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Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Theme.

Term used in this encyclopedia to cover various sf extrapolations of the walled, gated or segregated community; it is very roughly equivalent to the Edifice in fantasy [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The sf term. It is taken from Fury (May-July 1947 Astounding as by Lawrence O'Donnell; 1950; vt Destination Infinity 1956) by Henry Kuttner and C L Moore, where Keeps are fortified domes Under the Sea into which humanity has retreated from the savage environment of Venus. Similarly on Earth, hostile Uplifted animals force humanity to retreat to armed keeps in J T McIntosh's The Fittest (1955; vt The Rule of the Pagbeasts 1956). As isolation from the outside world increases, the concept overlaps with – or reaches as a limiting case – the Pocket Universe.

The "Last Redoubt" of humanity in William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (1912) is an early example of a full-blown keep; it was intensively homaged and replicated in Greg Bear's City at the End of Time (2008). Many future Cities have keep-like qualities, most typically an agoraphobic withdrawal from the world outside, as in Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel (1954), Diaspar in Arthur C Clarke's The City and the Stars (November 1948 Startling as "Against the Fall of Night"; 1953; exp and much rev vt 1956), the Underground world-city of Michael Frayn's A Very Private Life (1968), and the vast "Urban Monad" towers of Robert Silverberg's The World Inside (1971). Frayn's keep is echoed metaphorically in Inner Space terms, with good citizens using Drugs to withdraw from disturbing emotion "to an inner keep where everything was under our control."

Mack Reynolds offers a cheerier view of the keep in The Towers of Utopia (1975), though the defensive convoys of linked mobile homes in his Rolltown (July-September 1969 If as "The Towns Must Roll"; exp 1976) prove to be stifling; and This Other Eden (1993) by Ben Elton refers to its keeps as Claustrospheres. Several of J G Ballard's novels, from High-Rise (1975) onward, exude a sense of transition from present-day urban landscape to Dystopian keep society. The Medieval Futurism associations of "keep" are often appropriate, as witness the explicitly feudal social contract of the Todos Santos arcology in Oath of Fealty (1981) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The largest sf keeps are perhaps the enclosed, space-proof, galaxy-crossing cities featured in James Blish's Cities in Space sequence, the greatest of these being Manhattan (see New York).

The only explicit recognition of the usefulness of the original coining of the term in Fury appears, perhaps surprisingly, in the Mainstream writer Hugh Nissenson's The Song of Earth (2001), much of the tale set in a Near Future keep restricted to the wealthy: two of the streets within the walls are named after Kuttner and Moore. [DRL/JC]

see also: Frederick Dunstan; Jeanne DuPrau; Marie C Farca; Colin Free.


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