Winterson, Jeanette

Tagged: Author

(1959-    ) UK author, much of whose work juggles elements out of the Fantastika toolkit to dramatize deeply held arguments about Gender (see also Feminism); as her work edges constantly into the allegorical it is, however, not easy to think of her as a natural author of the fantastic, though her work is too various and transgressive for her to be categorized as a Mainstream Writer of SF. Boating for Beginners (1985) clearly allegorizes the circumstances it depicts, with a contemporary pleasure boat owner named Noah who has created a God (in passages based on the creation of the Frankenstein Monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein [1818]); this "God" then "instructs" him to return the world to the good old days, when sins were punished and women relegated to domestic roles: or else [for Allegories, Christian Fantasy, Flood and (below) Twice-Told see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. The Passion (1987) is a Magic-Realist historical fable whose protagonists, in a pattern Winterson would return to, morph through Sex and gender changes through time (see Time in general), being reborn in various guises. The original model for this strategy, as applied to the examination and spoofing of the straitjacket of gender, is Virginia Woolf's Orlando (1928) (see also Temporal Adventuress); it is even more fully utilized in Sexing the Cherry (1989), whose concentration on moments of English history adds intensity to the flow of transformations. The gargantuan Dog Woman (whose strength is of Superpower dimensions) rescues the orphan Jordan from the Thames (see London); their experiences through time and in various iterations of their essential unchanging Identity, with a focus on the English Civil War, and incorporating legend and fairy tales, generates a sense that the Matter of Britain has been addressed [for Matter see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Art and Lies: A Piece for Three Voices and a Bawd (1994) and Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (2005) variously utilize similar to devices to explore similar themes. The Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale Retold (2015), though some Virtual Reality elements enter into some Near Future scenes, is unusual for a Twice-Told tale in that it rationalizes the illimitable "unreality" of the original.

Of sf interest is The Stone Gods (2007), which only gradually reveals its structural similarities to her earlier work, in particular Sexing the Cherry. The first section of the tale depicts, in palely obdurate language, a Near Future Dystopia on Orbus, which is distressingly similar to Earth. The protagonist Billie Crusoe is tasked – in terms modestly evocative of C M Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl's The Space Merchants (1953) – to persuade the plebes of Orbus to emigrate to Planet Blue, but she sabotages the campaign and is forced to emigrate herself. Planet Blue resembles Earth aeons earlier, and the colonists' destruction of the native flora and fauna is clearly emblematic of human behaviour in general. Crusoe is then thrust through time to Easter Island, where the long bondage of the islanders to the suicidal construction of the famous idols conveys, as the novel closes in the near future of Earth, a strong image of the fate of Homo sapiens in general: that "Everything is imprinted for ever with what it once was".

Winterson was given an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2006 and made CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2018. [JC]

see also: Leonardo da Vinci.

Jeanette Winterson

born Manchester, England: 27 August 1959

died

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