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The State of the Art

The State of the Art forms a collection of short fiction, mainly science fiction, by Iain M. Banks. The title novella and some of the stories deal with aspects of his future society, The Culture. In particular, the novella chronicles a Culture mission to Earth, and also serves as a prequel of sorts to Use of Weapons, featuring some earlier activities of one of that novel's characters, Diziet Sma.

This book includes a variety of styles: among the first- and third-person narratives, Banks includes one in the form of an incomplete letter (Piece: the narrator is on board the ill-fated 1988 Pan Am 103 flight over Lockerbie). The State of the Art itself appears in the form of an edited report.

The contents comprise:

  1. Road of Skulls
  2. A Gift from the Culture
  3. Odd Attachment
  4. Descendant
  5. Cleaning Up
  6. Piece
  7. The State Of The Art
  8. Scratch

Banks does not seem to have produced much (if any) other short fiction, suggesting that he finds the novel a more natural genre.