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Lake, David J

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1929-2016) Indian-born UK academic and author who emigrated to Australia in 1967; his education (a Jesuit school in India, a BA in English at Cambridge, a diploma in linguistics and a PhD in English) is reflected in the texture of his sf work, as is his teaching in Vietnam, Thailand and India (1959-1967). After several works of criticism, including the strongly argued, somewhat controversial The Canon of Thomas Middleton's Plays (1975) and a volume of poetry, Hornpipes and Funerals (coll 1973), which deals with some of the themes of his fiction, Lake began publishing sf with the first of his loosely connected Breakout Novels sequence, Walkers on the Sky (1976) which is set in the Far Future (12,117 CE), entertainingly conveying a young man across a Terraformed world irradiated by planes of force whose operation explains the dreamlike behaviour indicated by the title. The next two volumes, The Right Hand of Dextra (1977) and The Wildings of Westron (1977), intermingle biological, religious and colonization themes in the story of the reconciliation between incompatible forms of biological organization on a planet whose human colonists are religious fundamentalists insensitive to the vital questions surrounding Dextra's weird Ecology; the second volume slightly overcomplicates this portrait. The Gods of Xuma, or Barsoom Revisited (1978) and Warlords of Xuma (1983) are a duo which constitutes a riposte to the sexism and crudity of E R Burroughs's Barsoom novels; The Fourth Hemisphere (1980) is set on yet another planet. All the books in the sequence share certain fundamental premises: that in World War Four (2068 CE) Earth has destroyed itself; that by 2122 CE the colonies of the Moon are also in the throes of terminal conflict; and that, before the final collapse, interstellar ships had broken out of the solar system in search of planets suitable for Colonization. The individual instalments of the sequence take the form of the Planetary Romance and share comparatively simple, action-packed surface narratives matched with considerable complexity of implication, some of it Jungian.

Of books lying outside this central sequence, the most interesting is perhaps Lake's purest attempt at the Scientific Romance, The Man Who Loved Morlocks (1981). Ostensibly a Sequel by Other Hands to H G Wells's The Time Machine (1895), it also works as a sustained and loving critique of that book, of its author and of the late-nineteenth-century mind-sets which shaped both. Like Walkers on the Sky, it won a Ditmar Award. Lake's third Ditmar winner, "The Truth About Weena" (in Dreaming Down Under, anth 1998, edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb), drafted much earlier, explores the relationship between the Time Traveller and Weena; this also won an Aurealis Award. Ring of Truth (1982; vt The Ring of Truth 1984) is a Pocket-Universe tale of surreal intensity whose climax – unusually for this sort of book – provides no soothing explanation for the shape of the world. The Changelings of Chaan (1985) and West of the Moon (1988) are Young Adult tales. Despite an occasional truculent stiffness of diction, Lake was a writer of fully realized sf texts whose work, almost always, flows with thought. [JC]

see also: Aliens; Australia; Cosmology; Evolution; Gravity; Sociology; Time Travel; Transportation.

David John Lake

born Bangalore, India: 26 March 1929

died Brisbane, Queensland: 31 January 2016



Breakout Novels

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