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.

Simon B ( formerly 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 ;-)

Tom Wiggins 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.

Simon B ( formerly 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.

Simon B ( formerly 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...

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