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Frith
I just heard that Iain Banks died this morning.

I was introduced to his science fiction books (published as Iain M. Banks) when I was fourteen and doing work experience at QinetiQ, by a scientist who, on finding out that I already loved Wyndham and Asimov and Bradbury but had no real idea of how to go about locating more sci-fi outside of the children's section of my very tiny local bookshop, immediately lent me The Player of Games and The State of the Art. I didn't have the context to understand all the themes in them, but I loved them.

I read and re-read all of his Culture novels over the next few years. I own them all (except for The Hydrogen Sonata which isn't out in paperback yet). I love the alien races that feel alien, the discussions of sentience and morality, and the idea of how acting brings one to significance in such a huge galaxy. I love how the main protagonists in his books are often not the characters who think that they are. I love the sense of wonder, and scope, and this is what we can be.

Two years ago, I met him at the Hay festival. My mother and I went together, to see four authors on one day, and then camped overnight and waited until the evening of the next day so that I could see Banks. He was lovely. Massively enthusiastic and all but bouncing around the stage as he talked about writing and space and science. The audience got to ask questions, and I asked him about gender and sexual identity in the Culture (while my mother pretended not to know me) and he gave it serious thought and we had a brief discussion and it was great :D Then I queued up afterwards to get some of my books signed and he recognised me and we chatted about this some more and he said he liked being asked questions he wasn't sure how to answer. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to write sci-fi too. He laughed and said, "Well, why the hell not! Get out there!"

He wrote books that make me want to write books too, and he seemed like a really, really lovely and intelligent and kind person, and I'm truly upset by his death.

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