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The Englishman’s aversion to science fiction


Nocturnal yodelling on the island of Mljet
Brian Aldiss Writer
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And so we came back to England and I wrote my book. Cities and Stones, it was called. And I'd written rather a lot, and the chap at Faber – a very nice chap – he said, 'There's far too much here. We can't accommodate all this'. And so, I dropped a chapter – a chapter that I prized – about the island of Mljet.

And the island of Mljet was in the Adriatic and it was an island that actually had a little island in it because the sea could break in, and it had broken in and had surrounded this slightly higher ground so that it was unusual in that respect. And there, on the side of this island within the island, was a Byzantine monastery that had been turned into a hotel. And we stayed a night in the hotel. It was run by a half-naked hunchback. He seemed to be the only person there. And he would run around and do whatever it is that half-naked hunchbacks do, and he was looking after a gang of Swiss tourists. And we were trying to sleep, and the Swiss tourists spent the night in character – yodelling! Well, we knew that Swiss people yodelled, but what we didn't know was that they yodelled all night.

But that was an interesting chapter that I had to drop, and eventually Faber & Faber published Cities and Stones and really, I think that's one of my favourite books... my one travel book. I loved Yugoslavia – I just thought it was great.

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: Cities and Stones, Faber & Faber, Mljet, Adriatic, Yugoslavia

Duration: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015