The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The Convenant as Idrians? Cortana as a Mind?

June 13, 2007

It has been a busy week in world politics, but despite finishing my book I’ve been too squeezed to provide insightful commentary. A bit of geek-blogging, on the other hand, takes far less energy.

While I was trolling around Gamespot this discussion of Halo’s influences caught my eye:

GS: With Halo, you’ve succeeded in creating a unique sci-fi setting and storyline in a rather overcrowded genre. What were the inspirations for the game’s mythology?

Jaime Griesemer: That’s tough. Halo was created by a group of people, all with their own personal flavors and influences, so the end product is the result of all of those influences bouncing around and ricocheting off everything else. If I had to pick a handful of the more obvious ones, though, the Culture books by Iain Banks had a lot of influence on the technological and historical parts of the universe. The Vang by Christopher Rowley was a big inspiration for the flood, and Armor by John Steakley and the original Starship Troopersby Heinlein (not the movie version) gave us lots of good ideas for the Mjolnir armor. For movies, obviously there is a big Aliens influence, but the Bungie team has a very wide range of interests, so everything from old-school Westerns to 1950s sci-fi to obscure Japanese cult horror movies and the latest Michael Bay flick is fair game.

It turns out that at least one website devotes an entire page to The Culture novels’ influence on Halo. That’s nice, insofar as some Halo fans might decide to read the novels as a result.

But also somewhat odd. I guess Halo, like any ringworld, might be likened to a Culture Orbital. Certainly, the designers “quote” Iain Banks’ novels. But the direct influence seems pretty mediated.

Given that our own Patrick Jackson has a book chapter on The Culture, and Excession in particular, in Clyde Wilcox’s forthcoming edited volume on Science Fiction and Politics, it struck me as appropriate to bring the issue to the Duck. Anyone have any thoughts on the matter, on Halo in general, or on The Culture and world politics?

PS: Patrick would never write this on the Duck, but Banks told him that his essay was one of the best commentaries he’d ever read on The Culture novels.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.