The State of the Art is a short story collection by Scottish writer Iain M. Banks, first published in 1991. The collection includes some stories originally published under his other byline, Iain Banks as well as the title novella and others set in Banks' Culture fictional universe.
Among the short stories there are two about The Culture:
- A Gift from the Culture
- The State of the Art
The title novella makes up the bulk of the book. The novella chronicles a Culture mission to Earth in the late Seventies, and also serves as a prequel of sorts to Use of Weapons by featuring one of that novel's characters, Diziet Sma. Here, Sma argues for contact with Earth, to try and fix the mess the human species has made of it; another Culture citizen, Linter, goes native, choosing to renounce his Culture body enhancements so as to be more like the locals; and Li (who is a Star Trek? fan), argues that the whole "incontestably neurotic and clinically insane species" should be eradicated with a micro black hole. The ship the Arbitrary has ideas, and a sense of humour, of its own.
A Gift from the Culture was originally published in Interzone #20, Summer 1987 and The State Of The Art originally appeared as a separate book of 400 pages.