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Arlen, Michael

Entry updated 18 September 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1895-1956) UK-Bulgarian-Armenian author, born Dikran Kouyoumdjian, in the UK from 1901, not allowed to enlist in World War One because of his confused national status; naturalized in 1922 under the name Michael Arlen (which he then took by deed poll). Initially as Dikran Kouyoumdjian, he was active from 1916, writing as Arlen from about 1920. He is mainly remembered for The Green Hat: A Romance for a Few People (1924) and other novels of fashionable London life. His supernatural fiction is to be found among other tales in These Charming People (coll 1923) and May Fair (coll 1924); Ghost Stories (coll 1927) assembled the supernatural tales from the previous volumes.

Arlen's sf novel, Man's Mortality: A Story (1933) is a Pax Aeronautica tale bearing elements in common with Rudyard Kipling's With the Night Mail (November 1905 McClure's; rev 1909 chap), though it is unlikely it influences or responds to H G Wells's The Shape of Things to Come (1933). Arlen's tale vividly depicts the collapse of International Aircraft and Airways in 1987, after 50 years of oligarchy, through the Invention of a Power Source that enables disaffected citizens to outmanoeuvre the government; the melodramatic story carries some moral bite, and was clearly written after the Pax Aeronautica had lost plausibility as a doctrine or wish. Hell! Said the Duchess: A Bed-Time Story (1934) combines Near Future political speculation and fantastic Satire: it is set in 1938, with Winston Churchill as premier; the police think the eponymous Duchess of Dove is the "Jane the Ripper" who has been attacking men, but the true villain – a Shapeshifter capable of changing his gender (see Transgender SF) – is eventually discovered, in bed with a man, strangled. The depressed nihilistic protagonist of Flying Dutchman (1939) has assembled a cadre of killers, who turn out at least partially responsible for creating the planet-wide moral distress that gives birth to World War Two. [JC]

see also: Scientific Romance; Transportation.

Michael Arlen

born Ruse [also rendered as Rousse or Rusçuk], Bulgaria: 16 November 1895

died New York: 23 June 1956



about the author

  • Harry Keyishian. Michael Arlen (Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne, 1975) [nonfiction: hb/]


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