I’m not ashamed to say I had tears in my eyes when I read Iain Banks’ message today, about being in the late stages of cancer. Iain has been an inspiration to me for over two decades, since I first had my mind fucking blown apart reading The Wasp Factory as a teenager. I don’t have anything more to say, really, except that he is one of the main reasons I’m a writer today. He made it seem possible.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet him quite a few times, and interview him as a journalist. I remember once we met over coffee for an article I was writing, it was just after he’d ripped up his passport and mailed it to Tony Blair in protest against the Iraq War. He was full of righteous indignation, but also hilarious.
Anyway, we talked about literary heroes for a while and he said something that stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines that it’s not enough to have literary heroes, you have to hate them as well a little bit, you have to write as well as you can to show them that you’re better than them. I knew what he was getting at, I think, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he’s one of my literary heroes, and that I didn’t hate him at all.
I wish him all the best for the time he has left. Think I’ll go and read The Crow Road now. Or Complicity or Consider Phlebas or Feersum Endjinn or The Bridge or Excession or…