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Thomson, Rupert

Entry updated 28 February 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1955-    ) UK author, active from around 1987, the abrupt expressionist shiftings of whose novels sometimes allow them to be seen in terms of Fantastika, though this can be a semblance, and an occasional tint of allegory can signal the Mainstream Writer of SF. The infant Moses, protagonist of his first novel, Dreams of Leaving (1987), is floated down a river towards London, the only inhabitant of his isolated village ever permitted to leave it. Funerals of the rich, in The Five Gates of Hell (1991), are conducted at sea accompanied by rituals: those who paint themselves blue, as required, remain blue forever. In Air & Fire (1993) a French couple attempt to transform a small town in nineteenth century Mexico into a minute replica of Paris, importing for this purpose 2,348 pieces of cast iron designed by Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923); analogues with the contemporary erection of the Statue of Liberty are clearly permissible within a Magic Realist frame announced as early as the first sentence of the tale: "The sea had turned red overnight." In The Insult (1996) a man, who has been suddenly blinded, must disguise the recovery of his sight from sceptical doctors, as he is able to see only at night. Soft! (1998) verges on the fantastic in its depiction of the Subliminal marketing (see Media Landscape) of an illegally addictive soft drink called Kwench!.

Of direct sf interest is Divided Kingdom (2005), a surreally diagrammatic Dystopia set in a theoretically Near Future Britain (see Absurdist SF). After its recent Rearrangement, London and its hinterlands are divided, according to the mediaeval Theory of Humours, into four quarters or regions, each irradiated by a particular colour: Red, Blue,Yellow, Green [for Colour-Coding see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The arbitrariness of this structuring – ostensibly to defuse society of its querulous greed and disunity – and the game-like moves of a plot which ricochets its protagonist through all four quarters, evoke a sense that some Godgame is being enacted. If this is the case, the magus at the heart of the web does not reveal himself.

After Death of a Murderer (2007), in which a haunting may only be imagined, and other books without clear without fantastic content, Katherine Carlyle (2015) describes the young adulthood of its protagonist who, born late after being maintained in Cryogenic storage as an embryo, decides to erase her Identity and to plumb her nature without strings attached. The seeming derangedness of her quest soon evolves and tightens into stressed coherence: Thomson's worlds may be too harshly delineated to make "normal" sense, but his stories can be followed into these regions. Slightly more straightforwardly, NVK (2020) as by Temple Drake – Thomson here taking the name of the tortured female protagonist of Sanctuary (1931) by William Faulkner (1897-1962) – is a Vampire tale set in contemporary China. Barcelona Dreaming (coll of linked novellas 2021) treats its seemingly fantasticated portrait of the dream-dense City as literally true. [JC]

Rupert William Farquhar Thomson

born Eastbourne, East Sussex: 5 November 1955

works (selected)


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