Swann, Thomas Burnett

Tagged: Author

(1928-1976) US poet, author and academic who taught English literature at Florida Atlantic University, turning to full-time writing in the early 1960s. As an academic he published works on the poet HD (Hilda Doolittle [1886-1961]) and others, including Wonder and Whimsy: The Fantastic World of Christina Rossetti (1960). Much of his fiction – beginning with "Winged Victory" for Fantastic Universe in 1958 – could be described as Science Fantasy, as it posits a sustained Alternate-History version of Earth's history; but its abiding tenor is of Fantasy. Briefly, the Swann version of history centres on the doomed encounter of the Supernatural Creatures of legend – dryads, centaurs, panisci, minotaurs, et al. – with ascendant humanity, climaxing at the time when Rome and Christianity were extending their Imperialisms across the doomed, childlike, prelapsarian world. Most of his tales – all set well before any alternate twentieth century, which Swann clearly found impossible to imagine, and populated by young protagonists whom puberty drives from the Garden – fit into this history. In order of their internal chronology they are: The Minikins of Yam (1976), set around 2500 BCE; the Minotaur sequence, comprising Cry Silver Bells (1977), The Forest of Forever (1971) and Day of the Minotaur (September/October 1964-January/February 1965 Science Fantasy as "The Blue Monkeys"; 1966), set in Mycenaean Crete; the Mellonia sequence, comprising Queens Walk in the Dusk (1977), Green Phoenix (1972) and Lady of the Bees (April 1962 Science Fantasy as "Where is the Bird of Fire?"; exp 1976), set in burgeoning Rome; Wolfwinter (1972), The Weirwoods (1967) and The Gods Abide (1976), the three novels in which humanity's religious and political destruction of the old ways reaches a climax; and a final scattering of nostalgia-choked tales set in the Christian era, The Tournament of Thorns (fixup 1976), Will-o-the-Wisp (1976), The Not-World (1975) and The Goat without Horns (1971). This sequence, each title being a litany of desiderium and dying falls, evoked a warm response from fantasy and sf readers, a response not dissimilar to that evoked by the ecological sf that began to appear around the same time (see Ecology). Swann's early works are generally stronger than his later titles, most of these comprising debilitated prequels to earlier and better tales, along with shorter early works unwisely expanded. Throughout, a finger-pointing sentimentality tends to vitiate the deeply felt over-narrative Swann had committed himself to, but moments of epiphany occur at points, and when they do they evoke a powerful empathy. [JC]

see also: Gods and Demons; Mythology; WSFA Journal.

Thomas Burnett Swann

born Tampa, Florida: 12 October 1928

died Winter Haven, Florida: 5 May 1976

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Minotaur

Mellonia

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