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Corelli, Marie

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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Pseudonym of UK author Mary Mackay (1855-1924); her name was long in doubt, as she was secretive about her birth, which was illegitimate. She wrote extremely popular bestsellers (selling, in her prime, 100,000-copy editions), although her first novel, A Romance of Two Worlds (1886 2vols; rev 1887) – in which interstellar travel is accomplished at about the turn of the century, through "personal electricity" – and its sequel, "Ardath": The Story of a Dead Self (1889 3vols), were only moderately successful. The Soul of Lilith (1892), which continues the life of the sorcerer Heliobas from the first two volumes, and which rehashes material out of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), and The Sorrows of Satan: or, The Strange Experience of One Geoffrey Tempest, Millionaire: A Romance (1895), in which a Corelli-like protagonist charismatically cures the Devil of evil, are perhaps her most interesting works of the fantastic; the latter was accurately Parodied by Jas F Sullivan in Belial's Burdens: Down with the McWhings (1896), though the skewering had no visible effect on Corelli's extraordinary self-esteem. Most of her early work can in fact be read as fantasy, though careful explication of the texts may derive a form of religious (see Religion) explanation for the most extraordinary events. By the early 1900s her odd brand of sublimated sex, heated religiosity, self-absorbed "female frailty" and unctuous fantasy had begun to lose its appeal, and her sales were further diminished after her conviction for food hoarding in 1917; by her death she had been virtually forgotten. Later novels of sf interest include The Young Diana: An Experiment of the Future (1918), about a scientific experiment to make a woman (and hence Woman in general) beautiful (see Feminism); and The Secret Power: A Romance of the Present (1921), which features an advanced Airship (in which the heroine discovers a super-scientific Lost Race in the Sahara Desert) and atomic bombs (whose inventor inadvertently detonates them, triggering a great earthquake in California, with a focus on Los Angeles). [JC]

see also: Gods and Demons.

Mary Mackay

born London: 1 May 1855

died Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire: 21 April 1924

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