He has been extremely prolific since releasing his first novel, with over 20 novels under his belt. Born in Fife, Scotland, in 1954, Banks studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology at Stirling University, which is considered one of the most beautifil campuses in the world. The University's joint graduate philosophy programme with the University of St Andrews was ranked as second in the UK and joint 13th in the English-speaking world.
He stayed in London for some time, meeting his wife Annie there before the release of "The Wasp Factory", but returned to Scotland to live first in Edinburgh and then in Fife.
Banks married his wife in Hawaii in 1992, but in early 2007 he announced that they had separated - after 25 years. That same year, he sold his extensive car collection, which included a bottle green Porsche Boxter, a burgundy Porsche 911 Turbo, a Jaguar Mark II, a black BMW M5 and a Land Rover Defender, trading them all for a Lexus RX400h hybrid. He currently drives a Toyota Yaris though. In 2007, he was suddenly overcome with guilt over his carbon footprint, and, according to Times Online, he believes being in the public eye should not allow him to be hypocritical. He has also vowed never to fly again, unless in an emergency.
He has also been known to use the internet and email with reluctance, although he has admitted to enjoying the computer game Civilisation, a turn-based strategy game that allows the player to move any of their units on the world map and contribute to building a civilisation. Time spent playing Civilisation IV in 2006 caused him to miss a publishing deadline! He keeps his email and his work separately so that he is not faced with any distractions during the day - he can write 3 000 words a day!
His writings show a strong awareness of left-wing history, and in late 2004, he became part of a group of British politicians and media figures who campaigned to have then Prime Minister Tony Blair impeached after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to The Independent in an interview with the author in 2007, he cut up his passport in protest, and posted it to 10 downing Street. He was interviewed by Socialist Review on the subject, and joked that he decided upon this course of action after spotting the men armed with machine guns at the Fife dockyard, prior to which he was planning to crash his Land Rover through the gates.
Banks is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, a British organisation that campaigns for the separation of church and state, and is also a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland.
Humanism holds that it is more important to solve humanity's problems through the use of reason than it is important to be religious. It also holds that the basic nature of humans is good, and this is reflected in all of Banks' work - the problem that his characters face is more of a dilemma of choice than of what is good and bad - they are all aware of morals and ethics, but their choices and their circumstances sometimes prevent them from being good.
Banks was not raised in a strictly religious background, and believes that one can be an atheist and a humanist and live a "perfectly moral life". He had a secure and loving upbringing, although many people tend to assume that he must have had a disturbed one - his novels are sometimes so full of murder, sexual perversion and drug abuse that this assumption comes all to naturally.
Banks explained in an interview with Mark Lawson on BBC Four why his novels are published under two different names. His parents had intended naming him Iain Menzies Banks, but his father made a mistake at the registering office, and he was officially registered as Iain Banks. He continued to use his unofficial middle name, and he actually submitted "The Wasp Factory" for publication under the name Iain M Banks. However, his editor asked him to drop the 'M' as it appeared too "fussy". After three mainstream novels, Banks submitted a science-fiction novel, "Consider Phlebas", and suggested the return of the "M" in order to distinguish between the genres.
His road to fame was not easy, nor was it quick - he wrote for ten years before being published, and "The Wasp Factory", which has elevated his status among British authors so much that he has been placed alongside the likes of Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, was rejected six times before being published.