Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Gaskell, Jane

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Working name of UK writer Jane Gaskell Lynch (1941-    ), who began writing at a very early age: her first published novel, Strange Evil (1957), was written when she was 14. Printed almost without alteration from her original – and thus showing some overwriting and naïveties – it is an astonishingly imaginative piece of fantasy by any standards. Its young female protagonist discovers that her hitherto-unknown cousin and the cousin's spouse are among a number of Fairies currently present in our world for diverse purposes. They take her to a Faerie quite unlike either the Victorian conception or the Celtic Myth: this is a full-blown Alternate Reality attainable by invisible Portals, transport within it being by a moving silver road that arches across the sky. Here she finds the fairies engaged in a war that is partly racist, partly economic and partly religious (see Religion); central to the latter aspect is the God Baby, a vastly overgrown infant whose spoilt, tantrum-born outpourings are regarded as divine commands. This wildly original Faerie might have offered a new Playground for others to explore – the novel has the feel of being the first of a new subgenre – but none, not even JG, has chosen to enter it.

King's Daughter (1958) is more professionally written but less interesting and vivid. Set 200,000 years ago, after the departure of a previous Moon but before the arrival of the one we know, it tells of the daughter of an exiled Atlantean princess struggling to reach her deceased mother's land (see Atlantis). This novel prefigured the series of fantasies for which JG is best known, the Atlan series: The Serpent (1966; vt in 2 vols as The Serpent and The Dragon 1977 US), Atlan (1966), The City (1966) and, much later, Some Summer Lands (1977 US). Set some while after King's Daughter, the first trilogy follows the progress across South America of the Princess Cija – revolted by but at the same time passionately attracted to a half-man, half-reptile conqueror, General Zerd – to warn the citizens of remote, vacuum-shielded offshore Atlan, home of an ancient, pacifistic culture living in harmony with nature, of Zerd's tyrannical intentions. She arrives to find the conquest a fait accompli. She marries Zerd, but is soon banished in favour of his first wife to have adventures including a weird Parody of the Frankenstein theme. Yet the invaders, Cija included, are rejected by the Land itself – all except her elder child, born of an incestuous union with her half-brother, who is independently descended from divinity. Ousted, most of the protagonists return to the theocratic dictatorship of Cija's mother, where Cija undergoes standard Hidden-Monarch adventures before settling for the love of an Ape. Though finally "rescued" from her new life, she is bearing the ape's child. A sequel beckoned, but never came; instead there was the addendum of Some Summer Lands, an often incoherent, genitalia-obsessed novel wherein Cija and her daughter (by Zerd) are taken to and now welcomed by Atlan and its people. Some of the characters from King's Daughter anachronistically reappear.

The saga as a whole is characterized by a girlish breathlessness and an increasing preoccupation with ever-odder Sex – the curiosities of Some Summer Lands represent merely the extreme conclusion, more surprising because of the 11-year hiatus, of a process that was already well under way in the initial trilogy. The vividness and conceptual playfulness that marked Strange Evil had largely vanished by the time of The Serpent and almost entirely by Atlan. Nevertheless, JG's evident enthusiasm for her central character keeps at least the first two books ticking along; by the third, her interest was flagging, as does ours. Despite its flaws, the initial trilogy was an ambitious and mainly successful essay at world-creation: JG's was no standard Fantasyland.

Between King's Daughter and the Atlan series JG published various comedies of sexual manners, all non-genre save The Shiny Narrow Grin (1964), a Vampire novel that can be seen as a Swinging Sixties precursor of modern novels by authors like Nancy A Collins. Most of JG's subsequent novels, increasingly sloppily written, their protagonists ageing alongside JG herself, are of no fantasy interest, although sometimes with slight paranormal content – she is a professional astrologer – as in Sun Bubble (1990), concerned with the death of a loved one. [JG]

Jane Gaskell Lynch


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.