Phillip Mann (born 1942) is a British-born, science fiction author resident in New Zealand since 1969. He studied English and Drama at Manchester University and later in California before moving to New Zealand where he established the first Drama Studies position at a New Zealand university in 1970; at the Victoria University of Wellington in Wellington. He retired from the position of Professor of Drama at Victoria in 1998 to concentrate on other projects.
He has worked extensively in theatre, as a professional director and drama tutor, both in New Zealand, the United States and Europe.
Between 1968 and 1970, he worked as a 'polisher of English' (i.e. sub-editor) with the New China News Agency in Beijing. This being the period shortly after the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution, he was able to witness the re-emergence of Classical Chinese theatre as well as the emergence of new forms of drama. It was during this period that he wrote his first science fiction novel, The Eye of the Queen. For further details concerning this book and the circumstances surrounding its composition, visit Phillip Mann's website; see external links below.
The Eye of the Queen details the life of Marius Thorndyke, Earth's leading contact linguist and founder of the CLI (Contact Linguistics Institute) after he departs to the world called Pe-Ellia at the invitation of the species for whom that is their home world. This species, long suspected but hitherto unknown, have been responsible for restricting Earth's space exploration to just a few inhabited planets none of which have attained space travel. In the course of his visit, Thorndyke comes to identify emotionally with one of the Pe-Ellian inhabitants and seeks to 'meld' with that being. This has extraordinary consequences for both Earth and Pe-Ellia.
The Eye of the Queen established Phillip Mann's reputation as a creator of 'credible aliens' – a feature which has remained prominent in his later works. He comments, "Thinking about alien consciousness helps clarify my thinking about Earth and the way we conduct ourselves. Thus I think of my books as being about us, no matter how outlandish the scenario." The novel met with such critical success that some felt he would not be able to equal it. However, Master of Paxwax and its sequel, Fall of the Families, have become classics of New Zealand literature. Both books have been recorded in 15-minute episodes read by Dick Weir. They are regularly broadcast on Radio New Zealand. CDs of these recordings are available from Radio New Zealand.
The story of The Master of Paxwax, Mann's second book, centers around the life of Pawl Paxwax. Pawl – and his name is significant – is the second son of the Fifth Family in a galaxy-wide empire ruled by Eleven Great Families. These Families have for centuries enslaved non-human life forms by a policy of alien genocide. Now things are changing. Beneath the surface of the seemingly dead world of Sanctum, surviving intelligent aliens are gathering, united in their desire to strike back at the barbarous society that had laid waste their civilisations.
When Pawl's father and brother die in quick succession, Pawl finds himself thrust into a position of supreme power, unaware that the alien races have decided to revolt and intend to use him and his lover, Laurel Beltane, as pawns to defeat the other ruling families. Pawl is a poet, and non-political in nature, but his enmity, once roused, is to be feared. "Wonderfully imaginative" said Locus. "High-class space opera with a welter of convincing aliens," sang White Dwarf.
The sequel, fittingly titled The Fall of the Families, brings this saga to its conclusion.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes Phillip Mann's fiction as possessing "a strong visual and structural sense".
After a decade concentrating on theatre direction, travelling, living in France and writing some plays and children's literature, in 2013 he published his first novel since 1996, The Disestablishment of Paradise. This is about the corruption by mankind of a pristine Earth-like planet called Paradise and subsequent banishment.
Mann divides his time between his home in Brooklyn, Wellington and a converted barn in the small town of Choussy in France's Loire Valley. He is now working on a new novel The Headman (a "darkly comic novel"), an anthology of short stories, and a work on theatre production.