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Books from my childhood


Writing was just something I did
Brian Aldiss Writer
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I had this card from a friend of mine in Australia, Colin Steele. He used to work at the Bodleian. This is a card that contains a quotation by Mark Twain, and Mark Twain says, 'It isn't so astonishing, the number of things that I can remember as the number of things that I can remember that aren't so'. There's a caution for you. But, I believe that everything I've told you so far is as I remember it, because it's tattooed on my arm, as it were.

Did I want to be a writer? Did I know what it was like to be a writer? Well, I mean, I carried on writing… I carried on writing, even in the army, it's true. I wrote, I wrote an erotic detective novel. Actually it was a very short novel, called Her Dear Dead Body... and I lent it to some bastard who never returned it.

So that I was writing then, but it was just something that I did, and when I was in Sumatra, I had a lot of free time there. And so I started a Section magazine, called – a very plebeian name – The Glad Rag. And I used to write things for that.

But did I... what did I think about the future? Well, one thing I thought about the future was this: that I would stay in the Far East, because I met a wonderful Chinese girl, and... sorry, there seem to be a lot of women in this, but, in fact, it wasn't so.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Mark Twain

Duration: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015