I never know what to say when someone dies, even 10 years on. Gala and I joked my epitaph should be, “Fuck you looking at? I’ll knife ya.” Ten years ago, Iain Banks died. Shit joke. Unequivocally my fave author at the time. I’ve read a heap since then and in that specific genre only Tamsyn Muir and Ann Leckie have come close. Yeah, a lot of other writers are amazing and touched my heart, made me laugh, but this is the you can take a tote bag of books to a desert island kind of love and it’s those three with Iain forever first.
Like so many weird subculture scenes, Iain got the attention of way too many straight white dudes. And because he was a nominally straight white dude, with a love of fast cars, whiskey and drugs, he doesn’t get much attention outside that very mediocre bubble of dudes talking. Yeah, Excession is a banger of a space opera, but have you read Feersum Endjinn? Or Whit? That shit has radical, liberatory politics all the way through. He was writing Black, Brown, trans, queer liberation and love back in the ’90s. And he always seemed like one of those so rare, genuinely good, thoughtful, fun, caring men. The kind we need a whole lot more of.
Over the almost twenty years of this blog, I’ve written about or mentioned him in the low hundreds of posts. He even has his own tag, though for that number he should be a category. Here’s some of my faves, chronologically.
Which caused me to read some of my own writing from the last decade and I’m not as shamed or embarrassed as I feared. Which might be me lacking in self-awareness of what I’m missing, but whatever.
And what caused this — I was not paying attention and February 16th was his birthday and it’s 10 years since he died — was a thread by Assoc for Scottish Literature with a bunch of links to articles and interviews I’m going to remind myself of by putting here:
Going for a short afternoon walk and for the first time in a long time it isn’t laps of Tempelhofer Feld. along Via Pennino, Contrada Santa Croce, and Via Campoluongo. Olive trees ripe and ready for harvest, grape vines mostly already harvested (and currently the must is being siphoned next door), do not drink the water from the fountain, yes those cactus fruits are edible, and I could never get tired of this view.
Evening stroll around Bonnie’s Italian countryside villa “Not a villa” looks like at least villa-adjacent to my bogan eyes. I thought the sun and light was going to stay grotty and not put on any show, and then, surprise! Storm over Taburno massif, setting sun hitting the tuff of the old work shed, Ginger the dog posing, chooks also posing, a rainbow, cactus, and four of the five dogs allowing me a group portrait. My FujiFilm X-T4 is finally getting a workout.
Thursday stroll through Italian countryside to the nearby town of Sant’Agata de’Goti. Which is half on a cliff over a gorge and there’s a plaque commemorating two women who fell in love and painted frescos together (or something). It’s all ridiculously beautiful and coffee pasta wine is apparently all I want.
Five dogs, seven cats, two ducks, a lot of chickens, heaps of olive trees, heaps of grapevines, fig, apricot, apple, persimmon, kaki trees, high hills and low mountains all round, old castles, churches, villas all over. Storms when I arrived and storms every day and night since. I’m sleeping so good.
A couple of months ago Bonnie said, “Come to Napoli!” Wednesday, my first time flying since 2019, first time out of Berlin since Miss Rona arrived (very masked and all for the whole trip), first time in Italy since 2014, I arrived in Napoli. And damn I forgot how much I love flying. The takeoff, the landing (it was a bumpy one), the hours above the clouds where the sky is a much darker blue.
Last of my favourite races until the cyclocross starts again. Giro Rosa, 10 days of riding in northern Italy, and Our Girls smashed it. Annamiek van Vleuten winning the GC, points, and mountains classifications as well as 2 stages; Amanda Spratt 3rd overall, Lucy Kennedy almost winning stage 3, and Mitchelton-SCOTT all-round the most enjoyable team to watch. Elsewhere Marianne Vos utterly shredding it with 4 stage wins and showing mad cyclocross skills, Kasia Niewiadoma almost on the podium at the end (and team with best-looking bikes), Anna van der Breggen, Elisa Longo Borghini and others just showing brilliant riding. More of this, please and thanks.
Another early rise, though not as early as the flight that brought me here. Eleven nights in Marbella, and 21,000€ including the taxi from the airport. One new-ish top third of a face, recovery periods of days, weeks, fortnights, six weeks, months out to a year. Slow, slow, slow. Slow time. I look like me, but me that I recognise more. I feel like me, when I close my eyes and touch my forehead. Already a year just to get to here, already the fourth attempt on top of a lifetime of turning off hoping so I could ride out the disappointment of those previous failed attempts and the ocean of need to do this that preceded all of them.
Finally fucking did it. Finally fucking was able to do it. Alhamdulillah.