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Iain M Banks: Bugger!

Written By: - Date published: 6:34 pm, April 4th, 2013 - 38 comments
Categories: notices - Tags:

Damn this is bad news. What is it with authors I like? They write too slowly for my OTT reading speed* and they seem to die too damn fast.

Iain M Banks is one of only three authors whose books managed to survive my move into ePubs last year. I kept all of my carefully hoarded Pratchett and Ursula Le Guin (ie the ones that my teenage relatives had managed to return). But some Iain M Banks books got removed from  the boxes of scifi that I donated because I was “reading them” at the time.

Anyway, here is his statement.

A Personal Statement from Iain Banks

April 3rd, 2013 in From the Author

I am officially Very Poorly.

After a couple of surgical procedures, I am gradually recovering from jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct, but that – it turns out – is the least of my problems.

I first thought something might be wrong when I developed a sore back in late January, but put this down to the fact I’d started writing at the beginning of the month and so was crouched over a keyboard all day. When it hadn’t gone away by mid-February, I went to my GP, who spotted that I had jaundice. Blood tests, an ultrasound scan and then a CT scan revealed the full extent of the grisly truth by the start of March.

I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term.

The bottom line, now, I’m afraid, is that as a late stage gall bladder cancer patient, I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year. So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.

As a result, I’ve withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I’ve asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry – but we find ghoulish humour helps). By the time this goes out we’ll be married and on a short honeymoon. We intend to spend however much quality time I have left seeing friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us. Meanwhile my heroic publishers are doing all they can to bring the publication date of my new novel forward by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves.

There is a possibility that it might be worth undergoing a course of chemotherapy to extend the amount of time available. However that is still something we’re balancing the pros and cons of, and anyway it is out of the question until my jaundice has further and significantly, reduced.
Lastly, I’d like to add that from my GP onwards, the professionalism of the medics involved – and the speed with which the resources of the NHS in Scotland have been deployed – has been exemplary, and the standard of care deeply impressive. We’re all just sorry the outcome hasn’t been more cheerful.

A website is being set up where friends, family and fans can leave messages for me and check on my progress. It should be up and running during this week and a link to it will be here on my official website as soon as it’s ready.

Iain Banks

– ENDS –

Iain’s novel The Quarry has been delivered and will be published this year. For further information please contact Susan de Soissons on 020 7911 8069 / susan.desoissons@littlebrown.co.uk

h/t Nick S

* I usually read at least a book equivalent of fiction per day, plus scan (and sometimes read) most of the comments on this site, a pile of news, and posts from this and many other blogs.  I have a real problem whenever I raise my head from writing code to find enough interesting material to read. Iain Banks wrote stuff that was interesting enough that I’d reread it many many times…

38 comments on “Iain M Banks: Bugger!”

  1. Bright Red 1

    christ you must read fast.

    Iain M Banks will be a huge loss. As a strong backer of the Scottish Socialists, his Culture novels have been all about how a socialist utopia could be formed, and what would happen at the borders of that society. And he did that with some awesome action and wit and great characters.

    • karol 1.1

      Hmmmm Scottish socialist – now I’m interested. Must check out some of his writing.

      • lprent 1.1.1

        Try “Against a dark background”. That is pretty damn good and I keep going back to it… I’m less interested in his work as Iain Banks, but a “A song of stone” is pretty good.

    • BM 1.2

      I was going to have a read until you mentioned that.

      • insider 1.2.1

        Ignore him they are not socialist novels. (casual, disinterested Anarchist utopian at best). They can also be very very funny (which almost by definition makes them not socialist)

        at his best a great sf author especially much of the early Culture series (he could also be quite ordinary too – Transitions particularly, but Surface Detail, Matter and Inversions disappointing too as stories but still interesting in their concepts. His disappointing is still better than 90% of the genre)

        And of course there is the non ‘M’ work for which he is really famous -Wasp factory , Crow Road, Whit etc

        A sad loss and a duller future without space ships named No More Mr Nice Guy, Just Read The Instructions, Xenophobe, All Through With This Niceness And Negotiation Stuff


        • Populuxe1

          The problem is that people often read teh Culture as a utopia – which it isn’t really. It’s more a sort of benign dictatorship run by the Minds with very strong Neoconservative tendencies (ie, the clandestine interference in other civilizations to influence them to be more Culture-like)

        • BM

          That sounds a lot better.
          I shall give him a read

    • lprent 1.3

      christ you must read fast.

      Yep. It is a curse* as well as a blessing. I’m not that well known for sleeping a lot or at night. So in my opinion the development of tablets with backlights is the greatest thing I know of for relationship harmony. Now I can read Iain M Banks in a cold clear light on the sofa without the overheads waking up Ms Diurnal…


      * especially for trolls.

  2. as mentioned on open mike – very sad news, one of my favorite authors – all the best Iain and family

  3. Rich 3

    It’s even more sad that Iain Banks, the novelist, shares a body with Iain M Banks and is also ill.

    Best wishes to him and his family.

  4. TheContrarian 4

    Picked up a copy of The Wasp Factoy in some back alley market in Veitnam some years ago and still have it to this day despite its dog eared pages. A great read.

  5. Murray Olsen 5

    I don’t really know anything about Iain M Banks, but his personal statement really speaks to me. I should look for one of his books. Any particular recommendations?

    • the pigman 5.1

      Dead Air and Transition are both excellent. I didn’t even realise that he had a body of science-fiction work, but that sort of explains the more grandiose aspects of Transition.

      • rosy 5.1.1

        It’s a damn shame.

        You should look for his books, I prefer the author Iain Banks (really awful deeds and the human condition) and my partner prefers Iain M Banks (Sci Fi). For Iain Banks I’d recommend starting at the beginning with The Wasp Factory or The Crow Road.

        Later novels like Dead Air run along at a looser, faster pace than the dense, dark earlier ones, imo.

  6. Zola 6

    I am very sorry to hear this. A friend lent me The Wasp Factory years ago and since then I have read a lot of his books – especially his science fiction. I haven’t read any in quite some time though. Time to read some again and get hold of his last book.
    I admire the way he faces up to his illness and impending death. For those of us getting older he sets a good example. I hope I will be as brave.

  7. Consider Phlebas and Use of Weapons are as good as science fiction gets, which means they’re as good as fiction gets. Although he consistently promotes a view of human life you can’t do anything but admire, he casually and mercilessly kills off characters you’ve come to care a lot about – a lot like real life, when you consider his message included in the post.

    • lprent 7.1

      His body count in both of those is pretty low. “Against a dark background” with its casual history of radioactive pollution debris scattered all over an ancient landscape was an inspired way of looking at the long-term problems of remaining civilised. So for that matter was his portrayal of the eventual gordian knot that legal systems tie themselves into – The World Court.

      At least the culture provided an outside to emigrate to…

      Excession is another one that I go back to repeatedly. Which reminds me I must write that post about why the singularity won’t happen any time soon.

      • Psycho Milt 7.1.1

        Yes, Against a Dark Background leaves hardly anyone left standing in a way Shakespeare would be proud of. And the sequence in which the heroine survives the wreck of her spacecraft was pure gold.

        • insider

          As an aside, if you want to read an author who is quite ruthless in killing off sympathetic characters, Charlie Higson’s zombie apocalypse teen fiction series The Enemy is a good example.

      • Populuxe1 7.1.2

        “Matter” had a satisfyingly high bodycount

    • Yeah I like those two and I thought that The Algebraist was good.

    • Jono 7.3

      I totally rate Look to Windward with its shades of 9/11 and good intentions leading to unfortunate blow back. Use of Weapons a close second if only for the chair. I dont even know how to describe how The Bridge left me feeling.

      I got into Mr Banks while trying to survive a six month stint in the islands, my coworker and roomie for the lag having brought a bag full of his stuff up from NZ to help get him through the long hot nights (along with some loud and obnoxious rawk music to drown out the endless hymns and Jawaiian island soundtrack).

  8. Shona 8

    So sad. Brilliant writer. Will be sorely missed etc, etc.
    The Wasp Factory is unforgettable.

  9. JonL 9

    Been reading his sf novels since Consider Phlebus…


    Bugger bugger bugger!

  10. Jenny 10

    What have I been doing with my life to miss all this?

    Sounds like a great man. I will try to find time to read his novels.

    I hope they are as gripping as you all say they are.

    Hopefully Ian Banks will give me something to understand our present world.

    (As all great art should)

    • LynWiper 10.1

      Me too Jenny. I will follow all of the above advice as I love a good read.

      An amazing, courageous man shines through his statement. Glad to have the opportunity to ‘discover’ his writing.

  11. Doug 11

    Iain is the only SF writer I can now bring myself to read after a lifetime of loving SF. Not only can I bring myself to read him, but I can bring myself to reread and reread.

    He will be sorely missed. He is of my two favourite authors, both are now going away, one with cancer, and the other with alzheimer’s.

  12. Populuxe1 12

    Neal Asher is sort of vaguely right wing, middle brow version of Banks – generally speaking he’s enjoyable if you like Banks’ Culture novels.

  13. hoom 13

    Banks is so awesome.
    Such a shame 🙁

    I’ve had so much joy reading his books.
    I fail miserably at putting into words.

  14. Rhinocrates 14

    Roger Ebert has just died too.

    Well, the rant from The King’s Speech seems appropriate.

    I think I’ll start rereading Use of Weapons in pre-memorium.

  15. Frankie and Benjy Mouse 15

    Very sad news.
    I empathize with Doug about ” a lifetime of loving SF” and Iain M Banks is one Author I currently look for first for something new to read. I still grieve for the loss of Douglas N Adams (too young). I have just resorted to rereading the Disc World series from the beginning to have something to read (apart from the Standard of course).
    “The player of games” is one of my favorites for some reason.

  16. ghostrider888 16

    ahhhh, The Wasp Factory, and back up The Crow Road, Complicity too; Whit, Dead Air and The Business await on the shelf… *(it’s a blessing, and a curse) 😉

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