Sad news arrived on Sunday from Scotland: science fiction author Iain M. Banks has passed away at the age of 58. Earlier this year, we reported that he had been diagnosed cancer.
Banks is well known for his Culture novels, a massive science fiction series that spanned ten novels over the past quarter century. His first entry in the series, Consider Phlebas, was published in 1987. The last entry, The Hydrogen Sonata, was published last year. In addition to the Culture series, he was responsible for three additional SF novels. As Iain Banks, he wrote fifteen fictional novels. Since 1988, he was honored with nominations and wins for a number of awards for his novels, including the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Locus Poll Award, British Fantasy Award, The John W. Campbell Jr. Memorial Award and the Hugo Award.
Fellow Scottish SF author Ken McLeod penned an op-ed in a recent edition of The Guardian that sums up his approach to the genre that he deeply loved:
Iain’s science-fiction writing came out of a complex engagement with the field as he encountered it in the 1970s, as well as with mainstream literature and the classics. A formative influence was the SF criticism of John Clute and M John Harrison, whose essays and reviews were, for Iain and for me, always the highlight of every issue of the paperback series of New Worlds. We read them so assiduously and delightedly that we burned entire paragraphs into memory, and could each cause the other to collapse in laughter with an allusion. Clute and Harrison took a scalpel to the flaws of the science fiction we loved, and we loved them for it. Literary merits aside, and generalising unfairly, the field as Iain found it presented a dilemma: American SF was optimistic about the human future, but deeply conservative in its politics; British SF was more thoughtful and experimental, but too often depressive.
As another SF author, Adam Roberts, noted on Twitter: The death of anyone diminishes us all. The death of Iain Banks diminishes SF hugely. A very sad day.