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Leonard, Lawrence

Entry updated 9 October 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1923-2001) UK cellist, conductor, composer and author whose Young Adult tale, The Horn of Mortal Danger (1980), is set primarily Underground beneath London, where an ancient race, distinguishable from surface humans mostly by their small stature, has flourished for many centuries by carefully imitating life on the surface. From about 1800 these Undergrounders, who now think of their world as the North London System, have shaped their lives and habitations around two conflicting but interwoven Transportation networks or wainscots (see Wainscot Societies): canals and railways. Intersections and stations are named after aboveground equivalents; the action climaxes, for instance, at Camden Lock, a great intersection of canal and railway located directly under Camden Town. This mirroring of underground and aboveground names prefigures Neil Gaiman's transfiguration of this As Above So Below conceit [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] in his Television series Neverwhere (1996).

Inevitably, the entire System comes under threat in the late twentieth century. Two aboveground children discover the world and threaten to expose it; while at the same time Mutant rats threaten widespread mayhem. A Slingshot Ending hints at further developments (no sequel was in fact published). As a whole the tale, which is Equipoisal amongst sf, fantasy and Horror in SF, can be seen as an early contribution to the ensemble of topoi that would become Steampunk. [JC]

Lawrence Leonard

born London: 22 August 1923

died London: 4 January 2001

works (selected)


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