Friday, 9 October 2015

Long Lost Authors

I was musing the other day about authors I used to like who just sort of went missing. In the days before Twitter and other social media (anybody remember that?) or indeed the easy access of the Internet in general the only access to authors was when books were published. Sometimes the authors just stopped publishing books and there was never any idea why. Even today trying to find information is hard because despite it's huge volume of content for certain things the Internet only really started recording information in the last 20 years or so.

So here are three authors that I used to enjoy but who just disappeared, sometimes abruptly. I'm guessing that they were dropped by their publishing company after poor sales but I still remember their works fondly.

Adrian Cole

A terrific fantasy author he was doing grimdark years before anyone else. His two major cycles - <i>The Omaran Saga</i> and <i>The Innasmourn Saga</i> - were vaguely linked as being in the same multiverse but with very different subject matter. <i>The Omaran Saga</i> was notable to me at the time (this was in the late 80s) for being a fantasy series that owed essentially nothing to Tolkien. Telling the tale of the planet of Omara under threat of being destroyed by the actions of the forgotten Sorceror Kings. It also featured one of the best anti-heroes (and bad guy made good) in fiction in the shape of Simon Wargallow, a Deliverer, a race of humans devoted to destroying any evidence of magic who had their right hands surgically replaced by a 'killing steel'.

<i>The Innasmourn Saga<i> was even more epic. Mankind is on the run from the vicious and war-obsessed Csendook who are moving from world to world and destroying and capturing humans in their millions. In one last desperate attempt to escape they create a rift to another cycle of worlds and arrive on Innasmourn. But the very planet is aware and their presents is a disruption to the natural balance. A small group of natives and a human must somehow prevent the Csendook from arriving on Innasmourn and reconcile humans to the planet. I once counted the rival factions and objectives in this series of books and it came to thirteen, a quite astonishing number to manage but Cole does it. And there is some superb storytelling roving from Innasmorn back to the wartorn worlds where the Csendook rule.

And then there was... nothing. I did see something about Cole writing children's books but I have never seen another one of his books and have sadly lost the copies I did have in the intervening years.

Andrew Harman

Following the success of Terry Pratchett in making fantasy funny, there were any number of attempts to duplicate this by the publishers of the day. I read a few and the only one that generally impressed was Harman. He created a fairly standard fantasy setting of warring kingdoms and then just dropped pop culture references into it like confetti, peppering the prose with more gags than an Airplane! movie. Certainly in the earlier works there was very little attempt at the clever satire of Pratchett (although his later works do start to move in this direction quite nicely) but the resulting books were always good for a few chuckles and plain laugh out loud moments. Giant warlike frogs anyone? Demons disguised as Dalmatian puppies?

Towards the end Harman started to write outside of the world he had created, crossing over into science fiction but with the same eye for a quick gag when he could squeeze on in. Always imaginative with a way of twisting something in a completely unexpected direction I eagerly looked forward to the next one appearing in the bookshops. Until they just stopped.

Phil Janes

Janes wrote comedy science fiction, and wrote it very well indeed as far as I was concerned. His first book, <i>The Galaxy Game</i>, stuck a mismatched crew in a spaceship on a trip to colonise a new world. They were joined by the shipboard intelligence called Arnold, a computer that had watched <i>2001: A Space Oddysey</i> one too many times. The book was just so himarious, spoofing anything from <i>2001</i> to <i>The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe</i>.

The second book in the series was <i>Fission Impossible</i> where, having reached the new world the crew find out they are not the first and now have to take part in some sort of intergalacti gameshow called The Galaxy Game, solving a series of puzzles and encounters. Again this setup let Janes poke fun at modern life and culture.

The third of what I was sure I the time was dur to be a tetralogy was <i>I, Arnold</i>. Arnold (having been given an android body in the second book) decides to run for political office rather than take part in the 'final' of the Galaxy Game. He has a gift for it despite being incredbly sarcastic and generally unlikeable to those who know him. Again the setup allows a number of digs at political systems and those who would put themselves forward for public office.

I waited for the fourth book - the final of the Galaxy Game - but it never arrived. The series is now solidly listed as a trilogy with no mention of the fourth book but it clearly was never written to finish at the end of <i>I, Arnold</i>. I will always wonder what was going to happen next.

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