Friday, May 20, 2016

The Apocalyptic Science Fiction of R H Benson - John Howard

In an earlier post, in 2014, we suggested that R.H. Benson was “the author of several volumes of fantasies and ghost stories, notable for their perfervid vigour and swashbuckling invention. For a while a friend of Baron Corvo, his writing has some of the Corvine style and personal ardour, while for wild imagination and world-shattering vision, he is in the same range as M.P. Shiel.”

In Wormwood 26, author and essayist John Howard provides the first part of an extensive essay studying Benson’s apocalyptic science-fiction novels, starting with Lord of the World (1907). He demonstrates that alongside the faith that drove these works, the author also exhibited a vivid imagination and far-reaching vision of technology and modernity. Perhaps, this essay suggests, R H Benson’s books ought to be better appreciated in the field of science fiction, where he might be seen as an interesting counterpoint to the rationalist work of H G Wells.

John suggests: “As is the case with the ‘supernatural thrillers’ of Charles Williams, there is nothing else quite like them – and, as with Williams’ novels, no doubt they are not for everyone. But whether or not the content and viewpoints are exactly to taste, they are certainly worth reading, more than a century after their first appearance.”

In the next part, in our Autumn issue, John Howard considers The Dawn of All (1911).

John Howard is the author of Numbered as Sand or the Stars and The Lustre of Time, as well as the collections The Silver Voices, Written by Daylight, and Cities and Thrones and Powers. He has published essays on various aspects of the science fiction and horror fields, and especially on the work of classic authors such as Fritz Leiber, Arthur Machen, August Derleth, M.R. James, and writers of the pulp era. Many of these have been collected in Touchstones: Essays on the Fantastic.

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