Gloag, John

Tagged: Author

(1896-1981) UK author, whose World War One experiences in the trenches – he was gassed by his own side – deeply affected his work. Though he wrote several novels, he was primarily active, from 1921, in the fields of social history, architecture and design, and his first work of sf interest was the nonfiction Artifex; Or, the Future of Craftsmanship (1926 chap), an early contribution to its publisher's To-day and To-morrow series, in which he argues that civilization might crumble from lack of skilled workers after some future war. His first sf novel, To-morrow's Yesterday (1932; exp vt as coll First One and Twenty: An Omnibus Volume Including To-Morrow's Yesterday and Twenty Short Stories 1946) is strongly influenced by H G Wells's The Time Machine (1895) and by his friend Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men (1930); it is a satirical critique of contemporary society as viewed by our successors, a race of cat people who have mastered Time Travel in order to explore conditions in 1932 and 1963, during which period a great war causes the collapse of civilization. In the lightly-told The New Pleasure (1933) a chemical is used to heighten the sense of smell, which becomes (see Biology; Sex) the primary governor of sexual selection in humans, and also heightens olfactory discrimination, so that the uglinesses of the industrial revolution are repudiated, and the cast ascends the Thames towards a rural Utopia. The British government, in the Satirical Near Future Winter's Youth (1934), attempts to remain in office first by patriotic touting what turns out to be a forged Fifth Gospel focused on ancient Britain, and then via a Rejuvenation process partially based on Serge Voronoff's monkey glands, but more sophisticated. The aspirational Secret Masters of the British Medical Association hope to create a Eugenically-sound society by restricting access to this Nordelf process to elderly white males with the proper credentials, but these gentlemen suffer what amounts to Devolution, turning into bloodthirsty sexual predators with a taste for flagellation. Much of the tale is focused on press manipulations (see Media Landscape) of the mounting chaos; the unrestricted use of Radiant Inflammatol, a weapon using Nuclear Energy, soon generates a disastrous Future War in the 1960s, an outcome commonly found in the 1930s Scientific Romance, to which form he was an essential contributor. The survivors resume life as before.

In Manna (1940), the first of Gloag's novels to be published after the war, which he had predicted several times, had actually begun, a fungus that appeases hunger creates a lethargic population, bad news for the war effort. Time manipulation features prominently in several short stories and, through a Drug capable of unlocking ancestral memories, in the novel 99% (1944). His further novels, again with strong satirical overtones, are chiefly concerned with the effect of new discoveries on society. Slow (1954) is a Technothriller about the misuse of atomic power, set in the Near Future. Tomorrow's Yesterday was reprinted, with slight revisions, in First One and Twenty (coll 1946), which also incorporates ten stories from It Makes a Nice Change (coll 1938). Other fantasy stories appear in Take One a Week: An Omnibus Volume of Fifty-Two Short Stories (coll 1950).

After a long period away from the field, Gloag published the Roman Trilogy, series of historical fantasy novels – Caesar of the Narrow Seas (1969), The Eagles Depart (1973) and Artorius Rex (1977) – which attracted comparison with the works of Susan Cooper. [JC/JE]

see also: End of the World; History in SF; History of SF; Politics; Reincarnation; To-day and To-morrow; Weapons.

John Edwards Gloag

born London: 10 August 1896

died London: 17 July 1981

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