Brian Aldiss, RIP

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…

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    3 Responses to “Brian Aldiss, RIP”

    1. A.A. Kidd says:

      I agree with your assessment of Aldiss. He wrote great books such as Hothouse and Non-Stop, but also self-indulgent twaddle like Report on Probability A, a novel that represents the New Wave at its most tiresome and pretentious. Also, too many inside and outside of the field made the mistake at thinking that Billion Year Spree and its sequel constituted the definitive history of the genre.

    2. DanP says:

      Thanks for the recommendations!

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