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As a result, I've withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I've asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry - but we find ghoulish humour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 here on my official website as soon as it’s ready.

Iain Banks

- ENDS -

To leave a personal message for Iain Banks, please visit:

Iain’s novel The Quarry has been delivered and will be published this year.

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145 Comments and counting

  1. Kevin Brake says:

    Thank you for all the great stories you've written over the years.

  2. Patty McIntire says:

    I would like to say that I have loved your books and that they have brought me great joy and that I am so sorry to hear of a brilliant life cut cruelly short. The Culture ships were my favorite characters what with their wonderfully creative names and intricately devious reasoning.

    Thank you,

    Patty McIntire

  3. Mark Hodge says:

    I've enjoyed your writing immensely and wish the news was more promising for you.

    There is little else I can say :-(

  4. Scott Chapman says:

    I just got in to reading fiction after a decade of nothing after someone bought me a Kindle for Christmas. After lots of first chapters from other authors, the Culture novels were the only ones that stuck with me, I've read them all now, and not having nostalgia to colour anything for me, I even thought The Hydrogen Sonata was one of the best.

    I'm really saddened by this news.

    Keep an eye out for any clinical trials that may be relevant to you. If there's nothing you can do, then I've read a while ago in a science journal that cancer cells can only metabolise simple sugars, whereas healthy cells can metabolise sugars and then switch to fats if need be.
    If you want to put up any kind of resistance, no matter how small, try cutting out as much sugar and carbohydrates from your diet as you can, and try to metabolise fats for energy instead. It has been shown to reduce tumor size and increase lifespan in mice, and if chemotherapy isn't an option for you, might extend your quality of life further.

    Look into it yourself. There is no miracle cure, but lots of little things could add up to something significant. Chemotherapy is tough, but for my granddad, chemo, next to no sugar intake, modern radiation therapy, and a couple of clinical trials now have kept him with a decent quality of life after being told he had about 2 weeks to live 4 years ago. The chemo was tough, but after coming out of it, we've laughed and chatted together again. Something we perhaps couldn't do without it.

    I know cancer is different for everyone, and what I've said is mostly anecdotal. I just hope you find some success in whichever way you intend to tackle this.

  5. Ruslan Akhmetov says:

    I'm really sorry about your disease. I didn't heard anything about you before and just read an article in a russian news site about you and your cancer. But I've felt a need to try to support you somehow. I even cannot say to you "get well soon" because it seems you're really Very Poorly. Just be cool, dude. At least, you will know soon an exact answer to the greatest question of our World - is there a life after life ends?)
    Sorry for my english.

    Best wishes and regards,
    Ruslan Akhmetov

  6. Matt Henn says:

    So sad to hear about this really terrible news. Iain has been my favourite author since I first read the Wasp Factory in 1985 as a student on holiday inter-railing across Europe. It was the most exciting book I had read up to that point in my life, and I have looked forward to every book since.

  7. Roger Walker says:

    Dear Mr. Banks.

    I was so sorry to hear of your illness.
    I wanted you to know how much pleasure your writing has given me over the years and I am deeply saddened by your news.
    Just know that I am thinking of you at this time.

    With kindest regards and sincere best wishes,

    Roger Walker

  8. Tony Naylor says:

    So sorry to hear of your illness. Thank you, Mr Banks, for so many wonderful, ground-breaking sci-fi novels - your work has thrilled me and thousands of others for many years. You've made a big difference to the world.

  9. Jonnan says:

    I only started reading any of the culture series in recent years - I'm sorry I didn't take the opportunity to do so earlier in life.

    Hoping for unexpected but heartily deserved good fortune. Tell Adele a complete stranger says hello.

    Take Care - Jonnan

  10. ernie moreno says:


    When your jaundice clears up, take the chemo. We don't know everything about cancer so there is a probability that the treatment could extend your life to several years and beyond.


  11. Dear Iain,

    Thank you for all you have written, for all the fantastic hours of reading, for the generosity of your imagination, for all the excited anticipation of the next novel you have given since I first picked up The Wasp Factory back in the mid-'80's.

    As I am wholly sure everyone else feels the same, I am deeply saddened by your news. My thoughts go out to you, to your family and friends.

    Thank you, once again, for your work and your wonderful mind.

    Matt McKenzie

  12. I want to give Iain all my love from Venezuela.

  13. Chris says:

    Every single book you have written gave something to me and enriched my experience of this life.
    I thank you deeply.

  14. Alex Kourkoulas says:

    I am devastated to hear this. You are one of my favourite writers for many, many reasons and I would gladly give up any organs that would allow you to keep writing books and me reading them (sorry that was a bit grim). I will be reading all of yours books to my future children. Thank you Iain.

  15. James Wattengel says:

    Ten years ago I had late stage lung cancer with a prognosis of 8 months to live. I was given the option of 'aggressive' chemo to extend the time. I took the chemo and three months later the tumors had disappeared.

    Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

  16. justajournalist says:

    Love is proved in the letting, Mr. Banks, are proving it even before you go. Congratulations on your marriage! As as someone who recently visited your grand land for the first time, you won't have far to go to find beauty in the landscape.

  17. Marcia Martin says:

    Words fail. Thank you for your work, and all the many hours of thoughtful pleasure they have given me (and so many others). Congratulations on the wisdom with which you are facing your situation. Thanks also for giving us the chance to say goodbye. Now forget about your public and savor what is left.

    Johnny, we hardly knew ye.

  18. Kyle Michel Sullivan says:

    I'm so sorry to hear of your troubles. May you join with the stars on their journeys through time.

  19. Mika says:

    Sorry to hear about your poor health.

    My mother and uncle both died of cancers in the bile duct - liver - pancreas area. Even though my mother had a similar prognosis (death within a year), she did live more than three years after the diagnosis. Her chemo drug (I believe it was Cisplatin) worked for a while. But the drug presumably doesn't work on all the cancer cells, and after some time all the remaining cells are of the nasty type.

    There is some evidence that alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (A1AD) may be a factor behind such cancers (I have partial A1AD (PiMZ), but I do not know if my mother or uncle had it). The defective antitrypsin is produced in the pancreas and may start to form polymers in the liver, as the liver is not able to process it. A1AD has also been linked to "intense creative energy", which is something many writers may have.

    Perhaps this information or speculation is somehow useful to you. In any case, I wish all the best for you. It may be difficult to not fall into hopelessness. My mother got some help from antidepressants.

    Best Regards, Mika

  20. Mika says:

    A correction: trypsin is produced in the pancreas, A1AT in the liver.

  21. Andrew says:

    I am in awe of your spiritual strength and your resolve not to let this devastating news be the end of it... I am not at all religious, but I will pray for you. You are, without a doubt, one of the most amazing individuals I have ever come across in my life... I must admit: I have never read any of your books, but now I am determined that I will... Please tell me, as a total novice, which of your books I should read as my first one. With gratitude, Andrew.

  22. Liberty Preis says:

    You have written the probably the best books (Iain M Banks!) I have ever read, and the world will be a much quieter place without you in it "playing that fucking loud organ in that huge church" of yours! Also slightly selfish as I spend every other year looking forward to the new Culture books! Hope you're as we'll as can be for the time you have and enjoy all of it with your new wife. All your books are on the shelf for our daughter to read when she's old enough - is six too young?! xxxxxx

  23. Tara Kelly says:

    I have always loved your books. Thank you.

  24. Sam Keneally says:

    My dearest Iain,

    I am staggered and flawed. I think I'm going to cry. You are my favourite author of all time. The Culture is without a doubt one of the finest inventions of man's imagination. My father suffered from something very similar so I get your position (well I hesitate on the cusp of understanding). I've never written to you (or anyone) on one of these forums before but as your novels have made such an impact on my life, I feel I must at least give you a hearty "Hello, Congratulations, and Goodbye".

    In the words of my inimitable father:

    I'll see you in hell buddy. That's where all the interesting people will be.

    All the best, pal. And thanks.

  25. Salgood Sam says:

    Very sorry to hear this news Mr Banks. Your work has, as for many, meant a great deal to me. Very sorry i'll probably never get to tell you that in person.

    Look forward to the new book, and I hope you have a wonderful time in the coming months.


  26. Guy Hauldren says:

    Gutted for you and Adele mate. And I guess also selfishly for me too. Thanks so much for bringing the world your storytelling. Damn... I gotta go and break this to my brother and my old boss - they're proper Culture nerds. Personally The Wasp factory is still my fav ;) All the best to you and the missus. Guy

  27. David Thurley says:

    When I was in my late 50s my eldest son gave me "the Wasp Factory" and while I thought it was the strangest book I had ever read I could not put it down. Two marvellous things about that! The first is that my son understood his dad enough that he could buy him a book that was so different to my normal reading tastes and secondly that I had found a new author.

    Many wonderful books later (Whit, Crow Road, Espedair Street, the Steep Approach to Garbadale, Complicity) I am very saddened to hear that the next will be the last.

    Can I wish you all the best for the time you have left. Visit the places you have loved or not yet seen, eat good food, drink great wine and talk endlessly with those you love.

    David Thurley

  28. Alexander Morisse says:

    Dear Mr Banks,

    You are my favorite author, visionary and all around brilliant human being.

    We all die, some more tragically than others, and I hope it gives you some solace to know that the worlds you've dreamt up are most probably already happening somewhere.

    You were the antidote to the characterless worlds dreamt up by Roddenberry and Clark, to name but a few. You brought real human (and more importantly, non human) characterization into play all built around plots that were compelling, engaging, and with just the right amount of sex, drugs and psibilic-charm.

    Moreover, don't listen to doctors who say, "you have x months to live". Change your patterns, fast, eat a Californian diet (so sorry you are in Scotland), and start exercising. Apricot seeds are proven anti-cancer treatments. Eat 20-40 a day.

    Congratulations on your marriage to Adele. Don't lose hope,

    Best Wishes,

    Alex Morisse, PhD
    String Theorist, Father, and Optimistic Bastard

  29. Rooney says:

    Iain. You are still alive. And down the road, after you leave, you will still be present. For a very, very long time. Best wishes.

  30. Holmelund says:

    This is sad news :(

    I wish you and your widow to be many happy days in the time you have remaining.
    Thank you for countless hours of interesting and thoughtprovoking reading.

  31. Robin says:

    Can't say farewell without saying thank you at least once.

    I'm unsure whether Iain will see this message. If you do I just want to say a huge thank you sharing your stunning imagination. Through your work you have given a lot of pleasure to myself and many of my friends. The thought of no more Iain Banks to look forward to is a sad one.

    I wish you all the best and I hope that somehow you get through this.

    Thanks again


  32. Derek says:

    Its ironic that words are so inadequate for this. Having your books is not even remotely the same as having you, the author, who wrote them. I just hope the time ahead is filled with as much as you can cram in into it. Fare thee weel.

  33. Bronwen Humphreys says:

    I just want to send Iain my best wishes and thank him for the wonderful science fiction I've enjoyed so much. I was so sorry to hear about his diagnosis, it's very hard luck. I'm a cancer survivor myself but luckier - mine was operable. I know false hope can be devastating, but I do know someone who has lived 13 years with a similar inoperable condition to Iain's - he has to go to the Christie now and then for chemo, but he seems to live well in between chemo sessions (he's a folk singer). So, I'll be thinking positive thoughts and keeping my fingers crossed for Iain.

  34. Enrique says:


    mucha suerte y gracias por dejarme entrar en tus "mundos de ficción".

    Good luck and thank you for letting me enter into your "fictional worlds".


  35. Ian,
    I hope you will read this message.
    I love your books, authored by "Ian Banks". Really, I do. I am not really fond of your fantasy books, but the other ones, I love.
    I admire your way of playing with a reader. My kids will definitely read all of them, because I consider your books are worth of being read by my kids. As a father I want my kids to get all the best and now you understand, why I want them to read all your books.
    7 years ago my father died of cancer. He was only 51. Sometimes, I imagine him playing with grandchildren and speaking with me. I hope you will get out of this crap and I will be able to read even more of your books, than before.

    Please, stay with us as much as you can.

    With respect,
    your reader Misha Beshkin

  36. Ian Blake says:

    Dear Iain
    I read the Wasp Factory during my first year at university in 1984. It is one of (if not the) best book I have ever read. You are the only author who's books I have waited for in anticipation and excitement. If people ask me what book they should read I always say the Wasp Factory. I'm downloading it now so I'll always have it with me. I will read it again and again. Thank you for writing this wonderful book - it has added real pleasure to my life. I so hope you find much pleasure in the rest of yours. Bless you Iain Banks.
    With love
    Ian Blake

  37. This is terrible news. I've been a devoted Banks fan since Consider Phlebas, and his books have never disappointed. An excellent writer and observer of human nature, and apparently (from this message) a hell of a person too. A serious loss for science fiction and literature in general.

    Mr. Banks - to follow your ghoulish lead, All the best!


  38. Arnold Robbins says:

    I am sorry to hear the news. While it is late in the game I would give Kangen water ph 9.5 water made by Enagic and Mega Defense by Waiora a try. Miracles can happen. Peace and love I wish for you.

  39. Mhairead says:

    Saddened to hear this announced today on the news, I am sure many will be sending you love , I join them, but came here to say this, please consider investigating hemp oil . I know you might think its a strange and perhaps wacky idea , but please investigate . Hoping this link works

    As you say they are suggesting chemo to give you more time , please think about alternatives . Wishing you the very best .

  40. Sean V says:

    I could say a lot of things, sad things, but that can all wait, I know how you feel, been ill, very ill of late, and the best advance I can give is just be alive, just that, alive. On a personal note, when I was recently at my lowest with pipes and tubes and drugs, Your story's, the worlds you made in books, the books I have come to love, tuck me away from all that, In the am's in the dark painful nights, your books placed me in the stars and for that I will be forever grateful.

    Sean V

  41. Alexandra says:

    M-r Iain,

    A few days ago You made a message. And I think a lot of people around the world feel themselves as if they were hit by a bomb. I just want to say that I’m proud of being Your contemporary.
    I’m thinking about You. I think about real art.
    Good books leave traces and scars, unasked questions, they always give a consent and a protest, thoughts. Good books could make the road to the end of the world. But this days there is the one Author in my life who is my discovery, my passion, my insomnia. It’s You.
    Thank You so much for all You do.
    I love You, mr. Iain Banks, sir.

    P.S. Please, excuse me for my English.

    With a great appreciation,
    Alexandra, one of Your russian fan.

  42. Michael Cox says:

    Hey Iain

    The highest vibrations of love and light to you and your wife. If people can fold time and space imagine what you might be able to do. You have inspired millions. Believe your imagination.

    Thank you for expanding the realms of possibility.

    Good luck mate - enjoy your choices.


    Mike in New Zealand

  43. Ted Howard says:

    Hi Iain

    Following 4 operations for melanoma over several years I was given a 50% chance of surviving 5 months. I collected on my life insurance, and was told palliative care only by my oncologist. That was 3 years ago. It is over 2 years since the last tumour presented.

    All I have done is change my diet.
    I have eliminated all animal products, all products containing refined sugar, alcohol, refined foods like white flour, white rice, etc and all refined oils.
    I take high dose vitamin C - one heaped teaspoon L Ascorbic Acid morning and night dissolved in a glass of water, and small doses in between (about 1g hourly when working to remove the inoperable liver tumours I had).

    It was not easy.
    I lost 17Kg in 4 months. I'm now the same weight I was when I started university in 1973.
    It was one of the hardest things I have ever done - having been a carnivore (hunter and fisherman) for 55 years.
    The withdrawl from sugar, coffee, meat, dairy etc all at once was not much fun, and I have had a lot of fun since.

    For me it worked.
    Small sample of one - and I offer it for what its worth.

    Happy to talk if you want to.

    Enjoyed your literary creations, and would be very happy if you lived to create more.

    Very best wishes.


  44. S. Elaine says:

    I am truly sorry to hear that you have cancer and are suffering. Two of the closest members of my family suffered with terminal cancer and I suffered along with them until they died, so I can understand what you are going through.

    However, they were good people. Unlike you, they did not disparage the Jewish people nor try to make a name for themselves with boycotts. Your boycott is a joke - nobody wants to read your drivel in any case, so the fact that your books are not published in Israel is a blessing, not a curse on the Israeli people and the Israeli government.

    Put your mind at rest during your last days and think only of good, not evil.

    What goes around comes around. God works in mysterious ways, right?

  45. S. Elaine says:

    I am truly sorry that you have cancer and are suffering. Two of the closest members of my family suffered from terminal cancer and I suffered along with them until they died, so I can understand what you are going through.

    However, they were good people. They did not disparage the Jewish people nor diid they try to make a name for themselves with boycotts. Your boycott is a joke - nobody want to read your drivel in any case, so the fact that your books are not published in Israel is a blessing, not a curse on the Israeli people or the Israeli government.

    Put your mind at rest during your last days and think nly of good, not eviel.

    WhT goes around, comes around. God works in mysterious ways, right?

  46. Simon O'Rourke says:

    The imminent death of Iain Banks is the worst news I have read in many, many years. Iain [M] Banks is by far my favorite author/novelist, so it's very bad to know that his next book will probably be his last. For those who've not read his books, I encourage all to do so; he is one of the top 3 English-language writers in the world. One of the other 2 is Anthony Burgess. Banks' linguistic skill, metaphoric vision on many levels, earthly/human/family-saga/trans-galactic, and multi-layered stories connected to real and imagined realms will outlast by decades and centuries Iain Banks' too-short time on this mortal coil, and already out-match most other much-lesser writers. For now, I'm going back and re-reading "Consider Phlebus," "Use of Weapons," "Feersum Endjinn," "Excession," "The Bridge" (especially "The Bridge"), and "Complicity," 6 of his best. I'd bet my life that within a few short years his books will be so popular that it won't be hard to find them in airport bookshops, and for him to earn multiple and well-earned international prizes and recognition, though he may by then have joined the Sublime (his term). Thank you, Iain, for your creative enlightenment and electrifying reading pleasure over many years.

  47. Guillermo Navarro, from Barcelona says:

    I am so very sorry for this appalling news. I am a great admirer of your works, which have given me and a lot of people I know uncountable hours of intellectual delight, and that I firmly believe will forever stand as an artistic milestone for our beloved genre. Let's hope though that that slight possibility for chemio treatment turns itself not only a firm reality but the first step of the way that will lead you to a partial of not definitive recover. In any case, please remember how intrigued, excited and ultimately elated your works have allow this humble reader and other millions like me to feel during those unforgettable hours of reading. May the next months --nay, years, decades-- be happy and full of warmth from your friends and loved ones, to which I'd like to pass my most heartfelt good wishes and support. Farewell, Iain.

  48. Melissa Jackson says:

    Dear Mr Banks,
    I was very sorry to read your news, and would like to take the opportunity to thank you for the pleasure your work has given me over the years. I have often used your books to test the waters of burgeoning friendships. If I lend a new friend The Wasp Factory or Complicity and they love it, I know I've found a fellow-traveller. I have often wished to be bold enough to make a t-shirt with Cameron's sentiment "thank fuck for drugs", but it hasn't happened yet.
    My thoughts are with you and your family.
    Melissa Sunshine Jackson

  49. Russ Westhaver says:

    Iain, my thoughts are with you and yours. For what it's worth, your writing has meant many many hours of profound pleasure for me; you are, categorically, my favourite science-fiction author. Indeed, you my favourite author. While I can only guess at the kind of loss your illness will mean for your family and friends, I know I can say this: the literary universe will lose something quite magical and singular without your words to fill it.

  50. anonymous says:

    Shit. That's pretty much all I can say.

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