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Ballantyne, Tony

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1972-    ) UK author who began to publish work of genre interest with "The Sixth VNM" in Interzone for December 1998, a tale whose protagonist, James Clark, crashlands on what becomes Clarkworld (not the later Clarkesworld), where he becomes the victim (it seems) of an array of Von Neumann Machines bent on conquering the universe. This was the first instalment of the Recursion sequence which comprises Recursion (2004), Capacity (2005), Divergence (2007), along with most of the stories assembled as Stories from the Northern Road (coll 2012). The main line of story, which is gonzo Space Opera in venue and texture, seems (at points obscurely) to centre on recursive nests of AIs engaged in internecine warfare on a galactic scale, with their charges – sentient creatures of flesh, like Homo sapiens – sometimes relegated to pantomime roles. Whenever a part of reality seems to have disintegrated beyond recall, however, the Von Neumann Machines within and behind the action simply print replacement levels of reality. The protagonists of his second sequence, the Penrose series comprising Twisted Metal (2009) and Blood and Iron (2010), are autonomous Robots who occupy the planet Penrose, initially without any awareness of the presence of flesh creatures in the universe. Though the Satirical potential inherent in their eventual discovery of human beings is much less deeply realized than in the classic robot satires of authors like John T Sladek, the complex plot engages a wide range of sympathy. The sequence may be incomplete.

Ballantyne's Dream sequence, comprising Dream London (2013) and Dream Paris (2015), initially evokes the metamorphic story-riddle versions of London that appear throughout the works of Michael Moorcock, and can be seen in the Equipoisal Urban Fantasies [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] of later writers like Jeff VanderMeer; but in this tale the City itself seems almost to be the central protagonist, with variously transformed humans uttering out the chthonic tropes that comprise the world, sometime in a fantasticated Near Future. Ballantyne writes sometimes as though he cannot quite credit his own imagination, though the stories assembled in his first solo collection Midway (coll of linked stories 2020) are both moving and succinct with prevarications; fortunately, that imagination continues to seem unfettered. [JC]

Anthony Ballantyne

born County Durham: 1972




  • Recursion (London: Pan Macmillan/Tor, 2004) [Recursion: pb/Dominic Harman]
  • Capacity (London: Pan Macmillan/Tor, 2005) [Recursion: pb/Dominic Harman]
  • Divergence (London: Pan Macmillan/Tor, 2007) [Recursion: pb/Dominic Harman]
  • Stories from the Northern Road (Alconbury Weston, Cambridgeshire: NewCon Press, 2012) [coll: in the publisher's Imaginings series: mostly Recursion: hb/Chris Baker as Fangorn]


  • Twisted Metal (London: Pan Macmillan/Tor, 2009) [Penrose: hb/Jon Sullivan]
  • Blood and Iron (London: Pan Macmillan/Tor, 2010) [Penrose: hb/Jon Sullivan]


  • Dream London (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rebellion/Solaris, 2013) [Dream: pb/Joey HiFi]
  • Dream Paris (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rebellion/Solaris, 2015) [Dream: pb/Joey HiFi]


  • Microcosms (no place given: infinity plus, 2017) with Eric Brown [coll: half the stories are by each writer: pb/]
  • Midway (no place given: infinity plus, 2020) [coll of linked stories: pb/Keith Brooke]


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