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Kernahan, Coulson

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1858-1943) UK author and – deeply convinced that World War One was nigh – proselytizer for universal military service between 1900-1914; fifty-five years old when the war broke out, he served as a commissioned recruiter. His early works of fiction – such as A Dead Man's Diary, Written After His Decease (February-?? 1890 Lippincott's Magazine UK; 1890), A Book of Strange Sins (coll 1893) and God & the Ant (1895 chap) – combine fantasy tropes and a somewhat evangelical religiosity that has not worn well. The Child, the Wise Man and the Devil (1896 chap), though lacking fibre, does interestingly prefigure some of the early work of Lord Dunsany. Of sf interest are Captain Shannon (July-October 1896 Windsor Magazine; 1896), in which an Irish terrorist, using bombs so advanced that the British police are baffled (see Inventions), blows up a number of London train stations; A World Without a Child: A Story for Men and Women (1905), a Near Future Satire where a sudden failure of the human race to breed children creates cadres of cynical "Pleasurists"; The Dumpling: A Detective Love Story of the Great Labour Uprising (1906) and The Red Peril (1908), two tales set again in the Near Future viewed from a Conservative point a view, the former involving a revolutionary Napoleon look-alike and the latter an actual Future War that threatens London. The Man of No Sorrows (1911 chap) is a dream vision of Near Future London devastated by a false Messiah (see Religion) who espouses guiltless hedonism. If nothing else, Kernahan's career demonstrates the use of fantasy and sf as tools of persuasion in an era that preceded their ghettoization. [JC]

John Coulson Kernahan

born Ilfracombe, Devon: 1 August 1858

died Hastings, Sussex: 17 February 1943



Strange Sins (selected)

  • A Book of Strange Sins (London: Ward, Lock, and Bowden, 1893) [coll: Strange Sins: hb/]
    • The Apples of Sin (The Garden of God) (London: Ward, Lock, 1898) [coll: chap: one story only from the above: Strange Sins: hb/A A Turbayne]
    • The Lonely God (London: Ward, Lock, and Co, 1900) [coll: chap: one story only from the above: Strange Sins: illus/Chris Hammond: pb/A A Turbayne]

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