BELL, Neil

BELL, Neil
   Pseudonym of UK writer Stephen Southwold (1887-1964), used on his early poetry and most of his later novels. Born Stephen Henry Critten, he took the name Southwold (from his birthplace) because he despised his father, for reasons made clear in the semi-autobiographical chapters which recur in many of his novels, including Precious Porcelain (1931) and The Lord of Life (1933). He wrote juveniles and a few biographical novels under his adopted name, and also used the pseudonyms Stephen Green, S.H. Lambert, Paul Martens and Miles. His first sf novel, The Seventh Bowl (1930 as by Miles; reprinted 1934 as by NB), is a bitter future HISTORY in which the deployment of a technology of IMMORTALITY by corrupt politicians sets in train a chain of events leading to the END OF THE WORLD. His second, The Gas War of 1940 (1931 as by Miles; vt Valiant Clay 1934 as by NB), gives a more detailed account of an incident - the use of poison gas in war - from the same future history. The caustic outlook of these works is displayed also in the apocalyptic black comedy The Lord of Life and in the stories in his first and best collection, Mixed Pickles: Short Stories (coll 1935); these include the sf stories "The Mouse" and "The Evanescence of Adrian Fulk" and the sarcastic messianic fantasy (MESSIAHS) "The Facts About Benjamin Crede" (also in Ten Short Stories, coll 1948).Precious Porcelain, The Disturbing Affair of Noel Blake (1932) and Life Comes to Seathorpe (1946) are three similarly structured mystery stories in which peculiar happenings are ultimately revealed to have an sf explanation. Death Rocks the Cradle (1933 as by Martens) is a hallucinatory fantasy about a UTOPIA populated by covert sadists. One Came Back (1938) is an interesting realistic novel which extends into the NEAR FUTURE in describing the founding of a new RELIGION following an apparent miracle. Occasional sf or fantasy stories crop up in NB's later collections, most significantly the first of the three horror novellas in Who Walk in Fear (coll 1954) and several items in Alpha and Omega (coll 1946); the latter collection includes an introduction descriptive of his working methods. His quirky studies in abnormal psychology, including Portrait of Gideon Power (1944 as by Lambert; reprinted 1962 as by NB) and The Dark Page (1951), are of marginal interest.
   Other works: Ten-Minute Tales (coll 1927 as by Southwold), children's fantasy stories; The Tales of Joe Egg (coll 1936 as by Southwold), a non-sf juvenile story sequence narrated by a ROBOTwithin a fantasy frame; The Smallways Rub Along (coll 1938) has 1 sf story; Forty Stories (coll 1948) has 2 sf stories; Three Pair of Heels (coll 1951); The House at the Crossroads (1966); The Ninth Earl of Whitby (coll 1966) has 1 sf story.
   About the author: My Writing Life (1955), autobiography.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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