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Science fiction ‘grandmaster’ reflects on the genre

He could read fluently when he was 3 years old, and began writing short stories at 4. Today, almost 80 years later, Brian Aldiss has published more than 80 books and earned the title Grand Master of Science Fiction.

A panel of speakers joined Aldiss on Tuesday evening at the Museum of Science and Industry for the fourth Science Fiction Symposium.

The Humanities Institute, the USF Library and the Florida Humanities Council sponsored the event.

The panel discussed the past, present and future of science fiction literature, as well as Aldiss’ role in shaping the genre. Each of the four panelists examined Aldiss’ work from a different perspective.

Lifelong friend and colleague Harry Harrison reminisced about the dawn of science fiction. Richard Matthews, an English professor at the University of Tampa, described Aldiss’ creativity as “a reservoir of inexhaustibility … the closest equivalent to wisdom.”

Others, such as USF physicist Brian Space, praised Aldiss for consulting experts and capturing how science affects culture, religion and evolution.

Aldiss also discussed his sources of inspiration, and how his books reflect his personal ideology and discontent.

“In the West, we pursue so much knowledge, yet still squander our wealth,” Aldiss said.

Although he acknowledges growth in his prose style, his attitude toward writing has never changed. He explained that his desire to write has never dwindled as he has grown older. He modestly credited much of his success to chance, and emphasized that things rarely turn out as planned.

“Chance has dealt me a very good hand,” Aldiss said. “But who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.”