(1872-1963) UK writer, resident for much of his career in the USA, though he returned to Wales in the 1930s, active from around 1896 until a year or so before his death; the first half century of his career as a novelist was mostly devoted to tales in which civilization, out of touch with the mythopoeic nature of reality, conspicuously lacks an understanding of the primacy of Sex in true Religion. They are of some interest where they enter realms of Fantastika – A Glastonbury Romance (1932 2vols), for instance, conflates the lives of Joseph of Arimathea and of its contemporary protagonist, evoking en passant the Holy Grail – but are not sf. The novels of his old age – beginning with Morwyn, or The Vengeance of God (1937), where Hell is seen as a kind of posthumous Dystopia – combine fantasy and sf elements in an attempt, sometimes obscure, to heat his eccentric mysticism into a unique amalgam. Porius: A Romance of the Dark Ages (1951; exp 1994; complete text 2007), a Celtic Fantasy, addresses the Matter of Britain through the saga of the eponymous Welsh culture hero, a relative of King Arthur who has sent Merlin to Wales as advisor and seer (his visions include nightmarish glimpses of the Industrial Revolution) [for Arthur, Celtic Fantasy, Matter and Merlin see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The Inmates (1952) presents the "delusions" of a cast of mental patients in exaggerated terms and features a giant helicopter; Atlantis (1954) describes the last voyage of Odysseus, in search of Atlantis; The Brazen Head (1956) treats the explorations of Roger Bacon in terms of alchemy.
After 1957, Powys produced a sequence of remarkable Fabulations, some of them unhinged. The first were published as Up and Out (coll 1957), the first novella of which is a Post-Holocaust tale in which four survivors witness the end of time; All or Nothing (1960), in which two children make a kind of tour of the Universe, Real Wraiths (1974 chap), Two and Two (1974 chap) and Three Fantasies (coll 1985).
Of Powys's ten siblings, six were authors; much of the work of T F Powys (Theodore Francis Powys, 1875-1953) is of fantasy interest [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. [JC]
see also: End of the World; Fantastic Voyages; Multiverse.
John Cowper Powys
born Shirley, Derbyshire: 8 October 1872
died Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, Wales: 17 June 1963
- A Glastonbury Romance (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1932) [hb/]
- Maiden Castle (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936) [hb/]
- Morwyn, or The Vengeance of God (London: Cassell and Company, 1937) [hb/]
- Owen Glendower: An Historical Novel (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1940) [published in two volumes: hb/nonpictorial]
- Porius: A Romance of the Dark Ages (London: Macdonald, 1951) [severely cut from manuscript: hb/]
- Porius: A Romance of the Dark Ages (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Colgate Press, 1994) [exp of the above: hb/]
- Porius (Woodstock, New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2007) [rev vt: complete text: edited by Judith Bond and Morine Krissdóttir: hb/Steve Bevan]
- The Inmates (New York: Philosophical Library, 1952) [hb/nonpictorial]
- Atlantis (London: Macdonald, 1954) [hb/W Stein]
- The Brazen Head (London: Macdonald, 1956) [hb/W Stein]
- Lucifer: A Narrative Poem (London: Macdonald, 1956) [novel-length poem: hb/W Stein]
- Homer and the Aether (London: Macdonald, 1959) [hb/W Stein]
- All or Nothing (London: Macdonald, 1960) [hb/W Stein]
collections and stories
nonfiction (highly selected)
about the author
Previous versions of this entry