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Aldiss And More
An Interview with Brian Aldiss

conducted by Sandy Auden

© Brian Aldiss
Brian Aldiss
Brian W. Aldiss
Brian W. Aldiss was born in 1925 in the UK. He grew up in rural Norfolk and Devon, the son of a department store owner. He served 3 years in Burma and Asia with the Forgotten Army. This part of the world was later to become quite influential on his work. Having played a seminal role in SF's New Wave in the 60s, he is now considered by many to be the elder statesman of UK SF.

Brian W. Aldiss Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Moment of Eclipse
SF Site Review: Hothouse
SF Site Review: Non-Stop
SF Site Review: The Twinkling of an Eye, or, My Life as an Englishman

Brian Aldiss has, over the years, built up vast experience and innate wisdom about all things science fiction. Having trodden the path, and explored many of the side tracks in SF, he sits in a unique position to cast a comparative gaze across the years and observe the changes.

'Undoubtedly, the 60s, which brought with them the revived New Worlds under Mike Moorcock, mark a watershed in British science fiction,' Aldiss remembers. 'Suddenly, the people who attended conventions and conferences were more intelligent and with-it than the old brigade. Authors who had dominated the field were left behind -- their fictions were mainly rather debased imitations of an American style. The new writers, finding dissatisfaction in many things English, were much more English! Or maybe I should say British!'

For Aldiss himself, the years have seen a change in his approach to writing too. 'We have a more sophisticated audience now and it has certainly made writing easier. By and large I regard all my novels, as I grow older, as one long conversation, mainly with myself. Okay, I understand that my writings appear diverse but that is only to accommodate my thinking.

'As for writing style -- that is something that gets forged by practice. Diversification is the name of the game. In [my latest novel] Super-State, I have taken what for me is a new approach to story-telling. That is to say, I have subsumed the narrative into disparate episodes, some serious and many witty or satirical. By this means, I am able to convey a bigger overall picture, and ask "What's happening in the world?" This is what concerns me at present, with so much change in process. Science fiction is the new old business of holding a mirror to nature!'

And throughout his career, Aldiss has never been afraid to hold that mirror to all aspects of nature. 'There are very few taboo subjects,' he says. 'I've included a scene in Super-State depicting Amaroli being consumed at source. I expect some readers to find it offensive and others hilarious. But I've never been mad about depicting violence. I prefer to leave that to friends and colleagues.'

Technology is another aspect that has changed considerably through time. 'As a generalisation, the amount of technological and strictly scientific content has increased in science fiction over the years. This probably has something to do with the proliferation of popular science writing, which has also immensely improved over the years. However, it would be a pity if this put the Surrealists out of business. Science fiction and the Surrealists have always lived cheek by jowl. Robert Sheckley, R.A. Lafferty, William Tenn and me in my "Enigma's mood", and many others, have committed Surrealism at one time or another.'

And what of Aldiss's personal opinions and experiences? Are we in the technological future he expected back in the 60s? Does he have any memorable moments from his career? 'Back then, I thought two things: one that the future would be highly technical, without superfluous fat, cockroaches or famine. And, on the other hand that we would all go to Hell in a bucket. In White Mars, I tried to argue for co-operation rather than competition. There's a new theory going around that animals have a moral sense and that morality has been around long before humans came on the scene. It's a bit hard to believe, but it seems there is hope for us yet.

'As for my most memorable moment, it was probably when I bought a second hand Land Rover and drove off with a girlfriend for six months. Faber and Faber gave me an advance of 75 to write a book on Jugoslavia. Margaret and I lived like gypsies. I wrote Cities and Stones, and returned to England without having spent all of the 75. Among the books I am most happy to have written are Cities and Stones and When the Feast is Finished, which records Margaret's death and life. Oh, and I suppose I had better include Somewhere East of Life to let in a piece of SF.'

(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)

Copyright © 2005 by Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.

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