This was my contribution to the flood of messages supporting Iain (M) Banks when the announcement of his terminal illness was made.
I post it now, after news of his passing, because I simply have no other good way to mark the moment and feel like I have to do something with my grief.
I’m a relatively ‘young’ writer, at twenty-nine. I first came across the Culture novels at a period in my life when I was convinced I would never wind up being anything at all, shortly after dropping out of high school. Your Culture novels were one small, but significant, part of my finding a way to break through that depression and find some doors opened for me.
In the years since I’ve found that being a writer is something I want, tooth and nail. Part of what I want as a writer is the freedom to play with language and plot and character in ways that I find beautiful — in the same way I find your work beautiful, because the beauty I find there I didn’t find in my own work for the better part of a decade.
Relatively recently — in the past two years — I’ve been finding moments in my work that feel beautiful in that way. This is stuff that’s got nothing to do with the Culture or your work, but by discovering something beautiful in your work, I knew I could eventually find something different and beautiful in mine.
In the past year I’ve started to (somewhat) regularly be able to make sales of my short stories in semi-pro markets, and get quite promising rejections from larger ones. I’ve gotten a novella out there, and near as I can figure close to a hundred people have bought it, which is fair going for a novella. Essentially, I’m in that exciting starting point where I’m not sure if I can make it with a career as a writer, but it feels like it’s possible, if only I better myself that little bit more.
I don’t think I’d be on the path I am if your work didn’t show me that writing could be like that. The Culture novels are one of my pillars, the works I go back and re-read when I feel burnt out and uncertain.
I’m devastated to hear you’re poorly. But for what it’s worth, in that strange one-sided relationship between reader and author, you’ll be with me for the rest of my life, and you’ll always be important to me.
I’m so very glad that I’ll still be able to turn to you when I’m unsure of myself, when I need to know what beautiful writing looks like, and I’m so very sad for those close to you, those who knew you as more than words on a page, who are truly losing someone.
Thank you for writing the Culture novels. They make my life just a little bit better for having read them, and that’s a very important gift to have given a complete stranger. I wish there was more I could do for you, but I hope that adding my well-wishes to those of others brings you something of the warmth you’ve brought me.