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Mendlesohn, Farah

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

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(1968-    ) UK academic and critic, former Reader in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature at Middlesex University, from 2012 to 2016 Professor of Literary History at Anglia Ruskin University. She trained as an historian, a discipline that has informed all her subsequent critical work on both fantasy and science fiction, taking her DPhil, on American and British Quaker Relief Work in the Spanish Civil War, which was published as Quaker Relief Work in the Spanish Civil War (2002), at York in 1997. Here she met Edward James, with whom she has lived since 1994; they married in 2001. James encouraged her interest in sf, and introduced her to the Science Fiction Foundation, which formed the basis from which much of her earlier sf administrative and editorial work would follow.

In 2002 she succeeded James as editor of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction from issue #84 (Spring 2002), a post she held until issue #100 (Summer 2007). Her final issue, co-edited with her successor, Graham Sleight, went against the traditions of the journal by being given over to fiction. She was also directly involved with the Foundation during her years of editorship, including a stint as Chair 2004-2007, being one of the driving forces behind various new ventures sponsored by the Foundation, including the publication of books of criticism, the sponsorship of occasional academic conferences, and perhaps most significantly the institution of an annual series of Masterclasses in sf criticism begun in 2007. After reducing her role with the SFF, she became President of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts 2008-2010.

In protest against laws introduced by the British Government that were seen as restricting free speech in the fight against terrorism, she edited Glorifying Terrorism, Manufacturing Contempt: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction (anth 2006). Her work, otherwise, has all been nonfiction, with the exception of one nonfantastic novel, Spring Flowering (2017 ebook). Her most significant theoretical contribution to Fantastika as a whole is Rhetorics of Fantasy (2008), which laid out a taxonomic framework for critical readings of Fantasy and won the BSFA Award for Nonfiction. She has written on fantasy in A Short History of Fantasy (2009) and edited The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy (anth 2012) with Edward James. She has also given much critical attention to both science fiction and fantasy for children, notably in a book on Diana Wynne Jones, and, more comprehensively, in The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children's and Teens' Science Fiction (2009), which not only examined the nature of Children's SF and Young Adult sf but also tried to find a reason for its relative decline in comparison to children's fantasy. The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein (2019) is an ambitious and intensive argument for conceiving of Robert A Heinlein's long career as a surprisingly integrated whole; it won a BSFA Award for best nonfiction.

Though her interests declaredly focus on sf, her most important theoretical contribution remains Rhetorics of Fantasy; at the same time, The Inter-Galactic Playground, as well as numerous essays contributed to group projects, contain sustained arguments about sf, with an increasing emphasis on a recuperation of classic Genre SF. She has also edited and co-edited several anthologies, including studies of Babylon 5 (1993-1998), Ken MacLeod and Joanna Russ, as well as The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (anth 2003) with Edward James, which won the Hugo for Best Related Book. Mendlesohn's introduction to this volume, "Reading Science Fiction", won the BSFA Award for Nonfiction, making her the first person to have won this award twice. She received the 2016 Thomas D Clareson Award for services to sf, and the 2022 IAFA Award for distinguished scholarship. [PKi]

Farah Jane Mendlesohn

born Manchester, England: 27 July 1968



works as editor


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