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

From: Jamal MacCaffral, Daan’a Technical University, Daan'a, Kanzanea, Ziemia

To: Ambassador Kuboul Rabaransa Losaet Ingeta Ngoh dam J'salf, c/o GCU Pretentious Twaddle

Dear Ingeta,

You may have already heard that I am now studying at Daan’a Technical University. I managed to get good grades from Triaan'i Udom Senior School and was immediately accepted. Perhaps you will be pleased to know I am majoring in Xenotechnology with a minor in Exosociology; it is very much thanks to your kind letters over the years that I want to learn more about the worlds beyond our own, rather than hide under the bedclothes for the rest of my life.

Perhaps I should have done this before but: can I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all the wisdom and advice you have offered me, in your letters over the years. Your replies have provided food for much thought, a great deal of reflection and, I suppose, a guiding hand out of a very confused adolescence.

But I guess I have an ulterior motive here, in writing to you once again, which I shall confess to immediately. What I am really seeking to do is to join the Culture. Is there a way to do this? Is there some application form I can fill in? Some interview process I can apply to join?

Once again, your advice is, as always, warmly anticipated.

Yours sincerely,

Jamal MacCaffral

From: Ambassador Kuboul Rabaransa Losaet Ingeta Ngoh dam J'salf

To: Jamal MacCaffral, Daan’a Technical University, Daan'a, Kanzanea, Ziemia

Dear Jamal,

I had indeed heard news that you had been selected, against some very considerable competition, for a place in the highly sought-after university. Congratulations are in order. Well done!

You ask about being allowed to join the Culture. Very little in the Culture is forbidden, and certainly people join (and leave) the Culture proper all the time. So, yes, you could join. But, should you?

This is, ultimately, a moral question. Your own family, your whole society has invested a huge amount of resources (money, if you wish) in you, in your education and upbringing, in feeding you, clothing you, providing all the resources and equipment that has allowed you to grow, to mature to the point where you might very well be an important contributor to the future of your whole planet, your entire species. To take you away now, to join the Culture, would be tantamount to stealing a valuable artifact from your entire society.

I urge you to reconsider your request. At the very least, spend some time now, repaying your debt to your society, making the lives of your fellows less dangerous, more comfortable, more pleasurable.

Looking forward to hearing more about your life in due course.

Sincerely yours.

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

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