Mark, Jan

Tagged: Author

(1943-2006) UK author, most significantly for Young Adult audiences; her several tales for younger readers, some of them acutely conceived picture books, are also of interest. Though much of her older fiction is set in the here-and-now, her sf stories – which are more complex, dark-hewed and longer than her non-fantastic work, – are almost certainly her best work, and are very nearly indistinguishable, except for the age of their protagonists, from adult fiction. After two fine contemporary tales, Mark began to write sf with the Ennead trilogy comprising The Ennead (1978), Divide and Rule (1979) and Aquarius (1982), all set on the planet Erato; the various young protagonists of the sequence – face to face with a Dystopian social order – contest the restricted futures available to them, with mixed results: for to succeed in a world governed by rules and rituals, it may be necessary to simulate adult lives no child could wish to experience. Mark is grimmer than Ursula Le Guin, but both authors similarly, perhaps obsessively, create exemplary worlds just short of allegory. In The Eclipse of the Century (1999), the Millennium is conceived almost as an after-death experience which propels its protagonists into an exemplary world: in this case, a version of Inner Asia wracked by a savage, perhaps interminable conflict. Useful Idiots (2004) – the title phrase is a jibe historically employed by conservatives to characterize the naivety of liberals whose do-gooding does the enemy's work for him – is set in the twenty-third century on Earth, where a viral attack has deeply afflicted the information net that had contained almost all knowledge of our human past; a useful-idiot archaeologist finds a skull which opens a Pandora's Box to a history no one wishes to recall. And the Demetria sequence comprising Riding Tycho (2005) and Voyager (2006) is again set on an exemplary planet, in this case an ocean-dominated world; the tale focuses on two Islands, one of them (or perhaps both) serving as a Prison. At the end of the first volume, its protagonist escapes in the direction of another world, where she may find a whole archipelago of lessons in the cost of living; what she finds, however, is a Dystopia governed by a demented Paranoia about outsiders. [JC]

Janet Marjorie Brisland Mark

born Welwyn, Hertfordshire: 22 June 1943

died Oxford, Oxfordshire: 15 January 2006

works (selected)

series

Ennead

  • The Ennead (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Kestrel Books, 1978) [Ennead: hb/Yvonne Gilbert]
  • Divide and Rule (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Kestrel Books, 1979) [Ennead: hb/Yvonne Gilbert]
  • Aquarius (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Kestrel Books, 1982) [Ennead: hb/Andrew Skilleter]

Demetria

  • Riding Tycho (London: Macmillan Children's Books, 2005) [Demetria: hb/Getty Images]
  • Voyager (London: Macmillan Children's Books, 2006) [Demetria: hb/Larry Rostant]

individual titles

collections

links

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