Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Martin, Valerie

(1948-    ) US writer whose first novel of fantasy interest, A Recent Martyr (1987), sets a tale of sexual and religious obsession against the rich, Urban-Fantasy background of a New Orleans gripped by a mysterious blight. Her other relevant novels display a Postmodernist interest in the reinterpretation of existing texts (see Recursive Fantasy). Mary Reilly (1990) is a delightfully matter-of-fact tale in which the Jekyll and Hyde story is recounted by Jekyll's maid; its subtext focuses, unexpectedly, not on the sexuality of Jekyll/Hyde but on that of the maid, so that the mundane is rendered more fantastical than the bizarre events going on in Jekyll's anatomy theatre. It was filmed as Mary Reilly (1996).

The Great Divorce (1994) reworks some of the material of Val Lewton's Cat People (1942) and its remake, Cat People (1982), into three interconnected narratives in which different kinds of what could be regarded as Possession intertwine: a contemporary young woman in New Orleans, employed as a zoo attendant, develops (in the end fatally) the mindless sexual habits of a feline; a 19th-century woman undergoes, thanks to Voodoo, an Identity Exchange with an escaped jaguar just long enough to kill her brutal husband; a 20th-century researcher, who himself behaves like a strutting tomcat – and whose abandoned wife, the zoo's vet, is the tale's centre of gravity – is obsessed by the history of the murderess. The Grand-Guignol elements of VM's imagination may occasionally seem overstretched; but her tales more and more impressively make use of these elements to explore Sex, innocence and obsession. Her unobtrusive writing style is a delight. [JC/JG]

other works: The Consolation of Nature (coll 1988).

Valerie Martin


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.