Consider Phlebas
Use your words

A Few Notes on the Culture

The galaxy (our galaxy) in the Culture stories is a place long lived-in, and scattered with a variety of life-forms. In its vast and complicated history it has seen waves of empires, federations, colonisations, die-backs, wars, species-specific dark ages, renaissances, periods of mega-structure building and destruction, and whole ages of benign indifference and malign neglect. At the time of the Culture stories, there are perhaps a few dozen major space-faring civilisations, hundreds of minor ones, tens of thousands of species who might develop space-travel, and an uncountable number who have been there, done that, and have either gone into locatable but insular retreats to contemplate who-knows-what, or disappeared from the normal universe altogether to cultivate lives even less comprehensible.
A Few Notes on the Culture, by Iain M. Banks

Excerpt from a 1994 essay originally posted to rec.arts.sf.written by Ken LacLeod. I’ve read this many times. Thank you for creating this universe Mr. Banks.

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