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SFF Author: Brian W. Aldiss

Brian Wilson Aldiss was one of the most important voices in science fiction. He wrote his first novel while working as a bookseller in Oxford. Shortly afterwards he wrote his first work of science fiction and soon gained international recognition. Adored for his innovative literary techniques, evocative plots and irresistible characters, he became a Grand Master of Science Fiction in 1999. Brian Aldiss died in 2017.


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Non-Stop: A classic that is vivid, brisk, entertaining

Non-Stop by Brian W. Aldiss

Number 33 of the Science Fiction Masterworks series, Brian Aldiss’ 1958 Non-Stop is indeed a classic of the genre (variant title: Starship). Standing well the test of time, the story is vivid, brisk, and entertaining — facets complemented nicely by intelligent commentary and worthwhile purpose. With Aldiss examining human nature in unusual circumstances to say the least, the underlying assumptions nevertheless exist closer to reality than the majority of sci-fi. Readily enjoyable on the surface, there remain several thought-provoking undercurrents waiting for the reader to explore.


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Hothouse: Fertile and bizarre plant life, but human characters are pretty wooden

Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss

Yeah, Brian W. AldissHothouse (1962) was definitely written with some chemical assistance. Maybe some LSD-spiked vegetable juice? It may have been written as a set of five short stories in 1961, but it’s a timeless and bizarre story of a million years in the future when the plants have completely taken over the planet, which has stopped rotating, and humans are little green creatures hustling to avoid becoming plant food.

There are hundreds of fearsome carnivorous plants that would love to eat human morsels,


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The Dark Light Years: Worth a wallow

The Dark Light Years by Brian Aldiss

It had been a good 30 years since I last read anything by British sci-fi author Brian Aldiss. Back in the mid-‘80s, spurred on by three highly laudatory articles in David Pringle’s Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, I had eagerly read Aldiss’ classic novel of a generational starship, Non-Stop (1958); his equally classic tale of an Earth billions of years hence, Hothouse (1962); and his underrated novel of an Earth gone sterile due to fallout radiation,


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The Saliva Tree: A tribute to H.G. Wells

The Saliva Tree by Brian W. Aldiss

In 1966, with the 100th anniversary of H.G. Wells’ birthday approaching, Brian W. Aldiss wrote a story in tribute of one of, if not, the genre’s grandfather. The resulting novella, The Saliva Tree, distills elements of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds into a suspenseful horror story that has just the socio-political agenda ‘grandpa’ would have approved of.

Set in the late 19th century, 


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Helliconia Spring: A battle for survival on a fantastic planet

Helliconia Spring by Brian W. Aldiss

What if the planets orbited not only the sun, but the whole solar system orbited another, even larger sun? Cycles within cycles is the basic premise of Brian Aldiss’s HELLICONIA trilogy, of which the first installment is Helliconia Spring (1983). A planet of the fantastic, Helliconia is home to a diverse variety of imaginative flora and fauna a la Jack Vance. The sentient life, however, bears comparison to our own. Struggling Darwinian style, humans and a species called Phagors inhabit the planet,


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Helliconia Summer: The big ideas punch deep

Helliconia Summer by Brian W. Aldiss

The shape of Brian Aldiss’s SF Masterwork HELLICONIA could be said to be parabolic. If Helliconia Spring is the slow, curving entry point, then Helliconia Summer, the middle volume, is the zenith story-wise. Or at least that’s the feel two-thirds of the way through the series. As Aldiss is trying to paint a historical and evolutionary picture of humanity’s existence on a distant planet, Helliconia Summer’s narrative does not pick up where the first volume left off,


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Helliconia Winter: Deserves the BSFA award it won

Helliconia Winter by Brian W. Aldiss

Like an architect seeing a cathedral they’ve designed have the steeple raised, or an engineer watching the bowsprit attached to a ship they’ve built, so too must Aldiss have felt writing the final chapter of Helliconia Winter (1985). The orbits within orbits, themes revolving around themes, and characters caught in the cycle of life, come to an end. But only on the page.

The series has covered millennia. The third and final book, Helliconia Winter,


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The Secret of This Book: A great buffet of literature

The Secret of This Book by Brian W. Aldiss

Brian Aldiss was one of the most versatile writers in speculative fiction. Published in a variety of forms (poetry, plays, short fiction, novels, and non-fiction), a variety of genres and sub-genres (fantasy, science fiction, and realism — to cover the big ones) and in a variety of writing styles, his dynamism, willingness to try new modes, and experimentation with prose made him one of the most important writers in the field. Capturing this versatility is Aldiss’s 1995 collection The Secret of This Book.


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White Mars: A response to KSR’s MARS trilogy

White Mars by Brian W. Aldiss

While rereading Kim Stanley Robinson‘s MARS trilogy, books I consider to be among the very best in science fiction, I came across various references to White Mars; Or, The Mind Set Free: A 21st-Century Utopia (1999) by Brian W. Aldiss, written in collaboration with prominent physicists Roger Penrose. Robinson’s utopian vision of a terraformed Red Planet is not something everybody would see as ideal or even morally acceptable. In the MARS trilogy Robinson pays a lot of attention to the discussion between what he calls the Reds,


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Finches of Mars: Flat, boring characters and narrative

Finches of Mars by Brian W. Aldiss

It was with mixed feelings that I picked up Finches of Mars by Brian W. Aldiss. On the one hand, I had fond memories of being introduced to his short stories via my father’s book collection. And fond memories too of reading, much later, his HELLICONIA series and his history of science fiction. On the other hand, I’d read that Finches of Mars was to be his “last novel,” and I’ve had some poor luck with those in the past.


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The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus: An all-star lineup

The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus edited by Brian W. Aldiss

The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (1973) is a compilation of three short story anthologies: Penguin Science Fiction (1961), More Penguin Science Fiction (1963), and Yet More Penguin Science Fiction (1964), all edited by Brian Aldiss. Presenting an all-star lineup of established Silver Age and burgeoning New Age writers, most all are well known names in the field, including Isaac Asimov


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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey‘s other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of “fabril” literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the “smith”


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Next SFF Author: Alma Alexander
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