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Iain Banks: Extremely Ill With Cancer

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,15 days | from the not-actually-jaundice dept.

Books 150

The_Other_Kelly writes "News that will shock and sadden the many fans of Iain (M.) Banks. He is suffering from gall bladder cancer, and things do not look good: '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.' His books, both normal and science fiction, are world view warping Excessions, and my heart goes out to him and his. I am shocked and saddened. Thank you, Iain."

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150 comments

No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347197)

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (2)

durrr (1316311) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348139)

Very sad. Every new culture book release was like Christmas for me.
If only we could borrow some technology from his books, to back him up or something...

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (4, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348913)

I agree - reading his books is definitely back to the core values of Science Fiction - let a great idea be the base for stories that are amazing. Each new book has a new thread to follow independent of the others and at the same time that thread is a part of a great weave.

I would like to call his Culture books Epic. He has earned a top position among authors like Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Vance, Van Vogt and Bester to name a few.

The great thing with Science Fiction is that you can take an idea and extrapolate it to a story. You as a reader may not agree with the basic idea (like some do with Heinlein's Starship Troopers) but the story created is still a pleasure to read.

Just realize that when he passes on he has left a decent legacy and mark in literature. It's a privilege that few has earned.

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43350167)

He's earned a top position in the science fiction pantheon based on ideas and plot alone.

When you add in actual skill in writing, I don't think anyone comes close, except perhaps LeGuin. Seriously, he's a fucking incredible writer regardless of topic.

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | 1 year,15 days | (#43350759)

Indeed, I just discovered his books a couple years ago and absolutely love his material. I hope he can beat it, but if not, he will be sorely missed.

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43351573)

Beat it?

Honey... We all get it in the end.

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348695)

No, it's Iain M Banks that writes the Culture novels.

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43348779)

No, it's Iain M Banks that writes the Culture novels.

Same person

Re:No more "Culture" novels. Damn. (1)

grep_rocks (1182831) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349525)

This is very sad news - I can't say anything more that others on this thread but just to add my voice in saying thank you

His works will (hopefully) grow in stature in time (-1, Flamebait)

RogueyWon (735973) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347235)

Very sad news.

Iain Banks has written some really excellent stuff. I suspect that three of his works in particular will grow in stature and recognition over time; the Wasp Factory, Player of Games and Use of Weapons. The former is a fascinating (and seductively sympathetic) portrait of evil (or perhaps just insanity). The latter two are among the best examples of "intellectual" sci-fi. They use their sci-fi backdrops to tell stories which just wouldn't work in a more mundane setting, but touch on themes and ideas of much broader significance.

I suspect that in a couple of decades time, they'll be held on at least an equivalent level to that to which Frank Herbert's Dune is elevated today. It would be nice to think that they might go further and gain a reputation outside of the science fiction genre.

Re:His works will (hopefully) grow in stature in t (1)

dintech (998802) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347323)

I've read all of his books and have grown quite attached to his writing style. Even the more difficult to follow ones such as The Bridge were still pretty good in their own right. I'm a Scot who doesn't live in Scotland any more, so I take particular joy in his books set in Scotland like The Wasp Factory, Complicity and Stonemouth.

Also, You don't have to look far to find a few Culture references in the Halo games. [wikipedia.org]

Re:His works will (hopefully) grow in stature in t (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347589)

Although i agree that he wrote some good (really) books, (i largely preferred the bridge over the wasp factory, even though the wasp fact. is exellent as well), i doubt that he'll get the same level of fame as Frank Herbert.. even though i liked it at the time, it's just not everybody's cup of tea...
dammit, this wasn't the way i wanted to get news about Mr Ian Banks...

Re:His works will (hopefully) grow in stature in t (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347965)

It's when you read something like this that you _really_ wish there was a Culture-like entity who could step in and Make Things Good.

Sometimes life throws snake-eyes. Deep sympathies to his family.

Re:His works will (hopefully) grow in stature in t (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347973)

Sad indeed, and personal to me, even though have yet to read any of his books. Have to go to the library this Saturday, I guess...

At any rate, reading the linked story where he told of the illness brough back memories of Linda [slashdot.org], who died of the exact same thing. She had been living with me since Ralph died, and his account of the progression of the disease exactly matched what she went through. Of course, since it was the exact same disease...

We (our friends and I) had been trying to get her to see a doctor for months, but she didn't until the pain was unbearable. She went in the hospital and they found a tumor on her gall bladder bigger than the gall bladder, unoperable, too late for any treatment at all. She never left alive, staying there four months until she died.

It also strikes a personal note because he's two years younger than me (Linda was only 50). Adams (my age) having his coronary, and Pratchett only four years older than me having Alzheimer's almost makes me afraid to publish Nobots. [slashdot.org]

I really feel sorry for Banks and his loved ones, who will be suffering along with him. Again, I'll be at the library Saturday.

Sorry I can't log in, guys.

Iain (M) Banks: you will be greatly missed. (4, Interesting)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347259)

As I posted a little earlier on The Guardian:

Desperately sad news.

His contemporary and science fiction novels have been an important part of my life for many, many years, and I shall miss knowing that his twisted and brilliant imagination is beavering away at new works.

But if nothing else, looking for a silver lining to this dark, dark cloud, I'm at least happy to have the chance to thank him publicly, before he's gone, for the great pleasure I've had in reading his books.

I'm sure he's greatly loved by many and I hope that that knowledge can go at least some small way to helping him and his wife through the months to come.

Re:Iain (M) Banks: you will be greatly missed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347379)

Desperately sad news.

His contemporary and science fiction novels have been an important part of my life for many, many years, and I shall miss knowing that his twisted and brilliant imagination is beavering away at new works.

But if nothing else, looking for a silver lining to this dark, dark cloud, I'm at least happy to have the chance to thank him publicly, before he's gone, for the great pleasure I've had in reading his books.

I'm sure he's greatly loved by many and I hope that that knowledge can go at least some small way to helping him and his wife through the months to come.

As do I, although I choose to confront this outside context problem with somewhat less gravitas: At least he goes without having to worry about being crushed by a cage of leg-thick tentacles.

Thanks, Iain.

Re:Iain (M) Banks: you will be greatly missed. (1)

Pope (17780) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348317)

Well said. I've not much more to add other than having been a fan of his books over the years and gotten a few friends reading him, it's very sad to hear of his health situation. Definitely will be missed.

Well said. Maybe it's not too late though? (-1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349347)

Lots of health links collected by me: http://www.changemakers.com/discussions/discussion-493#comment-38823 [changemakers.com]

Iain Banks should look into iodine, vitamin D, eating a lot more vegetables, medically supervised vegetable juice and/or water fasting, and a variety of other things (beyond what is in mainstream medicine might be helpful, too). While once you have cancer getting rid of it is iffy, some things can still help, including preventing it from coming back again if you do manage to get rid of it somehow. See especially:
http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/article24.aspx [drfuhrman.com]

And see also these other links:
http://theiodineproject.webs.com/cancerandiodine.htm [webs.com]
http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/vitamin-d-helps-body-put-brakes-on-cancer/ [futurity.org]
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03060/Treating-Cancer-With-Integrative-Medicine.html [drweil.com]

And:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2098363/Fasting-help-combat-cancer-boost-effectiveness-treatments.html [dailymail.co.uk]
"In every case, combining fasting with chemotherapy made the cancer treatment more effective. Multiple cycles of fasting combined with chemotherapy cured 20 per cent of those with a highly aggressive form of cancer while 40 per cent with a limited spread of the same cancer were cured."

Mix that approach with a high-phyto-nutrient diet (including certain mushrooms), eliminating refined sugar and refined starch, eliminating food additives, supplementing with vitamin D and iodine, and some other related changes, and maybe there is some small chance of Iain Banks getting several more years of good health.

And so we can get at least one more fantastic Culture novel. :-)

I love his writing. I hope we can figure out a way to help him with all this post-scarcity technology like he wrote about and which we already have to some small degree (like the internet), whether he would choose to use that time to write another novel or not.

But the health advice above is generally good for anyone who wants to minimize cancer risk and maximize health. And I could only put all that together thanks to the internet and similar post-scarcity technology like Google and web servers and personal computers and all the advances in nutritional science made possible by less expensive testing and the accumulation of medical research knowledge and so on. Which is all the stuff implied in his books. Even if much of Earth may perhaps be oblivious to it all:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_State_of_the_Art [wikipedia.org]
"'Also while I'd been away, the ship had sent a request on a postcard to the BBC's World Service, asking for 'Mr David Bowie's "Space Oddity" for the good ship Arbitrary and all who sail in her.' (This from a machine that could have swamped Earth's entire electro-magnetic spectrum with whatever the hell it wanted from somewhere beyond Betelgeuse.) It didn't get the request played. The ship thought this was hilarious.'"

Re:Well said. Maybe it's not too late though? (0)

BasilBrush (643681) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349431)

None of that new age frutarian cancer therapy did much good for Steve Jobs.

Re:Well said. Maybe it's not too late though? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43349755)

That's because Steve Jobs died of aids.

Re:Well said. Maybe it's not too late though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43350361)

Eating vegetables isn't going to cure of you cancer, you asshat.

Re:Iain (M) Banks: you will be greatly missed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43351251)

As I posted a little earlier on The Guardian:

Desperately sad news.

His contemporary and science fiction novels have been an important part of my life for many, many years, and I shall miss knowing that his twisted and brilliant imagination is beavering away at new works.

But if nothing else, looking for a silver lining to this dark, dark cloud, I'm at least happy to have the chance to thank him publicly, before he's gone, for the great pleasure I've had in reading his books.

I'm sure he's greatly loved by many and I hope that that knowledge can go at least some small way to helping him and his wife through the months to come.

I think we should be joyous that he's still alive, so many people seem to already comment like he's dead. I'm sure he wants people to treat him like he's still alive.

Re:Iain (M) Banks: you will be greatly missed. (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | 1 year,15 days | (#43351975)

As I posted a little earlier on The Guardian:

Desperately sad news.

His contemporary and science fiction novels have been an important part of my life for many, many years, and I shall miss knowing that his twisted and brilliant imagination is beavering away at new works.

But if nothing else, looking for a silver lining to this dark, dark cloud, I'm at least happy to have the chance to thank him publicly, before he's gone, for the great pleasure I've had in reading his books.

I'm sure he's greatly loved by many and I hope that that knowledge can go at least some small way to helping him and his wife through the months to come.

I think we should be joyous that he's still alive, so many people seem to already comment like he's dead. I'm sure he wants people to treat him like he's still alive.

It's the end of his writing output after his next book is out. It would be a sad end of an era regardless of how it came about, but I also think that we'd like to imagine that were he on the net vanity searching, he might want to know he'll be missed and remembered.

The third (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347265)

Did anyone else read extremely 'the third'? Seriously need to change that font

Re:The third (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347471)

Extremely the Third? Yep, that could be a ship name.

Oh no! (1)

Saethan (2725367) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347305)

He is a great writer. Recently read 'Consider Phlebas' and picked up a couple more of his books immediately after finishing it.

I hate myself sometimes (4, Insightful)

gnalre (323830) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347315)

When I read the news my first thought was how terrible it will be that there will be no more culture novels. My 2nd thought was for his family and friends, which is a pretty terrible way of thinking about these things.

My only excuse is that I know the man by the joy his books have given me, and I feel his impending loss by the realisation of the gap in my life that will result when no new ones appear.

Still pretty shitty though

Re:I hate myself sometimes (2, Insightful)

Azghoul (25786) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347885)

What's terrible about your way of thinking?

You don't know him personally. The only attachment you have to the guy is through his very fine novels. Why should you personally feel bad about how his family and friends took the news?

It's definitely a shame.

Re:I hate myself sometimes (1)

tnk1 (899206) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348013)

Well, it's not strange or unfeeling to not empathize with someone you have never met, and probably don't even know who they are. I know him by his books and that is why I think of them first. If I knew his family, we would likely think of them first, of course.

And I would be willing to bet that one of the things Mr. Banks is unhappy about in the current situation is not being able to write something new as well. Obviously, he will probably have more immediate concerns in his remaining time, but I think I would be gratified to know that he is leaving behind something that people like.

Re:I hate myself sometimes (1)

Megane (129182) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348131)

And he quite probably feels the same way. I recently had a kidney tumor found on a CT scan [wikipedia.org] when I had a kidney stone on the other side. Less than a month later and one kidney less, I should now be cancer-free. (It was pre-symptomatic, so it hadn't had time to spread, though I have yet to hear biopsy results.)

It's been quite a mood whiplash, but overall I am happy that I can keep being creative.

Re:I hate myself sometimes (1)

BloodInBloodOut (2887229) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348531)

thats what i thought at first few seconds and realized how wrong it was, damn, is there a place/site where i can say "thanks man" for the stories?

Re:I hate myself sometimes (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348825)

It'd be really nice if he could open source the Culture and allow other writers to carry on the tradition.

I don't know who would come close to filling his boots, but the Culture is such a fantastic idea that it'd be a greate tribute to the man.

Re:I hate myself sometimes (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349417)

do you even know if he has family? I don't. don't beat yourself over it, he's the one dying so feel bad for him.

I don't know why I should(know if he has family or attachments), in fact I think that might be a little creepy since I only know him as a guy who wrote some books I have read. I haven't read all the culture stuff but it would be nice if he could write more.

GALL BLADDER CANCER !! SAY WHAT ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347335)

Gallbladder cancer is rare, with fewer than 5,000 new diagnoses each year in the United States. Of those, fewer than 1,700 people will die from the disease. Gallbladder cancer is the most common type of cancer found in the bile tract, and is more common in women and people older than age 60.

Gallbladder Cancer: Risk Factors

Though gallbladder cancer doesn't affect a huge number of Americans each year, it's still a concern. Most of the time, it's diagnosed at a late stage â" making treatment difficult. Only about one in three cases of gallbladder cancer is diagnosed early, before the cancer spreads beyond the gallbladder.

Some of the most common risk factors for gallbladder cancer are:
Gallstones
Gallbladder polyps
Being overweight or obese
Being of Native American descent
Being older than age 65
Being female
A condition called porcelain gallbladder, in which the gallbladder wall hardens with deposits of calcium
Having had typhoid (very rare in the United States)
Choledochal cysts â" sacs of bile that form on the common bile duct
An abnormality of the bile ducts
A family history of gallbladder cancer

Gallstones are the biggest indicator of a person's likelihood of developing gallbladder cancer, but the relationship can be tricky to understand. About three out of four people who have gallbladder cancer also have gallstones at diagnosis. But gallstones happen very frequently â" and gallbladder cancer is very rare. So although people with gallbladder cancer are very likely to also have gallstones, only a small percentage of people with gallstones will develop gallbladder cancer.

Gallbladder Cancer Types: Adenocarcinomas

There are a few types of gallbladder cancer, but the most common are adenocarcinomas â" 9 out of 10 cases of gallbladder cancer are adenocarcinomas.

Adenocarcinoma gallbladder cancer begins in gland-like cells that are found in the digestive tractâ(TM)s lining, including the gallbladder.

There is a subtype of gallbladder adenocarcinoma called papillary adenocarcinoma, also called papillary cancer. Papillary adenocarcinomas make up about 6 percent of all types of gallbladder cancer. This type of gallbladder cancer can be distinguished under a microscope, as the cancer cells growth looks like fingers. The prognosis for papillary adenocarcinoma is often better than other gallbladder cancer types, as it is less likely to affect lymph nodes and the liver.

Gallbladder Cancer Types: Carcinomas

Other types of gallbladder cancers are even rarer than the adenocarcinomas:

Squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers initially form in the squamous cells â" flat, skin-like cells that line parts of the digestive tract.
Adenosquamous carcinomas. This type of gallbladder cancer is made up of two different kinds of cells, squamous cells and the glandular cells found in adenocarcinomas.

Small-cell carcinomas. Also called oat cell carcinoma, this type of gallbladder cancer is a very dangerous cancer whose cells are round or oat-shaped.

Neuroendocrine gallbladder tumors. These types of gallbladder cancer tumors grow from tissues that produce hormones. The most common form is the carcinoid tumor.

Sarcoma gallbladder cancer. Sarcomas are a type of cancer arising from the connective tissues in the body. Connective tissues support and protect the body, and include nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. In the gallbladder, sarcomas form in the muscular tissue of the gallbladder.

Gallbladder lymphoma. This is an extremely rare type of gallbladder cancer. Treatment is often different than for other types of gallbladder cancer, and often may be treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy instead of surgery.

Though all types of gallbladder cancer are rare, it's important to understand the risk factors for gallbladder cancer and what types may strike. The earlier gallbladder cancer can be diagnosed, the better the prognosis may be.

He is a good guy to meet and had time for his fans (2)

bentwonk2 (2793825) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347401)

Fun to meet and loves curry, wine and whisky, what's not to like? My heart goes out to his family. I have religiously each book of his books as they were published, been a tradition for twenty years now, I can't say any other author has consistently astounded me as he has. Some of his more recent has been great as well. (I recommend The Algebraist & Surface Detail). Thank you Iain.

Terminal (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347413)

I do hope that he gets to enjoy an adequate amount of time with his family and friends.
His books have given me much enjoyment over the past 20 years. I thank him for that.

Terrible news (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347435)

I'm upset to hear about this, his book "Use of Weapons" was inspired, head and shoulders above the usual fiction mill derivatives. Talent for creation is rare, and the world will be a lesser place without Ian. Get better!

Re:Terrible news (1)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347613)

Completely agreed, my copy of UoW has been loaned to a few folks who thought the height of science fiction was the TV / video game spin-off novel - straightened them out but good! Ian, your boundless creativity will be sorely missed.

I wish there was a way he could try this (2)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347477)

There are some amazing nanotech cancer drugs that look like they are just starting human trials like this one http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/14434/20130328/cancer-treatment-cd47-miracle-bullet-breast-colon-bladder-antibody-eat-macrophage-immune.htm [medicaldaily.com]

I know that at this early stage there are definitely not guarantees that it even works on humans. However, at this point, it is not like he can really get worse. I have had friends die from cancer and one of the reasons I went back to school was to help make many lab bench science cures practical industrial ones. If this has any chance at all of working it would be nice if he could try it, it could stop the spread of the cancer giving him a lot more time for other things to develop and it could even completely cure the cancer.

These new immune system type nanotherapies are amazing. The idea of basically planting flags on cancer cells that your immune system will then recognize as something to be destroyed is probably one of the most creative ways to deal with cancer I have seen. Nothing toxic, your body deals with the problem at its own pace, the macrophages tell the other cells in the area to start replicating into the areas they are removing. You also don't have a toxic shock effect of so many cells dieing all at once since the therapy does not kill the cancer cells, it just marks them for destruction by your immune system.

It looks like we are very close to having real treatments and cures and I want to end the suffering that people go through with cancer. The drugs many people end up on towards the end are pretty bad and nobody should go through that.

Re:I wish there was a way he could try this (1)

dkf (304284) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347587)

I suspect that the real problem is that this is a metastasized liver-related cancer, and without good liver function chemotherapy is really likely to kill the patient. Which is a damn shame; I really like his books.

Re:I wish there was a way he could try this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347831)

Yes. I told people I was "very poorly" as well, when I was diagnosed with cancer. On reflection, I shouldn't have said this as many people didn't realise the impact on life expectancy. It is very trying living with cancer... one moment you can do all the things you know and love, the next moment you are in "palliative care" and can barely do anything (nor have the will to do it). Live will Iain - you inspired a generation or two!

Re:I wish there was a way he could try this (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347893)

This is not chemotherapy. That is one reason this is such an interesting direction we are going in trying to develop a cure for cancer.

A forward-looking, positive view (5, Interesting)

PuddleBoy (544111) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347489)

Banks used a motif in his Culture books that I wish we saw more of in Sci-Fi: a future where (almost) everyone's basic needs of life were taken care of. No poverty or war (most of the time). You didn't have to take a crappy job just to put food on the table and live in some tiny apartment.

This allows the author to explore the potential the human mind and society have if you remove the day-to-day worry of survival. We are, as a species, capable of so much more than just 'survival' and 'business efficiencies' and minimal laws governing what large corporations/governments can do to us. Banks pondered new ideas about what we could dream up if freed from daily worry. New ways of living, thinking in very broad vistas (over time and space), exploring what is possible beyond the body we were born with. Wondering what it would be like to be another gender or species? Make the change! Want to enjoy (truly) exotic adventures, but still maintain a good chance of surviving it? The Culture's got you covered!

I believe that our (unfortunately necessary) focus on survival in our present world draws off energy and creativity that could be applied to expanding what it means to be human. It's nice to read an author who wants to speculate about what might lie beyond our present existence.

Banks will be sorely missed.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347727)

Charles Stross also wrote of a similar future in his Accelerando; and of corruptions of such in other novels, like Singularity Sky. His works are perhaps a bit more skeptical of such an outcome; disasters and initiation of force still happen. But it also happens in Banks' Culture.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

tnk1 (899206) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348137)

I also found his description of what is possible in a post-scarcity situation to be very interesting as well, even as I consider it extremely unlikely that such a state is one that a civilization will ever actually reach, given how physical laws work out.

One of the interesting aspects of post-scarcity is considering the more likely situation where resources still have some level of scarcity, but humans no longer actually need to physically do anything to have their needs met. That situation is increasingly coming about, although we still have a long way to go. In theory, that should be great, but since many people, if not most, define themselves by what they do, what happens when what they do is all in the purely recreational or optional realm?

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349401)

Back in the 50s Fred Pohl wrote The Midas Plague, [blogspot.com] depicting the dark side of post-scarcity - that the lower classes would be forced to consume products at a higher rate to match the greater output available. A bit on the shallow side but still effective satire.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43349601)

There's no such thing as 'post scarcity'. No matter how much is available, I can think of ways to use more.

As much as I like Banks' Culture novels, they're a long, long way from realistic.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

tnk1 (899206) | 1 year,15 days | (#43351609)

True, and he pretty much makes this clear by essentially positing both something like hyperspace and an "energy grid' dimension that avoids The Culture pretty much having to run industrial energy production processes. That's a big reason why the Culture can be a bunch of ships and some orbitals primarily: they really don't need to defend something like a Dyson Sphere or Swarm being used for power generation, they can just evacuate people from orbitals if they can at all be predicted to be hit by an attack and the ships can access "grid power" any where.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | 1 year,15 days | (#43352037)

The energy grid wasn't for power. It was so Culture-ships could "drive" across spacetime, rather then needing to be constrained by the rocket equation. Note they interact with it with traction fields.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

Pope (17780) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348399)

Yes, that's one of the great things I loved about the Culture novels. Essentially: if you could do just about anything with your life, what would you do? Some zip around the galaxies getting in dangerous adventures, some stay on their orbital and have really amazing parties, some stick to their home planets and garden.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

moeinvt (851793) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348667)

I loved the books, especially "Excession" and "Consider Phlebas" and I was saddened to hear this news about Mr. Banks.

That being said, don't you think that there was an implied but mostly unexplored "dark side" lurking under the surface of "The Culture" and their paradise? The technology made everything possible, but they were also sort of "boxed in" by it. It's fun to imagine, but what would life be and where would a species go without some sort of struggle, scarcity or hardship? That's why some of the characters were driven to join the "special forces". They also struck me as being an extremely pretentious bunch with an overwhelming superiority complex. I found some elements of their interactions with "inferior" cultures to be disturbing.

I was really hoping that there would be a final "culture" novel where those arrogant bastards were annihilated or at least taught a lesson in humility by a superior power.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349205)

And what would that say of the superior power? That they are greedy, or expansionist, or zealots? While the Culture has its share of issues, they have nothing to be humble about. The desires to destroy and conquer are primitive, and not worthy of enshrining. If they had lost the war to the Idirans, who if you recall very nearly were a superior power, that would unquestionably be a setback for philosophical development in the galaxy.

Are you secretly a very grumpy cat, by any chance?

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

moeinvt (851793) | 1 year,15 days | (#43351459)

First off, I've only read the first four culture novels (skipped the short story collection) so maybe my impression will be different when I finish the rest. Based on this reminder, I'm going to start tonight. :-)

I obviously meant a "superior power" in purely military terms and I hadn't given the slightest thought as to motive. Perhaps the reality of human cultures makes it difficult for me to imagine the co-existence of vast power with entirely benevolent motives? Power corrupts, and I think Banks plays on that theme, but very delicately. Even in The Culture, for all of their presumed benevolence, it seems that the temptation to exercise their power to mess around with their technological inferiors is irresistible. IMHO, this is "bad", even when it's done out of a desire to do "good" because there's always an element of imperfect knowledge and subjective morality involved. The Idirans probably thought they were doing people a favor by imposing their religion on the universe. The Culture intervened in so many other cultures that I thought it would be only fitting if they were on the other end of that experience for once.

Having a final culture novel which describes their downfall, even if it's ten billion years in the future, and even if it's not due to an alien invasion, also appeals to my literary taste more than "they all lived happily for the rest of eternity".

Anyway, thinking about these sorts of questions is what makes the books so enjoyable.

"Are you secretly a very grumpy cat..."

I was, but The Minds designed a gene therapy treatment for me, and I glanded some Sperk before replying.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | 1 year,15 days | (#43352057)

Well, the Culture do mess around with themselves as well. Excession had the Interesting Times Gang doing exactly that, with fairly disasterous results for everyone.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (1)

glwtta (532858) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348755)

Heh, that's interesting - one of my favorite things about The Culture is that Banks isn't given to aggrandizing "the human spirit" or any other such malarkey.

Without daily worries, the vast majority of Culture citizens dedicate their lives to finding new and interesting ways to get high and stimulate their genitals. It's a very, very few that have exotic adventures, which is actually pretty hard to get into, since you either have to be invited to SC or convince a Mind to take you along.

I just finished Excession a few weeks ago and, for example, the picture it paints of Phage Rock "high society" sounds very far from the ultimate expression of human potential.

Re:A forward-looking, positive view (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43352005)

Banks used a motif in his Culture books that I wish we saw more of in Sci-Fi: a future where (almost) everyone's basic needs of life were taken care of. No poverty or war (most of the time). You didn't have to take a crappy job just to put food on the table and live in some tiny apartment.

This allows the author to explore the potential the human mind and society have if you remove the day-to-day worry of survival. We are, as a species, capable of so much more than just 'survival' and 'business efficiencies' and minimal laws governing what large corporations/governments can do to us.

Whether you understand it or not, increases in efficiency are what allow society to drag more and more sluggards along in ever greater standards of comfort. Without 1 farmer being able to feed thousands, people at the bottom would once again spend an entire day farming just to feed themselves which is a hell of a lot like your 'working a shitty job just to feed yourself'. So wank it to a labor-less future with universal plenty but don't beat up on efficiency and it's close friend specialization because they will get society closer to that dream than anything else. You see, when less people contribute, the fewer contributors have to overproduce....nevermind...look at my che shirt. fuck the man.

Excession (1)

ci4 (98735) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347527)

Meet you by the excession, but what matters, please first consider playing some games, using some state of the art weapons and learning to play properly the hydrogen sonata inversions, looking windward on the surface detail.

Re:Excession (1)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347755)

Alternatively, you do the business at the wasp factory, walk on glass over the bridge down Espediar Street, cross the canal then head down Crow Road whistling a song of stone.

Thank you... (4, Insightful)

Assmasher (456699) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347619)

...for everything you've given us.

I, like many others, will treasure your work in the decades to come.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Re:Thank you... (1)

stjobe (78285) | 1 year,15 days | (#43347749)

...for everything you've given us.

I, like many others, will treasure your work in the decades to come.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Indeed.

Thanks, Iain.

FUCK (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43347849)

FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK.

Firs Pratchett with alzhemer's, now Banks...

FUCK. :'(

Re:FUCK (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43349047)

I was gonna say the exact same thing...... .....both great authors that have enriched my life.......both will be greatly missed from my bookshelf.

Re:FUCK (2)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349929)

These were similar to my thoughts. I'm old enough to remember waiting for the latest Asimov to come out, and then he passed away. Then we lost Douglas Adams, David Foster Wallace kills himself, Terry Pratchett is headed out, and now Iain Banks. Yes, I know that dying is part of life, but these authors have brought so much joy to my life (and others), made me think in new and different ways, and I imagine what else they could accomplish if they had more time; it's incredibly sad.

Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43348003)

I'm sorry he has cancer and wish him well. This comment is towards the OP - I'm not an uber geek but I know plenty about IT related stuff. It would've been nice to have written a sentence about Iain for those of us who don't know him. Or even a word identifying him as a writer would've suffice, or even a link to his wikipedia entry. Yes, there's google and I already did that.

Again, my best wishes to Iain Banks.

Re:Summary (1)

The_Other_Kelly (44440) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348165)

Good point. Perhaps a summary of Iain's work and philosophy
would be of assistance to those who haven't tripped across them, but I am really too
shocked and depressed by the news to compose one.

I'm sitting here with a brand new copy of Stonemouth, lying unread on the table,
freshly delivered, but instead of reading it, I'm just staring out at the snow falling
and remembering all the other books, where I was when I read them, and the
people I was once with.

Banks Matter(s) (4, Insightful)

Dreyden (1039296) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348105)

Sci-fi doesn't need to defend itself any more. It is clear now that it is a genuine artistic and intellectual pursuit. Sci-fi matters and Bank on sci-fi matters.

Banks matters because he has stablished a strong humanistic viewpoint on his works. The conflict on dogma and respect, the materialistic world-view, and the dignity of the individual. Reading Banks is a pleasure, not only as it is a great writer and storyteller but because it is extremely hard to join hard sci-fi, space opera and sociological speculation. I was envious when I read Banks novels. My society and my world is so short-sighted. People in power prefer to stop progress afraid they will lose a slice of the pie. Banks is a raw spirit. Hard to classify and never afraid to detect and point to the conflict.

Reading Banks is like driving around in Scotland. Landscape flows and you feel it passing trough, You stop there and have some pure malt whisky, no need to hurry. You know the next day you will flow around the highlands, you can't devour it, you must taste it. You can spend your time smelling the pure landscape, every intricate surface detail for miles.

Re:Banks Matter(s) (1)

MrNemesis (587188) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348845)

And here's me wishing I hadn't been given my mod points over the April 1st weekend so I could have used them on a worthwhile post like this. I'll be raising a glass of that single malt this evening, and probably starting to re-read Use of Weapons again just to re-iterate your points about his worldview.

I'm not a huge reader by any means, but I've still read a boatload of sci-fi, and whilst there are dozens of books that have cooked up convincing, ,evocative, even enviable, realities, Banks' are the only ones where I've genuinely felt like the author is already living in it.

That SUCKS!! (1)

cfulton (543949) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348373)

I think I have read everything he has written. I hate to think that soon he will be on the list of science fiction authors I love that will never publish again. Vonnegut, Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Adams, Burgess, Clarke, Farmer, Herbert I miss them all. To think that we will never be transported to the "Culture" again makes me sad. Good luck to him. I hope that modern medicine and luck can pull him through. If not I am thankful that he spent his time creating the worlds and adventures that I have spent so many hours enjoying.

Thank you Iain (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43348561)

Many hundreds of hours of my life have been spent immersed in the worlds which you created through your seemingly limitless imagination.

The Culture presents a polar-opposite view of the familiar "computers become self-aware" Terminator-type stories. The unfathomably intelligent "Ship Minds" that Banks describes can do much as they please. This usually involves helping humans do whatever they want to do, in a world where resources are essentially unlimited.

Immediately wiping out humanity (Skynet) vs entertaining a mass of humanity and even endowing them with a sense of purpose.

Banks' Minds, like the man himself, seem to derive a great deal of pleasure from their sense of humor and sense of humanism. When sentient AIs are eventually created, I want to see the principles of a man like Iain Banks guiding their motivations. It could be our best shot at surviving the next few thousand years.

April Fools? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#43348569)

Please be some sick joke. Without Banks and Pratchett around, and having nearly finished reading everything from both, I am extremely saddened.

My favorite author of all time... :( (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | 1 year,15 days | (#43348765)

Dear Mr. Banks:

Your books have had a profound influence on me ever since I first discovered them so many years ago. Hell, just a few minutes ago I was daydreaming about how desperately we need the intervention of a "Meatfucker" on this planet.

Modern medicine seems to have failed you at this late hour. I wish there were some way I could share with you all of the "controversial" things I've learned about nutrition and the body's amazing ability to heal itself (not to be confused with treatment) but obviously I'm just another asshole with an opinion.

If this is indeed as terminal and hopeless as it sounds... perhaps I'll get to meet you in another life someday.

You, sir, have my eternal gratitude and respect.

Yours truly,

Type44Q

Re:My favorite author of all time... :( (1)

Cruciform (42896) | 1 year,15 days | (#43351461)

You seem to be confused. Modern medicine hasn't failed him. The body's amazing ability to heal itself has failed him.
His life may end before experimental therapies are available but it will be modern medicine that saves the next person.

I wish I was as good a wordsmith as he... (1)

afc_wimbledon (1052878) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349407)

...so I could properly thank him for the pleasure and enlightenment I've got from his books over the last 20 years, and try to express the sadness I feel at this news. Sad, sad, sad.

Thanks for the warning... and here's my response (1)

whitroth (9367) | 1 year,15 days | (#43349489)

I just tried to send an indirect contact to him, with a link to the story, today, about the about-to-begin clinlical trials of the new drug that appears to stop *all* cancers, and suggested his doctor might consider trying to contact the research team.

I'll probably try another means of contacting him this evening, since I do know enough folks that probably have his personal email.

            mark, sf fan

Excellent books! (1)

poobahtim (1435517) | 1 year,15 days | (#43350279)

I'm very sorry for Mr. Banks and his family. I'm sure this is basically impossible to process properly, so hopefully he's able to find some happiness in the days he has left. I found 'The Algebraist' in a bookshop in London, and after reading the blurb on the back, knew I immediately had to buy it. After reading nearly all of his SF books, I can honestly say he's my favorite SF author. He'll be sorely missed.

We all gone eventually (1)

Skiron (735617) | 1 year,15 days | (#43350717)

Obviously the 'wasp factory' is well known and one I first read, but the (usually) unmentioned 'song of stone' is one that still sticks in me mind (read it, great unique story telling and narration!).

Sad news, but we will all get there in the end.

My favorite quote from Against A Dark Background (3, Funny)

cerberusss (660701) | 1 year,15 days | (#43350983)

"Good afternoon, madam. How may I help you?"

"Good afternoon. I'd like a FrintArms HandCannon, please."

"A--? Oh, now, that's an awfully big gun for such a lovely lady. I
mean, not everybody thinks ladies should carry guns at all, though I
say they have a right to. But I think... I might... Let's have a look
down here. I might have just the thing for you. Yes, here we are!
Look at that, isn't it neat? Now that is a FrintArms product as well,
but it's what's called a laser -- a light-pistol some people call
them. Very small, as you see; fits easily into a pocket or bag; won't
spoil the line of a jacket; and you won't feel you're lugging half a
tonne of iron around with you. We do a range of matching accessories,
including -- if I may say so -- a rather saucy garter holster. Wish I
got to do the fitting for that! Ha -- just my little joke. And
there's *even*... here we are -- this special presentation pack: gun,
charged battery, charging unit, beautiful glider-hide shoulder holster
with adjustable fitting and contrast stitching, and a discount on your
next battery. Full instructions, of course, and a voucher for free
lessons at your local gun club or range. Or there's the *special*
presentation pack; it has all the other one's got but with *two*
charged batteries and a night-sight, too. Here, feel that -- don't
worry, it's a dummy battery -- isn't it neat? Feel how light it is?
Smooth, see? No bits to stick out and catch on your clothes, *and*
beautifully balanced. And of course the beauty of a laser is, there's
no recoil. Because it's shooting light, you see? Beautiful gun,
beautiful gun; my wife has one. Really. That's not a line, she
really has. Now, I can do you that one -- with a battery and a free
charge -- for ninety-five; or the presentation pack on a special
offer for one-nineteen; or this, the special presentation pack, for
one-forty-nine."

"I'll take the special."

"Sound choice, madam, *sound* choice. Now, do--?"

"And a HandCannon, with the eighty-mill silencer, five GP clips, three
six-five AP/wire-fl'echettes clips, two bipropellant HE clips, and a
Special Projectile Pack if you have one -- the one with the embedding
rounds, not the signalers. I assume the night-sight on this toy is
compatible?"

"Aah... yes, And how does madam wish to pay?"

She slapped her credit card on the counter. "Eventually."

                -- Iain M. Banks, "Against a Dark Background"

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