Iain M Banks - going boldly into deep space

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IAIN M Banks is now the UK’s leading science fiction writer having sold more than 1.1 million books since the publication of the first Culture novel, Consider Phlebas, in 1987.

His last sci-fi hardback, Surface Detail, sold nearly 100,000 copies in the UK alone causing one critic to write, ‘All you could ask for in a space opera. Nobody does it better.’

Now, to mark the 25th anniversary of that first novel comes The Hydrogen Sonata - published in hardback today by Orbit - but what sci fi did the young Banks read? And who captured his imagination and inspired him to explore the world of deepest space?

“Science Fiction fascinated me from the off, before I even knew it existed as a separate genre,” he reveals.

“As a young kid, reading anything I could get my hands on, I just thought, ‘Here’s a different sort of adventure story, with space ships instead of pirate ships or WW2 warships...

“By my early teens, though, I was well into the genre and hunting down as many SF books as I could - in the local library, Gollancz’s yellow-with-a-splash-of-purple spine-colour scheme helped.

“I loved Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov and especially Aldiss, and adored the New Wave stuff of the late Sixties and early Seventies, much of it curated or produced by Michael Moorcock.

“What do I love most about SF? As either a reader or a writer, it’s that feeling of limitless possibility; as a reader, not knowing where or when or through whose eyes the story’s going to unfold, and - as a writer - just having the widest of canvasses offered up blank before you. There really is nothing quite like it.”