Sad news: Iain Banks has died.

People who knew him personally have written some marvelous remembrances.

Charlie Stross:

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).

Neil Gaiman:

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.


  1. Gregory Greenwood says

    I haven’t gotten around to reading many of his books yet, but what I have read has been brilliant – profound, insightful, occasionally humourous and always very, very intelligent. This is a sad day for the literary world.

  2. raven says

    Sad news indeed. Crap is an inadequate way to express it.

    I just found his books less than a year ago. And was looking forward to many more.

    The Culture science fiction novels are set in an utopian future and usually have happy endings. Quite a bit different from the grim world we live in today.

    And he is a very good writer. The novels aren’t part of a series, but just set in the same universe. A lot of series start dragging after a while.

    If there is an afterlife and a heaven, Iain Banks is right now showing up on a big, fast General Services Vessel and reporting to Special Circumstances.

  3. Crimbly says

    A very sad day indeed. His science fiction always stuck with me the most – Use of Weapons really hit hard, I found.

    He will be missed.

  4. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    Aw geez… I remember when the Wasp Factory hit the shelves. The critics were sooo offended but couldn’t deny it’s brilliance. You just knew someone amazing had entered the scene.
    So sad.

  5. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    He also authored the best road-trip / scotch whiskey book ever written: Raw Spirit.

    Read it and have a Laphroaig for his memory.

  6. shouldbeworking says

    I’ll raise a dram of Auchentoshan to his memory. And then move those books of his I haven’t read yet to the top of my summer reading list.

  7. Eric O says


    I was saddened by the news that he was terminally ill a few months ago, but I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting him to pass away so soon after that.

    I’ve read all of his “Iain M. Banks” novels, but I’ve only read one “Iain Banks” novel: The Wasp Factory. I’m feeling a strong desire to check out the rest of his works.

  8. Nick Gotts says

    Very sad – and sooner than expected, I think. Condolences to his family and friends. I’m a third of the way through The Player of Games at present, with three more of his books on my “to be read” shelf. Glad I got round to writing a “thank you” note on the page set up for that purpose.

  9. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    “Their most intense regret, bewilderment or venom, respectively, is generally reserved for Laphroaig, as the most intensely different – even wilfully incongruous – example of Extreme Whiskey”

    – Iain Banks, Raw Spirit

    I have always thought that if writers were spirits, that’s the one Banks would be.

  10. thetalkingstove says

    I love Laphroaig! I have just ordered Raw Spirit and shall have to buy a bottle to toast Mr Banks whilst reading it. What a marvelous mind.

  11. otrame says

    He left the world a little bit better. It’s all a person can do.

    Thanks, Iain.

  12. pixelfish says

    Well, fuck. :( I just saw this news and skibbled here to see if folks had seen it. Very very sad and too soon. Fuck cancer.

    Zinc Avenger: Very apropos. (My Culture Ship name is Amiably Prolix Til The Fuel Runs Out.)

  13. Space Monster says

    I discovered Iain Banks far too late, but still his works, especially the Culture books, have profoundly influenced my life and, I would like to think, helped make me a little better person.

    As much as I love the Culture, tonight I’m starting a re-read of Feersum Endjinn. The ending never fails to bring a tear to my eye – it’s so grand, huge, wildly optimistic, and so full of hope and humanity.

    (And as I think on Stross’s comments, I can’t help but imagine a US libertarian author penning how the lone, rugged hero, with his token female, escapes from the doom and leaves the mindless sheep and takers behind. Ha ha ha, says the libertarian.)

    Anyway, for those who haven’t read Feersum Endjinn because of reviews mentioning the difficult dialect in some parts – just read it. Read the dialect part aloud to yourself if need be and it soon becomes easier to understand. This is a marvelous book and all Banks fans should read it.

    And damn, who opened the door and let all the wind blow the dust around? I need a hanky.

  14. Moggie says


    My Culture Ship name is Amiably Prolix Til The Fuel Runs Out.

    I’m imagining Demeisen saying “do we even have fuel? I don’t think we do.”

  15. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Vale Iain Banks. Another good author gone.

  16. rauhallinen says

    “Sorrow be damned & all your plans. Fuck the faithful, fuck the committed, the dedicated, the true believers; fuck all the sure & certain people prepared to maim & kill whoever got in their way; fuck every cause that ended in murder & a child crying”
    Iain Banks

    Mostly full of selfish thoughts about never again being able to immerse into a Culture novel.