Iain M Banks – novelist

Iain M Banks

Iain M Banks

Welcome to what we hope will be the first of many bite-sized little interviews here on GEEKchocolate.

In our first one, Scottish sci-fi author Iain M. Banks took a few minutes out of his touring schedule – having just released his latest Culture novel, Surface Detail – to answer a few questions for us, and for a couple of you guys, too.

If any Hollywood types or video game producers are reading – take note!

GC: How do you see the future of the publishing industry? Is a revolution coming in the way books are written, published and marketed in the same way that the music industry had to radically reinvent itself?  Has your own process changed in the wake of technological advances?

IMB: Billion dollar question!  I doubt my insights are better than anybody else’s, but things are certainly set to change.  The one aspect that won’t is writing books; until we invent really clever AIs that will still mean an individual tapping at a keyboard.  Or using voice recognition, though not for me; my brain’s talking bit is way behind the thinking/writing bit.

Considering the resistance of Hollywood over the last ten years to film science fiction novels if you were to choose some favourite novels to re-launch the big budget science fiction movie, what would you choose, and why?

Consider Phlebas.  For the big action set pieces.

You’ve said before that you can’t see a practical way to adapt the Culture novels to the screen. With the way video games have evolved over the last decade, and with a Scottish games industry right on your doorstep, would you consider that as a way to bring your work to the screen?

Did I say that?  I think I meant that the books are too long to film the whole of one (most novels are).  Nothing impractical these days.  Just waiting for Hollywood or whoever to show some interest.

Anyway; games, instead… it’s possible I guess. Though Halo might have, ah, anticipated the look of the Orbitals somewhat.

What type of game would suit? A single player open world like the old Elite and Frontier games, or something more social like a massively multiplayer game in the way of Eve Online or World of Warcraft?

I have no idea. Though if I had my way it would have none of those annoying cut-aways where the next action sequence is set up.

Why is it that The Culture novels more often feature female leads rather than male – is it because hard SF has traditionally been a boys playground?

Partly, I guess; there is what feels like an imbalance that needs addressing.  Plus I’ve always felt the Culture is more female than male in character.

Surface DetailIn Surface Detail you have the virtual hells, which struck me as a nightmarish social network. The parallels were striking with characters living multiple lives in different virtual worlds. Are the Hells a comment on your feelings about Facebook, Twitter et al as they become such an integral part of our society?

Nope.  As I don’t partake, I haven’t sufficient information enough to form an opinion.

Veppers, your big bad in Surface Detail, is a media tycoon – it seems to be the profession of choice for a number of comic-book and Hollywood bad guys; did you worry that Veppers might end up seeming a little cliched?

Yes.  Those poor right-wing billionaire media tycoons.  They come in for SO much criticism.  Anyway I dare say a consensus on whether I succeeded or not will make itself known in the fullness of time.

Finally we picked 2 questions that were put to us via Facebook and Twitter:

Lee Medcalf, from The Black Dog podcast, asks:
“I’m reading Surface Detail right now, and I’d love to know how you came up with the idea of the Intagligate.”

Usual skiffy writer technique:  take an existing idea (the sort of tattooing we’re used to) and extrapolate wildly.

Colin Dunbar (@GalaxianPunk, via Twitter) asks:
“What would the consequences be if a small section of The Culture turned really evil?”

Pretty flipping severe for those concerned, I’d hazard. Though of course there are certain curmudgeons who suggest that in the guise of SC this has in fact already happened.  Happily, they are quite manifestly wrong and we need waste no further time considering them or their ridiculous arguments.

We’d like to extend our thanks to Iain for sparing us some time during his touring schedule.

Surface Detail is published by Orbit books and is available now from any bookstore who knows what’s good for them.

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