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Gee, Maggie

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1948-    ) UK author whose first published novel, Dying in Other Words (1981), is a perhaps over-exuberant experimental work which could be interpreted as having ghostly elements along Posthumous-Fantasy lines [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. In The Burning Book (1983) an ordinary contemporary family's problems are overshadowed by overriding visionary glimpses of the fragility of human life, as demonstrated by Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Holocaust that everyone expects will soon occur, and which is graphically depicted in the last chapter of the novel. Where are the Snows? (1991) takes her two protagonists on a sex-fuelled narcissistic tour of the world, beginning in the early 1980s and climaxing in a pessimistically drawn twenty-first century. The Ice People (1998) is narrated by an old man who has been kept alive because of the stories he tells about life on Earth before global warming (see Climate Change) led convulsively to a new ice age at the end of the twenty-first century; as usual with Gee, and sometimes very effectively, the protagonist's long life resonates tellingly – though at times in a manner dangerously close to metaphor, like the train line carrying nuclear waste through London in Grace (1989) – with the long trauma of the planet.

Later works continue and if anything darken Gee's evocations of a world whose degradations we have caused. The Flood (2004), which carries over several characters from the non-fantastic The White Family (2002), is set in a kind of Parallel World version of the Near Future, where an unnamed City closely resembling London – so inundated by endless rain and rising seas that it might almost be Venice – squats at the heart of a Dystopian regime shaped by President Bliss (i.e. Tony Blair) into an eternal war with what is obviously Iraq, under another name. The novel ends in a malign revel. In Virginia Woolf in Manhattan (2014) a contemporary librarian in New York conjures a Reincarnation of Virginia Woolf, where a confrontation at the Statue of Liberty conveys a sense of cultural degeneration between the 1930s and now. The Red Children (2022), set in southern England after Climate Change and a Pandemic which kills mostly men, slides close to allegory country when eponymous migrants turn out to be Neanderthals (see Mysterious Stranger) thrust out of their own time by planetary crises 40,000 years before. Perhaps because she deals so often with the Near Future, Gee's books have seemed far more pessimistic than most contemporary genre sf, which until the second decade of the twenty-first century often avoided that region.

Gee received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to literature in 2012. [JC]

Maggie Mary Gee

born Poole, Dorset: 2 November 1948



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