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The Life of Iain Banks: Influential Author and Political Activist

On 3rd April, an announcement was made on the website of the famed British author, Iain M. Banks. Banks announced he is in the advanced stages of gall bladder cancer and as a result does not have very long to live. As everyone looks to give their piece on Banks, both as a writer and as an influence over the last 20 years or so, a myriad of tributes have been published.

Born in Scotland in 1954, Banks was the only child to an official in the Admirality and a professional figure skater. He grew up in North Queensferry before moving to Rosyth at the age of nine. At the age of 16, he made his first attempt at a novel, The Hungarian Lift-Jet. However, it was never published. Banks then went onto study English literature, sociology and philosophy at the University of Stirling between the years of 1972-1975. After graduating from university, he worked a series of jobs that gave him the time to write in the evenings.

Iain Banks’ First Published Novel: The Wasp Factory

His first novel Wasp Factory was published in 1984 and chronicles the life of Frank, a 16 year old boy who lives in strange circumstances with his estranged Father close to a small obscure village in the heart of Scotland. The book received many positive reviews and was described as a “Gothic horror story of quite exceptional quality” by The Financial Times. Wasp Factory established Banks as a force to be reckoned with in the literary world. To date, Banks has written 23 novels and a collection of short stories. His 24th and final novel The Quarry will be published in June this year. His publishers brought forward the release date shortly after the announcement was made. Much of Banks’ writing falls broadly under the spectrum of literary fiction and science fiction. The latter he writes under the moniker of Iain M. Banks, M. standing for Menzies, a family name. Due to the nature of his work, Banks has been nominated for numerous awards, one of them being the most prestigious award the science fiction genre has to offer: the Hugo Award. In 2008, TIME magazine named him as one of the most influential writers since 1945.

In later years, Banks used his writing as a means to express his thoughts on political issues. Banks is a prominent figure in the media for his staunch political views. He opposed the Iraq War greatly and even went so far as to mail his passport torn into pieces to 10 Downing Street as a sign of protest. Banks has also spoken out on other issues such as boycotting Israel for its attack on a Turkish boat in 2010. Besides being well known for his literary endeavours and political views, Banks has made numerous TV appearances on shows such as Question Time and Celebrity Mastermind.

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1 Comment

  1. Iain Banks is a truly inspirational writer, his death will be an incredible loss to the literary world.


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