On Tuesday the 18th of February 1997 we where privaledged enough to have award winning writer Gwyneth Jones, back as a guest for a third time.
Gwyneth became best known in the 1980's when three complex adult sf books were published.
Divine Endurance (1984), Escape Plans (1986) and Kairos (1988). More of these adult books
later however Gwyneth had been producing books since 1977. The two main reasons that they are
dissociated with her later works are that they were aimed at the juvenile market, and mostly
written under her pen name of Ann Halam.
Her first book was a fantasy novel entitled Water in the Air (1977). This was followed by The
Influence of Ironwood (1978) and The Exchange (1979). From her fourth book, Dear Hill (1980)
she wrote exclusively sf and fantasy.
Ally Ally Aster (1981) is one of her most famous children's books, this and her next book The
Alder Tree (1982) utilise Norse and Gothic legends to great effect.
King Death's Garden (1996), again as Ann Halam, is a dark but subtle ghost story set in
Brighton where Gwyneth lived.
Her next books form a series concerning a young and rebellious Zanne. These are set in a post-
holocaust world called Inland where the government is run along deep-ecology lines by women.
The series consists of The Daymaker (1987), Transformations (1988) and The Skybreaker (1990).
In these Zanne slowly learns to control her innate rapport with the forbidden high-tech artefacts of
the old patriarchal world-destroying hegemony. In stages throughout the books she becomes an
active agent in the sane preservation of Inland.
The Hidden Ones (1988) is the only children's book of this period where Gwyneth used her own
name. This is a contemporary urban fantasy where Adelle, a rebellious trouble-maker is thrown
out of her mother's home for attacking her step-father and made to live with her father and his new
wife. Alienated she befriends a reclusive woman scientist and finds herself with a cause to fight for
against greedy a local landowner with plans to industrialise a magic piece of wilderness.
In Dinosaur Junction (1992) again under her pen-name, Gwyneth has her young protagonist
confronted with dilemmas relating to time travel and meets a dinosaur.
Her writing for the adult sf market started with Divine Endurance (1984) and this remains her
most admired book. Like the Zanne series it is set in a post-holocaust land governed by a
matriarchy, but neither setting nor premise are presented with the clarity appropriate to a juvenile
text. No dates are given but Gwyneth's enormously complex Southeast Asia venue has a dying
Earth feel; and the matriarchal society she depicts is riven by profound ambivalences. The story
concerns a female called Chosen Among the Beautiful, and the eponymous cat which accompanies
her. In their travels they become catalysts which ignite a civil revolt. The hard melancholy and
complexity of the book is unique in recent sf.
Escape Plans (1986) is a similarly complex book, this time set in a computer-run dystopian
world. The genre or characters is ambiguous a lot of the time due to a naming convention based on
parts of a computer.
Kairos (1988) with the previous two books makes up a kind of thematic trilogy featuring
profoundly divided women who descend into the world and redeem it. It is set in a near future
Britain which is degenerating into fascism and anarchy. The title of the book is a theological term
designating the moment of fullness in time when Christ appears. In the book, Kairos is also a drug
which is taken by the female protagonist which allows her to remodel reality around her so that the
worst of the evils in the world are eliminated.
White Queen (1991) moves beyond the pattern of the previous books by confronting the world,
and the protagonists, with invasion of aliens who rewrite human perceptions of reality. In 1992
Gwyneth Jones shared the James Tiptree award with Eleanor Arnason.
Gwyneth was born in Manchester and educated in a convent. She graduated from Sussex
University in 1973 with a degree in the History of Ideas and Latin. She then worked for the DHSS
before accompanying her husband to Singapore where she lived for three years. From this base she
travelled extensively in the western parts of South East Asia. This experience gives the Oriental
reality to her classic novel Divine Endurance.
(information taken from the magnificent Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by John Clute and Peter Nicholls)
Why not visit Gwyneth Jones
or Midnight Lamp.