Back at the Edinburgh book festival, which I claimed I was going to write more about, we saw Iain Banks at one of the big events. Iain, of Culture novels fame – was giving a talk essentially about being Iain Banks, followed by a book signing. The whole thing was something I was intending to blog about immediately afterwards in the pub, as I’d done the day before, but a rather nasty headache overtook me and so the on-the-spot blathering was quietly dropped. Overall, though, I do believe I have added to the Banks’ canon.
So here’s how I remember it.
We turned up early, to the point of being first in the queue. In no way are either of us a fanboy or fangirl respectively. Given that it was SF, does that make us fanbeings? In any case, we were first in the door and by happy chance none of the front row seats were reserved, which is how we came to be right in front of him, a mere smattering of feet away.
(I’m really racking my mind to think what was said, the danger of waiting a few months to note things down. As opposed to my memories of the computer games industry, where the notes have waited something like sixteen years.)
Anyway, the important thing happened afterwards at the signing. Lesley had given me Matter and I was dithering about whether I was wanting it signed, meaning that I worried whether I would be too star-struck to form sentences in front of the great man. Lesley contrived to escape from the signing queue, the better vantage point from which to watch everyone smile and nod and say their names and then Iain’s autograph would be jotted down.
Most people brought a single novel; Matter was a clear favourite, being newly released. One or two brought a whole pile of books and the guy in front of us had a Kindle. The mystery of how he was going to get an electronic book signed was resolved when he also had a normal book. A Book, book. Someone asked for Iain to write “something inspirational” to which his response was “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
I think we can all live with that.
But then it was my turn and in a sudden fit of inspiration I asked for his full Culture name! In the Culture, you see, your full name also includes your planet and star system of birth. Emboldened, I managed to mumble out the question that I’d been too chicken to ask in the talk itself. Given that Arthur C Clarke has a law and Asimov has his laws of robotics, does Iain Banks have his own law?
I was amazed that he only needed a second or two to think this over and come up with a clear answer on the spot, though as he said, laughing, it was still a first draft.
“Any worldview, indistinguishable from solipsism, is wrong.”
I left happy. The remainder of the evening involved the train back and watching a massive glow in the sky from what was apparently a fire at a chemical plant. But that’s another story.
Sci Fi Now
Arthur C Clarke
The Stone Unturned
Where there’s a Sea
Edinburgh Book Festival
Predicting the Future