New Wave...Brian Aldiss...Intangibles Inc

DeltaV

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When on holidays, I'll often pop into any used book store that I come across for a quick peek at the science fiction shelves. I recently came away from one store with a collection of short stories by Brian Aldiss called Starswarm, and two copies of Asimovs Science Fiction (Feb 2013 & Oct/Nov 2014). Got them to read on the flight home.

The stories in Starswarm all appear to have been written in the late 1950's early 1960's. I found them to be a bit of a mixed bag, not quite to my taste. I am far from being any sort of qualified literary SF critic, so forgive my conclusion if I am wrong, but to me these seemed to be classic 'New Wave' stories. However if the purpose of New Wave is to get one puzzled, then at least one story accomplished it for me: Intangibles Inc.

Minor Spoiler Below.

I thought perhaps there might be some Brian Aldiss fans lurking about in this forum, so I am curious to know if anyone has read this story, and what you thought the meaning of the two china pots was? I read the story, then got my wife to read it, and we both came away with opposite conclusions (my various English teachers would have been delighted). I know this story is going waaaay back, but I figured this might be a good place to ask! Help me! I can't sleep at night! (well, not quite).

I only recall reading one story from Aldiss, the Heliconia trilogy. That was many years ago. I don't remember much except the giant wheel that prisoners had to push (or pull?) for twenty years for a complete rotation, and the feeling that there were unfinished threads left hanging in the various books. Maybe I'll have to re-read that set. And I've seen a couple of Aldiss recommendations in other threads in this forum that have me interested. Seeing as how winter has come very early in our part of the woods, I think I'll have some time to catch up on some of the classics (have to look at the positive side...).

Will
 

Nozzle Velocity

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...so I am curious to know if anyone has read this story, and what you thought the meaning of the two china pots was?
This story is not in my early 60s version of Starswarm but was apparently added in the 80s. I have the story in Neanderthal Planet, and in that 1959 version the obsession was over salt and pepper shakers. Aldiss may have re-written it, but I'm sure the principle is the same. It could have been over lamps or window shades or anything. My take is it's about the wife having her own private way of winning. The visitor even says something to that effect on his first visit, and she is explicit about it during his last time around.

It's not really a New Wave story. That movement would get into full swing a few years later, although these genre defintions are amorphous around the edges.

Welcome aboard!
 

Stephen Palmer

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I only recall reading one story from Aldiss, the Heliconia trilogy. That was many years ago. I don't remember much except the giant wheel that prisoners had to push (or pull?) for twenty years for a complete rotation, and the feeling that there were unfinished threads left hanging in the various books. Maybe I'll have to re-read that set.
This is a brilliant trilogy, Aldiss' masterpiece, and I usually quote it as my vote for best SF novels.
The unfinished threads are thematic, but by the end of the third volume the reader has the whole thing.
The Great Wheel of Kharnabar appears in Helliconia Winter, iirc the prisoners are in there for a quarter of a century.
Here's a Helliconian blog post.
:)
 

Finch

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I don't know Starswarm . But Aldiss was a prolific writer and was much involved in the British science fiction scene for most of the twentieth century.
The Helliconia trilogy has been mention. I would add the books Non-stop , Hothouse and Graybeard. Aldiss was a big fan of H G Wells and a lot of his books follow a the same anxiety about science , technological and humane survival .
 

DeltaV

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Interesting comments.

the obsession was over salt and pepper shakers. Aldiss may have re-written it, but I'm sure the principle is the same. It could have been over lamps or window shades or anything. My take is it's about the wife having her own private way of winning. The visitor even says something to that effect on his first visit, and she is explicit about it during his last time around.

Yeah, that was a twist when the wife said that she moved the pots every day to dust them. I felt the shakers had a negative effect on the husband, Arthur, as the intangible (IMO) was the obsession with the pots linked to stubbornness and perhaps superstition. The pots prevented the family later on from moving to a better place, and who knows how many minor inconveniences over the years. Yet my wife thought they had a positive effect, at least in the beginning, that by stimulating his will power they helped Arthur focus on his private ambition, going from head mechanic to the owner of the auto repair business.

Ah well. My grade eight English teacher would have loved this story. I remember we read Lord of the Flies and the analysis of that book seemed to go on for ages!

In a similar vein, I picked up several years ago in another used book store a collection of SF short stories called The Road to Science Fiction Volume 4: From Here to Forever. Someone had left several pages in the book from a university level English course with assignments on various stories. For example, "Compare and Contrast Godwin's "The Cold Equations" and Clements "Critical Factor" as examples of Hard-science Fiction". Sounds like a course I would have liked taking! This collection had quite a wide range of stories. A couple I found downright depressing. Others I am not sure that I would even have classified as SF. However there were a few that I enjoyed, like the Moon Moth by Jack Vance. In this story people on a planet wear masks, and musical instruments play an important role in communication. Heh heh. I thought I would try that out. So I grabbed a guitar and when my wife was making supper, strummed a few impatient rapid chords when asking when supper would be ready, and a few deep sad chords when I asked why we were having Brussels sprouts. The experiment was short-lived...

I would add the books Non-stop , Hothouse and Graybeard. Aldiss was a big fan of H G Wells and a lot of his books follow a the same anxiety about science , technological and humane survival

Thank you. I'll see if I can find these. Giving what's going on in the world these days, that theme is still very current.

I've been reading up in a few places about the Helliconia Trilogy (thank you Stephen for the link), and now I remember a lot more about the books. I see there is a separate thread on Helliconia, from back in 2010. Hmmm. Am I better starting a new thread on that or could I resurrect that old one? Advice to a newbie please!

Will
 

hitmouse

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2010 is a youngster in resurrection terms on this forum. Dont worry about reopenin it.
 
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