Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.
(1933-1982) US author and academic who achieved popularity with his large contemporary novel, The Sunlight Dialogues (1972); much of his work is fantastic, but none of it is in fact sf [for full entry see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. His second novel, The Wreckage of Agathon (1970), is a fantasy of history set in an anachronistic Sparta; his third, Grendel (1971), mordantly recasts the Beowulf legend from the Monster's point of view, and renders – more pointedly than Thomas Burnett Swann in his many thematically similar elegies – Anglo-Saxon Man's triumphs as allegorical of the rise of the cruel, modern, industrial world. Further works that contain fantastic elements include Jason and Medeia (1973), a fantasy novel in a quasi-verse format; several tales assembled in The King's Indian: Stories and Tales (coll 1974), including "The Ravages of Spring" (April 1973 Fantastic), a contorted metaphysical fiction involving Clones; Freddy's Book (1980), which contains a book-length medieval fantasy written by an eight-foot-tall twentieth-century Monster; and Mickelsson's Ghosts (1982), which attempts to subsume the ghost story and other narrative conventions into a mundane frame.
More relaxedly, several titles for children and Young Adult readers – including Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales (coll 1975 chap), Gudgekin the Thistle Girl and Other Tales (coll 1976 chap), The King of the Hummingbirds and Other Tales (coll 1977 chap), In the Suicide Mountains (1977), based on Russian folk themes, and Vlemk the Box-Painter (1979), in which the transformative power of art is articulated through a magic portrait – demonstrate an easy grasp of the fantastic he (it seems foolishly and inconsistently) thought inappropriate in his now half-forgotten adult work. Though clearly attracted to various supernatural and classical traditions, Gardner had little apparent interest in the sf or fantasy genres, which are scantly treated in On Moral Fiction (1978), in which he argued for a traditional viewpoint, excoriating what he saw as Postmodernist nihilism. He died in a motorcycle accident.
Gardner should not be confused with the thriller author John Gardner. [JC/GF]
see also: Mythology.
John Champlin Gardner Jr
born Batavia, New York: 21 July 1933
died near Susquehanna, Pennsylvania: 14 September 1982
- The Wreckage of Agathon (New York: Harper and Row, 1970) [hb/Paul Bacon]
- Grendel (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1971) [hb/Emil Antonucci]
- Jason and Medeia (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1973) [hb/from Maxfield Parrish]
- The King's Indian: Stories and Tales (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1974) [coll: hb/Herbert L Fink]
- Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1975) [coll: chap: hb/Charles Shields]
- Gudgekin the Thistle Girl and Other Tales (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1976) [coll: chap: hb/Michael Sporn]
- The King of the Hummingbirds and Other Tales (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1977) [coll: chap: hb/Michael Sporn]
- In the Suicide Mountains (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1977) [hb/Joe Servello]
- Vlemk the Box-Painter (Northridge, California: Lord John Press, 1979) [hb/Catherine Kanner]
- Freddy's Book (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1980) [hb/Daniel Biamonte]
- Mickelsson's Ghosts (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1982) [hb/Albert Chiang]
about the author
- G L Morris. A World of Order and Light: The Fiction of John Gardner (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1984) [nonfiction: hb/]
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