Iain Banks, Acclaimed Scottish Novelist and Science Fiction Author, Says He Has Terminal Cancer

 @rpalmerscience
on April 03 2013 6:05 PM

Scottish author Iain Banks quietly delivered the sad news on Wednesday that he likely has only a few months to live.

Banks laid out his health problems in his characteristically straightforward prose, with a statement posted on his website on Wednesday.

“I have cancer,” Banks wrote. “It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumor is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumors either in the short or long term.”

Banks said the first sign of trouble came when he developed a sore back in late January, but he had written it off at the time as a consequence of being crouched over a keyboard all day.

“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,” Banks said.

The Quarry has already been delivered to Banks’ publisher and will be released later this year, according to the statement.

Banks said he’d be spending his remaining time seeing friends and relatives and enjoying his honeymoon.

“I’ve asked my partner, Adele, if she will do me the honor of becoming my widow (sorry -- but we find ghoulish humor helps),” Banks wrote.

Banks has published more mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks; for his science-fiction novels, he goes by Iain M. Banks. He burst onto the literary scene in 1984 with his first novel, "The Wasp Factory," which is narrated by a teenage psychopath.

Science-fiction fans have latched onto his "Culture" series, which takes place in a somewhat anarchistic utopia managed by a sophisticated artificial intelligence called Minds. The humans and aliens living in the Culture have near-total control over their bodies; they can secrete whatever drugs or sedatives they want almost instantaneously, back up their existence in case of death or hop between genders at will. The Culture does run into conflict with other societies that take issue with its permissive, hedonistic nature or that are suspicious of artificial intelligence.

The "Culture" novels are a unique gem in science-fiction, which often seems steeped in dystopia.

“Banks writes of a human race which knows itself, in which human beings have practically complete control over their own lives,” the Guardian wrote.

The news drew sympathies from many fellow authors, including Neil Gaiman and fellow Scottish novelist Val McDermid.

“When Iain leaves the stage, the lights will be dimmer, the possibilities less and the prospects more dreary,” McDermid wrote. “For he is one of the most playful, inventive and entertaining writers of our generation.”

Fans of Banks wishing to leave messages for him may do so at his online guestbook.

 

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