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Calder, Richard

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1956-    ) UK author – in Thailand 1990-1996 and later in the Philippines until returning to London in the first years of this century – who began publishing sf with "Toxine" in Interzone: The 4th Anthology (anth 1989) edited by John Clute, Simon Ounsley and David Pringle; his early short fiction, almost always densely post-Cyberpunk in idiom and setting, was assembled as "The Allure" and published, translated by Hisashi Asakura, in Japanese (coll 1991). His first three novels – the initial Dead Girls trilogy comprising Dead Girls (dated 1992 but 1993), Dead Boys (1994) and Dead Things (1996) – mix horror and sf in depicting a world, loosely connected to that of "Toxine" and others of his stories, which has been transformed by Nanotechnology into an over-heated, inordinately complex dazzlement of an environment. Dead Girls centres on a "nanotech doll" or gynoid who generates an AIDS-like disease in the humans she bloodsucks for their genes, and is herself invasively disrupted by a bio-weapon "dust" which scrambles the fractal programmes that enable her to operate. The novel continues with excursions into the Cyberspace within her deranged brain, and much else; it is funny, ornately and obsessively and confessionally erotic (see Sex), and frequently inspired. Dead Boys, perhaps less sustainedly, continues the examination of a not-unlikely twenty-first century; Dead Things is reiterative. A follow-up volume, Cythera (1998), again traverses the same general territory, with personality downloads from the Internet manifesting in the pockmarked, passion-ridden material world as eidolons or ghosts, while those who are still in the flesh move the other way. The intermarriages and interminglings of eros and death, of consumption-driven longing and pornographic insatiability, of New Age innocence and the incessantly reiterative dolours of the experienced, infuse Calder's sf with a sense that apocalypse and Decadence are one thing, in the eye of any beholder sufficiently drenched in the malaise of being human to get the point.

Further novels explore this mortuary dynamic with what seems, at times, an unholy glee. The Lords of Soho sequence – comprising Malignos (2000) and Lord Soho: A Time Opera (fixup 2002) – focus on London as an ideal twenty-first-century venue for an arabesque family chronicle through various epochs, a Time Opera in which the earlier obsessional focus on the inhabitants and purveyors of the interfaces between reality and what may still be called Cyberspace loosens slightly. Babylon (2006), partially set in a Parallel World version of a Steampunk-infected London (see Cities), somewhat similarly assimilates London to a New Babylon whose location-planet reachable through inter-Dimensional gates; what is found there corrosively and devastatingly prefigures World War Two. Calder's style remains baroque, reminiscent of – but considerably less controlled than – that of Angela Carter; the transgressiveness of his work is also less controlled than Carter's. In the scatological inveterateness of his interest in the control of Sex and the world through consumption, and in our loud complicity in getting some of the action, he is also powerfully reminiscent of the later Frank Zappa. [JC]

Richard Calder

born London: 1956



Dead Girls

  • Dead Girls (London: HarperCollins, 1993) [dated 1992 but published 1993: Dead Girls: hb/Hans Bellmer]
  • Dead Boys (London: HarperCollins, 1994) [Dead Girls: pb/Larry Rostant]
  • Dead Things (London: HarperCollins, 1996) [Dead Girls: pb/James Goodridge]
  • Cythera (London: Orbit, 1998) [Dead Girls: pb/Zap Art]

Lords of Soho

individual titles

  • Frenzetta (London: Orbit, 1998) [pb/Zap Art]
  • The Twist (London: Simon and Schuster/Earthlight, 1999) [pb/Jim Burns]
  • Impakto (London: Simon and Schuster/Earthlight, 2001) [pb/Jim Burns]
  • Babylon (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2006) [hb/from Thomas Cole]


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