Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Bullett, Gerald

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(1893-1958) UK author. In his only fully fledged fantasy novel, Mr Godly Beside Himself (1924), a businessman whose work and marriage have lost their flavour becomes involved, through his new secretary, with various strange characters and surreal situations, culminating in his entering Faerie – from which she hails – and exchanging places with his fairy Double Godelik. Godly finds Faerie in political turmoil, and is distressed to realize a revolution is imminent; meanwhile, the naïve Godelik has problems adapting to the complicated demands and conventions of modern life. Like several other notable fantasies of the period, the novel pleads eloquently for a healthy reconciliation of reason and imagination, lest modern human life become utterly arid.

An ever-present surreal element in GB's work gives many of his short fantasies a nightmarish edge. A brief preparatory sketch of Mr Godly Beside Himself is "The Enchanted Moment" (in The Street of the Eye and Nine Other Tales coll 1923), whose protagonist is snatched into a parallel world where Dionysus contemptuously cuts him down (literally) to a much smaller size. The collection's title story is a curious metaphysical fantasy whose paranoid central character suspects he is being closely monitored by an unkind deity; also included is the subtle theriomorphic (see Shapeshifters) fantasy "Dearth's Farm". The grotesque "The Dark House" and the Posthumous Fantasies "Queer's Rival" and "Last Days of Binnacle" in The Baker's Cart and Other Tales (coll 1925) are among the darkest of GB's fantasies, contrasting sharply with the sentimental posthumous fantasy "The Grasshopper" in The World in Bud and Other Tales (coll 1928). The title story of Helen's Lovers and Other Tales (coll 1932) is a notable Timeslip romance, while "Fiddler's Luck" and "Tangent in Trouble" are ironic tales involving human males with supernatural females in a modern context; "Three Men at Thark" is a disturbing tale of a Poltergeist, and the ghostly Conte Cruel "The Elder" is perhaps Bullett's best Horror story. The brief fantasies in Ten Minute Tales and Some Others (coll 1960) are slight, having been written to a precise length, but the best are elegant. Twenty Four Tales (coll 1938) reprints stories from the earlier collections alongside one new fantasy, "Dr Jannock's Chair"; an earlier selection of reprints was Short Stories of To-day and Yesterday (coll 1929).

Some of GB's later novels have marginal fantasy elements: Marden Fee (1931) juxtaposes eras of prehistory and history in order to construct a melancholy romance of eternal recurrence; Cricket in Heaven (1949) reworks the Classical story of Alcestis in a modern setting. [BS]

Gerald Bullett


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.