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How to Build Your SF Reference Library: Iain M. Banks

By / December 20, 2017 / no comments

The first book from Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory, was published on his 30th birthday in 1984. The last novel, The Quarry, came out just days after his death in 2013. In total he wrote 14 novels as by Iain Banks, many of which had science fictional or fantastic overtones; and 12 novels and one short story collection under the name Iain M. Banks, all of which were overtly science fiction; plus Transition, which appeared as by Iain Banks in the UK and as by Iain M. Banks in the US. The fact that his career seemed to be split in two is something that has shaped much of the criticism about his work; but it is the fact that his work is so popular, so inventive and so good that means there are so many studies in the first place.

If you want to read more about your favourite author, whether it is Iain Banks or Iain M. Banks, or both, here’s a selection of books you could start with.

        

The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks by Simone Caroti: The title says it all, really: this is a study of the nine novels and one novella that Banks wrote about his interstellar utopia.

The Transgressive Iain Banks edited by Martyn Colebrook and Katharine Cox: Again, from the title you can tell that this collection of essays is primarily about the “mainstream” Banks, though it does include interesting pieces on some of the science fiction.

The Science Fiction of Iain M. Banks edited by Nick Hubble, Esther MacCallum-Stewart and Joseph Norman: The latest book on Banks comes out early in January. It’s a collection of essays culled from a conference about Banks shortly after his death plus an attempt to stage the game of Azad (from The Player of Games) at the London Worldcon of 2014.

Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid: This is part of the Modern Masters of Science Fiction Series, so it concentrates mostly on the sf titles. But Kincaid argues that all of Banks’s work, both mainstream and science fiction, is interconnected, which makes this the only book on the list that covers everything Banks wrote.

Gothic Dimensions by Moira Martingale: This is a book that grew out of an academic thesis, it looks at how Banks was influenced by the Gothic, particularly in The Wasp Factory and The Bridge.

Mediating the World in the Novels of Iain Banks by Katarzyna Pisarska: Another academic book, this one covering all of his “mainstream” work. It is very good at showing how themes and images recur from one novel to another; it would have been even better if it had shown how those same themes and images recur in the sf also.

The number of books now available about so recent a writer is all the evidence you need for how popular and how important Banks was, in either strand of his career. So these six books are likely to be just a starting point.

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