(1956- ) Innovative UK author who has garnered a cult following; many of her novels lie in the borderland between fantasy and sf. The Wraeththu trilogy – The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit (1987), The Bewitchments of Love and Hate (1988) and The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire (1989) – explores sexuality, violence and the nature of Gender in a post-Holocaust world. A similar background underpins Hermetech (1991), which combines themes of ecology, sexual healing and Magic. The concern with gender is further examined in The Monstrous Regiment (1990) and Aleph (1991), a not wholly successful exploration of the potential pitfalls of the extremes of feminist action. SC's more recent novels – Burying the Shadow (1992), Sign for the Sacred (1993), Calenture (1994) and Stalking Tender Prey (1995) – have moved her work towards Dark Fantasy. Her writing is distinguished by a fine attention to psychological character detail, charting progression and regression through complex inner as well as outer landscapes. A fascination with sexual power, with sexual ambivalence, with Redemption and transcendence, pervades her writing. Angel legends provide resonance for social order in both Burying the Shadow and Stalking Tender Prey, with imagery and texture echoing the Old Testament, the Apocrypha and John Milton, and forming the core of a complicated narrative web. Religion as Mystery and source of action is explored in Sign for the Sacred. Her re-inventions of Vampires and angels lie firmly in the realms of danger and delirium. SC's novels are not always comfortable reading, being challenging both stylistically and thematically. Stalking Tender Prey marks a new departure, being the first of her novels to have a contemporary UK setting; the initial volume of the projected Grigori trilogy, it is concerned with the legend of the nephilim, with salvation and with the responsibilities of psychological control.
A provocative and prolific writer, SC must be considered to occupy a key position in the emergence during the mid-1990s of dark fantasy as a separate subgenre. [KLM]