(1931-2013) UK writer, critic, student of crime and the paranormal; his personal version of Existentialism was initially aired in his first book, The Outsider (1956). CW is one of the few writers who have interestingly subverted Cthulhu Mythos themes to their own ends, beginning with the curious Science Fantasy The Mind Parasites (1967). This book's science is best not examined; it borrows H P Lovecraft's trappings (August Derleth features as a character) only to transcend them with the Recognition that the eponymous parasites, who like malign psychic Vampires drain human energy and creativity, are renegade fragments of the human unconscious – mental cancers. The metaphor is further illuminated in the discursive The Philosopher's Stone (1969), which suggests that only lazy habits of thought stand between us and a Nietzschean transcendence conferring Immortality and paranormal Talents. Here CW's Revisionist-Fantasy examination of the Cthulhu Mythos and its Malign Sleepers (through psychic probing across a Time Abyss) redefines them as victims: though still powerful and menacing, they have been cast into coma through over-reaching in their own development – giving humanity a chance to push onward and meet these Elder Gods as mental equals when they wake again. The Return of the Lloigor (in Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, anth 1969 US; rev 1974 chap UK) is a more conventional Cthulhu Mythos Horror story with a Welsh setting, echoing the quasi-documentary treatment of Lovecraft's own "The Call of Cthulhu" (1928) and also invoking Arthur Machen.
CW's commentaries on fantasy and Supernatural Fiction appear in: The Strength to Dream: Literature and the Imagination (1962), covering many relevant topics including Ghost Stories, E T A Hoffmann, H P Lovecraft and J R R Tolkien; The Strange Genius of David Lindsay (1970; with CW's material only, cut vt The Haunted Man 1979 US) with E H Visiak and J B Pick, on David Lindsay; and Tree by Tolkien (1973 chap).
The Gerard Sorme sequence, beginning with CW's first novel, Ritual in the Dark (1960), and continuing with Man Without a Shadow: The Diary of an Existentialist (1963; vt The Sex Diary of Gerard Sorme 1963 US) develops fantasy elements in The God of the Labyrinth (1970; vt The Hedonists 1971 US). This features an old erotic cult called the Sect of the Phoenix, copious and rebarbative Sex leading to friendly Possession by a long-dead rake, and intimations of psychic abilities like Astral-Body travel resulting from abnormally prolonged orgasm – CW is here adapting conventions of pornography (as earlier he used the Cthulhu Mythos) as new scaffolding for his dream of transcendence. His mystical agenda and sometimes uncritical-seeming enthusiasm for the paranormal emerge even in detections like The Schoolgirl Murder Case (1974), whose police investigator consults an Occult Detective specializing in Visions, and its sequel The Janus Murder Case (1984).
A late Science-Fantasy venture is the Spider World series, set in Earth's Far Future: Spider World: The Tower (1987; vt in 3 vols as Spider World 1: The Desert 1988 US, Spider World 2: The Tower 1989 US and Spider World 3: The Fortress 1989 US), Spider World: The Delta (1987) and Spider World: The Magician (1992). The initial handling of sf tropes is routine: giant Spiders have enslaved the remnants of humanity, and there is rebellion. But The Delta stresses CW's habitual urging of mental self-improvement, here mediated by a vegetative soul recalling the Life Force of Man and Superman (1903) and Back to Methuselah (1921) by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) – about whom CW has also written in Bernard Shaw: A Reassessment (1969). [DRL]
Colin Henry Wilson