Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Allen, Grant

(1848-1899) Canadian-born UK writer, scientist and educationalist. After a thwarted career in academia in the UK and Jamaica, GA turned in 1876 to writing, mostly on scientific and philosophical subjects. Seeking a more profitable sideline, he began to sell short fiction under the name J Arbuthnot Wilson (he later used the pseudonyms Cecil Power, Olive Pratt Rayner and Martin Leach Warborough). His early stories were often thinly disguised lectures, and this professorial tone remained evident in much of his work. GA's sf and Supernatural Fiction, although a small part of his output, was significant. An evolutionist and emancipationist, he held strong views on the moral and social matters of the day, and he liked to challenge taboos, as demonstrated in his feminist novel The Woman Who Did (1895) (> Feminism). He used sf as a vehicle to comment upon Victorian society in The British Barbarians: A Hill-Top Novel (1895), and challenged the concept of God in The Evolution of the Idea of God (1897). He sought to rationalize some aspects of the supernatural through his knowledge of Folklore, Anthropology and Religion, and thereby helped the supernatural story advance into the 20th century.

His West Indian experience provided him with material for an early Voodoo story, "The Beckoning Hand" (1884), and other tales feature Revenants from crypts, Mummies' tombs or burial mounds. His Weird Fiction is found alongside nonfantastic stories in Strange Stories (coll 1884), The Beckoning Hand (coll 1887), Ivan Greet's Masterpiece (coll 1893), The Desire of the Eyes (coll 1895) and – his selection of his best – Twelve Tales (coll 1899). Quasi-supernaturalism creeps into a few of his novels, especially Kalee's Shrine (1886; vt The Indian Mystery 1902 US) with May Cotes, about the Thuggee cult and Mesmerism. The Great Taboo (1890) specifically acknowledges the influence of Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough (1890), and is therefore almost certainly the first fiction explicitly to respond to the book. [MA]

other works: The Devil's Die (1888); The White Man's Foot (1888); The Tents of Shem (coll 1891); Michael's Crag (1893).

Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen

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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.