There’s been a slight disturbance in the Force (otherwise known as the internet) the past couple of days.
I’ve been reading the many tributes left to him by fans and fellow-writers alike.
I find it strange and intriguing how much his death has affected me. I never knew the man, never met him, and yet somehow his death has caused tears to spring unbidden to my eyes. God forbid that I’m having a Princess Di moment. I would like to think that my sorrow is caused simply by the fact that he was, by all accounts, a good man, and his voice has been stilled far too early.
But, great though they were, for the rest of us, his so-called “minor”works – his SF novels – were the real thing. He wove an entire civilisation – The Culture – spanning multiple worlds and thousands of years. And he made it real. As Ken MacLeod wrote:
He likened writing literary fiction to playing a piano, and writing SF to playing a vast church organ. Squandering the “unlimited effects budget” of his imagination on the vast scale of SF was always, by a small edge, the greater joy.
It’s difficult to choose one passage from all his work that stands for him and what he said to me. But I think it has to be this, from Against A Dark Background:
Sorrow be damned and all your plans. Fuck the faithful, fuck the committed, the dedicated, the true believers; fuck all the sure and certain people prepared to maim and kill whoever got in their way; fuck every cause that ended in murder and a child screaming.