Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Symonds, John

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(1914-2006) UK journalist and writer who began his career working for Lilliput Magazine. His first novel, William Waste (1947), is an Allegory. Over the next decades he composed a large number of quiet, subversive, somewhat Surrealist examples of Children's Fantasy, beginning with The Magic Currant Bun (1952 chap US). Notable further titles include Away to the Moon (1956 chap US), Lottie (1957), describing the adventures of a Doll and her dog in the 18th century, and Dapple Grey: The Story of a Rocking-Horse (1962), whose lost protagonist finds his way home. Little of JS's early adult fiction is fantasy, but in The Guardian of the Threshold (1980), told in his usual spare and ironic manner, a Magus becomes involved with two Swedish aristocrats who have discovered the Elixir of life and are now immortal (> Immortality). Of his many plays, the second drama assembled in The Lunatic Asylum is on Fire!; Zilpah (coll 1982) is a Ruritania satire set in the future, Oldcastle (1994) features a contemporary magus in talks with the Devil, Tower Above the Clouds: An Extravaganza (1994) sees yet another magus spar with the spirit of Merlin over his unjust immuring of his wife in the eponymous Dark Tower, and over his incest with his daughter – echoes of Shakespeare's The Tempest (performed circa 1611; 1623) being evident throughout – and Lenin and the Tsar (1995 chap) is a kind of vaudeville in which various participants in the Russian Revolution, some dead, have their say. Two of JS's more recent novels – Zélide (1984) and Sidony (1987), the latter incorporating some Twice-Told references to Sleeping Beauty – have fantasy elements.

Much of JS's nonfiction has been devoted to figures of Supernatural-Fiction interest, including Madam Blavatsky, Medium and Magician (1959; vt The Lady with the Magic Eyes 1960 US; vt In the Astral Light 1965 UK) (> H P Blavatsky) and several books on Aleister Crowley: The Great Beast: The Life of Aleister Crowley (1951; rev 1971), The Magic of Aleister Crowley (1958) and The King of the Shadow Realm: Aleister Crowley, His Life, and Magic (1989). The Medusa's Head, or Conversations Between Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler (1991) is a novel, and with its companion-piece play, The Trickster and the Devil (1992), depicts Crowley as a Trickster figure who flummoxes Hitler in the 1930s. JS has also edited several editions of Crowley's works, including The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography (1969; rev 1979) with Kenneth Grant. [JC]

other works (for children): Travellers Three (1953 chap US); The Isle of Cats (1955 chap; rev 1979); Elfrida and the Pig (1959); The Story George Told Me (1963 chap); Tom and Tabby (1964 chap US); Grodge-Cat and the Window Cleaner (1965 chap US); The Stuffed Dog (1967 chap); Harold, The Story of a Friendship (1973 chap); A Christmas Story (1977 chap).

John Symonds


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.