It's with incredible sadness that we report the loss of an SF literary great. Merely a couple of months after discovering he had terminal cancer, Iain (M) Banks has passed away.
In typical wry fashion he'd shared the news of his illness with the world this way :
" I am officially Very Poorly ... 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 ... 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 friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us. "
Alas his decline happened so quickly and he passed away aged 59 this weekend. Our thoughts are with Adele who today shared: "Iain died in the early hours this morning. His death was calm and without pain." The news will sadden his huge following of fans, including those of us on SFX who knew him. Iain regularly appeared in the pages of our magazine, even penning a foreword back in issue 224. Each of his SF novels was to be found - usually reviewed glowingly - in our book section and his was a familiar face in our author profile slot. I was honoured to have the pleasure of meeting up with, chatting with, and sharing a few pints with him several times over the years. Most recently we ran a competition for a reader to meet him following the release of The Hydrogen Sonata last year - it only seems like yesterday that we sat in a hotel in Manchester with the winner and chatted about Iain's plans for future books. Fans of his mainstream fiction will be pleased to know that The Quarry , his latest novel, was finished three weeks ago.
Like many, I was hooked on the grand scale of his stories from the first line of Consider Phlebas . Who would not want to live in the Culture, the joyously powerful, yet socially responsible, civilisation where there is no illness or death, only near-limitless travel on immense starships run by sentient Minds? The very names of the vessels themselves are a kind of poetry. What other fictional universe has Psychopath or Hooligan class picket ships, called things like Just Another Victim Of The Ambient Morality ?
In a statement, his publisher Orbit/Little, Brown said he was "an irreplaceable part of the literary world ... one of the country's best-loved novelists" and thanks to messages left for him online, Iain was aware of how much people loved his work ("Still knocked out by the love and the depth of feeling coming from so many people; thank you, all of you," he wrote on the Banksophilia message board ). RIP.