faq.htmlTEXTMSIE]a--mBINGIain Banks FAQ
banks faq 1.0
Iain Banks Biography.
Is Iain online?
What is the Next Novel?
What does the 'M.' in Iain M. Banks stand for?
Why use a pseudonym for his Science Fiction?
Bibliography
What has Iain to say about Iain?
A Short Introduction to Iain Banks
Comparisons of Iains work.
Does Wykes Folly (Espedair Street) exist?
Do Despot or Xerium (Complicity) exist?
Have altered states played a part in Iain's writing?
The whiskey conspiracy in Complicity?
The name of the narrator in The Bridge
Is The Bridge a Culture novel?
The Azadian Debacle
Meanings to the dedications.
Banks to Film?
The Crow Road mini-series theme.
Publisher's address
  Biography

Born in Dunfermline Maternity Hospital on February 16th 1954. Father able-seaman in Admiralty (later became First Officer. Now retired), mother ex-professional ice-skater. Only child, but both parents from large Scots families; numerous aunts and uncles and hordes of cousins. Family lived in North Queensferry, Fife; in 1963 family moved to Gourock, on the Clyde. Educated in North Queensferry and Gourock Primary Schools, Gourock and Greenock High Schools and Stirling University (1972-1975; ordinary degree in English - along with Philosophy and Psychology). During vacations, worked in Greenock areas as hospital porter, estate worker, pier porter, roadworker, dustman and gardener.

Hitch-hiked through Europe, Scandinavia and Morocco in 1975. Worked for a year as a non-destructive testing technician for British Steel, spending some time at the Nigg Bay construction site (Area helped inspire "The Wasp Factory"). Visited USA in 1978. Returned to Scotland; spent six months working for IBM in Greenock. Jobs got too hard to find in 1979, so moved to London to stay with some other Caledonian exiles. Found work. Got book published. Moved to Faversham, Kent, in 1984. Made attempt on the Most Penetrable Pseudonym world record in 1986, with the addition of the initial M (for Menzies) to name for the publication of first SF book. Moved to Edinburgh in January 1988.

  Is Iain online?
In a word no. Iain had said in an interview once that he had modem and software ready to run. Since then every interview has said he is purposefully staying away from the internet because he is concerned about becoming addicted to it. He doesn't have an email address, so please don't ask me for it. The only way to get in contact with Iain is through his publisher, the address is listed below.
  What is the Next Novel??
   A Song of Stone :

The provisional title for this next mainstream novel was Feu de Joie. It's a technical term for when people fire their guns into the air to celebrate - pretty dangerous thing I've always thought. This has now been changed to A Song of Stone and is due out on August 17th. Unusually for me, it's a bit timeless and place less - there's a castle and an artillery piece. basically, it's a three-hander: there's a very minor aristocrat and his sister and there's a greedy captain from a mercenary band. There's a lot of symbolism too: fire, earth, air, water - so it's a bit of a departure for me."        -interview with mary branscombe in sfx

...a small insight into what the next one is about. "It's a vague book, it's vaguely set in northern Europe, vaguely set in the latter half of the twentieth century, and that's about it. It's set post-war; not exactly post-apocalypse, but some heavy shit has gone down, man. Not nuclearshit, but it's not exactly a nice book. I do get a bit tired about writing happier endings, and after the comparative niceness of Whit I wanted to go back to something nasty again. There is a pretty high body-count and it all ends in tears."        -interview with chris fleming.

Some details, consider them spoilers, have been leaked. View at your own risk.
  What does the M mean?
The M stands for Menzies, an old Family name.
  Why use a pseudonym for his Science Fiction?
"It was a mistake," he says, "It seemed like a good idea at the time ... I put in the manuscript of The Wasp Factory as Iain M. Banks, and my publishers then, Macmillan, thought the M. was a little fussy, and would I mind losing it. It didn't bother me in the least, so I did. But then I got grief from my family - 'Are you ashamed of being a Menzies, then?' When the first science-fiction novel was coming out I had thought of using a pseudonym and then decided against, but I had what I thought was a good idea and said, 'let's put the M. back.' There's a sort of historical precedent: Brian W. Aldiss puts the W. in when he's writing non-SF. But I regret doing it, intensely now, because I'm always answering questions about it, and also because it passes on ammunition to the literary snobs who just assume that I make the distinction because I'm writing down when I'm writing science fiction." Extract from Wired interview, June 1996.
  Bibliography
Published as Iain Banks
Published as Iain M. Banks
  The Wasp Factory
Walking on Glass
The Bridge
Espedair Street
Canal Dreams
The Crow Road
Complicity
Whit
A Song of Stone
1984
1985
1986
1987
1989
1992
1993
1995
1997
    Consider Phlebas
The Player of Games
Use of Weapons
The State of the Art
Against a Dark Background
Feersum Endjinn
Excession
1987
1988
1990
1991
1993
1994
1996
 
  What has Iain to say about Iain?
In an interview with SFX Iain gave a brief commentary of each of his books.
  A Short Introduction to Iain Banks

Iain Banks is relatively unique in the fact that he has published, to wide acclaim, alternately both fiction and science fiction. The literary crowd can't ignore him because of this; his fiction is just too accomplished. And the SF fans suffer from the same problem; not only is his SF top notch, his fiction sometimes verges on the fantastical (eg The Bridge) and drawing a distinct line between the two is hard and ultimately unnecessary. In fact, Iain's SF has more to say about the state of the world today than most fiction. As Iain himself says, his SF involves "...taking the intial, unsullied, wonderful science fiction idea and dragging it through the dirt of reality until it looks convincing!"

There are a number of factors that make Iain's books so accessible, and sheer variety is one of these. As if this wasn't enough, they are all excellently written too. Iain is adept at layering each story; leaving the reader to connect each thread together. In this way, clues are uncovered, characters revealed and the story slowly emerges. Merely from a literary point of view, each novel is highly accomplished and eminently readable.

And then there are stories themselves. Iain's imagination is fertile ground for what initially seem like the most bizarre ideas. Further investigation usually proves that yes, they are bizarre ideas. They're also well thought out and quietly clever with it. One of Iain's most famous inventions is that of the Culture - a functioning, hedonistic utopia with no laws, no monetary system, no exploitation and spaceships 30km long. This was what first attracted me to Iain's books; escapists will have a fie ld day here. A great deal of conflict in SF tends to be in dystopian societies. Instead of this, Iain sets the Culture (with its self-inflicted moral responsibility) alongside other civilisations, and this is where all the action takes place. SF fans should easily get their thrills from the epic universe Banks creates.

Iain's first book to be published was the controversial The Wasp Factory. Iain Banks writing debut was announced with a fanfare of child murders, animal torture and general nastiness. The fact that the book was a scorcher was smothered by outraged critics. However, Iain is a prolific author and Walking On Glass and The Bridge soon followed. Each was, by turns, fantastical and brilliant and the critics reappraised their "Iain Banks is a horror writer" opinion. His later works of fiction have enforced this fact; Complicity has just spent around 24 weeks in the best-sellers top ten.

So; he writes clever fiction and expansive SF, is loved by SF fans and the general populace alike; he must be a right boring bastard then, especially as he is so prolific. Well, annoyingly not. Iain seems to be a pleasant, humourous bloke; a sort of cross between your friendly uncle and your mate down the pub (if you can be bothered to imagine that). Right; so he seems to be a top bloke too. Theres got to be something wrong with the man; let me think for a sec... hmm... ah... uh... hmm. Nope, its no good; I can't think of anything bad to say. Iain Banks is a god (although, being an atheist, he'd firmly deny that statement) and thats all there is to it :-)

This was written by Simon Walley. Feel free to do what you want with it as long as this message is left attached and as long as it remains in the electronic domain.

  Comparisons of Iains work.
  title
The Wasp Factory
Walking on Glass
The Bridge
Espedair Street
Canal Dreams
The Crow Road
Complicity
Whit
Consider Phlebas
The Player of Games
Use of Weapons
The State of the Art
Against a Dark Background
Feersum Endjinn
Excession
complexity
4
8
10
2
4
5
7
3
3
5
7
2
5
5
7
mood
fatally grim
mature fairytail
kafkaesque
flambouyant
conflict
warm
cocaine
    -
grim, wistful
amiable
somber
    -
jovially grim
oppressing
conspiratorial adventure
storyline
singular narrative
multiple narratives
multiple narratives
singular narrative
singular narrative
singular narrative
twin narratives
    -
singular narrative
twin narratives
multiple narratives
    -
    -
multiple narratives
multiple narratives
 
  - means that i haven't formed an accurate opinion yet
these assessments are purely subjective and vaguely cryptic. read them all.
  Does Wykes Folly (Espedair Street) exist?
"No, no. It's kind of an amalgam of various things, slightly weird properties on that side of Glasgow. In that west end part of Glasgow, there's a lot of strange-looking temples and churches and things of a religious nature. A lot of them have become restaurants, and even nightclubs... they aren't used for their original purpose now, so there's that sort of feel about them. The exact place is fairly well-defined, because it's on a corner between three different streets. I think when I wrote it, it was an old tenement, a block of flats, and I think they'd already boarded it up because it was about to be knocked down. I think it's now an office building or something, in the exact position. But it's kind of like the things around there." Excerpt from the Time off interview the full transcript
  Do Despot or Xerium (Complicity) exist?
To the best of my knowledge neither of these games exist. Despot is an advanced form of Civilisation. Which Iain was addicted to for quite some time. (if anyone can confirm the (non-)existence of Xerium).
  Have altered states played a part in Iain's writing?
No. With the exception of Canal Dreams, all his books have been written fully lucid. Canal Dreams was apparently written at odd hours following ample consumption of whiskey. " I've tried writing smashed, stoned, whatever; it tends not to work. You think you're producing a work of utter genius, guaranteed to win the Nobel Prize for literature - and probably chemistry as well - the following year. And this weird thing happens: you go to bed, and you wake up the next day and discover that somebody has broken in during the night, and without leaving any signs has managed to get into your computer, started up the program and subtly but horribly altered this work of a genius that you wrote the previous night. It still vaguely sounds or reads like you remember it reading before, but it's total crap. I worked out that there was no way around this; these strange people were always going to break into the flat if I'd been smoking or ingesting anything. So I gave that up." Excerpt from the Time off interview
  Is there any truth to the whiskey conspiracy in Complicity?
   From alt.books.iain-banks Jens Tingleff( jenstin@imaginet.fr) says :

I thought that the Whisky conspiracy story in 'Complicity' was - more or less - just another fictional entity (like that computer game ;-) ).

In yesterday's Independent (UK quality daily newspaper), the comic columnist Miles Kindston carries on about this. (He claims to have picked up on someone from the FT writing about the Whisky conspiracy.)

The good part is that there is a shop in Edinburgh which does non-filtered non-caramel-added Whisky. It's called "The Whisky Shop" (wow!) and is on the Royal Mile.

  The name of the narrator in The Bridge
   From Neale Grant and Simon Bisson on alt.books.iain-banks:

Alexander Lennox. There are three clues, if you read it closely. One's easy: we find out that he shares a surname with Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics. And he and Nicola used to get teased about being the last rulers of Imperial Russia (IIRC, Nicholas and Alexandra).

Three. His name is written in the truss diagrams he draws of the bridge.

  Is The Bridge a Culture Novel?
There is a mention of a knife missile in the final barbarian scene of The Bridge. Some argue that this is definitive evidence that The Bridge is in fact a Culture novel. Banks describes this rationale as "tenuous".
  The Azadian Debacle
The Azadian Debacle mentioned in Excession refers to the conspiracy of silence that the minds monitoring the Empire of Azad maintained (see Player of Games). At a lecture Iain said that "heads would roll" because of their actions. Presumably in the same manner as those involved in the Excession Conspiracy.
  Meanings to the dedications.
Consider Phlebas - is dedicated to a cousin, a sailor, who drowned in the south china seas.
Use of Weapons - Ken MacLeod persuaded Iain to rewrite UoW (out of retirement), and the structure of the novel (the fitness program).
  Banks to Film?
   The Crow Road was televised by the BBC in four hourly episodes.

   Well The Wasp Factory is mired in litigation :

"I'm in litigation at the moment over The Wasp Factory. Originally it was going to be made into a film by an American film company, but we didn't want it to become a typical American film, so we sold it to an Irish company. And then they got taken over by an American company. There was nothing they could do about it, of course, but there were lots of things we weren't very happy about - lots of technical stuff that I don't really understand. We told them we thought we should have the rights back because they had no intention of making the film: 'No, no, no, we have - honest!' So we're in litigation. Lots of money wasted... but it means, with a bit of luck, we'll get the rights back. To sell them on again. But I suspect the shelf life of The Wasp Factory is coming to an end - it was published in 1984, after all."         -interview with PC Format     also News

   Science Fiction :

Screenplays for Complicity and Player of Games are written and "are in the pipeline". According to an article in The Telegraph, a British Newspaper.

  Publisher's address
Little, Brown and Company (UK) Limited
165 Great Fover Street
London SE1 4YA
England

This faq was written and is maintained by Robert Keogh.


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