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Brian Aldiss

Brian Aldiss at Interaction in Glasgow, 2005
Born 18 August 1925 (1925-08-18) (age 84)
East Dereham, Norfolk, England
Pen name Jael Cracken
Occupation Novelist
Genres Science fiction

Brian Wilson Aldiss, OBE (born 18 August 1925) is an English author of both general fiction and science fiction. His byline reads either Brian W. Aldiss or simply Brian Aldiss. 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 Harry Harrison) co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. His writings have been compared to those of Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear and Arthur C. Clarke. 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.

Contents

Biography

Aldiss's father ran a department store that his grandfather had established, and the family lived above it. At the age of 6, Brian was sent to board at West Buckland School in Devon, which he attended until his late teens. In 1943, he joined the Royal Signals regiment, and saw action in Burma; his encounters with tropical rainforests at that time may have been at least a partial inspiration for Hothouse, as his Army experience inspired the Horatio Stubbs second and third books.

After World War II, he worked as a bookseller in Oxford. Besides short science fiction for various magazines, he wrote a number of short pieces for a booksellers trade journal about life in a fictitious bookshop, and this attracted the attention of Charles Monteith, an editor at the British publishers Faber and Faber. As a result of this, Aldiss's first book was The Brightfount Diaries (1955), a novel in diary form about the life of a sales assistant in a bookshop.

In 1955, The Observer newspaper ran a competition for a short story set in the year 2500, which Aldiss won with a story entitled "Not For An Age". 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, a collection of short stories entitled Space, Time and Nathaniel was published. By this time, his earnings from writing equalled the wages he got in the bookshop, so he made the decision to become a full-time writer.

He was voted the Most Promising New Author at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1958, and 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 (1968-1976?)

He travelled to Yugoslavia, met Yugoslav fans in Ljubljana, Slovenia, published a travel book about Yugoslavia, published an alternative-history fantasy story about Serbian kings in the Middle Ages, and, most importantly, wrote a novel, perhaps in one way his best, or most accomplished as a work of literature: a dreamy, visionary, atmospheric work of fantasy, but with many SF elements, The Malacia Tapestry, about an alternative Dalmatia, stopped in time, where some of the people are genetically related to dinosaurs (who still exist), some are winged, progress is sometimes attempted but never really achieved, and Turks may attack in the hope of enslaving Venice or Zadar at any time. The book gives you a feeling that, in Aldiss’s words, “we all stand condemned in the terrible forests of the Universe”, but it is, above all, beautiful.

He has achieved the honor of "Permanent Special Guest" at ICFA, the conference for the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, which he attends annually.

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

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 Halpern’s biography of John Osborne, and his luxury a banjo. The full selection of eight favourite records is on the BBC website [1].

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

Books

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Fiction

  • The Brightfount Diaries (1955)
  • Space, Time and Nathaniel (1957) Short story collection; all his published science fiction to that date, including "T", his first published story, and "Not For an Age". Aldiss had only had thirteen stories published at that time, and a fourteenth was hurriedly written to make up the numbers.
  • Non-Stop (1958) A story of a small tribe in a very strange jungle, who make unsettling discoveries about the nature of their world. This was published in the US as Starship.
  • Equator (1958)
  • The Canopy of Time (1959) Short story collection: published in slightly different format in the US as Galaxies like Grains of Sand
  • The Interpreter (1960; US title Bow down to Nul) A short novel about the huge, old galactic empire of Nuls, a giant, three-limbed, civilised alien race. Earth is just a lesser-than-third-class colony ruled by a Nul tyrant whose deceiving devices together with good willing but ineffective attempts of a Nul signatory to clarify the abuses and with the disorganised earthling resistance reflect the complex relationship existing between imperialists and subject races which Aldiss himself had the chance of seeing at first hand when serving in India and Indonesia in the forties.
  • The Male Response (US: 1959, UK 1961)
  • The Primal Urge (1961)
  • Hothouse (1962) Set in a far future Earth, where the earth has stopped rotating, the Sun has increased output, and plants are engaged in a constant frenzy of growth and decay, like a tropical forest enhanced a thousandfold; a few small groups of elvish humans still live, with intelligent parasitic fungi in their heads, on the edge of extinction, beneath the giant banyan tree that covers the day side of the earth.
  • The Airs of Earth (1963 - short story collection; American title Starswarm)
  • The Dark Light Years (1964): the encounter of humans with the utods, gentle aliens whose physical and mental health requires wallowing in mud and filth, who are not even recognised as intelligent by the humans.
  • Greybeard (1964) Set decades after the Earth's population has been sterilised as a result of nuclear bomb tests conducted in Earth's orbit, the book shows an emptying world, occupied by an ageing, childless population.
  • Best SF stories of Brian Aldiss (1965); Published in the US as But who can replace a Man?
  • Earthworks (1965)
  • The Impossible Smile (1965); Serial in Science Fantasy magazine, under the pseudonym "Jael Cracken"
  • The Saliva Tree and other strange growths (1966) Story collection. The title story of the collection, The Saliva Tree was written to mark the centenary of H.G. Wells's birth, and received the 1965 Nebula award for the best short novel
  • An Age (1967: also published in the US as Cryptozoic!) a dystopic time-travel novel.
  • Report On Probability A (1968) Described by Aldiss as an 'anti-novel', this book had its origins some years earlier, before being serialised in New Worlds under Michael Moorcock's editorship. The bulk of the book is the Report, describing in minute, obsessive and often repetitive detail, three characters G, S, and C as they secretly watch a house, each from a separate outbuilding with peripheral views of the house's windows, catching occasional glimpses of its occupant, Mrs Mary. As the Report is being read by a character called "Domoladossa'", he is secretly being observed from other universes, and these observers in their turn are being observed, all of them engaged in futile speculation about the exact nature of Probability A, and the exact meaning of the Victorian painting, The Hireling Shepherd (by Pre-Raphaelite William Holman Hunt; Holman Hunt's paintings also feature in Aldiss's short story The Secret of Holman Hunt and the Crude Death Rate, published in 1975), which occurs in the Report. Later we learn that Mrs. Mary is watching a screen of her own, although this may just be a television set, and it is suggested that the painting may be a window into a world where time is standing still.
  • ed. Farewell Fantastic Venus (1968)
  • Barefoot in the Head (1969) Perhaps Aldiss's most experimental work, this first appeared in several parts as the 'Acid Head War' series in New Worlds. Set in a Europe some years after a flare-up in the Middle East led to Europe being attacked with bombs releasing huge quantities of long-lived hallucinogenic drugs. Into an England with a population barely maintaining a grip on reality comes a young Serb, who himself starts coming under the influence of the ambient aerosols, and finds himself leading a messianic crusade. The narration and dialogue reflects the shattering of language under the influence of the drugs, in mutating phrases and puns and allusions, in a deliberate echo of Finnegans Wake.
  • Neanderthal Planet (1970) Collection of four short stories.
  • The Horatio Stubbs saga
    • The Hand-Reared Boy (1970)
    • A Soldier Erect (1970)
    • A Rude Awakening (1978)
  • The Moment of Eclipse (1971: short story collection) -- British Science Fiction Award winner, 1971[2]
  • The Book of Brian Aldiss (1972) (UK title The Comic Inferno) Short story collection
  • Frankenstein Unbound (1973) A 21st century scientist, a creator of a technological monster himself, is transported to 19th century Switzerland where he encounters both Frankenstein and Mary Shelley. It was the basis for the 1990 film of the same title, directed by Roger Corman.
  • The 80 minute Hour (1974)
  • The Malacia Tapestry (1976)
  • Brothers of the Head (1977) This was a large-format book, illustrated by Ian Pollock, telling the strange story of the rock stars Tom and Barry Howe, Siamese twins with a third, dormant head, which eventually starts to awaken. Also adapted for film by Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe, released in 2006.
  • Last Orders and Other Stories (1977)
  • Pile (1979; Poem)
  • New Arrivals, Old Encounters (1979)
  • Moreau's Other Island (1980)
  • The Squire Quartet
    • Life In The West (1980)
    • Forgotten Life (1988)
    • Remembrance Day (1993)
    • Somewhere East Of Life (1994)
  • The Helliconia Trilogy
  • Seasons in Flight (1984)
  • Courageous New Planet (c. 1984)
  • The Year before Yesterday (1987); A fix-up of Equator from 1958 combined with The Impossible Smile from 1965.
  • Ruins (1987)
  • Dracula Unbound (1990)
  • A Tupolev too Far (1994)
  • Somewhere East of Life: Another European Fantasia (1994)
  • The Secret of This Book (1995) (Common Clay: 20-Odd Stories US)
  • (with Roger Penrose) White Mars Or, The Mind Set Free (1999)
  • Super-Toys Last All Summer Long and Other Stories of Future Time (2001) The title story was the basis for the Steven Spielberg film A.I.
  • Super-State (2002)
  • The Cretan Teat (2002)
  • Affairs at Hampden Ferrers (2004)
  • Cultural Breaks (2005); his last collection of short stories.
  • Jocasta (2005); A re-telling of Sophocles' Theban tragedies concerning Oedipus and Antigone. In Aldiss' novel, myth and magic are vibrantly real, experienced through an evolving human consciousness. Amidst various competing interpretations of reality, including the appearance of a time-travelling Sophocles, Aldiss provides an engaging alternative explanation of the Sphinx' riddle.
  • Sanity and the Lady (2005)
  • HARM (2007) -- 2008 Campbell Award nominee[8]

Poetry

  • Home Life With Cats (1992)
  • At The Caligula Hotel (1995)
  • Songs From The Steppes Of Central Asia (1995)
  • A Plutonian Monologue on His Wife's Death (The Frogmore Papers, 2000)
  • At A Bigger House (2002)
  • The Dark Sun Rises (2002)
  • A Prehistory of Mind (2008)

Non-fiction

  • Cities and Stones - A Traveller's Yugoslavia (1966)
  • The Shape of Further Things (1970)
  • Item Eighty Three (with Margaret Aldiss) (1972): a comprehensive bibliography of all books and short works published to that date. (The book is number 83 in its own list).
  • Billion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (1973) in which he argues that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was the first true science fiction novel. Revised and expanded as Trillion Year Spree (with David Wingrove)(1986)
  • Hell's Cartographers (1975, edited with Harry Harrison): a collection of short autobiographical pieces by a number of science fiction writers, including Aldiss. The title is a reference to Kingsley Amis's book about science fiction, New Maps of Hell
  • The Pale Shadow Of Science (1986)
  • This World and Nearer Ones: Essays exploring the familiar (1979)
  • The Detached Retina: Aspects of SF and Fantasy (1995)
  • The Twinkling of an Eye or My Life as an Englishman (1998)
  • When the Feast is Finished (with Margaret Aldiss) (1999)
  • Art after Apogee: The Relationships between an Idea, a Story, a Painting (with Rosemary Phipps) (2000)
  • Bury My Heart at W.H. Smith's - A Writing Life (1990) - an autobiography

Short story collections

( As editor )

  • The Year's Best Science Fiction No.6 (with Harry Harrison) (1973)
  • Space Opera (1974)
  • Galactic Empires Volume 1 (1976)
  • Galactic Empires Volume 2 (1976)

References

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I can't help believing that these things that come from the subconscious mind have a sort of truth to them. It may not be a scientific truth, but it's psychological truth.

Brian Wilson Aldiss (born 1925-08-18) is an English writer of general fiction and science fiction.

Contents

Sourced

  • The day of the android has dawned.
    • "Are You An Android?", Science Fantasy #34 (April 1959)
  • Science fiction is no more written for scientists than ghost stories are written for ghosts.
    • Penguin Science Fiction (1961) Introduction
Obeying an inalienable law, things grew, spreading riotous and strange in their instinct for growth.
  • Obeying an inalienable law, things grew, spreading riotous and strange in their instinct for growth.
    • Hothouse (1962) also titled, in an abridged American edition The Long Afternoon of Earth first lines.
  • One afternoon in early January, the weather showed a lack of character. There was no frost nor wind: the trees in the garden did not stir.
    • Report On Probability A (1968)
  • Keep violence in the mind where it belongs.
    • Barefoot in the Head (1969)
  • Most SF is about madness, or what is currently ruled to be madness; this is part of its attraction — it's always playing with how much the human mind can encompass.
    • "In Conversation: Brian Aldiss & James Blish" in Cypher (October 1973); republished in The Tale That Wags the God (1987) by James Blish
  • One of the objections I have against Campbell's Astounding was that there was too little love in it. It was a very loveless magazine. They never took enough account of the feeling that is always in SF.
    • "In Conversation: Brian Aldiss & James Blish" in Cypher (October 1973)
  • When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society, one of the politer names of hell. That is why we dread children, even if we love them. They show us the state of our decay.
    • The Trillion Year Spree (1986)
  • Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name.
    • "Apéritif" in Bury My Heart at W.H. Smith's (1990)
  • Whatever creativity is, it is in part a solution to a problem.
    • "Apéritif" in Bury My Heart at W.H. Smith's (1990)
  • I was hardly fit for human society. Thus destiny shaped me to be a science fiction writer.
    • The Twinkling of an Eye: My Life as an Englishman (1998) Unsourced variant: "Why had I become a writer in the first place? Because I wasn't fit for society; I didn't fit into the system."
Digging deep in a Martian desert men discovered an enormous brain...
  • Digging deep in a Martian desert
    men discovered an enormous brain.
    It suddenly started to think at them —
    So they covered it up again...
    • "The Deceptive Truth", The Dark Sun Rises (2002)
  • Most of my poetry lies beyond the SF field, yet here I am corralled into 'SF poetry' as part of this poetry weekend. Of course, some might say, 'you've made your own bed — now you must lie in it!' But, while fully accepting that dictum, I'm not yet quite prepared to lie down...

Outside (1955)

Full text online
  • The house was a rambling affair. It had few windows, and such as there were did not open, were unbreakable and admitted no light. Darkness lay everywhere; illumination from an invisible source followed one's entry into a room — the black had to be entered before it faded. Every room was furnished, but with odd pieces that bore little relation to each other, as if there was no purpose for the room. Rooms equipped for purposeless beings have that air about them.
  • The thing was not discussable, even with a near acquaintance like Calvin because … because of the nature of the thing … because one had to behave like a normal, unworried human being. That at least was sound and clear and gave him comfort: behave like a normal human being.
  • Did the others here feel the disquiet he felt? Had they a reason for concealing that disquiet? And another question:
    Where was "here"?
    He shut that one down sharply.
    Deal with one thing at a time. Grope your way gently to the abyss. Categorize your knowledge.
  • They came, by what means he did not know, from outside, the vast abstraction that none of them had ever seen. He had a mental picture of a starry void in which men and monsters swam or battled, and then swiftly erased it. Such ideas did not conform with the quiet behavior of his companions; if they never spoke about outside, did they think about it?
  • Irreconcilables: he should stay here and conform; he should — not stay here (remembering no time when he was not here, Harley could frame the second idea no more clearly than that). Another point of pain was that "here" and "not here" seemed to be not two halves of a homogeneous whole, but two dissonances.
  • Jagger had gone through there. Harley also went through. Somewhere he did not know, somewhere whose existence he had not guessed.… Somewhere that wasn't the house.…
  • "There's a way outside. We're — we've got to find out what we are." His voice rose to an hysterical pitch. He was shaking Calvin again. "We must find out what's wrong here. Either we are victims of some ghastly experiment — or we're all monsters!"
  • That house, whatever it was, was the embodiment of all the coldness in his mind. Harley said to himself: "Whatever has been done to me, I've been cheated. Someone has robbed me of something so thoroughly I don't even know what it is. It's been a cheat, a cheat.…"

Let's Be Frank (1957)

First published in Science-Fantasy #23 (1957) Full text online
  • The midwife bustled out to the four in the antechamber and announced that the Almighty (who had recently become a Protestant) had seen fit to bless milady with a son.
  • A later generation could have explained the miracle to Sir Frank — though explaining in terms he would not have understood. Though he knew well enough the theory of family traits and likenesses, it would have been impossible then to make him comprehend the intricacy of a chromosome which carries inside it — not merely the stereotypes of parental hair or temperament — but the secret knowledge of how to breathe, how to work the muscles to move the bones, how to grow, how to remember, how to commence the processes of thought … all the infinite number of secret "how to's" that have to be passed on for life to stay above jelly level.
    A freak chromosome in Sir Frank ensured he passed on, together with these usual secrets, the secret of his individual consciousness.
  • It was extraordinary to be in two places at once, doing two different things — extraordinary, but not confusing. He merely had two bodies which were as integrated as his two hands had been.
  • Frank II liked Spain. Philip's capital was gayer, warmer, and more sanitary than London. It was intoxicating to enjoy the best of both courts. It proved also extremely remunerative: the shared consciousness of Frank I and II was by far the quickest communicational link between the two rival countries, and as such was worth money. Not that Frank revealed his secret to a soul, but he let it be known he had a fleet of capable spies who moved without risk of detection between England and Spain. Burly Lord Burleigh beamed upon him. So did the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
  • As long as the chromosome reproduced itself in sufficient dominance, he was immortal! To him, in an unscientific age, the problem did not present itself quite like that; but he realized that there was a trait to be kept in the family.
  • Frank II had been back in the aptly named Mother Country for only a few months when a lady of his acquaintance presented him with Frank IV. Frank IV was a girl, christened Berenice. The state of coma which had ensnared Frank II for so long did not afflict Berenice, or any other of his descendants.
    Another tremendous adjustment in the shared consciousness had to be made. That also had its compensations; Frank was the first man ever really to appreciate the woman's point of view.
  • Full of years, Sir Frank's body died. The diphtheria which carried him off caused him as much suffering as it would have done an ordinary man; dying was not eased by his unique gift. He slid out into the long darkness — but his consciousness continued unabated in eight other bodies.
  • These people, scattered all over the country, a few of them on the continent, were much like normal people. To outsiders, their relationship was not apparent; they certainly never revealed it; they never met. They became traders, captains of ships that traded with the Indies, soldiers, parliamentarians, agriculturists; some plunged into, some avoided, the constitutional struggles that dogged most of the seventeenth century. But they were all — male or female — Franks. They had the inexpressible benefit of their progenitor's one hundred and seventy-odd years' experience, and not only of his, but of all the other Franks. It was small wonder that, with few exceptions, whatever they did they prospered.
  • The ambition of the original Frank had not died; it had grown subtler. It had become a wish to sample everything. The more bodily habitations there were with which to sample, the more tantalizing the idea seemed: for many experiences, belonging only to one brief era, are never repeated, and may be gone before they are perceived and tasted.
  • Many Franks of the sixteenth generation were killed in the muck of the trenches, he died not once but many times, developing an obsessive dread of war which never left him.
    By the time the Americans entered the war, he was turning his many thoughts to politics.
  • Frank's chromosome was now breeding as true as ever. Blood group, creed, colour of skin — nothing was proof against it. The numbers with shared consciousness, procreating for all they were worth, trebled every generation.
  • Many modifications in private and public life took place. Privacy ceasing to exist, all new houses were glass-built, curtains abolished, walls pulled down. Police went, the entire legal structure vanished overnight — a man does not litigate against himself. A parody of Parliament remained, to deal with foreign affairs, but party politics, elections, leaders in newspapers (even newspapers themselves) were scrapped.
  • Frank's chromosome conquered everywhere. Peace was guaranteed.
    By the end of another century's ruthless intermarriage, Russia and Asia were engulfed as thoroughly as Europe, and by the same loving methods. Billions of people: one consciousness.

Super-Toys Last All Summer Long (1969)

Full text online
  • In Mrs. Swinton's garden, it was always summer. The lovely almond trees stood about it in perpetual leaf. Monica Swinton plucked a saffron-colored rose and showed it to David.
  • She had tried to love him.
  • Monica Swinton, twenty-nine, of graceful shape and lambent eye, went and sat in her living room, arranging her limbs with taste. She began by sitting and thinking; soon she was just sitting. Time waited on her shoulder with the maniac slowth it reserves for children, the insane, and wives whose husbands are away improving the world.
  • An overcrowded world is the ideal place in which to be lonely.
  • The directors of Synthank were eating an enormous luncheon to celebrate the launching of their new product. Some of them wore the plastic face-masks popular at the time. All were elegantly slender, despite the rich food and drink they were putting away. Their wives were elegantly slender, despite the food and drink they too were putting away. An earlier and less sophisticated generation would have regarded them as beautiful people, apart from their eyes.
  • There have been mechanicals on the market with mini-computers for brains — plastic things without life, super-toys — but we have at last found a way to link computer circuitry with synthetic flesh.
  • "Teddy, you know what I was thinking? How do you tell what are real things from what aren't real things?"
    The bear shuffled its alternatives. "Real things are good."
    "I wonder if time is good. I don't think Mummy likes time very much. The other day, lots of days ago, she said that time went by her. Is time real, Teddy?"
  • "You and I are real, Teddy, aren't we?"
    The bear's eyes regarded the boy unflinchingly. "You and I are real, David." It specialized in comfort.
  • Amid all the triumphs of our civilization — yes, and amid the crushing problems of overpopulation too — it is sad to reflect how many millions of people suffer from increasing loneliness and isolation. Our serving-man will be a boon to them; he will always answer, and the most vapid conversation cannot bore him.
    For the future, we plan more models, male and female — some of them without the limitations of this first one, I promise you! — of more advanced design, true bio-electronic beings.
    Not only will they possess their own computer, capable of individual programming; they will be linked to the World Data Network. Thus everyone will be able to enjoy the equivalent of an Einstein in their own homes. Personal isolation will then be banished forever!
  • "I'm no good, Teddy. Let's run away!"
    "You're a very good boy. Your Mummy loves you."
    Slowly, he shook his head. "If she loved me, then why can't I talk to her?"
    "You're being silly, David. Mummy's lonely. That's why she had you."
    "She's got Daddy. I've got nobody 'cept you, and I'm lonely."
  • Synthetic life-forms were less than ten years old, the old android mechanicals less than sixteen; the faults of their systems were still being ironed out, year by year.
  • He let out a yell of joy. They danced round the room. Pressure of population was such that reproduction had to be strict, controlled. Childbirth required government permission. For this moment, they had waited four years. Incoherently they cried their delight.
  • "Teddy — I suppose Mummy and Daddy are real, aren't they?"
    Teddy said, "You ask such silly questions, David. Nobody knows what 'real' really means. Let's go indoors."
    "First I'm going to have another rose!" Plucking a bright pink flower, he carried it with him into the house. It could lie on the pillow as he went to sleep. Its beauty and softness reminded him of Mummy.

The Glass Forest (1986)

Online text
  • Plato would have no actors in his republic, in case pretence devoured what was real. Plato's fears have proved well-grounded. Actors, despised, almost outcast, until last century, have become something more than respectable. They, together with all those imitation actors, pop stars, TV celebrities, people who are famous for being famous, now receive adulation. They are the millionaires, the courtesans of our system. Solzhenitsyn, escaping to a West he had once admired, snarled at the meretricious falsity of what he found. We have built illusions round us and see no way out of the glass forest.
  • If we can see our difficulties, there is a way of resolving them, or the hope of a way.
  • Here is what I wrote about SF. If it has a familiar ring, my publishers liked it well enough to make it into a postcard for publicity purposes. 'I love SF for its surrealist verve, its loony non-reality, its piercing truths, its wit, its masked melancholy, its nose for damnation, its bunkum, its contempt for home comforts, its slewed astronomy, its xenophilia, its hip, its classlessness, its mysterious machines, its gaudy backdrops, its tragic insecurity.'
    Science fiction has always seemed to me such a polyglot, an exotic mistress, a parasite, a kind of new language coined for the purpose of giving tongue to the demented twentieth century.

Locus interview (2000)

"Brian Aldiss : Young Turk to Grand Master" in Locus magazine (August 2000)
  • I'm lucky that SFWA has such a short memory. I was always the Young Turk, the gadfly. Part of the New Wave, although I didn't fit in there either! I spent years, and two histories, putting the so-called Old Guard in their place, and now I'm one of them!
  • That first novel of mine, Non-Stop, is directly attributable to Heinlein. His 'Common Sense' seemed to me such a good story, but bereft of any human feelings. I thought long about that story, and then I thought how wonderful it would be to write about a spaceship in which people have been imprisoned for generations and to put in something of the human feeling. So that novel is directly attributable to Heinlein. I thought, in my youthful arrogance, that I could do it better — I didn't! I thought I could do it differently, and I think I did do it differently. And I suppose that on the whole, I've concentrated on doing things differently ever since.
  • My wife Margaret and I sold our house to Sir Roger Penrose and his wife... Talking to Roger, I found we both agreed that AI, as they call it, is not going to be achieved by present-day machines. 'Artificial Intelligence' — that makes it sound simple, but what you're really talking about is artificial consciousness, AC. And I don't think there's any way we can achieve artificial consciousness, at least until we've understood the sources of our own consciousness. I believe consciousness is a mind/body creation, literally interwoven with the body and the body's support systems. Well, you don't get that sort of thing with a robot.
  • I can't help believing that these things that come from the subconscious mind have a sort of truth to them. It may not be a scientific truth, but it's psychological truth.
  • Why do so many people dislike science fiction? The answer goes like this: You have to think of science fiction in contrast to its nearest competitor, heroic fantasy. In heroic fantasy, by and large, things are pretty stable, and then some terrible evil comes along that's going to take over the world. People have to fight it. In the end they win, of course, so the earth is restored to what it was. The status quo comes back. Science fiction's quite different. With science fiction, the world's in some sort of a state, and something awful happens. It may not be evil, it may be good or neutral, just an accident. Whatever they do in the novel, at the end the world is changed forever. That's the difference between the two genres — and it's an almighty difference! And the truth is science fiction, because we all live in a world that's changed forever. It's never going to go back to what it was in the '60s or the '70s or the '30s, or whatever. It's changed.

Criticism

  • Aldiss' New Wave masterpiece is Report On Probability A. ... The minuteae of all the involved's lives are the only thing; the act of observation is the only plot. The science fiction happens when it becomes apparent that there are Other watchers, and watchers watching those watchers, stretching back to what seems to be citizens of our own reality. Report On Probability A is about the metaphor of circular vision, manifested in the narrative by the round fields of view of the various optical devices and windows through which S, G, and C observe their world, expanding macrocosmically with the vast circle of observers observing the observers. As banality merges with paranoia, drawn only by whatever the reader brings to the narrative, there is no conclusion, no story, only facts. The story returns over and over to the painting The Hireling Shepherd by Holman Hunt, which becomes a recurring unresolved image which has no final meaning, only whatever speculation it's benighted observers bring to bear on it. Every character is searching for a meaning which may, or may not, exist as actual Truth. Behind each level of truth lies another; who is to say how far the chain goes or which part of it is more Actual? ... The simplicity of the "story" masks an investigation into uncertainty and the nature of reality itself. The seeming bankruptcy of plot opens the reader to question the act of observation, of reporting, of writing itself. Truth is what Report On Probability A is all about, and Aldiss points out that it is a plastic thing that depends on who is trying to figure it out, and an ambiguous thing that may, at it's root, be unknowable.

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