Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Greenland, Colin

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(1954-    ) UK critic and writer whose PhD thesis in sf at Oxford University became in revised form his first book, The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the UK "New Wave" (1983). Michael Moorcock is given considerable attention in the text, which focuses also on the work of J G Ballard and Brian W Aldiss. Further critical work includes Storm Warnings: Science Fiction Confronts the Future (anth 1987 US) with Eric S Rabkin and George E Slusser, and a second take on Moorcock in the shape of a book-length interview, Death Is No Obstacle (1992).

CG began to publish fiction of genre interest with "Miss Otis Regrets" for Fiction Magazine in 1982, and soon published his first three fantasy novels – Daybreak on a Different Mountain (1984), The Hour of the Thin Ox (1987) and Other Voices (1988) – which make up a very loose series, mainly through being set in the same austerely depicted Fantasyland. Because so much of his work borrows moods and idioms from earlier work, interrogating that earlier work in the process, almost all of CG's earlier fiction can be thought of as Revisionist Fantasy, even where models may be hard to pin down. Fittingly, the first volume of the loose sequence not only is in this sense a Parody of fantasy but actually describes what might be called a parody of Quest: two aristocrats are sent to find the prophet of the God Gomath, both of them needing to deny that either is in fact that prophet, to no avail. One turns out to be the prophet, and the other, having developed Talents, the god.

The second and third tales also involve impostures, inconclusive gestures, emotional states that peter out rather than – as in the models being examined – prefiguring and justifying the Transformation of the world into Eucatastrophe. CG then moved to sf, with the Tabitha Jute sf sequence – Take Back Plenty (1990), which won the 1991 Arthur C Clarke Award, In the Garden: The Secret Origin of the Zodiac Twins (1991 chap) and Seasons of Plenty (1995) – though in the middle of composing this ambitious (and incomplete) narrative he produced in Harm's Way (1993) his most successful and exuberant single novel. As with so much sophisticated work of the 1990s, it is not easy to make useful generic distinctions: it could be treated as an sf exercise in alternate cosmology or as a fantasy excursion into an Alternate-World 19th-century England making use of Steampunk and Gaslight Romance conventions in the depiction of the consequences of living in a Universe filled with aether, so that sailing ships can travel from planet to planet. The style intermittently pastiches Charles Dickens; the plot takes the daughter of a murdered London whore on a hegira to confront (and eventually to kill) her father, the head of the guild of aether pilots. The whole enterprise of Harm's Way is irradiated by nostalgia of a highly conscious sort. CG is a novelist whose touchstones – entropy and nostalgia – are belated. But he uses these touchstones, with increasing freshness, as a language. [JC]

other works: Magnetic Storm: The Work of Roger and Martyn Dean (1984); Interzone: The First Anthology (anth 1985) ed with John Clute and David Pringle; The Freelance Writer's Handbook (1986) with Paul Kerton.

Colin Greenland


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.