Entry updated 8 July 2022. Tagged: Author.
(1926-2009) Italian editor and author, one of the best-known writers in the Italian sf field, and one of the more translated in other languages. His literary self-education took place in the years following World War Two, with Jean-Paul Sartre becoming one of his principal models as a writer; his first writings appeared in Oltre il Cielo ["Beyond the Sky"], a magazine founded in 1957 and based in Rome, publishing sf stories as by N L Janda, alongside articles on rocketry and space technology. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Oltre il Cielo was the magazine where an entire generation of young Italian authors first appeared in print, and was one of the few to publish them without a foreign pseudonym.
Between the 1950s and the 1960s Aldani was featured in the Italian Galaxy, in Accademia, a supplementary section reserved for Italian authors, and in Anthologies of Italian science fiction edited by Sandro Sandrelli – Interplanet 1 (anth 1962) and Interplanet 2 (anth 1963). He wrote the first monographic study of sf in Italian – La fantascienza ["Science Fiction"] (1962); in 1963, he founded with Giulio Raiola and Carlo Lo Jacono the magazine Futuro ["Future"], co-editing the first issues; and publishing his first collection, Quarta dimensione ["Fourth Dimension"] (coll 1964).
From the beginning of his career, Aldani's production has been extremely varied in themes, tropes, and narrative structure. Different lines of creative research or main points of interest are: adventure sf, revisionist version of traditional Space Opera; Dystopias and political Satires; introspection and representations of the individual's unease and struggle in the industrial and urban present. Each Aldani's work is dominated by one of these principles, but they tend to be always present together, as evident in the short stories he put in Oltre il Cielo, such as "Spazio amaro" ["Sour Space"] (1960): during a visit to the Rotterdam "astroport", the narrator joins four astronauts in an inn, and, aided by a bottle of strong Venusian wine, they start recounting their adventures on unknown planets. One of the astronauts recalls his first landing on another planet: the Sense of Wonder, the mystery, and enchantment accompanying that first experience which was forever lost after that. The astronaut's moving tale is the highpoint of the story.
Like "Spazio amaro", other early short stories illustrate the process by which Aldani assimilated elements of the international SF Megatext, elements of which were imported in English translation, while at the same time searching for a voice of his own. Examples include "La luna delle venti braccia" ["The Twenty-Armed Moon"] (1960) in which every crewman on a spaceship is forced to have an arm cut off so as to lose weight and save everyone's life; "Dove sono i vostri Kumar?" ["Where Are Your Kumars?"] (1960), where an Alien who has landed on Earth thinks that monkeys are the dominant species, since they have the same physical appearance as his masters (see Apes as Human); and "Incompatibilità" ["Incompatibility"] (1960) in which Communication with an alien vessel is rendered impossible due to biological differences. His encounters with Anglo-American authors like Fredric Brown show in some straightforward rewritings of English works: "Gli ordini non si discutono" ["Orders Must Not Be Questioned"] (1960), for instance, is based on Brown's "The Last Martian" (October 1950 Galaxy), revisited with an ironic edge.
From the early 1960s, in the pages of Futuro, Aldani began to publish less obviously adventure-oriented short stories, "Tecnocrazia integrale" ["Integral Technocracy"] (1961), which are built around a critical reflection on contemporary society, on how it is shaped by the Media Landscape, by Technology, by the work in factories and offices, by life in the City in an overpopulated, artificial environment. These stories are the works for which Aldani is remembered by Italian readers as an essentially pessimistic writer. Aldani also published in Futuro two longer short stories, "Buonanotte, Sofia" ["Good Night, Sofie"] (1963) and "Trentasette centigradi" ["Thirty-Seven Degrees Celsius"] (1963), both as by N L Janda. "Buonanotte, Sofia" is set in a future world where the onirofilm – a multi-sensorial medium, that works by direct stimulation of the brain (akin to Brave New World's hypnopaedia and feelies) – has basically led people to reject reality: men and women are forced out into dreary, grey everyday life for a few, indispensable hours of work, but, as soon as they can, they go home and plug into their onirofilms reader to live the exciting, illusory life the entertainment industry has constructed for them.
After "Trentasette centigradi", an opposition between city and countryside, between a meaningless modern life and the old values connected to the Earth and the human community, resurfaces in "Visita al padre" and in Quando le radici ["The Roots of a Man"] (fixup 1977). The protagonist of the latter is stuck in an overpopulated Rome, in a job whose point he cannot understand – passing punch-cards from one Machine to another – until he decides to leave the city and go back to his birthplace, a small town in the north of the peninsula, close to the river Po, where some elderly people live without needing the services provided by the modern world (aqueducts and electricity included). Here he finds a simple, new, meaningful way of life. In Quando le radici gypsies make their first appearance, with their way of life representing a radical alternative, which Aldani had become fascinated with over the years, and which led him to study gypsy language and culture. This passion would be the focus of Themoro korik ["On the Other Side"] (2007).
Further novels followed between the 1970s and the 1980s: Eclissi 2000 ["Eclipse 2000"] (1979), Nel segno della luna bianca ["In Name of the White Moon"] (1985) with Daniela Piegai, and La croce di ghiaccio ["The Ice Cross"] (1989), along with the second of his collections, Parabole per domani ["Parables for Tomorrow"] (coll 1987). The focus of both Eclissi 2000 and La croce di ghiaccio is on Inner Space, with both presenting different declinations of relationship between the individual and power, and the inner struggle that condemns the former to an unresolved search for an alternative way. In Eclissi 2000 the traditional theme of the Generation Starship is associated with a twisted ending which, once again, points to the self-destruction of the human species through technology. In La croce di ghiaccio the protagonist is a religious missionary among the harmless natives on planet Geron, perhaps directly influenced by James Blish's A Case of Conscience (1958). The novel describes the protagonist's attempt at cultural colonization and his "going native" process, but also the colonial economical exploitation of the planet. In the account of the priest's youth and education, the political theme of class oppression is crucial, differently depicted on the various planets on which he was sent to be trained as a missionary. The 1990s were characterized by a second silence as far as sf is concerned, interrupted only in the 2000s when Aldani started writing again, completing a significant series of new, mature short stories and co-editing the magazine Futuro Europa ["Future Europe"] with Ugo Malaguti (1945-2021).
As early as the 1980s, Aldani was established as a father of Italian sf, with interviews, reprints, and critical contributions published in specialist Italian publications such as Nova Sf*, Urania, and Robot. He was one of the most translated Italian authors: novels and collected writings have appeared in French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Romanian, Polish, and Czech, and some single short stories have been translated into English as part of anthologies. His significance as a modern European author of sf is now unquestionable. [GI]
born San Cipriano Po (Pavia), Italy: 29 March 1926
died Pavia, Italy: 31 January 2009
- Quando le radici ["The Roots of a Man"] (Piacenza, Italy: La Tribuna, 1977) [pb/Jan Parker]
- Quando le radici (Milan, Italy: Mondadori, 2009) [exp as coll: pb/Franco Brambilla]
- Eclissi 2000 ["Eclipse 2000"] (Milan, Italy: De Vecchi, 1979) [hb/]
- Eclissi 2000 (Milan, Italy: Mondadori, 2006) [exp as coll: pb/Franco Brambilla]
- Nel segno della luna bianca ["In Name of the White Moon"], co-authored with D Piegai (Milan, Italy, Nord, 1985) [pb/]
- Febbre di luna ["Moon Fever"], (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 2004) [exp as coll: vt of the above: hb/]
- La croce di ghiaccio ["The Ice Cross"] (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 1989) [hb/]
- Themoro Korik ["On the Other Side"] (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 2007) [hb/]
- Aleph 3 (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 2007) [hb/]
collections and stories
- Quarta dimensione ["Fourth Dimension"] (Milan, Italy: Baldini & Castoldi, 1964) [coll: pb/]
- Parabole per domani ["Parables for Tomorrow"] (Chieti, Italy: Solfanelli, 1987) [coll: pb/]
- Millennium (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 2001) with U Malaguti [coll: hb/]
- Ontalgie ["Malaise-of-Life"] (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 2002) [coll: hb/]
- Aria di Roma andalusa ["Scent of Andalusian Rome"] (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 2003) [coll: hb/]
- Febbre di luna ["Moon Fever"] (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 2004) [coll: hb/]
- La fantascienza. Che cos'è. Com'è sorta. Dove tende ["SF. What it is. Where it came from. Where is it going"] (Piacenza, Italy: La Tribuna, 1962) [nonfiction: pb/]
works as editor
- Esperimenti con l'ignoto ["Experiments with the Unknown"] co-edited with I Cremaschi and G Raiola (Rome, Italy: Editoriale Futuro, 1963) [anth: pb/]
- Gli autori della World SF Italia ["World SF Italian Authors"] co-edited with U Malaguti (Bologna, Italy: Perseo, 1989) [anth: hb/]
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