Eddison, E R

Tagged: Author

(1882-1945) UK civil servant, author and scholar of Old Norse, whose first work of fiction and most famous single work, The Worm Ouroboros: A Romance (1922), is an erudite Heroic Fantasy written in a potently archaized English which plays off (but does not ape) the Jacobean style and matter of authors like John Webster (circa 1579-?1638), though the most direct influence on its actual structure may be H Rider Haggard's Eric Brighteyes (1890). The notional protagonist, Lessingham, is transported from Earth to a version of Mercury far more deeply irradiated by fantasy than normal in even the more extravagant Planetary Romances; here it will be his primary function to observe mighty conflicts, heraldic battles and quests, and magical turns of plot, all destined to recur forever, as the title implies. The Zimiamvian trilogy, whose internal chronology reverses that of publication, is made up of The Mezentian Gate (1958), posthumously assembled, A Fish Dinner in Memison (1941) and Mistress of Mistresses: A Vision of Zimiamvia (1935); all three are assembled as Zimiamvia: A Trilogy (omni 1992). Beyond the presence of Lessingham, who has become (like all the cast) an avatar of the divine, the sequence's main connection with The Worm Ouroboros is that it is set in a (Platonic) heaven of the earlier novel full of echoes of Ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy; the sequence shares some characteristics of the Afterlife Fantasy. The tales are discursive, metaphysical, learned, linguistically adventurous and engrossing.

Even earlier in life than J R R Tolkien or Austin Tappan Wright, Eddison had engaged in private world-building games, and had laid down long before their publication much of the raw material from which his mature novels would grow. As with Tolkien and others, the apocalypse of World War One was creatively energizing, and The Worm Ouroboros was began consciously in reaction to the end of the old Europe. Eddison's influence on the sf genre comes partly through the indirect but potent example of his world-building response to the progress of the twentieth century, and partly through the powerful example of his language, the sustained "otherness" of his creation. [JC]

see also: Fantasy; The Inklings; Sword and Sorcery.

Eric Rücker Eddison

born Adel, Yorkshire: 24 November 1882

died Marlborough, Wiltshire: 18 August 1945

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