JONES, Diana Wynne

JONES, Diana Wynne
   UK writer whose name is sometimes incorrectly rendered as Diana Wynne-Jones, although not on her books; probably the premier UK writer of children's FANTASY today. She began her writing career as a playwright, with three plays produced in London 1967-70, then published her first novel (for adults and not sf), Changeover (1970). Her second, Wilkin's Tooth (1973; vt Witch's Business 1974 US), was for children (as opposed toteenagers), as were her next half-dozen or so. She hit her stride with her third novel, The Ogre Downstairs (1974), which is very funny indeed about the results of children playing with a magic alchemy set while at the same time dealing honestly and movingly with some quite difficult human problems. DWJ went on to write stories which, no matter how indirect or devious their plots, always maintain an extraordinarily clearsighted directness about sometimes painful human relationships.All her work for children is fantastic, and most is shot through with HUMOUR; some is fantasy with sf elements (precognition, ALTERNATE WORLDS); some is borderline sf; some is sf proper. Dogsbody (1975), borderline sf, features the incarnation of the star Sirius, exiled for an alleged murder, into the body of a terrestrial dog. The Homeward Bounders (1981) features a child trapped in a seemingly endless series of PARALLEL WORLDS. Perhaps DWJ's best sf novel is Archer's Goon (1984), a splendidly convoluted mystery involving TIME PARADOXES, alternate worlds, PARANOIA, writer's block and a cheerful thug; it was dramatized by the BBC as a six-part tv serial in 1992. A Tale of Time City (1987), her most overtly sciencefictional story,concerns a city outside time having trouble with the fabric of reality as it sends patrollers up and down the time-stream.Fine fantasies from the 1970s include: Eight Days of Luke (1975), which has Norse gods amusinglymanifest on Earth; the Dalemark sequence, comprising Cart and Cwidder (1975), Drowned Ammet (1977), The Spellcoats (1979) - one of her bestbooks, being set in the mythic prehistory of the other two - and The Crown of Dalemark (1993); and Power of Three (1976), which regards humans from an alien (or fairy) perspective.Through the 1980s DWJ's target audience seemed, mostly, to become older. This is the case with The Time of the Ghost (1981), perhaps her darkest work, and especially of her movingreworking of the old ballad "Tam Lin" in Fire and Hemlock (1985). Other good books of the period include the intricate Howl's Moving Castle (1986) and its sequel Castle in the Air (1990). Her best-known series is the Chrestomanci sequence: Charmed Life (1977), The Magicians of Caprona(1980), Witch Week (1982) and The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988 US); Chrestomanci is an enchanter who polices MAGIC across the parallel worlds. Black Maria (1991; vt Aunt Maria 1991 US) has children trapped in a seaside town held under the magical sway of their appalling aunt.Hidden Turnings (anth 1989) is an ORIGINAL ANTHOLOGY of fantasy stories forteenagers. A new departure is DWJ's fantasy for adults A Sudden Wild Magic (1992 US), in which an alternate world planet has been using Earth as atesting ground, thus generating much of the strife and tragedy of Earth's history.
   Other works: Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? (1978 chap); The Four Grannies (1980 chap); Warlock at the Wheel, and Other Stories (coll 1984), containing a Chrestomanci story; The Skivers' Guide (1984); Wild Robert (1989 chap); Chair Person (1989 chap); Hexwood (1993); Fantasy Stories(anth 1994), containing reprints.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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