Sad news: Iain Banks has died.
People who knew him personally have written some marvelous remembrances.
I’d like to pause for a moment and reflect on my personal sense of loss. Iain’s more conventional literary works were generally delightful, edgy and fully engaged with the world in which he set them: his palpable outrage at inequity and iniquity shone through the page. And in his science fiction he achieved something, I think, that the genre rarely manages to do: he was intensely political, and infused his science fiction with a conviction that a future was possible in which people could live better — he brought to the task an an angry, compassionate, humane voice that single-handedly drowned out the privileged nerd chorus of the technocrat/libertarian fringe and in doing so managed to write a far-future space operatic universe that sane human beings would actually want to live in (if only it existed).
He wrote really good books: The Wasp Factory, Walking on Glass and The Bridge all existed on the uneasy intersection of SF, Fantasy and mainstream literature (after those three he started drawing clearer distinctions between his SF and his mainstream work, not least by becoming Iain M. Banks in his SF). His work was mordant, surreal, and fiercely intelligent. In person, he was funny and cheerful and always easy to talk to.
I only knew him distantly, as words on paper — but it was his hard-edged cynical idealism that I loved very much.