Brian Aldiss

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Brian Aldiss
Brian Aldiss 2005.JPG
Aldiss at Interaction in Glasgow, 2005
Born(1925-08-18) 18 August 1925 (age 89)
East Dereham, Norfolk, England
Pen nameJael Cracken, Dr. Peristyle, C. C. Shackleton
OccupationWriter, editor, artist
Period1954–present (as writer)
GenreScience fiction
Notable worksHelliconia trilogy
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Brian Aldiss
Brian Aldiss 2005.JPG
Aldiss at Interaction in Glasgow, 2005
Born(1925-08-18) 18 August 1925 (age 89)
East Dereham, Norfolk, England
Pen nameJael Cracken, Dr. Peristyle, C. C. Shackleton
OccupationWriter, editor, artist
Period1954–present (as writer)
GenreScience fiction
Notable worksHelliconia trilogy

Brian Wilson Aldiss, OBE (/ˈɔːldɪs/; born 18 August 1925) is an English writer and anthologies 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 is a vice-president of the international H. G. Wells Society. He is also (with the late 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 has received two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, and one John W. Campbell Memorial Award.[1] His influential works include the short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long", the basis for the Stanley Kubrick-developed Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Aldiss was associated with the British New Wave of science fiction.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Aldiss's father ran a department store that his grandfather had established, and the family lived above it.[3] He started to write stories as a 3 year old which his mother would bind and put on a shelf.[4] At the age of 6, Brian was sent to board at West Buckland School in Devon, which he attended until his late teens.[3] During World War II in 1943, he joined the Royal Signals, and saw action in Burma; his Army experience inspired the Horatio Stubbs second and third books, A Soldier Erect and A Rude Awakening[citation needed].

After the war, he worked as a bookseller in Oxford. He 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 British publisher Faber and Faber. Brian Aldiss was for some years the literary editor of the "Oxford Mail" which was a position of some high regard. I know this because I interviewed him for a series of articles which were published in Smith's Trade News, the trade magazine of the newsagent W.H. Smith and Son. Probably about 1956. He was well regarded as a writer. As a result Aldiss's first book was The Brightfount Diaries (Faber, 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 number of Science Fantasy.[5] Several of his stories appeared in 1955 including three in monthly issues of New Worlds,[5] a more important magazine also edited by Carnell.

In 1954, The Observer newspaper ran a competition for a short story set in the year 2500, Aldiss's story "Not For An Age" was ranked third following a reader vote.[6] The Brightfount Diaries had been a minor success, and Faber asked Aldiss if he had any more writing that 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,[citation needed] 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, so 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 World Science Fiction Convention, but finished behind "no award".[1] He was elected President of the British Science Fiction Association in 1960. He was the literary editor of the Oxford Mail newspaper during the 1960s. Around 1964 he and his 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 issues, and an interview with William S. Burroughs in the second.

Besides his own writings, he has had great success as an anthologist. 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, going 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) which were quite successful. 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, he and Harry 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)

Brian Aldiss also invented a form of extremely short story called the Minisaga. The Daily Telegraph hosted a competition for the best Minisaga for several years and Aldiss was the judge.[7] He has edited several anthologies of the best Minisagas.

'Metropolis' limited edition print by Brian Aldiss

He traveled to Yugoslavia, where he met Yugoslav fans in Ljubljana, Slovenia; he published a travel book about Yugoslavia entitled Cities and Stones (1966), his only work in the genre;[8] he published an alternative-history fantasy story, "The Day of the Doomed King" (1968), about Serbian kings in the Middle Ages; and he wrote a novel called The Malacia Tapestry, about an alternative Dalmatia.

In addition to a highly successful career as a writer, Aldiss is also an accomplished artist whose abstract compositions or 'isolées' are influenced by the work of Giorgio de Chirico and Wassily Kandinsky.[9] 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.[10](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'.")[10]

Awards and honours[edit]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1990.[citation needed]

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.[11]

The Science Fiction Writers of America made him its 18th SFWA Grand Master in 2000[12] and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted him in 2004.[13]

He was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature in Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honours list, announced on 11 June 2005.[14]

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.[15]

On 1 July 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in recognition of his contribution to literature.[16]





Anthologies edited[edit]


See also[edit]


A song about Aldiss entitled 'Brian Aldiss' was released by the electronic pop duo Echoes In Rows in 2010.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Aldiss, Brian W." The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
  2. ^ Scholes, Robert; Rabkin, Eric S. (1977). "Bibliography I: History and Criticism of Science Fiction". Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision. London: Oxford University Press. 
  3. ^ a b Brown, Andrew (16 June 2001). "Profile: Brian Aldiss". The Guardian (London). 
  4. ^ Cooper, Charlie (13 April 2013). "My Secret Life: Brian Aldiss, 87, author". The Independent (London). 
  5. ^ a b Brian Aldiss at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-22. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  6. ^ 'Short Story, Ballot' The Observer; Jan 16, 1955 page 9;
  7. ^ "Your chance to enter the Daily Telegraph Mini-saga Competition 1999". The Daily Telegraph (London). 27 April 1999. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ email communication, 2011.
  10. ^ a b "wire-frame • giclée prints". Wire-frame fine art publishing ( Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
  11. ^ "Past ICFA Guests". International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  12. ^ "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  13. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame". Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 2012-04-25. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.
  14. ^ "The London Gazette". 2005-06-11. Retrieved 2014-05-03. 
  15. ^ "Desert Island Discs - Castaway : Brian Aldiss". BBC. Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
  16. ^ "University of Liverpool announces 2008 honours". Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  17. ^ a b c d "BSFA Awards: Past Awards" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 19, 2011). British Science Fiction Association. Archived 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
  18. ^ "John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalists". Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction ( Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
    The Award recognises second and third-place runners-up. Recent lists of finalists are long, 14 in 2008.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Mortal Morning by Brian Aldiss". Flambard Press. Retrieved 2013-04-18. 
  22. ^ David Langford, The Sex Column and Other Misprints, Cosmos Books, 2005, p. 82. The quotation may not be reported exactly.

External links[edit]