Author Brian Aldiss celebrates his 90th birthday today (Tuesday 18th August).
Here, literary agent Gordon Wise, and publishers Scott Pack and Malcolm Edwards, who have all worked with Aldiss, pay tribute.
"Brian Aldiss began his published writing career in The Bookseller when he himself was a bookseller, an experience that inspired his first novel, The Brightfount Diary. Today – literally, today! – at 90 the stories still flow, and it’s a rare week when an email doesn’t arrive with another carefully crafted tale. Curtis Brown has represented Brian for a third of those 90 years, and for me, it’s been a particular joy to work with him over the last five years or so while HarperCollins, firstly under Scott Pack’s Friday Project imprint and now Voyager with Natasha Bardon and her team, has republished over 50 of his backlist works, not least collecting all his short stories together under one imprint for the very first time.’
Gordon Wise, Curtis Brown
"Working with Brian has been, without doubt, the highlight of my publishing career. My visits to Old Headington to discuss edits on his books would inevitably, and quite quickly, turn into anecdote sessions in which Brian would regale me with stories of CS Lewis, or Harry Harrison, or the young lady he saw reading his book on bus, or Steven Spielberg. Every one was a gem, as is he. A true living legend. Isn't it about time they gave him a knighthood or, at the very least, a Google doodle?"
Scott Pack, formerly publisher at HarperCollins' The Friday Project
"I first met Brian in 1969. I was an undergraduate, besotted with SF; he was even then one of the giants of British SF, and one of the principal figures in the then-controversial New Wave. He had come to Cambridge to speak to the SF society, and the following morning I bumped into him on the station platform. Learning that I was planning to launch a fanzine, he immediately offered to give me a story – commissioned by the TLS, but not accepted by them – if I would like it. It took me a nanosecond to say 'yes please'. Two days later, the typescript arrived. So I can truthfully, if misleadingly, say that I have been one of Brian’s publishers since the late 1960s.
"Flash forward the best part of 20 years, during which I came to know Brian relatively well through SF events, and became an editor at Gollancz. At some point in 1986 his agent called me. Brian had completed Trillion Year Spree – a revised version of his 1973 history of SF, expanded with the help of critic (now novelist) David Wingrove. It had been delivered a couple of months previously to (ironically) Weidenfeld & Nicolson. It had been greeted with silence, and the agent feared that W&N no longer had an editor sufficiently interested in the subject. Would I like to have a look? It took me less than a nanosecond to say 'yes please'. W&N, probably relieved, willingly relinquished the contract, and Gollancz took it over. I remember the jolly publication dinner, in the private room of Thomas de Quincey (a smart restaurant in Covent Garden, now long gone). The guests included Kingsley Amis, J.G. Ballard, Doris Lessing, Christopher Priest. It was one of those moments when it seemed that SF had taken its proper place in the literary firmament.
"A couple of years later, Brian’s long-standing relationship with Jonathan Cape came to an end (following an equally lengthy one with Faber) and Gollancz became his fiction publisher, starting with Forgotten Life. When I moved to Grafton and then HarperCollins, Brian followed suit, principally with the two remaining novels of the Squire Quartet (Remembrance Day and Somewhere East of Life). To mark his 65th birthday, Frank Hatherley and Margaret Aldiss and I put together a little festschrift volume, A Is For Brian, which was sprung on him at a party ostensibly to mark something else altogether. Hard to believe that was 25 years ago, but it’s heartening to see Brian still going strong as he enters his 10th decade!"
Malcolm Edwards, Orion publisher and deputy c.e.o.
It has been a sheer delight working with Brian. The passion he has for writing, even after such an illustrious and prolific career, is both inspiring and humbling. He is an absolute joy and deserves to be celebrated. Here’s to 90 years and many more.
Natasha Bardon, editorial director at HarperCollins