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A personal statement from Iain Banks

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As a result, I’ve withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I’ve asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry – but we find ghoulish humour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.

Iain Banks

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  1. "Jeanz"

    April 3, 2013
    at 6:17 am

    Wishing you well, I really don’t know what else to say but if a ghoulish humour keeps you upbeat and smiling bring it on. May you enjoy your time with your soon to be wife and make many many happy memories for her to hold on to once you are gone.
    Sending love,
    A Reader & Blogger

  2. andy angel

    April 3, 2013
    at 6:17 am

    I really don’t have the words to say what I want to. This personal and, if I may say so, very brave statement is awful news. I hope Iain and Adele enjoy the time they have left.

  3. johann

    April 3, 2013
    at 6:19 am

    So sorry to read this.

  4. Danie Ware

    April 3, 2013
    at 6:20 am

    I’m sure FP will say something formal – but our thoughts are with Iain and both I, and all of us, hope that he gets well and soon.

  5. kate

    April 3, 2013
    at 6:28 am

    Oh Iain…

    I shall miss you

  6. Robyn

    April 3, 2013
    at 6:52 am

    Thanks for all the stories. Enjoy your life and Adele, who sounds wonderful.

  7. Alastair McQueen

    April 3, 2013
    at 7:01 am

    This is very sad news. My condolences. Thanks for your fantastic writing and imagination which has inspired for decades and will always live on.

  8. Fabian

    April 3, 2013
    at 7:30 am

    Dear Iain,
    I love science fiction, but I have had not the opportunity to read one of your books yet.
    I live in Israel. I would like to know if you -before you pass away- have changed your mind regarding your support for a cultural and educational boycott of my adoptive country that included not having your books translated to Hebrew.
    It would be decent, I think, to change your mind for Good before you leave us.

  9. RS

    April 3, 2013
    at 7:32 am

    Oh boy we are going to miss you.

  10. Danny Johnson

    April 3, 2013
    at 7:45 am

    Shit. Shit. Shit. Terrible news.
    Thank you for all the endless hours of enjoyment you’ve given me over the past 30 years or so.
    Wish I could express my feelings better, but hope fervently that the doctors will be confounded…

  11. Ashley R Pollard

    April 3, 2013
    at 7:51 am

    I’m so sorry to hear this news. I’ve always enjoyed your talks at conventions and words fail me.

  12. Ms. Jay Sheckley

    April 3, 2013
    at 7:58 am

    Extraordinarily sorry to hear of your doom, and felicitations on your wedding and honeymoon. Everything you write is on our recommended rack, and with always be. In fact, we like RE-reading you so much, there’s a sense in which we cannot run out. Thank you for letting the world know. You’ll not be forgotten.
    Wishing you and Adele good care and every consolation,
    Jay Sheckley, Jack Rems
    Dark Carnival Bookstore
    Berkeley CA

  13. Simon

    April 3, 2013
    at 7:58 am

    All my thoughts and best wishes go out to you Mr Banks.
    You’ve brought a tremendous amount of pleasure to many people through your work.
    I hope you manage to end your time here with dignity, without pain and surrounded by those who love you.
    Simon Harris-Dack

  14. Tom Lee

    April 3, 2013
    at 8:22 am

    Incredibly sad – thank you for enriching my life for so many years – happy subliming !

  15. Kirk Bage

    April 3, 2013
    at 8:24 am

    That is very sad indeed. I would number some of your works amongst my very favourites. I was 20 years old when I read Consider Phlebas and The Bridge in four days flat. It made me want to be a writer. To this day, I am still very much influenced by your style, wit and bravery. I truly believe some of your sci-fi work is up there with the most mind-blowing literature in the English language. All the best to you and your family. I look forward to The Quarry with something more than anticipation. Thank you… for everything.

  16. Paul (@princejvstin)

    April 3, 2013
    at 8:59 am

    Best wishes, Iain. This is terrible news, but know that you are liked, loved and thought of throughout the genre community.

  17. Troo

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:05 am

    I’m so sorry. I wish Iain and Adele the very best of luck, and every ounce of strength.

  18. Lorelei Crerar

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:17 am

    I have spent many hours with you, sir. But not you with myself. I grieve for the imminent loss of one I find SO amazing. I will speak to Thor about leaving you here with us mortals and not so much recalling you to Valhalla!

  19. Sarah Cairncross

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:23 am

    Hi Iain, please don’t give up hope just yet and DON’T have chemotherapy!!! I don’t know if you’ve heard about the use of pure hemp oil for curing cancer but you may be interested in listening to how this young woman is using it to cure herself http://youtu.be/3O0wndWwssM

    Enjoy every moment and I wish you and your wife every happiness,
    With love, Sarah x

  20. Nicola Cairncross

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:54 am

    Dear Iain, this is tragic news indeed. I have loved your writing from the Wasp Factory onwards and have bought every book. I have been in love with that drone in Consider Phlebus for years. My thoughts will be with you every single day and I just want to thank you while I can. Lots of love from Shoreham, Nicola x

  21. Kistimi

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:56 am

    Do not give up! God Bless You!

  22. Simon Spencer

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:58 am

    Dear Mr. Banks,
    I read the post with deep sorrow as a fellow cancer sufferer, I hear my final prognosis on 18/06/2013, 3 days after my youngest son and his partner have their civil ceremony. Do take the chemotherapy as soon as you can and sod the side effects, if it gives you more time it will be worth it.
    Wishing you all the best and by the way I know a lady who is terminal, she was told she had until March 2012, I was talking to her 3 weeks ago. Today is 03/04/2013. Eat healthily, take vitamins and exercise, everything helps.
    Again, all the best.

  23. Terry Bennett

    April 3, 2013
    at 10:03 am

    This is extremely sad news. I personally know what cancer is like and can only extend my best wishes in Iain’s battle.

  24. Sian King

    April 3, 2013
    at 10:07 am

    I don’t even know what to say. I’m just happy Mr. Banks has contributed some of his pure brilliance to this world.

  25. Peter Curran

    April 3, 2013
    at 10:08 am

    Ian Banks, you magnificent creature. The world is a much better place having had you in it and your work and your wit will live on unlike, fortunately, some of the appalling album choices. You were easily my favourite author to interview during the 90’s on GLR. Courage, mon brave!

  26. Tony Gair

    April 3, 2013
    at 10:17 am

    You’re one of my favourite authors and I’ll miss your books.

  27. Rob Pullan

    April 3, 2013
    at 11:17 am

    Such awful news, but I’m heartened by your obvious determination to enjoy as much time as you have left.

    Your novels have both entertained me and made me think. I don’t read anywhere near as much as I should, but I read all of *your* books as soon as they come out. Thank you.

    I hope that it will bring a smile to your face that I call the informal jam sessions in my basement with whichever musicians decide to show up and play whatever we feel like playing at the time “The Ah-Forget-It Tendency”.

    Peace. Rob.

  28. Bulcsú Simonyi

    April 3, 2013
    at 12:08 pm

    Thank you for the adventure!

  29. Pamela Kennedy

    April 3, 2013
    at 12:22 pm

    So very sorry to hear your news.
    Maybe the doctors will be able to
    help you. I am a huge fan of
    your wonderfull books, with and
    without the M.
    Pamela. Dublin. Ireland

  30. Ava Courtney Sylvester

    April 3, 2013
    at 12:23 pm

    My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Banks, his friends, and family. May the world fill your days with all the blessings it can bring.

  31. william ritchie

    April 3, 2013
    at 12:59 pm

    So sorry to hear this news! Man you’re far too young to be leaving us. I can’t imagine how I would feel. You at least have a chance to make every moment count you have left (and I hope it’s longer than expected).
    I’ve always enjoyed your work and own most of your books.
    Love to you and yours. Billy Ritchie.

  32. Maria (BearMountainBooks)

    April 3, 2013
    at 1:10 pm

    You have my prayers, sympathy and the rest. Realizing it is terminal and all that, here’s a study being done. I know, I know. But if it can’t help you, maybe it will help someone else.


    May you find peace–here and on the other side.

  33. Karoline Stanton

    April 3, 2013
    at 1:39 pm

    Words seem meaningless after reading your statement, but you are a man of great and amazing words so will honour that by saying ‘Embrace what time you have left to the ultimate, realise the amazing legacy you have left with your books and retain your humour at all times! I wish you well. xx (a total fan)

  34. neil kay

    April 3, 2013
    at 1:50 pm

    Very sad news indeed. You have given me many hours of pleasure, thank you. heres hoping for a cure ( or culture intervention!)
    all the best
    neil kay

  35. Stephen

    April 3, 2013
    at 6:31 pm

    Damn, I am so sorry to hear that. I’m one of the quiet fans who read your work and love it dearly, but don’t make a big fuss about it.

    What you do with prose is astonishing and what you do with stories is always thought provoking.

    Nothing more to say, Mr Banks, but thank you for all the words, stories, and enjoyment.


  36. Debra Searcy Frazer

    April 3, 2013
    at 8:04 pm

    I am (of course) saddened by this news. And I have to think that you must be so proud of all you’ve accomplished in your life. So many of us have no where near that to show for our time here. Which is why we remain behind. We obviously haven’t gotten it right yet, or what we’ve done hasn’t been “enough”. Having gone through this stage in my husband’s life, I am very aware of how acutely sensitive you are to every experience that occurs after the diagnosis. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with the rest of us. And when the time comes for you to crossover, I wish you peace.

  37. Mark Baker

    April 3, 2013
    at 8:47 pm

    Dreadful news from anyone, even worse when it’s from my fave author. It has been my honour and privilege to devour your writings over the years Iain. The Wasp Factory and other sustained me through dreary night shifts on my university holiday job at a paper mill, lovely they were and chilling and addictive. I can’t work out a fave among your books,their diversity defeats such a narrow musing. In fact I had just repossessed Raw Spirit from a mate to re-read and to eyeball alongside my own whiskey collection. Will go back now through all my Banks collection and enjoy once more, and will most likely have a dram in hand this time around – on your own recommendation Iain that dram will likely be a Macallan.
    In our thoughts and prayers always, with our best wishes for this journey of yours,

    Mark Baker.

  38. Evelyn

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:56 pm

    Well as you’ll have plenty of medical bills I was wondering if there was anything left over so you could set up a charity from the sale of your books for people who want to write science fiction. I’ve seen a lot of promising writers look into writing fantasy because they dont have a science background. I’m not a writer myself but I have read some of your novels and intend to read the rest. I like to buy them for when I want to re-read them. It’s just an idea to throw around. I’m tired of seeing science fiction dwindle away on the book store shelves. The big stores just don’t order much new sci fi because people aren’t buying them. I’m always on the look out for new sci fi writers.
    Think about it?

  39. Evelyn

    April 3, 2013
    at 9:58 pm

    and “So long, and thanks for all the fish”. I love your work. Your a mind yoga genius.

  40. Ward Bond

    April 4, 2013
    at 1:19 am

    Thank you for: not in the least, Against The Darkness

  41. Fox

    April 4, 2013
    at 5:52 am

    As the late great Douglas Adams said, “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”. Thank you for all the wonderful books and hours, days, weeks of enjoyment.

  42. Robert Jenkins

    April 4, 2013
    at 11:37 am

    Hi Iain,
    to hear of your illness. I’ve loved all of your novels since the ‘Wasp Factory’and read many of them twice. My favourite is ‘Espedair St’ – in fact it’s just about my favourite novel alongside a Tom Wolfe one whose title I can’t recall right now. The first time I saw your photo I thought I recognised you from Glasgow Uni’s student union.
    I know for a fact that your novels will keep your memory alive for a long time and I’ll continue to hope that you’ll be around for a good while yet.
    I raise my glass to ye.

  43. Troy Leaman

    April 4, 2013
    at 12:25 pm

    Loved your books since I was a wee babe (well teenager anyways) and I used to daydream about somehow seeing all your culture books being made into a mini series. That and the ideas that crept into our gaming were great. So your Mind has spawned many little children with Ours. I guess I’ll never get to meet you at some strange con but I feel like we’ve already met through your works and shared a few laughs. I’m not sure how but I feel your legacy is going to last quite a long time.
    You’ve done well my friend


  44. Miresnare

    April 4, 2013
    at 4:08 pm

    Iain, you single-handedly reignited my love of SF after I had long given up on the genre. The world will be a darker place without your imaginative prose, black humour and the Culture.

  45. Lakesidey

    April 4, 2013
    at 5:49 pm

    This is sad news :( There is so much I want to say, but I don’t have the words. Thanks for adding Culture to my life.

  46. Peter

    April 4, 2013
    at 6:31 pm

    Kia kaha Iain!

  47. Elise Matthesen

    April 4, 2013
    at 11:49 pm

    Well, dang. (We’ve met, but you might not remember me. I was John M. Ford’s partner.)

    Thank you for The Crow Road. It means a lot to me, that book.

    I hope that all the time you have is full of as much good stuff as will fit. I’m glad you have Adele, and vice versa.

  48. Shona

    April 5, 2013
    at 2:47 am

    I wish you all the best in the time you have left…..please consider finding a good Bowen therapist to help ease your symptoms.

  49. Tasha

    April 5, 2013
    at 5:21 am

    I have enjoyed your culture books greatly over the years. Brilliant and amazing.

    Excession and Condider Phlebas in my opinion are two of the finest books written in the sci fi genre for many, many years.

    Somebody I truly adore has just had cancer and we undertook many months of juicing, supplements, immune boosting herbs and exercise. Diet and detoxification may play such a huge part in potential recovery. Please look after yourself and may you and Adele find times of great happiness and realisation over the immediate time to come.

    With the deepest of respect,


  50. Erika Marks

    April 5, 2013
    at 5:46 am

    Very sorry to learn of your situation, while heartened and delighted to see you write of it with your usual humour and resolve.
    I just want to say you have brought me inestimable pleasure over the many years I’ve been reading your work, since buying Wasp Factory. I bought it by chance, solely because I liked the title, when I was in an airport about to fly to Edinburgh. Everything I have read since has resonated with and entertained me long after I finisheding reading.
    I hope you can revel in the time left to you, and leave happy in the knowledge you have enriched and gladdened an enormous number of people and definitely made the world a better place. Thank you.

  51. Kate Haggman

    April 5, 2013
    at 10:16 am

    To paraphrase my daughter’s most beloved fictional character, you are my favourite and are my best. Thank you for your wonderfully twisted and twist-filled works. You bring me joy every time I read your words.

    Except those above.

    May your twilight be big on happy and small on pain.

    Thanks again for sharing your genius with us all.

  52. Robert

    April 5, 2013
    at 4:17 pm

    Damn!! Sincere sympathy(if that’s not too morbid?) and enjoy what you have left. I’m sorry if this sounds grim, or unsympathetic but I’m just no good at writing nice things about this sort of thing, funerals, death, etc. is just too depressing for me!! :-(

  53. Joel Stevenson

    April 6, 2013
    at 12:25 pm

    I’ve always wanted to thank you and shake your hand. Your stories have brought a great amount of joy and provocative ideas to my life and my thoughts. My wife and I share a great respect for your work and a joy in reading your works. We even have Diziet and Zakalwe, our two cats, who drive us and each other a bit mad at times, fittingly. Yeah, we’re “that kind” of fan. I know we are only two among multitudes.

    So there it is, I guess, without further belaboring it. Thank You from the very bottom of our hearts, Mr Banks.

    April really is the cruelest month but you have helped to teach us what it means to look to windward. And we shall, and consider you: handsome and tall forever.

  54. David Angus

    April 7, 2013
    at 3:11 pm

    Very sorry to hear this has happened to you Ian. We met a few times at SF cons, I dip into ‘Use of Weapons’ and your other books now & then. Hope ‘the Culture’ or something like it will become reality one day.

    Hard to know what to say at a time like this but I know my friends – the SF fans of South Hampshire – feel likewise. One of them alerted us and our thoughts are with you.

    Dave the Planetbuilder

  55. Michael

    April 10, 2013
    at 6:14 am

    I feel like I’ve just read this note from a personal friend – the impact was that hard.

    You have enriched my life through your efforts, and for that I am very grateful.

    I’m also very sorry for your condition (partially for selfish reasons as I would love to enjoy more of your work) and wish for you the best of all outcomes, Iain.

    Your fan,

    Michael McCarney.

  56. Peggy

    April 11, 2013
    at 4:13 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this news. What a shock. I am crying at my keyboard. Thank you, Iain, for sharing your hard work and tremendous imagination with all of us.

    (I remember reading the spaceship names in Excession out loud to my 10-yr-old nephew on a long family drive. He laughed _so hard_ and kept asking for more. It was wonderful, and I was amazed that a small part of your story had such a delightful effect. He’s in college now, studying geology and economics and thinking about asteroid mining … so there you go. Blessings.)

  57. Christina

    April 11, 2013
    at 6:38 pm

    I properly discovered the Culture series only fairly recently, and it’s given me so much pleasure since then. Some of the best sf – some of the best books – I ever read. I’m actually reading Look to Windward right now.

    So very, very sad to hear this news.

    I wish you the very best – a miracle, ideally; if that can’t be had, as much good times with loved ones as possible.

  58. karenm

    May 1, 2013
    at 6:33 am

    I love sci fi and the Culture novels are the ultimate sci fi – intelligent, funny, sad, and always entertaining. The ship names alone are worth the read! Of your others, The Business is my special favourite and I read it over and over. Congratulations on your wedding and thank you for sharing your imagination and talent with us.

  59. Denis McClean

    May 31, 2013
    at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for changing the universe but it’s still in an awful mess, so don’t be in a hurry to leave just yet.
    I hope you can both enjoy your remaining time together.
    You don’t know me but we all know you.


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