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Hughes, Monica

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1925-2003) UK-born author, from 1952 in Canada, where she won several awards in recognition of her Young Adult works, including the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize in 1982 and 1983. Her first sf novels, the Conshelf Ten sequence comprising Crisis on Conshelf Ten (1975) and its sequel, Earthdark (1977), utilize an Under-the-Sea and a Lunar (see Moon) setting to explore in a humane fashion the crises of adolescents in venues that, typically of her work in general, encompassingly keep them alive, but complicated by Politics, both the Moon colony and Conshelf Ten beneath the ocean on Earth are attempting to gain autonomy. The emptiness of mere survival – it is an irony likely to evoke an acute response from young readers – is very much sharpened in the Isis sequence, for which Hughes remains best known: The Keeper of the Isis Light (1980), The Guardian of Isis (1981) and The Isis Pedlar (1982). The protagonist of the sequence, a deeply isolated orphan teenager, is initially alone on the planet Isis except for a guardian Robot. It is only when human settlers arrive that she discovers that she has been bio-engineered into a kind of reptile for survival purposes, and must from this point adjust to her job as warden and to her solitude. Other series include the Dystopian Arc One sequence – Devil on My Back (1984) and The Dream Catcher (1986), set in the Near Future, where ark-like domed Keeps "protect" their Culturally Engineered inhabitants from the oil-depleted world outside; and the Sandwriter books, Sandwriter (1985) and The Promise (1989), set in a Planetary Romance world.

Singletons of interest include: The Tomorrow City (1978), which again demonstrates the costs of survival through the story of a young girl who is blinded by the great Computer designed by her father to protect her environment; Beyond the Dark River (1979), a Post-Holocaust tale set in the prairies of northern Canada; Ring-Rise, Ring-Set (1982), again set in a threatened Canada; and Invitation to the Game (1990; vt The Game 2010), in which the implicit Paranoia of some of Hughes's earlier work becomes frighteningly articulate, as a seemingly benevolent twenty-first-century government transports unemployable adolescents to an unknown destination, where they will be very happy playing the Game, which seems benign at first, though a Dystopian world is soon visible behind the veil. Similar material, very differently arrayed, shapes The Other Place (1999), set on a Prison planet where the children of offenders against a World Government are secretly transported by a Pied Piper figure (actually a psychologist) into another place called Xanadu, where they learn to cohabit peacefully. [JC]

see also: Children's SF.

Monica Mary Ince Hughes

born Liverpool, England: 3 November 1925

died Edmonton, Alberta: 7 March 2003



Conshelf Ten

  • Crisis on Conshelf Ten (Toronto, Ontario: Copp Clark Co, 1975) [Conshelf Ten: hb/]
  • Earthdark (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1977) [Conshelf Ten: hb/John Holder]


Arc One


  • Sandwriter (London: Julia MacRae Books, 1985) [Sandwriter: hb/D S Aldridge]
  • The Promise (Toronto, Ontario: Simon and Schuster, 1989) [Sandwriter: hb/Vicki Kalajian]

individual titles

works as editor


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