20 January 2012
Published to celebrate the deposit of the Brian Aldiss archive in the Bodleian Library, An Exile on Planet Earth brings together twelve personal and revealing essays by the master of science fiction, offering real insight into his life and work.
This collection of essays, most of which are revised for this volume, is a testimony to the influences behind Brian Aldiss’ writing, showing how the circumstances and events of his childhood are translated into strange metaphors in his novels and stories (the lonely boy playing on the beach in Walcot), how his identification with the ‘exile’ is a recurring theme throughout his work (it is surely no accident that he was asked to write an introduction to Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago), and how a world without children (Greybeard) expressed his grief at the temporary loss of his own children after his first marriage broke up.
As Alan Yentob notes in the foreword, ‘Here we find some brilliant observations and the kind of detail that will delight aficionados of his fiction: ‘Cultivating the wilderness, it’s what a writer does all the while. What we are fills the fictions we tell, often without our realizing it. What one pours out, alone in the room, is much like sessions of psychoanalysis, as one produces things that astonish even oneself.’ For those revelations this is a book well worth reading.’
For the lovers of his many books and poems this volume reveals new insights into the man and his world, giving us a better understanding of his place in the history and literary criticism of science fiction and of his interest in the cultural importance of SF as a genre.