Publication Details

I. Willis (2009). "Mum’s a silly fusspot”: the queering of family in Diana Wynne. University of the West of England, Bristol, 4 July.

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Diana Wynne Jones: A Conference

Additional Publication Information

This is the first conference ever devoted to the work of Diana Wynne Jones, Britain's foremost writer of speculative fiction. In the last four decades Jones has produced a huge range of innovative fiction for children and adults, including the Chrestomanci series and Howl's Moving Castle. Amongst her many awards are the Guardian Children's Fiction Award, two Mythopoeic Awards, and a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement award.


In Four British Fantasists, Butler cites Diana Wynne Jones saying that her novels ‘provide a space where children can... walk round their problems and think “Mum’s a silly fusspot and I don’t need to be quite so enslaved by her notions”‘ (267). That is, as I will argue in this paper, Jones’ work aims to provide readers with the emotional, narrative and intellectual resources to achieve a critical distance from their families of origin. I will provide a brief survey of the treatment of family in Jones’ children’s books, with particular reference to Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Ogre Downstairs, Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, The Homeward Bounders and Hexwood, and then narrow my focus to two of Jones’ classic 4 treatments of family: Eight Days of Luke and Archer’s Goon. I will read these books in terms of the ways in which their child protagonists reposition themselves in relation to family in the course of their narratives. Drawing on Esther Saxey’s recent narratological analysis of the coming-out story in Homoplot, I will argue that the way in which Jones shows her protagonists both coming to terms with their families of origin and creating new kin networks or ‘chosen families’ makes her books particularly hospitable to queer readers – or at least to this queer reader.