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Palmer, Stephen

(1962-    ) UK musician and author whose first sf novel, Memory Seed (1996), depicts the remnants of Homo sapiens, now restricted to a Keep-like decaying City after profound Climate Change – caused mainly by over-exploitation of the planet – has turned the outside world into wilderness overrun with Genetically Engineered flora and fauna. His second novel, Glass (1997), which is independent of the first though set in the same city of Cray, depicts a plague that transforms everything it touches into something like glass. The consort of AIs that govern the city are so concerned about the plague that they ignore a strange astronomical phenomenon: the sudden appearance of a mirror in orbit, suggesting that the inhabitants of the city are being subjected to an experiment: that Cyberspace perhaps encompasses them. A circumambient information network also operates in Muezzinland (2002), set in a distant Near Future Earth where, after the breakdown of traditional First World hegemony over the mauled planet, Africa has become dominant. The hi-tech pursuit of her daughters by the nearly all-powerful Empress of Ghana towards the mysterious Muezzinland conflates family romance and planetary dominion: leaving again a sense that these human protagonists are being operated within a Virtual Reality surround that they cannot control. Flowercrash (2002), set in a very much more distant future, describes a Britain sustained by an intertwining quasi-sentient network of profoundly deeply rooted flowers (see Biology) that has evolved after the savageries of inflicted Climate Change; the plot, involving Cyborgs and conflicted humans, leads once again to Paranoia: to a sense of imprisonment. Again set in a mutated Britain, Hallucinating (2004) deals with an Invasion of Aliens, who may be illusory. Urbis Morpheos (2010) is set again on an Earth devastated by the failure of humanity to understand the Ecological implications of the twenty-first century exploitation of remaining resources, though the tale takes place in the Far Future, where a semi-sentient natural system is opposed to a high-tech, machine-driven rump. Palmer's unwavering focus on planetary issues in an epoch of crisis clearly lost him many readers; his continuing efforts to convey his message are all the more welcome.

Hairy London (2014) suggests some relaxing of this adamancy; set in a Steampunk London, though the waves of hair that literally immerse the city are anything but merciful. The Factory Girl Trilogy beginning with The Girl with Two Souls (2016) shares a similar venue; the protagonist of the sequence, a young woman who has perhaps been possessed by a Doppelganger within, battles incarceration and deeper horrors at the hands of a villainous industrialist, whose factory Keep – which is guarded by his AI-driven Robots – she and her colleagues must assault. However, Androids created at the same time and location, are induced to revolt (see Slavery) by Lenin (1870-1924), though they are deflected through their absorption in the false solaces of fake Religion.

Palmer has not, at the same time, moved decisively away from singletons. The Beautiful Intelligence sequence beginning with Beautiful Intelligence (2015) is set in a Near Future world where vying high-tech firms have vied to develop the first self-aware AI, in each case housing them in Robots. Tommy Catkins (2018) follows the aftermath life of a wounded veteran of World War One, and the attempts of dwellers in a Parallel World called Onderwater (see Under the Sea) to persuade him to leave this vale of tears: for he will find no comfort in England. The Conscientious Objector (2020), set in an Alternate History version of (again) World War One, is an exercise in Steampunk, featuring polished Automata, grandiose Teutonic plunges into the no man's land of Eugenics, Amazons (see Women in SF), and a contemplative corps of angels of Mons. [JC]

Stephen Palmer

born Harpenden, Hertfordshire: 1962



Factory Girl Trilogy

Beautiful Intelligence

individual titles



Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 01:51 am on 12 August 2022.