I originally started these images to illustrate this article about Amazon’s TV adaptation of the novels and the design issues it raises. The adaptation now seems suspended or abandoned since the revival of the Expanse, another opera space.  Then I continued these designs to refine my ideas about the minimalist and dizzying descriptions of the huge vessels of this science fiction cycle.

It’s a work in progress, which continues with the design of the orbitals, and a third part about recent pictures.

For an introduction to the Culture Cycle, the Scottish author Iain M. Banks explains in this text the origin of the concept of his pan-galactic civilization.


banks culture vehicles design


This ship is a Thug-class Rapid Offensive Unit (ROU), based in particular on the description of this class in the novel Excession, more on my impression than on the text for that matter.

These small (less than 1 kilometer long), highly armed and extremely fast vessels are the soldiers of Culture. Each of them is inhabited by a conscious artificial intelligence called a mind that is a real character and the ship itself. They have no other crew.

According to the author they are surrounded by a variety of force fields which are both their weapons, armour and private space. These fields most often look like opaque and blurred shapes that block vision. Here I have chosen to show them transparent, as they are part of a whole with the ship, because it is indeed the case.


third ROU design with transparent waved fields

Second ROU design, with tests fields to bend and cut space around

 Iain Banks Culture rapid offensive unit

The following vessels are research for the real Culture vehicles, the imposing General Contact Units (GCUs) a few kilometers long, and the gigantic General System Vehicles (GSVs) that house millions of inhabitants in a structure several tens of kilometers long. Mentals often choose ironic, excentric, humorous or edifying names to represents the originality of being counscious and logical entities. Below is the UCG Friendzone everywhere.

 Iain Banks Culture GSV fields


Tests to represent the force fields surrounding the General System Vehicle (GSV) “So far, so good“. Below are the first designs.


GSV fields

an early design of General System Vehicle

Thanks for reading, It goes on with the design of the orbitals, and a third part about recent pictures.

Let me know what you think in comments. Feedback is always welcome.



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A few notes on the Culture. In this short text, the author explains the original concept of his anarchist and hedonist galactic civilization.