Brian Aldiss
Aldiss at Interaction in Glasgow, 2005
Aldiss at Interaction in Glasgow, 2005
Born(1925-08-18)18 August 1925
East Dereham, Norfolk, England
Died19 August 2017(2017-08-19) (aged 92)
Oxford, England
Pen nameJael Cracken, Dr. Peristyle, C. C. Shackleton
OccupationWriter, editor, artist
Period1954–2017 (as writer)
GenreScience fiction
Notable worksHelliconia trilogy, "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long"

Brian Wilson Aldiss, OBE (/ˈɔːldɪs/; 18 August 1925 – 19 August 2017) was 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 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.[1] He wrote the short story "Super-Toys 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.[2]

Life and career

Early life, education, and military service

Aldiss was born on 18 August 1925,[3] 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.[4] He had an older sister who was stillborn, and a younger sister. [5] As a 3-year-old, Aldiss started to write stories which his mother would bind and put on a shelf.[6] 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.[4] As a child he discovered the pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction, and read all the novels by H. G. Wells and Robert Heinlein, and later Philip K. Dick.[7] In 1943, during the Second World War, he joined the Royal Signals[8] and saw action in Burma.[9]

Writing and publishing

His Army experience inspired the Horatio Stubbs second and third books, A Soldier Erect and A Rude Awakening, respectively.[10]

After the war, he worked as a bookseller in Oxford.[11] 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' 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.[12] Several of his stories appeared in 1955, including three in monthly issues of New Worlds,[12] 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' story Not For An Age was ranked third following a reader vote.[13]

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,[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, and he made the decision to become a full-time writer.[citation needed]

Brian Aldiss, science fiction writer

Aldiss led the voting for Most Promising New Author of 1958 at the next year's Worldcon, 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 from 1958 to 1969.[11] 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[14] and an interview with William S. Burroughs in the second.[15] 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.[16]

Besides his own writings, he 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, 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) which were quite successful.[citation needed] 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).[17]

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.[18] He has edited several anthologies of the best mini-sagas.

'Metropolis' limited edition print by Brian Aldiss

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.[19] 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.[20](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'.")[20]

Personal life

In 1948, Aldiss married Olive Fortescue, secretary to the owner of Sanders' bookseller's in Oxford, where he had worked since 1947.[11] He had two children from his first marriage: Clive in 1955 and Caroline Wendy in 1957, but the marriage "finally collapsed" in 1959 and dissolved in 1965.[11][21]

In 1965, he married his second wife, Margaret Christie Manson (daughter of John Alexander Christie Manson, an aeronautical engineer)[22], a Scottish woman and secretary to the editor of the Oxford Mail; Aldiss was 40, and she 31.[11] They lived in Oxford and had two children together, Tim and Charlotte.[11][21] She died in 1997.[11]


Aldiss died on 19 August 2017, the day after his 92nd birthday.[23][24]

Awards and honours

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1990.[25]

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.[26]

The Science Fiction Writers of America made him its 18th SFWA Grand Master in 2000[27] and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted him in 2004.[28]

He was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature in the 2005 Birthday Honours list.[29]

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.[30]

On 1 July 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in recognition of his contribution to literature.[31] The Brian W Aldiss Archive at the University holds manuscripts from the period 1943–1995.[32]

In 2013, Aldiss was recipient of the World Fantasy Convention Award at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England.

Aldiss sat on the Council of the Society of Authors.[33]

He won two Hugo awards: in 1962 for the Hothouse series; and in 1987 for Trillion Year Spree.[34] [35] Aldiss also won a Nebula award in 1965 for The Saliva Tree: And Other Strange Growths.[36]


Aldiss was the author of over 80 books and 300 short stories. he also wrote several volumes of poetry.[5]




Anthologies edited


See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Aldiss, Brian W." Archived 5 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  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. ^ AP (22 August 2017). "Obit: Brian Aldiss". The New York Times. EU: Britain.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Andrew (16 June 2001). "Profile: Brian Aldiss". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ a b Roberts, Sam (24 August 2017). "Brian Aldiss, Author of Science Fiction and Much More, Dies at 92". New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  6. ^ Cooper, Charlie (13 April 2013). "My Secret Life: Brian Aldiss, 87, author". The Independent. London.
  7. ^ Brian Aldiss, Author of Science Fiction and Much More, Dies at 92
  8. ^ "Brian Aldiss at 90: 'British readers had a prejudice against science fiction'". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  9. ^ a b Kelly, Stuart (13 December 2013). "Brian Aldiss: 'These days I don't read any science fiction. I only read Tolstoy'". Retrieved 21 August 2017 – via The Guardian.
  10. ^ Clute, John; Pringle, David (22 August 2017). "Aldiss, Brian W". SFE: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Brown, Andrew (15 June 2001). "Master of the universes: Brian Aldiss". Retrieved 21 August 2017 – via The Guardian.
  12. ^ a b Brian Aldiss at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 22 April 2013. 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.
  13. ^ "Short Story, Ballot". The Observer. 16 January 1955. p. 9.
  14. ^ "SF Horizons, No. 1". Al von Ruff. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  15. ^ "SF Horizons, No. 2". Al von Ruff. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  16. ^ Budrys, Algis (October 1967). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 188–194.
  17. ^ "Locus Online: Brian Aldiss interview (excerpts)". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  18. ^ "Your chance to enter the Daily Telegraph Mini-saga Competition 1999". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 April 1999.
  19. ^ "Brian Aldiss - Cities & Stones". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  20. ^ a b "wire-frame • giclée prints". Wire-frame fine art publishing ( Archived from the original on 27 December 2012. Retrieved 18 April 2013. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help); Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  21. ^ a b "HOW WE MET: BRIAN ALDISS AND ANTHONY STORR". 22 October 1995. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  22. ^ Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, vol. 2, R. Reginald, 1979, pg 793
  23. ^ Aldiss, Brian (21 August 2017). "It is with great sadness we announce the death of our beloved father & grandfather. Brian died peacefully at home on his 92nd birthday ^TA". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  24. ^ "science-fiction-author-brian-aldiss-dies-aged-92". The Guardian. 21 August 2017.
  25. ^ "Royal Society of Literature  » Current RSL Fellows". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  26. ^ "Past ICFA Guests". International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  27. ^ "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master" Archived 1 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  28. ^ "Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame" Archived 21 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Mid American Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions, Inc. Retrieved 25 April 2012. This was the official website of the hall of fame to 2004.
  29. ^ "The London Gazette". 11 June 2005. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  30. ^ "Desert Island Discs – Castaway : Brian Aldiss". BBC. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  31. ^ "University of Liverpool announces 2008 honours". Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  32. ^ "Visions of the Future: Brian Aldiss - Archives Hub". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  33. ^ "About - The Society of Authors". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  34. ^ "Brian Aldiss - Literature". Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  35. ^ tweet_btn(), Iain Thomson in San Francisco 21 Aug 2017 at 21:20. "Science fiction great Brian Aldiss, 92, dies at his Oxford home". Retrieved 6 September 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  36. ^ "Nebula Award Winners: 1965 - 2011 - SFWA". SFWA. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  37. ^ a b c d ""BSFA Awards: Past Awards"". Archived from the original on 19 May 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2012. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help). British Science Fiction Association. Archived 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
  38. ^ "Brian Aldiss - Literature". Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  39. ^ "John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalists". Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction ( Retrieved 18 April 2013. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
    The Award recognises second and third-place runners-up. Recent lists of finalists are long, 14 in 2008.
  40. ^ Greenland, Colin (7 August 2010). "Walcot by Brian Aldiss". Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  41. ^
  42. ^ "Mortal Morning by Brian Aldiss". Flambard Press. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  43. ^ David Langford, The Sex Column and Other Misprints, Cosmos Books, 2005, p. 82. The quotation may not be reported exactly.