Scottish writer Iain Banks, known both for his seminal Culture series and his work in more traditional literary fiction, has died at age 59, the BBC reports. In an open letter, Banks revealed in April that he had advanced gall bladder cancer, saying he did not expect to live more than a year. His death comes less than two weeks before the planned publication of his final book, The Quarry — a date that had been moved up in hopes that he would live to see it. Soon after his announcement, he married partner Adele Hartley, who he said wryly he had asked to have "the honour of becoming my widow."
Over the course of 25 years, Banks published many novels in the Culture series, which explored the complexities of a post-scarcity, technologically advanced, and ostensibly utopian society. Banks' Culture books (written under the name Iain M. Banks) combined whimsical humor, political intrigue, and intricate world-building in an examination of what it might actually look like to try to create a perfect world, and what happens when you fail. It's been described as an inversion of Star Trek's neoliberal society: "Iain M. Banks writes the heck out of utopian sci-fi, and he does it with a wink in the face of nihilism," wrote Mordicai Knode at science fiction site Tor.com after hearing of Banks' cancer.
Outside the Culture series, his career was just as accomplished. His first novel, The Wasp Factory, was a relentless look at violence and power, written after several early attempts at publishing science fiction. The strange and stunted protagonist, Frank, "is supposed to stand for all of us, in some ways," Banks wrote in 2008, "deceived, misled, harking back to something that never existed, vengeful for no good reason and trying too hard to live up to some oversold ideal that is of no real relevance, anyway."
The Quarry, which will be released on June 20th, draws from Banks' own experience with terminal cancer. Though Banks will not be present for its release, the BBC writes that he received finished copies weeks ago and celebrated the upcoming publication. The Friends of Iain Banks site, which Banks used to post updates to friends and fans, will be updated shortly in memoriam.