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Kapp, Colin

Entry updated 18 September 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1928-2007) UK author and worker in electronics, initially with the Mullard Radio Valve Company; later a freelance electroplating consultant. He began publishing sf with "Life Plan" for New Worlds in November 1958, and much of his best work soon appeared in this magazine, including "Lambda I" (December 1962 New Worlds) – which deals with the perils of Transportation through the solid Earth via a kind of Hyperspace or Matter Penetration, and gave its title to the John Carnell collection Lambda I (anth 1964) – and Transfinite Man (November 1963-January 1964 New Worlds as "The Dark Mind"; 1964; vt The Dark Mind 1965), in which a fierce unkillable Superman protagonist pits himself against the corrupt Failway [sic] Terminal in duels extending through various Dimensions to which the Terminal has a monopoly of access and where, secure from the law, it offers a familiar range of expensive forbidden pleasures. Despite Kapp's otherwise unextraordinary plotting, the combination of invulnerability and rage in the tale generates a sense of nearly uncontrollable energy, imparting to this one book something of the exhilaration of Keith Laumer and a touch of the complexity of Alfred Bester, whose Gully Foyle – from Tiger! Tiger! (October 1956-January 1957 Galaxy as "The Stars My Destination"; 1956; rev vt The Stars My Destination 1957; rev 1996) – is clearly echoed. Other devices from Bester's novel also appear, such as marooning in space, Teleportation, an invented explosive of apocalyptic force, infra-red visual Perception, a burning man, and Synaesthesia.

Professional expertise in electroplating is central to Kapp's story "Hunger Over Sweet Waters" (in New Writings in SF 4, anth 1965, ed John Carnell), whose protagonist – stranded in a chemical-rich alien ocean – resourcefully uses the technique to create a metal boat hull. The short Chaos sequence of Space Operas, comprising The Patterns of Chaos (February-May/June 1972 If; 1972) and The Chaos Weapon (May 1977 Vortex [part 1 only]; 1977), somewhat confusedly attempts to grapple with the intrinsic disorder of the universe by positing a predictive Imaginary Science of Chaos (see Time Radio) which is in fact all that links the books. The first volume relates the adventures of an Amnesiac Superhero who is implausibly capable of manipulating and destructively amplifying chaos (see Entropy), but whose actions have been predicted 700 million years previously by inimical Aliens in another galaxy, who to counter them launched intergalactic planet-buster missiles which have been travelling ever since at Sublight speed and are aimed at specific Chaos experts including the hero; these are followed up by a vast sublight Invasion fleet which though fearsomely armed is easily despatched by a little lateral thinking. In The Chaos Weapon the Galactic Federation comes under attack from the titular Weapon, one so vast that it ranks as a Macrostructure in its own right. The Wizard of Anharitte (November/December 1972-March/April 1973 If; 1973), enjoyable though less energetic, features an intriguing sf power struggle on a backward planet, with the protagonist (who finds himself on the wrong side) repeatedly frustrated by the ingenious Technological trickery of the "wizard" – in fact an emissary from Earth working to protect the native culture from excessive commercial exploitation.

Kapp's later publications include The Unorthodox Engineers (coll of linked stories 1979; exp vt The Cloudbuilders and Other Marvels 2013), assembling a Hard SF sequence of offbeat problem-solver tales that began with "The Railways up on Cannis" (October 1959 New Worlds) and continued from 1964 to 1975 in New Writings in SF; this gained a modest cult following and even generated a text Adventure game for various home-computer platforms, The Unorthodox Engineers: The Pen and the Dark (1984) designed by Keith Campbell, based on the episode "The Pen and the Dark" (in New Writings in SF 8, anth 1966, ed John Carnell) which explores a Zone of anomalous Physics (the Pen) which proves to be the outer layer of protection for a Keep (the Dark) housing Aliens composed of Antimatter. «The Timewinders», a 1980 novel listed in the 1993 edition of this encyclopedia, cannot be traced and must be regarded as a ghost title; it was sold to Dennis Dobson in 1978, but the publisher died soon after, the book never appeared and the typescript is presumably lost. The Cageworld sequence of Space Operas – comprising Cageworld (1982; vt Search for the Sun! 1983), The Lost Worlds of Cronus (1982), The Tyrant of Hades (1982) and Star-Search (1983) – is set within the eponymous Dyson Sphere, a vast Pocket Universe shaped on Ptolemaic lines (see Alternate Cosmos).

Beyond a sometimes shaky control of plot and premise, it is hard to know why Kapp's career came to a stop: until the end, he always seemed capable of a breakthrough tale. [JC/DRL]

see also: Cyborgs; Eastercon; First Contact; Mecha; Precognition; Rays; Torture.

Derek Ivor Colin Kapp

born South London: 3 April 1928

died Chichester, Sussex: 3 August 2007





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