MacLeod, Ian R. 1959-
MacLEOD, Ian R. 1959-
PERSONAL: Born June 8, 1959, in England; son of Malcolm (a postmaster) and Vera (an export clerk) MacLeod; married Gillian Bowskill (an attorney), 1982; children: Emily. Education: Birmingham Polytechnic, B.A. (with honors). Religion: "Agnostic." Hobbies and other interests: Walking, dog walking, music, photography, painting.
ADDRESSES: Home—England. Agent—Owlswick Literary Agency, 123 Crooked Ln., King of Prussia, PA 19406-2570.
CAREER: Fiction writer. In early career, worked various jobs, including selling insurance; British Civil Service, Birmingham, England, executive officer, 1979–90; Birmingham City Council, Birmingham, tutor in adult literacy program, 1996–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nebula Award nomination, 1990, for short story "1/72nd Scale"; James Tiptree Award nomination, for story "Grownups"; World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, World Fantasy Convention, 1999, for The Summer Isles; Hugo Award nomination in best novella category, World Science Fiction Society, 2003, for "Breathmoss"; British Science Fiction Association Award nomination, for story "Returning."
Voyages by Starlight (science-fiction stories), Arkham House (Sauk City, WI), 1997.
The Great Wheel (science-fiction novel), Harcourt (New York, NY), 1997.
The Light Ages (novel), Ace Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Breathmoss and Other Exhalations (science-fiction stories), Golden Gryphon Press (Urbana, IL), 2004.
Contributor to magazines, including Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Interzone, and Weird Tales.
SIDELIGHTS: In his first book-length science-fiction work, the story collection Voyages by Starlight, Ian R. MacLeod brings together ten stories that combine science fiction with more realistic settings; In "Ellen O'Hara" dream telepathy figures in the familiar landscape of the Irish Troubles, and "The Giving Mouth" puts knights in magic armor into a world of coal mining and iron horses. "MacLeod's originality enriches and enlivens the genre" commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Macleod's first novel, The Great Wheel, takes the conventional story of a Roman Catholic priest facing a crisis of faith in an exotic setting and adds a futuristic twist. In the world of The Great Wheel, Europeans and "Borderers"—roughly, people from Third World areas—have separated their populations to such an extent that mere contact can lead to the transmission of fatal diseases. In Borderer nations, Europeans live in well-protected enclaves, donning special gloves and daily disinfecting their clothes to protect themselves from any contact with the natives. When Father John Alston decides to minister to the poor Borderers in the Magulf of North Africa, he discovers a link between a popular narcotic and a widespread blood cancer epidemic. His investigations into this connection eventually alienate him from his roots, his church, and the Borderers themselves. "MacLeod has done a tremendous job in realizing his near-future setting and the characters with which he has peopled it," wrote Charles De Lint in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. "The Great Wheel isn't a page-turner in the conventional sense. It is, rather, a slow and evocative visit into an alien world that echoes our own as much as it contrasts against it." Eventually, Father John's search for answers leads him to a brilliant Borderer woman, Laurie Kalmar, and an affair that forces him to confront his faith. The result, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, is a "serious, thoughtful work of futuristic fiction,… a bridge between Huxley's Brave New World and Frank Herbert's Dune."
MacLeod's ability to seamlessly mix fantastic and realistic elements is displayed again in The Light Ages. The novel takes place in an England strongly reminiscent of the Victorian age, but one in which a magical substance called aether runs the machines and fuels the economy. Instead of kings and lords, powerful guildmasters rule "an exotic society fascinating in its unhealthy languor and seemingly imperturbable stasis," in the words of Chicago Sun-Times reviewer Gregory Feeley. There is trouble brewing below this status quo, however. The poor are getting poorer and growing tired of mining the dangerous aether that sometimes turns them into changelings, occasionally with fatal results. When Robert Borrows, the son of a minor guildsman in the English Midlands, flees to London after his mother's death from aether poisoning, he finds himself caught up in a world of radical politics and revolutionary dreams. Sometimes alone, sometimes with the lovely Annalise, herself a changeling, Robert faces battles and plots, uncovering painful truths and ultimately emerging triumphant as the Third Age of Industry comes crashing down around him. "With its strong character development and gritty, alternate London, [The Light Ages] … should hold great appeal to readers who love the more sophisticated fantasy" novels, concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
MacLeod once told CA: "I was born in the West Midlands of England and, with one or two short-lived excursions to other parts of the country, have lived most of my life here. My father's family come from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, hence the Scottish name, whilst my mother's family are from the Midlands.
"After finishing school, I took an honors degree in law at Birmingham Polytechnic—an institution so august that it has since changed its name—but I was attracted more to the idea of dusty libraries full of old books than I was to the practicalities of being a modern lawyer. After a spell selling life insurance and sundry other kinds of temporary work, I ended up working for ten years as a middle manager in the civil service, which has traditionally been a home for misfits of one kind or another. My wife, Gillian—far less of a misfit and much harder working—was and is a lawyer.
"I have always loved books and reading. My introduction to science fiction came through writers like Wyndham, then Asimov and Clarke. By the time I was in my teens, I was reading Ballard and Ellison, and at least toying with the idea of being a writer myself. I didn't really start writing properly, though, until I got sufficiently bored behind my desk in the civil service, by which time my tastes had widened to include most kinds of literature, even if most of what I wrote ended up coming out as a kind of science fiction. I spent most of my twenties writing one long and ambitious novel under my desk at work and in my spare evenings. When, unsurprisingly, that failed to sell, and through the wreckage of another couple of failed novels, I started to try my hand at shorter fiction. I finally made my first sale to Weird Tales in 1989 with my story '1/72nd Scale,' which ended up getting nominated for a Nebula Award.
"I quit the civil service when my daughter, Emily, was born in 1990, to concentrate on writing and looking after her. My work has sold steadily since then, mainly in the American markets. More recently, I have also fitted in some part-time work as a tutor in adult literacy and creative writing. I love music of all kinds, dog-walking, fell walking, and I wish I could fit in more time to get somewhere with photography and painting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2003, review of The Light Ages, p. 1651.
Chicago Sun-Times, August 24, 2003, Gregory Feeley, review of The Light Ages, p. 14.
Library Journal, May 15, 1997, Nancy Pearl, review of The Great Wheel, p. 103.
Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October-November, 1997, Charles De Lint, review of The Great Wheel, p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, June 30, 1997, review of The Great Wheel, p. 64; July 28, 1997, review of Voyages by Starlight, p. 58; April 14, 2003, review of The Light Ages, p. 53.