MAYNE, William (James Carter)

MAYNE, William (James Carter)
   UK author of nearly 100 children's books. These are sometimes realistic, sometimes - especially his later work - fantastic; the fantasies, however, are treated in so down-to-earth a manner that more often than not they naturalize the supernatural. His style, which is sophisticated and sometimes oblique, is found difficult by some children; others love him, as do the many critics who see WM as perhaps the most distinguished living UK writer of children's fiction, regardless of genre. His first book was Follow the Footprints (1953), the earliest of the manytreasure-hunt stories he was to write.WM has written very little pure sf, and even Earthfasts (1966), his book most commonly spoken of in an sf context, is as much FANTASY as sf in its fine tale of an 18th-century drummer boy emerging from a present-day mound and being befriended by a sceptical youth who feels impelled to interpret this and other fantastic intrusions in scientific terms. The actual sf story Skiffy (1972) and its sequel Skiffy and the Twin Planets (1982), for rather younger children, while interesting - especially the latter - are not the equal of his best work. WM's fiction typically (in a great variety of ways) depicts the past impinging on the present, often as a kind of mystery to be decoded; his work tends to climax in epiphanies where a chaotic present day is suddenly illuminated in this way; some of his books feature psychic TIME TRAVEL and ESP. His young-adult fiction is adult in every sense except the youthfulconsciousnesses of its protagonists, and deserves wider currency among the adult readership.Among WM's most highly regarded books, mostly for older children, all of them containing fantastic elements (some very obviously, some crucially but near-invisibly) are A Grass Rope (1957), The Glass Ball (1961), Over the Hills and Far Away (1968; vt The Hill Road 1969 US), AGame of Dark (1971), The Jersey Shore (1973), A Year and a Day (1976), IT (1977), All the King's Men (coll 1982), Gideon Ahoy (1987),Antar and the Eagles (1989), The Farm That Ran Out of Names (1990 chap) and Low Tide (1992). Some books written ostensibly for younger children - like The Book of Hob Stories (omni 1991), which assembles four earlier pamphlets: The Blue Book of Hob Stories (coll 1984 chap), The Green Book of Hob Stories(coll 1984 chap), The Red Book of Hob Stories (coll 1984 chap) and The Yellow Book of Hob Stories (coll 1984 chap), followed by Hob and the Goblins (1993); and The Blemyah Stories (coll 1987) - are no more conventional children's literature than is the late work of Alan GARNER.
   See also: CHILDREN'S SF.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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