Iain Banks has died of gallbladder cancer, aged 59.
It was a little over two months ago that this writer was putting together a news piece on Iain Banks’ remarkably good humoured announcement that he was suffering from terminal cancer. It is with great sadness that I find myself writing his obituary quite so soon.
Iain’s first novel, The Wasp Factory, was published in 1985 but he is probably better known to Starburst readers as Iain M. Banks, the author of numerous sci-fi novels including the sublime Culture books that started with Consider Phlebas in 1987 and finished, with tragic prematurity, with last year’s The Hydrogen Sonata.
The release of his new novel, The Quarry, was brought forward by his publishers to give Iain a greater chance of being around when it arrived, but it was not to be. Ironically it is about a man who discovers he is dying from cancer but it is not apparently autobiographical; Iain received his own diagnosis when he was 10,000 words from completing the book. With typical and brilliant Banks humour Iain told BBC Scotland, “I’ve really got to stop doing my research too late. This is such a bad idea.”
Following his diagnosis Iain has spent the last few months writing music. He’d always said he could only concentrate on one thing or the other and, with his writing complete, he put his creative energies into his other artistic love. He described the process as a “hoot”.
Iain was one of Britain’s greatest writers and leaves behind an incredibly impressive body of work. It is tragic that he should have passed away so young as he, without doubt, had much more to write. This writer met him briefly in November of last year and can confirm that Iain, with no idea of his own condition, was in fine fettle. It’s sobering and hard to believe that he is now no longer with us. On the other hand, the remarkable humour and stoicism he has shown in the last couple of months has been an example to us all.
So long Iain. Thank you so much for your brilliant storytelling. It really wouldn’t have been the same without you; the world was a better place because of your books. It really has been a blast.