Highly regarded Scottish author Iain Banks announced today that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It's a very sad day for those of us who love his work.

Banks writes science fiction under the name "Iain M. Banks" and non-genre fiction under the name "Iain Banks"-- all of it very good. (All of it that I've read in any case, as he's been quite prolific.)

Although some might look askance at an author's science fiction written under a pseudo-pseudonym as a sideshow to other, more "serious" work, it's Banks' science fiction that really speaks to me, as darkly brilliant as his other fiction is. And of his science fiction, those novels which speak the most personally are those known as his "Culture" series. Follow me after the break and I'll try to explain why it means so much to me.