Recently Iain Banks announced that he was suffering from terminal cancer, following which a group of his fans set up a site for people to share their feelings and thoughts. You can find Iain's announcement and the guestbook here: http://friends.banksophilia.com/
As Iain had made such an impression on me as both a reader and an aspiring writer, I wanted to say thank you for his work and his life. I've included a version of this below, adjusted to the third-person.
Every so often there appears an author who has a singular impact on you. The reasons can vary - it can be a topic that hits home, or characters that you can relate to, or the sheer excellence of the writing.
For me, that author has been Iain (M) Banks.
I still remember the first book that I read of Iain's - Consider Phlebas - and the subtlety, care and insight in the writing that struck me in a way that the novels of few other authors have done before, or since. I moved on from that first novel, reading through many of his other works, and I've continued to be struck with the care and insight to his writing that I've never encountered elsewhere - at least never across such a diverse and prolific canon.
While Iain's literary fiction has always enthralled me with the strength of the characters and mesmerising narratives, Crow Road in particular, his science fiction writing is what has always stuck with me, in particular the focus on The Culture. This does something that I've only seen in genuinely original and insightful science fiction - it imagines a state that, in part at least, we can aspire to, it acts as a beacon of hope that we can imagine our way towards a better future. Without such inspiration our way forward as individuals, and as society, could all too easily end up being charted only by politicians and businesses, and as such we owe Iain, and those like him, a debt of gratitude for sharing their views of a different, better future.
I remember also a visit to the York branch of Waterstones many years ago, where Iain was giving a reading from his latest novel, and a general talk about his life and work. I remember the dry sense of humour, self-deprecation and integrity as a writer. I also remember Iain's kindness to a young man, and aspiring writer, standing at the end of a line of fans, with two carrier bags full of your books to sign, along with a copy of the latest novel. His patience and kind words as he signed those piles of books have long resonated with me, and stand with me still as testimony to his integrity and compassion, both as a writer and as a man.
Iain, you will be missed, but your memory will live on through your work, and the people it inspires to think of what more could be.