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McCaughrean, Geraldine

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1951-    ) UK editor and author, usually for children and for Young Adult readers, though occasionally for a wider readership; most of her work has been fantasy, beginning with A Little Lower Than the Angels (1987), where a young stonemason is seconded by God to serve as an apprentice angel. In A Pack of Lies: Twelve Stories in One (coll of linked stories 1988), a Mysterious Stranger – apparently materialized from a volume of Wisden's Cricketing Year and named MCC Berkshire after the club, but in reality something like a divine being with Godgame powers – comes disruptively to work in an antique shop, where he tells prospective customers tales within this Club Story frame which forces them either to buy or (if they are unworthy) not to buy various items on sale. The stories themselves, neatly and compactly told, are generically varied. Her second novel The Maypole (1989) is nonfantastically based on the traditional English ballad, "Little Musgrove and Lady Barnard". Her third, Fires' Astonishment (1990), renders "The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea": in a confabulated eleventh-century England [for Land of Fable and Twice-Told see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], a stepmother Shapeshifts her husband's son into a dragon (see Supernatural Creatures); he spends much of the novel moping over his condition.

In Forever X (1997), at a hot English countryside inn in August, Christmas is celebrated, uncannily, every day (see Time Loop). Set in 1919, The Stones Are Hatching (1999) vividly creates a supernatural frame to encompass some of the horrors of World War One: the conflagration has awoken the Stoor Worm or Midgard Serpent from its slumber under Europe; the young protagonist of the tale, on discovering he is the mythic killer of the Worm now reborn in time of need, destroys it. Not the End of the World (2004) strikingly retells the story of the Flood – caused by a "subsidence or swelling of the Earth's crust" – from the point of view of the women involved.

Of slightly more specific sf interest is The Supreme Lie (2021), which is set in a kind of Alternate World version of 1928 in the Ruritanian land of Afalia; its young protagonist finds herself forced to substitute for Madame Suprema, who has fled (to her death) when the capital is threatened by a great flood. Some hints of Climate Change rather demurely colour the background of the tale, though by its conclusion young Gloria has transformed Afalia from a slightly cartoonish Dystopia into a society pervaded by loving kindness.

McCaughrean's picture books for younger children and her numerous adaptations of classic fable and Biblical narratives are not listed below. [JC]

Geraldine McCaughrean

born London: 6 June 1951

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