KERSH, Gerald


KERSH, Gerald
(1911-1968)
   UK writer-born in the county of Middlesex, despite stories that he was born in Russia-active from the mid-1930s, very prolific in shorter forms; known mainly for such work outside the sf field as Night and the City (1938) and They Die with their Boots Clean (1941). Many of his numerous short stories are sf or fantasy, and had their original book appearance in collections such as The Horrible Dummy and Other Stories (coll 1944), The Battle of the Singing Men (coll 1944 chap),Neither Mannor Dog (coll 1946), Sad Road to the Sea (coll 1947), The Brighton Monster (coll 1953), Men without Bones (coll 1955 UK; with differing contents, rev1962 US), The Ugly Face of Love (coll 1960), The Terribly Wild Flowers (coll 1962) and The Hospitality of Miss Tolliver (coll 1965). Two US compilations, On an Odd Note (coll 1958 US) and Nightshade and Damnations (coll 1968 US), the latter ed Harlan ELLISON, conveniently abstract someof GK's fantasies and sf from his other short stories, which often take the shape of anecdotes told to a narrator (sometimes identified as GK himself), so that much of his work tends to verge upon the tall-tale or CLUB-STORY genre; The Best of Gerald Kersh (coll 1960) is more general. In"Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo?" (1953) the corporal tells GK of his 500 years of soldier life following a mysterious cure given to him about 1537 (IMMORTALITY). "Voices in the Dust of Annan" (1947) is a post- HOLOCAUST tale starring fairies. In "Men without Bones" a tropicalexplorer tells us of a species of loathsome invertebrates, adding the hypothesis that we are really Martians.GK's novels are perhaps less impressive. The Weak and the Strong (1945) grotesquely carries its cast - trapped underground - into claustrophobic fantasy realms, and An Ape, a Dog, and a Serpent: A Fantastic Novel (1945) fabulates a history offilm-making with borderline sf elements. The Great Wash (1953; vt The Secret Masters 1953 US) is an sf novel in which the usual narrator - GK -becomes gradually involved in a plot to inundate most of the world and to rule the remains on authoritarian lines. The subplot of Brock (1969) revolves around a new form of nuclear explosive. But GK's strengths as an author are everywhere evident: a strong and vivid sense of character, a colourful style and a capacity to infuse his stories with a deep emotional charge (sometimes sentimentalized). He has strong admirers.
   JC
   See also: HORROR IN SF; HUMOUR.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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