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Iain Banks: Extremely Ill With Cancer 150

The_Other_Kelly writes "News that will shock and sadden the many fans of Iain (M.) Banks. He is suffering from gall bladder cancer, and things do not look good: '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.' His books, both normal and science fiction, are world view warping Excessions, and my heart goes out to him and his. I am shocked and saddened. Thank you, Iain."
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Iain Banks: Extremely Ill With Cancer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @09:53AM (#43347197)
    • by durrr ( 1316311 )

      Very sad. Every new culture book release was like Christmas for me.
      If only we could borrow some technology from his books, to back him up or something...

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @12:18PM (#43348913) Homepage

        I agree - reading his books is definitely back to the core values of Science Fiction - let a great idea be the base for stories that are amazing. Each new book has a new thread to follow independent of the others and at the same time that thread is a part of a great weave.

        I would like to call his Culture books Epic. He has earned a top position among authors like Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Vance, Van Vogt and Bester to name a few.

        The great thing with Science Fiction is that you can take an idea and extrapolate it to a story. You as a reader may not agree with the basic idea (like some do with Heinlein's Starship Troopers) but the story created is still a pleasure to read.

        Just realize that when he passes on he has left a decent legacy and mark in literature. It's a privilege that few has earned.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          He's earned a top position in the science fiction pantheon based on ideas and plot alone.

          When you add in actual skill in writing, I don't think anyone comes close, except perhaps LeGuin. Seriously, he's a fucking incredible writer regardless of topic.

        • by Rinikusu ( 28164 )

          Indeed, I just discovered his books a couple years ago and absolutely love his material. I hope he can beat it, but if not, he will be sorely missed.

          • by durrr ( 1316311 )

            Surgery is out of the option due to the infiltration of large vessels, so really, it's pretty much radio and chemo that's the only options. And those are rarely curative on their own, surgery is always the best option.

            Unfortunately gall bladder cancers have abysmal prognosis, not as bad as pancreatic or stomach, but save for some recent developments in the market I'm afraid it's looking bleak in the long term.

            You can however buy time with chemo, get the tumor size down a fair bit and keep the infiltration a

        • He has earned a top position among authors like Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Vance, Van Vogt and Bester to name a few.

          No, he is a better writer than any of them, and that's just his Iain M Banks science fiction. None of them have anything like his Iain Banks "straight" fiction in their locker.

          I think we should be grateful that an excellent writer was able to devote so much of his energies to science fiction, which is still dismissed as second rate "genre" fiction by many critics and authors.

          This is desperately sad news.

    • No, it's Iain M Banks that writes the Culture novels.
    • This is very sad news - I can't say anything more that others on this thread but just to add my voice in saying thank you
  • by Trapezium Artist ( 919330 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @10:00AM (#43347259)

    As I posted a little earlier on The Guardian:

    Desperately sad news.

    His contemporary and science fiction novels have been an important part of my life for many, many years, and I shall miss knowing that his twisted and brilliant imagination is beavering away at new works.

    But if nothing else, looking for a silver lining to this dark, dark cloud, I'm at least happy to have the chance to thank him publicly, before he's gone, for the great pleasure I've had in reading his books.

    I'm sure he's greatly loved by many and I hope that that knowledge can go at least some small way to helping him and his wife through the months to come.

    • I agree fully with this. Well put.
    • by Pope ( 17780 )

      Well said. I've not much more to add other than having been a fan of his books over the years and gotten a few friends reading him, it's very sad to hear of his health situation. Definitely will be missed.

    • by Stripe7 ( 571267 )
      Thanks for all the stories, you will be missed.
  • The third (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Did anyone else read extremely 'the third'? Seriously need to change that font

  • He is a great writer. Recently read 'Consider Phlebas' and picked up a couple more of his books immediately after finishing it.
  • by gnalre ( 323830 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @10:08AM (#43347315)

    When I read the news my first thought was how terrible it will be that there will be no more culture novels. My 2nd thought was for his family and friends, which is a pretty terrible way of thinking about these things.

    My only excuse is that I know the man by the joy his books have given me, and I feel his impending loss by the realisation of the gap in my life that will result when no new ones appear.

    Still pretty shitty though

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Azghoul ( 25786 )

      What's terrible about your way of thinking?

      You don't know him personally. The only attachment you have to the guy is through his very fine novels. Why should you personally feel bad about how his family and friends took the news?

      It's definitely a shame.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      Well, it's not strange or unfeeling to not empathize with someone you have never met, and probably don't even know who they are. I know him by his books and that is why I think of them first. If I knew his family, we would likely think of them first, of course.

      And I would be willing to bet that one of the things Mr. Banks is unhappy about in the current situation is not being able to write something new as well. Obviously, he will probably have more immediate concerns in his remaining time, but I think I

    • It'd be really nice if he could open source the Culture and allow other writers to carry on the tradition.

      I don't know who would come close to filling his boots, but the Culture is such a fantastic idea that it'd be a greate tribute to the man.
      • by Genda ( 560240 )

        Oh Yeah, because a book written by a crowd of past Comicon attendees should be every bit as fine as a tome created in the distinctive style and manner of a bright and visionary Scottish author. You may want to take note of the recent lack of Asimov or Heinlein fan fic. Enjoy this amazing human being's contribution to literary culture and tickling the human imagination, and mourn that his work is now complete. This is the current sad state of being human.

        Let us use this limited time to acknowledge this fine

        • I appreciate his skill and talent, but I think it would celebrate the richness of his universe creation and be paying him tribute.
          • I appreciate his skill and talent, but I think it would celebrate the richness of his universe creation and be paying him tribute.

            If you can write, the best way to honour Iain M Banks is to write the best you can, not try to copy him.

      • If you want to write a novel in the style of the Culture novels, there's nothing to stop you is there? [*] The only legal problem would be if you copied stuff directly, used existing characters' names or tried to pass it off as being by Iain M Banks, wouldn't it?

        There's no copyright/patent/trademark on things like spaceships with AI, drug-enhanced human beings, backed-up personalities, or a post-scarcity economic system or whatever. You find them in all sorts of science fiction.

        Fiction (at least well wr

        • I was thinking more of fans adding to the history/future of the events in the Culture universe, and that could well involve using existing characters' names.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      do you even know if he has family? I don't. don't beat yourself over it, he's the one dying so feel bad for him.

      I don't know why I should(know if he has family or attachments), in fact I think that might be a little creepy since I only know him as a guy who wrote some books I have read. I haven't read all the culture stuff but it would be nice if he could write more.

      • by Genda ( 560240 )

        Follow the links in the article to his personal site. He will now be making his long term companion his widow (besides the expression of love therein, I'm guessing there'll be the expedience of making certain that his estate passes to her and knowing someone he loves will manage his posthumous wishes almost certain provides some degree of solace.) He mentions sharing time with friends and loved ones and traveling to places that hold personal importance one more time. I dunno, sounds like a great use of limi

    • When I read the news my first thought was how terrible it will be that there will be no more culture novels. My 2nd thought was for his family and friends, which is a pretty terrible way of thinking about these things.

      No, unless you're family or a friend yourself, it is perfectly reasonable. You can't get heartbroken over every human being who is dying, you'd be insane within a couple of days.

      Like me, your knowledge of Iain Banks is as a writer. In that sense, he has achieved immortality.

  • Fun to meet and loves curry, wine and whisky, what's not to like? My heart goes out to his family. I have religiously each book of his books as they were published, been a tradition for twenty years now, I can't say any other author has consistently astounded me as he has. Some of his more recent has been great as well. (I recommend The Algebraist & Surface Detail). Thank you Iain.
  • I do hope that he gets to enjoy an adequate amount of time with his family and friends.
    His books have given me much enjoyment over the past 20 years. I thank him for that.

  • I'm upset to hear about this, his book "Use of Weapons" was inspired, head and shoulders above the usual fiction mill derivatives. Talent for creation is rare, and the world will be a lesser place without Ian. Get better!

    • Completely agreed, my copy of UoW has been loaned to a few folks who thought the height of science fiction was the TV / video game spin-off novel - straightened them out but good! Ian, your boundless creativity will be sorely missed.

  • by Ambassador Kosh ( 18352 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @10:23AM (#43347477)

    There are some amazing nanotech cancer drugs that look like they are just starting human trials like this one []

    I know that at this early stage there are definitely not guarantees that it even works on humans. However, at this point, it is not like he can really get worse. I have had friends die from cancer and one of the reasons I went back to school was to help make many lab bench science cures practical industrial ones. If this has any chance at all of working it would be nice if he could try it, it could stop the spread of the cancer giving him a lot more time for other things to develop and it could even completely cure the cancer.

    These new immune system type nanotherapies are amazing. The idea of basically planting flags on cancer cells that your immune system will then recognize as something to be destroyed is probably one of the most creative ways to deal with cancer I have seen. Nothing toxic, your body deals with the problem at its own pace, the macrophages tell the other cells in the area to start replicating into the areas they are removing. You also don't have a toxic shock effect of so many cells dieing all at once since the therapy does not kill the cancer cells, it just marks them for destruction by your immune system.

    It looks like we are very close to having real treatments and cures and I want to end the suffering that people go through with cancer. The drugs many people end up on towards the end are pretty bad and nobody should go through that.

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      I suspect that the real problem is that this is a metastasized liver-related cancer, and without good liver function chemotherapy is really likely to kill the patient. Which is a damn shame; I really like his books.

      • This is not chemotherapy. That is one reason this is such an interesting direction we are going in trying to develop a cure for cancer.

        • by Genda ( 560240 )

          Right, the devastation of chemo is that you give people metabolic poison in the hopes of killing cancer before you kill the patient. In practice its grisly business. These new immunotherapies promise great advancements in using our own bodies to defend themselves against cancer (the way they're supposed to.) The real problem with cancer is that it's a moving target. It evolves, changes, adapts. Kill of 99.999% of a cancer and what's left are the cancer cells that don't respond to that particular treatment.

          • I agree completely. However giving how quick our tech is advancing right now buying someone a year without using chemo is worth it. Various nanotech treatments/cures are progressing very rapidly. A year from now we might have a complete cure or a range of other passive treatments. Besides just giving someone a year in which the cancer will not be causing them pain, allowing them to live a normal life etc would be worth it.

  • by PuddleBoy ( 544111 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @10:24AM (#43347489)

    Banks used a motif in his Culture books that I wish we saw more of in Sci-Fi: a future where (almost) everyone's basic needs of life were taken care of. No poverty or war (most of the time). You didn't have to take a crappy job just to put food on the table and live in some tiny apartment.

    This allows the author to explore the potential the human mind and society have if you remove the day-to-day worry of survival. We are, as a species, capable of so much more than just 'survival' and 'business efficiencies' and minimal laws governing what large corporations/governments can do to us. Banks pondered new ideas about what we could dream up if freed from daily worry. New ways of living, thinking in very broad vistas (over time and space), exploring what is possible beyond the body we were born with. Wondering what it would be like to be another gender or species? Make the change! Want to enjoy (truly) exotic adventures, but still maintain a good chance of surviving it? The Culture's got you covered!

    I believe that our (unfortunately necessary) focus on survival in our present world draws off energy and creativity that could be applied to expanding what it means to be human. It's nice to read an author who wants to speculate about what might lie beyond our present existence.

    Banks will be sorely missed.

    • Charles Stross also wrote of a similar future in his Accelerando; and of corruptions of such in other novels, like Singularity Sky. His works are perhaps a bit more skeptical of such an outcome; disasters and initiation of force still happen. But it also happens in Banks' Culture.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      I also found his description of what is possible in a post-scarcity situation to be very interesting as well, even as I consider it extremely unlikely that such a state is one that a civilization will ever actually reach, given how physical laws work out.

      One of the interesting aspects of post-scarcity is considering the more likely situation where resources still have some level of scarcity, but humans no longer actually need to physically do anything to have their needs met. That situation is increasingly

      • Back in the 50s Fred Pohl wrote The Midas Plague, [] depicting the dark side of post-scarcity - that the lower classes would be forced to consume products at a higher rate to match the greater output available. A bit on the shallow side but still effective satire.

        • by Genda ( 560240 )

          All of these are extrapolations of our current culture and therefore unlikely (modern versions of steam punk). Sufficiently advanced technology would shatter our current culture and render huge swaths of it pointless and without valid meaning (nobody today is much concerned about the finer points of hunting and cooking mammoth... though it might make a particularly pithy episode of "Man vs Food".) Material goods that come into and go out of existence as needed preclude any need for a consumption based econo

          • by Genda ( 560240 )

            Of course this is an ultimate future (relatively speaking), the interesting things between here and there and the turns we'll take as a species along the way should prove incredibly entertaining. So all you word smiths have plenty of grist yet to mill.

            About Iain, dear sir, thank you for you art, your intelligence and your vision. I hope with all my heart that the time remaining you is full to bursting with love, joy and beautiful memories for you and those you love to last a lifetime. You deserve nothing le

    • by Pope ( 17780 )

      Yes, that's one of the great things I loved about the Culture novels. Essentially: if you could do just about anything with your life, what would you do? Some zip around the galaxies getting in dangerous adventures, some stay on their orbital and have really amazing parties, some stick to their home planets and garden.

    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      I loved the books, especially "Excession" and "Consider Phlebas" and I was saddened to hear this news about Mr. Banks.

      That being said, don't you think that there was an implied but mostly unexplored "dark side" lurking under the surface of "The Culture" and their paradise? The technology made everything possible, but they were also sort of "boxed in" by it. It's fun to imagine, but what would life be and where would a species go without some sort of struggle, scarcity or hardship? That's why some of the

      • And what would that say of the superior power? That they are greedy, or expansionist, or zealots? While the Culture has its share of issues, they have nothing to be humble about. The desires to destroy and conquer are primitive, and not worthy of enshrining. If they had lost the war to the Idirans, who if you recall very nearly were a superior power, that would unquestionably be a setback for philosophical development in the galaxy.

        Are you secretly a very grumpy cat, by any chance?

        • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

          First off, I've only read the first four culture novels (skipped the short story collection) so maybe my impression will be different when I finish the rest. Based on this reminder, I'm going to start tonight. :-)

          I obviously meant a "superior power" in purely military terms and I hadn't given the slightest thought as to motive. Perhaps the reality of human cultures makes it difficult for me to imagine the co-existence of vast power with entirely benevolent motives? Power corrupts, and I think Banks plays

          • Well, the Culture do mess around with themselves as well. Excession had the Interesting Times Gang doing exactly that, with fairly disasterous results for everyone.

          • For what it's worth, I'm still working on The Player of Games myself, so I know the feeling.

            The trick about superior military powers is that they need to have motives in order to conquer. Power only corrupts when you have an incentive to be corrupt—a person raised in an environment of endless bounty, like the Culture, would be socialized to consider power-seeking to be a form of mental illness. Why take from others when you already have all that you could ever want? It is perhaps the most basic possib

            • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

              Perhaps in a society which had abundance and egalitarianism that wasn't implemented by force, attitudes would be much different. However, think of the people whom you know personally that grew up in an environment of endless bounty and had everything they wanted (or maybe that's you?) Are they enlightened and benevolent people, or are they just rich snobs with a superiority complex? I suppose that if everyone grew up in similar circumstances, such snobbishness and feelings of superiority would be absurdi

              • Taking Star Trek as a foil again: humans are portrayed as having gone through a long period of war in the 22nd century and afterwards attaining an enlightened state which, although not quite post-scarcity, somehow leads to everyone becoming generally pleasant. Money is abolished, suggesting a fundamental shift in how people view property.

                The writers (in any TV or film incarnation, at least) were never quite good enough to actually present characters that conform to the real ramifications of a society that h

        • Are you secretly a very grumpy cat, by any chance?

          Of course he's not. As we all know, cats that are on the Internet can't spell worth a damn and have terrible grammar skills.

          But dogs, OTOH -- they blend in perfectly. No one knows if you're a dog on the Internet. Anyone here could be a dog; you, OP, even me. Anyone.


    • by glwtta ( 532858 )
      Heh, that's interesting - one of my favorite things about The Culture is that Banks isn't given to aggrandizing "the human spirit" or any other such malarkey.

      Without daily worries, the vast majority of Culture citizens dedicate their lives to finding new and interesting ways to get high and stimulate their genitals. It's a very, very few that have exotic adventures, which is actually pretty hard to get into, since you either have to be invited to SC or convince a Mind to take you along.

      I just finished
  • Thank you... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @10:35AM (#43347619) Journal

    ...for everything you've given us.

    I, like many others, will treasure your work in the decades to come.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • by stjobe ( 78285 )

      ...for everything you've given us.

      I, like many others, will treasure your work in the decades to come.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you.


      Thanks, Iain.

  • Banks Matter(s) (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dreyden ( 1039296 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @11:10AM (#43348105)

    Sci-fi doesn't need to defend itself any more. It is clear now that it is a genuine artistic and intellectual pursuit. Sci-fi matters and Bank on sci-fi matters.

    Banks matters because he has stablished a strong humanistic viewpoint on his works. The conflict on dogma and respect, the materialistic world-view, and the dignity of the individual. Reading Banks is a pleasure, not only as it is a great writer and storyteller but because it is extremely hard to join hard sci-fi, space opera and sociological speculation. I was envious when I read Banks novels. My society and my world is so short-sighted. People in power prefer to stop progress afraid they will lose a slice of the pie. Banks is a raw spirit. Hard to classify and never afraid to detect and point to the conflict.

    Reading Banks is like driving around in Scotland. Landscape flows and you feel it passing trough, You stop there and have some pure malt whisky, no need to hurry. You know the next day you will flow around the highlands, you can't devour it, you must taste it. You can spend your time smelling the pure landscape, every intricate surface detail for miles.

    • And here's me wishing I hadn't been given my mod points over the April 1st weekend so I could have used them on a worthwhile post like this. I'll be raising a glass of that single malt this evening, and probably starting to re-read Use of Weapons again just to re-iterate your points about his worldview.

      I'm not a huge reader by any means, but I've still read a boatload of sci-fi, and whilst there are dozens of books that have cooked up convincing, ,evocative, even enviable, realities, Banks' are the only one

  • I think I have read everything he has written. I hate to think that soon he will be on the list of science fiction authors I love that will never publish again. Vonnegut, Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Adams, Burgess, Clarke, Farmer, Herbert I miss them all. To think that we will never be transported to the "Culture" again makes me sad. Good luck to him. I hope that modern medicine and luck can pull him through. If not I am thankful that he spent his time creating the worlds and adventures that I have sp
  • You transformed our lives
    with an excession or two,
    for a trillion years
  • Dear Mr. Banks:

    Your books have had a profound influence on me ever since I first discovered them so many years ago. Hell, just a few minutes ago I was daydreaming about how desperately we need the intervention of a "Meatfucker" on this planet.

    Modern medicine seems to have failed you at this late hour. I wish there were some way I could share with you all of the "controversial" things I've learned about nutrition and the body's amazing ability to heal itself (not to be confused with treatment) but obviously

    • You seem to be confused. Modern medicine hasn't failed him. The body's amazing ability to heal itself has failed him.
      His life may end before experimental therapies are available but it will be modern medicine that saves the next person.

      • The body's amazing ability to heal itself has failed him.

        Utter horseshit. You speak out of your ass about that which you clearly know nothing about. There's overwelming evidence that we've failed our bodies, inundating them with cancerous-causing synthetic substances, providing them with entirely incorrect foods for primates and simply abusing them in a variety of ways that are completely incompatible with what they were designed/evolved for.

        Shut your impulsive, ignorant mouth and perhaps even educate [] yourself a little...

  • I could properly thank him for the pleasure and enlightenment I've got from his books over the last 20 years, and try to express the sadness I feel at this news. Sad, sad, sad.
  • I just tried to send an indirect contact to him, with a link to the story, today, about the about-to-begin clinlical trials of the new drug that appears to stop *all* cancers, and suggested his doctor might consider trying to contact the research team.

    I'll probably try another means of contacting him this evening, since I do know enough folks that probably have his personal email.

                mark, sf fan

  • Obviously the 'wasp factory' is well known and one I first read, but the (usually) unmentioned 'song of stone' is one that still sticks in me mind (read it, great unique story telling and narration!).

    Sad news, but we will all get there in the end.

  • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @03:24PM (#43350983) Homepage Journal

    "Good afternoon, madam. How may I help you?"

    "Good afternoon. I'd like a FrintArms HandCannon, please."

    "A--? Oh, now, that's an awfully big gun for such a lovely lady. I
    mean, not everybody thinks ladies should carry guns at all, though I
    say they have a right to. But I think... I might... Let's have a look
    down here. I might have just the thing for you. Yes, here we are!
    Look at that, isn't it neat? Now that is a FrintArms product as well,
    but it's what's called a laser -- a light-pistol some people call
    them. Very small, as you see; fits easily into a pocket or bag; won't
    spoil the line of a jacket; and you won't feel you're lugging half a
    tonne of iron around with you. We do a range of matching accessories,
    including -- if I may say so -- a rather saucy garter holster. Wish I
    got to do the fitting for that! Ha -- just my little joke. And
    there's *even*... here we are -- this special presentation pack: gun,
    charged battery, charging unit, beautiful glider-hide shoulder holster
    with adjustable fitting and contrast stitching, and a discount on your
    next battery. Full instructions, of course, and a voucher for free
    lessons at your local gun club or range. Or there's the *special*
    presentation pack; it has all the other one's got but with *two*
    charged batteries and a night-sight, too. Here, feel that -- don't
    worry, it's a dummy battery -- isn't it neat? Feel how light it is?
    Smooth, see? No bits to stick out and catch on your clothes, *and*
    beautifully balanced. And of course the beauty of a laser is, there's
    no recoil. Because it's shooting light, you see? Beautiful gun,
    beautiful gun; my wife has one. Really. That's not a line, she
    really has. Now, I can do you that one -- with a battery and a free
    charge -- for ninety-five; or the presentation pack on a special
    offer for one-nineteen; or this, the special presentation pack, for

    "I'll take the special."

    "Sound choice, madam, *sound* choice. Now, do--?"

    "And a HandCannon, with the eighty-mill silencer, five GP clips, three
    six-five AP/wire-fl'echettes clips, two bipropellant HE clips, and a
    Special Projectile Pack if you have one -- the one with the embedding
    rounds, not the signalers. I assume the night-sight on this toy is

    "Aah... yes, And how does madam wish to pay?"

    She slapped her credit card on the counter. "Eventually."

                    -- Iain M. Banks, "Against a Dark Background"

  • "It was the day my grandmother exploded" is still my favourite opening line to a novel.
    • Oh yes, The Crow Road. A very fine murder, mystery, comedy romance thaI haven't read for far too long.

  • This is bitter news, Banks is my favorite living author. You have to admire the way he's handled it, though, with typical grace and a solid infusion of black humor.

    Here is the link for his special statement about the cancer diagnosis: []

    And here is a guestbook where you can leave a personal though quite public message for Iain, this page was apparently set up just for well wishers after the news of the cancer broke: http://friends. []

  • -----[ If the author, or a loved one of his, is reading... please look into this carefully! ]----

    Cancerous cells love sugar. IPT uses that to launch a trojan horse attack with very low dose chemo. For this condition IPT is challenging, but a very promising treatment (please see Google link below): []

Due to lack of disk space, this fortune database has been discontinued.