisticated forms of grey goo, but the term can be applied to cultures that are sufficiently single-minded in their devotion to mass conquest, control, and colonisation. Both the Culture and the author (in his Notes On the Culture) find this behavior quixotic and ridiculous. Most often, societies categorized as hegemonising swarms consist of species or groups newly arrived in the galactic community with highly expansionary and exploitative goals. The usage of the term "hegemonising swarm" in this context is considered derisive in the Culture and among other Involved and is used to indicate their low regard for those with these ambitions by comparing their behavior to that of mindless self-replicating technology. The Culture's central moral dilemma regarding intervention in other societies can be constructed as a conflict between the desire to help others and the desire to avoid becoming a hegemonising swarm themselves.

Affront
Aultridia
Azadians
Changers
Flekke
Geseptian-Fardesile Cultural Federacy (GFCF)
Gzilt
Homomda
Hronish
Idiran
Iwenick
Jhlupe
Liseiden
Minds
Morthanveld
Nariscene
Nauptre Reliquaria
Oct
Pavuleans
Ronte
Sichultia
Xolpe
Zetetic Elench

Other races

Aiosh (disappeared)
Avians?
Baskers?
Cumuloforms?
Deldeyn
Hydrals?
Iln (disappeared)
Ishlorsinami (disappeared)
Kites?
Medjel
Monthian Megawhales?
Naiant?
Rairch
Sarl
Swimmers?
Tendrils?
Tubers?
Variolous?
Vesiculars?
Veil (disappeared)



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