Arthur Conan Doyle, Brian Aldiss, Frankenstein Unbound, Greybeard, H G Wells, Helliconia, Non-Stop, Prep schools, The Brightmount Diaries, The Hand-Reared Boy
RIP Brian Aldiss, who has died aged 92, the prolific author of over 40 novels, plus poetry, short stories, autobiographies and criticism, in different genres. He also edited anthologies of science fiction. His Times obituary (published on 22 August) described him as an “ebullient and highly sexed author and poet who persuaded the literary establishment to take science fiction seriously.” His ability in different genres can be compared to his admired H G Wells or Arthur Conan Doyle. In his obituary in the Guardian on 21 August it was stated that “one of the most exhilarating aspects of reading Aldiss is the diversity of his imagination.”
He would recount that he learned how to tell a good story at his prep school, when in the dormitory at night he would tell ghost stories, standing on his bed. The penalty for disappointment was having shoes thrown at him: he was never hit, and he said “I never feared criticism since.”
His early life and wartime experiences in the Far East led to his Horatio Stubbs sex comedies (starting with The Hand-Reared Boy). His first published novel, The Brightmount Diaries, is an account of the life of an assistant in a bookshop, and its success meant that he could leave his job as an assistant in a bookshop! His science fiction included Greybeard, Non-Stop, Frankenstein Unbound and the Helliconia series (about a planet where the seasons last, literally, for ages, and the inhabitants have to adjust accordingly). This SF writing and his work as editor of numerous SF anthologies did much to establish SF as a genre worthy of respect.
Aspiring writers can look to the sheer quantity of his output, to his not being afraid to write in different genres or to write in unfashionable genres. Thanks, Brian.