Cooper, Edmund

Tagged: Author

(1926-1982) UK author who served in the British Merchant Navy 1944-1945, and who edited Review Fifty (three issues, Winter 1950-Spring 1951), contributing some material to the journal; he began to publish stories of genre interest with "The Unicorn" for Everybody's in 1951, producing a considerable amount of short fiction in the 1950s, much of it assembled (with considerable overlap) in Tomorrow's Gift (coll 1958), Voices in the Dark (coll 1960) and Tomorrow Came (coll 1963). His early pseudonyms included George Kinley, under which name he published his first sf novel, Ferry Rocket (1954), Martin Lester and Broderick Quain; for the later Expendables sf adventure series [for all titles see Checklist below] he used the name Richard Avery, the name of the protagonist of an earlier novel under his own name, Transit (1964). For many years (1967-1980) he was an influential reviewer of sf for The Sunday Times in London. His story "Invisible Boy" (23 June 1956 Saturday Evening Post; vt "The Brain Child" in Tomorrow's Gift, coll 1958) was the basis of the film The Invisible Boy (1957).

It was as a novelist that Cooper became most highly regarded, and it was for his earlier novels that he was most appreciated; his first novel under his own name, Deadly Image (1958; vt The Uncertain Midnight 1958), vividly describes a post-holocaust world in which Androids are gradually threatening to supplant humankind. But even in the 1950s, Cooper's sense of things was sharply – sometimes amusingly – dyspeptic, with the clear exemption of the cast of Seed of Light (1959) is a Generation-Starship novel in which a small group manages to escape from a devastated Post-Holocaust Earth. A later work like The Overman Culture (1971) shows (if reluctant) facility in newer modes, particularly in its depiction of London as an artificial Keep in which the last humans, reproduced from something resembling DNA, are meant to begin to breed again. The breeding stock theme is repeated in Slaves of Heaven (1974), in which females surviving on a Ruined Earth are periodically abducted by Robots to keep a Homo sapiens elite genetically viable in their luxurious Space Station. Cooper's bleak depiction of Androids hints at a continuing lack of trust in progress; in his persistent use as well of Post-Holocaust settings (following nuclear war) he was probably expressing his own conviction about the future course of events. Other novels to incorporate the basic premise that the planet has been rendered to a greater or lesser degree uninhabitable include The Last Continent (1969), The Tenth Planet (1973) and The Cloud Walker (1973), which was his best received novel (certainly in the USA) and the last to be much praised. Its message was perhaps conventional, but was competently delivered: even though two nuclear Holocausts have afflicted England, the Luddite response of a new church is inappropriate, and the young protagonist properly wins the day with an Invention – a hot-air Balloon – which he uses to defend his village from assailants. As the novel closes, the march of progress is seen to resume.

In general, however, Cooper's later work lacked much joie de vivre, and although accusations that he was anti-Feminist have been denied by some critics, it remains the case that his statement about women in a man's world – "Let them compete against men, they'll see that they can't make it" – is difficult to spin into a very useful contribution to the long debate. A persistent edginess about women in power becomes explicit in Five to Twelve (1968) and Who Needs Men? (1972; vt Gender Genocide 1973), and surfaces less aggressively in Merry Christmas, Ms Minerva! (1978), a Near Future tale set in a Britain dominated by trade unions. These attitudes were neither politic, in the heightened atmosphere of the 1970s, nor in fact intrinsically becoming. Cooper died with his reputation at a low ebb; but he was a competent and prolific writer, and a better balance may some day be reached. [MJE/JC]

see also: Anthropology; Disaster; Outer Planets; Science Fiction Book Club; Sex; Sociology.

Edmund Cooper

born Marple, Cheshire: 30 April 1926

died Chichester, Sussex: 11 March 1982

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James Goddard. "Hope for the Future: The Science Fiction Novels of Edmund Cooper" and "An Interview with Edmund Cooper" (April 1975 Science Fiction Monthly vol 2 #4) [mag/]

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