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Early days in Oxford
Brian Aldiss Writer
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I married a lady called Olive Fortescue, and she and I were impoverished, and she would take my stories and type them out for me to make them presentable. She did everything she could, and so we worked together – this in a house in Kidlington. And, yes, I think we got on very well with each other. I was very much admiring of her. For one thing, she'd actually consented to marry me, and my career was then very uncertain.

Anyhow, things did improve so much so that we left Kidlington, and I bought a house in Victoria Road in North Oxford. A lovely house! Beautiful and a beautiful road where the houses had front gardens, and the front gardens were tended. In other words, I suppose, I had become middle class. It's an awful thing to say, isn't it really – I don't care for it much. But anyhow, it was better than what we had, and so there we lived and I seemed to be getting rather more successful. It's extraordinary!

And, every year, Olive had insisted that we went for our summer holiday on the Isle of Wight. I couldn't quite see the attraction. In a way, I could – there was the beaches and the swimming and everything, but it was rather dead. Anyhow, that was the Isle of Wight.

Two children had by then been born, a boy and a girl, very dear to me. And we were having a bad time with each other, and Olive's mother complicated the situation – would rush in and give us good advice. I don't know... the mother, I found out, was also living in her own kind of hell, and so she made her daughter a kind of hell.

So, I parted company with Olive. But every now and then, I would go down to see the children, and of course to see her. When I think of those times... the children seemed perfectly happy, and moreover, after a time the children were allowed to come up and stay with me. I'd bought a little house in Marston Street in Oxford, between the Cowley and the Iffley roads. A nice little house. And so they'd come up and see me and stay with me for a day or two, and then I'd take them back. And so, things were fairly equable.

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: Isle of Wight

Duration: 4 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015