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Sedgwick, Marcus

Entry updated 1 May 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1968-2022) UK illustrator and author, mostly of Young Adult fiction, most of which was fantasy, including series like his first, the Dead Day sequence beginning with The Book of Dead Days (2003), which ornately invokes (but clearly does not intend seriously to scrutinize) the tropes and topoi of Gothic SF. Some series were written for younger children, one of these – the Cudweed sequence comprising Cudweed's Birthday (2011), Cudweed in Outer Space (2012) and Cudweed's Time Machine (2013) – being sf, though spoofed to attract the age level aimed at.

Marcus's singletons are perhaps of stronger interest, the best of them deliberately scumbling any clear distinction between Young Adult fiction and fiction addressed to adults. The first of these, Floodland (2000), is sf, though Equipoisal like much of his other work and avowedly influenced by the work of Susan Cooper, with narrative seams derived from supernatural fiction [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The tale is set in a Near Future England, drowned as a result of Climate Change; the young protagonist escapes to the Island of Eels (Ely on its mound) (see Island), where he encounters various eccentric or dangerous characters, then escapes again to the mainland (the seas are beginning to abate). The young protagonist of The Foreshadowing (2005), which is set in World War One, is burdened with the Psi Power of Precognition, but (as with Cassandra, who is cited), her foreknowledge of the deaths of young soldiers is not believed. My Swordhand Is Singing (2006) is a Vampire tale set in seventeenth-century Chust, in what is now Uzbekistan. Blood Red, Snow White (2007) is a nonfantastic fictional portrait of Arthur Ransome and his activities in Russia during World War One. White Crow (2010) is a complex multi-generation Gothic that traces a curse.

The long retrospect of Midwinterblood (2011) is framed by a narrative set in 2073 on the mysterious, time- and tragedy-haunted Blessed Island. The body of the tale, set at earlier and earlier points, recounts the chthonic ritual-haunted partial re-enactment over the centuries of the fatal closeness between a young man and woman from the tenth century, when their biological father, manically claiming his "rights" of parentage, comes close to destroying an entire community. In 2073 the necessary sacrifice is consummated, perhaps redeemingly. The Ghosts of Heaven (coll of linked stories 2014) presents through four thematically interlinked tales a kind of fable of the Evolution of Homo sapiens, though with the essential storyteller's twist that the tales also represent a spiral: the last of them, set on a Generation Starship about to land on an unknown planet, brings matters, perhaps predictably, back to the beginnings of the book, in the Stone Age.

Some later novels are of more direct sf interest, and demonstrate an increasing range and gravitas. The protagonist of The Monsters We Deserve (2018), whose initials are (like Sedgwick's) M S, rents a Swiss chalet close to the Villa Diodati, where he agonizedly examines his writer's block while being haunted by figures from the past, including Mary Shelley; much of his time is spent generating fruitless cavils about the flaws of Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus (1818). Heavily illustrated by Alexi Deacon (1978-    ), Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black (2019) with Julian Sedgwick (1966-    ), a book-length poem paralleled by prose passages, carries an Orpheus figure to a malign Underworld (see Underground) beneath World War Two London.

Set in a Near Future devastated by Climate Change and a Lyme-disease-like Pandemic apparently disseminated electronically, Snowflake, AZ (2019) avoids any opportunity, though its young narrator is full of colloquial cheer, to ameliorate the implications of a dire transformation soon to come, when humans will struggle to survive on the planet. But a rich Scientist living Underground to dodge the Arizona climate is convinced he has found an answer: in the twenty-first century, Homo sapiens has suffered some damage to the brain chemistry that allows for Altruism; the scientist thinks he has successfully developed a bacterium that will restore the capacity of human beings to consider each other. The novel closes before this panacea can prove itself, or not. The young protagonist of Wrath (2022) finds herself overhearing sounds of anguish from our perhaps fatally wounded planet. Ravencave (2023) is a ghost story.

Sedgwick's early death truncated a constantly evolving career. [JC]

Marcus Sedgwick

born Preston, Kent: 8 April 1968

died Dordogne, France: 17 November 2022

works (selected)


Dead Days


The Raven Mysteries

  • Food and Fang (London: Orion Children's Books, 2009) [Raven Mysteries: pb/Pete Wilkinson]
  • Ghosts and Gadgets (London: Orion Children's Books, 2009) [Raven Mysteries: pb/Pete Wilkinson]
  • Lunatics and Luck (London: Orion Children's Books, 2010) [Raven Mysteries: pb/Pete Wilkinson]
  • Vampires and Volts (London: Orion Children's Books, 2010) [Raven Mysteries: pb/Pete Wilkinson]
  • Magic and Mayhem (London: Orion Children's Books, 2011) [Raven Mysteries: pb/Pete Wilkinson]


Elf Girl and Raven Boy

  • Fright Forest (London: Orion Children's Books, 2012) [Elf Girl and Raven Boy: pb/]
  • Monster Mountains (London: Orion Children's Books, 2012) [Elf Girl and Raven Boy: pb/]
  • Scream Sea (London: Orion Children's Books, 2013) [Elf Girl and Raven Boy: pb/Pete Williamson]
  • Dread Desert (London: Orion Children's Books, 2013) [Elf Girl and Raven Boy: pb/]
  • Terror Town (London: Orion Children's Books, 2014) [Elf Girl and Raven Boy: pb/]
  • Creepy Caves (London: Orion Children's Books, 2015) [Elf Girl and Raven Boy: pb/]

individual titles

collections and stories


previous versions of this entry

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