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Beauman, Ned

Entry updated 16 August 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1985-    ) UK author whose first novel, Boxer, Beetle (2010), is an exuberantly gonzo demonstration of nonfantastic ludic fiction (see Johan Huizinga), with rule-governed structural plays and clashes of narrative modes, with a focus on 1930s Berlin, Eugenics, modernist music, entomology and boxing. His second novel, The Teleportation Accident (2012), introduces sf topoi and into a rich mix of recognitions (see Equipoise) of the way the world may be perceived in the late culture West (see Fantastika). The tale is again set, partly, in 1930s Berlin, but its derangedly disengaged protagonist, who has been impersonating Serge Voronoff, soon moves to Los Angeles (see California) to save his skin. In a venue obsessed by film realities and irrealities, a Mad Scientist is attempting to develop a Teleportation machine, eventually transporting himself in Apes as Human guise into a Prehistoric world clearly based on the works of H P Lovecraft. But the character who best illuminates Beauman's deadpan traversal of the reality maze is almost certainly Gorge, who suffers from "ontological agnosia", and is therefore unable to distinguish between "real" things and their representation: he is a perfect bearer, therefore, of modernist anxieties (see Modernism in SF) about perceiving the world. The tale ends in several worlds, each of them "real". The London of Glow (2014), though the novel is set mostly in 2010, is perceived through the eponymous Drug, whose effects are more radical than plausible in that year.

In a return to the ontologically-insecure terroir of The Teleportation Accident, disruptive understandings of the nature of a Mayan temple discovered in 1938 gradually transform Madness Is Better Than Defeat (2017) from a game of topoi into a lament for the worlds we build, these days. Venomous Lumpsucker (2022), though the anger inherent in the tale is uttered with seeming calm, effectively depicts a Near Future world wracked by Climate Change and environmental Pollution, deep into a commercially exploited Sixth Extinction, and counting. A McGuffin search for the almost certainly doomed intelligent fish governs the actions of the book's two main protagonists: a senior-level multinational corporation apparatchik who has gambled, recklessly as it turns out, in an "extinction credit" mart, on the Lumpsucker's survival; and a biologist deeply scarred by the planetary horrors now unfolding, the poisoning of every remaining Ecological niche for profit. Their hegira, through the Baltic Sea, takes them to an enclave ostensibly designed to save species for proft (but actually a chemical dump) and a Libertarian research resort for the extremely rich; and ends in the western reaches of the Hermit Kingdom (ie a post-Brexit UK depicted as having become something like North Korea), where Devon and Cornwall have been purchased by a rantingly narcissistic trillionaire as a killing ground where he may express himself. At this point a further now-dead but Uploaded protagonist learns that a Secret Master AI in the "service" of the disruptive trillionaire – its planetary control is reminiscent of the "valet" Domino who rules the world on behalf of the eponymous protagonist of Algis Budrys's Michaelmas (1977) – has been secretly preparing to safeguard Earth's nonhuman species for the twelve million years it will take for the planet to recover after Homo sapiens (see End of the World) finally vacates the stage it has trashed. Venomous Lumpsucker won the 2023 Arthur C Clarke Award. [JC]

Ned Beauman

born London: 1985



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