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Fforde, Jasper

Entry updated 12 February 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1961-    ) UK author who worked in the film industry as a focus puller (the task of maintaining image sharpness on what is being shot) and began publishing with The Eyre Affair (2001), the first volume of his Thursday Next sequence, set in an Alternate World 1985. In this reality – which playfully might be called an Alternate Cosmos – standard alternate-world conventions are honoured, sometimes in passing: Wales is an independent state; the Crimean War has continued for a century, stagnantly; a Steampunk-like secret Weapon threatens to destabilize this situation. But metafictional topoi (see Equipoise; Fabulation; Absurdist SF) interpenetrate these conventions, most noticeably the fact that books can be entered, and when they are altered from within alter in the "real" world as well; the characters who inhabit these novels – rather like the figures whose bondage to story makes The Great Good Thing (2001) by Roderick Townley (1942-    ) a fantasy of great power – are bound to the wheel of the Book, and must reiterate their stories, again and again, sometimes in a state of premonitory anguish. William Shakespeare's authorship of his works is questioned, not seriously.

Thursday Next works for the government in the Literary Detective department, and along with members of a Time Police-like unit attempts to maintain something like a coherent world. During the course of the sequence, which currently terminates with The Woman Who Died a Lot (2012), years pass, and Thursday marries, has a child, ages, suffers lasting injury. The tone throughout evokes, but in its intricate exuberance sometimes surpasses, the work of authors like Tom Holt or Robert Rankin, with Swindon substituting for the latter's Brentford; Fforde differs from these authors also in the tightness with which he develops his main series, his grotesque Villains in particular evoking some of the effects gained by an author like Lemony Snicket. Not formally connected to the series, but also set in an Alternate World version of Wales, Early Riser (2018) describes a Dystopian Near Future world where Climate Change has triggered such violent winters that the population must hibernate in high-rise "Dormitoriums" in order to survive (see Suspended Animation); in one of these desolate Keeps, viral dreams threaten to turn sleepers into Zombies. The Constant Rabbit (2020) is a Beast Fable [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] in which animals are suddenly transformed into smart talking creatures; these hints of Uplift are treated lightly, while there is some spoofish play with species prejudice and human distrust of the Other (see Race in SF).

Of Fforde's other series, the short Nursery Crime Division sequence comprising The Big Over Easy (2005) and The Fourth Bear (2006) is very similar to Thursday Next; the Chronicles of Kazan sequence beginning with The Last Dragonslayer (2010 ebook) is fantasy, with some crossover elements, specifically its setting in a balkanized Britain edging into industrialization; in this environment, however, Magic works. The Shades of Grey sequence, beginning with Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron (2009), depicts an Alternate World version of Britain, a world somehow subsequent to the point known as "Something Happened", though no sf-crossover Jonbar Point seems to be instanced; everything prior to that is known as the "Previous". In the sequel, Red Side Story (2024), the land, already Colour-Coded according to the colours an individual can register (see Perception), has darkened into a rigid Dystopia [for Colour-Coding and Oz see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The telling is lightsome but the world is not. [JC]

see also: Grey Goo; Escape Velocity.

Jasper Fforde

born London: 11 January 1961



Thursday Next

Nursery Crime Division

  • The Big Over Easy (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005) [Nursery Crime Division: hb/Mark Thomas]
  • The Fourth Bear (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2006) [Nursery Crime Division: hb/Mark Thomas]

Shades of Grey

Chronicles of Kazan

individual titles


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