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Iain Banks

Born Iain Banks
16 February 1954 (1954-02-16) (age 56)
Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland
Pen name Iain M. Banks
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Period (1984-present)
Genres Science Fiction
Literary Fiction
Official website

Iain Banks (born on 16 February 1954 in Dunfermline, Fife) is a Scottish writer. He writes mainstream fiction under Iain Banks, and science fiction as Iain M. Banks, including the initial of his adopted middle name Menzies. In 2008, The Times named Banks in their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[1]



Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Banks studied English, philosophy, and psychology at the University of Stirling.


Personal life

After attending the University of Stirling, Banks moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, living in Edinburgh and then Fife.[2]

Banks met his wife Annie in London, before the release of his first book. They married in Hawaii in 1992.[3] However, he announced in early 2007 that, after 25 years together, they had separated.[4] He currently lives in North Queensferry, a town on the north side of the Firth of Forth near the Forth Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge.

In February 2007, Banks sold his extensive car collection, including a 3.2 litre Porsche Boxster, a Porsche 911 Turbo, a 3.8 litre Jaguar Mark II, a 5 litre BMW M5 and a daily use diesel Land Rover Defender whose power he had boosted by about 50%. Banks traded all of the vehicles for a Lexus RX 400h hybrid - since replaced by a diesel Toyota Yaris - and vowed in the future to fly only in emergencies.[5]

While interested in technology, he is reluctant to use the Internet or email, though he likes some PC computer games, including Civilization which provided minor inspiration to his stories.


A strong awareness of left-wing history shows in his writings. The argument that an economy of abundance renders anarchy and adhocracy viable (or even inevitable) attracts many as an interesting potential experiment, were it ever to become testable. He was a signatory to the Declaration of Calton Hill, which calls for Scottish independence.[6]

In late 2004, Banks was a member of a group of British politicians and media figures who campaigned to have Prime Minister Tony Blair impeached following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In protest he cut up his passport and posted it to 10 Downing Street. In an interview in Socialist Review he claimed he did this after he "abandoned the idea of crashing my Land Rover through the gates of Fife dockyard, after spotting the guys armed with machine guns."[7] He relates his concerns about the invasion of Iraq in his book Raw Spirit, and the principal protagonist (Alban McGill) in the novel The Steep Approach to Garbadale confronts another character with arguments in a similar vein.

Banks is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society (see Quotations) and a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland.


Interviewed on Mark Lawson's BBC Four series, first broadcast in the UK on 14 November 2006, Banks explained why his novels are published under two different names. His parents wished to name him Iain Menzies Banks but his father made a mistake when registering the birth and he was officially registered as Iain Banks. Despite this he continued to use his middle name, and it may be considered official by adoption. It was as Iain M. Banks that he submitted The Wasp Factory for publication, however his editor asked if he would mind dropping the 'M' as it appeared "too fussy". The editor also raised concerns about possible confusion with Rosie M. Banks, a minor romantic novelist in P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves novels. Following his three mainstream novels, his publishers agreed to publish his first SF novel, Consider Phlebas. To distinguish between the mainstream and SF novels, Banks suggested the return of the 'M'.


Novels as Iain Banks

Novels as Iain M. Banks

Much of Banks's science fiction deals with a vast interstellar civilization, the Culture, which he has developed in some detail over the course of seven novels and a number of short stories.

His other, non-Culture, science fiction novels are:

Short fiction

Banks writes less short fiction but has published one collection, as Iain M. Banks:

It contains both science fiction and less categorizable works of fiction. The eponymous novella deals with the Culture, as do two other of the stories contained in this collection.



Banks has written a number of introductions for works by other writers including:


Banks has contributed to a number of publications, including:

  • New Writing Scotland (1983) ISBN 0-9502629-4-3. A poem of Banks's called 041. The title comes from the old subscriber trunk dialling code for Glasgow.
  • The Edinburgh Pub Guide (1989) edited by James Bethell, Polygon Press, ISBN 0-7486-6053-4. A review of The Green Tree.
  • The Culture #4 (2001) contained the words from the photo story Forbidden Love that Banks wrote for Viz, but which they would not publish without a cut that he would not agree to. It was written (and photographed) at the 1989 Eastercon.
  • Critical Wave #26 (1992). After the death of Isaac Asimov, the fanzine contained appreciations of him by many SF authors including Banks.
  • New Scientist #1865, pp38–9 (1993) has an article by Banks called Escape from the Laws of Physics about the science (or lack of it) in science fiction. Banks has also had a number of letters published in the magazine, for example, one on creationism in November 2005 [8].
  • The Observer (7 February 1999). A review of the Tower Restaurant on the top floor at the Museum of Scotland in the Life magazine section.
  • A Sense of Belonging to Scotland (2002), edited by Andy Hall, The Mercat Press, ISBN 1-84183-036-4. Banks contributed a few paragraphs to this book about the "favourite places of Scottish celebrities". His chosen place was the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • The Guardian (2 November 2002). A review of the M. John Harrison novel Light headlined Into the 10th Dimension.
  • Novacon 36 Programme Book (2006). A fictional remembrance of Ken MacLeod (the guest of honour for the convention).

He was a semi-regular music reviewer for Marc Riley's Rocket Science radio show on BBC 6 Music. He was the subject of a South Bank Show television programme broadcast on 16 November 1997, subtitled The Strange Worlds of Iain Banks, which concentrated on his mainstream work. The Curse Of Iain Banks, a play written by Maxton Walker, was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1999, with Banks contributing as a voice on tape. He has appeared on the BBC's political discussion television programme Question Time.

At the beginning of 2006 Banks captained a team of writers to victory in a special series of University Challenge on BBC2, beating a team of actors 185-105 (1 January 2006), and then the 'news' team 190-45 in the final (2 January 2006). He also won an edition of Celebrity Mastermind, taking "Malt whisky & the distilleries of Scotland" as his specialist subject on BBC1 on 2 January 2006.


  • "I write because I love it, I enjoy it, I've spent most of my life trying to do it better, and I can make a living from it: beats a day job."[9]
  • "The Universe says simply, but with every possible complication, 'Existence' and it neither pressures us nor draws us out, except as we allow. It all boils down to nothing, and where we have the means and will to fix our reference within that flux, then there we are. Let me be part of that outrageous chaos… and I am."[10]
  • "In all the human societies we have ever reviewed, in every age and in every state, there has seldom if ever been a shortage of eager young males prepared to kill and die to preserve the security, comfort and prejudices of their elders, and what you call heroism is just an expression of this fact; there is never a scarcity of idiots." (Use of Weapons)
  • (CNN: Would you like to live in the Culture?)
    IMB: "Good grief yes, heck, yeah, oh it's my secular heaven … Yes, I would, absolutely … I haven't done a study and taken lots of replies across a cross-section of humanity to find out what would be their personal utopia. It's mine, I thought of it, and I'm going home with it – absolutely, it's great."[11]


  1. ^ The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. 5 January 2008. The Times. Retrieved on 2010-02-20.
  2. ^ Banks, Iain (2003). Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. London: Century. ISBN 978-1844131952. 
  3. ^ "Author Banks and wife of 25 years to split". Scotsman. 19 February 2007. 
  4. ^ Liz Hoggard (18 February 2007). "Iain Banks: The novel factory". Independent. 
  5. ^ Mark Macaskill and Robert Booth (25 February 2007). "Bye-bye Porsches, says green convert Iain Banks". London: Times. 
  6. ^ The Scottish Socialist Party "Rallying for a Republic", 9 October 2004
  7. ^ Socialist Review "Changing society, imagining the future", February 2008
  8. ^ New Scientist letter 19 November 2005
  9. ^ Contemporary writers
  10. ^
  11. ^ Banks interview at CNN, 15 May 2008

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Iain Menzies Banks (born February 16, 1954, in Dunfermline, Fife), officially Iain Banks, is a Scottish writer. As Iain M. Banks he writes science fiction; as Iain Banks he writes literary fiction.


Science fiction

  • The combination of modern ordnance and outdated tactics had, as ever, created enormous casualties on both sides.
    • Excession: a Culture novel, Univited Guests, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 79 (unnumbered)
  • A human exposed without protection to the conditions required to support Affronter life would be dying in at least three excitingly different and painful ways anyway without having to worry about being crushed by a cage of leg-thick tentacles.
    • Excession, Outside Context Problem, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 27
  • It was used mainly as a regimental mess and dining hall and so was hung with flags, banners, the hides of enemies, bits and pieces of old weapons and military paraphenalia.
    • Excession, Outside Context Problem, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 27-28
  • Serious up-cannoning on our part, for all its for all its intrinsic vulgarity and first-principle undesirability, may be the only way to prevent scalar inter-civilization conflicts...
    • Excession, Not Invented Here, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 119
  • It was just like some ancient electricity-powered computer; it didn't matter how fast, error-free, and tireless it was, it didn't matter how great a labour-saving boon it was, it didn't matter what it could do our how many different ways it could amaze; if you pulled its plug out, or just hit the Off button, all it became was a lump of matter; all its programs became just settings, dead instructions, and all its computations vanished as quickly as they'd moved.

    It was, also, like the dependency of the human-basic brain on the human-basic body; no matter how intelligent, perceptive and gifted you were, no matter how entirely you lived for the ascetic rewards of the intellect and eschewed the material world and the ignobility of the flesh, if you heart just gave out...

    That was the Dependency Principle; that you could never forget where your Off switches were located, even if it was somewhere tiresome.
    • Excession, Dependency Principle, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 141
  • The double-sun system was relatively poor in comets; there were only a hundred billion of them.
    • Excession, Kiss The Blade, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 155 (unnumbered)
  • ...there came a point when if a conspiracy was that powerful and subtle it became pointless to worry about it.
    • Excession, Kiss The Blade, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 172
  • If you have any helpful suggestions I'd be pleased to hear them. If all you can do is make snide insinuations then it would probably benefit all concerned if you bestowed the fruits of your prodigious wit on someone with the spare time to give them the consideration they doubtless deserve.
    • Excession, Tier, ISBN 1-85723-457-X, page 252
  • "What, now?" "Soon equates to good, later to worse, Uagen Zlepe, scholar. Therefore, immediacy."
    • Look to Windward ISBN 978-0743421928 page 213

External links

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