|Born||Brian Wilson Aldiss|
18 August 1925
East Dereham, Norfolk, England
|Died||19 August 2017 (aged 92)|
|Period||1954–2017 (as writer)|
Brian Wilson Aldiss //; 18 August 1925 – 19 August 2017) was an English writer and anthology editor, best known for science fiction novels and short stories. His byline reads either Brian W. Aldiss or simply Brian Aldiss, except for occasional pseudonyms during the mid-1960s.(
Greatly influenced by science fiction pioneer H. G. Wells, Aldiss was a vice-president of the international H. G. Wells Society. He was (with Harry Harrison) co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. Aldiss was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2000 and inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2004. He received two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, and one John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He wrote the short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" (1969), the basis for the Stanley Kubrick-developed Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Aldiss was associated with the British New Wave of science fiction.
Aldiss was born on 18 August 1925, above his paternal grandfather's draper's shop in Dereham, Norfolk. When Aldiss's grandfather died, his father, Bill (the younger of two sons), sold his share in the shop and the family left Dereham. Aldiss's mother, Dot, was the daughter of a builder. He had an older sister who was stillborn, and a younger sister. As a 3-year-old, Aldiss started to write stories which his mother would bind and put on a shelf.
At the age of 6, he went to Framlingham College but moved to Devon and was sent to board at West Buckland School in Devon in 1939 after the outbreak of the war. As a child he discovered the pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction. He eventually read all the novels by H. G. Wells and Robert Heinlein, and later Philip K. Dick. In 1943, during the Second World War, he joined the Royal Signals and saw action in Burma.
After the war, he worked as a bookseller in Oxford. He also wrote a number of short pieces for a booksellers' trade journal about life in a fictitious bookshop, which attracted the attention of Charles Monteith, an editor at the publisher Faber and Faber. As a result, Faber and Faber published Aldiss's first book, The Brightfount Diaries (1955), a 200-page novel in diary form about the life of a sales assistant in a bookshop.
About this time he also began to write science fiction for various magazines. According to ISFDB, his first speculative fiction in print was the short story Criminal Record, published by John Carnell in the July 1954 issue of Science Fantasy. Several of his stories appeared in 1955, including three in monthly issues of New Worlds, also edited by Carnell.
The Brightfount Diaries had been a minor success, and Faber asked Aldiss if he had any more writing they could look at with a view to publishing. Aldiss confessed to being a science fiction author, to the delight of the publishers, who had a number of science fiction fans in high places, and so his first science fiction book was published, a collection of short stories entitled Space, Time and Nathaniel (Faber, 1957). By this time, his earnings from writing matched his wages in the bookshop, and he made the decision to become a full-time writer.
Aldiss led the voting for Most Promising New Author of 1958 at the next year's Worldcon, but finished behind "no award". He was elected president of the British Science Fiction Association in 1960. He was the literary editor of the Oxford Mail newspaper from 1958 to 1969. Around 1964, he and long-time collaborator Harry Harrison started the first ever journal of science fiction criticism, Science Fiction Horizons, which during its brief span of two issues published articles and reviews by such authors as James Blish, and featured a discussion among Aldiss, C. S. Lewis, and Kingsley Amis in the first issue and an interview with William S. Burroughs in the second. In 1967 Algis Budrys listed Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, Roger Zelazny, and Samuel R. Delany as "an earthshaking new kind of" writers, and leaders of the New Wave. Aldiss supported the New Wave movement, helping the magazine New Worlds to get financial backing from a 1967 Arts Council grant and publishing some of his more experimental work in the magazine.
Besides his own writings, he edited a number of anthologies. For Faber he edited Introducing SF, a collection of stories typifying various themes of science fiction, and Best Fantasy Stories. In 1961, he edited an anthology of reprinted short science fiction for the British paperback publisher Penguin Books under the title Penguin Science Fiction. This was remarkably successful, went into numerous reprints, and was followed up by two further anthologies: More Penguin Science Fiction (1963) and Yet More Penguin Science Fiction (1964). The later anthologies enjoyed the same success as the first, and all three were eventually published together as The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (1973), which also went into a number of reprints. In the 1970s, he produced several large collections of classic grand-scale science fiction, under the titles Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1975), Galactic Empires (1976), Evil Earths (1976), and Perilous Planets (1978). Around this time, he edited a large-format volume Science Fiction Art (1975), with selections of artwork from the magazines and pulps.
In response to the results from the planetary probes of the 1960s and 1970s, which showed that Venus was completely unlike the hot, tropical jungle usually depicted in science fiction, Aldiss and Harrison edited an anthology Farewell, Fantastic Venus!, reprinting stories based on the pre-probe ideas of Venus. He also edited, with Harrison, a series of anthologies The Year's Best Science Fiction (Nos. 1–9, 1968–1976).
Aldiss invented a form of extremely short story called the mini-saga. The Daily Telegraph hosted a competition for the best mini-saga for several years, and Aldiss was the judge. He edited several anthologies of the best mini-sagas.
Aldiss travelled to Yugoslavia, where he met fans in Ljubljana, Slovenia and published a travel book about Yugoslavia entitled Cities and Stones (1966), his only work in the genre. He published an alternative-history fantasy story, "The Day of the Doomed King" (1968), about Serbian kings in the Middle Ages, and wrote a novel called The Malacia Tapestry, about an alternative Dalmatia.
In addition to a highly successful career as a writer, Aldiss was an accomplished artist. His first solo exhibition, The Other Hemisphere, was held in Oxford, August–September 2010, and the exhibition's centrepiece Metropolis (see figure) has since been released as a limited edition fine art print. (The exhibition title denotes the writer/artist's notion, "words streaming from one side of his brain inspiring images in what he calls 'the other hemisphere'".)
In 1948, Aldiss married Olive Fortescue, secretary to the owner of Sanders' bookseller's in Oxford, where he had worked since 1947. He had two children from his first marriage: Clive in 1955 and Caroline Wendy in 1959, but the marriage "finally collapsed" in 1959 and dissolved in 1965.
In 1965, he married his second wife, Margaret Christie Manson (daughter of John Alexander Christie Manson, an aeronautical engineer), a Scottish woman and secretary to the editor of the Oxford Mail; Aldiss was 40, and she 31. They lived in Oxford and had two children together, Tim and Charlotte. She died in 1997.
Aldiss was the "Permanent Special Guest" at the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) from 1989 through 2008. He was also the Guest of Honor at the conventions in 1986 and 1999.
In January 2007 he appeared on Desert Island Discs. His choice of record to 'save' was "Old Rivers" sung by Walter Brennan, his choice of book was John Heilpern's biography of John Osborne, and his luxury a banjo. The full selection of eight favourite records is on the BBC website.
On 1 July 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in recognition of his contribution to literature. The Brian W Aldiss Archive at the University holds manuscripts from the period 1943–1995.
Aldiss was the author of over 80 books and 300 short stories, as well as several volumes of poetry.
Uncollected short stories:
So finally, I wrote to the Editor and said, you know you don't have a comic column. Don't you think that 'The Bookseller' would do better if it had a comic column every week? I would like to write such a column for you. He wrote back and said, come and see me. Bring some of your comic columns. I wrote six of them, and since I was working, in fact, for Blackwells, Blackwell became Brightfount and my bookshop was Brightfounts... The Brightfount Diaries, and my pseudonym was not Aldiss, but Pica, a small type. OK. ... I received a very nice letter from Faber & Faber, saying, 'Dear Mr Aldiss, We all enjoy 'The Brightfount Diaries'. We wondered if you'd care to make them into a book'. Make them into a book! You know, I didn't have to submit anything – they asked me! Well, I mean, there's the root of arrogance for you.
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