Posts Tagged ‘Iain M. Banks’
by November 19th, 2014-
Ken MacLeod’s DESCENT is an alien abduction story for the twenty-first century set in Scotland’s near-future, a novel about what happens when conspiracy theorists take on Big Brother. It comes out in paperback this week, and we asked Ken what is is about Scotland that brings him, and other writers, back to it as a science fiction setting again and again.
Two months ago, Scotland was in what Charles Stross called ‘The Scottish Political Singularity’. The referendum made the entire political future so uncertain that even planning a near-future novel set in the UK had become impossible – not least because you couldn’t be sure there would still be a UK to set it in.
My novel Descent, just out in paperback, was written before the result looked close, but I was careful to leave the outcome of the then future referendum open to interpretation. In earlier novels such as The Night Sessions and Intrusion, I’ve also left it up to the reader to decide if the future Scotlands described are independent or not.
Preparing for a recent discussion on ‘Imagining Future Scotlands’ I realised that the majority of my novels are at least partly set in Scotland, or have protagonists whose sometimes far-flung adventures begin in Scotland. And it made me wonder why there haven’t been more. With its sharply varied landscape, turbulent history, and the complex, cross-cutting divisions of national and personal character which Scottish literature has so often explored, Scotland may inspire writers of SF, but as a location it features more often in fantasy.
The result is that there have been many Scottish writers of SF – including Orbit’s very own Michael Cobley, Charles Stross, and the late and much missed Iain M. Banks – but not many SF novels have been set in Scotland. Of those that are, quite a few are written from outside the genre, such as Michel Faber’s Under the Skin. Flying even more cleverly under the genre radar, Christopher Brookmyre has been writing what amounts to an alternate or secret history of contemporary Scotland – some of them, such as Pandaemonium, with SF or fantasy elements – for two decades. And within the genre, there are some well-regarded novels I haven’t read, notably Chris Boyce’s Brainfix. I can’t help feeling I’ve missed stacks of obvious books. If so, I look forward to being corrected in the comments.
Let’s start with straight, unarguable genre SF.
Halting State by Charles Stross is a police procedural set in a near-future independent Scottish republic. Unlike many fictional detectives, the heroine is married, and her wife understands her. The multi-viewpoint second-person narration, though disorienting at first, soon becomes transparent – you could say you get used to it – and apt for a novel set partly in a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. From the opening shots of a bank robbery in virtual reality, the story has you under arrest and briskly frogmarched along.
Time-Slip by Graham Dunstan Martin is a much grimmer vision of a future Scotland. Decades after a nuclear war, the Scottish Kirk has resumed its dour dominance of society. Our sympathy for the hero, a young heretic who founds a new religious movement on his rediscovery of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, fades as the implications sink in. It’s a thought-through and engaging novel, sadly out of print, but easily available secondhand.
Not quite SF, but set in a (then) future with a deft touch or two of technological extrapolation, the political thriller Scotch on the Rocks is an old-school Tory take on an armed insurrection for Scottish independence. Sex and violence are never far away. Glasgow gangs and Moscow gold play a bit part behind the scenes. Given that it was written by Douglas Hurd and Andrew Osmond, this isn’t surprising. What is surprising is the sharpness of its insight into the issues that drive the independence movement, from cultural alienation through economic decline to nukes on the Clyde. The speeches, give or take the odd detail, could have been delivered this September.
Moving to fantasy, Alasdair Gray’s Lanark is often rightly cited as a landmark in Scottish literature. It was an avowed influence on Iain Banks’s The Bridge, the closest Iain ever came to writing SF set in Scotland. But my own favourite of Gray’s novels is Poor Things, a Scottish revisioning of Frankenstein that confronts the poor creature with the harsh self-confidence of the Victorian age and that age with her outraged innocence.
Michael Scott Rohan’s science-fantasy novel Chase the Morning starts in Scotland – or at least in a port very like Leith – and casts off for worlds unknown on an endless ocean, full of adventure and romance. Its striking image of the Spiral, in which ships magically sail upward beyond the horizon to farther seas in the sky, was inspired by the vista down the Firth of Forth. On some evenings looking down the Firth you can’t tell where the sea ends and the sky begins, or what’s a cloud and what’s an island. Like all good science fiction and fantasy, this novel and its sequels make us see the real world in a different light.
Finally, we shouldn’t forget Scotland’s abiding presence in the wider field: Victor Frankenstein built the mate for his creature on a remote Orkney island; the Mars mission that opens Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land had as its prime contractor the University of Edinburgh; and Star Trek‘s engineer Scotty was born in Linlithgow . . . a few miles from Scotland’s notorious UFO hotspot, Bonnybridge.
Last October we published what has since become Iain M. Banks‘s final Culture novel, The Hydrogen Sonata. We asked Iain’s readers at that time how they would describe his work, and the image below is a reflection of the many, many responses we received.
Today we are thrilled to publish The Hydrogen Sonata in paperback, bringing the Sunday Times bestseller and the brilliance of Iain Banks’s imagination to an even wider audience.
Locus has just announced the finalists for the 2013 Locus Awards, and we’re thrilled to see some familiar names on the list! Congratulations to Iain M. Banks, James S.A. Corey, and Kim Stanley Robinson for their nominations in the Science Fiction Novel category; and to N.K. Jemisin and Charles Stross for their nominations in the Fantasy Novel category.
Below are the full lists of nominees for those two categories.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
- The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M. Banks (US | UK | ANZ)
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
- Caliban’s War, James S.A. Corey (US | UK | ANZ)
- 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (US | UK | ANZ)
- Redshirts, John Scalzi
- The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (US | UK | ANZ)
- The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan
- Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal
- Hide Me Among the Graves, Tim Powers
- The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross (UK | ANZ)
You can see the rest of the categories and finalists here. The winners will be announced during the Locus Awards Weekend in late June.
I am officially Very Poorly.
After a couple of surgical procedures, I am gradually recovering from jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct, but that – it turns out – is the least of my problems.
I first thought something might be wrong when I developed a sore back in late January, but put this down to the fact I’d started writing at the beginning of the month and so was crouched over a keyboard all day. When it hadn’t gone away by mid-February, I went to my GP, who spotted that I had jaundice. Blood tests, an ultrasound scan and then a CT scan revealed the full extent of the grisly truth by the start of March.
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.
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). By the time this goes out we’ll be married and on a short honeymoon. We intend to spend however much quality time I have left seeing friends and relations and visiting places that have meant a lot to us. Meanwhile my heroic publishers are doing all they can to bring the publication date of my new novel forward by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves.
There is a possibility that it might be worth undergoing a course of chemotherapy to extend the amount of time available. However that is still something we’re balancing the pros and cons of, and anyway it is out of the question until my jaundice has further and significantly, reduced.
Lastly, I’d like to add that from my GP onwards, the professionalism of the medics involved – and the speed with which the resources of the NHS in Scotland have been deployed – has been exemplary, and the standard of care deeply impressive. We’re all just sorry the outcome hasn’t been more cheerful.
A website is being set up where friends, family and fans can leave messages for me and check on my progress. It should be up and running during this week and a link to it will be on my official website at friends.banksophilia.com.
A new season of books is inbound, and it sure looks like it’s going to be an exciting one! Here’s the first crop of covers from the Fall 2013 – Winter 2014 season. We’re still putting the finishing touches on a few more, but you’ll be seeing them soon.
Because the smaller scale doesn’t do any of these fantastic covers justice, click on the images below to see a larger version. So pin, tweet, and comment to your heart’s content and tell us which books are already on your “Must have!” lists!
Infamous Scottish crime writer Christopher Brookmyre launches into the world of science fiction today with BEDLAM (UK|ANZ) – a first person shooter of a novel – a thought-provoking, funny look at what it really means to be human in the 21st Century. Want to know more? Here’s what everyone’s saying about it!
“A fascinating, fast-paced but thoughtful blend of science fiction and techno-thriller” – Iain M. Banks
“Funny jokes, characters you can empathise with and devastatingly employed swearwords.” – Ed Byrne
“It’s warm, funny, excellently violent and highly recommended. Game on.” – SCIFI NOW
“Brookmyre hits another high score with this brilliant, fast-paced nightmare.” – Charles Stross
PRISON OR PLAYGROUND?
Ross Baker is an overworked and underpaid scientist developing medical technology for corporate giants Neurosphere, but he’d rather be playing computer games than dealing with his nightmare boss or slacker co-workers.
One rainy Monday morning he volunteers as a test candidate for the new tech – anything to get out of the office for a few hours. But when he gets out of the scanner he discovers he’s not only escaped the office, but possibly escaped real life for good. He finds himself trapped in Starfire – the violent sci-fi video game he spent his teenage years playing – with no explanation, no back-up and most terrifyingly, no way out.
Would it be your ultimate fantasy to enter the world of a video game? Or would it be your worst nightmare? This is where you find out if you’re in a prison or a playground.
This is BEDLAM.
Read an extract on the Orbit website, check out Chris’s website or follow Chris on twitter at @cbrookmyre. And if you still need more Christopher Brookmyre in your life, keep checking the BEDLAM tag on the blog, as we’ve got some fantastic guestposts lined up this month!
Today we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Culture series by bestselling author Iain M. Banks! For decades, the Culture series has engaged our imaginations and taken us to new, exotic alien worlds. Check out the interview below to find out more about Iains most recent novel, THE HYDROGEN SONATA (UK | US | AUS) as well his reflections regarding the past and future of the Culture.
But that’s not all…since we can’t very well pass out these delicious Culture cupcakes digitally, there will be a full day of fun and prizes elsewhere on the internet. Head on over to Twitter for more Culture-related activity by searching for the hashtag #25YearsofCulture.
With the 25th anniversary of the Culture series now upon us (Consider Phlebas was published in 1987), have you come to regard the series as your life’s work? Do you think you’ll ever ‘complete’ the series, or do you still have a long list of ideas that you want to explore?
I suppose the Culture series will form the largest part of my life’s work; it’s unlikely I’ll come up with another over-arching structure on the same scale now. I’m perfectly happy with that. I’ll keep writing about the Culture for as long as I still feel there are new things to say, new avenues to explore. It’s important that I feel able to write SF outside the Culture, but even within it the restrictions are minimal; most of the action in most of the Culture books takes place well outside the Culture itself, and it’s been that way since the beginning, with Phlebas.
I don’t intend ever to complete it; I decided right from the start to resist the temptation to tear it all down at any point, and this has become sort of indicative and symbolic of the nature and demeanour of the Culture itself, now: it means to resist completion and put off Subliming, so that it can keep on going, sticking around in the Real and trying to do good (as it sees it), for as long as it can, and it’s already envisaging that when it does finally fade away, it’ll be when its going will hardly be noticed, because being something like the Culture – behaving like it – will be pretty much the default state for all galactic civilisations. (Though, in this, it could, of course, be completely wrong.)
I’ve more than enough material and ideas for another full-on Culture novel, and that has been the case for at least the last decade or so, no matter where I’ve been in the Culture-novel-writing cycle, as new ideas keep on coming along at a slow but steady rate. At the moment I’m tempted to try something a bit more oblique next time, though I’m also tempted to go with something tighter and more wildly kinetic, too… Who can say? We’ll see.
RT Book Reviews has revealed the full set of nominees for the 2012 Reviewer’s Choice Awards, and a number of Orbit books are among them. Congratulations to all the nominees!