I emailed again in March 2013 when I heard the terrible news, expressing my disbelief and sadness and railing against the unfairness of the gods (not that Iain believed in any of that nonsense - "an evangelical atheist"
he had described himself). Mine was one of thousands of such messages of love and support he received.
Again, ever-mindful of politeness, Iain emailed back, as he doubtless replied to all his other shocked admirers.
Yup, he said, it felt unfair to him, but stuff like that just happens, and at least he'd lived a good life for nearly 60 years: "...children diagnosed with cancer... with bleak prognoses - that's unfair" he
But I was also plagued with guilt. I had told Iain during that Hay interview that I would adapt the thesis into a book one day - it was the right thing to do since it was the first full-length study of all
his work - but had I put any real effort into doing this? No I had not; thinking that my literary hero was probably immortal, this plan had slipped down my list of work priorities.
Now, while I'm sure that Mr Banks
had not been feverishly scanning the shelves of book-stores over the four years since I had made my pledge, all the same, this awful news made me feel very bad.
I had wanted him to read it, for him to feel pleased
to receive such a tribute to his remarkable writing; I'd even imagined him contacting me to say, "Now steady on - that conclusion you drew wasn't what I'd meant at
Spurred, belatedly, into action, I spent three months editing, re-writing and updating, turning a scholarly work into something which, while still fairly academic, was more accessible to people
who were not Eng. Lit. students.
The result was Gothic Dimensions: Iain Banks, Timelord, so called because it outlines the manner in which Banks was able to draw upon the intrinsic literary devices of historical
Gothic writing, renovate them for usage in the present-day and then project them, reinterpreted, into the far future of his science fiction (which he wrote as Iain M. Banks).
But as the completed book went to press,
Iain died. The possibility of another year had, it seemed, been optimistic.
So my personal regret is that he never held a copy of Gothic Dimensions in his hands. But more importantly, none of us, the awestruck
admirers of an imagination which knew no limits, will ever read a new Iain Banks book again.
How unbearably sad is that?