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Almond, David

Entry updated 25 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1951-    ) UK author, much of his work being nonfantastic, though illuminated by hints that the seemingly ordinary world cannot be fully understood in mundane terms; most of his early work was written for a Young Adult readership; some later titles have been released in both young adult and adult formats. His first stories were assembled as Sleepless Nights (coll 1985) and A Kind of Heaven (coll 1997); his first novel, Skellig (1998), characteristically refuses to proclaim the "true" nature of the eponymous winged "Monster" or perhaps angel at its heart, though his second, Kit's Wilderness (1999), seems to rationalize the family ghosts found in the depths of a decommissioned mine. Heaven Eyes (2000) again, in a pattern to which Almond often returns, confronts its young protagonists with a problematic figure, possibly an Alien, possibly a human so estranged from society as to seem a Mysterious Stranger: in this case a child with webbed fingers.

Almond's first novel of direct sf interest, The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean Telt by Hisself (2011), follows the life of its eponymous first-person narrator – whose Geordie diction is deepened through a rampageous idiolect – from his birth on the day that World War Three begins; through a childhood spent entirely in a locked room at the insistence of the priest who is his father; into an early adulthood in a Post-Holocaust world, where his possibly supernatural powers of healing draws parishioners. A Song for Ella Grey (2014) sets the Orpheus and Eurydice legend in a contemporary northern England Equipoisally suffused with intimations of a world inhabitable by gods. The tragic underlying tale is told faithfully; Orpheus himself seems in song and constantly mutating habiliment to hint that he may wear some of the aspects of Gaia. The Colour of the Sun (2018) is set, like much Almond's work, in the general region of Tyneside, a placement evocative in starker moments of the fiction of Alan Garner or William Mayne; the interactive suffusion of mundane and supramundane worlds here and in similar tales gives a sense of deeply intimate, intramural Crosshatch [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The Equipoisal dialogue between acting out and epiphany in Joe Quinn's Poltergeist (graph 2019) with Dave McKean – an equipoise more evident here than in Almond's original text version from 2014 [see Checklist] – culminates in a moving vision of how humans may live on their planet.

Several tales for younger children [not listed below] also inhabit, with sophisticated ease, Almond's staked-out territory: between worlds and within both. The author was made OBE for services to literature in 2021. [JC]

David Almond

born Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear: 15 May 1951

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collections and stories

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