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Saxton, Josephine

Entry updated 17 July 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1935-    ) UK author who began publishing sf with "The Wall" in Science Fantasy #78 for November 1965, and whose first three novels – The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969), Vector for Seven: The Weltanschaung of Mrs Amelia Mortimer and Friends [sic] (1970) and Group Feast (1971) – established her very rapidly as an inventive creator of sf Fabulations. Each of these books presents narratives whose outcomes are more readable as allegories of their protagonists' moral fates than of any physical journey, though the image of what might be called the bollixed quest is central to her work. These journeys are described – often in some detail, as in Vector for Seven, whose travels are beset with perhaps merely subjective UFOs – in a register of perilous ambivalence, half Inner Space, half mutable and frustrating external world.

When Saxton returned to publishing novels in the 1980s, titles like The Travails of Jane Saint (1980; exp as coll vt The Travails of Jane Saint and Other Stories 1986) and The Consciousness Machine; Jane Saint and the Backlash: The Further Travails of Jane Saint (coll 1989) clearly demonstrated the fundamental continuity of her vision. (The Travails of Jane Saint and Jane Saint and the Backlash are two interlinked short novels; the 1986 and 1989 volumes contain extra material in the form of short stories.) Queen of the States (1986) – a clever title in which "States" can be interpreted as referring to the USA or to various sorts of mental breakdown – comes very close to a savage reductionism: the sf/fantasy escapades of the female protagonist default constantly to delusion, for she is imprisoned in a mental institution. Perhaps even more clearly than before, these later books are governed by a Feminist sense of the constraints binding women to mundane, male-ordained reality – a sense that goes far to explain the wildness of Saxton's protagonists and the lungeing movements of her prose. Her earlier short stories from 1966 to 1985, which tend to a slantwise but pointed lightness of touch, have mostly been assembled in The Power of Time (coll 1985). Quite different, and not sf (but including some horror), is Little Tours of Hell: Tall Tales of Food and Holidays (coll 1986). Her most recent book, Gardening Down a Rabbit Hole (1996), which sounds like fantasy, is actually a nonfiction memoir about her gardening experiences.

In 2023 Saxton was honoured with the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. [JC/PN]

see also: Alternate History; Fantastic Voyages; Perception.

Josephine Mary Howard Saxton

born Halifax, Yorkshire: 11 June 1935



Jane Saint

individual titles




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