Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Desperately sad news about Iain M Banks



One of my all-time favourite authors, the great Iain M Banks has announced today that he has terminal gall bladder cancer and it's "extremely unlikely" he will live beyond a year. His full statement on the subject, full of courage and humour, can be read here at the SFX website.

I've long been a fan of this most versatile, intelligent, humane and witty of authors  -  from the dazzling SF futures of the Culture novels ( Use Of Weapons, Excession, The Player Of Games etc. ) and other stand-alone novels like Feersum Endjinn  -  to his "mainstream" novels such as The Steep Approach To Garbadale and the classic The Crow Road  -  to his "slipstream" ( ie unclassifiable ) books such as his masterpiece, The Bridge.
And below is my signed copy of that wonderful, head-spinning novel...


I met the great man at a book signing in my local Waterstone's way back in 1997. I blundered in and walked up to the desk and, with nothing better to say, remarked "I thought there would be more people here than this..." Not a great first impression it has to be said. As I recovered my composure Mr. Banks turned out to be graciousness itself, ignored my embarrassment, and chatted happily for a few minutes. I babbled on that I loved his work, even though at that point I probably hadn't read a lot of it. I asked him if the rumours were true that he'd had an uncredited bit part in the TV version of The Crow Road. Apparently they weren't. Soon after I realised I was making a prat of myself so I thanked the great man for his time and moved on... with my signed copy.

This news has really upset me today and I just wanted to set a few thoughts down about this much-loved author. Maybe I'll write some more at some point, but it all feels too sad at the moment. I'm obviously feeling it more personally than I should because of my own recent brush with the dreaded C-word. But it is still a terrible shame and a waste of a life...

"The dark station, shuttered and empty, echoed to the distant, fading whistle of the departing train"


7 comments:

M. D. Jackson said...

That's very sad. I haven't read any Banks, although I have a few of his books around here somewhere... been meaning to get to them...

BTW, if I didn't say it at the time I'm very glad that your brush with the dreaded C ended with a miss...

Edward Grainger said...

Rotten news. I remember you getting that book signed while I was stuck behind my counter. Was it really that long ago? Doubly wish now that I had just locked up for a while and come with you. Still, I share that "What am I supposed to say?" feeling about meeting my heroes, so perhaps I spared myself some embarrassment.

cerebus660 said...

@ Mike
Thanks very much, my friend, much appreciated. As you can imagine I'd heartily recommend Mr. Banks' works. His Culture novels are wonderful, scary and dazzlingly intelligent Space Opera with a unique slant on a post-scarcity, Utopian future. A lot of his mainstream work is, if anything, even better...

@ Edward
Ahh... the days of the shop... when I used to bend your ear at great length about nothing in particular and prevent you from working :-)

It was, indeed, that long ago: I've got a cutting from The Citizen, dated 31/05/97, entitled "Author zooms into city store". Being The Citizen, of course, they manage to spell the shop's name ( Ottakar's as was ) two different ways in one article ;-)

Tomas said...

Very sad news indeed. While I haven't read any of his work, I went to a talk he did at Cheltenham Literature Festival last year. Such an engaging, witty, charming man.

cerebus660 said...

I'm glad you got the chance to hear him speak, Tom. I've always meant to get to the Chelt Lit Fest but never made it so far...

Steve said...

A damn shame to hear news like this. I remember reading The Wasp Factory years ago, and it took me by surprise.

cerebus660 said...

Thanks for the comment, Steve. I have to admit I've never read The Wasp Factory :-(
Unfortunately, I've heard about the twist in the story and I'd rather be surprised too...

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails