The Jonathan Bing Series Critical Essays

James P. Blaylock


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Blaylock is one of the few authors to have written in the subgenre called steampunk, which incorporates science-fictional events within a nineteenth century milieu. Among the authors in this subgenre are Blaylock’s friends K. W. Jeter and Tim Powers. Although steampunk fits as a description of Blaylock’s later works, such as Homunculus (1986) and its sequel Lord Kelvins Machine (1992), another term must be used for the heroic fantasy tales of the Jonathan Bing series, which blend myriad genres from fantasy to science to magic. Submarines and airships are included in a world otherwise preoccupied with magic, witches, and wizards.

Blaylock has been described as a writer who blends everydayness, quirky characters, zany motivations, metaphysical speculation, and many varieties of magic. His writing is able to transport the reader directly into the world of Twombly Town, Jonathan Bing, and Theophile Escargot. His descriptions are believable, catapulting the reader straight into the action without any knowledge that willful suspension of disbelief has occurred.

Blaylock states that he has been influenced by a number of other writers, including Charles Dickens, Tim Powers, K. W. Jeter, and Philip K. Dick. His influences include a blend of other things, both real and imaginary; among these are his obvious passion for the ocean, the beach, and associated items and people. He is able to mix these diverse elements into a cohesive...

(The entire section is 565 words.)