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Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  360 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Britain's most illustrious SF writer, Brian Aldiss, provides a witty and perceptive history of this extraordinary phenomenon, set in its social and literary context. Crammed with fascinating insights, this generous spree takes us through decades of treats for the imagination: escape to other dimensions, flights to other planets, lost worlds, utopias, mechanical creatures a ...more
Paperback, 511 pages
Published 1986 by Victor Gollancz Ltd, London
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Grant Flexman-Smith Itwas called Billion Year Spree but Brian updated it and called the new edition Trillion Year Spree
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4.10  · 
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 ·  360 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Paul Bryant

The tenacity of poor SF is renowned. It has unfortunately formed the hallmark of the genre.


This could be a rather long review so for those with more time pressure here’s a summary :

This is a splendid history of SF from whenever it started (disputed) up to the mid of the 1980s. It was an update of his earlier Billion Year Spree, and I am only sorry that Brian Aldiss hasn’t done a Gazillion Year Spree yet. He is stil
Nov 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
If you're at all interested in SF, this is a must-read. Absolutely the best history of the genre that I know, written by an insider who is passionate about the subject.

Aldiss has a broad take on the question of what science-fiction is, and there is a strange, eerie theme running through the book: a fascination with ice. Anna Kavan's Ice, a novel I have still not read, but which Aldiss describes with passion. Dante's traitors, buried in the ice of the innermost circles of Hell. And this stanza fr
Glen Engel-Cox
It's no easy task to write a history of science fiction, as amorphous a publishing category as there is, so I hesitate to call this book a failure on those terms alone. What it attempts to do, it does handily and usefully: it brings to light a strand that stretches from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to William Gibson's Neuromancer, the darling of the 1980s (when this book was published). Along the way it pauses long enough to note certain knots in the strand that have made it stronger (woah, I ...more
Ampat Varghese
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My book shelves are liberally peppered with science fiction novels. Right now, in front of my eyes, I can see a William Gibson trilogy peeking back at me mischievously. Pattern Recognition. Spook Country.Zero History.
I taught Art and Design in India for 12 years. These books must become part of the curriculum of any cutting edge art and design school across the world, I think to myself. But, not many will care. Because, firstly, are there any Gen X or Gen Y kids who read? Should they read at all
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-other, lit-crit
If you love SF, you will at least like this book.

Aldiss researched and wrote the first version of his history, 'Billion Year Spree', in the 70s. Back then there was a popular belief that science fiction began with the American SF magazines edited by Hugo Gernsback (the Hugo Awards, the Oscars of the SF world, are named after Mr Gernsback). Aldiss found this belief annoying: he wrote his history as a corrective, and it was one of, if not the, first major single-volume history of science fiction.
Artur Coelho
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Onde começa a FC? Qual o texto seminal de onde germinou esta forma literária? Aldiss é muito preciso. Rejeita textos clássicos fantasistas como o de Luciano de Samosata ou as viagens fantásticas dos autores enciclopedistas do iluminismo e focaliza-se em Frankenstein como a raiz da imensa floresta da FC. A confluência do romance gótico com visão científica, os traumas pessoais da autora sublimados através de narrativas que fogem ao ocultismo mágico e contemplam as possibilidades científicas, bem ...more
A revised and updated version of "Billion Year Spree" - a history of science fiction through the early 1980's.

I previously read "Billion Year Spree" (published 1973) and enjoyed it. This book is a revision of the first one and an extension of it to the early 80's. It was fun to see what Brian Aldiss thought were the up and comers - some of them are still around (Sterling, Bear, Gibson) and a few of them I'd never heard of (Richard Cowper, Rudy Rucker). His few paragraphs on George R. R. Martin m
Karl Bunker
This is not so much a true history of science fiction as it is a history-spanning piece of literary criticism of SF. Which is to say it's more about Aldiss presenting his opinions of authors, stories, novels, editors, etc., than it is about laying out the who, what, and when of history. And this is not a bad thing, especially speaking from a time some 26 years after the book was published. As a history of an ongoing phenomenon, those missing years up to the present day would steeply diminish the ...more
Stephanie Hiddleston
Der letzte Quellentext für meine Bachelorarbeit und ich wünschte ich hätte das Buch als erstes gelesen, da es gesammelt alles hatte, was ich brauchte und vorher mühsam alles zusammen gesucht hatte...
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I came to this book, off and on, over a period of five years and have just turned the last of its dense 444 pages. This is an amazing and exhaustive history of Speculative Fiction (SF) by one of its Grand Masters. Any serious reader of SF should tackle this amazing map of the foundations, trends, and pit-falls of our most expansive and awe inspiring genre of fiction.

Aldiss not only navigates the varied coastline of the literature of "What if...", but is not in the least afraid of keel-hauling t
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]It is a big big book about the history of science fiction from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to 1986 (with a very brief postscript for the 2001 edition). I was surprised how much of the argument of the book was already familiar to me. I guess I must have internalised it from poring over the writings of John Clute. Still, Aldiss makes some very interesting points to fill out the basic lines about Shelley, Gernsback and what happened in between. ...more
Pretentious use of the royal writes critical assessments of himself in the third person... writes about his reactions to literature with impersonal constructions ("At least one reader remembers this novel fondly..."). Many chapters are little more than lists of works with no real insight or analysis.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, detailed history of science fiction from its roots into the late 1980s. This introduced me to so many interesting-sounding books and authors that it has greatly increased my reading list. Although the later chapters are a bit dated now, the opinions are mostly still valid. I need to find a more recent review or history to discover how the forecasts and worries about science fiction developed.
Tom Buchanan
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What this guy likes he likes. Some of what he likes is very, very wack (Pohl) and some of it is cool to hear talked about properly, if a little gushingly (Stapleton)
Keith Davis
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A monumental history of science fiction. I read this to pieces in college. Unfortunately it only goes up to the 80's, but recommended for anyone interested in discovering the rich legacy of the genre. I likely would never have read Clifford Simak or Zena Henderson if Aldiss' book had not introduced them to me.
Scott Golden
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thorough overview of the history of science fiction, emphasizing books and magazine stories, by one of its most consistently excellent writers.
Trillion Year Spree: The History Of Science Fiction by Brian W. Aldiss (1988)
TRILLION YEAR SPREE by Brian and David Wingrove Aldiss (1986)
Anthony Faber
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An expansion of his earlier "Billion Year Spree", it's a quick jaunt through the history of science fiction, ending 30 years ago.
3.5 stars

Not the most engaging history ever, but a useful reference with some sharp insights.
Jul 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Along with John Clute's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, this book taught me all about science fiction history. Indispensable.
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The best review of the history of Science Fiction that I have read. Aldiss is a sympathetic but fairly rigorous critic. It's a little out of date now, but for the period it covers, its superb.
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Witty and comprehensive overview of SF up until about the late Eighties (my edition ends there, anyway). Essential for anyone curious about SF as a genre and a storytelling methodology.
Aug 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-and-gone
disappointing. I learned some about the history of SF, related to pulp fiction. But, I don't feel like I learned that much else.
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Oliver
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Obviously a little out of date now, but still a fascinating history of the genre. I don't agree with everything Aldiss says, but the praise assigned is generally deserved.
Slay Dunderhead
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Aug 17, 2011
Jim Saul
rated it it was amazing
Nov 17, 2012
Carol Kerry-green
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Dec 06, 2010
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Pseudonyms: Jael Cracken, Peter Pica, John Runciman, C.C. Shackleton, Arch Mendicant, & "Doc" Peristyle.

Brian Wilson Aldiss was one of the most important voices in science fiction writing today. He wrote his first novel while working as a bookseller in Oxford. Shortly afterwards he wrote his first work of science fiction and soon gained international recognition. Adored for his innovative lite
“Wells is teaching us to think. Burroughs and his lesser imitators are teaching us not to think. Of course, Burroughs is teaching us to wonder. The sense of wonder is in essence a religious state, blanketing out criticism. Wells was always a critic, even in his most wondrous and romantic tales.

And there, I believe, the two poles of modern fantasy stand defined. At one pole wait Wells and his honorable predecessors such as Swift; at the other, Burroughs and the commercial producers, such as Otis Adelbart Kline, and the weirdies, and horror merchants such as H.P. Lovecraft, and so all the way past Tolkien to today's non-stop fantasy worlders. Mary Shelley stands somewhere at the equator of this metaphor.”
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