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Warner, Rex

Working name of UK author and translator Reginald Ernest Warner (1905-1986) who remains best known for his earliest novels for adults, The Wild Goose Chase (1937), The Professor (1938) and The Aerodrome: A Love Story (1941), political allegories some of whose devices evoke the Kafka-esque side of sf (see Absurdist SF; Fabulation). In The Wild Goose Chase, three brothers cycle into a strange country in search of the eponymous goose, a quest which immerses them in a surreal bureaucracy much resembling that found in Kafka's Das Schloss (1926; trans Edwin Muir and Willa Muir as The Castle 1930). In this case, however, the search is bathetically terminable, and the brothers participate in a revolution – which ultimately they cause to triumph – in a Dystopian society; the influence of W H Auden can also be detected. The Dystopia described in The Professor abstractly Satirizes Nazi Germany, a world where the eponym's liberal values are useless against any exercise of force.

Building on this saddened treatment of 1930s liberalism, and similarly reversing the optimism inherent in the typical Pax Aeronautica tale of that era, The Aerodrome: A Love Story depicts within the allegorical confines of two contrasting Zones – a traditional English village and an adjacent aerodrome (see Keep) – a remorselessly Dystopian attempt at violently remoulding human nature towards an insensate materialism, with women officially assigned to be used for pleasure but not procreation (see Women in SF): only in this way, the "Air Vice Marshall" who rules the aerodrome tells the protagonist, can we make ourselves fit to crush the foe. As common in the debate that climaxes this not untypical Scientific Romance, the dictatorial antagonist is maleficently convincing, but does not win the heart of the book.

Why Was I Killed?: A Dramatic Dialogue (1943; vt Return of the Traveller 1944) begins as a Posthumous Fantasy [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] but becomes a symposium in which a dead soldier interrogates various live men and women. Men of Stones: A Melodrama (1949) sets an exorbitant production of William Shakespeare's King Lear (performed circa 1605-1606; first text 1608) on an Island penitentiary in an unnamed country after a civil war. Warner was always clear about which side he espoused in these metaphysical conflicts, a didactic sidedness which sometimes evidently detracted from the imaginative power of his fiction. Men and Gods (1950; rev 1959), a retelling of Greek myths and legends, observes this long entanglement with a similar clarity. [JC]

see also: History of SF.

Reginald Ernest Warner

born Amberley, Gloucestershire: 9 March 1905

died Wallingford, Oxfordshire: 24 June 1986

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Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 05:46 am on 19 June 2024.
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