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Out of the Gothic

Tom Shippey, 5 February 1987

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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Eon 
by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... Brian Aldiss gives his definition of Science Fiction on page one of Chapter One of a five-hundred-page volume. This is admirably bold of him – more timorous scholars tuck their definitions away inconspicuously, or else develop complex excuses for not giving any – as well as being admirably genial. After all, says Aldiss, the definition may be wrong, but it doesn’t matter: ‘we can modify it as we go along ...

Dependencies

Elizabeth Young, 25 February 1993

The Case of Anna Kavan 
by David Callard.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, January 1993, 0 7206 0867 8
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... referring to her heroin addiction. Friends and mentors over the years – Rhys Davies. Peter Owen, Brian Aldiss – have made considerable efforts to dispel such feelings of uncase by stressing how smart and cheerful she, was how little her drug addiction appeared to affect her. Such loyal friends did not wish her to be regarded as a pathological case ...

Generations

John Sutherland, 4 March 1982

The Survivors 
by Elaine Feinstein.
Hutchinson, 316 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 09 145850 1
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Helliconia Spring 
by Brian Aldiss.
Cape, 361 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 224 01843 4
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The Great Fire of London 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 169 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 241 10704 0
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A Loss of Heart 
by Robert McCrum.
Hamish Hamilton, 282 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 241 10705 9
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... virtue is gilded. Benjy, Diana’s father, is idealised to the point of cloyingness. Since 1980, Brian Aldiss has been thrashing around somewhat. We have had a rewrite of Wells’s Island of Dr Moreau, a text which, together with Frankenstein (which he also rewrote), Aldiss conceives as central to SF’s evolution. In ...

Aliens

John Sutherland, 21 January 1982

Brave Old World 
by Philippe Curval, translated by Steve Cox.
Allison and Busby, 262 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 85031 407 0
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The Insider 
by Christopher Evans.
Faber, 215 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 571 11774 0
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Genetha 
by Roy Heath.
Allison and Busby, 185 pp., £6.95, November 1981, 0 85031 410 0
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From the Heat of the Day 
by Roy Heath.
Allison and Busby, 159 pp., £6.50, October 1979, 0 85031 325 2
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One Generation 
by Roy Heath.
Allison and Busby, 202 pp., £2.50, March 1981, 9780850312546
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Sardines 
by Nuruddin Farah.
Allison and Busby, 250 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 85031 408 9
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... In his history of the genre, Brian Aldiss suggests that most SF is what he calls ‘prodromic’: we must read it less as a prophecy of the future than as symptomatic of the present. By this rule 1984 will be 36 years out of date when we get there. A commoner view (on which Aldiss is naturally not so keen) holds that SF, like the Western, is an exclusively American line of fiction in which dabbling Europeans can easily make fools of themselves ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland, 13 October 1988

Worlds Apart 
by David Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... of the funniest novels I have ever read. Yet add the whole thing up and it’s hell, 1988-style. Brian Aldiss’s Forgotten Life has a strikingly good dust-jacket. The front reproduces Lucian Freud’s Interior with plant, reflection listening (self-portrait), a picture of the painter, ear cupped, looking through the foliage of a spider-grass ...

Naming of Parts

Patrick Parrinder, 6 June 1985

Quinx or The Ripper’s Tale 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 201 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 571 13444 0
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Helliconia Winter 
by Brian Aldiss.
Cape, 285 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 224 01847 7
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Black Robe 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 256 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02329 2
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... bluster. If naming in the ‘Avignon Quintet’ is a slippery and enigmatic casting of spells, in Brian Aldiss’s ‘Helliconia Trilogy’ its function is remorselessly cognitive. Helliconia is a remarkable instance of what is nowadays called world-building, a specialist activity which has reached the stage of do-it-yourself articles in recent issues of ...

I and I

Philip Oltermann: Thomas Glavinic, 14 August 2008

Night Work 
by Thomas Glavinic, translated by John Brownjohn.
Canongate, 384 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 1 84767 051 9
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... the trouble to waste such expensive technology on an old city that had lost its importance?’ Brian Aldiss coined the term ‘cosy catastrophe’ to describe the kinds of story, especially popular in the 1950s, in which the end of the world outside was an excuse for a return to scenes of domestic middle-class life. Jonas comes across as a character ...

Paradise Lost

Stephen Bann, 17 March 1983

Deadeye Dick 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 224 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 224 02945 2
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Bluebeard 
by Max Frisch, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Methuen, 142 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 413 51750 0
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The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction 
by Colin Greenland.
Routledge, 244 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 7100 9310 1
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More Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Louis Iribarne, Magdalena Majcherczyk and Michael Kandel.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 9780436244117
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Yesterday’s Men 
by George Turner.
Faber, 234 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 571 11857 7
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Rebel in Time 
by Harry Harrison.
Granada, 272 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 246 11766 4
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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 236 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0602 0
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... contribute a real solidity to his guiding ideas. Greenland’s study notes, with reference to Brian Aldiss, the need for Science Fiction to outgrow a vapid Utopianism. George Turner takes the detour of futurology to persuade us that we will never be much better than we are. Equally telling evidence of the crisis of Utopianism can be found in the ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... are its boundaries? Look up the checklist and you will find a large number of genre writers, from Brian Aldiss to P.G. Wodehouse, whose names are virtually absent from the main narrative. Bradbury’s book is based on an entirely conventional notion of the fictional mainstream. One can imagine a very different history of fiction in our century. The ...

Making a Break

Terry Eagleton: Fredric Jameson’s Futures, 9 March 2006

Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 431 pp., £20, September 2005, 1 84467 033 3
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... on the idea of utopia, the book has some supple, remarkably powerful readings to offer of Le Guin, Brian Aldiss, Philip K. Dick (‘the Shakespeare of science fiction’), A.E. Van Vogt, Kim Stanley Robinson and a range of others. Jameson has always been an energetic retriever of the neglected and maligned, and a brilliant salvage job here on Charles ...

Diary

Sherry Turkle: Tamagotchi Love, 20 April 2006

... scores. This conviction is the theme of ‘Supertoys Last All Summer Long’, the short story by Brian Aldiss that was made into a film by Steven Spielberg. In Spielberg’s AI, scientists build a humanoid robot, David, who is programmed to love. David expresses his love to a woman, Monica, who has adopted him as her child. Current experience suggests ...

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