Brian Aldiss

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Brian Aldiss bigraphy, stories - English science fiction writer

Brian Aldiss : biography

18 August 1925 –

Life and career

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 Army experience inspired the Horatio Stubbs second and third books.

After World War II, 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. 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. Several of his stories appeared in 1955 including three in monthly issues of New Worlds, a more important magazine also edited by Carnell.

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 was published, 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". 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 (1968-1976?)