Iain M. Banks is without a doubt one of the greatest writers of the turn of the century, both for his science fiction Culture series and his literary thrillers. He's one of the architects of an idea that we take for granted in scifi now: the post-human who lives forever, aided by artificial intelligences, in a galaxy that swarms with intelligent life. Sadly, Banks announced today on his website that he only has months to live.
With his characteristic dark humor and no-nonsensery, Banks wrote that he is "officially Very Poorly," adding:
I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term.
The bottom line, now, I’m afraid, is that as a late stage gall bladder cancer patient, I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year. So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.
As a result, I’ve withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I’ve asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry – but we find ghoulish humour helps). By the time this goes out we’ll be married and on a short honeymoon. We intend to spend however much quality time I have left seeing family. and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us. Meanwhile my heroic publishers are doing all they can to bring the publication date of my new novel forward by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves.
It is perhaps fitting that Banks' recent Culture novel, The Hydrogen Sonata, was a wistful meditation on the death of civilizations and individuals, as well as what it means to live a meaningful life. Banks met with io9's book club to discuss Surface Detail, his penultimate Culture novel, in 2011.
At some point when he was being extra-goofy, Banks came up with a Culture name for himself: Sun-Earther Iain El Bonko Banks of North Queensferry. We are going to miss you fiercely, El Bonko. Thanks for all the books you've left behind.