(1936- ) US author who is known solely for her enormously successful Earth's Children sequence of Prehistoric SF novels: The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), The Valley of Horses (1982), both assembled as The Clan of the Cave Bear/The Valley of Horses (omni 1994), plus The Mammoth Hunters (1985), all three assembled as Earth's Children (omni 1987), plus The Plains of Passage (1990), The Shelters of Stone (2002) and The Land of the Painted Caves (2011). It could not be suggested that the sequence is very usefully read as sf, or that, indeed, it is intended to be read as sf; most of the events recounted – as the young Cro-Magnon protagonist Ayla grows up in the Neanderthal community which has adopted her, and begins to effect transformations in her world – are legitimate palaeo-anthropological extrapolations pastwards about the nature of human Evolution, but do not initially occupy a frame in any real sense fantastic, though the main continuing protagonists, Ayla, does generate an unusual number of culture-changing Inventions solo. As the series continues, the greatest displacement from what might fairly be called romantic realism – the plots themselves have novelettish moments – lies in the growing capacity of the main characters to commune with animals, a capacity perhaps more easily understood in fantasy terms. In any case, generic definitions aside, Auel's control over masses of detail, and her compulsive storytelling style, put the Earth's Children books on a level far above most of their very numerous predecessors. The first book was filmed as The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), directed by Michael Chapman and starring Daryl Hannah. [JC]
see also: Women SF Writers.
Jean Marie Auel
born Chicago, Illinois: 18 February 1936
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