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Hichens, Robert

Entry updated 25 September 2018. Tagged: Author.

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(1864-1950) UK journalist and author, active from about 1886 for more than half a century but now almost forgotten except for The Green Carnation (1894) – which dangerously exploits Oscar Wilde and 1890s Decadence in general – and The Garden of Allah (1904); though neither tale is literally fantastic, they are both written in a style so heated, and so confused about the loathsome allure of Sex, that they seem infused with the supernatural. As befitting a man of fifty, Hichens served only indirectly in World War One, in the London Special Constabulary. A crime novel, The Paradine Case (1933), was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock. Most of his work of interest is supernatural, with explicit reference to occultism, and most of it concentrates on various forms of psychic bondage through haunting, or transfers of malign influence between Doppelgangers (see also Identity Exchange), or other spiritual or spiritualistic transactions [for Bondage, Haunting, Occultism, Spirit and Supernatural Fiction see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Relevant fiction appears in various collections, including The Folly of Eustace (coll 1896), Tongues of Conscience (coll 1900) which contains his most famous tale, the novella "How Love Came to Professor Guildea" (October 1897 Pearson's Magazine as "The Man Who Was Beloved"), and the Black Spaniel and Other Stories (coll 1905), whose title story, also a novella, is a fantasy of Reincarnation. The Return of the Soul and Other Stories (coll 2001) edited by S T Joshi assembles many of his significant tales of the fantastic.

Throughout his work Hichens tends to punish any love relationship between man and woman, and seemingly abhors any hint of homosexual love. Both his supernatural novels – Flames: A London Phantasy (1897) and The Dweller on the Threshold (1911) – depict the malign consequences of intensifying male relationships through spiritual means, the latter tale very vividly depicting the horrors of psychic exposure.

Hichens is of sf interest primarily for a late novel, Dr Artz (1929), whose eponymous Antihero accomplishes feats of Rejuvenation through a covert application of Serge Voronoff's theories about the use of monkey testicles to increase the virility and life-span of human beings (see Horror in SF). [JC]

Robert Smythe Hichens

born Speldhurst, Kent: 14 November 1864

died Zurich, Switzerland: 20 July 1950

works (selected)



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