Gwyneth A(nn) Jones Biography
Also writes as Ann Halam. Nationality: English. Born: Manchester, England, 1952. Education: University of Sussex, B.A. 1973. Career: Executive officer, Manpower Services Commission, Hove, England, 1975-77; author of books for young people and adults, 1977—. Awards: First prize, children's story competition (Manchester Evening News), 1967; James Tiptree, Jr., award, 1991; Children of the Night Award (Dracula Society), 1996; World Fantasy Award, 1996. Agent: Anthony Goff, David Higham Associates, Ltd., 5-8 Lower John Street, Golden Square, London W1R 4HA, England.
Ally Ally Aster (as Ann Halam). London, Allen and Unwin, 1981.
The Alder Tree (as Ann Halam). London, Allen and Unwin, 1982.
Divine Endurance. Boston, Allen and Unwin, 1984.
Escape Plans. London, Allen and Unwin, 1986.
King Death's Garden (as Ann Halam). London, Orchard, 1986.
The Daymaker ("Inland" trilogy; as Ann Halam). London, Orchard, 1987.
Transformations ("Inland" trilogy; as Ann Halam). London, Orchard, 1988.
Kairos. London, Unwin Hyman, 1988.
The Hidden Ones. London, Women's Press, 1988.
The Skybreaker ("Inland" trilogy; as Ann Halam). London, Orchard, 1990.
White Queen. London, Gollancz, 1991; New York, Tor, 1993.
Dinosaur Junction (as Ann Halam). London, Orchard, 1992.
Flowerdust. London, Headline, 1993; New York, Tor, 1995.
North Wind. London, Gollancz, 1994; New York, Tor, 1996.
The Haunting of Jessica Raven (as Ann Halam). London, Orion, 1994.
The Fear Man (as Ann Halam). London, Orion, 1995.
Phoenix Café. London, Gollancz, 1996; New York, Tor, 1998.
The Powerhouse (as Ann Halam). London, Orion, 1997.
Crying in the Dark. (as Ann Halam). N.p., n.d.
The Shadow on the Stairs. (as Ann Halam). N.p., n.d.
The NIMROD Conspiracy. (as Ann Halam). N.p. 1999.
Fiction for Children
Water in the Air. New York, Macmillan, 1977.
The Influence of Ironwood. London, Macmillan, 1978.
The Exchange. London, Macmillan, 1979.
Dear Hill. London, Macmillan, 1980.
Identifying the Object. Austin, Texas, Swan Press, 1993.
Seven Tales and a Fable. Cambridge, Massachusetts, EdgewoodPress, 1995.
Editor, Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality. Liverpool, England, Liverpool University Press, 1998.
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Gwyneth Jones is a British author of science fiction and fantasy and a feminist critic who has earned many literary awards and nominations. Her fiction is famous for its feminist approach and its recurring themes of the importance of community and of respect for the Earth. Her fantasy novels are unconventional, primarily for showing that happy endings are difficult to achieve.
Jones began with juvenile fiction. Her first novels were Water in the Air, The Influence of Ironwood, The Exchange, and Dear Hill. These follow the not unusual pattern of an adolescent girl who must come to grips with her changing attitudes and world.
To escape this formula, Jones began writing as Ann Halam with the Nordic myth-based Ally Ally Aster, which tells of an ice spirit who conjures up a terrible winter. The Alder Tree is a Gothic fantasy featuring a dragon. King Death's Garden and The Haunting of Jessica Raven are ghost stories. The Hidden Ones, published as Gwyneth Jones, concerns a rebellious teenager struggling against a Sussex farmer who plans to industrialize a magic piece of wilderness. The Fear Man earned the Children of the Night Award given by The Dracula Society. Further Halam thrillers include Dinosaur Junction, The Powerhouse, Crying in the Dark, The Shadow on the Stairs, and The NIMROD Conspiracy.
Jones's "Inland" series, composed of The Daymaker, Transformations, and The Skybreaker, are her best juvenile novels. Jones designed this far-future England ("Inland") as a humorous take on the quantum mechanics hypothesis that reality holds together simply because people observe it. In Inland, magic has replaced technology, and observable reality is held together by people's consensus. If the characters disagree, their world literally begins falling apart. Zanne's community, a matriarchal utopia, has renounced technology for the "Covenant," which lets people use the magic of nature to build and heal. However, Zanne is attracted to the "Daymakers," ancient power plants. She wishes to restore the wonders of the machine era, but learns that the powers of technology and magic cannot be balanced.
If sorrow for lost things weaves a thread of tragedy through Daymaker, the tone of Transformations is much darker. Zanne finds a Daymaker in a remote region whose inhabitants lead harsh, puritanical lives. Zanne tries to restore happiness to these mining folk, but gradually realizes something is very wrong in the community. Here and in Skybreaker, she discovers that her healing powers are suited to shutting down the evil machines, dramatizing a philosophy of balance between people and their land and between people's desires and fears.
Jones gained attention in the United States with the publication of Divine Endurance. This remarkable novel is flavored by the years she lived in Singapore and Southeast Asia (1977-80). In the far future, an undescribed apocalypse has wasted the Earth and destroyed the wisdom of past civilizations. Her richly imagined Malay Peninsula, though, is a matriarchal society, bound by traditions of "hearth magic" and strict gender roles. The Peninsulans are governed by the mysterious Rulers, who reserve what little technology remains to themselves and rule by martial law. The arrival of Cho—an innocent girl who is not what she seems and who can grant the heart's desire—and a cat called Divine Endurance catalyzes a civil war between rebels and matriarchs. Jones paints a melancholy landscape of a dying Earth in this meditation on utopia and the results of getting what you wish for.
Escape Plans uses a dystopian setting and the computer jargon typical of cyberpunk, a fast-paced computer-savvy subgenre of science fiction. A spacewoman from an orbital station is unaware of the dismal lives of a dehumanized worker class until she journeys through their underground world and uncovers a secret history. The novel was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, given annually to the best science fiction novel published in the British Commonwealth.
With Kairos, Jones began dealing seriously with gender issues. In post-apocalyptic London, two pairs of homosexual lovers endure a repressive government, brutal poverty, social anarchy, and the experiments of BREAKTHRU Ltd., which intends to end the world for its own gain. This company has developed a drug, "kairos," so powerful it can change the nature of physical reality. Jane, called "Otto," a political and sexual radical, sets up shop with Sandy, the first victim of kairos. Their friends James and Gordon ("Luci") discover the evil of the BREAKTHRU representatives called "angels," and when the surviving protagonists flee London, they find different worlds outside. A lesbian druidic cult challenges BREAKTHRU, but reality metamorphoses so drastically that time and causality unravel. Apocalypse is eventually prevented, but the "happy" ending cannot overcome the mood of futility and despair.
White Queen was another Clarke Award nominee and a co-winner of the James Tiptree, Jr., Memorial Award, given to science fiction that explores sex and gender roles. It is the first of the "Aleutian" series, the others being North Wind and The Phoenix Café. Mysterious humanoids arrive on Earth in 2038; apparently telepathic hermaphrodites, they are called Aleutians, a name suggesting "aliens." The relationship between aliens and humans becomes a metaphor for the relationship between men and women. Johnny Guglioli, exiled as a "petrovirus" victim from the United States, befriends journalist Braemar Wilson and the "woman" Clavel. From Clavel's behaviors, they deduce the insidious invasion, but cannot unriddle what the aliens want. Are they superbeings, candidly offering assistance to a world shaken up by geological and political catastrophes? Similar to humans, they differ in important details—such as their attitudes towards sex, death, and personal identity.
White Queen, a "preemptive resistance movement" that works to undermine trust in the aliens's promises, sees the Aleutians as technologically superior conquerors. Played out among conflicts arising from miscommunication, gender, and identity, the plot accelerates when a White Queen agent attempts to take an alien tissue sample. The Aleutians kill her and disrupt technologies across the world, nearly causing global war. Braemar and Johnny attempt to infiltrate the aliens' starship, precipitating a showdown. The novel has been praised for its well-rounded characterization, exotic settings, convincing technology, and eroticism.
In Flowerdust, Jones returned to the Southeast Asia of Divine Endurance. The first book had introduced Derveet Garuda, a rebel against the matriarchal government, who now prepares to undertake a full-scale revolution. Derveet journeys to the refugee camps on the island of Ranganar to learn the source of their unrest, which might explode prematurely into an easily suppressed rebellion. Uncovering a Ruler conspiracy to distribute flowerdust, a bliss-generating drug, Derveet must stop its spread and venture into enemy territory. The book is a satisfying adventure novel, full of political intrigue and intercultural conflict in a colorful setting.
North Wind, the Clarke Award-nominated sequel to White Queen, takes place a century later. Bella, a crippled Aleutian, and "her" human caretaker, Sydney Carton, share an unusual relationship in a world riven by gender war. Men want to violently eradicate the Aleutians and human collaborators, while the women desire a return to power through a more nurturing society. "Halfcastes," such as Carton, admire the Aleutians. The Aleutians' proposal to level the Himalayas generates violent anti-alien sentiment. While sheltering Bella, Sydney seeks an instantaneous travel device that the legendary Johnny Guglioli used to reach the Aleutians' starship. Unknown to him, Bella's importance to the Aleutians signals her critical role in finding the device. Evoking the courage of Charles Dickens's Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities, Carton helps Bella on a journey across the war-ravaged remains of Europe, gradually falling in love with her.
Where White Queen presented first contact, and North Wind showed the conquerors at the height of their empire, Phoenix Café is about their disengagement from Earth. Jones considers the trilogy a version of the European invasion of Africa and India in the nineteenth century, dramatizing different aspects of a dominating culture with attractively powerful technology. Jones blames the Europeans for having looted those continents, establishing "democracies," and finally leaving town because everything was still a mess. What do natives do when the invaders depart? How can they discard the practices that have been imposed and assimilated?
After 300 years, the Aleutians have decided to go home. The problem is getting there; they must perfect their instantaneous-transfer drive. At this point, bodily transformation is so evolved that humans have dropped the old distinctions and now come in all varieties. Catherine, the protagonist, is an experiment, an Aleutian in human form. Engaging in increasingly deeper involvement with humans, Catherine enters a sexually perverse relationship that brings him/her among the planet's elite, who plot a conspiracy that might mean the end of the Aleutian Expedition or all life on Earth.
Jones pushes ever harder against our notions of identity, sex, and gender assumptions. Not only are the Aleutians impossible to classify in male/female terms, but almost no one's appearance in Phoenix Café can be trusted because of virtual reality and designer sex drugs. Jones upsets reader expectations in depicting alien/human sex, same-gender sex, clone sex, and even computer sex. The reader is left to ponder the possibility of lasting peace between humans and aliens, men and women, Self and Other.
Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality gathers critical essays and reviews on various subjects, from genre limitations to creating aliens, from the need for more incisive feminist commentary to a biology textbook on sexual differentiation. The collection earned applause from science fiction scholars and belongs in major academic libraries.
Jones is one of the most important feminist science fiction authors, a growing group that includes award winners Joanna Russ, Suzy Charnas, and Sheri Tepper. From her young adult novels that emphasized the importance of moderation and balance, Jones has developed into a writer of disturbing, destabilizing novels concerned with the human preoccupation with arbitrary divisions by gender, race, politics, and other discriminations that lead to conflict.
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