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Special Circumstances

In the science fiction novels of Iain M. Banks, Special Circumstances (SC) is the military/espionage arm of the notionally pacifist civilisation The Culture.

Most of Banks' Culture novels are concerned directly or indirectly with such circumstances.

In Banks' terms, SC is an absolute necessity for the Culture: a society so totally dedicated to the complete satisfaction of all of its members' desires, must have a way to justify to itself all the freeriding it is enjoying. SC is especially concerned with contacts with lower tech civilizations, helping them (never in a straight, honest-to-face way) and resolving difficult conflicts that threaten the Culture way of living.

In times of war, SC becomes especially powerful and fashionable among the Culture, and a SC membership, usually very difficult to obtain, is one of the highest valued things for Culture members.

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