Vintage Treasures: New Arrivals, Old Encounters by Brian Aldiss
New Arrivals, Old Encounters (Triad/Granada, August 1983). Cover by Tim White
New Arrivals, Old Encounters was Brian Aldiss’s 17th collection, an incredible accomplishment no matter how you slice it. It contains ten stories published between 1966-78, plus two originals.
The book is crammed full of classic Aldiss, including spacefarers who return after a century to find a radically transformed Earth, a society that worships computers, the Tahiti underworld, dream research, the future of human evolution, and missionary clones on a distant planet. There’s adventure, thoughtful speculation, dark comedy, and bleak satire all wrapped up in a tight package, as only Aldiss could do it.
Thomas M. Wagner wrote a detailed (and highly enthusiastic) review 25 years ago for SF Reviews; discussing each of the tales. Here’s the highlights.
Generously cramming a dozen short stories into 200 pages, Aldiss offers up tales of humanity’s possible futures, in visions ranging from apocalyptic to comic. In its best moments, quite stunning; in its worst, didactic, dated, full of late-60’s “new wave” pretentiousness. Fortunately the good outweighs the bad. Overall, the book demonstrates Aldiss has more range as a storyteller than most of the field’s most popular practitioners.
THE SMALL STONES OF TU FU
[A] gentle story about the friendship between a time-traveler and an ancient Chinese poet. A tender examination of humanity’s place in the universe; suprise ending actually works.
Sobering satire about a crew of spacefarers who return to Earth after 120 years, only to find that there have been more drastic changes than they could have imagined. Some of the scenarios don’t seem entirely realistic, and one gets the impression Aldiss is exaggerating to make his points, but what is convincing is the depiction of how human nature is changed by adversity, for better and for worse.
ONE BLINK OF THE MOON
A man experiences a vision of the totality of human evolution and history from past to future. Written in some of the most breathtaking prose I’ve ever encountered, the story still has an anti-technology message that didn’t set well with me.
SPACE FOR REFLECTION
Trenchant, witty story about a man who spends his entire life travelling the universe, seeking the meaning of it all. Often, Aldiss writes his philosophical tales in very broad strokes, and this one is no exception. Yet, here, a biting satirical edge, tempered by a genuine love of humanity, makes this one of Aldiss’s most successful and entertaining forays.
Excellent, if grim, story concerning a trio of cloned missionaries who land on a distant world in an effort to spread their anthropic religion, and the distressing realization one of them experiences after numerous hardships…
Read the whole thing here.
New Arrivals, Old Encounters (Avon US edition, September 1981). Cover uncredited
Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
“New Arrivals, Old Encounters” (Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, September 1977)
“The Small Stones of Tu Fu” (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Anthology, Volume 1, 1978)
“Three Ways” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1978)
“Amen and Out” (New Worlds, August 1966)
“A Spot of Konfrontation” (Penthouse (UK), April 1973)
“The Soft Predicament” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1969)
“Non-Isotropic” (Galileo, March 1978)
“One Blink of the Moon” (original to this collection)
“Space for Reflection” (New Writings in SF, 1976)
” Song of the Silencer” (original to this collection)
“Indifference” (Rooms of Paradise, 1978)
“The Impossible Puppet Show” (Factions, 1974)
New Arrivals, Old Encounters was published by Triad/Granada in August 1983. It is 240 pages, priced at £1.95. The cover is by by Tim White. It has been out of print for over 35 years, and there is no digital edition.
See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.
I revere Brian Aldiss; he was one of the greatest of the greats, the truest heir to H.G. Wells.
In 2013 I had the great honor of talking to him on the phone, to pose a question to him on an episode of the BBC World Book Club. I had to get up at three in the morning or some awful hour to coordinate my California time with the time in London, but I did it gladly. Here’s the episode, which I share not for my own minimal contribution, but because Aldiss was just great.
Thomas — great stuff! I checked out the whole thing (Aldiss discussing his novel GREYBEARD and taking questions from the audience), and it’s pretty cool stuff.
For those who want to hear Thomas’ question (and it’s a good one!), it starts right about at the 20 minute mark in the audio.
I don’t even remember what my question was, to be honest with you, but I do remember that Aldiss seemed to be delighted to be talking to someone from far California. as if the telephone was a wild new science fiction invention.
My parents had a copy of Aldiss’ “Starship” lying around the house when I was a kid and I’ve read it like three or four times through the years. As a youth it really raised the bar for what science-fiction should be.
I actually got to meet Aldiss in 2004 at the Campbell Conference in Lawrence, Kansas. As great a guy as you’d hope to meet.
I need to get some of his collected works and read some of his other classic works.