Iain Banks

Iain Menzies Banks (born on 16 February 1954 in Dunfermline, Fife) is a Scottish writer. He writes mainstream fiction under his birth name Iain Banks, and science fiction as Iain M. Banks, including his adopted middle name to differentiate between the genres.


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.

His latest book is a science fiction (SF) novel in the Culture series, called Matter, published in January, 2008.

Personal life

Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, living in Edinburgh and then Fife.

Banks met his wife Annie in London, before the release of his first book. They married in Hawaii in 1992. However, he announced in early 2007 that, after 25 years together, they had separated. 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 bottle green 3.2 litre Porsche Boxster, a burgundy Porsche 911 Turbo, a 3.8 litre Jaguar Mark II, a 5 litre black 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.


As with his friend Ken MacLeod (another Scottish writer of technical and social science fiction) 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.

In late 2004, Banks was a prominent 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. 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 unofficial middle name and 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 was also concerned about possible confusion with Rosie M. Banks, a minor character in some of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves novels who is a romantic novelist. After his first 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', although at one stage he considered John B. Macallan as his SF pseudonym, the name deriving from his favourite whiskies: Johnnie Walker Black Label and The Macallan single malt.


Novels as Iain Banks

Novels as Iain M. Banks

Much of Banks's science fiction deals with a vast interstellar civilisation, 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 .
  • 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 Road 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: The Professionals 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.
  • "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.
  • "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.


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