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Iain Banks Dies of Cancer At 59 141

An anonymous reader writes "BBC News is reporting that Iain Banks, best known for his Culture series novels and The Wasp Factory, has died of cancer aged 59. It had been announced several months ago that he was suffering from bladder cancer, and he had stated his intentions to spend his remaining time visiting places which meant a lot to him after marrying his partner."
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Iain Banks Dies of Cancer At 59

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  • First post (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 09, 2013 @12:59PM (#43953499)

    Cancer sucks...

    • by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:02PM (#43953517) Journal

      "Life sucks, but death doesn't put out at all...." -- Thomas J. Kopp

    • Oregon writer Jay Lake is planning JayWake and his last JayCon; front page story in the E section of the Portland Oregonian http://oregonlive.com/ [oregonlive.com] today (Sunday 2103-06-09) discussing the genetic testing he did after his stage four diagnosis. I'm storing the coffin for the pre-mortem wake in my garage (bought it off Craigslist, of course; where else would you get a slightly used coffin?) http://www.jlake.com/jaywake [jlake.com]
  • by spongman ( 182339 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:00PM (#43953507)

    Oh bugger.

    • Re:Oh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bungo ( 50628 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:26PM (#43953653)

      They were my thoughts exactly.

      I only discovered him about 5 years ago, and I was looking forward for many more years of Culture novels. I thought there was a lot more he could still explore in that universe.

      One thing I would have like to have seen is something that was more focused on things happening inside the Culture and their society. Most of the times he spends some setup time in the Culture, then whips off to the edge of their space to deal with some other civilization. I wanted to learn more about the workings of the Culture.

      I guess now I'll never know....

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I wanted to learn more about the workings of the Culture.

        A world where everyone has everything they could ever want doesn't make for very interesting reading. You can't really have drama without conflict, which I suppose would make Turn to Windward the best choice if you want a book set mainly within the Culture.

        • by bungo ( 50628 )

          Everyone can have whatever they want, yes... but it doesn't mean that everything has to be harmonious. No large inter-group disagreement is possible? Maybe some significant section want to break away.....

          Ok, I'm not a good writer, but Banks was, and I'm sure that he could have some up with something interesting that exposes more of the workings of the Culture.

          It just makes me feel a little sad that there is no chance that there will be any more Culture novels.


          • Re:Oh (Score:4, Interesting)

            by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @02:20PM (#43954023)

            No large inter-group disagreement is possible?

            Yes, this was touched upon in the book I named earlier, specifically the groups that were for and against the pylons with the suspended boat-things.

            Maybe some significant section want to break away.....

            Happened with the Elench and others.

            The point I was trying to make is that the sort of problems a person might face in a post-scarcity society are somewhat less interesting than so-called "First World problems"*; Banks would usually use the Culture to provide some contrast with another, less advanced society.

            *For example, if we hadn't already had a peek into the reasons behind Quilan's visit then the composer's struggle to avoid meeting him might have been interminably dull.

            • by stymy ( 1223496 )
              I think that only happens because he always kept a human or humans as the main characters. He could have easily written a Mind-centric story about all the backroom dealings the ships and hubs had. It was shown in many stories that there were pretty fundamental disagreements about topics like interference in other civilizations, and so a story about how it was decided what Special Circumstances ends up doing could have been rather interesting.
              • by Znork ( 31774 )

                Well, Excession does touch on those subjects to a degree. The way I've understood the Culture it really lacks the cohesion to have what would be recognized as some sort of formal decision making process, so most likely SC ends up doing what SC does because a decent sized group of minds feel like it and nobody can stop them (or feels strongly enough about it to make any significant attempt).

                In Excession you see the same thing happening on multiple levels. You have the Interesting Time Gang deciding on and ta

      • by Seumas ( 6865 )

        I just started reading some of his stuff this year and I only learned of his cancer when I googled his name this past Friday. I don't want to get political, but every time I see something like this, I can't help but opine on how many times over we could probably have cured cancer by now if we just redirected a fraction of the money we so eagerly dish out to nation-building/oil-grabbing/whatever-the-fuck-we're-doing-in-half-the-fucking-planet-right-now, surveilling our own citizens, and bailing out banks and

        • I just started reading some of his stuff this year and I only learned of his cancer when I googled his name this past Friday. I don't want to get political, but every time I see something like this, I can't help but opine on how many times over we could probably have cured cancer by now if we just redirected a fraction of the money we so eagerly dish out to nation-building/oil-grabbing/whatever-the-fuck-we're-doing-in-half-the-fucking-planet-right-now, surveilling our own citizens, and bailing out banks and car companies all to the tune of many trillions of dollars in only a few years.

          We can cure many cancers including his cancer, now. The problem with many cancers is early detection. Ovarian cancer is another obvious target that falls into this category.

    • Re:Oh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dupple ( 1016592 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:49PM (#43953823)

      Just what I thought.

      I was lucky enough to meet him a couple of times at readings in the UK. I still think Walking on Glass is my fave.

      Take it easy wherever you are

  • Immortal now. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spottywot ( 1910658 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:03PM (#43953521)
    Thank you for giving me a universe that will live in my mind long after your death. You have uploaded your mindstate to me and many others.
    • Re:Immortal now. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Athanasius ( 306480 ) <(gro.yggim) (ta) (todhsals)> on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:20PM (#43953617) Homepage

      Apparently supportive comments, such as this one, on the blog someone set up for him, http://friends.banksophilia.com/28-2/ [banksophilia.com] (already 'slashdotted' even before this post came up on my RSS feed, so check google cache... but when I did it didn't have the latest post), were a great source of joy for him in his final months.

      RIP indeed, it's times like this one might wish there was an afterlife. As it is right now my thoughts are mostly for his family and close friends.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        but when I did it didn't have the latest post), were a great source of joy for him in his final months.

        And so was his (re)buying a BMW M5 and taking it for spins around Alba. And getting married. Glad it wasn't all doom and gloom.

    • Re:Immortal now. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @06:39PM (#43955897) Homepage Journal

      A great article where Iain talks about his thinking behind the Culture - A Few Notes on the Culture [vavatch.co.uk]


      That having been made clear:

      The Culture is a group-civilisation formed from seven or eight humanoid species, space-living elements of which established a loose federation approximately nine thousand years ago. The ships and habitats which formed the original alliance required each others' support to pursue and maintain their independence from the political power structures - principally those of mature nation-states and autonomous commercial concerns - they had evolved from.

      The galaxy (our galaxy) in the Culture stories is a place long lived-in, and scattered with a variety of life-forms. In its vast and complicated history it has seen waves of empires, federations, colonisations, die-backs, wars, species-specific dark ages, renaissances, periods of mega-structure building and destruction, and whole ages of benign indifference and malign neglect. At the time of the Culture stories, there are perhaps a few dozen major space-faring civilisations, hundreds of minor ones, tens of thousands of species who might develop space-travel, and an uncountable number who have been there, done that, and have either gone into locatable but insular retreats to contemplate who-knows-what, or disappeared from the normal universe altogether to cultivate lives even less comprehensible.

      In this era, the Culture is one of the more energetic civilisations, and initially - after its formation, which was not without vicissitudes - by a chance of timing found a relatively quiet galaxy around it, in which there were various other fairly mature civilisations going about their business, traces and relics of the elder cultures scattered about the place, and - due to the fact nobody else had bothered to go wandering on a grand scale for a comparatively long time - lots of interesting 'undiscovered' star systems to explore...

  • by Amnenth ( 698898 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:04PM (#43953535)

    I just bought a couple of his books last week, knowing he wouldn't be around much longer. I haven't had time to fully read them yet (I'm maybe a hundred and fifty pages into Consider Phlebas) but from what I've read so far, the world is now a poorer place for having lost Mr. Banks.

    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:38PM (#43953733)

      Consider Phlebas is a great book, but difficult to start the series on even if it was the first. Many of the culture series are down right depressing, but worth reading anyway. Excession is probably my favorite, followed by player of games. You do not have to read them in any particular order.

      • I'm using pretty strict with myself always preferring to read in an optimal order. Obviously that's most important when it's all one continuous plot, but even something like the disconnected sets of Star Wars books I tend to read in order. I've wanted to get into the Culture series. How connected are they? Occasional callbacks I can deal with in whatever order, but any substantial references would probably have me running to release order. Any issues reading it with it not being "done"?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          While not having read the entire series yet, I generally read as you do. These books could be self-contained for all intents. There are no real plot carry overs, or over arcing characters that I can tell so far. The most pervasive reference seems to be the Idrian Culture war that is taking place during the first one, and that only extends to 'thems was the dark times"

          • ...or over arcing characters that I can tell so far.

            There is one, but it's more of a shout out than anything significant to the plot.

        • by joh ( 27088 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @02:33PM (#43954127)

          You can basically start with whatever book you want, especially since Banks didn't write them in the order they were published anyway.

          I would recommend either "Player of Games" or "Surface Detail". The first takes a while before it really takes off but gives you a good grounding into the Culture and has a pretty much single-track and fascinating plot. The latter is more complicated but is full of good stuff (like a murdered and revived slave girl on a revenge mission and some whistle-blower aliens exploring the AI after-live hells of their species).

          But frankly, all are read-worthy. You won't stop before you have read them all anyway. His non-SF books are good too, especially since some of them veer quite a bit into the fantastic. "Transition" isn't actually SF, but anything involving things like travelling between parallel worlds is close enough for me...

          • I agree that "Player of Games" is great. It'd be a good starting book to. The primary character is at somewhat political odds with the culture... think of him as an old school conservative in the midst of a bunch of hippies. So he routinely argues with different characters about the culture which gives you a really good idea of how their political system works.

            Surface Detail is good to, but I rarely recommend that as a first book because... well... it's really depressing. "Use of Weapons" is the same way...

          • by chiark ( 36404 )
            TPoG is always what I recommend as a starting point. My username may well have hinted at this, too....

            RIP Iain (M) Banks. Top chap, passionate, principled, erudite, open and most of all entertaining and thought provoking.

            Don't ignore 'raw spirit', either - a great book mostly about malt whisky...

        • by gutnor ( 872759 )
          On the last page of surface details, there is a guy that is talking, and if you have read the other books before you are able to say - "yeah I know that name". And that's basically it, it's not even something that put the story in a new perspective.
        • Basically the books are loosely in chronological order. Many of them are almost impossible to tell where in the timeline they are. "Against a Dark Background" is about a civilization in an orphaned solar system outside of our galaxy... so they have no contact with any of the other books at all. "Consider Phlebas" takes place during the Iridian War (sp?) which is hundreds of years in the past for the rest of the books. The other books may refer to the war, but none of the particular events or characters in t

          • by rbrander ( 73222 )

            The Idiran War was in our 1200's, about, and the others, more like now, ("State of the Art" was of course 1970's, with them watching "ET"...) But it has to be noted that The Culture had discovered darn near all the tech there was to discover, settled into its mores and patterns millenia before. So 800 years for their society changed things probably no more than 8 years for us today. So if Phlebas was a 1945 war/spy caper, Surface Detail and it's cool tattoo technology is still only 1953.

  • RIP Iain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Coisiche ( 2000870 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:19PM (#43953611)
    Farewell Sun-Earther Iain El-Bonko Banks of North Queensferry; that's the Culture style name he gave himself once. I don't think there will ever be a fictional place that I wanted to live in as much as your Culture.
    I encountered him a few times at Edinburgh Book Festival events and other signings. It was handy being able to say "Make it to Iain, spelled the same way".
    • Visions of places like the Culture are part of what inspires me to work on post-scarcity machines:

      http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Seed_Factories [wikibooks.org]

      • His writings help inspire the OSCOMAK idea by me starting about twenty five years ago, but it hasn't gone much anywhere: http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/ [kurtz-fernhout.com]

        So, I know what you mean by these sorts of inspirations. A good sci-fi author helps us make a leap of imagination.

        I'd recommend Hogan's "The Two Faces of Tomorrow" and his "Voyage From Yesteryear" especially for post-scarcity themes. But he touches on them in his other works too. Also check out his "Code of the Lifemaker" if you like the idea of seed

        • I don't find Hogan's prose particularly impressive. I read The Proteus Operation and found it only barely worth reading. I don't find any similarities between the two writers. Well, other than they are now both dead.

          All of the great SciFi novelists seem to be dropping like flies and I don't think there is anyone to replace them. I don't think writing novels is something that the Facebook Generation really yearns to do. At least Neal Stephenson is still alive. And Joe Haldeman. But I wonder for how long. Sur

          • The Proteus operation is not one of Hogan's better works. If you are willing to give him another try, try Voyage from Yesteryear, The Two Faces of Tomorrow, or Code of the Lifemaker, which are all about post-scarcity technologies in various ways as hard sci-fi. It is the post-scarcity aspects that are similar, even if Hogan's are much more near-term.

            The thing about writers is, it may take decades for people to learn about the prose that stands the test of time. So, I guess most authors may be old by the tim

  • by Dr. Tom ( 23206 ) <tomh@nih.gov> on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:28PM (#43953657) Homepage

    When the Lazy Gun is fired at humans, many different things may occur. An anchor may appear above the person, giant electrodes may appear on either side of the target and electrocute them, or an animal may tear their throat out. Larger targets such as tanks or ships may suffer tidal waves, implosion, explosion, sudden lava flows or just disappear. When fired at cities and other such targets, thermonuclear explosions are the norm, although in one instance a comet crashed into the city.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Against_a_Dark_Background [wikipedia.org]

    Another interesting fact about a Lazy Gun is that it weighs three times as much when turned upside down.

    • And that weapon isn't even the most interesting part of that book. In fact, the entire story has nothing to do with the culture. It's in a solar system that's outside the galaxy. They're just adrift, no stars... hence the name.

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      When the Lazy Gun is fired at humans, many different things may occur. An anchor may appear above the person, giant electrodes may appear on either side of the target and electrocute them, or an animal may tear their throat out.

      What about when it is fired by a roadrunner at a pursuing coyote?

    • Thanks, dude. Off to the bookstore!

  • by Ambassador Kosh ( 18352 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @01:38PM (#43953727)

    I have been a programmer for about 10 years but I got tired of not really making any kind of a difference with programming. I decided to go back to school to do chemical and biological engineering so I could work on turning new nanotech/biotech treatments for various diseases like cancer into actual shipping products. There are been some lab bench cancer treatments that show 99%+ eradication of cancer within a few days of treatment but apparently it takes several people a year to make one dose. It is just not industrial scale stuff yet.

    About a month after I decided to go back to school I found out that my business partner had pancreatic cancer and he died not too long after I started classes. I now have one year left and when I graduate I will hopefully get a job working on turning these cures into real shipping products. I know I may need to move to places like Canada or a western European country to work on real cures since the current profit motive in the USA does not really favor cures.

    I just find it sad that this kind of thing continues to happen. We spend so much money and effort on killing people but if we spent even 5% of what we spent on the military we could cure a heck of a lot of these problems.

    It is very sad that he died but it does provide yet another piece of incentive for what I will be doing next and I hope it will encourage other people to do the same.

  • I wish you were fully backed up. I hope you Sublimed somehow.
    I really like his novels, I see him in the lienage of Clarke and Herbert in his own Galaxy.

  • At least he did it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joh ( 27088 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @02:10PM (#43953961)

    Iain M. Banks not only managed to revive SF to a point of being relevant once again (to me at least), he also managed to make up a future and a culture that was worth it. He may be dead now but he left something really precious: A possible world that is both interesting and (mostly) peaceful and fun.

    I'm really thankful for that.

  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @02:50PM (#43954257)

    On our primitive planet with its petty preoccupations over power and money, you showed us a vision of the future in which Mankind has managed to transcend the narrow blinkers of its youth, and reaches out to the stars without material greed nor lust for power.

    The Culture gave millions of us hope for the future, at a time when government, business and fanaticism seem intent on moving us back towards the barbarism of earlier ages. Your vision will live on in our hearts, come what may.

    Thank you.

    • by joh ( 27088 )

      "Money is a sign of poverty" as the Culture says (it has no money). But it did transcend the lust for power in the most straight way: By being almost limitlessly powerful, to make that clear. The technology of the Culture is very much god-like.

  • I've read almost every thing by him, the culture books make for great reading, complete with chatty star ship Minds. Also loved some of his non sf book, like complicity and Espida (sp?) Street. Yes his book where somewhat dark particularly many of the ending, but also refreshing in parts. He will be missed.I've read almost every thing by him, the culture books make for great reading, complete with chatty star ship Minds. Also loved some of his non sf book, like complicity and Espida (sp?) Street. Yes his bo
  • by mvar ( 1386987 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @02:59PM (#43954319)
    Very, very sad news, he was probably my favorite scifi author..I hoped he'd manage to see his latest book The Quarry get released before he died, he even worked with his publisher to hasten the release for this summer and now this...fuck
  • In the announcement he did abot the cancer there was something about one more book from the Culture, are there any news about it?

  • I've read almost all of his Culture work, and a couple of his mainstream books (Complicity was fun). A great loss, he will be missed.
  • RIP Iain M. Banks.

    What I found so intriguing about his work is how he took the time to explain how certain significant scientific advancements result in their ultimate effect on economics, psychology, and the human view on the world/universe. A harmony of ideas surrounded by a solid mythology.


  • I'm just one more to say how saddened I am for the loss of Iain Banks. His novels have touched me as well, and I have not felt the loss of any author as painful since Isaac Asimov passed.

    AlthoughI fear otherwise, I sincerely hope that some day our children's children will live in something like the culture.

  • he's away the crow road. I once had the pleasure of meeting Iain and talking with him for a while, although I didn't realise at the time it was Iain Banks I was talking to. He was a lovely man who had his head screwed on well. He'll be missed.
  • Goddamn uncaring universe >:-(

    If only the credulous assholes were right.

    • by Sabriel ( 134364 )

      Seems to me there's still plenty of room left, even just in what we know we don't know about physics, for multiple possibilities that we could crudely stick an "afterlife" label on; no need to cave in to the limited imaginations of the logically impaired!

      Vale, Iain, and if you can send us a postcard from Infinite Fun Space, please do. :)

  • With his Culture novels, Iain M Banks is unparalleled in sheer mind-blowing scope and depth. Many of the stories have a strong bitter-sweet quality (such as Consider Phlebas, the first one I read and still one of my favourites), the exception is possibly Player of Games which is a lot more cheerful. Excession is one of very few stories that extrapolate technology in a significant way. Use of Weapons is one of the most horrible stories I've ever read, with it's masterful exploration of the depths of the huma
    • Agreed, Consider Phlebas is an outrageously awesome read, it's one of those books that gets the neurons going on so many levels.

      Iain M Banks will be sorely missed by those who took the time to read his works.

  • One of he best sci authors I have read. Hope he gets to "sublime"
  • Ignorant Tagging (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @09:29PM (#43957095) Homepage
    Whoever added the tag "neverheardofhim", shame on you. Do you always parade your ignorance in public? It's not a virtue you know! Either look him up and educate yourself or just ignore the story if you're determined to be a prat.