This week I heard the news that Iain Banks has terminal cancer and doesn’t expect to see out the year. Banks is one of my favourite authors and one of the very few whose books I buy in hardback as soon as they’re released. My own writing has undoubtedly been influenced by his over the years.
I actually cried at work when I first heard and read his personal statement. This caught me by surprise. I’m not particularly prone to displays of emotion about people I’ve never even met.
I suppose I should say that I’m really a fan of Iain M Banks. He is one of the rare breed of writers who happily inhabits both science fiction and mainstream genres. The appearance of his middle initial on the book cover lets the reader know there’s a higher than average chance space ships will make an appearance. His sci-fi novels are exuberant, unapologetic, energetically violent and witty. He is in love with the worlds and characters he creates and delights in exploring their darkest depths and brightest, most outlandish peaks.
Not so long ago I was finishing Banks’ latest sci-fi novel, The Hydrogen Sonata, and thinking we should have a good twenty more years of Culture novels to enjoy. Banks is 59. Now we know his soon to be published mainstream novel, The Quarry, will be his last.
Another reminder, if anyone should need one, that life is fleeting. Banks leaves us with the legacy of twenty-four published novels, of which any writer would be proud.