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The durability of love


Contemplating the end of life
Brian Aldiss Writer
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I thought that I was going to die, I suppose it's getting on for some months now – I was in a very, very bad way – very poor way, indeed. So much so… well I could hardly walk up to Alison's gateway. And I did think then I was dying, and I was resigned to it. You know, next year I shall be 90, it's a fairly good age or, at one time of course, it was an almost impossible age! But I don't think I'd do anything particularly reckless. Once, Professor Doll said that smoking killed you. I stopped smoking and I begged all the family to stop smoking and they all did, and they've remained healthier ever since. I've done what I can. Yes, you know, there's only so much you can do.

However, I do regret to think that Alison will miss me, and will perhaps be lonely. She too, I suppose, is past her first youth. But for the rest well, I'm fortunate, you know. I don't have to go into a home – I have my home here. It's full of my books, I can go on writing, I can go on painting. But one day, the day will come when I will wake... I think it may come when I sit up in bed and I think, my God, I'm going to die! Well, I may as well stay in bed. And I will die without any grand gestures. I would probably like a cup of tea, but that would be all. And of course, I leave my brain and my spine to the scientific researchers, so they'll come in and muck me about. My contribution to science, really.

But I don't have any great fear of being dead. I can't quite see how one might have fear unless, of course, you're religious and I don't think I'm religious. I'd like the Church of England to go on, because it seems so much better than all the horrid, ragged alternatives, now fighting it out elsewhere.

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: dying, smoking, loneliness, fear, religion

Duration: 3 minutes, 32 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015