R.I.P. Iain Banks. From the first time I picked up one of his books in the now-defunct Tower Books in New York to this day I’ve been consistently inspired, amused, entertained, and awed by his writing. In a very real way he is the reason I write science fiction, and his vision of a possible quasi-utopia in the Culture novels still inspires hope that the future for humanity may yet be bright. His sardonic wit, his mind-boggling dialogue, his vast settings and brilliant characters – the world has lost a truly great writer, and though I never met him, having read so many of his words, I feel like I have lost a friend.