Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

While Reincarnation refers to a return to Earth in a fresh life, "rebirth" usually refers to a dramatic renewal of the living. The notion is often connected with religious revelation, as when zealous converts describe themselves as "born again"; it was discussed by C G Jung (1875-1961) as a product of the collective unconscious, manifested in such myth-images as the Phoenix.

Orthodox fantasies of individual rebirth include The God Within Him (1926) by Robert Hichens and All or Nothing (1928) by J D Beresford (1873-1947), but images of quasi-transcendental rebirth are more interesting. The idea is particularly common in fantasies which are assimilated to sf – notable examples are "Desertion" (1944) by Clifford D Simak and Nightwings (1969) by Robert Silverberg – as well as earnest symbolic fantasies like The Green Child (1935) by Herbert Read and The Passion of New Eve (1977) by Angela Carter. The notion of a rebirth of the whole world is featured in, again, fantasies on the borders of sf, like Time's Dark Laughter (1982) by James Kahn (1947-    ) and Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun (1980-1983); it is a consistent feature of the work of some writers located in this grey area, including R A Lafferty in novels like Fourth Mansions (1969) and Storm Constantine in novels like Sign of the Sacred (1993). The rebirth of the entire Universe is a fairly common notion in sf: a fantasy example is John Grant's The World (1992). [BS]

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.