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Cross, John Keir

Entry updated 20 November 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1914-1967) Scottish editor and author, beginning with Radio scripts for the BBC from before World War Two, his best known series, which he edited and contributed to, being the radio Horror anthology show The Man in Black (8 episodes 1949 BBC), for which he adapted stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Robert Louis Stevenson and others. His Television adaptations included John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes (28 April 1954 BBC). Some of his books for younger children, written as Stephen MacFarlane, are fantasies; Lucy Maroon, the Car that Loved a Policeman (graph 1944) and Mr Bosanko and Other Stories (coll 1944 chap) are typical. The Owl and the Pussycat (1946; vt The Other Side of Green Hills 1947), for older readers, is a fantasy, while The Flying Fortunes in an Encounter with Rubberface! (1952; vt The Stolen Sphere: An Adventure and a Mystery 1953) has an orbital satellite as a McGuffin. Though he wrote several Young Adult novels as Cross, including The White Magic (1947) – not a fantasy, although often recorded as such – his best-known work under his own name may be The Other Passenger: 18 Strange Stories (coll 1944; cut vt Stories from The Other Passenger 1961), a collection of subtle fantasy and horror tales for adults; a later short story, like the Time Travel tale "Three Ghosts" (13 January 1949 Collins' for Boys and Girls), shows some dis-ease with contemporary Fantastika. He also edited some Anthologies containing similar material: the short Best Horror sequence beginning with Best Horror Stories (anth 1956), and Best Black Magic Stories (anth 1960).

All Cross's sf novels are intended for sophisticated Young Adult readers, the most important of them being the Mars sequence comprising The Angry Planet (1945) and its sequel, SOS from Mars (1954; vt The Red Journey Back 1954). Both tales are presented as Cross's transcription of manuscripts composed "by Stephen MacFarlane" [see Checklist for full subtitles], and encompass the first three expeditions to Mars, which discover the vegetable life there to have suffered a Manichaean Evolution into alternative races. [JC]

see also: Children's SF.

John Keir Cross

born Carluke, Scotland: 19 August 1914

died Diptford, Devon: 22 January 1967


as by Stephen MacFarlane (selected)

under his own name (selected)



individual titles

works as editor


Best Horror

individual titles


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