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Iain Banks: 1954 – 2013 June 9, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.

The death of Iain Banks today comes as very very unwelcome news, both for those who knew him personally and for the much greater hinterland of those who knew him through his work. A leftist, a progressive, a writer whose work under both his ‘literary’ name and science fiction, the all important initial M’ being added for the latter, was enormously popular.

His illness, shockingly swift, which from his announcement of terminal cancer to his death was a period of hardly two months – if even, cuts brutally short a career which started in the 1980s and seemed until recently to have the prospect of years ahead.

What Banks was, visibly, evidently, was humanist in the most important sense of that term. Rational, compassionate. A recent piece in the Guardian on Palestine and Israel demonstrated that perfectly. In his work there is no shying away from evil, but nor was there an over fascination with it. And more importantly he offered/offers, and this I think is crucial, in the form of the Culture, his galaxy spanning civilisation, a way forward, an alternative.

This – arguably his greatest creation – is perhaps almost the equivalent vision in the contemporary period of all those silver finned space rockets that filled the imagery and imagination of 1940s and 1950s science fiction. The Culture is the perfect expression of the aspirations of many, it’s techno-libertarian-leftist post-scarcity civilisation the very definition of progress. Glanded drugs, gender changes at will, the ability to do pretty much anything and yet to remain defiantly and stubbornly ‘human’ in the broadest sense of the term, makes it something akin to a secular heaven and yet it retains sufficient grit, interstices, questions that there is more than enough for narrative explorations of it. Again, there’s no shying away from evil and contention, quite the opposite, but there’s also the sense that something better can be achieved.

So many books to enjoy, under whatever categorisation he, or his publishers, chose. Use of Weapons, the Player of Games, Excession, Transition, The Bridge, the Wasp Factory. About six weeks back he released a statement saying on foot of the response to his illness that:

Discovering the sheer extent and depth of the feelings people have expressed on the message board over the past two weeks has been truly astounding.

How could it be otherwise in respect of the response? An huge loss in so many different ways.


1. doctorfive - June 9, 2013
2. benmadigan - June 9, 2013

RIP – I enjoyed his books. Condolences to family and friends


EWI - June 9, 2013

Same as well – a sad and premature death, and a huge loss to SF.


3. Iain Banks 1954-2013 | An Sionnach Fionn - June 10, 2013

[…] succumbs to the cancer he has struggled against over the last few months. Terribly sad news and I’m sure that WorldbyStorm sums up the feelings of many on the loss of a unique voice not just for the world of fiction but for humanity in general. One […]


4. Gé Bruite - June 10, 2013

Once again – damn but WordPress is pernickety about IPs.

Here’s a toast to one Scottish socialist who gave me many hours of reading pleasure. A loss, but I’m sure there will be more along in that long and combative tradition.


WorldbyStorm - June 10, 2013


One small thought, I don’t think in the above piece I captured just what an affable and amiable presence he was in his writing and interviews on radio or television. A warm and clearly kind and decent person.


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