MACHEN, Arthur
(1863-1947) Welsh writer, translator and actor, born Arthur Llewellyn Jones, his parents adding Machen apparently in an attempt to please a rich relative. AM was an isolated, lonely child, and was from a very early age deeply devoted both to romantic literature and to the Welsh landscape that visually dominated his writings all his life. He also imaginatively applied his extensive if somewhat random readings in the occult and metaphysics to his Welsh background. He was in London for long periods from 1880. The death of his father in 1887 provided him with enough money to marry and to write, but by the end of the century he was once again poverty-stricken. He went on the stage for much of the following decade, and for the rest of his life did a great deal of hackwork. By the time he was rediscovered in the 1920s he was near retirement and no longer capable of producing high-calibre material.With influences ranging from William MORRIS to Robert Louis STEVENSON and associations from John Lane's BodleyHead (at the time it was publishing The Yellow Book) to the Order of the Golden Dawn (whose occultist members included Algernon BLACKWOOD, W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) and Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), and throughout embodying a conviction that DEVOLUTION and racial degeneracy were scientific facts (his Faerie represents a degenerated race in Britain), AM's fiction generally shies clear of sf as practised in thelate-Victorian and Edwardian UK; most of his best tales are horror or occult fantasies. They tend to be set in a medievalized England with Welsh tinges, those set in London being irradiated by deeply romantic visions of alternatives to the industrial world which he saw dominating England, and despised: in both his work and his appearance he resembled a malefic G.K. CHESTERTON. "The Great God Pan", the title story of The Great God Pan andThe Inmost Light (coll 1894; exp 1926), is typical of Victorian sf/horror at about the time sf was beginning to shed its GOTHIC elements into a separate HORROR/fantasy genre. The story begins with an sf rationale (brain surgery) for a metamorphosis which remains one of the mostdramatically horrible and misogynistic in fiction: the evil female offspring of the operated-on idiot girl grows into a malign being, apparently a woman, but actually a half-human horror whose father may have been the horned god of the story's title. The Terror: A Fantasy (1917; rev 1927) is quasi-sf in its story of animals turning against humans. Throughwork of this sort, AM's influence, via H.P. LOVECRAFT and others, has been strong on 20th-century GOTHIC SF.Volumes in which fantasy predominates include The Chronicle of Clemendy (coll 1888), The Three Impostors, or The Transmutations (coll 1895; vt Black Crusade 1966), The House of Souls(coll 1906), The Hill of Dreams (1907), The Angels of Mons, The Bowmen and Other Legends of the War (coll 1915), The Great Return (1915 chap), The Secret Glory (1922), The Shining Pyramid (coll 1923), The Glorious Mystery (coll 1924, partly nonfiction), Ornaments in Jade (coll 1924 US), Dreads and Drolls (coll 1927), The Green Round (1933), The Cosy Room (coll 1936), The Children of the Pool, and Other Stories (coll 1936), Holy Terrors(coll 1946), Tales of Horror and the Supernatural (coll 1948 US) and The Collected Arthur Machen (coll 1988).
   About the author: A Bibliography of Arthur Machen (1965) by Adrian Goldstone and Wesley Sweetser.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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