Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Aiken, Conrad

(1889-1973) US poet, father of Joan Aiken and John Aiken. Some of his narrative poems – like "John Deth" in John Deth, A Metaphysical Legend, and Other Poems (coll 1930) – use ballad-like idiom and supernatural content to articulate their author's traumatized psyche (when he was very young his father killed his mother and committed suicide) and fluent Modernist instincts. For half a century after his first volume of poems, Earth Triumphant (coll 1914), he was very prolific, much of his work evoking figures of Myth and seasonal climaxes (> Seasons), as in "Hallowe'en" (in Skylight One [coll 1949]), a powerful evocation of Samhain (> Hallowe'en).

Most of his fiction appeared during the interbellum. He may be longest remembered for novels like King Coffin (1935). His most famous single tale (out of a total of about 40) is "Mr Arcularis" (1931), a Posthumous Fantasy whose protagonist hears his death in the throbbing of the engine of a great ocean liner; CA later dramatized it as Mr Arcularis: A Play (1957 chap). Other stories, like "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" (1932), perhaps more clearly express CA's abiding concern, the war between a domineering, private, hysterical psyche and the fantastical, luminescent world of the senses. Collections include Bring! Bring! (coll 1925), Costumes by Eros (coll 1928), Gehenna (coll 1930) and Among the Lost People (coll 1934); CA's short fiction was later assembled as The Collected Stories of Conrad Aiken (coll 1960). [JC]

Conrad Aiken

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.