the Little Red Reviewer

Iain M. Banks, 1954 – 2013

Posted on: June 9, 2013

Rest in Peace, Iain M. Banks.  Creator of The Culture and changer of the world.

photo yanked from wikipedia

photo yanked from wikipedia


I started reading Iain M Banks just over  a year ago. So recently that I’m not even sure I can call myself a fan.  But fan I quickly became of the man who reinvented Space Opera. I was hooked a hundred pages into Look to Windward. A few books later, Use of Weapons (which shouldn’t be your first Culture novel) shattered me into a million peices and allowed me entry into a hallowed and secretive club of readers who had been equally shattered. We had each others help to put ourselves back together even though some pieces would be lost forever.

Mr. Banks, you have changed me. You have shown me a path towards what is possible, and for this Sir, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  A light has gone out in the Culture, and this time more than just a few Drones have taken notice. Imagine all those people on all those Orbitals, suddenly sad, and not knowing why. Of all the billions of beings in The Culture, why should one person matter? Because when you’re the one reading the story, or living the story, it fucking matters. that’s why. Your Culture books are more than escapism, more than transportive. They are simply more.

It’s only June, and I already feel like I’ve lost too many people this year. I didn’t have the chance to thank them, to tell them how I felt, to tell them what their works and actions meant to me. A grief counselor gave me a letter template, a self guided exercise to help us articulate why that person was so important to us. It’s a one-way conversation that helps you through the grieving process.

Lesson learned.  Nothing is forever. Sometimes promises are broken with no hard feelings. I need to tell people how I feel before it’s too late. I need to write those letters now, before it’s too late.

I’ll let you in on a little Use-of-Weapons-eque secret: this post isn’t really about Iain Banks.

this post is about how to cheat time.

Time steals everything from us, but more so because we willingly give it the power to. This is my request, to anyone reading this post: Write those letters now.  Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, do not wait.  Did someone have a positive influence on your life? Did someone unknowingly help you through hard times? Let them know.  I suggest writing a letter because I am shit at verbal communications, and a letter allows the person on the receiving end some time to process what you’ve just said.  Written communication means less awkwardness later.

This is not permission to start stalking someone. Do not mail people dead chipmunks as a token of your love, and I better not see any marriage proposals on twitter.  Just send them a letter or an e-mail. These are the people who deserve far more than “thanks for being there for me” or “omg I love your books, when is your next one coming out???”. Tell them WHY their existence in your life was important to you.  Cheat time.

15 Responses to "Iain M. Banks, 1954 – 2013"

I still intend to pick up his SF books. So many good things heard, and I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me so long (as with SF in general) – but it’ll happen, and hopefully soon.

This was a lovely post, Andrea. Really makes me think. Thanks. 🙂


I echo your thoughts here completely. I thought of you immediately when I read this announcement earlier because your passion with is works is one of the reasons I am hoping to get to his work this year. (On a side note, I always love the discussion from fans about where to start with an author’s work. I’ve read several places where “Use of Weapons” was suggested as a good place to start.) I still think I’ll start with “State of the Art” as we discussed not long ago. And not just because it is sitting right here!

I understand your loss and how it makes you feel, and you are right: with authors especially our loss as fans is less about the person, although we can empathize with those who’ve lost a loved one, and more about both what it tells us about time and also the loss of the inspirational work those authors have contributed to the world through their fiction. I only started reading Vance a few years ago and am sorry I didn’t read more and send him a ‘thank you’ before he passed away. I am sorry for the reason loss of one of my childhood idols, Harry Harrison. I’ve been skating around the Ian Banks pond ever since the recent announcement of his poor health and now regret not reading at least a little bit of his work while he was still alive. Ditto Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton, authors that I didn’t pick up until not long after they passed away.

It is hard when authors who have lived a long life, like Vance, pass away. It is much more a tragedy when folks like Banks pass away from illness/disease earlier than should have happened. I’m going to have similar thoughts about Terry Pratchett as his illness progresses and am glad I’ve read some of his work.

In the interest of ‘letters’ let me take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate you in the brief time we’ve interacted online. You stir in me a passion for classic science fiction, a passion that was there before I met you but that you have helped rekindle a flame for. You inspire me with the authors you read, like Banks, that I have yet to discover. You are not afraid to speak your mind about what you feel about the things you read and watch, good, bad or somewhere in the middle. I always know I’m getting an honest assessment from your point of view when I read your posts. It really is an honor to be a part of this community with you and when I do finally read Banks it will be as much a tip of the hat to you as it will be to him because you are the first person I’ve come across who has championed him to me…to us. I know there are many out there who do, but you are the main one in my circle.

So thank you, and please know that you and what you do are appreciated.


well shit. now I’m crying again.



Feel free to slap me for that. 🙂

Just make sure you put all books up and don’t give in to any temptation to use them as tissue.

On a more serious note, did you read Neil Gaiman’s very nice tribute to Iain Banks?


No. Nooooo. Nooooooooh. I knew he was seriously ill, but this is much too soon. Devastated. Have read and loved his books for so many years (I wrote an essay for GCSE English about The Wasp Factory!)
I’ve always been more into his ‘straight’ fiction than sci fi, but my recommendation for sci fi starters is Against a Dark Background. Eminently readable, with his trademark brilliantly real female protagonist – which is possibly my biggest reason for loving his work. He wrote the most realistic and empathetic female characters of any male novelists I know.


Beautiful words and thoughts Andrea. I was going to write a “eulogy” post myself, but after reading yours, I don’t think mine would be able to add anything that yours hasn’t already said and much more eloquently than I would be able to capture.

Looks like I have some letters to write. (and maybe a novel or two, a few paintings, drawings…)



This is so sad and your piece is lovely and fits in with thoughts I was myself having recently. Mainly along the lines of ‘if I had just one more week’. So, basically this is great advice – have your one extra week now or the week after, before you don’t have another week left. Thanks Andrea.
Lynn 😦


RIP, Iain M Banks, prophet of a post-scarcity utopia. I would not say I enjoyed many of your books, but your vision of the Culture always stuck with me, and recent years have brought it increasingly to mind. My sympathy and condolences to your family and friends.


Thanks for writing this post, Andrea. It is both more touching and more inspiring than anything I could have managed, so I feel a better person for reading it.
We probably say this every year, but this year in particular I feel like we’re losing too many. Sad times.


So sad to hear about this, but what a great tribute post you wrote for him, it was great.


I only found out about this today from my mother. I’m a recent convert to the world of Banks after hearing him on BBC Radio 4 and I can only say I’m very saddened by his death.


When you say “write that letter”, I assume you mean a REAL letter: ink on paper, sent with a stamp on it by mail. NOT an email, or an F-book note or any of that crap. A real letter makes a world of difference.


I agree that a real letter makes a world of difference. But you and I are old fogeys, we grew up writing real letters, we understand the subtleties of the art of handwriting. Not that a younger person doesn’t or can’t understand, but if they feel most comfortable writing an e-mail, I’m sure the recipient would understand. (although, with all the sudden gov’t electronic survellience stuff, I foresee letter writing to become very popular again!)

It took me three tries to write the letter I wanted. there were lots of tears. it was good.


[…] Iain M. Banks, 1954 – 2013 ( […]


[…] Most impactful posts? I’m still proud of the post I wrote just after Iain M. Banks’ death. Not sure if it was impactful for anyone but me, but, oh […]


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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