Alasdair Gray (1934-2019)

Scottish author Alasdair Gray, 85, died December 29, 2019 at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. Gray was famed as a playwright, poet, and novelist, and his literary fiction often included elements of the fantastic. His first work of SF interest was “The Star” (1951), an homage to H.G. Wells, and was collected with other speculative work in Unlikely Stories (1983). His most famous book is debut novel Lanark: A Life in Four Books, a sprawling fantasy set partly in Glasgow and partly in the dystopian underworld of Unthank.

Other works of SF interest include 1982 Janine (1984), The Fall of Kelvin Walker: A Fable of the Sixties (1985), Something Leather (1990), Ten Tales Tall & True: Social Realism, Sexual Comedy, Science Fiction, Satire (1993), Mavis Belfrage: A Romantic Novel, with Five Shorter Tales (1996), The Ends of Our Tethers: 13 Sorry Stories (2003), Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Archibald McCandless M.D. Scottish Public Health Officer (1992), Tiptree Award finalist A History Maker (1994), and Old Men in Love: John Turnock’s Posthumous Papers (2007). Dramatic works of interest include play Fleck: A Comedy in Verse Derived from Goethe’s Tragedy of Faust (2008) and radio play McGrotty and Ludmilla, or The Harbinger Report (1975; as a book in 1990). His complete short fiction was gathered in Every Short Story 1951-2012 (2012). One of his last projects was a translation of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy as Hell (2018) and Purgatory (2019).

Gray was also a celebrated painter, known for doing the design for most of his own books. His autobiography A Life in Pictures (2010) showcased some of his art.

Gray was born December 28, 1934 in Glasgow. He grew up on a council estate (apart from a period in WWII when he was evacuated to the countryside) and attended the Glasgow School of Art from 1952-57, returning to teach from 1958-62. He worked as a painter, including scene painting, portraits, and murals, and his fine art is represented in numerous museums. His first plays were produced on radio and television in 1968. He became a joint professor of the creative writing program at Glasgow and Strathclyde universities in 2001. Gray was married twice, to Inge Sorenson from 1961 until their divorce in 1970; they had one son. He married Morag McAlpine in 1991; she predeceased him in 2014. He received the first Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to Scottish Literature in 2019.

For more, see his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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