Our Guest of Honour: Iain M Banks|
Tony Berry writes: "Iain Menzies Banks was born in Scotland in 1954. After gaining an English degree at Stirling University he moved to London in 1979 and published first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. This controversial book, mixing the mundane with fantasy elements and psychological horror (with a bit of casual murder), was met with critical acclaim. His next novel, Walking On Glass, was even more fantastical, linking several disparate realities inhabited by characters each trying to find the answers that will free them from their own particular hells.
"It was his third novel, The Bridge, published in 1986 which cemented Banks's reputation as a rising star in the literary world. A man in a coma dreams that he wanders the surreal world of the enormous bridge, inhabited by the usual assortment of crazies, including a sword-wielding barbarian assassin with a Glaswegian accent. Much weirder than Life On Mars!
"In 1987 Iain published the first of his straight science fiction novels, Consider Phlebas, using one of the most devious pseudonyms in history � Iain M Banks (For his more 'mainstream' works he omits the 'M'). This introduced us to the universe of 'The Culture', a galaxy-spanning super-civilization, which with seemingly unlimited power and resources, some really spiffy tech and really big starships, no central government and pretty well no rules, enables its citizens to do their own thing whilst being virtually immortal. Overseeing it all, and making the big decisions, are the Minds, vast artificial intelligencies who seem to tolerate the humans well enough to put up with their antics. Most of Banks's sf is set in the Culture.
"Since Consider Phlebas Banks has alternated sf with mainstream, usually publishing one book a year. His latest, Transition, is ostensibly mainstream, although I would class it as fantasy, dealing as it does with a shadowy organization which spans many parallel Earths, employing agents who are able to move between those worlds, interfering in events to shape the future as their employers see fit.
"Iain Banks has been a guest at Novacon twice before, in 1987 as Guest of Honour and in 1995 as a special guest at Novacon 25. He's back this year as GoH along with Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison. Reason enough to come along!"
Check out the Iain Banks newspage
Our Special Guest: Brian W Aldiss
Tony Berry writes: "Brian Wilson Aldiss is one of the grand masters of British science fiction. Born in 1925, he served in the Royal Signals during the Second World War, before becoming an assistant in an Oxford bookshop. His first sf story was sold to Science Fantasy in 1954, followed by a number of other shorts. His first novel, Non-Stop (1958) was a new twist on the generation-starship theme and is now regarded as a classic of the genre. During the Sixties Aldiss was part of the New Wave of sf, writing unconventional and experimental works for publications such as New Worlds. Notable books of his from this time are Hothouse (1962) which began as a serial and won a Hugo, and Greybeard (1964), which is set in a future where mankind has become sterile following an accident with biological weapons.
"In 1973, Aldiss published Frankenstein Unbound, which features not just the famous monster, but also Mary Shelley and time travel! It was later filmed by Roger Corman with John Hurt as a scientist from the future. In the same year he also produced a history of science fiction, Billion Year Spree, which was later revised and expanded with David Wingrove as Trillion Year Spree in 1986. A number of other non-sf works appeared at this time, including the possibly-semi-autobiographical trilogy The Hand-Reared Boy, A Soldier Erect and A Rude Awakening. Another trilogy in the '80s, this time sf, showed that he could still kick sand in the faces of other big-name authors. Helliconia Spring, Helliconia Summer and Helliconia Winter tell the epic story of a planet whose primary sun is in an eccentric orbit around another star, so that the planet experiences normal seasons but also an eon-long Great Year. Civilizations rise in the Spring, flourish in the Summer and die off in the Winter. All of this is observed by humans from an orbiting space-station who provide the narrative.
"The '90s saw three volumes of autobiography Bury My Heart At W.H. Smith's: A Writing Life (1990), The Twinkling Of An Eye, or My Life As An Englishman (1998) and When The Feast Is Finished (1999), as well as poetry collections and more philosophical works like White Mars, or The Mind Set Free (1999).
"More recent novels include Super State (2002), Jocasta (2005) and Harm (2007). And of course his short story "Super Toys Last All Summer Long" (1969) which, after many, many years in development-hell with Stanley Kubrick, formed the basis of Spielberg's film A.I. in 2001.
"During a career spanning over half a century, Brian Aldiss has written hundreds of short stories, novels, non-fiction, reference books, criticism, poetry, you name it, he's written it. He has won shelves-full of awards and a huge following. In 2005, he was awarded the OBE for services to literature. He is also, along with Harry Harrison, one of the honorary presidents of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group."
Check out Brian Aldiss' official website