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Finney, Charles G

Entry updated 13 February 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1905-1984) US newspaperman and author – named after but apparently not related to the famous revivalist minister, Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) – who spent the years 1927-1929 with the US infantry in Tientsin, China; an oriental influence pervades most of his work. His novels and stories, though Fantasy rather than sf, have been influential throughout the field, especially his famous The Circus of Dr Lao (1935), filmed less than sensitively as 7 Faces of Dr Lao (1964). Finney's work was a strong influence on Ray Bradbury in particular, as the latter's anthology, The Circus of Dr Lao and Other Improbable Stories (anth 1956), demonstrates. The novel itself depicts the effect upon a small Arizona town of Dr Lao's circus, which is full of mythical beasts and demigods, all of whom actually live within the doctor's tents: they are simultaneously pathetic and awe-inspiring, and the townspeople soon find themselves acquiring unwanted self-knowledge as they confront the caged Gods. The erotic intensity of these confrontations is remarkable. The doctor himself is a classic Mysterious Stranger, whose incursion helps generate a sense that the Abalone of the tale is a modernized Western setting, and who leaves behind him a chastened and transformed world. The Unholy City (1937; rev as coll 1968) is a surreally unfocused Urban Fantasy [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] set in the crypto-Asian city of Heilar-Wey; The Ghosts of Manacle (coll 1964) assembles much of Finney's short fiction; The Magician Out of Manchuria (in The Unholy City, coll 1968; 1976) is set in a China evocative of the chinoiserie Land of Fable (see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy) commemorated by Ernest Bramah and others; the entire cast escapes any conceivable consequences, and there is some mild Sex. [JC]

see also: Mythology.

Charles Grandison Finney

born Sedalia, Missouri: 1 December 1905

died Tucson, Arizona: 16 April 1984



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