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Williams, Heathcote

Entry updated 8 June 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1941-2017) UK poet, playwright, actor, political activist and author, initially notable in sf circles for his connections with the 1960s British New Wave, though he did not contribute material to its typical outlets; most of his work was, in fact, technically nonfantastic, though his plays – like his most famous, AC/DC (first performed Royal Court Theatre, London, 1970; in Gambit International Theatre Review, coll 1971) – were often so flamboyantly transgressive that they could be mistaken for a maddened verisimilitude of the days to come. One of his plays, however, The Immortalist (performed 1977; 1978 chap), consists of an interview with its 278-year-old protagonist (see Immortality), whose views are scarifying (see Satire).

Autogeddon (1991), a book-length heavily illustrated quasi-narrative poem (a length and form not usual in contemporary Poetry), treats the historically very rapid rise of the automobile as a metastatic invasion of the planet (see Transportation), an apocalyptic take that may be derived in part from Williams's unmade screenplay, with the collaboration of J G Ballard, for Crash (1974 chap); the later version directed by David Cronenberg is unconnected. Ballard's nonfiction piece "Autopia or Autogeddon" (29 November 1984 Guardian) was a direct influence. Autogeddon itself, which inspired the Julian Cope album Autogeddon (1994), iconographically much closer to Mad Max (1979) directed by George Miller than to Genre SF, not to the credit of the latter. [JC]

John Henry Jasper Heathcote-Williams

born Helsby, Cheshire: 15 November 1941

died Oxford, Oxfordshire: 1 July 2017

works (highly selected)

  • The Immortalist (London: Calder & Boyars, 1978) [play: chap: first performed 1977 Crucible Theatre, Sheffield: pb/]
  • Crash! (no place given: for the authors, 1984) with J G Ballard and David Essinger [filmscript: film not made: Ballard's input may have been vicarious: pb/]
  • Autogeddon (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991) [book-length poem: hb/]

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