I was saddened yesterday to read that Iain M. Banks, one of my favorite authors, has late-stage cancer.
I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term.
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.
The loss of a human life is always sad. I could easily write this post about Roger Ebert, Carmine Infantino, or my friend Courtney, or any of thousands of poor bastards in Syria. But here’s what sticks out for me:
2. Many of Banks’ recent works center on death the afterlife … specifically the idea that there is no afterlife. In Banks’ Culture novels, anyone who believes in an afterlife is frankly treated as delusional. However, they have the technology to “back up” an entire life and “revent” you into a new body. Other civilizations upload their dead to a computer, and thus achieve an actual virtual afterlife. Banks can clearly imagine eternal life, but he won’t live to see it.
3. It must be torture to die with the kind of imagination Iain M. Banks has. Banks is a master at matter-of-factly describing the really horrible. I’m recalling a scene from “Matter” where a character is beheaded, but is conscious long enough to unleash an antimatter bomb. I’m recalling another scene where a character is stabbed in the heart, and Banks describes all of her sensations until her consciousness fades out.