Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Aldiss, Brian W

(1925-    ) UK writer, anthologist and critic, best-known as a dominant figure in Science Fiction. He began his fiction career with "Criminal Record" for Science Fantasy in 1954, and after 40 years of constant activity has published well over 300 stories – several of them fantasy – and many novels, the most famous of which are sf; they include Non-Stop (1958), The Long Afternoon of Earth (1962 US; exp vt Hothouse 1962 UK), Barefoot in the Head (1969), Frankenstein Unbound (1973) – which was filmed as Frankenstein Unbound (1990; > Frankenstein Movies) – and the Helliconia sequence – Helliconia Spring (1982), Helliconia Summer (1983) and Helliconia Winter (1985). Seasons in Flight (coll 1984) contains some fantasies later assembled – along with most of BWA's other short fiction of similar interest – as A Romance of the Equator: Best Fantasy Stories (coll 1989). His later work, including stories assembled in A Tupolev Too Far and Other Stories (coll 1993) and The Secret of This Book (coll 1995), tends increasingly to subject the contemporary world to magic-realist transformations (> Magic Realism) and to extract ironies – some savage – from the interplay; BWA has acknowledged the specific influence of Jorge Luis Borges, but diverges from that model through the fury that governs his vision of the political and cultural cruelties which stain the late 20th century. To somewhat similar effect, a note of elegy countervails against the soothing, arabesque intricacies of the City that dominates The Malacia Tapestry (1976), BWA's only fantasy novel, a note which specifically contradicts the Theodicy implied by the title. Although set in a land with Secondary-World elements (including Dragons, who may be the ancestral stock from which the humans of this world have evolved, and folk with Wings), Malacia is governed, as fully as any sf world BWA has created, by entropy. It is an Anachronism, deliberately held still against decay; and the novel's plot, unsurprisingly, deals with the threat of change or of absolute stasis. A condensed and rather surly version of Malacia figures in Pile: Petals from St Klaed's Computer (1979 chap) illustrated by Mike Wilks, a long poem about an Edifice-like city which has lost its colour and is ruled by a computer built of stone and wood. [JC]

further reading: Apertures: A Study of the Writings of Brian Aldiss (1984) by Brian Griffin and David Wingrove; Brian W. Aldiss (1986) by M R Collings; Brian Wilson Aldiss: A Working Bibliography (1988 chap) by Phil Stephensen-Payne; The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide (1992) by Margaret Aldiss (BWA's wife of many years, who died in 1997); SFE.

Brian Wilson Aldiss

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.