It was announced yesterday that Iain M. Banks–or just Iain Banks to readers of his non-SF works–has been diagnosed with gall bladder cancer. The prognosis is bad, and gives him less than a year to live.
He released a public statement that’s as blunt, honest and wry as I expected, being familiar with his writing; “I’ve asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow” is exactly the sort of dark humour that runs through all of his books.
I don’t know Banks personally, of course. The sadness this news has triggered is purely the selfish kind–that his upcoming novel, The Quarry, will be his last, and particularly that all of the Culture novels there will ever be have already been written.
(I want to write something bigger and deeper about the Culture some time soon, but I need to gather my thoughts first. And possibly re-read Use of Weapons in another probably vain attempt to get that story straight in my head.)
Banks is also one of the few writers to whom I feel a deep gratitude, for the way their books have inspired me: to start writing, to keep writing, and to strive to get even close to being as good as they are. (China Miéville, Steven Erikson, and Neil Gaiman are the others, for the record.)
It’s strange to feel a connection to a person whom you’ve never met, and who doesn’t know you exist, but there it is. We should appreciate him while he’s here. And I’ll miss him when he’s gone.