He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.
— Douglas Adams
If you’ve been keeping up with io9’s headlines, you may have seen prolific sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks’ sad/sweet announcement of his impending death at the hands of cancer and upcoming nuptials.
Here is the announcement in Banks’ own words:
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As a result, I’ve withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I’ve asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry – but we find ghoulish humour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 family. 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.
When I was first introduced to Iain M. Banks as an author, I was told two things.
1. He is an amazing writer.
2. He writes under two pen names. Iain M. Banks is the name attached to his out and out sci-fi novels – namely the Culture novels he is most known for. The second name, Iain Banks, is affixed to those novels that can be classified as literature with a hint of magical realism.
I’ll let you read the wikipedia plot summaries but suffice to say that both books are haunting in their depiction of what humanity is capable. Still, there is a humor and lightness to them brings a sense of hope to each story. These characters are undeniably human and you can relate to even the most despicable people sometimes. It is Banks’ mastery of characters and atmosphere that give this sense of empathy and make each page a delicate puzzle piece slowly building a picture of who we are and the world(s) we have created.
Banks isn’t gone, yet, and maybe he has longer than anyone expects. Maybe he isn’t done telling stories just yet. Either way, his legacy is one of holding a mirror to our faces and saying “look what you are capable of” in both the most horrific and hopeful ways.