SPOILERS GALORE, you've been warned
If you've been following the recent shenanigans over in the Chat area, you'll probably realize why I have decided to post this here (if you haven't, check it out first). This is a legitimate discussion of ideas Iain pursued throughout his career in both the nonM and M books. If the powers that be step in to disappear or otherwise control the thoughts expressed in this thread, we'll know the whole forum is a shame. A place to discuss the number of orbitals in the Cultureverse, but not the ideas and precepts that were Banks real legacy.
If there can be said to be a single idea throughout all of Iain's work, it was his scorn and criticism for the controlling dominant social paradigm of our time, the technocratic corporate capitalism and its adjunct government allies whose grasping, greedy tentacles stretch endlessly to control most of the world as we approach 2014. It presides over where most of us work and live, what most of us eat, how most of us think. It has made profit, control, and the pursuit of an endless, mindless mass consumerism the rationale for life itself. In his SF Banks great idea, the Culture, showed there was a different way, a way that didn't depend on control of resources for profit or control of individuals for power. It is such a compelling vision many of us wish we could live there. In his nonM work his protagonists tend to denigrate the "system" at every opportunity. In Complicity, he even devises a serial killer who only kills those who use the system for their own aggrandizement, a justifiable reason for serial-killing, or not.
Banks commitment to free speech is also a main theme in all his works. In Dead Air, his shock jock radio host constantly makes outrageous, but rational, remarks. I've always enjoyed his 'only criminals should be allowed to own guns' rant. Funny stuff. In Complicity, his main character, a reporter, gets into serious trouble when he posts a hate list of capitalists and right-wing politicians, and someone starts killing them off. The Minds are free speech take to an 'N'th degree. Each Mind is a demigod, with abilities and powers far beyond anyone who has ever lived. Yet despite their godlike nature, they do not seek power for its own sake, they do not demand control of lesser beings, they are even approachable, and some might be considered friendly. They seek to do good works. Something Iain might be said to be doing as he constantly spoke against the powers that be, and particularly enjoyed criticizing what he considered the idiotic nature, the aggrandizing self-righteous, and ultimately the vicious ruthlessness of those who make up our ruling elite.
For me Banks views are a breath of fresh air in what will likely be considered by future humans (if there are any once we get done) some sort of strange dark age of meaningless self-indulgence and vacuous foolishness. An age when humans fought huge world wars and numerous small ones and nuclear weapons lurked in the background, promising mega/giga death. An age where humans despoiled air, water, and land, the planet they live on, to the point of precarious, undetermined climate change and insatiable resource depletion. An age where the human population spiraled out of control, growing like some metastasizing cancer on the body Earth. An age where women were still considered second-class citizens, even chattel, by far to many, even in the supposed enlightened, developed societies. An age when all these problems and predicaments were widely publicized and recognized, yet little, if nothing, was really done to resolve anything, because it might interfere with economic growth and the privileges of the ruling elite.
I've only scratched the surface of Banks ideas. So tell me what have Banks' major themes done to your thinking, your life?