A Salute to Iain Banks

Iain BanksUnless you’ve been under a rock for the past few days, you will have heard that eminent writer Iain Banks (whose sci-fi alter ego is Iain M. Banks) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and announced that his latest novel – forthcoming The Quarry – will be his last.

Having enjoyed his writings – from The Wasp Factory to The Player of Games – I know I am not alone in feeling a sharp pang of grief at the news.

In his witty and frank announcement on his website, there was a certain amount of understanding and humour; and the dedications already appearing on his guestbook reveal what a huge influence he has been – and will continue to be for generations to come.

Sci-fi author and friend Ken MacLeod told The Guardian: “The way Iain has reacted to his situation is not really with a sense of unfairness but more that it’s just the way the universe works, the way matter works, that there’s nobody out to get us, nobody to blame for it all… It’s a very courageous and stoical attitude in his situation. There’s no doubting the style of the man. What you see is what you get, and the Iain who comes across in his books is very much how he is.”

I have nothing but the utmost respect for someone whose writings opened my eyes to the realms of possibilities (read all his books in the dark, and make sure there isn’t a soul around, for best effect). He holds a mirror up to humanity, and never shies from the starkness of reality, nor the great love and humour and beauty of human nature.

Banks has never been your traditional novelist – claiming that there are far more interesting things to do with his time, and therefore he only need dedicate three months a year to the art of writing – and his friends (many from the Scottish literary circles) have described the effervescent and passionate author with great affection.

Banks is currently honeymooning, and has told friends he’s living life to the max, and his new wife has released a statement thanking everyone for their kind words of support.

I will leave the last words to someone who has said it better – crime writer Val McDermid:

“When Iain leaves the stage, the lights will be dimmer, the possibilities less and the prospects more dreary.”

You can leave a message for Iain Banks in his guestbook here.

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