Turn the wheel and look to windward
April 3, 2013 3:54 AM   Subscribe

Two of our finest authors, humanist and government critic, Iain [M] Banks is dying of cancer. His next novel will be his last. His books are a source of inspiration and joy for me and many other mefites.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory (223 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fuck cancer.

Also I think the site is down, does someone have a mirror or can paste the text?
posted by Authorized User at 3:58 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is not what I wanted to read this morning.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:00 AM on April 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Article from the Scotsman.
“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“As a result, I’ve withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I’ve asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry - but we find ghoulish humour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.”
posted by fight or flight at 4:01 AM on April 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


NO-o-o-oo shit shit shit
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:01 AM on April 3, 2013


Fuck.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:02 AM on April 3, 2013


From Scottish TV.

Fuck cancer.
But I hope he has an awesome honeymoon.
posted by Mezentian at 4:05 AM on April 3, 2013


google cache


Life is so cruel.
posted by gwildar at 4:07 AM on April 3, 2013


I'm feeling numb, and it's only just starting to sink in. Apart from hugely enjoying his work, I've met the man a few times, and used to know his partner back when I was a student in Glasgow. I hope they continue to have as much fun as possible while they're still together.

I'm trying hard not to cry.
posted by daveje at 4:09 AM on April 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Such a mensch.

If he had stopped after his first three novels, Banks would have been considered a major Scottish novelist. As it were, he didn't stop and as a result he has touched the lives of most of the readers I know.

I have always meant to dive into the M novels - thankfully Mr Bookish owns every single Banks novel ever published, so I know what I'll start reading tonight.

F*ck cancer.
posted by kariebookish at 4:12 AM on April 3, 2013


cancer. fuck that shit. fuck it to hell.
posted by russm at 4:13 AM on April 3, 2013


.
posted by foleypt at 4:14 AM on April 3, 2013


Aw, Jesus, I just finished reading The Hydrogen Sonata. This is not on.
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:19 AM on April 3, 2013


.
posted by Shohobohaum Za at 4:21 AM on April 3, 2013


Fcuk.
posted by lalochezia at 4:21 AM on April 3, 2013


Well, damn. I've been (re)reading his books since I was a teenager; over the years he's given me a lot to think about, entertained me, and helped me through some tough times. For the little that it's worth, I hope he knows some of the impact he's had on his fans' lives.

.
posted by metaBugs at 4:25 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was not in a good frame of mind this morning. Now I know why. . .

I came late to Banks' work--another door opened for me by MeFi--but I was swiftly taken by his intelligence and inventive storytelling. Now he is become a tragic hero akin to those of his imagination.

Proceed to the rainbow bridge as slowly as possible, Mr. Banks.
posted by rdone at 4:27 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn it. If we had just been Cultured in the 70's there would be no more cancer. Stupid Minds. Should have listened to Sma.

As a result... 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.


This, more than anything, convinces me that Banks is a serious badass. More power to him.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:31 AM on April 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


Well fuck.
posted by Shutter at 4:32 AM on April 3, 2013


What a shame. No dot yet: the man has a honeymoon to enjoy.
posted by ersatz at 4:32 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Auuugh.
posted by ook at 4:32 AM on April 3, 2013


Don't dot a man who ain't dead yet, says I. We have time for a few Iain [M] Banks celebratory parties/meet-ups before he sublimes, to show the mind that he's appreciated - surely consistent with the values of our fictional-interstellar-anarchist-and-utopian-society.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:33 AM on April 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


Aw, man. Poor guy. 59 years old seems too young for such a utopia-focused novelist.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:34 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Christ. One of my favourite authors. Goddamn it.
posted by Decani at 4:35 AM on April 3, 2013


Reading his early novels as a boy disturbed me in the best possible sense, completely knocked me sideways, and literally caused me to read open-mouthed and wide-eyed so often that it became a running joke in my family.

One of the very best.
posted by Usher at 4:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a terrible thing to read first thing in the morning.

I love all his books and had looked forward to many more. But in addition to my selfish desire for more well-written science fiction books that aren't creepy paeans to right-wing politics (both of which taken separately are more rare than they should be and the combination is almost unique), he is too young to die.

cancer is a bullshit disease.
posted by winna at 4:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah man that sucks. I met him many years ago when he came to talk to the Science Fiction society at Glasgow Uni. Lovely bloke, wicked sense of humour.
posted by bap98189 at 4:38 AM on April 3, 2013


One of the very few authors I unabashedly admire. Everything he's written. I'm very sorry for this outcome to his too-short life.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:40 AM on April 3, 2013


I've seen him speak here in Edinburgh. He's a great author and a key part of the Scottish fiction scene, both genre and mainstream. I am absolutely gutted to hear this news. What a bloody awful thing.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:48 AM on April 3, 2013


I read The Wasp Factory a few years ago without knowing anything about it. It has never left me. Such a fascinating and horrifying look at childhood. I have his 'Culture' novels waiting to be read on my kindle. Maybe I should give it a go.

My thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones.
posted by Fizz at 4:49 AM on April 3, 2013


I came to Banks via The Bridge, and it was such an eye opening book for me. I'd always loved books, but this was a new kind of book for me where people could talk in Scottish accents and bald patches could be described in terms of fruit or currency. I loved it so much.

I pretty much read everything he published without the M from there 'til Complicity, and everything he wrote with the M until Use of Weapons. I've been picking him up again recently. Liked Surface Detail and liked Hydrogen Sonata too. I'm older and more cynical I guess, so that initial rush of fandom isn't going to happen again, but I remember him so fondly.

He gave us The Crow Road and The Wasp Factory. He gave us The Culture, and by God he's left an awesome mark on literature and on science fiction.

I hope he gets to do the things he needs to do in the time he has left.
posted by zoo at 4:50 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dammit. Far too young. No dot - he's still got some living to do yet! I hope he enjoys every minute of it.

Fuck cancer.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:50 AM on April 3, 2013


I've been reading him for almost 20 years, I've just realised. More than half my life. It feels like losing an old friend.
posted by permafrost at 4:51 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn, universe.
posted by odinsdream at 4:56 AM on April 3, 2013


Ach, this is too bad. I feel distinctly mixed about his novels, particularly about the Culture books, which I want to love but somehow can never get a purchase on no matter how many I read. (I take this to be largely my failing.) But I've been impressed with the man and his work, and The Wasp Factory was a great novel to read as a newly recovering adolescent.
posted by OmieWise at 4:56 AM on April 3, 2013


A Mefi regular took a username from one of Banks' ships, but I can't think of it.

If anyone remembers who it is, you might drop him a MeMail to let him know. This is likely to be important to him.
posted by Malor at 4:57 AM on April 3, 2013


I came across Banks' work cold, back at a time when there were only three Culture books and before I had internet access and had discovered rec.arts.sf.written, in the local library. His books blew me away, they were so different, so much more alive and interesting than any of the other science fiction I'd read before. Then his proper fiction as well, books like Complicity or The Bridge: brilliant.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:58 AM on April 3, 2013


Malor: I assume you mean ROU Xenophobe but I think there are a few others round here whose usernames draw on Banks' novels.
posted by biffa at 5:00 AM on April 3, 2013


Fuck no.

A Mefi regular took a username from one of Banks' ships,

ROU_Xenophobe.

Fuck.
posted by Jimbob at 5:00 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


How very sad; I was hoping we would all Sublime together.
posted by jcrcarter at 5:00 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Shitbuckets all to hell! I've been reading him for going on twenty years and he's been a great influence on me. Reading the Guardian article he reminds me Pratchett in his stoicism. Hope his honeymoon is a good one.

Anyone know where one might send him a "keep well, don't suffer" card?
posted by monocultured at 5:00 AM on April 3, 2013


Ah shit.

I feel like a selfish asshole, because my first thought was that there would be no more Culture.

Thanks to both Iain and Iain M. for the indelible mark you've left on so many of us. Fuck cancer.
posted by vanar sena at 5:02 AM on April 3, 2013


Seriously, I've had this thought in the back of my mind over the last several years, as I've been reading and re-reading his works (a Banks book is pretty much every other book I read) and waiting anxiously for the next Culture novel; "He's not that old. He's got a good set of books left in him yet. Nothing's going to happen to him. We're not going to lose him like Douglas Adams or countless other unique and brilliant talents." Fuck man.
posted by Jimbob at 5:03 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I haven't read enough science fiction recently for this comment to mean a thing, but the only science fiction novels I've enjoyed enough to finish in the last 20 years have all been Culture novels. I'm pleased to hear about his honeymoon, but sorry for the proximal cause. And the less said about his bastard gall bladder the better.
posted by ~ at 5:05 AM on April 3, 2013


Shit :(
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:06 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Horrible, Awful news. : (

I love his books. Especially Excession and Consider Phlebas. They're such wonderfully intricate masterpieces.

Heartbroken.
posted by zarq at 5:07 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many mefites names come from Banks' novels. EndsofInvention, HorzaBorzaGobuchul, etc.
posted by zarq at 5:08 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


As does the OP's, I believe.
posted by zarq at 5:09 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


A Mefi regular took a username from one of Banks' ships

I've been naming my servers after his ships for over a decade now. His (Scottish) books have been set in the intimately familiar landscape around me: from the Fortingall yew to the Gilmerton Fiats (now gone), and as such he's been part of the landscape. This is sort of as shocking as discovering that the Wallace monument is being demolished in a couple of weeks, or something (I'd far rather the monument go).
posted by titus-g at 5:10 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've read every book he's written and own most of them. Shit, shit, shit. Fuck cancer so hard.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:12 AM on April 3, 2013


NO NO NO NO NO.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:24 AM on April 3, 2013


TANJ
posted by infini at 5:25 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fuck. Calamitous news. Hit me harder than I would expect of someone I have never met.

His Culture novels have felt increasingly important in the face of a Tory government taking the UK (though hopefully not Scotland for much longer) in the opposite direction. His "vision" of human potential is the last thing we can afford to lose.

And the acknowlegement of the NHS in his astoundingly dignified statement is pure class.
posted by runincircles at 5:26 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fuck. I got out of bed to this on facebook, and in my inbox, and here. Not what I fucking needed.

Like a bunch of others, I've been reading him for twenty years or so. Also, biscotti and I met on the Culture listserv, still going after all these years, and we're not the only couple who met there. So this is a bad day.

Thanks for thinking of the various folks who've named our alts after his work, Malor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:27 AM on April 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


A Mefi regular took a username from one of Banks' ships

I've been naming my servers after his ships for over a decade now. His (Scottish) books have been set in the intimately familiar landscape around me: from the Fortingall yew to the Gilmerton Fiats (now gone), and as such he's been part of the landscape. This is sort of as shocking as discovering that the Wallace monument is being demolished in a couple of weeks, or something (I'd far rather the monument go).


I believe we also have a Bora Horza Gobuchul somewhere around these parts.
(The OP here is also a ship name.)

And … fuck.
Cancer is seriously starting to piss me off.

I need to start reading his non-M books too.
posted by spitefulcrow at 5:27 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


When other famous people have become sick or died I haven't really felt much. I've felt sorry for their friends and family, but that's it, not something personal. But this? This feels close. I love Banks' writing, he is easily my favourite author. I know it is nothing to those who know him personally and will be losing a friend or a partner, but to I perhaps better understand the outpouring when other writers or artists have passed.

I first read The Player of Games when I randomly pulled it off the shelves of the mobile library that stopped near my home in high school once a week. I'm not sure exactly when, some time between '88 when it was written and '90 or '91. I loved it but don't think I read anything else of his until uni a few years later. That was when I got hooked. I bought and read everything he wrote, and he's the only author I could say that of. To this day I buy all his books in physical form even though I am very much an e-book convert.

What more can you say? I hope he fills his short, remaining months with as much joy as he can. And thank-you for the absolute pleasure you have brought me for the last 25 years.
posted by markr at 5:27 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuck a DUCK!

Him, Pratchett, I am getting SO sick of this people I like dying inevitably thing.

Well, yay for him getting time to say his goodbyes though, so there's that.
posted by Samizdata at 5:29 AM on April 3, 2013


First read him in 1986. Read most of his stuff since, and sometimes got paid to do so. Absolute giant. And funny funny man.
posted by Wolof at 5:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the link to the site where people can leave messages, if the above links aren't working for anyone
posted by runincircles at 5:32 AM on April 3, 2013


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spacecraft_in_the_Culture_series

Had been putting off buying Hydrogen Sonata in a fit of delayed gratification and parsimony. Lunch time, Waterstones, hard cover. That's quite enough of that.

Fuck cancer.
posted by bright cold day at 5:35 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


“Our lives are about development, mutation and the possibility of change; that is almost a definition of what life is: change... If you disable change, if you effectively stop time, if you prevent the possibility of the alteration of an individual's circumstances — and that must include at least the possibility that they alter for the worse — then you don't have life after death; you just have death.”
― Iain Banks, Look to Windward
posted by Fizz at 5:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Surely he's been backed up?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of the first comments at the time I checked on the guestbook linked by runincircles said it best: "Simply, thank you for everything."
posted by markr at 5:36 AM on April 3, 2013


The Gilmerton bit (from Complicity) is strangely apt in terms of how this feels:
I pass through Gilmerton, a wee village just outside Crieff, where I'd turn off for Strathspeld if I was heading that way. Used to be there was a collection of three identical little blue Fiat 126s sitting facing the road here outside one of the houses; they were there for years and years and I always meant to stop off here and find the owner and ask him, Why have you had these three little blue Fiat 126s sitting outside your house for the last decade? because I wanted to know and besides it might have made a decent story and over the years there must have been millions of people who've passed this way and wondered the same thing, but I never did get around to it; always in a hurry, rushing past, anxious to get to the tainted paradise that Strathspeld's always been to me… Anyway, the three little blue Fiat 126s disappeared recently so there's no point. Guy seems to be collecting transit vans these days. I felt hurt, almost grieved when I first saw that house without the three little cars outside; it was like a death in the family, like some distant but friendly uncle had copped it.
I've been meaning to ride that full route (and find Strathspeld, or where it's based on) ever since the book came out... (some people have the santiago de compostela, some of us worship other gods).
posted by titus-g at 5:38 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


zarq: "Many mefites names come from Banks' novels."

Including the now departed Cheradine Zakalwe. I was proud that I managed to restrain myself from pointing out the misspelling, but here we are.
posted by vanar sena at 5:40 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't worry everyone. There's an undercover SC agent in Quietus who's all over this.

Right?
posted by digitalprimate at 5:41 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:43 AM on April 3, 2013


This definitely calls for Sma to write a poem.
posted by localroger at 5:43 AM on April 3, 2013


GSV Sudden News Of A Sorrowful Nature

GCU Not Today, Thankyou

ROU Well Loved, Well Armed

VFP Sticking Two Fingers Up To Your Sudden Inevitable Demise
posted by Happy Dave at 5:47 AM on April 3, 2013 [29 favorites]


Well, shit.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:49 AM on April 3, 2013


A Mefi regular took a username from one of Banks' ships

I've listed all the Culture ship name Mefites (well the one's I've spotted, anyway) in my profile.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:53 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


But....but I just started the Culture series. Collection. Whatever.

Fuck.
posted by rtha at 5:54 AM on April 3, 2013


But....but I just started the Culture series. Collection. Whatever.

I envy you!
posted by Wolof at 5:56 AM on April 3, 2013


Is anyone else not able to see the guestbook form at this link? I can just see the comments themselves and I'd really like to sign it.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:57 AM on April 3, 2013


His novels have changed me for the better, and Raw Spirit is one of the best 'travelogues' I've ever read.

This calls for a few wee drams, I reckon.
posted by knapah at 5:58 AM on April 3, 2013


It sounds weird, given his reputation for twistedness and exploring dark recesses of the mind, but a particular passage he wrote is one of the most positive, life affirming things I've ever read. It helped me inordinately when I was just starting to piece my life back together following a catastrophic mental breakdown:

"It was like living half your life in a tiny, stuffy, warm grey box and being moderately happy in there because you knew no better . . . and then discovering a little hole in one corner of the box, a tiny opening which you could get a finger into, and tease and pull at, so that eventually you created a tear, which led to a greater tear, which led to the box falling apart around you . . . so that you stepped out of the confines of the tiny box into startingly cool, clear fresh air and found yourself on top of a mountain, surrounded by deep valleys, sighing forests, soaring peaks, glittering lakes, sparkling snowfields and a stunning, breathtakingly blue sky.

And that, of course, wasn't even the start of the real story, that was more like the breath that is drawn in before the first syllable of the first word of the first paragraph of the first chapter of the first book of the first volume of the story."


I wish him all happiness in his marriage, and as painless and peaceful an end as possible.
posted by protorp at 6:03 AM on April 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


Vast imagination, intricate delicate plotting, and wonderful words. One of the best alive and here too short a time.
posted by envygreen at 6:05 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't have enough words to express how fucking angry this makes me.

Fuck.
posted by Skorgu at 6:07 AM on April 3, 2013


This was really unhappy news to wake up to. My eyes are leaking a bit. Thank you so much for your words Iain, have a great honeymoon. Fuck cancer.
posted by Strass at 6:09 AM on April 3, 2013


Thank you Iain.


If religious people sometimes have an optimism and a resilience which they sustain in moments of existential doubt with the comforts of their faith,

then as silly as this sounds, I think for me the dream of The Culture is part of what fills that role, it articulates a vision of a post scarcity utopia so vividly that it feels not just credible but inevitable.

I'm having a hard time with the idea that The Culture could just stop, the grim truth that the culture was just the creative output of a mortal human being, and not a thriving reality into which I am permitted an infrequent glimpse.

I've spent a few minutes in denial fantasies, hoping that Kurzweil has an upload prototype he's been tinkering with in a lab somewhere, that google and amazon would donate 50% of their total machine time, surely that must be getting close to the computation power required for a real time brain simulation?, and in doing so not only ensure that I am permitted more glimpses, but also take a tangible technological step cultureward.

If Iain goes, I will have to face that it was just a dream, and probably we're all going to die after all
posted by compound eye at 6:10 AM on April 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


From his site:

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
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 6:12 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


No.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:19 AM on April 3, 2013


I feel particularly sucker-punched by this, with my partner and my father both currently being treated for cancer as well. It feels vaguely pathetic now that as eager as I have been to read it, I have been waiting for Hydrogen Sonata to come out in trade paper before buying.
posted by aught at 6:20 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a bag of shit.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:24 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you've never heard of Iain M. Banks until today and are curious about the universe he created in his scifi novels, io9 posted a great primer in 2008: Welcome to the Culture, the Galactic Civilization That Iain M. Banks Built. They also quote an essay posted by Ken MacLeod in 1994 to rec.arts.sf.written at Banks' request: A Few Notes on the Culture
posted by zarq at 6:24 AM on April 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


I want to add that it's because of the multiple recommendations for Banks' works in various "what should I read next" askmes that I started Consider Phlebas. As a genre, science fiction is something I've only skirted the very edges of and so my knowledge of what is "good", or at least what I'd like, was (is, still, really) as thin as tissue paper. I couldn't put Consider Phlebas down, and was delighted that there are so many other books in the collection. I'm very, very sorry that there's only going to be one more.
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tears.

Two random memories: at an Eastercon, late 80s. IMB holding court with a large spliff, a beer can which he was taking bites out of, and the first laser pointer I'd ever seen. He was being talked out of climbing up the outside of the Adelphi. Later, the laser pointer was used in bad ways to freak out passers-by.

The Troy Club, late 80s again, post-Soho signing. IMB with Christopher Priest, Gama, groberts@cix, and various others of the London SF writers/agents/independent bookshop scene. A plot was hatched to start up a fake technology company ostensibly building robots, with the intent of luring Margaret Thatcher into a media opportunity where the robot would suddenly display no interest whatsoever in Asimov and decapitate her on live TV.

And did he really sell sherry? I think he did.

Not many heroes chez Devonian: he's one, up there with John Peel, DNA, Feynman... who show that the twin acids of curiosity and intellect etch away the clutter around reality for glimpses of the terrible beauty underneath. A place where only humour keeps us human.

Fuck cancer. Fuck it with our last breath.
posted by Devonian at 6:26 AM on April 3, 2013 [30 favorites]


What terrible news. My sympathies to Mr. Banks and his family and friends. I've long admired his science fiction, especially the way the Culture asks us to confront what is both best and worst in ourselves.

I read a December interview in which he talked about potential future projects, and now I wonder what might have been (I love his remark about his publisher's potential reaction to a non-Culture book):
IMB – I don’t know. I’m not absolutely certain whether the next science fiction novel will be a Culture novel or not. There’s a Culture novel ready to go, almost, but I’ve got much more material than I would normally have at this point in the cycle, so I could almost press the button and go, but I feel it might be something too non-Culture. I don’t know. I’ll see how depressed my publishers look when I say I’m thinking about the next one being non-Culture.

GC – I know you’ve said you would only ever return to The Algebraist if there was as story crying out to be told.

IMB – I came up with a new story. My imagination was told to get a new Culture over a year ago, and it disappeared, came back like an enthusiastic puppy, and it turned out to be it wasn’t for the Culture it was for The Algebraist, and it went off, did it again, came back with a sequel to Against A Dark Background. So I’ve now got two non-Culture stories ready to go as well. Just the bare bones, but that’s all it needs. Eventually it did come up with The Hydrogen Sonata. So, yeah, I really don’t know. I really can’t say at the moment. Further research is required.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


the twin acids of curiosity and intellect etch away the clutter around reality for glimpses of the terrible beauty underneath

Devonian that sentence, and that sentiment, is something that I'm sure any of the geniuses you name would be proud to have come out with.

And thanks for the wonderful anecdotes too.
posted by runincircles at 6:32 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well fuck.

Not a lot you can say to that. He is of course one of my favourite authors and indeed favourite people on the planet. Best wishes to him and to family and everyone close.
posted by Artw at 6:39 AM on April 3, 2013


This man's books helped define my adulthood. I don't think I will ever hold another author's work as close to my heart.

Fuck this.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:47 AM on April 3, 2013


Fuck fuck fuck fuck (reapeat 7,600 more times).

I started reading The Hydrogen Sonata and put it down, waiting for a lazy weekend to read it in all its glory. Now, I want to hold that off for as long as I can. I also am afraid I will stain the page with tears.

I have read every M book and many of the non-M books. I always had trouble with the non-M books, as the people in them were too human, cruel and capricious, the bad guys in a Culture book without the Culture to poke its nose in and if not save everything, at least stir shit up with the unpleasant people.

I want another Algebraist book. I want another Dark Background Book. I want more culture books.

I don't want one of the most amazing authors I know of to die.

I would say that I hope he makes the best out of every moment he has left, but I feel kind of certain that he will. And as much as I want more books, I want him to be happy and feel ok for as long as he can much more.

End wu nos, maebee he wil guet a grate dreem abut wativer he waunts aun hys wai ut. (I can't do barbarian/Bascule well, but it's a shot.)
posted by Hactar at 6:55 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Terrible news...

Flat out my fave writer... I can still remember the exact moment I read the first sentences of The Wasp Factory. No compensation but he have gave me, many of my friends and no doubt many future generations hours of pleasure and he will be remembered as one of the greats. A legend. And a great bloke in real life too, the times I met him. All the best to those who are close to him.

"The sound was swept away by the mindless air."

The final line of The Hydrogen Sonata, the last Culture Novel.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:00 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


God dammit. Terrible news.
posted by mwhybark at 7:10 AM on April 3, 2013


Oh, no.
posted by oneironaut at 7:14 AM on April 3, 2013




I have always been aware that there is a huge gap in my nerd culture awareness because I have not, in fact, read any Iain Banks. This is not the reminder I would have chosen to prompt me to start. In some ways, authors dying feels a lot worse than other public figures passing on, because it's not just the author, but all the characters that you've known and loved and hoped for more of going with them too. I hope he has a great honeymoon.

And for everyone in this thread, if I am a Banks virgin, where should I start?
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]




My immediate reaction was sorrow that there would be no more books to look forward to. Then I remembered this quote:

“The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others
― Iain Banks, Complicity

And so was humbly reminded of what a sorry example of the species I am.

Thanks for the stories and the thought provoking ideas and all the rest. I wish him the best for his final months.
posted by never used baby shoes at 7:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


The guestbook form has reappeared, if people would like to sign it.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:42 AM on April 3, 2013


Well fuck.

His Culture books have helped me enjoy recovering from surgery and radiation on multiple occasions.
Thank you Iain, for sharing your mind(s) with us.
posted by HFSH at 7:43 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have the same gap in my nerd culture awareness as WidgetAlley... I guess now is the time to fix that.

Man. Fuck cancer right in its fucking ear.
posted by palomar at 8:00 AM on April 3, 2013


God DAMN it. The best and brightest; he's much too young. I just introduced another friend to the Culture books the other day; they never come into the bookstore but Player of Games and Consider Phlebas (two really GOOD ones not that there are any bad ones anyway) appeared and I gave them to my coworker with the note You MUST read these it is required. And it is.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:02 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


So fucking terrible, but such a classy way of telling people. He's a tremendous voice. God dammit.
posted by penduluum at 8:04 AM on April 3, 2013


WidgetAlley: " And for everyone in this thread, if I am a Banks virgin, where should I start?"

Consider Phlebas
Excession

...are considered some of his best works.
posted by zarq at 8:05 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


the last Culture Novel.

This is the cherry on top of the sundae that is me crying at my desk.

All of my heroes are dying.
posted by Sphinx at 8:06 AM on April 3, 2013


No offense Sphinx but fuck that and fuck cancer. As mentioned up-stream, every Culture novel was a gift.

Heroes dying? Then we find or become the new ones.

*passes tissue*
posted by Molesome at 8:15 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:17 AM on April 3, 2013


We need a knife missile for cancer.
posted by Skaffen-Amtiskaw at 8:24 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ah crap.

Fuck cancer again.
posted by mule98J at 8:24 AM on April 3, 2013


Fuck, shit and piss.

Never got on with the M books, but loved so many of his others - Wasp Factory, The Crow Road, Espedair Street...

Not just a great writer, but a decent human being.
posted by spectrevsrector at 8:32 AM on April 3, 2013


I'm just starting this series as well; it will be bittersweet. My boyfriend has spent many a time regaling me with ship names and singing the series' praises. In fact a new copy of Inversions is currently on it's way from the UK to our apartment as I attempt to complete our set with matching UK editions.
I am at such a loss for expression... I think "fuck this bag of shit" will do. Pass the tissues.
posted by Sayuri. at 8:32 AM on April 3, 2013


Yeah, but Wasp Factory will activate parts of your brain you didn't know you had. It will disturb you profoundly, knock you off kilter, make you think about who you are and all the assumptions you make about your fellow humans. The you who puts that book down will not be the same you who picked it up. You should not assume it will be a pleasant ride, but you can assume you will never forget having taken it, and you likely will not regret having done so, and hopefully will be grateful once you've integrated all of the things it has to show you.

On the other hand, Crow Road is just obnoxious. not the time or place
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:35 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have read the first three Culture books in the last year and I can't believe I hadn't read them before. Varsity level science fiction. Very sad news.
posted by zzazazz at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2013


I didn't cry about this until I was in another window, moused over the tab for this thread and read the thread title for the first time. Now I can't stop.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:40 AM on April 3, 2013


Fucking cancer. Hope his final days are filled with all the joy and wonder he can fit in.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:44 AM on April 3, 2013


I've just found the blurb for the soon to be published The Quarry, which will be Iain's last novel. Given today's news I knew it would be a tough read... but now I've just not got words...

Kit doesn’t know who his mother is. What he does know, however, is that his father, Guy, is dying of cancer. Feeling his death is imminent, Guy gathers around him his oldest friends – or at least the friends with the most to lose by his death. Paul – the rising star in the Labour party who dreads the day a tape they all made at university might come to light; Alison and Robbie, corporate bunnies whose relationship is daily more fractious; Pris and Haze, once an item, now estranged, and finally Hol – friend, mentor, former lover and the only one who seemed to care. But what will happen to Kit when Guy is gone? And why isn’t Kit’s mother in the picture? As the friends reunite for Guy’s last days, old jealousies, affairs and lies come to light as Kit watches on.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn.
One of my favourite authors and by all accounts a great man.
I've been reading and rereading his books for twenty years.
Sod this.
posted by bouvin at 8:52 AM on April 3, 2013


So sad to read this. A great author, and he was also warm, friendly, and decent when I had the good luck to meet him.

This bears repeating: fuck cancer.
posted by tadhg at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy shit.

I guess I'd always, naively, thought that he would live to see the utopia he so utterly flawlessly made real for me.

Reality sucks sometimes, you know?
posted by Spiegel at 8:55 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


No. No no no no no.

Aw jeez. Aw no.

I love the Culture books. This is goddamn heartbreaking.
posted by dipping_sauce at 9:04 AM on April 3, 2013


I love the fractal nature of his stories. Like the first chapter of Blood Meridian, which itself tells a story that could take whole books, Banks does this almost continuously in the Culture series. It's my absolute favorite thing, that I can expand a little paragraph into weeks or sometimes years of thought. His ideas get stuck with you, like compound eye put so perfectly, "it articulates a vision of a post scarcity utopia so vividly that it feels not just credible but inevitable."

Inevitable.
posted by odinsdream at 9:07 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well crap.
posted by egypturnash at 9:07 AM on April 3, 2013


Damnit.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2013


Too soon.

Just finished Surface Detail a few weeks ago and was saving up Hydrogen Sonata. Now it looks like that is the last of the Culture novels... I can't wrap my brain around that just now.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:24 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


dammit, dammit, dammit.
posted by Zed at 9:36 AM on April 3, 2013


Goddamn it.

Fuck cancer.
posted by homunculus at 9:38 AM on April 3, 2013


I just want to add some love for the non-SF books, which for me are (apart from the few he phoned in) better than the SF works, good though many of those are. The Crow Road, The Bridge and Complicity are all quite brilliant. He was... Christ, listen to me with that terrible "was"... probably the best writer of real, believable, totally recognisable characters of my background and generation.
posted by Decani at 9:41 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck. Even if Banks had never written a single word he'd still get props as the man who, back in the 1980s, once ordered a dressing gown with the monogram FTT (which stood for "Fuck The Tories").
posted by Len at 10:09 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


There has to be a better word than fuck, but it's all I can think of now. Fuck. Fuck cancer, fuck dying too fucking early, and fuck this fucking shit.

Grief eliminates my vocabulary.

My heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and fans.


Fuck.
posted by blurker at 10:18 AM on April 3, 2013


One of the first things I did on my first trip to England, ages ago now, was to head to the nearest bookstore and pick up all the Culture books I couldn't yet get where I was in the US (this was after being lent Feersum Endjinn and Player of Games by a British friend, and instantly getting hooked). So many scenes from so many of those books are still so vivid in my mind - this seems like a good time to reread them all.

So deeply sad to hear this. Fuck cancer.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:19 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can expand a little paragraph into weeks or sometimes years of thought. His ideas get stuck with you

Yes. I was given Matter this past Christmas, and the number of time I had to put it down in order to think through the implications of some of the ideas in that book...and then to find, fifty pages later, that he had thought up other, entirely different implications of that idea...It was amazing.

Fuck cancer.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2013




I am saddened by this news, and annoyed by all the casual swearing in here.

Seriously, do you really need to use that language to express your profound and unique opposition to cancer? It is cheap and juvenile and you should cut it out.
posted by General Tonic at 10:33 AM on April 3, 2013


I very much doubt that any of the swearing in this thread is casual.
posted by Len at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


In fact, it is, instead, deeply and deliberately meant.
posted by Len at 10:36 AM on April 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


Do you really need to critique how others express their grief and sorrow because it's not the way you would have done it? Is this really the place for it?

My first reaction when I saw the news on John Scalzi's blog this morning was a loud and heartfelt curse word. I've had this thread open all morning but haven't been able to think of anything to add that hasn't already been said.
posted by skycrashesdown at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


What a loss. What a shame. I had blithely anticipated years of Banks' imagination to come - he's not that old yet! His vision capered across such a large stage - tens of thousands of years, light-years beyond counting, vast complex societies, languages and histories and variety seemingly without end - it is a little bit hard to believe that the man himself lives in the present, constrained by our comparatively barbaric medical technology.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm grieving both for a good man who deserves far better, and, selfishly, for the books he will now never write.

I wanted to see how it ends.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:51 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


From Iainmbanks forum:

23/Dec/12 - Iain says he will start writing on 7th January 2013. It is set in Northumberland and is called The Quarry.

05/Mar/13 - The Banksonian reports that publication date will be the 3rd October 2013

19/Mar/13 - And, this afternoon, an e-mail from Amazon advising that rather than being delivered in August, my copy of The Quarry would arrive in June.

19/Mar/13 - Cool, 272 pages is rather short for a modern novel though ...

28/Mar/13 - I found a description of the book from a listing in a rights for sale catalogue
"Kit doesn’t know who his mother is. What he does know, however, is that his father, Guy, is dying of cancer. Feeling his death is imminent, Guy gathers around him his oldest friends – or at least the friends with the most to lose by his death. Paul – the rising star in the Labour party who dreads the day a tape they all made at university might come to light; Alison and Robbie, corporate bunnies whose relationship is daily more fractious; Pris and Haze, once an item, now estranged, and finally Hol – friend, mentor, former lover and the only one who seemed to care. But what will happen to Kit when Guy is gone? And why isn’t Kit’s mother in the picture? As the friends reunite for Guy’s last days, old jealousies, affairs and lies come to light as Kit watches on."
03/Apr/13 - Given today's news, isn't this the saddest blurb you've read?

...

I have read practically everything by Iain Banks, it was such a shock to hear the news. Now I am wondering - is it subject matter of The Quarry a coincidence, or a late edit? I think it must be coincidence.
posted by memebake at 11:00 AM on April 3, 2013


And now Roger Ebert's cancer is back.

I'm just not gonna read any newsfeeds for the next while.
posted by Iridic at 11:05 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've given away several copies of The Crow Road. The Russian hardback is on my shelf right now. As writers go, he started late, and I'm sad that he's finishing early.

He's a great.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:07 AM on April 3, 2013


> annoyed by all the casual swearing in here.

Fuck cancer is a meme and a charity that uses the meme to raise funds for cancer awareness. It's not casual as much as it's a cultural reference with specific meaning; people are expressing their frustration through a popular phrase.
posted by ardgedee at 11:11 AM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Very sad news. I have never read any of the books published with the M. in the author's name, but am a very big fan of the other ones.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:12 AM on April 3, 2013


As writers go, he started late

The Wasp Factory was published on his 30th birthday. That doesn't seem that late.
posted by dng at 11:26 AM on April 3, 2013


I know exactly the month I started reading Iain because I read an interview with him in, of all things, PC Format. According to the single google hit for the appropriate search string, it was the June 1996 issue; I was sixteen.

I remember being on holiday with my family that year on some wind-blown island, reading first The Wasp Factory (while listening to Garbage's debut album until the tape started to warp; to this day the album and the book are intertwined in my memory) and then Complicity (The Holy Bible by the Manic Street Preachers) and finally getting my teenage mind blown inside out by The Bridge (Joy Division, Closer). It was a landmark summer for me for many reasons, and very much the start of my downward spiral, and Iain was with me all the way down and then, in my early twenties, all the way back up again and over the edge.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fucking hell. Fuck cancer.

(About a month ago I went to my first horse race, and was struck by how all the horses were named like Culture ships.)
posted by brundlefly at 11:30 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nthing the fuckage of cancer. Banks is a global treasure and I hope against all statistical likelihood that he survives this.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2013


Further to Len's comment above, here's a mention of the FTT monogram in a 1996 Wired article:

The author's shirt says a lot. Unlike most of the chestware gracing the annual British science fiction convention, it looks quite at home in the plush surroundings of the Radisson Edwardian hotel's poshest bar - which is surprisingly posh. It is by any standards a nice shirt: rich cotton, well tailored, expensive. And it is monogrammed. The initials are not a plain "IB" for Iain Banks, the mainstream novelist whose short, sharp, shock of a debut, The Wasp Factory, has led to more than a decade of success and critical acclaim. Nor are they a more flowery "IMB" for Iain M. Banks, the name under which he publishes his opulent, galaxy-spanning science fiction.

Instead, the letters on Banks's pocket are "FTT". I ask him who he stole the shirt from, and he laughs with perhaps a touch of embarrassment. "It stands for 'Fuck the Tories'. I used to have t-shirts made that said the same thing, but now...."

posted by knapah at 11:34 AM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have thoroughly enjoyed almost all of Banks' writing, but in particular "The Player of Games" has a very special place in my heart, as one of a handful of novels I read during my teens and early twenties which really helped me make sense of who I was. This news really brings home quite what a debt of gratitude I feel I owe the man. Very sad.
posted by kxr at 11:34 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget Banks also sent back his passport in protest against the War on Iraq.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:38 AM on April 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


knapah – 

Ah, it was shirts and t-shirts, not a dressing gown. Memory fails me yet again. (Though I suppose maybe he had all three, but never talked about the dressing gown in public ...)
posted by Len at 12:13 PM on April 3, 2013


If anyone would ike to hear his voice, he did a BBC "Bookclub" on The Wasp Factory in 2011 (I think) which has just become available online from their archives:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b016w0nf

I have only read the (mind-taffy-pulling) Culture novels, and hearing this interview made me very eager to try his non-Culture books.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:15 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before the internet, before I could just go online and speak directly with a dozen people like me, before television even started trying to show balanced depictions of trans people on television, Iain Banks gave me a Culture full of people who could change their gender whenever they wanted, without fuss and without stigma. Changing gender was just something people did, or didn't to, as they wished. It was a window into a world I needed to live in, a world I could visit whenever I needed to while my immediate reality was chaos.

He helped me survive.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:15 PM on April 3, 2013 [28 favorites]


MartinWisse: Let's not forget Banks also sent back his passport in protest against the War on Iraq.

Better than that, according to most reports, he didn't actually send it back to the Passport Office; he ripped it up and posted it to Tony Blair, c/o 10 Downing St.
posted by Len at 12:17 PM on April 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Consider Phlebas
Excession

...are considered some of his best work


Excession is so amazeballs that I'd leave it till after you've read a few of the other culture books, it really is the pinnacle for me.

Fare thee well IMB.
posted by amorphatist at 12:56 PM on April 3, 2013


Hell.

.
posted by Splunge at 1:00 PM on April 3, 2013


aw, fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck (cancer).

He'll be missed, as one of the few SF writers to not only be non-libertarian non-gender-conservative in his writing, but to actually be actively, balls-out, lefty-anarchist-hedonist.

In any case, +1 to him for having the sense of humor to ask his partner to do the "til death do us part" vow just when his death is on the horizon. There is such thing as "a good death," and I hope he manages to have one.
posted by LMGM at 1:41 PM on April 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


Not fair. Not cool.
posted by asfuller at 1:46 PM on April 3, 2013


I really hope that he's made, or is making, some good arrangements for the tv/movie rights to his works; by far, my favorite thing about his writing is the optimistic worldbuilding, which feels a lot like an updated-for-21st-century version of Roddenberry's utopian visions.

I would dearly love for a huge wave of optimistic-about-humanity's-potential sci-fi to hit mainstream entertainment, and I think The Culture would be an excellent background for it.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:57 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am taking a long plane ride soon. I think I might try to convert Consider Phlebas to a screenplay, just for the fun of it.
posted by Strass at 2:00 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's so unfair; I'd have hoped that he of all people would enjoy a good 300, 400 year span before joining a group mind or being put into Storage until something interesting happens.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:19 PM on April 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


A comment seen on Twitter: “Can't we switch and have Iain Banks in every newsagent and The Daily Mail with terminal cancer?”
posted by acb at 3:42 PM on April 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


A friend of mine and I periodically comment that we need Culture technology. If ever we really needed it, it's now. Bugger.

Glad he's having a honeymoon, and his black sense of humour is still working.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:01 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favourite twitter suggestion so far is that the new Forth bridge be named just, 'The Bridge'. I'm not sure if he was living in N. Queensferry when he wrote the book (think so), but that really is a town dominated (beautifully) by the bridges. So it may even be recursive.

Stephen Fry also declares him 'two of my favourite living writers'.

#toIain Sláinte
posted by titus-g at 4:23 PM on April 3, 2013


I really love Banks' work. I loved sf when I was a teen, went away from it for about 20 years, and now, in my 40s, have come back to it, and one of the great delights of my rediscovery has been his work.

Enjoy the time you have left, Mr Banks, and thanks.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:24 PM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fuck. This is not what I was looking for today.
The catchment of these cultured lives
Was not in flesh,
And what we only knew,
You felt,
With all the marrow of your twisted cells.
--Rasd Coduresa Diziet Embless Sma da' Marenhide, c/o SC

Thanks, Iain.
posted by Justinian at 4:53 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The man changed my life and never even met me. The last few years have seen some of my lifelong heroes and friends go, and though I always knew he'd one day write his last book, I'd hoped it would be many many years from now. Between this and Ebert's news...
posted by biscotti at 4:55 PM on April 3, 2013


I still remember where I was when I started reading Consider Phlebas, I was in the second booth in from the door at a Chinese restaurant on Mercer st in New York City. I had prawns and snow peas. I was instantly engrossed in the story and the mood and the world within the first twenty pages, in a way that I hadn't been since I was a child. I literally cannot forget every moment of that experience.

A writer with power, humor and devastating insight, a writer that elevated scifi, a man who will be dearly missed. What a sad day. But he is leaving us so much.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:36 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also wonder, selfishly, if he would consider passing on the culture universe to someone else.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:37 PM on April 3, 2013


I also wonder, selfishly, if he would consider passing on the culture universe to someone else.

Don't say China Mieville. I don't need pus-encrusted insects all up in my Rapid Offensive Units.
posted by Jimbob at 5:59 PM on April 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Goddamnit goddamnit goddamnit. I just finished The Hydrogen Sonata and, as with all Banks' books, my reaction was, "Holy crap. How will he top that?"
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:14 PM on April 3, 2013


I'd be pretty happy not to have an Official Expanded Culture Universe, TBH. Throw it open to everyone or let it lie.
posted by Artw at 6:15 PM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I started reading his Culture series in the last few month. This is so sad. So unfair.

He got me reading again and I thank him daily. I will miss you, Mr. Banks.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 6:25 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm reflecting now on the lovely scene in Hydrogen Sonata comparing the Mind's love of gazing at the surface of a sun with our love of staring at campfires.... and it's getting to be the perfect season for camping, too, and man, that's when I was really plowing through the books, too. Damn it.
posted by odinsdream at 7:01 PM on April 3, 2013


Aw shit! One time years ago Mr Banks came to speak at our little SF club in Dublin. Because aside from Douglas Adams at the time he was easily our most famous get, he got a TV interview. So they decided to do it during the day at one of the snootiest nightclubs of the time which as renowned for an exclusionary door policy. Needless to say, none of us nerds had ever been admitted. So we went along during the daytime to see what it was like: quite nice, with lots of chrome and fixtures which went well, I guess, with a scifi theme. But then when the manager saw him being interviewed, he somehow made some calculation that this was someone who probably should get a VIP room pass for that evening. So we asked him if we could get in as well. Everything was okay until Mr Banks asked us, later, why we had been so eager to get an invite. When he heard how snooty the club was, he said "I hate that shite!" and suggested we go out to a regular pub instead. And the craic was mighty. That's the kind of cool guy he is. Also, he writes like noone else, and had an in-depth knowledge of Hesse's The Glass Bead Game (without which Player of Games loses a whole layer of meaning).
posted by meehawl at 7:32 PM on April 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


Ugh not Miéville. His work always seems to me like someone who read a bunch of Dungeons & Dragons novelizations while they were in graduate school decided they had to pay for their degree somehow and figured that writing glossy verbose accounts of their role-playing campaigns was the way to do it. Doubtless the justification is that he is deconstructing the genre for laudable political purposes.

But aside from stylistic quibbling and my conviction that the main female leads must be generally based on his girlfriend's Rifts characters, we don't need more work from other people in Iain Banks' universe. We need more work from people in their own universes.
posted by winna at 8:18 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cory Doctorow did a great, very gracious piece on Iain on BoingBoing.

I'm sorry, but I can't do that. Cory says he never knowingly met Iain; I've known Iain for 25 years and gone drinking with him from time to time and it's too damn raw to talk about right now.

But I'd like to thank those of you who have mentioned what the Culture meant to you. While I'm no substitute for Iain Banks, you've given me an idea ... and I know who I'm dedicating my next novel[*] to.

[*] For "trilogy" values of novel—it's be a thousand page long story with two dotted lines down the spine when I send it to my editor.
posted by cstross at 8:24 PM on April 3, 2013 [37 favorites]


I've only read half the Culture books, but each has been so different from the others, it hardly seems relevant to speak of someone continuing the Culture universe... the elements the books have had in common are already generic (pace, everyone, I mean literally of-the-genre) tropes of modern space opera.
posted by Zed at 9:37 PM on April 3, 2013


It's a sparse universe, Zed. It feels like there's so much left to be filled in.
posted by Jimbob at 11:26 PM on April 3, 2013


I really don't want this to be true. Time to start re-re-reading the Culture novels.
posted by neushoorn at 1:48 AM on April 4, 2013


The novels of both Bankses took me through my 20s. I've fallen in and out of love with his work, and yet I've read every single book he's written.

The world will miss his eye and his imagery, his ability to plot, and not least (by far) - his sensibility. His sense for what matters in a character or a scene, and for what is important to humans. Of what is worthy of note, and what is not. The Culture is such a startling creation, precisely because of what it decides to treat as important, valuable, even moral. For most other writers, the idea of plenty for all, a society of total comfort, cannot be anything but a trap - the first chapter in some it-all-goes-wrong story. Iain M Banks decided to make that world the bedrock of his books: an Eden that endures. To this day, I'm still a socialist because Iain M Banks placed a whisper in the back of my head that maybe, just maybe, if everyone could stop worrying about getting fed, watered, housed and laid, then the result would not be disaster, but something wonderful.

And then there's Walking on Glass, Espedair Street, The Bridge and The Crow Road. There was a long time when I thought that there could be no better writer to be, than being Iain Menzies Banks.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 3:02 AM on April 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


i was watching a video on cyberbullying (on upworthy.com)and the narrator said:

'a well calibrated algorithm may be what we need to provide a little human compassion'

Sometimes seems that a lot of how I see the world is shaped by this deeply planted belief that the minds are coming and it's all going to be ok.


I'm going to miss you Iain.
posted by compound eye at 4:29 AM on April 4, 2013


Two authors? Hell, he covered more ground than *ten* regular authors, and he was still going strong! (Stay healthy, Charlie!)
posted by whuppy at 5:13 AM on April 4, 2013


It seemed like a coda to a wonderful evening (personal version of the story here), but the other night (Tuesday, essentially right before this announcement), an off-duty MTA worker excitedly stopped me as I was getting off the subway (at 1am). He asked me about Excession, which I'm reading currently, and whether I'd read the rest of the Culture books. It was a brief but lovely moment between two strangers; the kind of thing that makes me love this city.

State of the Art contains a passage where a Culture representative meets another in NYC, circa the 1970s. The picture Banks paints of the city highlights everything that makes this city so wonderful yet so terrible. I feel like that story is an excellent example of what makes him such a great writer. Thanks, Banks. Thanks.
posted by Eideteker at 6:43 AM on April 4, 2013


Eideteker: "State of the Art contains a passage where a Culture representative meets another in NYC, circa the 1970s. "

I loved this line:
"Also while I'd been away, the ship had sent a request on a postcard to the BBC's World Service, asking for 'Mr David Bowie's "Space Oddity" for the good ship Arbitrary and all who sail in her.' (This from a machine that could have swamped Earth's entire electro-magnetic spectrum with whatever the hell it wanted from somewhere beyond Betelgeuse.) It didn't get the request played. The ship thought this was hilarious."

posted by zarq at 6:47 AM on April 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


'Geek Culture' writer Carol Pinchefsky in Forbes: "Why Dying Author Iain M. Banks Has My Undying Gratitude"
In 2005, when writing for SciFi.com (now SyFy), I had the pleasure of briefly interviewing Banks in 2005. I asked him about his far-flung universe, The Culture, a universe so wide and wild that it defies description. (The closest I can come: It’s a hard science fiction series about an advanced civilization.)

When I asked him, “What does the Culture mean to you? Is it a metaphor, or is it just one wacky playpen?” he answered, “It’s my secular heaven, the place I’d like to go to when… well, while I’m still alive to enjoy it, actually. Ain’t going to happen, of course, but, hey, a chap can dream.”

Then I told him about the instrumental part he had played in my marriage, and he asked, “Did you save me a piece of the wedding cake?” No. No, I had not. But it’s now my officially goal to track down Iain M. Banks and send him a it-sucks-you’re-dying-best-of-luck-winding-down cake.

...

In 2006, the author of The Player of Games, once famously missed a deadline because he was busy playing Civilization. After three months of building civilizations in the game world, rather than the world of fiction, he deleted his files and smashed his CD.

posted by zarq at 9:46 AM on April 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ian Rankin tweeted today
"E-mail from Iain Banks this morning. Enjoying life to the max with partner Adele in Italy, and aware of everyone's good wishes and support."
posted by stuartmm at 10:29 AM on April 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


One of my favourite bits in The State of the Art:

"I didn't want to leave, I didn't want to keep them safe from us and let them devour themselves; I wanted maximum interference; I wanted to hit the place with a programme Lev Davidovitch would have been proud of.

I wanted to see the junta generals fill their pants when they realized that the future is - in Earth terms - bright, bright red."

posted by knapah at 11:24 AM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Iridic: "And now Roger Ebert's cancer is back."

The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times are now reporting that Roger Ebert has died: A Film Critic with the soul of a poet
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on April 4, 2013


Man, this fucking week...
posted by Artw at 12:55 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What? No. No.
posted by rtha at 12:55 PM on April 4, 2013


Obit Thread
posted by zarq at 12:58 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


...which was just deleted.
posted by zarq at 1:01 PM on April 4, 2013


As always, FUCK CANCER.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:39 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is Ken MacLeod's post about the matter on his blog. They have been good friends for decades and have undoubtedly had a great effect on each other's work. MacLeod, for example, is responsible for suggesting Use of Weapons' structure. Which resulted in my favorite Banks novel and, more generally, one of my favorite books of any type.

This must be a trying time for them all.
posted by Justinian at 3:45 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just to add for posterity that my username here was absolutely chosen right out of the pages of (searches google for the right culture novel) Look to Windward. Having been here a short time, I knew I was not the only culture-name here, but the ache in my soul was profound and you guys have gone some way to sharing if not dampening the pain, so thanks metafilter for sharing this moment with me.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:17 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would change my user name to "Ultimate Ship the Second" if I could, in honour of IMB.

But, since I can't, I will leave this Wiki list of Culture ship names here. IMB's ship names have always brought me joy.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:41 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next April Fool's day, every MeFite's display name should be changed to that of a Culture ship.
posted by brundlefly at 7:30 PM on April 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here is Iain Banks on Desert Island Discs back in '97. Haven't listened to it yet, but the selections look intriguing.
posted by runincircles at 2:28 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was looking at this thread yesterday thinking that a lot of MeFi usernames would make excellent Ship names:
ROU Authorised User
VfP Fight Or Flight
LOU His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts
GCU Compound Eye
GSV Our Ship Of The Imagination!
GCU Army Of Kittens
GCV These Premises Are Alarmed

posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:35 AM on April 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm still hoping for remission/luck/GSV showing up and resolving the issue. I just picked up Hydrogen Sonata and am having a difficult time getting into it knowing it may be the last.

Perhaps the GCU Fate Amenable to Change is en route?

If Mr. Banks wants his army of readers to do something absurd for his humor in the coming months, please let me know.
posted by Farce_First at 4:12 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Mr. Banks wants his army of readers to do something absurd for his humor in the coming months, please let me know.

I will debase myself for your pleasure, great one!
posted by Strass at 7:48 AM on April 5, 2013


How about a mass synchronised radio station request for Space Oddity, a la State Of The Art?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2013


That would be kinda awesome. :)
posted by zarq at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2013



How about a mass synchronised radio station request for Space Oddity, a la State Of The Art?


Does the BBC still accept postcard requests? Cause I see an idea forming...

BBC World Service
Audience Relations Team
1st Floor Brock House
19 Langham Street
London W1A 1AA
posted by Farce_First at 8:53 AM on April 5, 2013


EndsOfInvention: "GCU Army Of Kittens"

Always seen myself as more of a (d)ROU, tbh. Currently working as a VFP but retaining the option, in time of war, to effectively instantly turn eccentric and join the Ulterior civ furthest away from the conflict.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:36 AM on April 5, 2013


Unofficial fan Culture RPG scenario in progress...
posted by Zed at 3:59 PM on April 5, 2013


LOU His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts

Come, now. My offensiveness is not 'limited'.

I'm actually super flattered by this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:31 PM on April 5, 2013


I read the Hydrogen Sonata in about 3 days after it came out and loved it just as much as every other Culture novel. For some reason I decided last week to listen to the audiobook, and I've been happily lost in that world for a few days- I was listening to it when I first saw the news on Twitter. It's been heartbreaking to finish up the audiobook thinking that this is it. Culture novels are in a very small group of scifi books I will buy and read the instant they're released. There are just so many fabulous moments in them.

This afternoon I was on a long amtrak train ride down the east coast listening to the end of Hydrogen Sonata- I'm convinced trains and audiobooks are among the best matchups available- and I almost started cracking up and crying at the part where Mistake Not is attempting to convince Vyr to not go back to the airship and stops their fight short with "I don't know about you, Vyr, but I'm sort of posturing here." I mean, really. Few other authors come up with moments quite so silly and so moving at the same time.
posted by lyra4 at 7:35 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've noticed that when I'm reading authors who are in and out of MetaFilter (although it could be a result of other online spaces) that sometime dialogues read just like an FPP thread. jscalzi I'm looking at you.
posted by infini at 3:42 AM on April 6, 2013


Absolutely agreed about threads here resembling ship conversations, it's kinda eerie.
posted by odinsdream at 6:10 AM on April 6, 2013


Chief Widow-in-Waiting, Adele has posted the first update on the Banksophilia site
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:01 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


[tight beam, M32, tra. @n15.06.04.2013]
  xGSV The Ends Of Invention
      oGCV Odin's Dream
I totally agree
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:18 AM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]




I'm about halfway through Matter (my second Culture book), and I'm trying to take my time. I'm breaking off periodically to read a chapter from jscalzi's Human Division series. Although they're tonally quite different, they're both space operas, and I find the settings complementary. (To the point where I have been reading a Scalzi chapter and wondering what the Mind of the ship they're on is thinking.)
posted by rtha at 7:18 PM on April 7, 2013


rtha; me too! I kinda think of jscalzi's human culture as being the precursors to The Culture. Militaristic spacefarers with a not-insignificant percentage of humans who seem to want something a bit more out of the whole experience.
posted by odinsdream at 7:15 AM on April 8, 2013


i wish sublimation were an option.
posted by helion at 12:43 PM on April 10, 2013


Alastair Reynolds:
The moral of this, if there is one, is that major life decisions can be swayed by the strangest and most unexpected of things. And in my case it was a chance encounter with a new hardcover of Excession that showed me where my priorities ought to lie.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:54 AM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]




A letter from Iain Banks. Sounds like he is doing alright, all things considered.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:47 AM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn Iain, now you're making me rethink my decisions to withhold sending the fan letters I've drafted to my more favorite authors. Most of them are written when DFW died, which is roughly when I fell in love with this place. I thought it reasonable decorum at the time to restrain myself. But on the other hand I don't want to be consumed in the pouring out of sentiment with years-long, considered admiration in the days after Neal Stephenson, John McPhee, William Gibson, or Margret Atwood announce that their shot clock is running out.
Or does the chorus of love that Iain is now soaking in re-enforce the genuine sentiment that people have developed due to their work... not just some lone weirdo with an address and a will to commit their emotional connection to an author?
Still paralyzed, over here.
By the bye, has anyone posted this thread into the guestbook?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:52 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cold Lurkey, I think Iain knows about us. He did after all feel the need in his "notes about the Culture" online piece to let us know that it's NOT REAL. He has the same hunger we do and he knows it well. He knows how well he has fed that hunger, and that he has fed it with pretty vapors instead of action. I do not begrudge Iain his months with his future widow. He has fed us well with something that might give us the hunger for real social justice.
posted by localroger at 6:57 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always liked the way he finished the 'Notes on the Culture' piece:

"With best wishes for the future"
posted by knapah at 8:08 PM on April 21, 2013


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