It’s an odd experience seeing the national news carry extensive reports on the passing of somebody you know rather than someone you merely know about. I can’t claim to have been bosom buddies with Iain Banks, but we exchanged emails from time to time and had chatted over a dram or two in the occasional bar, and he even came to Northampton for a long weekend when I invited him to be Guest of Honour at a convention… Iain was someone I both liked and admired.
When he first announced his illness back in April, I emailed him. I didn’t do so with any expectation of a response, but because I felt compelled to at least register my dismay. Iain replied the same day, and that triggered an exchange of messages in which he told me of his honeymoon, further expensive holidays he and Adele (whom he had invited to become his widow) were planning, and the fast car he had just treated himself too – the type he used to drive in his youth before green conscience got the better of him. It’s a measure of the man that he found the time to participate in such banter when he had so little left to give and doubtless many more worthy than me to claim it.
Despite the diagnosis, I clung to the hope that Iain would beat the odds and still be there to raise a glass or three in the bar at next year’s Eastercon in Glasgow.
Ian Watson, Ian McKenna, Iain Banks, Ian Whates – October 2008; photo by Deirdre Walsh
Iain’s passing comes all too soon after that of another fine writer and friend, Debbie Miller. Debs, who wrote as both Deborah J Miller and Miller Lau, may not have been as renowned as Iain and her death may not have made the national news, but that doesn’t make her loss any less hard to accept. Debs was a special lady. She will be missed for her writing, for all the work she invested into getting the David Gemmell Awards established and ensuring their future, but most of all for her warmth, wisdom, and capacity to care.
I know that in the coming months or more, when I sip from a drink I’ll be remembering two special people; and if there’s a smile on my lips as I do so, it won’t be because I’m dishonouring their memory or have forgotten what has been lost. Quite the reverse. It’ll be because I never will.
Deborah J Miller, Ken MacLeod