Cancer has claimed a terrible toll in my life. Three in my immediate family and counting, the countdown very fast for one of them. And now it seems to have turned its unwelcome gaze to my intellectual treasures. I hate this disease, I despise it so much it's hard to express.
I'd say it's my hatred of cancer that drives me to want to achieve riches, via a startup, so I can pour money into its vanquishing. It was hatred that made me agree to be a member of "the 300", as useless as that has turned out to be. And it's the knowledge and memory of those lifeless bodies on hospital sheets, cold before their time, that forces me onwards, reminds me that that capricious finger of death could swivel my way at any time.
Banks, you are a titan. You inspired me, you inspired others. You'll never be forgotten, and god willing maybe you'll inspire a few to take revenge on your blind, callous killer.
Part of the reason for the lack of good jobs is that there is actually not much money put into cancer research, relative to Valley-type companies. Google's declared 2012 R&D budget was $6.7 billion. The National Cancer Institute's entire budget in 2012, which is parceled out among all eligible institutions in the country, was $5.1 billion. It's no surprise that, as a direct result, it's easier to find good jobs in the Valley than in cancer research: Google alone can offer more funding to aspiring researchers than the entire national cancer strategy can.
But I wholeheartedly agree that rather than trying to be a billg and earn money to fund philanthropy, the world needs more researchers.
That's not even true if you look only at rich countries - cardiovascular diseases cause more deaths.
The amount of effort, let alone money, spent on cancer research is already obscene compared to what is spent on other serious problems.
cancer.org states that 15% of deaths worldwide are due to cancer, with 50% being spread amongst other non-communicable diseases.
"In 2010, 65% of all deaths worldwide were due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer. 15% of all deaths worldwide, nearly 8 million people, were due to cancer alone. The number of deaths worldwide from cancer dwarfs the number of global deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS, as is projected to exceed 13 million by 2030."
The first sentence and the next two aren't at all related. It's possible that the amount of money we're collectively spending right now is all that can be used effectively, and more money will yield at best highly diminishing returns.
As much as I'd like to do my share in X, if I can't make a living of it, I won't dedicate my whole life to it. Some will, but many won't.
I'm not convinced that what this world needs is research into keeping sick people alive longer. We have lots of people as it is.
When I was a kid childhood leukemia was a death sentence. These days survival rates are in the 80% and up range.
The goal isn't non-dead sick people. It's well people.
Attacking that problem doesn't mean that you can't attack the problem of too many people too. Hopefully in a more productive way than having a horrible, lingering, painful disease solve it for us.
Given that the average costs of bringing up any single individual are nowadays probably at an all-time high, it makes sense to invest something into keeping those people from dying prematurely.
Also, this is less about keeping sick people alive longer, but about making them unsick, or even prevent them from becoming sick in the first place (prevention, timely diagnosis, study of the immune system behavior and reactions related to the cancer onset).
EDIT - I had a little time to think about your statement a little. Your statements are basically just ridiculous venom. In any other venue, it would be met with the vitriol it really deserves but I just find this to be essentially inhuman.
There are a zillion talented young programmers who have figured out that the VC-istan game is rigged (I like to believe that I helped with that) and who would readily work on machine learning for cancer research at a market salary.
 Zillion probably means "tens of thousands", but that's a lot. A good programmer costs $125k to hire and is worth $1-2M to the economy. Thousands of programmers = major muscle. Tap that piece of A! (A meaning "awesomeness potential".)
$100-150k, machine learning, saving lives? Shit, you'll be turning people away.
If it's government-funded it doesn't have to be in a high-COL area where 100-150k, while respectable, isn't raise-a-family money. But you could do this out in a place like Minneapolis where people can raise a family on that and (bear with me, here) therefore actually find programmers with more than 10 years (!) of technical experience who want to stay on real work (!!) instead of becoming useless executives (like VC-istan's VeePees of BizDevolution) because they can actually raise kids on what they make (!!!).
It's about the people. But the nature of the real world is that it takes money to hire people. So, indirectly, it is about the money. We should spend less money on pointless, illegal wars and more on the disease that's actually (if we don't fucking do something) going to kill a large portion of the people reading this.
Even if you have the more elaborate title of "biochemist", salaries are around $45k, not the $125k you are expecting to earn.
Starting salaries are around $35k. If you are working for a non-profit foundation (ie: cancer research), expect to earn $25k.
You should make more working on scientific research that helps everyone than you'd make ($100-150k for typical programmers) writing yet another ad exchange.
It's not true that you "can't get good people" with low salaries. The sciences are full of great people making low salaries. You just can't get very many of them. We need good people in the sciences and a much larger number, which means that society needs to start paying scientists what they're actually worth.
Programmer/analysts do make more, but not nearly as much as they would in VC-istan. The median starting salary for a programmer/analyst at my institution is 50K. Senior programmer/analysts can make as much as a median 116K, but I almost never see people employed at that level despite their capability. More importantly, at least in life science research at a public institution, there's really no guarantee that you'll be kept on past the duration of the grant you're funded from, unless your PI is famous and your lab's rich. Even so, the recent cascade of NIH and NSF cuts are putting pressure on all labs.
Along those lines -- the job insecurity's the worst for junior staff, so I don't really see any good reason for recent grads to continue in public research. Most of my former grad school classmates are now in private pharma or biotech. I'm personally looking to move from life science to the SF tech scene as soon as I graduate this year.
Why? What about supply and demand? Do you mean salaries shouldn't be determined by supply and demand, or demand "should" be higher?
If demand for these skills should be higher, but isn't, that is an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Your or anyone else, if correct, could make a killing using these skills at low prices (salaries). The more people who do that, the more the prices of their skills rise.
Supply and demand do not determine value. Supply and demand do determine price. The equating of price and value is a lazy attempt to find an objective interpersonal measure of value by saying "what is" is equivalent to "what should be," since determining "what is" is typically easier than forming a consensus on "what should be."
Market forces are better than previous systems at allocating resources, but they aren't infallible.
As someone has pointed out, theres a difference between price and value.
Time-behavior + value-creation vs. value-capture.
Market demand for science R&D is pretty much nil. Basic research requires some kind of altruistic/passive funding (government, universities).
Market demand for the technologies that come out of basic research, decades later, is nearly infinite.
No one is going to pay, on the market, $150,000 per year for a biologist to analyze some weird protein. But when that work results in a cure for several common cancers, 20 years later, I'd say it's paid itself off by several orders of magnitude.
If you're a manager or executive-level hire, you're probably never going to get the investor contact you were promised and, if you do, you probably won't be allowed to say much, so the networking you were promised won't happen.
If you're an engineer, you're probably not going to get the "leadership" (executive) position you were promised. It'll be given to some external asshat when the company goes in to "scaling"/social-climbing mode and starts hiring "real X's" (i.e. not the fools who worked for 90 hours per week and 50% of market salaries, judged not to be good enough for prime time).
Only a tiny percentage of VC-funded startups have a real engineering culture (pre-apocalyptic Google) where you can do well as an engineer without becoming a manager. If that's what you want, your odds are better (not great, but better) at a place like Google.
Most VC-funded startups grow too fast to keep a decent culture, and the executive positions often get handed out by VC to their underachieving friends who couldn't make it on their own.
That's what I mean by "rigged".
Not sure why the OP says it turned out to be useless (haven't followed much the Methuselah Foundation lately)
First Terry Pratchett and now Iain Banks. Satoshi Kon, taken by pancreatic cancer. Who's left? Why are all my favourite artists dying from this horrible family of diseases?
Fuck cancer, and damn our perverse incentives. All you hackers and entrepreneurs, please make all the money you can and do something to advance the combined well-being of the world and people like yourself. All that saved-up money can hardly do anything when a serious cancer strikes hard and we find out too late. Please do something to support the research that could save so many of your family and friends.
All the pleasures of the world cannot cancel out the loss and desolation of an early death. Our time is short; let's not let it be cut shorter.
I wish medical research were set up in a way to support hobbyists and part time involvement. There are lots of people in the high-profit, low-value-to-society parts of biotech and medicine (day jobs as pharma reps, sometimes MDs, people running clinical trials for yet another evergreening of an old drug, or a super-viagra, or whatever), who have skills, and have their personal financial situation set up, who could probably be effective part-time contributors to basic research. In software, that'd be a guy working in some enterprise somewhere developing a new programming language or library on the side. I don't think there really is anything like that for biotech, yet.
None of that would have been possible without the 300, and more importantly without people like you and I believing in the goal.
On cancer: there are new ideas and promising signs if you know where to look. I'm not a fan of WILT, but I haven't see anyone mount a good claim that it won't work as advertised, which is to say no cancer, ever:
An effective cancer treatment is all about finding a commonality to cut through the enormous variation in cancer biochemistry, so I watch for signs of that with some interest. The latest possible cancer commonality is CD47, for example:
There's also the suggestion that maybe we could extract the global cellular mechanism that makes naked mole rats cancer-free, or the different global cellular mechanism that makes blind mole rats cancer-free, and safely introduce one of them into human biology. That's much more speculative, not least for the concern that what works for 20-30 years in a mole rat might not be good for 100 in a human - there are plenty of examples of things working well in rodents but not being all that applicable to people.
But even without this, I think that targeted cell destruction therapies (via nanoparticles, or trained immune cells, or viruses, etc) will evolve into a robust cancer cure for near all cancers caught early enough within the next couple of decades:
I just want to highlight two things, firstly his support for the NHS, which despite every newspaper and politician gunning for it still usually manages to deliver top quality care.
Secondly, can we leave off the cryogenic stuff ? The guy is dying, and pretending it will just be a pause is insulting all round. This was a touching and accepting note written by a skilled hand - and he is not blathering on about the next life. Please leave it be
Was that the episode you were referring to?
Which is meaningless; an anecdotal impression is not data.
> Secondly, can we leave off the cryogenic stuff ? The guy is dying, and pretending it will just be a pause is insulting all round.
Some people think that cryogenics is a better chance of resurrection than burying a body in dirt. The case isn't settled, but it's not a stupid or crazy belief. Even if the chance is only 0.1%, it's worth talking about. The chance of my house burning down is only 0.1% or so, and I still buy fire insurance.
(And, no, I'm not a big believer in cryogenics; I merely want to argue that discussion about it is reasonable.)
And some people think burying a body in dirt is the best chance of resurrection. These beliefs do not seem, at this point in time, differentially stupid or crazy.
It is quite all right to hold such beliefs, but bringing them up every time someone dies as if-only-they-had is rather insensitive.
How did you reach that point of view?
I've read most of his books (all of his SF books). The Culture is an amazing universe, but the rest of his works are also outstanding.
(edit: never mind, sibling thread has it covered: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5485695 )
If you're just a normal science fiction fan, start with Use of Weapons. It's complex and sci-fi-ish enough, but not as hardcore as Excession. The plot is amazing. To me it is one of the most memorable books of science fiction that I've read. It really made me question some basic beliefs about ... well, you'll see.
If you're a normal person, who wants a slightly softer intro into the Culture universe, or someone who's not particularly into science fiction, Player of Games is a great starting point because it is less about the tech and more about the ideas and the people, but nevertheless a great book.
Ultimately, the only one I wouldn't start with is Consider Phlebas, which is good, but imho nowhere near as good as the rest. To me, Consider Phlebas was about the same level as, say, the Reality Dysfunction by PFH - great space opera, fast paced, gripping, but not exceptional in any way. Every subsequent book (with very few exceptions) is not just great, but also unique and different from all the other science fiction books out there.
A loved one loves Banks, so I've tried really hard to get it, and I've failed. I recently read Excession and got zero value out of it. Also recently read Feersum Endjin; it was alright, but suffered from the same flaws as other Banks. I did enjoy The Algebraist, though I read it a while ago so it's a bit foggy. I also read, once upon a time, Consider Phlebas and Player of Games, and remember being utterly utterly disappointed in both, but I can't remember anything more than that.
Huh. Same here. I've only read CP and I honestly could not tell why everyone is so excited about Banks.
Okay then, I'll add a few more titles to my wish list. Thanks!
I still haven't been able to make myself finish Matter yet.
The title is awfully well chosen, too. The full title would probably be: "Matter? It doesn't"
EDIT: I should specify that Contact is working on present-day Earth in that story, from what I recall.
Though, obviously, as a literary device you are right.
Excession was quite a flourish, and deliciously fun.
That book is really hard on the emotions. I have a feeling it may have been a bit of an experiment for Iain as it reads a bit differently from the rest (I think I've read every book he has out currently, including "Raw Spirit"... Brilliant book)
Oh, and the top comment in the sibling thread you linked to is a very good recommendation.
If you haven't read his stuff, pick it up.
Note: The dark anti-hero in "Kaleidoscope Century" is probably the reason he hasn't won many major awards. You can't write such a character and not piss off the various sci-fi author and fandom cliches.
The Directive 51 universe is really dark, but has a ton of great ideas and great writing.
I'd suggest PoG as a starting point to explain what the Culture's about, which I think it does better than CP because the main character in that is not of the Culture. YMMV though.
I've bought them three myself and will read them in this order.
The Player of Games
Use of Weapons
Use of Weapons is great, but the writing is poorer than the other two.
Heh. Interesting. I'd say exactly the opposite myself. Not that I dislike the other two - PoG is one of my faves of his SF work - but to me UoW is a vastly better work of literature, both in structure and character development. Less full of SFnal goodies than some of his later work, but all the better for that in some ways.
Read this webpage to get an introduction to the Culture. It's great, and it helps you get through some of the "rougher" edges in the earlier books.
I'm not suggesting your opinions are wrong, of course, but I had a much different impression. Obviously Player of Games is well regarded by many people, so I'm curious to know what I missed.
--- SPOILERS BELOW ---
My general impression was that the Empire of Azad was that its conception lacked imagination. The peculiarities of the species (the three sexes, the society built around a board game, etc) could have made for a very interesting culture, but those instead the peculiarities were mostly left untouched and the culture was recognizable as human in every way. The greatest offense, in my opinion, is that the most interesting part of the book (the game Azad) was left almost entirely undescribed. An alien species should be different. Vastly different. These were humans painted green on Star Trek.
That is one thing you could do with an alien species. Banks has done that elsewhere quite a bit. It could be that his imagination failed him here. Or he could have made a conscious choice, seeking a specific effect.
I think it was the latter. For me, part of the point of literature is to explore what it means to be human. One of the things that comes up over and over in Banks's work is encounters between developed and primitive cultures. He uses the contrasts to examine where we've come from, who we are, and where we might go.
Player of Games in particular to me spends a lot of time looking at the desire to win, and also the desire to play for high stakes. The Culture's post-scarcity society makes bets meaningless. How does somebody with a gambler's nature fare in that context? And how does somebody raised in that context change when they become immersed in a society built around gamesmanship and gambling? The Azadians are an exaggeration of particular aspects of humanity because he's trying to explore those aspects. If they were more alien, you would identify with them less, which I think would weaken the impact.
If you're reading Banks for things like detailed descriptions of fictional games, you should probably look elsewhere. He's definitely the kind of guy who likes building elaborate sets and then showing them to you. But they are there to support the drama that is performed in front of them.
Banks has other weird and interesting species appearing in the periphery. But the books are ultimately not about weird aliens.
This saves many nasty wars.
Left a bit of an impression on me....
The BBC have a news article on this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-22015175
Let's stop trying to make people click on cheery-colored buttons and do something about this fucking disease instead.
We are killing ourselves and it starts with the stuff our mothers eat, is made worse by what we eat, and is topped of by the environment we live in.
It's more prevalent in some societies because we live longer and we don't any longer die of preventable infections.
Our air is cleaner than it's been for a long time. Decent nutrition has never been cheaper or more widely available. Life expectancy has never been longer.
We are not killing ourselves. OK so some are by overeating and doing no exercise, but in general you're talking nonsense.
People in older baby boomer cohorts are doing better than younger generations.
"Decent nutrition has never been cheaper or more widely available."
Sugar/fat has also never been cheaper or more widely available.
This doesn't change the fact we're living longer, healthier lives than ever before.
I'm sure there's a lot more that we could be doing, I'm sure that there are things we do that we should stop doing for our own health BUT none of this supports the notion that cancer is a disease of western privilege and we're doing everything wrong. We're doing more right than we've ever done.
In Japan, their cancer rate per 100,000 is 1/4 lower than in the US, but that isn't close to the claimed exclusivity. 220 per 100k in Japan versus 300 per 100k in the US.
In S.Korea, it's 260 per 100k, for a mere 13% variance.
How come the Chinese live seven years less than the supposedly cancerous and diseased French in the west? Shouldn't the eastern lifestyle make the Chinese live a lot longer?
Your claim about exclusivity isn't supported by the data. Affluence doesn't correlate to cancer, in fact it's the exact opposite: on average rich people live a lot longer, live healthier, and get cancer less frequently than poor people. In the west, cancer has a high correlation to both obesity and poverty.
Instead, what I should have said is, cancer rates are significantly higher in "western" countries and certain kinds of cancers have seen dramatic increases, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, as countries have "westernized". As countries westernize, rates of these cancers increase.
(The irony is that smoking is more on the rise in Asia/etc. than elsewhere, so at some point smoking and related illness will be a non-Western thing, too.)
Makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time, like so much of his work.
That last past is almost a six word story, but sadly reality instead of fiction.
Also, if you're a fan of the Culture universe and want a smile, have a gander at a list of Culture ship names @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spacecraft_in_the_Cultu...
"Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The"
"Hand Me The Gun And Ask Me Again"
"Subtle Shift In Emphasis"
It gets the author out of the hard task of building something that fits together well, and out of having to dream up something that works and that they would genuinely like to live in. Thinking up terrible things and things that fall apart can be much easier than thinking up what would make us lastingly happy. It also lets the listeners/readers/viewers of the story not think about their world in relation to some better world. That can be depressing; looking into a warm, comfy restaurant can just highlight how cold, poor, and hungry you are. Comparing our lives to those poor schmucks in some "utopia" with an terrible dark side isn't so bad; it doesn't impugn us for not having made something truly good to live in a reality.
But I'm so glad that Banks didn't go that route. Sci-fi needs to be able to get out of that rut. And it isn't that he doesn't know dark topics or how to write them; he can wrench a reader's guts along with the best of 'em. Yet he did the harder thing of looking for a consistent, shining-happy civilization to dream of living in. Gene Roddenberry got no small fame for a popular but rather more shoddy try at that many decades back. Banks did it with top notch sci-fi and writing skill. And I'd love to live in his utopia too.
But the books themselves, not the Culture, also include plenty of gut wrenching. Not as some easy dark side to the Culture itself. But at the edges of it, where the friction happens from its interaction with less nice places to live.
And I've just purchased Player of Games, maybe not based on your personal recommendation, but certainly on the collective recommendation since this news broke. Kind of a sad way to get introduced to an author, but OTOH I think it would be somewhat nice that even my impending death would lead to new readers of my work.
I do feel like I'm the last geek/techy/nerd/HN/SlashDot reader on the planet to have heard of him, though.
He mentions his sore back. That's important! Most lower back pain is nothing serious, but rarely it's a sign of significant illness. He also mentions that he initially thought the pain was related to his work on a book. That's relevant for an industry where people tend to spend many hour sitting at a desk typing code. We talk about better ergonomics -nicer chairs, standing desks- but sometimes the wider health is missed.
Compare these two adverts -
"Not Alone", MacMillan Cancer Support (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLpS97XA5VA)
"Cancer, We're Coming For You", Race for Life (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWJEmMDQXoA)
Yes, fuck cancer.
"Fuck Cancer" is all well and good... but MacMillan's work isn't about finding a cure, it's about easing suffering. They provide support and care to patients and their families, "Not Alone" sums them up pretty perfectly.
Originally posted to rec.arts.sf.written on 10 Aug 1994.
I'm not sure what meaning you can draw from that unless you know of a sexual indiscretion that Iain committed at a wedding. :-)
Amazing author. I want to live in the Culture. And I want to read new books by him forever, this is not allowed.
I remember thinking at the time, the wasp factory was a book i'd not forget, yet i can only vaguely recall the plot and some events! Espedair Street on the other hand i can recall pretty much everything. It's funny what you remember.
Then I read his first Culture novel... I never looked back! They are my favorite sci-fi series ever and I have read a TON of sci-fi and fantasy in my life now (mostly sci-fi when younger).
The first commercial microprocessor was released in the same year:
Solutions? Ideas? The list in my mind is starting to get painfully long:
Randy Pausch (47), Steve Jobs (56), Ian M Banks ...
From stuff his family has said, and from what his biographer said about his interviews with Jobs, the primary driver for the delay was an almost phobic fear of surgery rather than "alternative medicine will cure me". This is surprisingly common from conversations I've had with some cancer treatment folk. I knew a family member who unfortunately had similar feelings :-/
The kind of cancer Jobs had was a rare and slow growing pancreatic cancer. Normally if you get diagnosed with pancreatic cancer you are in surgery later that bleeding day if at all possible. For pNET tumors longer delays of weeks or even months aren't unknown (not recommended either mind - but not insanely stupid).
(as a separate point - I love how all the reporting around Job's cancer was that it was a "rare cancer" presented in the the "ohhh rare and scary sense"... if you have to get pancreatic cancer a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor like Jobs's is the one you want to get).
The alternative medicine didn't make it worse in of itself.
The delay in surgery may have made it worse - but it's not certain. The five year survival rate for that cancer, when treated by surgery, is still only 61% at stage 1 (see http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/PancreaticCancer/DetailedGuide/...). Steve lasted nearly nine years.
Was the 9 month delay in surgery a sensible thing? Almost certainly not. But the real story was a long way from the "Killed by alternative medicine" line that hit the press. Even if Jobs had had surgery the day he was diagnosed, it would most likely have ended the same way.
That just doesn't seem like he "more than likely" would have survived to me, but looks more like a coin flip. And that was with the "good" pancreatic cancer.
We're mining ores with tiny percentages of what we want in them nowadays and at increasing energy cost.
We had a bounty of natural resources that we could have focused to get off this planet and become an interplanetary species. I suspect we will never get there as we've squandered these resources and overpopulated the planet beyond carrying capacity.
If you're waiting for a miracle solution, or believe alternatives will solve everything I recommend you study the principles of energy return on energy investment.
It makes me sad but I think we will never colonize other planets.
(I agree interplanetary would do a lot better with plausible tech of the next 50-100 years, but there's no reason not to get started today. Thank you, Elon Musk!)
Shipping reproductive material (either as information, or embryos, or frozen eggs/sperm) would also be fairly realistic.
The main reasons I can see for colonizing other planets are political (Earth is dominated by a certain kind of nation state, I'd happily live in a remote part of Earth if it would get me out from under that, as long as the right 5k people went with me...), or the spiritual/moral/whatever drive to do it because it can be done.
Unfortunately, until public policy on diet (which is set by the people responsible for selling more corn and sugar) changes, it's not going to get better.
Right now, there is no peer reviewed literature that definitively proves the sugar/cancer link. At best, there might be correlation.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get any funding for anything that might imply sugar is bad. The US, under pressure from the sugar lobby, threatened to pull $400M in WHO funding if they published a report saying "Too much sugar has bad side effect, you should limit consumption to 10% of your calories". The report was never published. This is made worse by 30 years of dogma, the fact that the FDA won't regulate substances that cause chronic diseases, and the conflict of interest the USDA has with coming up with what we "should" eat when their charter is to sell more crops.
I'm also not saying that if you don't eat sugar, you won't get cancer. Statistics apply to populations, not individuals. All I'm saying is there is probably a link between sugar and cancer, and, given sugar provides no positive nutritional value, cutting it out is probably a smart thing to do.
My heart goes out to Mr. Banks and his family and friends, just as much as my heart goes out to every cancer victim. As a society, we can do better.
This is awful news. I've not been a big fan of his later SF works. But Feersum Endjinn and Espedair St are tremendous and who knows, maybe the later works will grown on me. I hope he lives to see his latest book on the shelves.
(Edit: Not that I'm claiming he's not a Titan)
The first Banks book I read was in a palliative care room while my mom was dying of cancer.
Note that this site seems to have last been updated in the mid 90's, so later novels are not included.
I can only guess the costs for the tests are too expensive. Still couldn't insurance cover the tests?
The short answer is that the tests don't exist. Cancer is still a hard problem that's a mess of environment and genetic factors. The tests that do exist (e.g. the PSA test for prostrate cancer) often have limited utility.
If you want to fix that help do basic research, or fund basic research. It's not a conspiracy. It's just a really, really hard problem.
The problem with MRIs is that there are so many false positives, but maybe regular scanning would help reduce that noise?
It is thought that most people fight cancer 5-6 times in their life before anything is ever detected.
Ian (M) Banks is amazing and will be sorely missed.
I can't believe there won't be any more Culture novels.
I just wish he'll live the most playful last months of his life with his soon-to-be wife. We cannot wish for anything less.
I think he enjoys broad popularity just about everywhere in SF fan circles.
If you go into an American book store, you may find a couple of Banks books in the SF section, if it's a large and intelligent store. In my brief experience trying this, if you do the same in a British book store, you'll generally find his entire bibliography, SF and non.
Ditto in my bookcase, and I'm in NL, not the UK...
This is a lamentable loss indeed. It really grieves me that my shelf of Culture novels will likely never grow again.
Fuck this fucking disease. It really makes me angry. The lives cut short, all those possibilities lost. We need to fix this bug and soon.
I feel selfish for being sad that his last book is an Iain Banks book vs. Iain M. Banks (culture). :(
Also, I would research if anything ever happened with this:
My two favorites of his I think will always be Use of Weapons and Look to Windward. Coincidentally, I just started re-reading Excession last night.
"For example, I don't much enjoy reading Iain M. Banks, simply because his world-view and mine don't coincide much; but I’ve learned an enormous amount from his masterful use of structure and language." -- KJ Parker (http://www.orbitbooks.net/interview/k-j-parker/)
But Iain Banks criticizing and then praising his own work under a pseudonym is something he would think was very funny.
In keeping with his macabre sense of humour I hope he has a suitable Culture Ship names for the coffin. Dwindling Gravitas (VFP)?
Definitely very sad news.
In fact go give all of his books a try (hey - we're allowed to read non-SF here too aren't we ;-)
"Two days ago I decided to kill myself. I would walk and hitch and sail away from this dark city to the bright spaces of the wet west coast, and there throw myself into the tall, glittering seas beyond Iona (with its cargo of mouldering kings) to let the gulls and seals and tides have their way with my remains, and in my dying moments look forward to an encounter with Staffa’s six-sided columns and Fingal’s cave; or I might head south to Corryvrecken, to be spun inside the whirlpool and listen with my waterlogged deaf ears to its mile-wide voice ringing over the wave-race; or be borne north, to where the white sands sing and coral hides, pink-fingered and hard-soft, beneath the ocean swell, and the rampart cliffs climb thousand-foot above the seething acres of milky foam, rainbow-buttressed.
Last night I changed my mind and decided to stay alive. Everything that follows is . . . just to try and explain."
He is a good literary writer, and I think that is what makes him such a good sci-fi writer. I had never read any sci-fi like it when I first read him. There are still very few good writers in sci-fi.
Man grow out of this world, created awesome books, then he changed to something else. World as it is, is because he is.
Why are you in favor of poverty and global warming, and against asteroid mining and starships? There's so much more you can do while you're alive than you can do while you're dead; and attempting to extend your time alive does not preclude enjoying it.
We hate cancer because it takes from us those who wish to give so much without consideration. An indiscriminate killer that wastes our treasures away before our eyes, leaving us with only memories, partially realized dreams and the rage of "why now, when there was so much more good to be done?!"
Sure, you may not want people to live forever, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the above comment; indeed, what you've said might be viewed as somewhat callous when considering the context that someone has revealed that they have terminal cancer.
He knows it's terminal (it's spread all over the place), and if he chooses to live the rest of his life on his own terms and not enduring the significant side effects of chemo, then it's his choice and good luck to him.
My grandmother refused chemo (cancer in bowel, liver, lymph nodes) and I think she made the right choice.
There are few things that prolong life, most of them prolong the suffering and increase the emotional drain on the loved ones.
I wish him to make the most of what he has left.
Cancer sucks worse if you put everything in your life off.
Cancer treatments is still ridiculously primitive, unfortunately, largely boiling down to doing lots of damage while trying to keep the patient alive longer than the cancer.
1. Modern supportive care means that chemotherapy does not involve constant vomiting, pain and torment. Some patients work and look after their family in between having chemotherapy. For example, in a large study on the efficacy of chemotherapy in biliary tract cancers including gallbladder cancer the rates of severe vomiting were only 5% (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0908721). And when it does happen, it doesn't go on for 'months'.
2. If you shrink the cancer people feel better ie treatment can improve quality of life, that's why we do it.
3. Some cancers are indolent. This means that people can live for a long time with them, whether they have treatment or not. See Stephen Jay Gould's essay for example (http://www.cancerguide.org/median_not_msg.html)
4. Participating in clinical trials is a standard part of cancer management. You don't have to be famous to receive experimental therapies if you want them.
Having said all that, chemotherapy IS primitive and doesn't work as well as it should, and hopefully we won't still be using the same stuff we are now in 50 years. But it can help people, and trying it is not crazy or hopeless, and an extra couple of months might mean a lot to a particular individual.
Best case: your cancer is contained to a single organ and susceptible to antibody therapy. Practically no side effects, and you'll most likely be healed.
Worst case: your cancer has spread to multiple organs, requires the use of cytotoxics and your body reacts badly to those. You're better off setting yourself on fire - at least then you'll have to endure at most a few days of excrutiating pain before you die. No, that is not an exaggeration.
Source: my girlfriend who works as a nurse in a cancer ward specializing in chemotherapy.
Most importantly: make that decision yourself while you can! Don't leave it to the doctors (who only learn ways to keep patients alive at all costs, not ways to decide whether it's better to let them die) or your relatives (who'll tell the doctors to do everything humanly possible to assuage their feelings of helplessness and guilt).
That plainly isn't true. Why come to HN to make hyperbolic generalisations about cancer therapy? There are many people with advanced widespread disease who choose to have treatment. Are you suggesting that they are all foolish or coerced by doctors? Really? Would you be happy to come down to my cancer hospital and tell the 33 year old woman with 2 young children that she is better off "setting herself on fire" than having chemotherapy?
Your last statement also is incorrect. I spend just as much time talking about stopping therapy and options that don't involve chemotherapy as I do about giving chemotherapy.
Source: I'm training to be an oncologist.
That was not a generalization; I explicitly labelled it as "worst case", but what actually happened to one of my girlfriend's patients is that as a reaction to the cytotoxics, his entire skin started to dissolve. This may have been an extremely rare special case, but it did happen, and the doctors in charge didn't stop the therapy even then. The patient died after suffering effectively as a burn victim for 2 weeks.
It's great to hear that you are willing (and presumably trained) to consider non-therapy as an option as much as whatever the newest miracle cure is, but that's definitely no the case for all oncologists everywhere.
Having seen a bad reaction to chemo up close, I can confirm that it is pretty awful, and that I'd certainly have to think before choosing between a bad chemo reaction and setting myself on fire.
Sorry for your loss.
Going through chemo isn't free of suffering. And in cases like Iain's it's often a question of having a "normal" 6 months of life or a miserable 8 months via chemotherapy.
My dad died in 1990 when I was 10 from cancer. He fought until the end. I spent 2 years from the time I was 8 till March 1990 watching this man do what he could to survive. I've sworn that if I ever develop cancer, I too will do whatever I can to survive. The point is that if there's a remote chance of me beating it, I can deal with temporary suffering for long-term survival.
The second reason is more that Ian Banks is one of my favorite authors. My imagination has been shaped by the worlds and stories he's created ever since I was a boy. I was introduced to his Consider Phlebas while my dad was sick and have read nearly all of his work since then. For me, this is all closely tied together emotionally.
Either way, I can respect his choices. They won't be my choices, but I can understand why.