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Crace, Jim

Entry updated 12 August 2022. Tagged: Author.

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Working name of UK journalist and author James Crace (1946-    ), who began publishing fantasy with "Annie, California Plates" in The New Review for June 1974. His first novel, Continent (coll of linked stories 1986), is a Fabulation set on an imaginary southern continent in an otherwise present-day world; it won the Whitbread First Novel Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize and the David Higham Prize. Crace's spare narrative – the novel comprises six independent sections, none more than short-story length – stands in marked contrast to the expansive narratives that characterize most such works from Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia (1942) on. The Gift of Stones (1988) is set at the end of the Stone Age and tells, much like William Golding's The Inheritors (1955), of the end of a community of stoneworkers with the advent of metallurgy, though this loss is irradiated throughout by an amputated stone-worker's gaining the gift of Story (see Prehistoric SF). Arcadia (1992) is again set in an abstract but identifiably Near Future venue: an unnamed City, overlooked from his private high-rise by an ageing tycoon who dreams of razing the squalid neighbourhood of his youth to erect a gleaming skyscraper mall – a continuing pun on arcade and arcadia is clearly fundamental to the novel – a monument to commerce and himself.

All of Crace's work – including Signals of Distress (1995), set on England's western coast in 1836 and almost his only novel to specify time and place – dramatizes the upheavals of social change, with tradition and progress in locked conflict. The doomed forces of tradition are portrayed, unusually for fantasy, without reaction or nostalgia. Being Dead (1999) hovers Equipoisally around the corpses of a murdered couple, magically recreating their presence. The Pesthouse (2007) is set in a Ruined Earth version of a fragmented America, two centuries hence, as its damaged protagonists trek eastwards, constantly threatened by a long-lasting Pandemic, in search of a world which continues to make sense, finding in the end an ambiguous Keep known as The Blessed Ark. All That Follows (2010), a Satire set in 2024, depicts a Near Future UK stressed by Climate Change and political activism; but offers some tentative suggestions as to how one might narrate one's life in a toxic world, and perhaps aid in the survival of the planet. Eden (2022) is a fantasy set in and around the titular mythic garden some years after the expulsion of Adam and Eve. [GF/JC]

James Crace

born Welwyn, Hertfordshire: 1 March 1946

works (selected)

  • Continent (London: Heinemann, 1986) [coll of linked stories: hb/Russell Mills]
  • The Gift of Stones (London: Secker and Warburg, 1988) [hb/Peter Dyer]
  • Arcadia (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992) [hb/from a work by André Kertész]
  • Signals of Distress (London: Viking, 1995) [hb/Lisa Wilson]
  • Being Dead (London: Viking, 1999) [hb/Richard Dunkley]
  • The Pesthouse (London: Picador, 2007) [hb/The Arcangel Images Picture Library]
  • All That Follows (London: Macmillan, 2010) [hb/]
  • The Melody (London: Picador, 2018) [hb/]
  • Eden (London: Picador, 2022) [hb/]


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