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Sinclair, Iain

Entry updated 23 October 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1943-    ) UK bookseller (retired), poet and author whose fiction is better described as Fantastika than as sf proper, just as the work of his main American mentor, William S Burroughs can be so designated. Studies and mythopoetic explorations of London, comprising a large body of fiction and nonfiction, have provided Sinclair with a central focus from the beginning of his career. Lud Heat: A Book of the Dead Hamlets (1975), a narrative prose-poem which fabricates a numerological myth of the geography of the city, provided a direct inspiration for Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor (1985). Though not strictly fantastic, Sinclair's first novel, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987), is permeated with esoteric figurings of the mythology surrounding Jack the Ripper. Downriver (Or, the Vessels of Wrath): A Narrative in Twelve Tales (1991), develops similar material in a Fabulation which Equipoisally combines detective modes and Near-Future sf visions of the complex destiny of London. Radon Daughters: A Voyage, Between Art and Terror, from the Mound of Whitechapel to the Limestone Pavements of the Burren (1994) covers similar territory in an ornately constructed fantasia based on a perhaps non-existent sequel to William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland (1908), and also includes an elaborately ironic description of an sf Convention. In Landor's Tower; Or, the Imaginary Conversations (2001) a London writer's mind is disrupted by coercive visions of Utopia in Wales. Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Documentary Report (2009) conflates urban legends, autobiography, documentary episodes and intimations of an Underground world (see Hollow Earth) beneath this borough of London, which is envisioned as a fantasticated sea-girt Island Zone [see expanded image in Picture Gallery].

Most of Sinclair's later work has been published as nonfiction, but his elaborate soundings of the inner story of London permit no easy distinction between verifiable topological narrative and psychogeographic wordmaps of the myth within, an anatomy of an imagined overall Zone encompassing an Archipelago of inner enclaves (see above), all more or less magically delimited by an encircling superhighway, as argued in London Orbital: A Walk Around the M25 (2002). Ghost Milk: Calling Time on the Grand Project (coll: 2011), whose subtitle refers to this career-long involvement in a London understood as a nesting of microcosms, contains a devastating assault on the London Olympics of 2012. The Last London: True Fictions from an Unreal City (coll 2017) is particularly rich in prolepses of the London to come. [JC]

Iain MacGregor Sinclair

born Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales: 11 June 1943



nonfiction (selected)

Note caveat in the text above concerning Sinclair's blending of nonfiction and fiction.

works as editor

about the author


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