Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Stories of Francis Stevens-Avalon

"Avalon" was a four-part serial published in Argosy from August 16 to September 6, 1919, concurrent with the publication of "The Heads of Cerberus" in The Thrill Book (Aug. 15-Oct. 15, 1919). According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, "Avalon" has never been reprinted. In his introduction to The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy, Gary Hoppenstand called it "undeniably Steven's weakest novel." (p. xv) If that's the case, it's no wonder that "Avalon" has not been reprinted. On the other hand, if Francis Stevens was "the most gifted woman writer of science fiction and science-fantasy between Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and C.L. Moore," as Sam Moskowitz claimed, or if she was "the woman who invented dark fantasy," as Dr. Hoppenstand claimed, shouldn't all of her known works be in print? Everything H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote practically down to his shopping lists ("beans") has been reprinted. How about a little ink for his supposed female counterpart?

Anyway, I have not read "Avalon," but judging from a blog entry by James Reasoner (1), the story is a melodrama, part adventure, part thriller, part fantasy, and part gothic romance. (There is even a old manor called Cliff House.) I suspect that Francis Stevens' themes of love over hatred and spirit over science are in the book. And I'm pretty sure it was not a work of dark fantasy. (Lloyd Arthur Eshbach did not consider it to be a fantasy at all.) Here's hoping that "Avalon" is reprinted sometime soon.


Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. Denny Lien made the following comment by email and has asked me to post it for other readers. Mr. Lien was unable to post it himself. If anyone else has had problems posting comments, please let me know by email at

    Stevens' AVALON was in fact reprinted a couple of years ago by Brian Earl Brown in his cheap-but-readable offprint (?) format; I believe it's still available from his BEB Books for something like five or six dollars.

    I read it and found it mildly enjoyable, but nothing I'd have gone out of my way for if it had been by an unknown author. And there's no real fantasy element (unless a U.S. island being virtually held as a fiefdom by one family counts as fantasy) -- there are a couple of hints of witchcraft that come to nothing.

    Denny Lien