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Greenland, Colin

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic.

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(1954-    ) UK academic and author, partner of Susanna Clarke from 1996; from 1980 to 1982 he was the Science Fiction Foundation Writer in Residence at the Polytechnic of East London, where the Foundation was then housed; he had taken a PhD in sf at Oxford, and published his thesis in revised form as The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the UK "New Wave" (1983), for which he won the 1983 Eaton Award. This text also includes extensive examinations of the works of Brian W Aldiss and J G Ballard, giving competent readings of these and other authors, though it (understandably) fails to provide anything like a definitive modelling of the notoriously portable field and slippery topic of the New Wave and its prime organ, New Worlds – 1960s sf in Britain was a particularly difficult field around which to craft acceptable forms of academic investigation and discourse, and much of what he wrote would be amplified only two decades later through the intensive (and now permissible) traversing of Fanzines and other forms of sf discourse, as in the work of Rob Latham. A later volume, Michael Moorcock: Death Is No Obstacle (coll 1992), is conducted in interview form and usefully enriches the lines of communication. Greenland later edited, with Eric S Rabkin and George E Slusser, Storm Warnings: Science Fiction Confronts the Future (anth 1987) in the Eaton Conference Papers academic anthology sequence. Beyond some further critical pieces – and Death Is no Obstacle (1992), a book-length interview with Michael Moorcock, mostly about the latter's work – his interest had by this point shifted towards fiction, though he was to take on the position of Reviews Editor for Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction in 1990.

Following an early appearance in SFinx (January 1975), Greenland began professionally publishing works of genre interest with "Miss Otis Regrets" for Fiction Magazine in 1982. His first novel, Daybreak on a Different Mountain (1984), a fantasy, wrestles mildly with an Entropy-laden plot and venue, and with a range of New Wave Worlds of Tomorrow influences forgivable in a book coming from a scholar's loaded mind. Two further fantasies set in different parts of the same world, The Hour of the Thin Ox (1987) and Other Voices (1988), gradually demonstrated a sharpening, meticulously intelligent, cold, quiet narrative voice, and plots which carefully picked at some of the unthinking assumptions, general to Fantasy, about war and peace, prejudice and love.

Of much greater sf interest was his fourth novel, Take Back Plenty (1990), a devotedly exuberant Space Opera, the first of the Tabitha Jute/Plenty sequence which also includes In the Garden: The Secret Origin of the Zodiac Twins (1991 chap), Seasons of Plenty (1995) and Mother of Plenty (1998); it won the Arthur C Clarke Award and the BSFA Award. The story involves much tried-and-true material – from the Mars where the tale begins to the tough female space-tramp who runs her own ship and is in all sorts of trouble, and on to the Aliens who dominate human space – and indeed there are moments when Greenland seems all too knowing. But the neatly calipered parodies are accomplished with love, lacking any trace of the disdain that had tended to disfigure some UK space opera in previous years; the high jinks are genuinely earned; and increases in scale – until the galaxy itself is within the grasp of vision, and we realize that the hiveship Plenty is in fact a neatly compact World Ship – are accomplished deftly. Along with the Culture books by Iain M Banks and the Xeelee series by Stephen Baxter, this sequence initiated the intensely intriguing development in the UK of Space Opera as an enabling arena for the telling of large-scale stories. Harm's Way (1993), a singleton, approaches Steampunk in its depiction of an Alternate History solar system bathed in a sea of Aether, so that great sailing ships dominate the spacelanes (see Hornblower in Space); but is, in the end, more satisfactorily to be read as fantasy. Greenland had become, quite suddenly, one of the dominant figures of his generation of sf writers; his relative silence in the twenty-first century is regretted. He contributed the entry on Bruce Sterling to the second edition of this encyclopedia. [JC]

see also: Eastercon; Flash Fiction; Interzone; Dave McKean; Milford Science Fiction Writers' Conference; Odyssey; Outer Planets; Space Flight; Women in SF.

Colin Greenland

born Dover, Kent: 17 May 1954



Tabitha Jute/Plenty

individual titles


works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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