I really am complectely new to science fiction. I recently picked up a copy of the Algebraist, and then felt compelled to read on. I've also finished Matter, Windward, Player of games and am half way through Excession. My question is probably a consequence of starting with the Algebraist and wanting everything to tie in nicely. I read that Algebraist was set in a different universe to the Culture; but how can that be? Algebraist mentions Earth, and I believe the Culture visit Earth in State of the Art. Where do all the humans come from in the Culture novels? Feel I need some clarification!! Does SF appreciation involve the suspension of all such niggly questions?