Iain Banks FAQ 5.5
UPDATE
12/02/2008 Matter updates, appearances and reviews updated

Culture Ship List now updated with ships featured in Matter
Iain Banks Downloads His Life article from Mail on Sunday still here
Interview on Sky Three's Book Show (audio only, 7MB) still here
Interview on BBC2's Culture Show (audio only, 7MB) still here
My Secret Life column from the Independent now reproduced here
Those Celebrity Mastermind questions on malt whisky have their own page
MAIL to faqme@iainbanksfaq.haddonstuffNOSPAM.co.uk; just remember to take the nospam bit out first.

ESSENTIAL

Q.Who is Iain Banks?
Q.When is Iain Banks' next reading/promo tour? UPDATED
Q.Have any of Iain Bank's books been made into films or TV shows?
Q.Are any of Iain Banks' works available as an audiobook? UPDATED
Q.When is Iain Banks next appearing on TV/Radio? UPDATED
Q.Does Iain have a website? UPDATED

LATEST PROJECTS


Q.What is Iain working on at the moment? UPDATED
Q.When is the next Culture novel out? UPDATED
Q.Where can I read reviews of Iain's latest work? UPDATED
Q.Where can I read his latest interviews? UPDATED



ON WRITING


Q.Does Iain Banks base his ideas on people he knows?
Q.Was Iain Banks' first novel autobiographical?
Q.Do any novels cover both science fiction and 'normal' fiction?
Q.Does Iain Banks write to an outline?
Q.Does Iain Banks carry out much research before writing his books?
Q.Will Iain Banks publish work in other literary genres than science fiction?
Q.How long does it take for Iain Banks to write a book?
Q.What was Iain Banks' first novel?
Q.Has Iain Banks had any unpublished work?
Q.Why does Iain Banks write in two different genres?
Q.Why did Iain Banks become a writer?
Q.Has Iain Banks ever experienced writer's block?

WITH AN M

Q.Where can I find the epilogue to Against A Dark Background, not included in the book?
Q.Is there a list of the Culture ships?
Q.Why does he use a middle initial for some of his work?
Q.Which of his books feature The Culture?
Q.What timescale (in Earth terms) do the Culture novels cover?
Q.What do the various Culture ship acronyms stand for?
Q.What are the various emotion colours given off by the drones?
Q.Is the Culture's policy of assimilation an echo of the West's cultural imperialism?
Q.Will there be a sequel to 'Use of Weapons'?
Q.Which poem inspired the titles 'Consider Phlebas' and 'Look To Windward'?
Q.Which of his own 'M' books is Iain Banks' favourite?
Q.When did the Culture first appear in an Iain Banks book? 
Q.If the Culture is Iain Banks' image of utopia, was the Idiran empire his image of dystopia?  
Q.How does Iain Banks think up the names for the aliens in his work?
Q.Apart from the book covers, have illustrators used Iain Banks' books as inspiration?
Q.Why doesn't Iain Banks always write about the Culture in his SF work?


WITHOUT AN M


Q.Has he written any non-fiction?
Q.Does the 'happy ending' of the Bridge really appear in another of his novels?
Q.Will there be a sequel to 'The Wasp Factory' ?
Q.Which of his 'non-M' books is Iain Banks' favourite?
Q.Is Crow Road autobiographical?
Q.Is there such a place as Espedair Street? And does Wykes Folly exist?

OTHER STUFF

Q.What tracks did Iain Banks choose for his Personal Effects Songbook CD?
Q.Which football team does Iain Banks support?
Q.What is Iain Banks' favourite science-fiction film?
Q.Does Iain Banks like the work of J D Ballard?
Q.Did Iain go to university?
Q.Has Iain ever appeared in a movie?
Q.Has Iain Banks ever appeared on an album?
Q.Who are Iain Bank's favourite authors?
Q.What books have had an impact on Iain Banks?
Q.Does Iain Banks have a favourite whisky?
Q.What was the first science fiction book that Iain Banks read?
Q.What is Iain Banks' favourite Scottish novel of the twentieth century?
Q.Does Iain Banks think that technology is a good or bad thing? 
Q.Does Iain Banks use the internet? What's his e-mail address? 
Q.Does Iain Banks like graphic novels? 

ESSENTIAL

Q.Who is Iain Banks?

A.Writer, born Dunfermline, Scotland, 16/02/1954. Writes fiction (including science fiction) and one factual book.

Q.When is Iain Banks' next reading/promo tour? UPDATED

A. Check the appearances thread of the official forum for up-to-date info, as well as Dave H's Banksoniain calendar

Some appearances of note:

Monday 12th May, Lincoln Book Festival, Drill Hall, Lincoln
http://www.lincolnbookfestival.co.uk

Recent highlights included:

Tuesday 29th January, Scottish Writers' Series for 2008, Scotland House, Rond Point, Schuman 6, Brussels, Belgium
Photo and mp3s available here

Q. Have any of Iain Banks' books been made into films or TV shows?

A.'The Crow Road' was adapted into a TV mini-series for the BBC in 1996. 'Complicity' was released as a film in 2000. Rights to film 'The Wasp Factory' are still the subject of lengthy legal dispute.  Iain has said he'd like to see 'Consider Phlebas' filmed now that special effects technology could handle the scenarios: "I wouldn't even mind if they changed the ending, have Arnold Schwartzenegger play Horza - he wins and gets the girl! But what I'm really dreading is they're going to make the spaceships look all wrong." <back to top of page>

Q.Are any of Iain Banks' works available as an audiobook? UPDATED

A. Several of his books have been recorded.

Matter is available as an abridgement on CD as well as in full on iTunes
Unabridged books include Dead Air, The Business, Raw Spirit. Abridged books include The Algebraist, Song Of Stone, The Wasp Factory, Whit, Walking On Glass and, ahem, The Bridge.

Q.When is Iain Banks next appearing on TV/Radio? UPDATED

A. Expect (hopefully) some appearances to coincide with the launch of Matter in February 2008. Though I've neither seen not heard anything yet.

Mark Lawson interviewed Iain on Front Row; Radio 4 on Wednesday 7th March 2007

He was interviewed by Mariella Frostrup on Sky/Artsworld's Book Club in March 2007 (audio version here)

He was interviewed by Peter Capaldi on BBC2's Culture Show in February 2007 (audio version here)

In March, the BBC World Service are recording an episode of World Book Club that features The Wasp Factory.

He was interviewed by Mark Lawson as part of BBC4's Science Fiction Britannia season;

Appearances in 2006 included a number of BBC radio shows; interviews from the Edinburgh Book Festival, Wells Literature festival and an in-studio spot on the last outing of BBC6's 'Rocket Science'. The Wells interview is, for the time being, still on the BBC Somerset website

The Radio 4 'history of science-fiction' series 'Imagining Albion' featured Iain in two episodes, talking mainly about the Culture. It also featured some brief readings of his work.

He was on TV over Christmas 2005, winning his episode of Celebrity Mastermind with 'malt whisky and the distilleries of Scotland' as his specialist subject. Follow this link for those questions, along with educational and informative hyperlinks ;) As captain of the Writers team, he also made two winning appearances on University Challenge; questions to follow if I get a really slow day at work.

Q. Does Iain have a website? UPDATED

A. His official site, recently revamped, can be found at http://www.iain-banks.net/

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LATEST PROJECTS

Q.What is Iain working on at the moment? UPDATED

A. With the new Culture novel, Matter, now in the shops, he's due for a non-M sometime by 2010. No details are available at this time.

In the meantime, a new short story of his will be featured in a collection of writing in August for Amnesty Internatiional on the theme of universal human rights.

More info here:

http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5hzIrj2_FEpIsoFH8YwvVwBpOLDhA

http://www.bloodlikewater.com/

Q When is the next Culture novel out? UPDATED

A. Give the guy a break...

Q. Where can I read reviews of Iain's work? UPDATED

A. Reviews of Matter can be found here;

Telegraph:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/02/10/boban110.xml

The Times: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_reviews/article32884 .ece

Guardian:
http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/generalfiction/0,,2254874,00.html

SFF World: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/418.html

Ed
Ashby: http://edash.wordpress.com/2008/01/26/matter-book-review/

Some of those dry and dusty reviews of The Steep Approach to Garbadale can be found here:

The Observer
Private Eye - pdf repro here
Scotsman
Independent
Time Out

Q. Where can I read his latest interviews? UPDATED

A. Publisher's Week:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6525179.html?nid=3336

The Times: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/body_and_soul/article3288415.ece

Guardian:
http://books.guardian.co.uk/whyiwrite/story/0,,2253781,00.html


Craig Mcgill: http://craig-mcgill.com/2008/02/08/the-iain-banks-a-rama/

And here's a selection from 2007:

The Times, 17th February
The Independent, 18th February
Sunday Times, 25th February and another article here
The Herald, February 26th

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ON WRITING

Q.Does Iain Banks base his ideas on people he knows?

He has said not - "too dangerous - I need all the friends I can get and have no desire to get biffed on the nose because someone thought their portrait was unflattering". For the Iain Banks 'food processor' approach to using real world characters and events in novels see issue 7 of the Banksoniain

Q.Was Iain Banks' first novel autobiographical?

A.Whichever way you define his 'first novel', the answer's No.

Q.Do any novels cover both science fiction and 'normal' fiction?

A.Yes - 'State of the Art' (Iain Banks has said so in interview). Possibly also 'The Business' (possible starting point of something like the Culture on earth) and, as often mentioned on the Iain Banks Forum, 'The Bridge'.

Q. Does Iain Banks write to an outline?

A. Yes. "Making it up as you go along doesn't work for me, I like to know what I'm doing. You allow yourself some leeway and sometimes thing go off in an unexpected direction. Having said that 'The Business' didn't quite work that way and turned out the most different to all of my works... it did have an outline, but it was more honored in the departure than the execution of it. It turned out fine and it actually looked like it was all totally planned. Which was probably more luck than anything else. It was a slightly unsettling experience.

Q. Does Iain Banks carry out much research before writing his books?

A. Direct quote: "as little as possible"

Q. Will Iain Banks publish work in other literary genres than science fiction?

A. Unlikely given his aversion to research, he once said that he'd "found his two niches".
 

Q. How long does it take for Iain Banks to write a book?

A. He usually seems to start writing in September and aim to finish by the year end: '3000 words a day, eight hours a day, five days a week' (source: Guardian interview, 1999)

Q. What was Iain Banks' first novel?

A. His first novel, written when he was 14, is unpublished. It was a spy story heavily influenced by the works of Alister MacLean. His first published work was The Wasp Factory.

Q. Has Iain Banks had any unpublished work?

A. Well, his first novel (see question above) is unpublished. As is his second novel, a 'near-future satire/comedy). Influenced by Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and John Brunner's Stand On Zanzibar, it ran to over 400,000 words. His next three books  - Use of Weapons, Against A Dark Background and Player of Games - were unpublished in their original form.

Q. Why does Iain Banks write in two different genres?

A. He had no joy in finding a publisher for his first three SF books (see question above) and so wrote The Wasp Factory to try and make a name for himself via 'mainstream' fiction. He has said that if Player of Games had been published the first time around, he may have only written SF and so feels 'privileged' to be writing in two genres.

Q. Why did Iain Banks become a writer?

A. He has said that there was no single incident; he enjoyed writing at school, his teachers were impressed, his parents were happy about this and so was he when he found out that people called 'writers' got paid for writing!

Q. Has Iain Banks ever experienced writer's block?

A. Not really, in his words 'trivial' compared to other writers. He did suffer a hiatus during the Gulf War whilst writing Crow Road - he ended up watching the TV news instead of writing.

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WITH AN M

Q.Is there a list of the Culture ships?

A.Indeedy. See the link at the top of the page.

Q.Why does he use a middle initial for some of his work?

A.It's to identify his science fiction works. M is for Menzies.

Q.Which of his books feature The Culture?

A.In published chronological order; Consider Phlebas, The Player Of Games ,Use Of Weapons,(short bits in State of the Art), Excession, Inversion, Look To Windward

Q.What timescale (in Earth terms) do the Culture novels cover?

A.7000 BC - Birth of the Culture
14th Century AD - Consider Phlebas
19th - 21st Century AD - Use Of Weapons
1977 AD - "The State Of The Art"
22nd Century AD - Look To Windward

And this version takes in more detail from the novels (source: alt.books.iain-banks Culture FAQ)

7250 BC : Phage Rock first inhabited. Note: This is a best guess, it was certainly pre 7000 BC.
7000 BC : Birth of the Culture
0500 AD : Zetetic Elench split from Culture
0970 AD : Pittance discovered. Note: +/- 100 years.
1267 AD : Hostilities begin between Idir and Culture.
1289 AD : First warship built by Culture.
1307 AD : First machine fatalities between Idir and Culture.
1326 AD : Culture War Council results in splitting of some sections from the main part of Culture.
1327 AD : Official start of war between Culture and Idir.
1330 AD : Events of Consider Phlebas. Note: Possible inaccuracy.
1332 AD : Homomda joins war on Idir side.
1366 AD : Twin Novae Battle of Arm One-Six. Note: Possible inaccuracy.
1367 AD : End of Culture-Idiran War in space.
1375 AD : Official end of Culture-Idiran War.
1575 AD : Pittance modified to become Culture weapons store. Note: Best guess.
1977 AD : Culture GCU "Arbitrary" visits Earth (from "The State of the Art").
2070 AD : Events of The Player Of Games. Note: +/- 100 years.
2080 AD : Diziet Sma recounts events of The State of the Art, possibly while en route to Crastallier. Note: +/- 10 years.
2093 AD : Sma writes poem,'Slight Mechanical Destruction' after events of Use Of Weapons. NB:115 Khmer calendar, Earth.
2100 AD : Events of Excession. Note: +/- 100 years but Excession events definitely after The Player Of Games.
2170 AD : Light from the Twin Novae Battle reaches Masaq' Orbital; events of Look To Windward. Note: +/- 10 years.
 

Q. What do the various Culture ship acronyms stand for?

A. GSV = General Systems Vehicle
MSV = Medium Systems Vehicle
LSV = Light/Limited Systems Vehicle
GCU = General Contact Unit
GOU = General Offensive Unit
LOU = Light/Limited Offensive Unit
ROU = Rapid Offensive Unit
dROU = decomissioned Rapid Offensive Unit
HOU = Heavy Offensive Unit
VFP = Very Fast Picket
HL = Heavy Lifter

Q.What are the various emotion colours given off by the drones?

A.Yellow-green - "Mellow approachability"
Green - Friendliness
Pink - Amusement
Red - Amusement/pleasure
Red (pulsing) - Laughter
Deep red - Pleasure
Orange (pulsing) - SDED "Sick Drone in Extreme Distress"
Olive-purple - Awe
Purple - Contrition
Blue - Formal
Brown - Displeasure
Grey - Displeased
Gunmetal - Confusion
Silver - Do not disturb
White - Angry

Q.Is the Culture's policy of assimilation an echo of the West's cultural imperialism?

A."Sort of. Yes. Except the Culture doesn't have its own economic self-interest at heart, so it's nicer." source

Q.Will there be a sequel to 'Use of Weapons'?

A.No.

Q.Which poem inspired the titles 'Consider Phlebas' and 'Look To Windward'?

A.'The Wasteland', T S Ellot (1922) lines 319-321; "Gentile or Jew / O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, / Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you."

Q.Which of his own 'M' books is Iain Banks' favourite?

A.'Use of Weapons' (his second favourite overall, his favourite being 'The Bridge')

Q. When did the Culture first appear in an Iain Banks book?

A. Strictly speaking, it was in 'Use of Weapons' which was first drafted in 1974. The first published novel featuring the Culture was 'Consider Phlebas' in 1987.

Q. If the Culture is Iain Banks' image of utopia, was the Idiran empire his image of dystopia?

A. "Pretty much. The Idiran empire was to be the antithesis of the Culture; deeply religious, racist (well, speciesist), centralist, warlike and basically fascisistic".

Q. How does Iain Banks think up the names for the aliens in his work?

A. Direct quote from interview: "I could tell you, but then I'd have to wipe your memory"

Q. Apart from the book covers, have illustrators used Iain Banks' books as inspiration?

A. Yes - take a look at the excellent work over on www.fastness.co.uk

Q. Why doesn't Iain Banks always write about the Culture in his SF work?

A. He says that he feels very protective towards his non-Culture SF novels; although he finds writing about the Culture enjoyable he's "terribly reluctant" to be seen to be only writing a book series to give "SF junkies" their "regular fix".

Q. Where can I find the epilogue to Against A Dark Background, not included in the book?

The Culture Data Repository site has a copy here (opens in new window).

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WITHOUT AN M

Q.Has he written any non-fiction?

A.Yes - Raw Spirit, 2003. He visits lots of Scotch malt distilleries, gives his opinions on the whiskies, all wrapped up in a travelogue/semi-autobiographical style.

Q.Does the 'happy ending' of the Bridge really appear in another of his novels?

A.Yes - it's in Complicity

Q.Will there be a sequel to 'The Wasp Factory'?

A.Asked this in an interview he said: "I'd do it if I thought of a total cracker of an idea that would carry the book beyond the initial idea (though I think this is unlikely to happen). I don't think I would if it was just for money. But then ask me when/if I'm poor and maybe I'd change my mind." He's also said that "I had an idea that Frank was going to go in search of his mother - that was the plot. I even had a title, The Lost Wax Method."

Q.Which of his 'non-M' books is Iain Banks' favourite?

A.'The Bridge' (also his overall favourite as well, with 'Use Of Weapons' being his second fave)

Q. Is Crow Road autobiographical?

A. 'Very, very small bits' are biographical (he did have an aunt who fell through a greenhouse) but he's said that Prentice's life hasn't got anything to do with his own (source: interview, 1999)

Q. Is there such a place as Espedair Street? And does Wykes Folly exist?

A. Yes and No. Espedair Street can be found in Charleston, Paisley. Wykes Folly is "kind of an amalgam of various things, slightly weird properties on that side of Glasgow...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." (source: Time Off interview, 1995)

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OTHER STUFF

Q.What tracks did IMB choose for his Personal Effects Songbook CD?

A.1. Don't Bang The Drum - Waterboys
2. Heroes - David Bowie
3. Little Britain - Dreadzone
4. The Factory - Warren Zevon
5. Man Child - Neneh Cherry
6. Get Up Stand Up - Peter Tosh
7. Satisfaction - Devo
8. Pretty Vacant - Sex Pistols
9. Karma Police - Radiohead
10. For Michael Collins, Jeffery & Me - Jethro Tull
11. Walking Down Madison - Kirsty MacColl
12. Shot By Both Sides - Magazine
13. Echo Beach - Martha & The Muffins
14. Babylon's Burning - Ruts
15. Unexpected Join - Ivor Cutler
16. Sleeping Satellite - Tasmin Archer
17. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson
18. Dark Moon High Tide - Afro Celt Sound System
19. Love Anyway - Mike Scott

Q.Which football team does Iain Banks support?

A.Greenock Morton - mentions this is 'Raw Spirit' as he spent his formative years in the Inverclyde area. Apparently, his wife refers to them as 'Mortonnil'...

Q.What is Iain Banks' favourite science-fiction film?

A.Dark Star

Q.Does Iain Banks like the work of J D Ballard?

A.Yes - he's a fan and thinks that "his style is so intrinsically his I find it hard to imagine anyone aping it without making themselves look just plain silly."

Q. Did Iain Banks go to university?

A. Yes - he studied English, philosophy and psychology at Stirling University

Q. Has Iain Banks ever appeared in a movie?

A. Yes - he was an extra in the final battle scene of Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Q. Has Iain Banks ever appeared on an album?

A. Yes - on Then Jericho's 1998 album Orgasmophobia; he reads an extract over the instrumental track titled 'Iain Banks'. NB - following track on the album is called 'Walking On Glass'. On the Chris Coco album 'Next Wave', iain reads on a track called 'Dreaming'.

And let's not forget the 1996 CD 'The Bridge'; music by Gary Lloyd, inspired by Banks' book; Iain himself narrates several passages from the text.

Q. Who are Iain Bank's favourite authors?

A. "Jane Austen, Tolstoy, Graham Greene and Saul Bellow. Loads of underrated science fiction authors - M. John Harrison should be a megastar, but he probably couldn't be because he's too rarefied a taste, I suppose; John Sladeck, who should have been the Terry Pratchett of the Seventies; and I've always had a soft spot for Barrington J. Bayley."

And a few scince fiction writers to add to that list; Brian Aldiss, Bester, Jorge Luis Borges, John Brunner, Arthur C. Clarke, Samuel Delaney, Alasdair Gray, Ursula LeGuin, Frank Herbert, Aldous Huxley, Ken MacLeod, Jeff Noon, Kim Stanley Robinson, Dan Simmons, Olaf Stapledon, Vernor Vinge, Kurt Vonnegut, Ian Watson, Gene Wolfe

Q. What books have had an impact on Iain Banks?

A. "Catch 22 and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are the last two books which had an enormous effect on me before I started to get my own stuff together. These are the two most influential books of my formative years. Everything you read affects you to some extent."

Q. Does Iain Banks have a favourite whisky?

A. In interviews he's said that his favourite blend is Johnnie Walker Black Label and his favourite single malt is The Macallan (he toyed with the idea of using the name John B. Macallan for his science fiction novels). In 'Raw Spirit', however, Iain shows a clear predilection for Glenfiddich Havana Reserve.

Q. What was the first science fiction book that Iain Banks read?

A. He thinks it's 'Kemlo and the Zones of Silence' by E C Eliot (pseudonym of Reginald Alec Martin)

Q. What is Iain Banks' favourite Scottish novel of the twentieth century?

A. 'Lanark' by Alasdair Gray (Iain called it a 'landmark')

Q. Does Iain Banks think that technology is a good or bad thing?

A. "Technology is neither good nor bad, it's up to the user. We can't escape what we are, which is a technological species. There's no way back"

Q. Does Iain Banks use the internet? What's his e-mail address?

A. He's been quoted in the past as saying he doesn't use the net or e-mail, but times change. At one point there was a net-connected computer next door at his parent's house. As for that e-mail address.... do you really think we'd tell you ;-)

Q. Does Iain Banks like graphic novels?

A. He's said that he seems to have something against them and has never really read them much, but did like the small amount of Neil Gaiman's work that he's read. In the late 80's he nearly worked the artist SMS on a 'Gothic and bloody' graphic novel but the project didn't take off.

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ESSENTIAL LINKS

www.iainbanks.net - official site

http://213.253.134.7/banks/forum2/default.asp - official fan forum

http://www.banksoniain.netfirms.com/ - The Banksoniain fanzine

http://www.haddonstuff.co.uk/banksie.htm - all sorts of drivel about the man and his work

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