Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Temporal Adventuress

A figure of late-20th-century fantasy. The roots of the TA can be traced back to the 19th century, where precursors can be detected in characters like H Rider Haggard's She, an Avatar of the Goddess who travels through Time by means of Reincarnation/Immortality rather than Timeslip. The most important source for the TA is, however, probably the protagonist of Virginia Woolf's Orlando (1928), who begins life in Elizabethan England as an androgynous-seeming young man, becomes a woman in Turkey, timeslips back to Augustan England, jumps a further century forward, and finally into 1928, effortlessly escaping, through these shifts and jumps, any attempts to define her role, her Gender, her being. There is a slippery invulnerability about her passage which conveyed a dreamlike appeal to later writers, though it irritated Angela Carter, whose own TA-like figures almost constantly pay for every somersault they make from sex to sex, from world to world. After Orlando, the central model for the TA may be the swashbuckling figure of Jirel, a Sword-and-Sorcery freelance who appears in various stories by C L Moore, variously collected but most conveniently assembled in Jirel of Joiry (coll of linked stories 1969; vt Black God's Shadow 1977). She supplies a necessary element of athleticism to the model.

All these influences are wedded together in two characters – Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius – who appear throughout Michael Moorcock's Cornelius sequence, most specifically in The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century (1976), engaging in espionage, philosophy and debate, jumping from one aspect of the Multiverse to another whenever cornered, always surviving. If there is a problem with the TA, it is perhaps that the feminist (see Feminism) message she promulgates can justify a certain smugness in her depiction. She tends to be all too smoothly immune to the anguish and death she herself is quite capable of creating, and of timeslipping out of reach of consequences. [JC]


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.