Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Priestley, J B

(1894-1984) UK novelist and playwright whose once immensely popular novels have worn less well than his plays. Some of his work uses sf devices (> SFE); fantasy is not so much represented. In novels, the Absurdist movie universe in Albert Comes Through (1933) is relegated to Rationalized Fantasy as a Dream, and the genially humorous The Thirty-First of June: A Tale of True Love, Enterprise and Progress, in the Arthurian and Ad-Atomic Ages (1961) involves Wizard-mediated Portal crossings between modern London and a medieval Fantasyland, the Transformation of an ad exec into a Dragon, and an ultimate Crosshatch linking of worlds with a view to future tourism. More seriously, JBP's interest in the Time theories of J W Dunne (1875-1949) and P D Ouspensky (1878-1947) led to such "time plays" as: Dangerous Corner (1932), offering a timeline where opening a metaphorical Pandora's Box produces a cascade of increasingly destructive revelations, and then an Alternate Reality where the dangerous sequence is averted by chance; Time and the Conways (1937), whose middle act is one character's transforming, Dunne-style vision of her imperfect future; and I Have Been Here Before (1937), pitting free will against Ouspensky's cycle of eternal return. Two Time-Plays (omni 1937) and Three Time Plays (omni 1947) assemble, respectively, the latter two and all three. Johnson over Jordan (1939) is a less successful Afterlife fantasy whose late hero is questioned by spiritual examiners and relives parts of his life before leaving for regions unknown. [DRL]

further reading: The Amazing Theatre (coll 1939) by James Agate (1877-1947) reviews early performances of most cited plays.

John Boynton Priestley


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.