back to article Scottish SF master Iain M Banks reveals he has less than a year to live

One of Britain's most popular fiction and science fiction authors Iain Banks, or Iain M Banks for lovers of his science fiction, has revealed that he has cancer and is unlikely to live longer than a year. "The bottom line, now, I'm afraid, is that as a late stage gall bladder cancer patient, I'm expected to live for 'several …


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  1. Trollslayer


    Ian, your books are unique, I have enjoyed many evening bathing in the Culture and if I was a GSV my name would be "A mild case of indigestion".

    Live as much as you can as long as you can, the place will be duller without you.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Bugger!

      For those who haven't seen the link from the BBC website or elsewhere, you can leave messages for Iain at There are some great ones already (though I only got to about page 15 this afternoon).

      Let's hope this is one of those situations where the doctors have got it wrong - or that there is an SC vessel being diverted our way with an important mission.

      1. Shannon Jacobs

        My comment to Mr Banks on that website:

        Have greatly enjoyed your books and DEEPLY sorry to hear the news. The probabilistic and quantum natures of reality are no consolation. I was hoping you would get around to the cryocide crybabies or the Chinese Amazon grannies, but time is running out.

        It does not seem to be a constructive response to hope the doctors' diagnosis is flawed, but unfortunately yours appears to be the only kind of diagnosis they are especially good at--the too late kind. Should I suggest the ultimate in results-based medicine? I actually want them to do a COMPLETE autopsy on me to find out what REALLY killed me. Then I want them to go back to the doctors who missed the diagnosis before it was too late... Seems like a more useful option than donating to cancer research, eh?

        Again, thank you for all the pleasure you have given me. I can only hope the real world can develop along the lines of your splendid imagination.

        1. Shannon Jacobs

          Banks makes you think

          And the thumbs down vote on my post has me thinking WTF.

          While I was wandering around that website yesterday, eventually I was actually wondering "Where are the trolls?" These days it seems there are always some of them around. I even started thinking about what kind of trollage they might post, but I was really stumped on that one. Someone is going to complain that Iain Banks was overrated or start a campaign to sell more of his books? Like he needs more money? A complaint that the existence of such superb writers makes it pointless for other people to write anything? (Yes, I do wish I could write more, but envy is not problem and I know I am NOT and never will be a creative force like Mr Banks...)

          Anyway, the more I think about this topic, the sadder it makes me feel. Really under the category of 'Nothing can be done' and I just hope he enjoys himself as much as possible while he can. He deserves it and twice on Sundays.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Banks makes you think

            My favourite author. He might want to consider volunteering to test this stuff:


  2. Zebo-the-Fat

    Very sad

    I have only recently started reading his sci fi ... very very good, I like the way his mind works. This is very sad news

  3. Efros

    He made

    SF readable again.

  4. Lost In Clouds of Data

    Well, this is just damn sad news to hear

    Although I'm more of his Culture books than owt else, I was first introduced to Mr Banks by way of The Wasp Factory.

    Not read any of his books recently but do keep my current collection on the bookshelf ready for another journey. Think I may have to do just that.

    Thanks Iain, you have provided this comtentard with many many hours of enjoyment and wonder. Your vision will live on.

  5. Chris Miller

    Two of our best authors: Iain Banks and Iain M Banks.

  6. andreas koch

    @ Iain M. Banks

    [broadcast Eclear, sent 3651820175.2]

    xAndreasKoch, aboard dROU 'Dinner Is Ready'

    Thank you for your work.


  7. Greg J Preece

    Extremely sad to hear this. I read The Wasp Factory years ago and was drawn into his work. A very talented writer, but let's not write his eulogy while he's still kicking. Good luck to you, Iain.

  8. Tim Bergel

    Damn it all to hell and back

    This news has completely ruined my day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Damn it all to hell and back

      I'm sure Mr Banks was none too thrilled on the day he found out either!

      I'm sure you probably didn't mean it to sound the way you wrote it.

  9. Paul Johnston

    Not a good day!

    Can we have an icon showing a dram being raised?

    I have a t-shirt with "Break Into Banks" on the back for the "A Song Of Stone" book, love wearing it when I go in to pay my credit card bill.

    1. Mattjimf

      Re: Not a good day!

      I got that t-shirt as well, although I think my wife consigned it to charity as I had too many shirts. A lot of people commented on it as it was unusual to see t-shirts for books.

      I met him at a book signing for The Business when it was released, nice guy to talk to and will be sadly missed.

      It was The Crow Road tv series that got me into him, although I haven't read his sci-fi stuff.

  10. albaleo

    Sad news.

    I've probably read Excession and The Player of Games more times than is good for you. In some ways like Superman comics for adults without the red kryptonite. The comfort of a ship's mind is hard to beat.

    Thanks Iain for making my life that bit more enjoyable.

  11. Tom 7

    A very very sad way to prove

    that karma is fucking bollocks.

    May his last days be as full as he wants them to be.

    So long and thanks for putting it on paper.

  12. Schultz

    Interested in the mind,

    but the body does matter too. I hope Ian Banks can enjoy the remaining time in his.

  13. Robert E A Harvey

    Sad now

    It's not often that two of yer favourite authors die simultaneously.

    Good man, Enjoy what's left, eh?

  14. Beau

    To, One Of The Very Best.

    Thank you Ian, for all your brilliant work.

    O hell, that all I can say.

  15. tirk

    Thank you IMB

    You have made the last 20 years brighter, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Very smart man indeed...

    "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)."

    Yes, that frickin' helps indeed. Don't ever think its hopeless and try to continue to focus on the bright side, not the down side.

    Because we've seen this many times before in history... Man was told he had only 3 months to live, only to end up 5 years later. In most of those cases the person in question didn't focus on the downside of things but figured that he'd better make the best out of what he still had.

    And it's a good thing your widow seems to share your sense of humor.

    Honestly folks.. A smiley on my post. Because the last thing that guy needs is a bunch of people who are now going to become all sad and depressed on him.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very smart man indeed...

      I think that doctors give a deliberately low value for life expectancy, if they said 12 months and the person passed away in 6 months then the family might sue.

      Of course it can work the other way, someone thinks they have 6 months, sells the house, blows all their money and then ends up living for years instead.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Mike Arthur

    ah balls...

    thanks for all the hours buried in the Culture. Some might say it's as close as I'll ever get :)

    Off to read player of games again...

  19. Spiny_Norman

    Thanks Iain

    Many hours of enjoyment & many more to come from your work. I hope you have had half as much pleasure writing them as I still get reading them. It's not over until the fat lady sings so keep your (raw) spirits up!! God Bless you.

  20. tkioz

    Well that sucks. His novels gave me much pleasure, here's hoping for a miracle.

    1. Long John Brass


      Fuck the miracle ... what's needed is every cancer researcher, replacement organ boffin & geneticist on the planet to get their shit together to solve this.

      1. Irongut

        Re: Miracle?

        There is no cure for cancer. Cancer is the universe's way of telling us we got too good at medicine, diet, etc and are living too long.

  21. follicle genius

    And, yet, David Cameron is still alive and well...

    ... there's just no justice in this world :-|

    One of my absolute favorite authors.

    I've come across very few authors with such imagination.

    Reading his books is always such an enjoyable journey.

    You never really know just where he's going to go with the story.

    A true asset to the literary community.

    And, for the record, my personal favorite ship name is 'Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival'

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: No need to drag politics in please

      DC did save a sheep a week or so ago!

      IMB will be sorely missed, I have read most of the M books, Culture stories are very good, I like the anarchy in them, the humour, the orbitals, and the scentient ships. I haven't read any non M books though. I ought to but just haven't.

      Too many good authors finishing too early.

      One of my favourite quotes from him was about more SF fans go from M to non M than from non M to M.

      I will buy some non M and try them out.

      1. JonP

        Re: No need to drag politics in please - Non M

        If you're after non M - i'd suggest Transitions (very sci-fi non M) Crow Road & Complicity as starting points, also probably wasp factory (just because it's his "famous" one) - these are my favourite non M ones - the rest (IMO!!) are good to read but I often found the conclusions to be a little unsatisfying (except maybe walking on glass - but that one's just odd.)

        I always prefered the M stuff (I think i've read all of them more than once) ... heh, you've got me reminiscing now.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: No need to drag politics in please - Non M

          I think Transitions was 'M' in the States, but not over here... or vice versa... which is kind of appropriate for the book! I enjoyed The Steep Approach to Garbadale, published a few years back, the first 'non M' I'd read in a while.

  22. Ali 5

    Extremely sad news. Thanks for expanding my mind as to the possibilities for a species such as ours and others too. Extraordinary writing, humour, storytelling. Hope you enjoy every moment you can and then find a way to the other side as quickly as possible.

    A fan.

  23. JLV


    As an avid SF reader, I've mostly dislike space opera. Consider Phlebas, along with a number of subsequent Culture novels made me reconsider my position.

    Also believe Wasp Factory to be one of the better mainstream lit book I have read. Hard to believe one author could master two genres as well.

    Mr. Banks, you and your wife have the right attitude. Make the best of what fate has dealt to you and fight if you can. Best of luck and thanks for all the books.

  24. Conrad Longmore

    "It was the day my grandmother exploded.."

    Best opening line ever.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Had the honour of meeting him at a book signing last year. Very sad to hear this.

    One of the greatest of the modern science fiction authors. He will be sadly missed. Hope his last days are filled with as much happiness as his books have given to us.

  26. Mark 110

    Use of Weapons

    I have been meaning to read Use of Weapons again for ages. Even though I know the twist in the tale. But I couldn't put it down the first time so missed loads cos I should have been asleep instead of "reading".

    Good luck to the man - I hope his end is not too painful. He has expanded my mind.

    As someone else said "Thanks for all the books".

  27. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    This world is too random.

    I remember being in a bookstore way back when amazon didn't even exist and book ordering meant leafing through large catalogues, braving the frowns of the lady with the terminal and having lots of luck to actually get the book delivered. On this lazy saturday afternoon, I checked through the "freshly printed / just in" bookstacks on a large table. There were the usual tie-ins with Star Trek, romance novels, thrillers, maybe a phonebook-sized Ludlum, a Rushdie (which I wasn't ready to read yet) and over there a relatively thin book in tacky blood red with something that looked like a robotized eagle soaring above a landscape deep below. The title was incomprehensible: "Feersum Endjinn". Written by a "Ian M. Banks". Something about arabian legends? Nope. Some chapters looked like phonetics or really bad chatroom spelling. Apparently it had to do with cyberstuff.

    Thinking it might not be the worst of the lot, I bought it.

    That night, no sleep was to be had.

  28. Mephistro

    Thanks, Iain

    For all your wonderful books, your sense of humour and the great amount of thought you put in your works.We'll miss you. A lot.

  29. Dave Bell

    In some ways, he is so ordinary

    Iain is a very typical Science Fiction Fan. Like many of the writers, he was also a Fan. I met him several times over the years, often in the bar and both of us part of an incredibly diverse conversation. I could say much the same about other well-known SF authors, and some of them were old enough when I first met them that their deaths were no great surprise. We all die.

    This death will be far too soon.

  30. Cipher

    A sad day...

    ...for those who read books for pleasure...

  31. Long Fei

    Thanks Iain.

    Your works will be missed. (As will you of course).

  32. Rattus Rattus

    Farewell, Iain

    One of the best authors I have ever read.

  33. Infernoz Bronze badge

    Get a real 2nd opinion, cancer can be beat

    He should do a bit of research; there are ways to beat cancer, based on down played hard science, which the pharmaceutical industry and cancer charities really don't want people to know about, because it reduces their nature plagiarist profits and wasted guilt tripped funding!

    I'd love to see more Culture novels, because their message of Anarchist tech is a breath of hope during this doomed Corporatist quagmire.

    1. dwieske

      Re: Get a real 2nd opinion, cancer can be beat

      I'm sure you're hinting to the oral application of CBD-acid through eating/drinking raw hemp....yes there are some very good options out there with NO downsides, the above, but also generous and daily ingestion of garlic and lemon

  34. Dr.S

    Crap news. He is not only a great writer, he is an interesting thinker as well. Such a shame.


    I met him at a book signing a few years ago.

    Queued early to be at the front & had a small rucksack of his books with me.

    The look on his face at first was "Oh no hear we go, another person just going to get a few signed copies & then sell them on ebay". The way his face lit up with joy when I instead pulled out battered, well read paperbacks instead of mint 1st editions.

    I'm glad to be one of the many true fans of yours.

    Thank you for your work, few people achieve greatness in their lifetimes you did, multiple times over.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Never heard of the man...

    But still sorry to hear this sad news......

    I hope i go with half the dignity he has shown....

  37. DF118

    This is the only comments thread I've read on the subject where some well-meaning sort hasn't come along with their own personal cure for cancer ("massive doses of cannabinols and a vegan diet" being the most popular so far).

    A genuine good guy, Banks is a rare think among SF authors in that he is just as erudite and witty in the flesh as he is on paper.

    I hope the docs are wrong and you get a few more years rather than months Mr Banks, but if not you've made this geek very happy. Thank you!

    "Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying"

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

      Cure for cancer

      Well, some whacko just posted that "cure". Sigh.

      Iain, hope you enjoy however many months come with your wife and loved ones.

      1. DF118

        Re: Cure for cancer

        Yeah, seems he/she was typing at the same time as me.

        On a related note, I see that - despite no doubt being well off enough to afford almost any level of private healthcare he desires - Mr Banks has stuck with NHS Scotland and has praised everyone involved. It's all well and good being a principled socialist type who also happens to have made a good living for himself, but I'd guess there are few in that category who wouldn't give in to the temptation to throw all their wealth at an attempt to buy more time in this life.

        And anyway - who wants to go out leaving their loved ones nothing but a cloud of garlicky fart gas?!

  38. jai

    thoroughly depressed by this news. have loved his sci-fi books ever since i first read one as a young teenager. truely one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever in my opinion. and while i find his fiction books a bit hit and miss, they are always worth reading regardless.

    very sorry that there will be no more Culture novels. i shall be re-reading them all in tribute to the great man.

  39. Vulch

    "We Find Ghoulish Humour Helps"

    Sounds like it should be the name of an ROU.

    1. Monty Burns

      Re: "We Find Ghoulish Humour Helps"

      lol - so true! Sounds to me like you could take up the "Culture" series and continue ;)

      Mr Banks, I'm sure you google yourself and I'm sure you are roughly 1 trillion hits at the moment but, please enjoy the rest of your time. My mum is terminally ill and I get a limited incite to where you are. Do EVERYTHING you thought "yeah we must do that sometime....", get that bucket list going.

      And thank you, for all the books, for all the hours reading them and re-reading them.... and re-reading them again! (Just finished Consider Phelbas for a 3rd time!)

      I've just started "The Hydrogen Sonata" and so far, it's your usual exceptional talent. Thank you.

  40. Fred M

    A late convert to the M

    I'd read a few of his fiction books but only got into the Culture series as a result of the "best SF films never made" on here. Thoroughly enjoying them.

    It's inspiring to see someone deal with such a tough situation so well. Another example was Steve Evans from Wolverhampton on BBC News this morning.

  41. Frankee Llonnygog

    An example to us all

    Live well, doing what you love. Accept the end without complaint. Stay true to your beliefs (and lack of them).

    I'm just reading Surface Detail which is all about questions of mortality and afterlife (which, of course, will not exist until we construct it).

    A great mind who, sadly, has lived to early to be uploaded to a Mind.

  42. Cthonus

    Not only is he an accomplished writer but - speaking as an ex-bookseller - he also has that rare ability to woo a crowd. Too many modern authors are talented on the page but lack the charisma to carry off a reading with aplomb. Mr Banks was always a joy to listen to.

    Long may he be read.

  43. Winkypop Silver badge

    A Master

    See title.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There really is no justice in the world. Why couldn't it be Jeffrey Archer?

  45. ganymede io device

    crossing The Bridge, imbibing Raw Spirit

    As Gurgeh observes in The Player of Games

    "the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change."

    Whether that includes licensing the rights and rules to a games publisher remains to be seen.

  46. sandman

    He'll be missed

    A great writer - possibly even more so when he uses the M. Apart from the fiction his non-fiction book, Raw Spirit, a trip round all the Scottish malt whisky distilleries, is great fun. Think I'll just go and read Excession for the nth time.

    1. Spoonsinger

      Re: Think I'll just go and read Excession for the nth time.

      Or you can get it from Audible, (released last month), and have someone read it to you in bed. Equally good either way.

  47. Ol'Peculier

    What is it with the good guys?

    Douglas Adams died too young, and now this. At least Pterry is still writing.

    1. Conrad Longmore

      Re: What is it with the good guys?

      Philip K. Dick springs to mind too, another writer who could take you to places and concepts that you could not have imagined, also taken from us too early. Perhaps they will meet up wherever SF authors go after they are finished here.

      1. Shannon Jacobs

        Re: What is it with the good guys?

        Philip K Dick was good, original, and often thought-provoking, but I think he was pushing it with drugs and his results were never in the same league with Mr Banks. The other post compared Mr Banks to Douglas Adams, and I think that was quite unfair. Again, the books were in a much lower league, and Mr Adams had pretty much faded out long before he passed away. Yes, it was sad and he did die at an unusually young age, and in many ways he was an admirable person and so forth, but I just can't feel the same sense of loss.

        Right now the only one that comes close for me on the grief scale would be Isaac Asimov... Then again, I should probably be discounted because I might put Rex Stout as #3, though a rather distant #3....

  48. sniperpaddy

    Cremation ?

    If ghoulish is Iain's theme, then he should get a pacemaker installed.

  49. Killing Time

    A sad day indeed

    Sad, sad news of my favourite author.

    The Culture series are books I return to time and again and will continue to do so till the end of my days.

    My personal homage to Iain is and will remain my 'Handle', a character he created with which I identify completely.

    May his passing be peaceful and to the Sublime.

  50. Santa from Exeter


    Dammit, just had to break a cardinal rule and gland some 'Up' at work to get over this down.

  51. Solly

    When/If the aliens turn up...

    They will be reading his culture series for helpful pointers and advice.

    Though I've never met you, good luck old friend.

  52. Alex C

    Very sad news - a great author and a thoroughly decent chap by all accounts.

    May his passing be as painless as possible.

  53. BioPeek


    Am amazing writer and a very funy guy in real life. Once had the pleasure of a couple of hours in his company. Mr Banks has a savant, earthy mode of expression, which makes my own seem quite sponge-like in comparison lol. His writings reflect his tangental thoughts, his punkish sense of fun and the ability to hold contradictory opinions peacefully. Here's hoping that this year isn't his last.

  54. hamcheeseandonion

    Pure Bad Big Boat Man

    You can't name ships better than this man, no Jack Palance, and the joy he gives (nae past tense here mind) with his universe/Mind/Culture books is Pure Bad Big Magic Man...example:

    description of a war droid avatar at his formal debriefing - "...a gorgeously tattooed limping albino dwarf, with a speech impediment and double incontinence.."

    I nearly wet meself when I read that, no bigger compliment in my book.

    All Hail Banks!

    (HEY!!..Aw youse Paisley Buddies fae Figgie Park?....get a grip ya wee nyaffs, because THIS is how a life is lived by the way.)

  55. DJO Silver badge

    Just not fair

    Eveytime I start liking an author, they drop dead or get a terminal illness or something - Douglas Adams, Harry Harrison, Terry Pratchett and now Iain (M) Banks.

    Does anybody have any suggestion as to who I should like next, perhaps someone who deserves it this time like the jerk who wrote Twilight.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Iain Banks is not yet doomed

    I'm very sorry to hear about Iain Banks' plight, being a great admirer of his writing.

    Iain Banks can expect relatively little from conventional "cut, poison, burn" techniques used without significant success for many decades.

    However, there are serious, respectable clinics in Germany which provide real hope and have good track records reaching back decades.

    You can find many of them just by googling "Greman Cancer Clinics"

    To hear a recent, very balanced view from a real German oncologist (who doesn't even push his own clinic!), just look at this with an open mind - it's the best exposé I've ever seen of these alternative treatments :

    (CANCER is curable NOW /Q&A with Dr. Henning Saupe from the Arcadia Clinic in Kassel Germany)

    It's relatively affordable for those with a bit of extra money. Maybe 15,000 EUR for a two-week therapy session, in Iain Bank's case probably needing a nuber of repetitions.

    A further example: if you're diagnosed with initial prostate cancer, the hyperthermia treatments discussed in this video offer a genuine, no-side-effect cure without all the male tragedy of invasive conventional techniques and a lot of these clinics in Germany offer it.

    I just really, really wish someone would tell Iain Banks about this video.

  57. Andus McCoatover

    Never heard of him before today (sorry).

    But I think I should read at least one of his works. Recommendations/suggestgions?

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