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Clute, John

Entry updated 25 September 2023. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

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(1940-    ) Canadian critic, editor and author, in the UK from 1969; married to Judith Clute from 1964, partner of Elizabeth Hand since 1996. His first professional publication was the long sf-tinged poem "Carcajou Lament" (Winter 1960 [ie Autumn 1959] Triquarterly), though he only began consistently publishing sf reviews in his "New Fiction" column for the Toronto Star (1966-1967), and sf proper with "A Man Must Die" in New Worlds for November 1966, where much of his earlier criticism also appeared. This criticism, despite some studiously flamboyant obscurities, remains essentially practical, and has appeared mostly in the form of reviews, early forms of many of which were first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Foundation, Washington Post, Omni, Times Literary Supplement, New York Times, New York Review of Science Fiction, Interzone, Los Angeles Times, Observer, Science Fiction Weekly (see Online Magazines), the Independent, Strange Horizons and elsewhere. He has written two regular review columns: Excessive Candour for Science Fiction Weekly between 1997 and 2009; and Scores, intermittently in The Infinite Matrix 2001-2003, regularly in Interzone between 2005 and 2008, and in Strange Horizons from 2010 until he retired the column in 2020. Selections from this work, almost always revised, have been assembled in Strokes: Essays and Reviews 1966-1986 (coll 1988), Look at the Evidence: Essays and Reviews (coll dated 1995 but 1996), Scores: Reviews 1993-2003 (coll 2003), Canary Fever: Reviews (coll 2009), Stay (coll 2014) and Sticking to the End (coll 2022).

An ongoing project to construct models of story "moves" in the literatures of the fantastic is represented by a set of connected motif entries for fantasy in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) with John Grant [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] and for horror in The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror (2006), as well as in Fustian (2006 chap) with Jason Van Hollander, a long interview focused on these issues. In subsequent essays – like "Fantastika in the World Storm" (address given 20 September 2007, Prague; Spring 2008 Foundation; rev in Pardon This Intrusion: Fantastika in the World Storm coll 2011) – he has suggested that a central task for Fantastika in the twenty-first century is to dissolve the cultural Amnesia that has arguably consumed the Western world and the planet as a whole since World War Two (see Horror in SF; Postmodernism and SF). Later essays, like "Fantastika; Or, the Sacred Grove" (April 2017 Fantastika Journal), amplify these arguments, whose root iteration for the local genre of sf is simple enough: that those who do not understand science fiction are condemned to repeat it.

In 1960 Clute was Associate Editor of and chief reviewer for Collage, an ill-fated Chicago-based Slick magazine which in its two issues did publish early work by Harlan Ellison and R A Lafferty. He served as Reviews Editor of Foundation 1980-1990, and was one of eight founders of Interzone in 1982; he remained Advisory Editor of that magazine until 2004, and then contributed the column mentioned above. With Peter Nicholls as General Editor, he was the Associate Editor of the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: An Illustrated A to Z (1979; vt The Science Fiction Encyclopedia 1979), which won a 1980 Hugo award, and was co-editor of the much-expanded second edition The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993) [for various revisions see Checklist below], which won a 1994 Hugo and Locus Award for nonfiction. Though Clute and Nicholls were listed as editors, the first two editions were in fact written mostly by them and Associate Editors Mike Ashley, Malcolm Edwards and Brian Stableford. The third edition, again much expanded as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-2021 web) edited by John Clute and David Langford with Peter Nicholls serving as Editor Emeritus until his death in 2018, and Graham Sleight as Managing Editor, was similarly written in the main by Clute and Langford plus Contributing Editors; it won a Hugo as Best Related Work in 2012. The Fourth Edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2021-current web) repeats the pattern of earlier editions.

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) with John Grant, for which both editors shared a 1998 Hugo, deals with fantasy within a frame and presentation broadly compatible with that governing this Encyclopedia, which is its elder sibling, though employing a motif-dominated entry structure designed to address its subject matter. Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (1995), which Clute wrote solo and for which he received a Hugo in 1996, is a companion to and chronology of sf, not in any way connected to the encyclopedias listed above. He has been on the board of Editorial Consultants of Science Fiction Studies from 1997.

Over his career, Clute has published several sf stories and two novels: The Disinheriting Party (in very short form Winter 1967 Gargoyle as "Excerpts in Order from the Rodents of Ahimé"; short form in New Worlds Quarterly 5, anth 1973, ed Michael Moorcock; exp 1977), which is Equipoisal with the fantastic, but demurs into fabular rationalizations at the end; and Appleseed (2001), a Space Opera with an anti-Religion bias. The Made Minds (AIs) who dominate much of its action manifest themselves throughout as Avatars allied to a Forerunner mentor in support of all surviving humans, who comprise a loose cohort of waif biota segregated from other species because of the overpowering sexual odour they emit (see Sex). However, as they are genetically deaf to god (see Communications; Gods and Demons), this galaxy-wide diaspora of Homo sapiens is now being gathered into a Pariah Elite destined to become central combatants in the coming universal War against the Entropy-generating deity, as proclaimed for the first time in the book's Slingshot Ending.

Primarily for his nonfiction work, Clute received a Pilgrim Award in 1994, the Eaton Grand Master Award (see Eaton Award) in 1995, the IAFA Award as Distinguished Guest Scholar in 1999, and a Solstice Award (see SFWA Grand Master Award) in 2012. [JC]

see also: Canada; Collections; Critical and Historical Works About SF; Definitions of SF; Eaton Award; First Fandom Hall of Fame; History of SF; Music; Sense of Wonder; Worldcon.

John Frederick Clute

born Toronto, Ontario: 12 September 1940


  • The Disinheriting Party (London: Allison and Busby, 1977) [very short form first appeared Winter 1967 Gargoyle as "Excerpts in Order from the Rodents of Ahimé": early version appeared in New Worlds Quarterly 5 (anth 1973) edited by Michael Moorcock: hb/from photograph in Hypnotism As It Is (1900) by X Lamotte Sage]
  • Appleseed (London: Orbit, 2001) [hb/uncredited]


Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

For convenience the four editions of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction below are listed as separate titles.

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works as editor



individual titles as editor

about the author


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