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Coney, Michael G

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1932-2005) UK-born accountant, hotel manager (in the West Indies 1969-1972) and author, in Canada from 1973, serving with the British Columbia Forest Service until his retirement in 1989, an experience he described in Forest Ranger, Ahoy! (1989). He was the manager of the Jabberwock Hotel in Antigua when he published his first professional story, "Sixth Sense", for Visions of Tomorrow in 1969; several more followed rapidly. His first novel, Mirror Image (1972) features Alien "amorphs" who can so perfectly mimic humans (see Paranoia) that, when they have done so, they believe themselves to be in fact human; the amorphs reappear in Brontomek! (1976), which won the BSFA Award. The ecological (see Ecology) puzzle story Syzygy (1973) is set on the same world. Another novel loosely connected to these is Charisma (1975), a Parallel-Worlds story whose chief locale is a Cornish fishing village; similar seaside towns, often transplanted to other planets, commonly feature in his work. The Hero of Downways (1973) is a more stereotyped action-adventure story, but Friends Come in Boxes (fixup 1973; rev 1974) is a fascinatingly grim account of an unorthodox solution to the problem of Overpopulation (see Brain in a Box). Perhaps the best of his early books are Winter's Children (1974), a Post-Holocaust novel, and Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975; vt Rax 1975; vt Pallahaxi Tide 1990), a wistful story of the adolescent love between two members of a human-like species on a distant planet; the sequel in this short Pallahaxi sequence is I Remember Pallahaxi (trans 1999 Russia; 2007), a darker tale, set hundreds of years later, which concentrates on the savage consequences of the arrival of human colonists. A series of stories somewhat reminiscent in their setting of J G Ballard's Vermilion Sands includes several which were amalgamated into The Jaws that Bite, the Claws that Catch (fixup 1975; vt The Girl with a Symphony in Her Fingers 1975).

After Brontomek! there was a considerable gap in Coney's writing career, the two books published during the hiatus, the Dystopian The Ultimate Jungle (1979) and the Under-the-Sea adventure Neptune's Cauldron (1981), being books written earlier that had not sold on first submission. His more recent work is bound together by a Far-Future background developed in the two-decker novel The Song of Earth: The Celestial Steam Locomotive (1983) and Gods of the Greataway (1984). Here humans co-exist with other humanoid species, living out a kind of languid Virtual Reality dream inside domes (see Keeps) thanks to the benevolent (but failing) manipulations of a vast distributed Computer network known as Rainbow of the Ifalong (Ifalong being a Multiverse of Parallel Worlds) despite the apparent interference of the godlike alien Starquin (see Virtual Reality). In reality – a difficult term to pin down in the series – Starquin is working to awaken humanity out of a terminal dream that Rainbow cannot much longer sustain. Publication of The Song of Earth was preceded by a lighter tale, Cat Karina (1982), set earlier in something like the same setting. Coney then employed the same highly flexible metaphysical context to frame two eccentric Arthurian fantasies, Fang the Gnome (1988) and its sequel King of the Scepter'd Isle (1989). The easy exuberance of this late work is remembered fondly; but the earlier, more sharply told series of connected tales that climax his early work are slowly being perceived as significant contributions to the humanist tendency in late twentieth century sf. [MJE/BS/JC]

see also: Arts; Colonization of Other Worlds; Games and Sports; Planetary Romance; Reincarnation.

Michael Greatrex Coney

born Birmingham, England: 28 September 1932

died Sydney, British Columbia: 4 November 2005




  • Mirror Image (New York: DAW Books, 1972) [Amorphs: pb/Kelly Freas]
  • Brontomek! (London: Victor Gollancz, 1976) [Amorphs: hb/nonpictorial]


  • Hello Summer, Goodbye (London: Victor Gollancz, 1975) [Pallahaxi: hb/uncredited]
    • Rax (New York: DAW Books, 1975) [vt of the above: Pallahaxi: pb/Josh Kirby]
    • Pallahaxi Tide (Edmonton, Alberta: Porcépic Press, 1990) [vt of the above: Pallahaxi: pb/Jim Zinger]
  • Ya Pomnyu Pallahaksi (Moscow: Esli, 1999) [trans from the English manuscript, "I Remember Pallahaxi", by Lydumila Schokotova: Pallahaxi: pb/]
    • I Remember Pallahaxi (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2007) [first English language book publication of this sequel to Hello Summer, Goodbye; also published on the Michael Coney website 2004/2005: Pallahaxi: hb/Les Edwards as Edward Miller]

The Song of Earth

British Columbia Comedies

  • A Tomcat Called Sabrina (Sydney, British Columbia: Porthole Press, 1992) [British Columbia Comedies: pb/Les Harper]
  • No Place for a Sealion (Sydney, British Columbia: Porthole Press, 1992) [British Columbia Comedies: pb/Les Harper]

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about the author


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