“I can’t help believing that these things that come from the subconscious mind have a sort of truth to them. It may not be a scientific truth, but it’s psychological truth.” -Brian Aldiss
This is the first Brian Aldiss work that I’ve read. It won the BSFA award in 1971. It’s a collection of fourteen short stories he wrote between 1967 to 1970. It includes ‘Super-Toys Last All Summer Long’ which was the inspiration for the movie ‘A.I.’
I didn’t know much about Aldiss or his writing, but I’d heard his name before. Coincidentally, just before I began reading this book I saw him in a Phillip K. Dick documentary I watched on youtube. He came across very well and spoke highly of PKD.
Here is a list of all fourteen stories included:
The Moment of Eclipse
The Day We Embarked for Cythera…
Orgy of the Living and the Dying
Super-Toys Last All Summer Long
The Village Swindler
Down the Up Escalation
That Uncomfortable Pause Between Life and Art…
Heresies of the Huge God
The Circulation of the Blood…
…And the Stagnation of the Heart
The Worm That Flies
Working in the Spaceship Yards
I’m only going to write about the stories which impressed me the most.
With a nod to William Blake’s poem ‘The Sick Rose’, Aldiss’s short story ‘The Worm That Flies’ is a bizarre tale of a far-future Earth peopled with Ent-like tree beings and sentient “ape-humans”. It follows the journey of Argustal as he searches for a special stone to take back home with him. There are some interesting ideas involving sentience, memories and childhood that the author touches on. And some of the prose is wonderful.
“This was his own country, and he rejoiced, taking his bearing from the occasional cairn that pointed a finger of shade across the sand.”
In ‘Heresies of the Huge God’, Aldiss has fun with his take on an alien visitation story that could be read as a satire on religion, cults, and the nature of belief. It’s very funny, despite it being a tale of environmental catastrophe and disaster.
“the various Councils of the New Church … were not established without some difficulty, and many people had to be burned before the rest could feel the faith Burning In Them.”
‘The Moment of Eclipse’ is a dark tale of a man with a very particular taste in women. It follows his pursuit of one such woman across the globe and builds up to a shocking ending. This story addresses desire, obsession and corruption. How far would we go to fulfill a specific desire? What kind of resolution could we expect? What kind of forces are we opening ourselves up to?..
“But who escapes the maggot? Who is not infected? Who dares call himself healthy? Who knows happiness except by assuaging his illness or submitting to his fever?”
This a mixed collection of speculative fiction. Some stories work, others not so much. If you can find a cheap used copy then I would recommend it. As I’m just getting started with these reviews, I don’t have much to compare it with. What are the highly-rated SF short story collections from the same period, late 1960s to early 1970s?
This collection was a good introduction to Aldiss’s work for me. It has made me want to read a novel by Aldiss to see what his longer fiction is like. If you have any recommendations please post a comment.