Brian Aldiss, RIP
Currently enjoying the energy at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, happily wallowing in books and graphic novel events and creators, I was suddenly pulled out of that warm festival mood by the sad news that we had just lost the great Brian Aldiss, one of the last of the SF giants. Brian went from being a bookseller to a published writer in 1955, he wrote ficiton, memoirs, plays, poetry and more, and in the field of Science Fiction he became an absolute pillar of our beloved genre, a remarkable spinner of words, part of a New Wave of writers who changed and reshaped the field of science fiction and fantasy and left a vastly improved playset for later generations of authors to pick up and run with.
(author photo from Wiki)
I think my first Aldiss was the Helliconia Trilogy, found in that wonderful, warm, welcoming, peaceful haven of reading that is the magical place we call the public library. I was probably about twelve, and devouring my way through the local library’s SF&F books, all these authors new to my young eyes. Brian was one of the very special ones who didn’t just grab me with a good story, he entranced me with his use of words, his skill, his magic, leaving an impression that has lasted decades. There are some authors you find at a young age and carry with you for your whole life, and for me Brian was one of those writers.
(Map of Helliconia by Brian Aldiss himself, borrowed from his official site)
And it isn’t just his own writing – active in promoting the genre and good writing and reading, with literary criticism, collaborating with the brilliant Harry Harrison, he was a correspondent with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, and he edited several anthologies of science fiction which became both critical and commercial successes, running into multiple editions and reprints. Those Penguin Science Fiction anthologies were a gateway to SF reading for a multitude of readers – how many of us, I wonder, first encountered a new author we would come to love because Brian had included them in one of those anthologies? How many writers got that important leg up into publishing because of being in an Aldiss-curated anthology? That’s not a bad memorial for a writer – not just his own, hugely impressive, important and influential body of work, but all the other authors and readers he helped and encouraged. Supertoys Last All Summer Long, but sadly our writers are mortal; the writing however, lasts forever. (via the Bookseller, for which Brian first wrote more than half a century ago…)