The Early Days of a Better Nation

Friday, June 14, 2013

Iain M. Banks (1954 - 2013)

[Image: Kate Copeland, The Skinny]

Iain Banks died last Sunday. I have lost my oldest friend. I was asked to speak about him for radio and TV, and I have. I was asked to write about his SF, and I did. I've tried to write something more personal, and I've failed.

Here are a few lines I wrote some years ago, for an introduction to a German edition of Consider Phlebas. It outlines an outlook implied in the Culture books.
To live a human life is to die. Immortality is for gods. Humans can become gods, but to do so is to cease to be human, and that too is a kind of death. In accepting mortality the humans have the chance, their only chance, to make their lives complete, sufficient, shaped; and to get out of the game while they're ahead.
This is what gives the book, with all its violence, its fundamental gaiety. Life may be a game of damage, but it is a game to be played with grace, every day new under the sun.

Iain did that.


Very sorry for your loss Ken. I found Iain's books through you. You were a wonderful introduction to him, and his fiction made me feel like I understood yours a little better.

I know you're hurting, Ken. I'm sorry for your (our) loss, because he was my friend too...although for QUITE a bit shorter time. I know without a doubt that our lives were made tremendously richer because of his friendship and work.

Sorry for your trouble.

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My condolences, Ken.

I think your words above are a fitting tribute.

My condolences, and my own regrets as well. Banks was in the forefront of intelligent left-wing science fiction. He will be missed greatly.

Ken I came to your writing through Iain's and I thank him for that. I love your stories as much as his.
Im sorry for our loss, even though I didn't know him personally it feels like a good friend has gone like when John Peel died. I did think it must be so much harder for his friends. stay strong and please dont stop writing anytime soonwe need you so much more now Iian is no longer doing his stuff.

My sympathies for the loss you've suffered. I found what you had to say here really moving, as was Iain's interview with Kirsty Wark.

I recall with great pleasure the time I heard the two of you speak at Aye Write in Glasgow. The way you riffed off each other's comments made the event much more than the sum of its parts.

Thanks, all, for the kind words.

I rediscovered my love of SF precisely because on Mr. Banks' and your novels, Ken. Although I have never met any of you two in person, I have spent many delicious hours reading your books and pondering the implications of the ideas you spun so masterfully.

So I feel like I have lost half of the reasons why I enjoyed science-fiction.

My condolences Ken.

Thanks for the Guardian piece. It summarized Iain's work and warmth of the writer for the writer made it feel like a tribute to a person rather than a list of achievements.

Iain popped to the top of my list of people I'd like to share a meal or a beer with when I finished reading Excession. I'm glad to hear that in person he wasn't too far off his writing voice. The world needs all the playful people it can get.

Ken, he was taken way too soon. I enjoyed some great times with Iain at different Cons and readings throughout the years, starting in a con in Govan back in 1986. The last time that I spoke to either of you was at 2Kon in the Central Hotel in 2000. I was working in Saudi Arabia and had been since Gulf War 1 and tried to make it back for every Eastercon. I remember having a great conversation with you and Jon Courtney Grimwood in the bar on the Sunday afternoon.

Well, things change, I got married to a wonderful lady and started a family. I lost so much weight I was no longer morbidly obese for the first time in my adult life. Iain's views changed also, his views on global warming no longer matched mine. His views on Gulf War 2, although probably correct, differed from mine which had been coloured by the murder of a friend and colleague of mine, Christopher Rodway. Stupidly, I stopped writing to Iain for a multitude of selfish and incorrect reasons.Even with his announcement of his illness I felt unworthy of contacting him and now it is too late.

While I cannot imagine the enormity of your loss I do feel a loss of my own. Stay well and happy, Ken.

Best regards, Peter Dawson.
P.S. if it jogs your memory, I tried to get some Steve Stirling books that you were looking for while I was on vacation in Canada years ago.

Peter - of course I remember you, and I'm glad to hear your life has been happy since I last saw you. I remember those con conversations with a smile and I'm sure Iain did too.

Ken, like Antialias your books and Iain's (and actually Bruce Sterling too) books brought me back to being excited about sci-fi as an adult when I realized there was sci-fi being written with political/intellectual/literary merit. I remember how excited I was by the fact that Iain was speaking at the publishing festival during one August in the mid-90's when I was doing the tourist thing (even though I didn't get a chance to see him in person). So sorry for your (and other friends and family) personal loss and everyone else's less direct but still significant loss as well. -a Yank socialist

Ken, I'm so sorry for your loss. The tributes you have paid to Iain this week have been very moving for me.

You and Iain have been my cultural heroes since school, when I found Phlebas in the library, loved it, and then picked out Star Fraction on the strength of Iain's recommendation. I that know the support and inspiration you lent each other was much deeper than just a cover blurb, but there it was, the first time I picked up your book.

Thank you, and all the best to you and Iain's family and friends.

The main reasons I always loved his writing were largely tied into how much of your styles resembled each other. Unlike most people I know, I actually found his work through you.
A tragic loss for sci-fi fans.
I do hope that were his publisher to decide to milk the culture franchise a bit more as seems to be popular these days, you'd be the first choice...

Hi Ken

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your wonderful words are very eloquent and perfect in their summary of his writing. Like Anon above, I found his writing through yours and enjoy both very much. With Iain, you could almost sense the wry grin behind the writing. His great sense of humour shone through even in some of the darker scenes.

Take care

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