Mr. Iain Banks is a Scottish author with two personas. As Iain Banks he writes mainstream, if slightly edgy, novels. As Iain M. Banks he writes science fiction novels, including the Culture series, which deals with a vast and sprawling interstellar utopian civilization. The M is important here. Without it you know you're getting a mainstream story. With it, you know you're getting sci-fi. But not in the USA apparently.
While wandering around Newark Liberty airport in New Jersey, I came across what I thought was a new Iain M Bank novel in the Borders concession. So, M. Sci-fi. It even has the by now standard endorsement from William Gibson telling us that this is "science fiction of a peculiary gnarly energy and elegance". So, M. Sci-fi. Right? Apparently not quite. Paul Miller tells me on Twitter that in the UK this is an Iain Banks novel. No M. Not sci-fi. A quick cross check between Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk shows that Paul's right. So what's going on here? I'll have to read the book to try and work out what's happening but for now at least, it appears that for Iain Banks' middle initial it's a case of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.