As well as being one of the great science fiction writers, Brian Aldiss was also the first ever member of the British Science Fiction Association. Following Brian’s death last year there was a special event last night at the monthly BSFA meeting in London, which included readings of his work and recollections of the man himself,.
Always an inspiring figure, Brian’s name is synonymous with cutting edge, often strange science fiction that blends bold ideas, philosophy and humour that, while sometimes controversial, is nonetheless characterised by empathy and a unique generosity of spirit.
I only met Brian once, at Worldcon in London in 2014. The room was packed, and when Brian walked in there was a great swell of love that felt like warmth. He was meant to have talked about the cover artwork of his novels, but had clearly decided he couldn’t be doing with all that and instead regaled us with tales of his friendship with other SF writers, like Kingsley Amis and Harry Harrison.
For example, the gang were in a pub once and Amis kept doing impersonations of everyone when they went to the gents. It got so that no one wanted to go, in case Kingsley did one of his impressions of them.
But my favourite quotation of Brian’s from that day, which now I reflect on it is one of my favourite quotations about anything, concerned Harrison.
‘Harry was always a rebel,’ Brian said, ‘but I wasn’t. I just did what I wanted.’
That line has stayed with me ever since, and I’ve often thought about when to repeat it. Last night was the perfect time, and I share it here again now.