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Cooper, Susan

(1935-    ) UK journalist, academic and author; in the USA from 1963. In her first novel, Mandrake (1964), which is sf, the eponymous politician takes over a distressed Near-Future England and, in mystical league with the forces of Nature, begins the process of cleansing the Earth of Man, but is stopped just in time. From that point, Cooper has written mostly fantasy, chiefly for Young Adult readers, some of it of the highest quality: in particular, The Dark Is Rising sequence – comprising Over Sea, Under Stone (1965), The Dark Is Rising (1973), Greenwitch (1974), The Grey King (1975) and Silver on the Tree (1977), all assembled as The Dark Is Rising Sequence (omni 1984) – is perhaps the most distinguished of the mythological fantasy series which, following the success of J R R Tolkien's work, were published in a spate during the 1960s and 1970s. The principal Hero of the series, Will Stanton, is at once a small boy and a vessel of ancient powers, for this reason escaping (and sometimes perpetrating) the Memory Edits that limit his intimates' understanding of events, and Cooper shows great skill in blending in him a perfectly natural, unsentimentalized, childish innocence and the sophistication of a mage. The series owes much to Anglo-Saxon and Celtic Mythology, and clearly addresses the Matter of Britain [for Matter see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] but also uses such sf tropes as Alternate History, Time Paradoxes, Timeslips and time stasis (see Stasis Field); the final volume features a notable Technofantasy sequence in which series cast members assemble, en route to the last battle, on a railway train (see Transportation) traversing various realities.

Dawn of Fear (1970) is an effective though nonfantastic Young Adult novel set during World War Two. Seaward (1983) once again utilizes Celtic material, this time in a dark hegira into the world of death. King of Shadows (1999), a Timeslip tale moving between 1999 and 1599 London, in which William Shakespeare plays a part; Green Boy (2002), which incorporates an sf-like Dystopian Alternate History; and Victory (2006), another Timeslip fantasy. The most deeply engaging of her later works for Young Adult readers may be Ghost Hawk (2013), a dark ghost story set initially in what would be known as New England after its white occupiers had successfully violated any treaties agreed with any Native American Nations in their path; the relationship between Little Hawk and an English boy becomes supernatural after the former's death, and matures through time, until Little Hawk finds himself communing with a young woman in a diminished twentieth century world. Several of Cooper's other titles, listed below but not discussed here and including three very brief chapbooks, are designed for younger children.

Of her nonfiction, J.B. Priestley: Portrait of an Author (1970) is sympathetic and insightful (see J B Priestley). Susan Cooper was honoured with the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 2013. [JC/DRL/PN]

see also: Children's SF.

Susan Mary Cooper

born Burnham, Buckinghamshire: 23 May 1935

works (highly selected)


The Dark Is Rising

The Boggart

individual titles


about the author


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 16:47 pm on 18 January 2022.