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Symonds, John

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1914-2006) UK playwright and author best known for his studies of Aleister Crowley, in particular The Great Beast: The Life of Aleister Crowley (1951; rev 1971); he served as Crowley's literary executor. He is however more significant for his fiction, beginning with William Waste (1947), most notable perhaps for its innocent but wily protagonist's encounter with a wax Doll in a great glass case who turns out to be alive [for Aleister Crowley, Dolls and more extensive entry on John Symonds see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Most of his later fiction is for younger children [examples only are listed below] and is exuberantly fantastic, in a manner appropriate to its audience; as with his first novel, dolls appear frequently, being the protagonists for instance in Away to the Moon (1956 chap), Lottie (1957 chap) and The Stuffed Dog. (1967 chap). Adult novels include The Shaven Head (1973), whose anarchist protagonists come close (perhaps delusionally) to destroying much of London; The Child: Prologue to an Earthquake (1976), in which Christ returns as a woman; The Guardian of the Threshold (1980), involving the discovery of the elixir of life which bestows Immortality, along with intense experimental Sex and Reincarnation; in The Medusa's Head; Or, Conversations Between Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler (1991), Crowley is a Trickster figure who runs circles around Hitler [for Trickster see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below].

Symonds was a prolific playwright, though almost none of his dramas were ever staged. Of this work, "Zilpah" in The Collected Dramatic Works of John Symonds, Volume Two: The Lunatic Asylum is on Fire!; Zilpah (coll 1982) is a Ruritanian Satire set in the Near Future. The Collected Dramatic Works, which extends to twenty-five privately printed volumes, may contain further sf drama. [JC]

John Symonds

born London: 12 March 1914

died London: 21 October 2006

works (highly selected)

stories and plays (highly selected)


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