Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Saxton, Josephine

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(1935-    ) UK writer who began to publish work of genre interest with "The Wall" for Science Fantasy in 1965, and whose novels hover – or ricochet – between sf and fantasy. "The Wall" itself is a good example of that hovering intensity: the tale, like much of her work, is set in a Landscape which resembles a fantasy Waste Land while at the same time serving as a kind of Magic Slate upon which the psyche "writes" or creates Symbols, and traverses in the traditional Quest for justice, or safety, or wholeness, or herself. The eponymous wall traverses this typical landscape, hugely and blankly. It is both abstract and crushingly physical.

Very early in her career, JS began to shape this landscape and its inhabitants into a model for explorations into the Little Big interiors of the collective unconscious (> Jungian Psychology). "The Consciousness Machine" (1968; rev in The Consciousness Machine; Jane Saint and the Backlash: The Further Travails of Jane Saint coll 1989) is the first and perhaps most clearcut of these tale; its protagonist, interacting with the eponymous Technofantasy machine, enters the cave of the Jungian Shadow, sorts the Dreams which have tortured her, and heals herself. A similar voyage of self-discovery is central to JS's first novel, The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969 US), which "The Consciousness Machine" was apparently written to elucidate (though it appeared earlier). Other early novels – Group Feast (1971 US) and Vector for Seven: The Weltanschaung [sic] of Mrs Amelia Mortimer and Friends (1971 US) – explore the same territory. The first, set in a seemingly infinite Edifice, describes the stripping away of its protagonist's material obsessions; in the second, seven Companions are caught in Bondage to yet another landscape, until they sort themselves into a kind of unity.

JS returned some years later to the field with the Jane Saint sequence – The Travails of Jane Saint (1980) and Jane Saint and the Backlash: The Further Travails of Jane Saint (see above) – in which the eponymous heroine traverses a landscape filled with emblematic figures, charged now with burdens which are unpacked in feminist terms (> Feminism). The Queen of the States (1986), perhaps her best work, again applies a politicized feminist analytical wit to the Surrealist (> Surrealism) adventures of the protagonist, who is, or dreams she is, being interrogated by aliens, or maybe they are "simply" doctors – it all depends on which Reality she inhabits, and on how she can grasp its meaning. The book is funny, distressed and acute. JS's short work is normally most effective as remembered image, for she is a crafter of Icons which nag at her readers' memories and dreams; they are assembled in The Travails of Jane Saint and Other Stories (coll 1986), The Power of Time (coll 1985) and Little Tours of Hell: Tall Tales of Food and Holidays (coll 1986). [JC]

Josephine Mary Howard Saxton


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.