Iain Banks has died just a few months after being diagnosed with cancer.
For a very long time he has been the gold standard for many writers, especially in speculative fiction. This is not dismiss his work outside the genre which is considerable and a dark path well worth pursuing. There is also his fine tome on the enjoyment of single malt whiskey. But for me he will be the man who wrote the best space operas of my adult life. The Culture books are dark, mordant, optimistic, fatalistic, funny, and wrenching. Banks’ ability in world building was far beyond the skills of most mortals, as were his gifts for creating unforgettable three-dimensional characters and twisted plots. Some I have read only once but I swear I will return some day. Some I have reread a couple times. There’s one section of Excession I always have bookmarked because I return to it so often. He was the kind of writer whose intellect left you staggered and whose view of humanity took your breath away.
I just finished reading the novella State of the Art. And this paragraph is stuck in my head:
The ship had brought Linter’s body back up, displacing it from its freezer in a New York City morgue. But when we left, Linter stayed, in a fashion. I argued he ought to be buried on-planet, but the ship disagreed. Linter’s last instructions regarding the disposal of his remains had been issued fifteen years earlier, when he first joined Contact, and were quite conventional; his corpse was to be displaced into the centre of the nearest star. So the sun gained a bodyweight, courtesy of Culture tradition, and in a million years, maybe, a little of the light from Linter’s body would shine upon the planet he had loved.
I do hope against all rationality that there is a GCU up there and it will indeed shoot Iain into the sun. R.I.P. you glorious bastard. I’ll have a dram tonight in your honor.