Brian Aldiss, RIP

August 22nd, 2017

Science fiction writer Brian Aldiss has died just after turning 92.

Aldiss was an acquaintance rather than a friend. I got him to sign things at the two UK Worldcons I attended (2005 in Glasgow and 2014 in London), and we may have talked briefly at other Worldcons; I don’t actually remember.

He was an extremely important, but also extremely variable, writer. His good stuff was really good, but his bad stuff was really bad. When I brought him a copy of Cracken at Critical to sign, he said “Oh God, this piece of crap!” Highpoints include Nonstop and “The Saliva Tree.” He was much admired by a wide range of science fiction’s best talents, including Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock and Bruce Sterling (the latter of whom I bought an Aldiss chapbooks off of when he was culling his library).

Lacking much in the way of additional personal contact to pad out this obituary, here are some of the Brian Aldiss items in my own collection.

  • Aldiss, Brian. Brothers of the Head Pierrot Publishing Ltd., 1977. First edition hardback (simultaneous with the much more common trade paperback edition), oversized and illustrated, a Fine copy in a VG+ dust jacket with light wrinkling, wear to extremities, and some age toning to white flaps of the dust jacket. Signed by both Aldiss and illustrator Ian Pollock. The hardback edition was already uncommon, but became more so after an art house movie based on it came out a few years ago. Bought this from a dealer in France, of all places.

  • Aldiss, Brian. Bury My Heart at W. H. Smith’s. Avernus, 1990. First edition hardback, #104 of 250 signed, numbered copies, a Fine copy in a Fine dust jacket, with newspaper clipping (also signed by Aldiss) from the Times Literary Supplement of August 8, 1986 of a piece by Eric Korn that briefly quotes Aldiss on H. G. Wells laid into the pocket formed by the dust jacket protector at the back as an “Association Item,” as issued. And is listed as such on page 274-275. In The Science Fantasy Publishers, Jack Chalker labeled the “association items” as “an attempt to clean out Aldiss’ attic.” Chalker/Owings (1991), page 58.
  • Aldiss, Brian. The Creten Teat. House of Stratus, 2002. First hardback edition (according to Aldiss’ site, the trade paperback version preceded), a Fine copy in a Fine dust jacket. I have heard, second-hand, that House of Stratus went into receivership about the time this came out, and that very few hardback copies actually made it out into the world. Bought off Amazon for $9.94.
  • Aldiss, Brian. Cultural Breaks. Tachyon, 2005. Advanced reading copy, trade paperback format, with packet of review material.
  • Aldiss, Brain W. Excommunication. Post Card Partnership, 1975. First edition postcard, a Fine copy. Bought for £2.50 after discount.
  • Aldiss, Brian. Jocasta. The Rose Press, 2004. First edition hardback, #420 of 750 signed, numbered copies, a Fine copy, sans dust jacket, as issued.


    As far as I can tell, The Rose Press did this and Avram Davidson’s The Scarlet Fig, and then fell off the map…

  • Aldiss, Brian. Moreau’s Other Island. Jonathan Cape, 1980. First edition hardback, a Fine copy in a Fine dust jacket, signed by Aldiss on the front free endpaper.
  • Aldiss, Brian. Science Fiction Blues With Brian Aldiss. Avernus, 2000. First edition oversized chapbook original (A4 sized), a Fine- copy with a slight bit of bend on the left side. Program for some sort of Aldiss reading or performance, which also happens to contain three original Aldiss stories as well as other material. Odd little item. Bought for £3. Chalker/Owings (1991), page 58.

    Aldiss SF Blues

  • Aldiss, Brian. Sex and the Black Machine. Avernus, 1990. First edition chapbook, a Fine- copy with slight wrinkling and inevitable page darkening to newsprint pages and self-wrapper. Chalker/Owings (1991), page 59.

    Aldiss Sex Black Machine

  • Aldiss, Brian. This World and Nearer Ones. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979. First edition hardback, a Fine copy in a Fine dust jacket. Signed by Aldiss. Bought for $8 from a notable SF book dealer. Non-fiction.
  • (Aldiss, Brian) Aldiss, Margaret. Item Eighty-Three: Brian W. Aldiss: A Bibliography: 1954—1972. SF Horizons, (1973). Chapbook, Fine. Non-fiction.
  • That’s not everything I own by Aldiss, but I’m far from having a complete Aldiss collection. The man was extremely prolific…

    Jerry Lewis, RIP

    August 21st, 2017

    Comedian, actor and director Jerry Lewis has died at age 91.

    It’s hard to evaluate the work of someone who absolutely dominated their field for an extended period of time and then almost immediately went out of fashion. Lewis was far and away the most successful comic actor of mid-century America, appearing in an extremely successful series of movies with Dean Martin, then having a successful solo career as both a actor and director.

    But after The Nutty Professor, it was a long, long slide. Between 1963 and 1980, you had Rowen & Martins Laugh-In, Lenny Bruce, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Richard Pryor, Saturday Night Live and Robin Williams, yet in Hardly Working (intended as a “comeback” film), Lewis was doing the same tried physical shtick. (Roger Ebert called it “one of the worst movies ever to achieve commercial release in this country.”) In between he directed the amazingly ill-conceived and incomplete The Day the Clown Cried, about a clown (Lewis) entertaining children on the way to the gas chamber in Auschwitz. Surviving footage suggests it is every bit as awful and cringe-worthy as you’d imagine.

    In the meantime, he taught an acclaimed directing class at USC attended by (among others) George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and was a familiar face for decades of television viewers for his Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon. And he turned in the occasional fine dramatic performance, such as in The King of Comedy.

    For someone who smoked as much as he did, had as many health issues, and battled prescription drug abuse, 91 is a very rip old age indeed.

    Here’s a very early footage of Lewis and Martin from what I think may be the very first MDA telethon:

    Here he is making his appearance as nutty professor alter ego Buddy Love:

    And here’s a long, interesting piece on Lewis I linked to once before.

    Shoegazer Sunday: Secret Shine’s “Falling Again”

    August 20th, 2017

    Since Saint Marie records is releasing Secret Shine’s Singles 1992-1994, I thought it would be a good time to throw up some of their work, so here’s “Falling Again.”

    Library Addition: First Hardback Edition of Matt Hughes’ Fools Errant

    August 16th, 2017

    Mike Berro recommended Matthew Hughes as a Jack Vance-inspired writer quite a while back, so I’ve been looking for the first hardback edition of his first novel ever since, and one finally popped up at a decent price.

    Hughes, Matt[hew]. Fools Errant. Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1994. First hardback edition, a Fine copy in a Fine dust jacket, signed by Hughes. Bought from an online seller for $35.

    Hughes Fools Errant

    Library Addition: Ray Bradbury’s Christmas Wishes 1986

    August 15th, 2017

    Slowly but surely collecting all of these:

    Bradbury, Ray. Christmas Wishes 1986. Self-published, 1986. First edition 8 1/2 x 11″ broadsheet, folded once (as mailed), otherwise Fine- with slight wrinkling. inscribed by Bradbury: “Hans N!/Ray Bradbury”. A one page poem, like all Bradbury’s Christmas broadsheets. This one says “From Maggie & Ray Bradbury,” but I’m not sure it was actually co-written by his wife. Bought off eBay for about $35.

    Bradbury Christmas 1986

    Hail the Departing Godzilla

    August 7th, 2017

    Haruo Nakajima, the original actor inside the Godzilla suit for the first twelve Toho films, has died at age 88.

    The suit was so hot and heavy that Nakajima evidently fainted several times during the making of the original Godzilla.

    Here are some video tributes:

    Library Additions: Three Half Price Books Purchases

    August 1st, 2017

    Here are three random library additions, the only common denominator of which was that I picked all of them up at Half Price Books.

  • Leckie, Ann. Ancillary Justice. Orbit, 2013. First edition trade paperback original, a Fine, new and unready copy. Hugo and Nebula Award winner. Bought for $7.99 at Half Price Books. Supplements the later Gale/Thorndike Press large print hardback edition and the Subterranean Press signed/limited edition.
  • Pohl, Frederik and Lester Del Rey (as Edson McCann). Preferred Risk. Simon and Schuster, 1955. First edition hardback, a Near Fine- copy with page block spotting at heel, in a Near Fine dust jacket with traces of wear at points and moderate soiling to white rear panel. Inscribed by Pohl: “To Rick—/With all good/wishes—/”Edson”/or/Fred Pohl.” Currey (1979), page 404. Bought for $8, down from $10 with a 20% off coupon. This is a case of knowing more than the bookseller, since I knew this was a Pohl/Del Rey pseudonym and what Pohl’s signature looks like. As for the book itself, evidently Galaxy magazine and Simon and Schuster ran a contest for an SF novel, didn’t like any of the submissions, and got Pohl and Del Rey to write this under a pseudonym for the contest.

    Preferred Risk


  • Vachess, Andrew, Geoff Darrow, Michael Black and Gary Gianni. The Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine No. 1. Dark Horse, 2012. First edition trade paperback original, a Near Fine+ copy with a small scrape at heel and just a trace of wear. Signed by Vachess, Darrow and Black. Pulp fiction homage that looks like fun. Bought for $7.99.

    Shaolin Cowboy


  • Sharknado 5: Global Swarming Trailer

    July 29th, 2017

    It would be remiss of me not to share this…

    Premiering on SyFy August 6.

    Library Additions: Two Signed Philip Jose Farmer First Editions

    July 27th, 2017

    Two signed Philip Jose Farmer firsts I got off eBay:

  • Farmer, Philip Jose. Red Orc’s Rage. Tor, 1991. First edition hardback, a Fine copy in a Fine- dust jacket with slight spine fading. Signed by Farmer. Bought off eBay for $14.99.


  • Farmer, Philip Jose. The World of Tiers Volume Two. Nelson Doubleday, Inc. (SFBC), no date (but 1981). First edition hardback thus (first printing has gutter code “L44” on page 531, as per the ISFDB), an omnibus edition of A Private Cosmos, Behind the Walls of Terra and The Lavalit World, a Fine copy in a Near Fine+ dust jacket with edgewear at head and heel and a few small rubs. Signed by Farmer. Bought off eBay for $15.99.


  • Shoegazer Sunday: Slowdive performing “No Longer Making Time” live on KCRW

    July 23rd, 2017

    Yeah, another live Slowdive song. I’ve been busy with a new dog, so I haven’t had a chance to go trawling for new shoegaze bands.

    Hat tip to Andrew Wimsatt for alerting me to this.