Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Tennant, Emma

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(1937-2017) UK writer whose first novel – The Colour of Rain (1964) as by Catherine Aydy – had little impact, perhaps through the inadequacy of its emulation of the style of her then father-in-law, Henry Green (1905-1973). Her first novel as ET, The Time of the Crack (1973; vt The Crack 1978), is understandable as an sf exploration of the metaphor of Apocalypse, though the eponymous crack – a mysterious faultline running through the bed of the Thames – is given no naturalistic explanation and is treated as the centrepiece in an Expressionist Landscape, a metaphysical barrier the book's female protagonists seek to cross (or transcend) in order to reach an imagined matriarchal Arcadia on the "Other Side". ET's second acknowledged novel, The Last of the Country House Murders (1974), set in the future, is a clumsy parody of classic detective tales.

It is the novels of the next half-decade – though a few more recent books are also of fantasy interest – which established ET's reputation as a fabulist and in some eyes a significant Magic Realist (> Magic Realism), who was often compared to Angela Carter and writers like Gabriel García Márquez. In Hotel de Dream (1976) the Dreams of various hotel residents, who find themselves sleeping compulsively, begin to interact with each other, and eventually corrupt the staid English city that surrounds the dreamers. The Bad Sister (1978) is the first of two fantasias on 19th-century Scottish novels in which Doubles – human or Devil – haunt defective humans; in this case the model is James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), and the sinner's Calvinism is replaced by a murderous Feminism. Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1888) similarly underlies Two Women of London: The Strange Case of Ms Jekyll and Mrs Hyde (1989), a tale whose Hyde figure murders a suspected rapist, and draws her respectable double downwards into madness. Both novels – along with Faustine (1992), which re-envisions Faust – were assembled as Travesties (omni 1995). In Wild Nights (1979) a Scottish childhood is recounted as a perilous, magic-filled ordeal. Alice Fell (1980) makes Revisionist-Fantasy play with a conflation of the myth of Persephone and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865): the Underworld the protagonist falls into is the underside of London.

Later work by ET has generally departed the fantastic, though several titles are of interest, including: The Boggart (1980) and The Ghost Child (1984), both Children's Fantasies; The Magic Drum: An Excursion (1989), a Ghost Story; and Sisters and Strangers: A Moral Tale (1990), in which Adam and Eve, having survived to the present day, participate in a feminist vision of an Alternate World. [JC]

Emma Christina Tennant


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.