Batchelor, John Calvin

Tagged: Author

(1948-    ) US author whose first two novels, The Further Adventures of Halley's Comet (1980) and The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica (1983), are borderline fantasy and sf respectively. He has also published two mainstream novels, American Falls (1985) and Gordon Liddy is My Muse, by Tommy "Tip" Paine (1990). With John R Hamilton he wrote Thunder in the Dust: Images of Western Movies (1987).

Batchelor's novels have a gravity and consistency which mark him as a significant contemporary writer; they confront such themes as the morality of terror, the justice of ends and means, and the construction of history by its victors. Halley's Comet (> Comets) is an extended Pop-Gothic exercise. It presents a satirically and grotesquely distorted picture of Western capitalism, whose distribution of wealth and power appears as a weird latter-day version of feudalism. People's Republic begins with similar Pop grotesquerie, but transforms into an unremittingly stark Near-Future Viking saga, its narrator a kind of doomed and bloody seawolf. The backdrop of the tale gives a sense of immense scale, giving glimpses of the collapse of civilization across Europe and massive worldwide dislocation, apparently in response to Future War in the Middle East and the virtual end of oil production. As suppressed racial and other hatreds become rampant, and the seas fill up with refugees on an uncontemplated scale, a so-called "fleet of the damned" drifts towards the Antarctic, having been refused succour on any populated shore. What are left of the civilized nations carry out a massive programme of relief and resettlement, but we are led to understand that the effort is half-hearted and serves the interests more of the donors than of the disenfranchised and dispossessed hordes on the ice. Peter Nevsky and the True Story of the Russian Moon Landing (1993), though told by Nevsky as an old man, is set at the time of the Apollo 11 Moon shot, and is a fantasy of history rather than sf; in Father's Day (1994), which is sf, a twenty-first-century American president must attempt to deal with a threatened coup. [RuB]

see also: Disaster.

John Calvin Batchelor

born Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania: 29 April 1948

died

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Tip Paine

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