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Yesterday brought the saddest of news. Iain M Banks, author of The Wasp Factory and creator of the Culture novels, has passed away shortly after being given a terminal diagnosis of advanced gall bladder cancer. He was 59, which is no age at all, really.

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I was lucky enough to meet him a few times, at Newcon, where I ran into him outside the toilets and managed to blether something about how much I’d loved Excession, and at Forbidden Planet, where I mentioned Bristolcon to him and he took a handful of flyers from me and handed them out to everyone who got a book signed, urging them to come along (he wasn’t even a guest, and I didn’t ask him to, he just did it. That’s the kind of guy he was.)

The last time was a Q and A at Waterstones in Bristol, where he talked for an hour and answered questions with equal amounts of patience, charm and mischievous good humour. He was a gent, a connoisseur of fine whisky, someone who managed to cleverly bridge the divide between SF and mainstream literature without pissing anyone off, and he will be hugely missed by people on both sides of the fence.

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RIP Banksy. Raising a wee dram to you, wherever you are.

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