Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Vivian, E C

(1882-1947) UK writer and editor, born Charles Henry Cannell, who changed his name but subsequently used his original cognomen as pseudonym on a few Oriental adventure stories, including The Guardian of the Cup (1930), sometimes erroneously recorded as a fantasy. His naturalistic novels occasionally contain fantasy elements, but his main contributions to the genre are his Lost-Race stories and those volumes in the Gees series of detective stories – written as Jack Mann – which confront the protagonist with supernatural adversaries (> Occult Detectives).

In City of Wonder (1922), explorers of the legendary City of Kir-Asa encounter sinister ghostly guardians left over from the Theosophists' (>>> Theosophy) version of Lemuria. Fields of Sleep (1923) sees a last remnant of the Babylonian empire entrapped by an unbreakable addiction to the scent of a flower; its sequel, People of the Darkness (1924), features an Underworld inhabited by descendants of an unhuman race which once lived in Atlantis. The Lady of the Terraces (1925) involves survivors of a pre-Incan civilization whose heyday is described in a tale narrated by the protagonist of the earlier novel, A King There Was (1926). Woman Dominant (1929) is another romance of South American exploration, describing a tribe in which the women have reduced their menfolk to docile passivity by means of a drug. Although sometimes rather slapdash in execution, ECV's are among the more interesting 20th-century lost-race stories.

Although Gees' First Case (1936) was perfectly straightforward, the second in the series, Grey Shapes (1937), involved Gees with Werewolves who are relics of an ancient race, memory of which is preserved in the mythology of the Sidhe (> Fairies). Nightmare Farm (1937) confronts Gees with the supernatural beings who once guarded Kir-Asa (making the novel a sequel of sorts to City of Wonder). After The Kleinert Case (1938) and Maker of Shadows (1938) Gees faced a much sterner challenge from another magically adept survivor of the Azilian race first featured in Grey Shapes, whose background is more extensively described. The introspective and sombre tone of this novel was carried over into The Ninth Life (1939), a Femme-Fatale story about a survivor from Ancient Egypt; this soon abandons the pretence of being a detective story and becomes far more interesting. The Glass Too Many (1940), re-uses a motif from Maker of Shadows, setting it in a conventional country-house murder mystery. The lovelorn Gees, unable to see that he ought to get it together with his omnicompetent secretary, again does little detecting in Her Ways are Death (1941), in which he fails to save another femme fatale – who is likewise doomed, in spite of supernatural assistance from Thor, by virtue of being under the sway of evil deities. The syncretic mythological system underlying the mysteries is given its fullest elaboration here, seemingly carrying far more conviction than would be required of a mere literary device. ECV had earlier written as Mann a series of boys' adventure stories, one of which – Coulson Goes South (1933) – briefly involves its clean-cut hero with some trivial magical shenanigans. [BS]

other works: Passion-Fruit (1912), associational; The Forbidden Door (1927); The Tale of Fleur (1929); Dead Man's Chest (1934), associational.

see also: Hutchinson's Magazines; Novel Magazine.

Evelyn Charles Vivian


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.