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Elphinstone, Margaret

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1948-    ) UK poet and author, longtime resident in Scotland, author of at least two gardening books and other works, who began publishing work of sf interest with "Spinning the Green" in Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind (anth 1985) edited by Jen Green and Sarah Lefanu; several other stories, all assembled in An Apple from a Tree and Other Visions (coll 1991), involve the testing but strangely deadpan incursion of Aliens into various worlds of Scotland, an inflection of the alien motif later applied to similar territory with great intensity by Michel Faber. Her sf sequence, the Incomer series – The Incomer (1987) and A Sparrow's Flight (1989) – applies a Feminist perspective to the story of the arrival of a wandering musician in a far-northern village which has long been isolated from a Ruined Earth world – and his winter-long residence there, and to further examinations of the post-patriarchal, post-technological world that is slowly revealed to his "alien" eyes. Most of her later novels are historical fictions, featuring observant characters who find themselves in strange lands; but Hy Brasil (2002), which is of sf interest, intriguingly applies the visitor/Alien dynamic to a half-mythical Island – rather like a displaced Hebrides combined with a Shakespearean Far Bermudas – in the mid-Atlantic, where a visiting travel-writer grasps, or fails to grasp, the exciting events which there transpire. [JC]

Margaret Elphinstone

born Kent: 23 September 1948




  • The Incomer (London: The Women's Press, 1987) [Incomer: pb/Jane Furst]
  • A Sparrow's Flight (Edinburgh, Scotland: Polygon, 1989) [Incomer: pb/uncredited photo]

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