A short story set in the Culture universe created by Iain M. Banks

To: The Culture Ambassador, Alien Starship

My name is Jamal. I attend Triaan'i Udom Junior School in the city of Daan'a.
I have started learning Marain. It is very complicated, but I am trying very hard to understand.
I have a question, but nobody seems to know the answer for sure. I want to know why you are here, on this world.
My Mam says it is to make sure that everybody gets to be better.
Some of my friends say it’s because you want to make us just like you.
Some of my Da's friends say it's to make sure we never get to be like you.
I don't understand. I am very confused. Can you answer my question?
Yours sincerely,
Jamal (aged 8)

From: GCU Pretentious Twaddle, currently in orbit around Ziemia

To: Jamal MacCaffral, Triaan'i Udom Junior School, Daan'a, Kanzanea, Ziemia


My name is Ingeta. I am the Culture Ambassador to Ziemia. I can sometimes be found aboard the General Contact Unit Pretentious Twaddle, although I frequently travel to different parts of your planet.

The part of the Culture I work for is called Contact. In Contact, we actively seek out planets which are less well developed. There are lots and lots of planets like this in the galaxy.

When we find a planet, we think really, really hard about the best way to help. Our purpose is to reduce suffering and to improve the quality of life for everybody - not just a few old rich people. Sometimes, the best way is to not interfere at all. Sometimes, we make changes without anybody on the planet being aware of it. And sometimes, like Ziemia, we announce our presence publicly.

We don't want to make everybody exactly like the Culture. I feel sure that, one day, the people of this world will become something amazing, although it probably won't be like us. It might be much better.

Sincerely yours,

Kuboul Rabaransa Losaet Ingeta Ngoh dam J'salf
Culture Ambassador to planet Ziemia

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