With the tragic death of Iain Banks I want to express how much this great writer meant to me and how he and I were finally linked a few hours too late for him to ever know.
For as long as I can remember I wanted to write about space ships. I wanted to write about alien species, galactic journeys and space-faring adventurers. Teachers told me I was a good writer but I needed to grow up and write about the real world, about real people and real feelings. Eventually I listened. First I stopped writing science-fiction and then I stopped reading it.
That was a huge mistake. Now Iím older I realise everyone should follow their own path, regardless of how unpopular it is with others. Why should everyone be the same? And why would teachers try to make it so? Iíll never understand that.
It was only when I picked up Consider Phlebas and read the opening line ĎThe ship didnít even have a nameí that the upside-down world Iíd inhabited for years finally righted itself. With his original brand of sci-fi, full of incredible new species, intelligent spacecraft and underhand galactic politics, Iain Banks brought me back to the genre after years in exile. First I returned to reading it and then - tentatively with one look over my shoulder for my English teacher - I went back to writing it.
I have Iain Banks solely to thank for my reintroduction to sci-fi but that's not my only link with him. We used to live around the corner from each other in Edinburgh, he used to drink in the same pub as me and when I moved to Fife he moved there too. I used to joke that he was stalking me.
The tenuous links continued when I wrote a couple of my own science fiction books, one of which Ė Convergent Space Ė was mildly successful and was compared to Banks by one or two very kind reviewers. I often wondered whether Banks would one day hear about me or maybe read one of my books. What an accolade that would be.
To Iain Banks of course, I am the ship that didnít even have a name. He didnít know we used to drink in the same pub, live around the corner from each other or that we both chose to move from one place to another place at the same time. He didnít know me from Adam. Nor is he likely to have read any of my books.
But on the day he died the BBC News picked up the tweet Iíd written in tribute to him and used it in their main article announcing his death. Finally, too late for him to ever know, my name was momentarily linked with his - and for real this time.
Iím immensely privileged to be associated with Iain Banks, even for the briefest of moments. Unfortunately the circumstances were tragic. He was taken too soon and nothing can diminish the loss of such a unique and astoundingly creative author.
If you want to read the BBC article where my quote appears, itís here.