Iain Banks' trademark black humour was to the fore as the much-loved Scottish author told the world he was "officially Very Poorly" and was expected to live for just "several months".
Banks, 59, announced in a statement yesterday posted on his website - which rapidly crashed as thousands attempted to see the news for themselves - that he had been diagnosed with late-stage gall bladder cancer, and was extremely unlikely to live beyond a year.
His statement was later reposted on a new website called Banksophilia: Friends of Iain Banks, which has been set up for friends, family and fans to leave messages.
The author said he had withdrawn from all planned public engagements and had asked his partner, Adele, "if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry - but we find ghoulish humour helps)".
Banks is recovering from jaundice caused by a blocked bile duct, and said, "but that - it turns out - is the least of my problems". "I have cancer. It started in my gall bladder, has infected both lobes of my liver and probably also my pancreas and some lymph nodes, plus one tumour is massed around a group of major blood vessels in the same volume, effectively ruling out any chance of surgery to remove the tumours either in the short or long term."
His publishers, meanwhile, are "doing all they can" to bring the publication date of his new novel The Quarry forward "by as much as four months, to give me a better chance of being around when it hits the shelves".
Banks, who made his literary debut in 1984 with The Wasp Factory, is really two authors: he writes bestselling, mainstream, literary fiction as Iain Banks, and award-winning science fiction as Iain M Banks, about the Culture universe.
"The exciting thing about reading Iain Banks is that you never know what kind of book it's going to be," said Banks's friend and fellow Scottish writer Ian Rankin.
"It could be weird, it could be other-worldly, it could be literary fiction, a family saga, about a disc jockey - you don't know what you're going to get, so every time a new book comes out there was that excitement."
Banks has also written an exploration of the history of malt whisky, Raw Spirit.
Banks told friends and colleagues about his cancer diagnosis a few weeks back, and Rankin said his comment that he'd asked his partner if she would do him the honour of "becoming my widow" was typical of the author.
Ken MacLeod, the award-winning Scottish science-fiction author, has known Banks since the pair were at high school together, and paid tribute to the thousands of fans expressing their love for the writer online. "It's very moving indeed how many people are very sad," said MacLeod. "Everybody who knows him is just devastated.
"It's very hard to take. Iain has been a tremendous support and encouragement over the years. You couldn't ask for a better friend, and I'm just holding out for a statistically improbable recovery."
Banks said he may undergo chemotherapy "to extend the amount of time available", but it is still something he is "balancing the pros and cons of".