Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Amis, Kingsley

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(1922-1995) UK novelist, poet, editor and critic. KA was noted for numerous, often satirical, novels of social comedy, beginning with Lucky Jim (1954), which despite its geniality caused him to be journalistically labelled – with Colin Wilson and others – as an "Angry Young Man". His distinctions include the Booker Prize for The Old Devils (1986) and a knighthood (1990). An unsnobbish affection for genre fiction is shown by contributions to crime, fantasy and sf.

His one major fantasy, The Green Man (1969), is a fine novel by any standards, and among KA's best. Its disturbing supernatural-Horror events are usefully told through an entertainingly flawed and very Amisian ("hero as shit") narrator, afflicted with alcoholism, family troubles and middle-aged lust. A 17th-century Magician, who lived in what is now the protagonist's eponymous coaching inn, once animated a tree-man (see Green Man) to do unpleasant business. The magician's Ghost tempts the protagonist with power and Immortality (in fact intending Possession) – against which the protagonist's self-loathing is a shield – and harries him through minutely described Illusions all too reminiscent of delirium tremens. There is a remarkable appearance of God, manifesting in the privacy of Time stasis (see Time in Faerie) as a rather unpleasant young man whose self-imposed Conditions of operation require that the Wrongness of magician and tree-man be neutralized not directly but by a suitable catspaw. The reluctant hero is given the task, along with a Talisman cross and some chilling hints about the Afterlife; an Exorcism results. A BBC TV miniseries adaptation was broadcast in 1991.

"Who or What Was It?" (1972 Playboy) is a Tall Tale, originally a radio broadcast, with KA himself stumbling into the situation of The Green Man (see Recursive Fantasy). "To See the Sun", first published in Collected Short Stories (coll 1980; exp 1987) is an epistolary Vampire novelette set in 1925 Dacia, containing some irony as its sceptical English researcher informs an alluring vampire that her family legend arises from ergot-induced Hallucination. [DRL]

Other work: The Alteration (1976), Alternate World story.

further reading: There is some relevant criticism in The Amis Collection: Selected Non-Fiction 1954-1990 (coll 1990); Kingsley Amis in Life and Letters (anth 1990) ed Dale Salwak (1947-    ); Memoirs (1991), autobiographical; Kingsley Amis: Modern Novelist (1992) by Dale Salwak, biography.

Kingsley William Amis


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.