Bramah, Ernest

Tagged: Author

Working name of UK author Ernest Brammah Smith (1868-1942) for all his writing; he is best-known for two series, the Max Carrados books about a blind detective, all of whose Perceptions (except sight) are enormously enhanced [see Checklist], and a series of tales in which the Chinese Kai Lung tells stories – often to stave off some unpleasant fate, like Scheherazade. Although only two Carrados stories contain supernatural elements, the blind hero's extraordinary abilities – such as reading small print with his fingertips and shooting accurately at targets perceived only by sound – verge upon Superpowers. The China which Kai Lung inhabits has numerous features of the fantasy Land of Fable, and many of the embedded tales are fantasy; all are told in an ornate manner which ironically, often hilariously, exaggerates the old Chinese tradition of understatement and politesse. The main sequence begins with The Wallet of Kai Lung (coll 1900; cut vt The Transmutation of Ling 1911 chap) and ends with Kai Lung Beneath the Mulberry-Tree (coll 1940); of the posthumous collections [see Checklist], Kai Lung Raises His Voice (coll 2010) usefully assembles all the remaining series stories.

Bramah's one sf novel is What Might Have Been: The Story of a Social War (1907 anonymous; cut rev vt The Secret of the League: The Story of a Social War 1909 as by Bramah), is set in an Alternate History version of Britain in 1907 under the rule of a socialist government. In his preface to the tale, Bramah joshingly suggests several Jonbar Points to explain his world, the most recent being Napoleon's victory at Waterloo. The Satire of the left (and indeed the right) may seem moderately tedious, as it extends for many pages; but some of the Technology is of interest, including a telephone system that sends faxes, and solo Flying via belted-on mechanical wings (with accompanying English concern for propriety: "Hastings permitted mixed flying."). The sequel, a brief Future War tale called "The War Hawks" (September 1909 Pall Mall Magazine), is collected in The Specimen Case (coll 1924). A Little Flutter (1930), though making considerable play with an unlikely five-foot-two-inch (1.6 metres) bird known as the Patagonian Groo-Groo, is essentially a nonfantastic social comedy, complete with side-swipes at George Bernard Shaw. [JC/DRL]

Ernest Brammah Smith

born Manchester, England: 20 March 1868

died Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset: 23 June 1942



Kai Lung

Max Carrados

individual titles

about the author


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