Science fiction fans were shocked in April, when Iain Banks announced that he had gallbladder cancer and was not likely to live past a year. He died on June 9th, 2013, but his memory will live on in his famous ‘Culture’ series, and now, in an asteroid.
This, of course, is altogether appropriate as the citizens in the universe of the ‘Culture’ series used hollowed out asteroids to outfit as massive faster-than-light ships that also rotated in such a way that there was centrifugally-generated gravity.
Dr. Jose Luis Galache of the Minor Planet Center, a fan of Banks since he attended a book signing, applied to rename Asteroid 5099 after he read about the author’s sickness, and on June 23rd, the name change was approved. It was hoped that that the approval – which was done by the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature at International Astronomical Union – would have come before Iain Banks’ death. Unfortunately, it came just a week and half too late. Though disappointed, Dr. Galache wrote, “I’d like to think Mr Banks would have been amused to have his own rock”.
Discovered in 1985, the newly christened Iainbanks is considered a minor planet on the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Measuring only 3.79 miles long, it takes nearly four (3.94) years to travel round the sun. The official citation in the Minor Planet Circular 84151 reads:
“Iain M. Banks (1954-2013) was a Scottish writer best known for the Culture series of science fiction novels; he also wrote fiction as Iain Banks. An evangelical atheist and lover of whisky, he scorned social media and enjoyed writing music. He was an extra in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.”
What a fitting tribute to an author who has given so much to the world of science fiction.