I’m almost finished reading a collection of short stories by Brian Aldiss. He was such a prolific writer that he produced loads of these collections, readily available from second-hand bookshops, published on cheap pulpy paper.
This collection is called The Moment Of Eclipse. It’s has some truly weird stories in there, as well as an undisputed classic with Super-Toys Last All Summer Long. I always find it almost unbearably sad.
Only recently, towards the end of the book, did the coincidence of the book’s title strike me: The Moment Of Eclipse.
See, last time I had the privelige of experiencing a total solar eclipse was on August 21st, 2017. Jessica and I were in Sun Valley, Idaho, right in the path of totality. We found a hill to climb up so we could see the surrounding landscape as the shadow of the moon raced across the Earth.
He had a good innings. A very good innings. He lived to 92 and was writing right up to the end.
I’m trying to remember the first thing I read by Brian Aldiss. I think it might have been The Billion Year Spree, his encyclopaedia of science fiction. The library in my hometown had a copy when I was growing up, and I was devouring everything SF-related.
Decades later I had the great pleasure of meeting the man. It was 2012 and I was in charge of putting together the line-up for that year’s dConstruct. I had the brilliant Lauren Beukes on the line-up all the way from South Africa and I thought it would be fun to organise some kind of sci-fi author event the evening before. Well, one thing led to another: Rifa introduced me to Tim Aldiss, who passed along a request to his father, who kindly agreed to come to Brighton for the event. Then Brighton-based Jeff Noon came on board. The end result was an hour and a half in the company of three fantastic—and fantastically different—authors.
Brian Aldiss was simply wonderful that evening. He regaled us with the most marvellous stories, at times hilarious, at other times incredibly touching. He was a true gentleman.
I’m so grateful that I’ll always have the memory of that evening. I’m also very grateful that I have so many Brian Aldiss books still to read.
I’ve barely made a dent into the ludicrously prolific output of the man. I’ve read just some of his books:
Non-stop—I’m a sucker for generation starship stories,
Hothouse—ludicrously lush and trippy,
Greybeard—a grim vision of a childless world before Children Of Men,
The Hand-reared Boy—filthy, honest and beautifully written,
Heliconia Spring—a deep-time epic …and I haven’t even read the next two books in the series!
Then there are the short stories. Hundreds of ‘em! Most famously Super-Toys Last All Summer Long—inspiration for the Kubrick/Spielberg A.I. film. It’s one of the most incredibly sad stories I’ve ever read. I find it hard to read it without weeping.
Whenever a great artist dies, it has become a cliché to say that they will live on through their work. In the case of Brian Aldiss and his astounding output, it’s quite literally true. I’m looking forward to many, many years of reading his words.
My sincerest condolences to his son Tim, his partner Alison, and everyone who knew and loved Brian Aldiss.