Monday, June 10, 2013

There Is A Light

I'd been a keen reader of the novels of Iain Banks - Banksie to all who knew him - several years before I met him. I'd read The Wasp Factory in 1985, and his other mainstream works as they appeared, although I didn't begin to read his science fiction until a little later because I was working on my own (inferior) version of regooded space opera and didn't want to be overwhelmed. He was a formidable writer. Confession: I still haven't read Consider Phlebas, so have that, at least, to look forward to. I first met him, glancingly, at a science fiction convention in Liverpool, in 1990. He was the guest of honour, trailed not just by fans but also by a documentary TV crew. I got to know him a little better when I moved to Scotland to take up a job at St Andrews University, and although I was more of an acquaintance than a friend he was always incredibly friendly whenever we met, and I always looked forward to seeing him.

He had that effect on people. He was a fierce and fearless champion of what he thought was right, and for all his self-deprecation was serious about his work, but he was also amusing, tolerant, witty, and overflowing with curiosity and good humour. As Simon Ings wrote, in his excellent appreciation, Iain had no side to him. What he was was what you got. I was lucky enough to interview him at the Hay Festival, once upon a time, and he treated his fans exactly as he treated the great and good of the literary world: as fellow human beings. Like all great writers, he was intensely interested in people, and (like Charles Dickens, like Stephen King) wrote about them and the worlds they inhabited with a clear, direct, colloquial and unmistakable voice.

I last talked to him a few weeks ago, and was glad of the chance; despite the mortal seriousness of his prognosis, he was still cheerful, and witty, and fully engaged. But I also remember another night, back in Scotland, in the 1990s, when Pat Cadigan and I gave readings at one of the Waterstones on Princes Street. Banksie turned up, quite unexpectedly, and took us out to dinner, and plied us with champagne ('because why not?'), and we all had a fine time, and that was how he was. A great writer, and a good and generous man, and now his big bright bold boisterous light has gone out, too soon, too soon.

Iain Menzies Banks, 1954 - 2013


Anonymous Russ Schechter said...

Nice piece, Paul.

June 12, 2013 1:19 pm  
Anonymous Keith Ferrell said...

Well and movingly, memorably said, Paul. Thank you.

June 12, 2013 10:16 pm  
Blogger Ken said...

Well said, Paul.

June 18, 2013 12:06 pm  

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