Gwyneth Jones

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.