SF author Iain M. Banks, creator of The Culture, dead at 59

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Jun 10, 2013, 10:46 AM EDT (Updated)

Iain M. Banks, the celebrated creator of the series The Culture, who built a devoted following across genres, died Sunday at the age of 59.

Banks' death was confirmed Sunday morning by fellow sci-fi author and friend Charles Stross, and by an announcement on the Friends of Iain Banks website, in which Banks' wife Adele said:

“Iain died in the early hours this morning. His death was calm and without pain.”

Banks' passing comes a little more than two months after his announcement that he had been diagnosed with gallbladder cancer and likely had less than a year to live. In response to this, he withdrew from any scheduled public appearances, married his longtime partner Adele Hartley and asked his publishers to move up the release date of his final novel, The Quarry. Sadly, he did not live to see its publication. The Quarry will be released June 25 in the U.S. and June 20 in the U.K.

Though we know him primarily here for his great contributions to the science fiction genre, Banks' career was also largely defined by his literary fiction. His career began with a literary novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984, which he published under "Iain Banks" (the moniker he would continue to use for all such fiction). Two more mainstream/literary novels followed (Walking on Glass in 1985 and The Bridge in 1986) before Banks published his first science fiction novel. Consider Phlebas, published in 1987, was not only his entry into a genre where he would become a beloved figure, but also the first book in his award-winning (and in some ways career-defining) Culture cycle, a series of novels and short stories set in a utopian, semi-anarchist society largely controlled by extremely advanced AIs known as "Minds." Banks went on to publish eight more Culture books, most recently The Hydrogen Sonata in 2012. Among his numerous other works are the Hugo-nominated 2004 sci-fi novel The Algebraist, the 1992 literary novel The Crow Road (adapated for television by the BBC in 1996) and the 1993 novel Complicity (adapted into a film of the same name, known as Retribution in the U.S., in 2000).

Banks was a frequently honored author in the sci-fi and fantasy community. Throughout his career he was nominated for five British Science Fiction Association Awards, winning twice for Feersum Endjinn (1994) and Excession (1996). His novels were also nominated six times for the Locus Poll Award (Matter earned second-place honors in 2009). His work also earned nominations from the Hugo Awards, Prometheus Awards and British Fantasy Awards, and his novel Transition was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2010. 

Just a few weeks ago, on May 20, Banks wrote his final entry on the blog at the Friends of Iain Banks page. Though it was written only as an update, not a deliberate goodbye, he ended it with these words, thanking not only his fans and friends but the writers who inspired him.

I want to say thank you to all of you for your messages, your memories, your wit, your sympathy and your kind, supportive thoughts. It means a lot, almost more than I can say, and – whatever type or size of screen I read the comments on – I come away from the computer, laptop, iPad or phone with a happy smile on my face.

Oh, and that bit in the last update, about telling the writers and artists you most admire now, before they’re dead? Done it; or at least started the process. I sent what was basically a fan letter to Alasdair Gray a couple of weeks ago, telling him how much his work has meant to me, then last night I got to tell Mike (as in M John) Harrison something very similar. Doing that made me feel good too.

All the best


(Via John Scalzi)