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Hughes, Ted

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1930-1998) Working name of UK poet Edward James Hughes for all his writing. He is best known for volumes of dark, violent verse such as Crow (coll 1970; rev 1971), which like much of his work features representations of other species in terms hinting at internally generated but mythically resonant metamorphoses; also of interest as an unfettered contribution to the fantastic is Gaudete (1977), a book-length narrative poem whose protagonist, after his abduction into Hell, is replaced by a Double [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] on earth. Much of his verse ostensibly for children, though manifestly crafted for adults as well, was assembled as a whole in the Collected Poems for Children (coll 2005); an individual volume of strong interest is Moon-Whales (coll 1976 chap; rev 1988 chap), where the Moon is inhabited by fantasticated Monsters and chimeras, sometimes delineated with enough detail to evoke similar extravagances in the Planetary Romance. In common with other important poets, like Albert Goldbarth, James Merrill and Edwin Morgan, none of his work won a Rhysling Award. Hughes was Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death.

Of sf interest is the Iron Man children's sequence, comprising The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights (1968 chap; vt The Iron Giant 1968 chap), and The Iron Woman (1993 chap); in the first tale a frightening but friendly iron man (see Robots) defends the world against a dragon from space, ultimately persuading it to sing the music of the spheres, a sound which soothes humanity's terrible lust for War and causes peace. It was made into a musical (see SF Music), The Iron Man (1989), by Pete Townshend (1945-    ) and loosely adapted as the animated film The Iron Giant directed by Brad Bird, with the space dragon threat replaced by Cold War Paranoia. The Creation Tales sequence – comprising How the Whale Became and Other Stories (coll 1963), Tales of the Early World (coll 1988) and The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales (coll 1995) – collects a number of stories of Cosmology told in fable form. Also for children, What Is the Truth? A Farmyard Fable for the Young (1984 chap) and Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth (1986 chap) – both written in a style that, as with Gaudete, intermingles verse and prose – are complex tales mixing didactic concerns with flights of sf hyperbole.

Hughes's sole nonfiction of any interest, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (1992), entrancingly offers the thesis that William Shakespeare's works, read chronologically, unpacks his successful search for the Great Goddess (see Feminism), and celebrates a recapturing of the true inner world from the Jehovah of patriarchal Christianity. Light is cast; but perhaps the kind of luminescence provided by Fantastika with the stays loosed. [JC]

Edward James Hughes

born Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire: 17 August 1930

died London: 28 October 1998



Creation Tales

Iron Man

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