In the published works of Iain Menzies Banks, we may notice that the author chose to display his name slightly differently. The culture series has him as 'Iain M. Banks', but his 'non-genre' fiction is simply published under 'Iain Banks'.

Was this his idea or a publishers suggestion? Could it be an attempt to add gravitas to his name, like Arthur C. Clarke or H. G. Wells -- or J.R.R Tolkien for that matter.

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    I don't think this is necessarily uncommon for authors who write in multiple different areas. The author Thomas/Tom Holt publishes historical fiction under Thomas, and fantasy under Tom, for example. Jan 13, 2022 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


Banks himself answered this question in a 5-minute BBC interview:

I blame my uncles; I put The Wasp Factory in, the very first book what I got published and it was "Iain M. Banks" on it, the mainstream novel. And we took it out because my editor thought it looked a bit fussy. And also because he thought people might get confused with the fictitious bad romantic novelist from the Wodehouse novels Rosie M. Banks. So out it came, I wasn't bothered in the least, and then later on, a few months later, I got what I can only describe as avuncular disapproval. Couple of my uncles came up and said "What you take the 'M' out your name for? Are you ashamed of the 'M' I guess? Or what?" For that is how we speak in Fife.

And so I said I'd put it back in. I couldn't put back in sort of gratuitously for the next mainstream novels, so I thought when we started doing the science fiction I'll put it back in. And it actually looks kind of slightly more American somehow. I was thinking of being "Iain M. Banks the Third" at one point, you know, because it's a kind of trans-Atlantic phenomenon, science fiction so it seems more fitting. So that's how the 'M' got put back in.

(Emphasis mine, and any transcription errors likewise.)

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    Knowing this fact made John Scalzi call me a nerd: twitter.com/scalzi/status/878335915260747777
    – AdamT
    Jan 11, 2022 at 11:22
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    I think a real-life romance novelist obtained permission from Wodehouse to use "Rosie M. Banks" as a pseudonym. Though that would have been a long time before Iain started publishing his own work!
    – AJM
    Jan 11, 2022 at 16:42
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    Unfortunately the author is dead, but I would really have liked to ask him "who in heck called you Iain M. Banks in normal every day life, to the point where family would criticise not having the middle initial?" - most people have middle names, relatively few people use them in everyday situations tho...
    – Moo
    Jan 11, 2022 at 20:12
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    @Moo at least in my (Scottish) family, middle names do get used — often when scolding, but not only. As in, “Iain Menzies Banks, what have you done this time?” (We’re mostly from Lanarkshire, but spent many years in Fife.) Jan 12, 2022 at 8:28
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    @Tetsujin - according to Wikipedia it sounds more like "mengis" which probably matches your second suggestion but that could just be Wikipedia providing the more common pronunciation. I don't personally recall any interviews. etc. where he himself pronounced it though.
    – AdamT
    Feb 1, 2023 at 8:59

According to the Wikipedia article on the author

Banks published work under two names. His parents had meant to name him "Iain Menzies Banks", but his father mistakenly registered him as "Iain Banks". Banks still used the middle name and submitted The Wasp Factory for publication as "Iain M. Banks". Banks's editor inquired about the possibility of omitting the 'M' as it appeared "too fussy" and the potential existed for confusion with Rosie M. Banks, a romantic novelist in the Jeeves novels by P. G. Wodehouse; Banks agreed to the omission. After three mainstream novels, Banks's publishers agreed to publish his first science fiction (SF) novel Consider Phlebas. To create a distinction between the mainstream and the SF, Banks suggested returning the 'M' to his name, which was then used in all of his science fiction works.

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