Tag Archive: Iain M. Banks


Turns out this is a bad week for SF fans. I owe a lot of my current fascination with space opera to Iain (M) Banks, and so the news of his condition was like a knife twisting in my gut. I’m glad he still has things to look forward to with his marriage and honeymoon, but he deserves much better.

At the time I had started reading Consider Phlebas, his first Culture novel, I hadn’t read SF for about six years, and actually reading very little. I was also separated from my wife at that time and generally in a demented mental state. Tough times. I took a chance on Consider Phlebas after seeing it many times at Bakka Books, seduced by its cover and the staff’s recommendations. The opening quotes and the first three pages hooked me as few novels do, and the rest of its pages jacked open my skull and dominated my brain for years to come.  The man is a living mountain of SFA few years later, I realized that he was the forefront of “the New Space Opera” and I feel he still is.

He is a blessing to science fiction, tearing down what was once a dismissed artform and reinvigorating it to such a degree that its audience has grown widespread and most importantly, the genre respected again.  Iain brought us hard science, compelling ideas, stunning creativity and scoops of the irreverence and thought provoking themes that make his work so damn likable and hard to put aside.

I tip my hat to his creative soul and wish him all the best in the face of this disturbing news.

Deepest regards,

–Ken

 

To Iain,

Thanks for creating something that turned my life around, and gave me something precious: a new horizon to explore.

— Ken

TBRSRKR1979he Berserkers have been around a very long time – and not just in the fabric of its own universe. Fred Saberhagen published his stories of planet-sized robotic killing machines gradually extinguishing all life wherever they encountered it in 1963 and ever since, its been a strong contender: Berserker stories were still being published in 2005, with Rogue Berserker as its most recent title.

Its hard to say whether Saberhagen created the original race of robotic killing machines, but in the wake of Berserker, there are an awful lot of similar creations expounding upon the concept and not just in SF Literature circles – the Inhibitors of Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space series, the Necrons of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 and the Reapers/Old Machines from Bioware’s SF RPG video game, Mass Effect and these are just the most notable ones. Aliens and their robotoc creations have always been rather opposed to human life (and life in general), so as a concept they have attracted the imaginations of many an author.

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The Vintage SF Not-A-Challenge over at The Little Red Reviewer

Berserker has been sitting on my “Reading List” shelf for nigh on eight years now, ever since I kicked off my own “vintage SF reading spree”, though it was a very hard task to actually find a copy. Eventually, I buckled in to online stores and got myself a nice paperback version. It sat there for quite some time, as my reading list is well over fifty books and never seems to go down at all, but Berserker got fast tracked when the Little Red Reviewer announced her Vintage SF Not-A-Challenge.

Berserker is an anthology of short stories connected by the common thread of their subject matter – the Berserkers, and described by one of the Carmpan, a race of telepathic aliens that almost saw extinction at the hands of the Berserkers, if they hadn’t have allied themselves with good Ol’ Humanity.  The Berserkers are the left over weapons of an ancient war between two technological advanced races, the Builders and the Red Race. When the Builders perfected their doomsday creations that would later be called “Berserkers” by the children of Earth, they weren’t to know that they would take their programming to incredible lengths and continue their destruction well after the last of the Red Race was to fall, or that they’d be the next and definitely not the last, civilization to fall prey to them. Since then, the Berserkers have roved the galaxy, exterminating any semblance of living sentience – learning about their enemies, understanding their defences and taking them apart piece by piece until nothing is left. They are pretty much the biggest kick in the teeth Asimov’s Laws of Robotics ever received, I think.

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Event Horizon: Singularity

The “Singularity” – informational, technological, or any other kind – keeps coming up in Science Fiction these days. The idea of it obviously the cause for much great science fiction, and of course this should be explored, but at the same time I wonder if it will shift the focus of science fiction toward this limit itself – and leave many other sections of the genre to wane in popularity.

Revolution to Revolution: First Edition of Triplanetary with its “modern” counterpart, Consider Phlebas.

Space opera, is a good example. I’ve long been a space opera fan, from its pulpiness to its hard science version in modernity. However, going back to read the Lensman series by E.E. “Doc” Smith is to submerge oneself in an archaic past. It’s very hard to go from Iain M. Banks’, Alastair Reynolds’ and Neal Asher’s worlds and read what is considered the pioneer of Space Opera. In his time, Smith was the cutting edge of SF, so much so that the US Navy operations were eventually inspired by his ideas. But fast-forward today and its all common place. None of the technology or ideas are particularly far reaching. Everything is dated. Even its characters who are so rooted in pre-1950 culture, where men are real men and women are… housewives.  Obviously that was the sign of the times and not everything is meant to last, but still, we’re talking 60 years ago.

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As Time Goes By

I don’t think this website is the place for memorials that need to be taken seriously and with severe empathy. My belief is that would be a crass act indeed.

Instead, I will point out this book:  Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks.   Even though it wasn’t written about the World Trade Center attacks of 11th September 2001, it is a book about  such an event from both sides – its emotional reasoning, impact and the nature of lingering memories and guilt.

Science Fiction helps us find answers to thing we can’t understand.

My apologies in advance to Mr. Banks for associating his excellent work with such a tragedy. /tips hat

For Niagara Region/Canada residents who geo-cache, I will bring your attention to this one: As Time Goes By, since it will provide a much more heartfelt and affecting memorial that the WTC attacks were felt worldwide, than I ever could on a SF website.

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