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New Title Spotlight: The Death of Metal

One of the pleasures of working on the SF Gateway is the opportunity of introducing authors whose books have been unavailable for years to modern readers. Donald Suddaby (1900-1964) is such a writer. He published sf for adults in the 1930s, mostly under the pseudonym “Alan Griff”, but was best known for a number of children’s sf novels published in the 1950s. Probably the most striking of these is The Death of Metal, from 1952. Mysteriously, metal suddenly starts to lose its tensile strength – in a memorable early scene a passenger train tries to get across Worcester Bridge as it sags like rubber under its weight. Soon enough, attenuated humanoid creatures (the Inhumans) emerge from their hidden realm inside the Earth.

The Death of Metal is an example of what Brian Aldiss famously termed a “cosy catastrophe”, describing the works of writers like John Wyndham. The term is in many ways a misnomer – there’s nothing cosy about Triffids, and there’s nothing cosy about society coming quickly to ruin in The Death of Metal – but what it describes is mostly the locale. The books describe postwar Britain, a very different and much more innocent world than the one we now inhabit. Characters combat awful circumstances equipped only with a stiff upper lip and good manners. It’s far from clear that Suddaby views the regrowth of British society without access to metal as an unmitigated disaster, and life as described in the rural Cotswolds goes on much the same as before.