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Dickens, Charles

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1812-1870) UK editor and author, almost certainly the greatest novelist in the English language. Dickens wrote considerable fantasy, including most famously A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas (1843) which, though not exactly a Club Story, is notable for an implied frame narrator who seems to be telling us the tale aloud, as though he were incanting a mini-saga [for Christmas Books see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]; the narrative presentness of A Christmas Carol has been unsuccessfully emulated by many authors with entries in this encyclopedia. Though the tale is not of course sf proper, though Ebenezer Scrooge's vision of Christmas Past is recounted in a manner that comes close to being a direct description of actual Time Travel, being narrated in the third person and presenting him "objectively" as an observed character; as Scrooge himself does not interact with these scenes, it is perhaps more accurate to suggest that he is seeing Christmas Past through a form of Time Viewer. It has also been suggested – for example by John Clute in Horror: 100 Best Books (anth 1988; rev 1992) edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, – that the nightmarish, half futuristic, half chthonic London which figures in several of his later novels was a central influence – via G K Chesterton, Robert Louis Stevenson and others – in the creation of a vision of nineteenth-century urban England (see Cities) that became a stamping-ground for Steampunk. The opening of an almost geological Time Abyss at the beginning of Bleak House (1853), where he imagines "a Megalosaurus ... waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn-hill" in the fog, has become iconic (see Dinosaurs). Tales directly derived from his work tend to the sentimentalized fantastic, a representative example being Mr Pickwick's Second Time on Earth (1927 chap) by Charles G Harper (1863-1943); but as with William Morris, Lord Dunsany and J R R Tolkien after him, Dickens is (though indirectly) central to the geography of sf.

It is arguable that Mugby Junction: The Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round: Conducted by Charles Dickens (anth 1866 chap), a self-contained volume published as an extra Christmas number of Dickens's magazine All the Year Round, may constitute the first Shared-World anthology of genre interest; the protagonist of Dickens's own "No 1 Branch Line: The Signalman", the most famous story included in this volume, has a premonition of his own death sufficiently detailed to be readable as an early version of sf Precognition. Among the mysteries left unsolved by Dickens's death before he was able to complete The Mystery of Edwin Drood (first appeared April-September 1870 in separate numbered parts; 1870) is the degree to which he here planned to expand on his lifelong interest in mesmerism (see Hypnosis), with the orphan Rosa increasingly under the influence of the possible Villain Jasper; the tale also features two orphan twins from Ceylon (in nineteenth-century literature orphans are often liminal, and may be Mysterious Strangers) whose empathy reads as Telepathic, or potentially so. Dickens is also responsible for an early use of the term Scientific Romance, in his review (24 March 1866 Household Words) of Henri de Parville's Un habitant de la planète Mars: roman d'anticipation (1865; trans Brian Stableford as An Inhabitant of the Planet Mars 2008). [JC]

see also: Amnesia; Entropy.

Charles John Huffham Dickens

born Portsmouth, Hampshire: 7 February 1812

died Higham, Kent: 9 June 1870

works (highly selected)


Christmas Books

individual titles

  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (London: Chapman and Hall, 1870) [completed portions first appeared April-September 1870 in separate numbered parts: illus/S L Fildes: hb/nonpictorial]


works as editor

about the author

The critical literature on Dickens, after a slow start, has become immense. A tiny sample is given here, mostly titles by authors otherwise represented in this encyclopedia.


previous versions of this entry

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