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:
I’ve lived in Berlin how long and never walked the old elevated train line from Görlitzer Park almost all the way to Treptower Park? Over the Görlitzer bridge on Treptower Kanal and it’s just all trees and unpaved paths. It’s an absolute gem and once again Berlin pulling up her skirts to show a bit of ankle it’s Berlin, upper thigh. Even in winter.
Fuck the Berlin and German political parties (allll of them) for ramming a massively expensive and useless dildo of Autobahn all the way through the east end. What this stretch should be is a connection over the Ringbahn line and into Treptower Park and Plänterwald, through to Königsheide and south through Wasserwerk Johannisthal and out of the city along Teltow Kanal, or east through the old rail yards of Johannesthal and out of the city along the Spree. That would be excellent. And would also end up with wild boars and foxes hanging out in Görlitzer Park.
This is one of the better maps of the actual border of West Berlin, 1:50000 scale and traces a few parts I hadn’t seen so clearly before. Like West Berlin’s exclaves. The Berliner Mauerweg feels a lot smoother than the raggedness I saw on maps and experienced when biking, as though the act of memorialising shaved off the annoying bits, and in turn reified this version of a border. An area that shifted over time becomes a single line.
The messy bits are around Dreilinden, which leads into the exclave of Steinstücken; some of Potsdam — though the crossing of the Havel means there’s never a true way, unless I paddle myself over; Staaken and Seeburg east of Spandau; and the stretch from Wilhelmsruh up to Glienicke. Feels like time to ride the Mauerweg again.
I was up in Hamburg on Thursday, there and back in 12 hours, saw very little except Großneumarkt (and all of Frohstoff and the wonderful mob there) a glimpse of Elbphilharmonie, and quite a bit of Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. Totally could live there, port city and all.
After reading Moon Over Soho and Rivers of London, books 2 and 1 respectively of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, I ordered the lot (except the latest, it seems), and read them. And I was in London! So I was all, “I love this city!” and felt like I knew it so much because of these novels. What I call “Harry Potter if he was a black cop in London, played by a young Idris Elba, or Stormzy, and Hermione Granger was a Somali Muslim cop on the Murder Squad.”
I slammed the whole series over the last two months, as they arrived, and usually in a couple of days per novel, except when I was on tour — so they’re also firmly bound with the joys of travel and rivers for me now, the Danube and Thames, which is fitting. Whispers Under Ground doesn’t obviously follow the larger story of the Faceless Man, which almost makes these first three stand-alone works. It does introduce a whole pile of characters, locations, peoples, who fill out the world of the series in this and later novels.
I’m probably going to re-binge the whole series in the coming weeks (just need to re-buy Rivers of London first), which tells how much I’m enjoying these. Funny that they’re a series too, ’cos I’m always reluctant to commit, but cheers to Gala for introducing me to this. Best joyous fantasy read of the twenty-tens.