Iain M. Banks
Earlier this week, I heard the news that Scottish author Iain M. Banks has cancer, and does not have long to live. I’m sad to learn this. I hope all the things that I can reasonably hope… that his end is relatively peaceful, and that he has time to make peace, say his goodbyes, with as little pain and indignity as possible.
I think I’m a couple of novels behind his writing, actually. I have copies of both Matter and Surface Tension on my “meaning to read” pile. I read and loved his Culture science fiction novels, in college and shortly thereafter. I can take credit for getting a couple of my friends into Banks’s world of a sprawling, intergalactic near-utopia full of interesting political machinations and power plays. I like the plot twists and strange endings. Everything described well- from the orbital space stations, to the bored, hyper-perfect Culture denizens who treated other planets with a combination of dewy hope and Machiavellian nastiness, sometimes both from the same character. A vision of futuristic space at once more inspiring and seedier than many others create.
I had the passing thought: I wish Banks’s culture were real– their science would cure his cancer and he’d go on writing.
When I asked him, “What does the Culture mean to you? Is it a metaphor, or is it just one wacky playpen?” he answered, “It’s my secular heaven, the place I’d like to go to when… well, while I’m still alive to enjoy it, actually. Ain’t going to happen, of course, but, hey, a chap can dream.”
Sigh. I’ll likely go reread Player of Games at some point in the next few weeks, in sort of protest/solidarity at the news.