"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."
In case you were in any doubt, this is a work of Fan Fiction. This story is set in the Culture universe, invented by the late Iain M. Banks and used as a background to many of his excellent novels.
As well as the inspiration of Mr. Banks' wonderful writing and immensely creative world-building, this story was also influenced by this post on Reddit, as well as this picture and this discussion.
A recurring theme in the Culture books is the way that the Minds tussle amongst themselves - sometimes politely, other times much less so. And Minds sometimes engage humans to do their dirty work, unwittingly or otherwise.
This is quite a long story, at least by my standards: a novelette. Please feel free to read and comment by email as you see fit.
My first Culture novel is called Impact Analysis. This story explores the lengths to which some Minds will go in order to test the Culture's own society.
I have written a second novel set in the Culture universe created by Iain M. Banks. This one is called Dark Matter and examines the way in which the fractured and frequently secretive nature of the Culture's Minds sometimes plays out.
I have started work on a third Culture novel. This one is provisionally entitled Unseen Footprints. This is still very much a work in progress: just a few draft chapters and lots of notes. More to follow soon.
Apart from being set in the same fictional universe, these three books share no characters or plot so they can all be read independently.
I have also written numerous other short stories set in Mr. Banks' Culture universe.
Phrontisterion explores the fate of a Group Mind composed mainly of rather grumpy retired Drones.
Galactic Recession is a story about an Eccentric Culture ship and its crew travelling to a galaxy far beyond our own.
Butterfly Happiness explores the attitude of the Culture to the Sublime.
Unusual Circumstances examines a time towards the very beginning of the Culture, and explores some of the politics and personalities involved.
Door Bell explores a meeting between a well-known author and an enigmatic visitor who seems to know more about the author's fiction than he does himself.
Never a Coincidence is a sequel to Unusual Circumstances and further investigates events at the very beginning of The Culture's existence.
City of Glass follows the Contact section in action on a planet not entirely dissimilar to Earth, where some of the inhabitants have developed a curious denial of reality.
Mind in the Making explores how new Culture Minds are created, and the activities of other Minds in supporting their development.
Rocks and Stars follows the Culture's Quietudinal Service (Quietus) in action and explores what that organisation might do with the dead of other species.
Death and Paradise is another story about the Culture's Quietus service and explores what happens when relics of the dead are found in a system where the Culture has started constructing a new Orbital.
Artistic Expression explores what happens when the Culture is challenged by two powerful remnants of civilizations which have mostly Sublimed.
Letters to an Alien introduces the Culture to a newly-Contacted society by means of letters between a young child and the local Culture representative.
The Gaia Principle considers circumstances when the Culture's Contact section can - and cannot - intervene in the development of another society, regardless of how reprehensible the result might be.
Retrospective State explores more of the actions and consequences of Culture ships during the early part of the Idiran war.
Star Crossed is a slice-of-life story set in the Culture, albeit with a twist in the tale.
Beneath the Ice explores how Culture Minds manipulate the presentation of data to minimise psychological damage both to individuals and to the society as a whole.
Doing Enough explores more of the work of the Culture's Contact section and touches on the approaches which might be used to influence the development of more primitive civilizations where gross social inequalities remain.
Vivarium Orbital examines the relationship between ordinary Culture citizens and the Minds which run their lives, and indeed the relationship with individuals from other species.
Galactic Resurgence is a sequel to Galactic Recession and examines what happens when a large Culture craft arrives in a galaxy never before explored by the Culture.
Care and Feeding is a story about life in the Culture, and how everyday life can sometimes be much more important than one might imagine.
Recombinant Souls explores some of the implications of the Culture's ability to record, store and re-instantiate a person's mind-state, and what it might mean if there are two or more copies of an individual.
Blimp City Blues describes the Culture's Contact section's approach to solving a crime on a gas giant planet when failure to do so might result in an inter-species war.
Take a look at my series of hard-boiled fantasy novels featuring the eponymous underworld detective: Findo Gask: Goblin Detective, Findo Gask: Gumshoe Glamours and Findo Gask: Dragon Sleuth.
You may also like my collection of fifteen interlinked science fiction and fantasy short stories under the title Four Square Less One. Can you work out the connection between the stories?
Also, look at my Lyndesfarne Bridge series of novels: New Bridge to Lyndesfarne, Bridge at War, Death on the New Bridge and Bridge of Stone and Magic.
I am now working on a second (and still growing) collection of short stories under the title ...Then a Miracle Occurs. An eclectic collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance and ghost stories - often more than one at a time. Includes my all-time favourite short-short story Hearts and Flowers.