M. P. Shiel

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M. P. Shiel (born as Matthew Phipps Shiell) (July 21, 1865 - February 17, 1947) was a prolific British writer of fantasy fiction, remembered mostly for supernatural and science fiction, published as novels, short stories and as serials. He was also a micronationalist.

He was born on the island of Montserrat in the West Indies, and was of mixed race; his mother Priscilla Ann Blake was a mulatto, while his father Matthew Dowdy Shiell was from a partly Irish background, and was possibly also of mixed race. Shiell was educated at Harrison College in Barbados.

He moved to England some time after 1880, and changed his surname to Shiel. After some miscellaneous employment he gained in the 1890s a reputation for short stories influenced by Edgar Allan Poe. He created the decadent detective Prince Zaleski, and was published by John Lane.

In a short period he produced his greatest critical success, the science fiction novel The Purple Cloud (1901), and major popular success in The Yellow Danger (serial around 1899), the first of a number of works based on topical anti-Chinese racial feeling. Under financial pressures he quickly descended to writing hack work, creating a bibliographic sprawl of serial publication, rewrites and collaborations.

His collaborators included William Thomas Stead as an ideas man, Edgar Jepson, Oswell Blakeston, and later John Gawsworth and Louis Tracy. The content of his works was muddled, but included some rudimentary versions of Nietzsche's thought, promotion of the ideas of Henry George, and casual racism. Some of his work in the Edwardian period seems to have had a provocative effect on H. G. Wells.

He took over the fantasy throne of the Caribbean island of Redonda in 1880, styling himself H.M. King Felipe I. On his death Gawsworth became both his literary executor and his appointed heir to the kingdom. Shiel had a messy private life, about which there is little reliable information. He died in Chichester.

References

  • The Works of M. P. Shiel (1948) A. Reynolds Morse
  • The Quest for Redonda A. Reynolds Morse

Shiel's works online