Iain Banks Dies At 59, Iconic SF Writer And Author Of ‘The Wasp Factory’

Iain Banks, the iconic Scottish writer who had two successful careers as literary writer Iain Banks and science fiction writer Iain M. Banks, has died at age 59.

Although he normally abstained from the internet and from social media, in April he came forward to inform fans that he had terminal gall bladder cancer and only had a few months to live. With his famous dark humor undamaged, he said that he had asked his longtime girlfriend Adele to do him the honor of “becoming my widow” and that he would be away on his honeymoon when the news of his illness broke.

He has since left a few updates on his progress in order to keep concerned friends, family, and fans informed.

As a newcomer to social media, his May 20 post expressed his surprise at the public support coming from his fans: “I’ve been reading the posts on the site. So far I’ve reached page 60, which is getting on for a third of the way through. Still knocked out by the love and the depth of feeling coming from so many people; thank you, all of you.”

As the re-inventor of space opera, Iain M. Banks has an honored place in science fiction for complex, intelligent SF that includes the Culture series of novels. However, he first broke out as the literary author of 1984’s The Wasp Factory.

For the record, he said with a smile in the same May 20 posting that his mainstream literary efforts outsold his SF novels, sometimes by a ratio of three or four to one:

“I think a lot of people have assumed that the SF was the trashy but high-selling stuff I had to churn out in order to keep a roof over my head while I wrote the important, serious, non-genre literary novels. Never been the case…The SF novels have always mattered deeply to me…and while it might not be what people want to hear (academics especially), the mainstream subsidised the SF, not the other way round.”

The Wasp Factory has been ranked as one of the top 100 books of the 20th century.

His publisher Little, Brown pushed up the release of his final book in the hope that Banks would live long enough to see hit the shelves. Banks didn’t quite make it. The Quarry will be released on June 20.

In a sad twist, it deals with the last weeks of a man in his forties who is dying of cancer.

For readers everywhere, it’s hard to accept that Iain Banks has died.

[Iain Banks photo by Tim Duncan via Wikimedia Commons]