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As a result, I've withdrawn from all planned public engagements and I've asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry - but we find ghoulish humour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

    We'll think of you when we look to the stars - thankyou.

  2. knut limbodal says:

    Thank you Iain for introducing me to the Culture universe. Your writing has meant many hours of reading pleasure for me. You are, and always will be, one of my favourite science-fiction authors. Our universe will shine a little dimmer when you are gone.

    When I kick the bucket, I want to go and live on a GSV.

  3. Ross Walker says:

    I've struggled to put something in words for this last few weeks since I heard the news, firstly wanting to show my gratitude for your work while avoiding anything that sounds like a morbid obituary. I wish you all the best sir, my thoughts, prayers and best wishes. Your stories and imagination are boundless. A good writer is defined as one who's books you struggle to put down. In this regard, I hold you totally responsible for too many late nights. Be safe.

  4. Steffan Smith says:

    Absolutely shite news!! I've loved your books, finding some of them deeply moving. My personal favorites are the player of games, the crow road and complicity. Thank you for having entertained me and captured my imagination so often. There isn't a great deal I feel I can say to you other than wishing you heaps of courage and a beautiful last chapter.

  5. Mike Adams says:

    How ironic that this should happen to someone who wrote so well about the problems of living too long!

    thanks for all the great books you have written, I will be reading them for years to come and so will my son. They are timeless and will still be as relevant in 100 years as now.

  6. Stewart says:


    big fan of your science fiction. I'm in the middle of the Hydrogen Sonnata
    read every other (S.F.) book.

    Recently heard a guy on bbc radio Scotland talking about his cancer.
    he praised the was a very level headed guy.
    I was impressed with him and made a note of the budwigcentre.

    Hope your here to witness Scotland gain her Independence in 2014, and around for many years after to enjoy it.

  7. Tom Hunter says:

    I’ve always enjoyed your writing, even this: “I am officially very poorly” for the style, but not the message.

    Wishing you the best of all possible days, every day, and an ample supply of really good drugs.

  8. Ben Stuttard says:

    Apologies, Iain! I've been taking you for granted. I've just assumed that every couple of years there'd be a new novel of inventiveness, fluency and mischief from your good self. I've used these to calibrate everything else that I've read over the past 15 years or so: is it as good as...? Or WWIW (What would Iain write). Well, bugger.

    In any case, thinking of you and yours. I hope peace and consolation and pride accompany you in the months ahead.

  9. DKinvig says:

    I've only very recently started reading your books but already I find I'm hooked in what I rather suspect might be a very expensive manner for a student budget. I will almost certainly read every one of them in a chronological order of my own devising (as is becoming traditional for me) and several times over. I absolutely adore what little I've read of your books thus far and I'm very sorry to hear the news. I wish you and Adele all the best.

  10. Nicholas Carman says:

    Hi Iain, sorry to hear you are so unwell. I've read and re-read your books since I was a teenager.
    Best wishes to you and your family.

  11. Steve Kettel says:

    Thank you so much for the hours of joy your books have given me. I count myself as a sci fi and space opera fan solely because I had the good fortune to pick up Consider Phlebas years ago, and I can therefore say you changed my life! I'm so sorry to hear your news and will be thinking about you and your family. Thanks again

  12. Joseph Schafer says:

    Oh... "Very Poorly" from the Nelson Mandela press release... not bad sir.

  13. Rohan Renard says:

    Hi Ian,
    I've been reading SciFi books since I was a teenager, over 30 years ago and your books have electrified me; their visions are full of grandeur and dark beauty. I have just heard of your terrible news and am shocked and deeply saddened by it - truly I wish you well and that the time you have left is surrounded by happy memories and friends and family. As a fan I guess you already know that you have created a legacy that will live on and grow and touch many more lives to come.

  14. Ronnie Pollock says:

    Sorry to hear your news, Iain.
    Can I thank you for both the pleasure your books have given me, and the delicious shiver my spine received at the end of "Use of Weapons"

  15. Maryam says:

    Hi Iain

    Well that sucks.

    Now please keep doing whatever you like, as your publishers can figure out the rest.

    My thanks for all the fun, my best wishes for the rest.

    I'll be reading you again, soon.

    Maryam xx

  16. Luke says:

    So sad to hear this news.

    I wish I had something insightful and reassuring to say, but all I have is my life would be less without having read your books.

    Thank you Iain.

  17. Tas Haque says:

    You are one of my favorite science fiction authors, and I think the first book of yours that I read ("The Algebraist") is brilliant! I wish you and your family the best, and thank you for sharing your ideas and talent with the rest of us!


  18. RDSouth says:

    Please have yourself frozen. I plan to be in the future and would appreciate it if you were there as well.

  19. Larry McCauley says:

    I am so, so happy that you have received the support, affection (nay, love) that you deserve from so many of us who have loved your work so much over the years. Nice one!

  20. Stuart says:


    Thank you so much for your work over the years; it's brought a great deal of enjoyment to me and I hope my future children will get the same enjoyment out of your stories.

    i truly wish we lived in a world where corporate profit was not the main factor in research and development of treatments and that we would spend what we spend on wars on battling this horrible disease.

    all the best mate, see you on the flip side.

  21. Alun Jones says:

    Your Culture books have been such an constant in my adult life that I found myself extremely sad at your news. I recently enjoyed Player of Games on audiobook and certain parts took me back to a certain place and time.. on a train to see a girl... when I first read it. Did the same with Consider Phlebas - pow and I am back in uni; 2nd year exams looming but just cant tear myself away from the Idiran war. Your sci fi credentials were used on a lads holiday in Magaluf to destroy my credibility in front of a girl. A friend interjects and declares "Alun, did you finish that book you were reading all day by the pool? Science fiction, wasn't it? What was his name again? Iain..." I was really making headway until that point. More recently I enjoyed the audiobook Hydrogen Sonata as I decorated the spare bedroom ready for my own special circumstance.

  22. Wouter van Ooijen says:

    A big big pity for you and for the rest of the world to loose each other. I was looking forward to a nice fat culture novel every year or two. I hope you make the best of what life remains for you and your future widow. When my time comes I can only hope to approach it with the same attitude you express in your announcement.

  23. Q__ says:

    I'm very sorry, mr. Banks.

    And thank you for all your books.

    I wish you maybe short but as happy as you can life.


  24. sarah says:

    wishing you the best. You are one of the greatest people who has ever lived. i hope you meet all of the characters you have created(well,not the bad ones!).Good luck.

  25. Lucas says:

    Your books have been a tremendous influence on me and they're amazing. You never fail to craft an amazing world and amazing people, in SciFi and elsewhere. I wish the best for you, and would like to thank you for all you have done for everyone in writing.

  26. Dave Loboda says:

    I have been a fan of your writing for many years and am desperately sad to hear of your illness. Huge thanks for the many happy hours of travelling the universe! I hope that the good wishes and loving thoughts of your fans are a help. God bless.

  27. William says:

    I just started your books and am saddened by your news, if only we had 1/10 your vision as a collective we would be able to save you and many others. Would you have plans to 'open source' your universe to other authors? The Culture Universe has billions of untold stories and I am sure many would love for your legacy to continue in the writings of others.

  28. Arjan says:

    I am saddened by the news and selfishly think of the books that you would have written in the years to come. You have a wry mind and a dry wit; your works will remain but you will be missed. See you back in the bardo.

  29. Kev Oates says:

    So, you're going to Sublime without the rest of us eh? Nice one. I fancy being a Mind myself but will probably stick with the office job. Thanks for everything Iain and incase you don't make it to the end of the year....Merry Christmas :-)

  30. Nick says:

    I'm so sad to hear this news Iain. Discovering all your novels has been one of the very best experiences of my life during the last few years. I'll never be able to thank you enough for that. But I can make a start - Thank-you.

  31. Paul K says:

    That is awful news. I would like to thank you for the series of books that got me through some truly dreary night shifts at my work. You single handedly hooked me on this Genre and got me into reading for the first time since i was a child.

    I do not know what else to say except to make the very most of your time left.

    Best wishes

  32. Jonathan Gibson says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas. I routinely give your books as gifts and treat your work as a wonderful treasure. I know many people have found great insight and entertainment in your works and you will be missed. Please consider blessing a guiding author, such as Ken MacLeod, or three, to explore your themes & notes for stories further. I hope we may see where you have roamed and they might translate. I am grateful for your works and wish you well. — Jonathan —

  33. Io Europa says:

    I'm reading The Player of Games, it's the only Culture book I haven't read. After that I'll read the Ian Banks books I haven't already. Your books make me think big and set forth a societal model that's about as perfect as we can hope to achieve.

  34. Kate says:

    Mr. Banks, thank you for " Espedair street". This book came into my life unexpectedly and when I had need it more than anything.

  35. JanessaVR says:

    As you are a noted supporter of transhumanism, I strongly urge you to take the next reasonable step at this point (if you haven't already) and sign up for cryopreservation ASAP. You don't really have anything to lose, and essentially everything to gain; it's certainly better than the alternative.

    Hope to see you in the future.

  36. Julia Kernaghan says:

    Dear Iain
    It was with great sadness that I heard the news of your cancer diagnosis. I have been reading, nay, enjoying your novels, especially the SF ones for many years, and my introduction was "Excession", that I have gone back and re-read numerous times for its humour as well as its storyline.
    Working in the cancer field, I can understand the shock and finality of your diagnosis..
    I can only hope that one day we do learn how to reverse or truly contain the aberrant cellular processes that give rise to this dreadful affliction..... Sadly not in your lifetime, though... And selfishly, I, as others have already commented here, did previously assume that you would go on writing your fabulous novels for many, many years to come.
    Fare well, Iain. Your writing will remain.

  37. Erik Borgo says:

    Hi Ian

    We’ve never met but I’ve been an avid reader of your novels for many years. I’ve had cancer and (so far) I’ve recovered. It’s been 13 years since the shock of finding an odd lump in my jaw that turned out to be a tumour that was growing through the bone on it’s way through my sinuses to slowly drive me mad by invading my brain before slowly killing me. Initially, I really couldn’t cope with the idea and got drunk and angry for over a year. Then once the tumour had been removed I gave up my job as IT Manager and became a Fitness/Yoga instructor in an effort to make myself healthy by helping others get healthy. Where am I going with this? BE POSITIVE. If the merest iota of yourself has already defeated any other part of you with the knowledge of this challenge to your continued existence, you will lose. Life is worth fighting for, fight any which way you can. I look forward to reading dozens more Culture novels.

    Kind Regards
    Erik Borgo

  38. Dear Iain!
    My life would have been different and poorer without your mindblowing books. Thank you so much!
    See you in Valhall!
    Regards Ingolf

  39. Frank Aiello says:

    It is with great sadness to learn of your affliction. i've only just recently discovered your writings, and just finished reading The Hydrogen Sonata and Consider Phlebes. Your story premises and concepts are mind boggling and very thought provoking to say the least.
    Thank you for stimulating our mind with great your writing, and wish you all the best in the coming future. God bless.

  40. elibi says:

    I've just learnt. Please receive my very sincere condolences.
    I can only hope that M. Banks passing was peaceful and painless.
    Don't grieve him for too long abut just smile thinking of him and thank life for what his life gave you.
    As a reader, I thank him for his precious works. Farewell

  41. dominik says:

    see you, space cowboy

  42. Graham Lanceley says:

    Sublimed before your time.

    We're close on your tracks on the good GSU Time goes by too quickly...

    My thoughts go out to your family.

  43. Frank L. Aiello says:

    Sublimation has come to you at last Ian. We miss you already and my condolences to your loved ones.

  44. John (among many). says:

    I never said anything at the time, but thanks Iain. A belated thanks, and a belated goodbye.

  45. Friederike says:

    I hadn't realized and I am deeply sorry that you Iain and your family had to go through this. Lots of strength and all the best to your wife and your family. Thank you, Iwill never ever forget your deep, incredibly beautiful, dark and hilarously funny mind. I'm not even so sure you're NOT somewhere doing something right now..

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