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Mann, Phillip

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1942-2022) UK-born author resident in New Zealand from 1969, whose career as a theatre director, translation copy-polisher, drama teacher and university Reader in Drama brought to his writing a strong visual and structural sense. His first sf publication, The Eye of the Queen (1982), is an accomplished novel of First Contact between humans and the enigmatic Pe-Ellians. The Story of the Gardener diptych – Master of Paxwax (1986) and The Fall of the Families (1987) – describes a warring human society and the downfall of its hegemony over various planets. In Pioneers (1988), perhaps his best early novel, genetically engineered (see Genetic Engineering) explorers come to terms with being human. Wulfsyarn: A Mosaic (1990) is a character study of a failed Starship captain, as narrated by an autoscribe; and the Land Fit for Heroes sequence – comprising Escape to the Wild Wood (1993), Stand Alone Stan (1994), The Dragon Wakes (1995) and The Burning Forest (1996) – is set in an Alternate History fantasy version of a twentieth-century Britain still ruled by the Romans, coming to a powerful climax in the fourth volume, where the Romans plan to burn Britain's forests so that Roman sheep may graze (see Imperialism). Mann consciously uses his skill at portraying Alien species and environments to display human vanity and hubris without being didactic and with an underlying respect for life. Other work of interest includes three fantasy plays for children as well as short stories and a humorous sf Radio play, "The Gospel According to Mickey Mouse" (1990).

After the mid-1990s, Mann published no further sf until The Disestablishment of Paradise (2013), an ambitious, intensely emotional presentation of the potential costs attending the Colonization of Other Worlds, certainly when the nature of First Contact is radically misunderstood – the "inhabitants" of Paradise comprise an extraordinarily sensitive interwoven matrix of the planet's flora (see Gaia), a matrix so encompassing that Paradise may be deemed a Living World. Unfortunately, this gestalt is easily imprinted with the killing-fields mentality of the humans in charge of exploiting the planet (see Ecology), and begins to respond in kind. In a classic biter-bit climax, the human inhabitants must abandon a world whose life (some of it Triffid-like) has learned how to kill back.

In New Zealand's 2017 New Year honours, Mann received the Order of Merit for services to literature and drama. [MMacL/JC]

see also: Sociology.

Anthony Phillip Mann

born Northallerton, Yorkshire: 7 August 1942

died Wellington, New Zealand: 1 September 2022



Story of the Gardener

Land Fit for Heroes

  • Escape to the Wild Wood (London: Victor Gollancz, 1993) [Land Fit for Heroes: hb/Adrian Chesterman]
  • Stand Alone Stan (London: Victor Gollancz, 1994) [Land Fit for Heroes: hb/Adrian Chesterman]
  • The Dragon Wakes (London: Victor Gollancz, 1995) [Land Fit for Heroes: hb/Adrian Chesterman]
  • The Burning Forest (London: Victor Gollancz, 1996) [Land Fit for Heroes: hb/Michael Posen]

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