This is a guest blog post by the organisers of the Kennington Literary Festival.
The Friends of Kennington Library were delighted when the legend that is Brian Aldiss accepted our invitation to speak at our village literary festival.
Sylvia Vetta, the Chair of the Friends of Kennington Library had the privilege, in February 2010, of banishing Brian to her desert island in the series she writes for the Oxford Times. Fortunately he managed to transport himself off the island and arrived safely at Kennington Village Centre on October 15, 2011.
That day, The Friends raised almost £900 to pay for all the children’s and family events and local author talks that it runs throughout the year –thanks to attracting a literary giant like Brian.
Brian was in conversation with Juliet McKenna who represented the next generation of speculative fiction writers and their conversation was warm and sparkling, delighting the tightly-packed audience. One topic Brian raised was the idea that inspired the Hellaconia series-the possibility that a year could be much more than 365 earth days –indeed a planet where one winter lasts five centuries. From that speculation the imagination was employed to consider how that would affect society.
At one point Brian mentioned an antiques purchase. In thanking him, Sylvia reminded him of their first encounter. She said “I was a great fan of this writer called Brian Aldiss whose imagination seemed too fly off the page and who told amazing stories but also led the reader to think quite deeply. I had a shelf full of his books. For ten years (1988-1998) I ran Oxford Antiques Centre, by the station, which my business partner and I called the Jam Factory. One day a tall elegant man bought a piece of silver from me and paid for it with a cheque. When I saw the signature, I debated whether to cash it or keep it!”