Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Two things meant this didn't happen. One was that my editor, the estimable Mr James
Hale, kept having to ask, What was that nom-de-plume again? Jim Beam Morangie, was
that it?
Given that James was not entirely unfamiliar with Scotland's finest product, this was
not a sign that I had picked a particularly memorable name. The other thing was that Mac-
millan decided to publish my SF after all. So I dropped the idea of naming myself after
two whiskies and settled for putting the 'M' back in my name. It had been there on the
title page of The Wasp Factory when I'd submitted it to Macmillan in 1983 but we'd re-
moved it because James thought it looked a bit fussy and was worried people might make
a subconscious connection with Rosie M. Banks, a character in Wodehouse's novels who
happens to be a very bad romantic novelist. While I'd been at Stirling University I had
used the names Iain Banks, Iain M. Banks, Iain Menzies Banks and even Iain Menzies-
Banks as part of a vicious let's-fuck-with-the-establishment-man campaign to make the
administration think there was more than one of me (there is no evidence whatever to
suggest this had any subversive effect at all, other than causing me to be known by the
admin people as That Git Who Can't Decide What His Name Is).
Anyway, I was quite happy dropping the M, until I was upbraided by a couple of
uncles for denying my birthright or something. I'd have put it straight back in there for
my second novel, but that really might have confused things. The SF books seemed like
the M's rightful home, I reasoned. After all, hadn't Brian Aldiss become Brian W. Aldiss
when writing his non-SF books? Made perfect sense. Somebody once called it a trans-
parent attempt on the World's Most Penetrable Pseudonym record, but at least it kept my
uncles happy. It did have the unfortunate effect of meaning I had to keep answering the
question What does the M stand for? And sticking with plain Iain Banks for the SF would
have made it clear that I was just as proud of those novels as I was of the mainstream
books, rather than, as some people appeared to assume, obviously inserting the M to show
that these were sub-standard entertainments, mere slumming-it indulgences compared to
my serious, weighty non-genre works. (Ha!)
Maybe I should have stuck with John B. Macallan.
James Hale was a good friend and a brilliant editor. Back in 1983 it was James's future
wife, Hilary, who pulled The Wasp Factory off the slush pile - that's the unflattering
though usually symbolically depressingly accurate term publishers use to describe the un-
solicited manuscripts they're sent - and took it to James, who was then fiction editor at
Macmillan. It was James who decided to publish the topic, to publish me. It wasn't as
though my manuscript was so self-evidently stunning that the first editor to look at it was
always going to grab it instantly, either, because Macmillan was the sixth publisher I'd
sent it to, and others had thought about it but decided to pass.
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