Gilbert, Stephen

Tagged: Author

(1912-2010) Irish businessman, journalist and author whose first novel, The Landslide (1943), is of sf interest, being a Parallel-World fantasy of some complexity in which primeval eggs, exposed by the titular event, begin to hatch into dragons; his second sf novel, Monkeyface (1948), movingly explores the familiar territory of the self-aware ape (see Apes as Human); his third, The Burnaby Experiments: An Account of the Life and Work of John Burnaby and Marcus Brownlow (1952), examines "psychic translocation", a kind of Teleportation via dreams. For the next fifteen years he concentrated on his family firm, McCausland's, which he had joined in the 1930s.

There is at this point a confusion in the printed record. The name Stephen Gilbert is not a pseudonym; nor was Gilbert himself an obscure figure: his well-attested life and career in the UK included a role in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Northern Ireland, of which he was a founding member (a full obituary appears in The Independent for 2 July 2010). However, his next novel, Ratman's Notebooks (1968; vt Willard 1969), has erroneously been ascribed to Northern Ireland-born writer Gilbert Alexander Ralston (1912-1999), using "Stephen Gilbert" as a pseudonym. Ralston did write under his own name the screenplay for Willard (1971), the film of the 1968 novel (he later wrote several Westerns, all under his own name; he lived in America for many years, and was active in the film industry). The two writers may have been confused because of Willard, and perhaps because Ralston also seems to have been born in County Down, Northern Ireland, in 1912. Gilbert's novel, in any case, is fundamentally a competent horror tale (see Horror in SF): Ratman conceives a special relationship with rats, comes precariously to dominate and commune with them, and leads their vengeful incursions on the world at large; but there is a comeuppance as they gain Intelligence.

Additionally, Stephen Gilbert should not be confused with the painter Stephen Gilbert (1910-2007), the mystery writer Michael Gilbert (1912-2006), both similarly long-lived, or the playwright, theatre critic and journalist W Stephen Gilbert. [JC]

Stephen Gilbert

born Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland: 22 July 1912

died Whiteabbey, Northern Ireland: 23 June 2010

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