Saying goodbye

On Sunday we heard the sad news that Iain Banks had died. When he announced his terminal illness in April, I’d hoped we’d have him around at least until the autumn, but it wasn’t to be.

As a sci-fi geek (and in particular a lover of his Culture novels), I enjoyed this comment he made in a blog post a couple of weeks ago.

“An ex-neighbour of ours recalled (in an otherwise entirely kind and welcome comment) me telling him, years ago, that my SF novels effectively subsidised the mainstream works. I think he’s just misremembered, as this has never been the case. Until the last few years or so, when the SF novels started to achieve something approaching parity in sales, the mainstream always out-sold the SF – on average, if my memory isn’t letting me down, by a ratio of about three or four to one. I think a lot of people have assumed that the SF was the trashy but high-selling stuff I had to churn out in order to keep a roof over my head while I wrote the important, serious, non-genre literary novels. Never been the case, and I can’t imagine that I’d have lied about this sort of thing, least of all as some sort of joke. The SF novels have always mattered deeply to me – the Culture series in particular – and while it might not be what people want to hear (academics especially), the mainstream subsidised the SF, not the other way round.”

My grandmother died on the same day as Banks. She was 88 and had been in poor health for some time, so it was not unexpected, but it was a sad day nonetheless for the family. She moved to Australia when I was about ten but I was able to visit three times over the last decade, most recently two years ago, so I was able to get to know her a little as an adult.

She had been a successful business woman when she was younger, owning two clothing boutiques whilst raising four children. She loved painting and dabbled in a wide range of craft hobbies, a predilection we certainly share! From leather-work to teddy bears to embroidery – I often received handmade gifts for birthdays and Xmas.

With my grandmother and uncle, March 2011

With my grandmother and uncle, March 2011

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