Sunday, 9 June 2013

Iain M. Banks, or, Melancholia Enshrines All Triumph

Today is officially a Very Sad Day.

Iain Banks has gone from Very Poorly to having sustained Lasting Damage

For me, this is a big deal. It's a big deal for a great deal of the literary world, I know, but it feels massively personal to me. Iain was one of the founders, not only of my love of speculative fiction, but of my love of fiction in general. And for that, first and foremost, I thank him.

I will always remember the holiday I took aged 15 to Costa Rica. Not only for the awfully cute sloths, the raccoon that invaded our hotel room, the coati's round every corner or the other astonishing wildlife of that country so Sweet and Full of Grace, but also for The Algebraist. I spent much of those two weeks devouring The Algebraist, and as a result it holds a special place in my heart. An intensely epic space opera, outside of The Culture series, it dragged me in to a complex, exciting, different science fiction world. I'd read YA fantasy and Ender's Game, but nothing struck me the way The Algebraist did.

As a result, I read, with Furious Purpose, as much as I could get my hands on. Its a testament to the enduring legacy of Banks that I own the amount that I do: 15 y/o me couldn't really afford new books, instead he went to charity shops and (to my shame - I don't do it any more, it was Youthful Indiscretion) stole to fuel my reading. I ended up reading the entire Culture series in a year,  as well as finding copies of The Wasp Factory and The Bridge. Since then, I've reread many and bought to complete my collection. He is the only many-title author, apart from J.K. Rowling, whose books I own all of. And six years later I still read and reread. You are a giant standing on the shoulder of giants: Of Course I Still Love You.

 I think one of the things that most affects me is that this is an author who was productive, and whose work I loved, while he was still producing it. When Jack Vance died, I'd read a book by him, but he didn't feel 'real'. His death felt like an Unfortunate Conflict of Evidence between my brain and his living. Iain, yours feels raw. It feels like I know you, and I know many feel the same.

As a result of Consider Phlebas, I 'discovered' the mature works (not Cats...) of T.S. Eliot. As a result of The Algebraist I discovered stories Refreshingly Unconcerned With the Vulgar Exigencies of Veracity, aka, Science Fiction. As a result of Iain M. Banks, I discovered that what I already knew was a passion would become an obsession. Books were my New Toy. As a result of this obsession, I went to university to do English, I write, I want to go into publishing. Because of you.

Iain, I loved you.

I never got to meet you (you came to Blackwell's when I worked there, but I was on holiday), I never got to tell you how you impacted my life. I wrote on Banksophilia when I learnt you had cancer, and today I'm writing this fairly poxy blog post to publicly show my appreciation. No One Knows What The Dead Think but I hope that you like it, wherever you are.

You made me happy when I often wasn't. You introduced me to something I love more than almost anything else. Tonight, I'm going to drink a glass of whisky, and settle down to read Feersum Endjinn (only because The Algebraist is in storage). I'll probably cry when I reach the end.

I certainly am now.


  1. Good post dude, really good. Raise a glass to him tonight, I think he'd like that.

  2. Well said - however hard it was to say, and it probably was very hard.