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Squire Enos Parsons Jr. He was born in Newton , West Virginia , to Squire and Maysel Parsons,  and was introduced to music by his father, who was a choir director and deacon at Newton Baptist Church. Squire's father taught him to sing using shaped notes. In , Parsons earned a Bachelor of Science in music from West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery , where he was trained on the piano and bassoon.
Following graduation, he accepted a teaching position at Hannan High School in Mason county , West Virginia, and served as music directors of various churches.
- Master of the universes: Brian Aldiss.
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He joined the Kingsmen Quartet as a baritone in and toured with them for four years before embarking on a solo career. Parsons was nominated for a Dove Award in for contributing to tribute album to Dottie Rambo. He has won the Singing News Fan Award for favorite male singer in In , Parsons was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater , West Virginia Institute of Technology. She went to Singapore, expecting him to follow, but the army sent him to Hong Kong and Macau instead and he never saw or heard from her again.
Returning from the army and the far east in , Aldiss found a job in Sanders' bookseller's in Oxford. He married the owner's secretary, Olive, in He was determined to be a writer and produced a novel based on his Sumatran experiences, which he threw away. His son Clive was born in and Aldiss's first literary success came the same year with The Brightfount Diaries, a book of short stories based on bookshop life.
This allowed him to leave the shop, by then odious to him. Following publication of his novel, Aldiss became literary editor of the Oxford Mail. He also won an Observer prize for a short story set in the year The prize money enabled him to stay at home and write all day for a while, something his wife did not appreciate. He says now that he felt compelled to repeat the pattern of his own childhood, where the birth of a daughter had resulted, as he saw it, in his expulsion from his original family.
They were reconciled but the marriage finally collapsed in He was left without even a typewriter. He could afford to buy a new one only when his novel Hothouse, about a giant banyan tree that covers half the globe, which had been published in , was finally sold in America.
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His wife sold the house and took the children to the Isle of Wight, where he could not see them nearly as often as he would have wanted. For some years he lived a rather desperate Bohemian life, full of drink and loneliness, in a disreputable part of Oxford near Jericho long since demolished to make room for a multi-storey car park.
He would walk for miles at night, and in those years wrote Greybeard, a parable of England left without any children after a terrible plague. From this devastation he was rescued by Margaret Manson, a Scottish secretary to the editor of the Oxford Mail, who became his second wife in , when she was 31 and he An unaffected enthusiasm for women runs through his memories. He is both lustful and extremely uxorious.
In Macau as a soldier he took himself, he writes in his autobiography, to a brothel, "a whorehouse of huge proportions, a flesh factory, feebly lit, steaming, odorous. Because of the heat the girl wore only vest-like garments, which reached down to, but failed to cover, their neat little wildernesses of pubic hair I had a proper respect for those small furry entrances into pleasure; in that whorehouse, they hung like so many fruits on a gigantic Christmas tree.
It is worth noting that the man who so relished whores in his youth came to love his wife Margaret so much that when she was dying of cancer nearly four years ago he could observe that "visitors now come to see Margaret. I'm the one who serves tea, coffee or wine, according to the time of day. I'm now just Margaret's Husband - an enviable title, I'd say! The wound of being a widower is still visible on him. He goes through the motions of an interview with courtesy and liberal applications of Greek brandy and he is generous with his anecdotes.
He is a large man, who gangles on any normally sized chair - he is currently wearing a neck-brace from a recent car accident - but when he talks to a woman, to a neighbour for instance, the marionette is for a moment restrung. Ballard says, "He is enormously generous and ebullient. There is nothing small or crabby about him at all. He combines a writer's voracious lack of shame with an unselfconscious respect for decency in a way which is extremely rare.
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His love of his children is also very public and unaffected. He talks with earnest pride of how they have become good people, loving their children and their parents. One small and horrible detail of how he felt after his divorce comes from his autobiography: Clive and Wendy, the children of his first marriage, were followed by Tim and Charlotte, from the second.
Among his many praises for his second wife was the way in which she accepted her stepchildren and allowed everyone to form a family. And as that family grew, Aldiss's career as a science fiction author was also blossoming. He came a little after the first generation - Clarke, Pohl, Asimov, Heinlein - who had refined the crude vulgarity of the bug-eyed monster pulps and turned them into the literary equivalent of jazz: Anyone can imagine monsters, but Aldiss's monsters are complete down to the last parasite, and even the parasite's parasites.
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In one early story the hero is sent back by a time machine to kill a brontosaurus. This, we understand, is because he is being bullied by his wife and he wants to show her what a mighty hunter he is. Equipped with some space-age rifle, a time machine and a guide, he does indeed manage to bag his first brontosaurus - but is killed when one of the dying dinosaur's ticks jumps on his back and squashes him flat.
The first wave of classic science fiction appeared in the early-to- mids. Aldiss's first science- fiction novel, Nonstop, was published in , and his real influence as a writer and an anthologist came in the 60s, when science fiction of the 50s already seemed to have hardened into an orthodoxy that needed overthrowing. His friend Kingsley Amis was a science-fiction fan, and wrote somewhere of the pleasure to be had from a sentence such as "The CIA had to be in this with the Martians", as something distinct from literary merit, and worth having on its own. But the older man came to admire his conventional novels, too.
Keep on with the good work, Aldiss, and don't get too sodding literary, and you'll have put us all in your debt," Amis wrote in , when the book came out. Amis, Robert Conquest later historian of Stalin's crimes and the film composer and detective novelist Bruce Montgomery, who wrote under the name of Edmund Crispin, all edited anthologies of science fiction when it was a rash and rewarding thing to do: Montgomery, who drank himself to death in , was rich in those days, and as a gesture of piety he would always dilute his whisky with Canada Dry ginger ale "because they advertise on the back of Astounding".
There was something extraordinary about the sudden flourishing of science fiction in the 50s, when the stories started to show real human beings, in real proportions, despite being dwarfed by the universe.
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In the 40s Asimov, Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke and the like open up the universe but fill it with adolescent boys of all ages, and species, some even female. In the 50s, though, writers like Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, Alfred Bester, the early Vonnegut, and many others, entered a golden age. The stuff that came before had been so very bad; and the stuff that came after was mostly derivative, however accomplished.
But there was a moment, when the imagination of good writers stretched across unbounded galaxies, in which they were discovering new ways of being human. For Aldiss, the originality of 20th-century science fiction was partly religious. There, of course, is the essence of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," a book he regards as the first work of science fiction. He himself, now living round the corner from a church in Oxford, takes a robust view of the deity: One of the things I disliked when I came to Headington was that it was a very Christian community.
But the vicar is all right. When Margaret was dying, he was round here often. He was a good man with red wine. It so happens that all the close friends I've made are atheists: One sort of likes the traditions but no way can you believe, in the teeth of the evidence the very sharp teeth of the evidence, I'd say.
Throughout the 60s his success and influence as a writer of science fiction grew: He won the two most prestigious awards inthe genre - the Hugo, awarded by fans, and the Nebula, awarded by writers. He travelled as much as he could.
He had discovered Slovenia with Harry Harrison and Kingsley Amis when the three of them were judges at a science-fiction festival in Trieste, and took off to see the Istrian peninsula: The journey took them six months: Later came the invitations to more and more festivals, conventions, jamborees. After the years of poverty and despair he found himself rich and respectable.
At the same time, he was growing disillusioned with science fiction. He praises few modern authors in the field: Bruce Sterling is one exception; but he feels that the last absolute genius was Philip K Dick. They are so small compared to what he could actually imagine. In the 50s there were a whole set of technologies, chief among them space travel, which stood between the present and the future. Now there is no such clarity. The space age has come and gone. Conversely, if you want to write about the present, you can only do so by incorporating science fictional elements: It is certainly true that modern "straight" novels take for granted the godless and indifferent universe which Aldiss thinks was science fiction's great originality.
Ballard says, "In the 50s the world changed.
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A whole series of nightmarish possibilities appeared for the first time. There was a fear that the human race was threatened by its own brilliance. The only way to write about this then was science fiction. And there is very little else that was written in the 50s that is still read. Perhaps Arthur C Clarke thinks he can predict the future, but that's a different approach. The emphasis now is more on using the future to hold up a mirror to the present.