ON THE LIFE AND FICTION OF WILLIAM A.S. SARJEANT
By: Mark Sebanc
Antony Swithin (1935-2002)
William Antony Swithin (“Bill”) Sarjeant (1935-2002) was born in Sheffield, England. An only child and blessed with a vivid imaginative life nourished not only by science but by the fiction of writers like Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and T.H. White, he became a professor of geology and taught at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada for some thirty years, until his death. Besides being a renowned paleontologist and historian of geology, he was also a naturalist, novelist, bibliophile, local historian, folksinger, and Sherlockian scholar- in other words, a brilliant Renaissance man, a polymath of rare and astonishing versatility.
One of his grand projects was The Perilous Quest for Lyonesse, an ambitious 12-novel cycle set in the alternative world of Rockall, an island continent that he construed as the legendary Atlantis, albeit as a place existing in another dimension. Situated northwest of the British Isles in the Atlantic Ocean and named after a tiny islet only 20 metres in size, it had sparked his fertile imagination as a child and held an enduring fascination for him. “Rockall,” he once remarked, “is for me a lifetime quest and a continuing, very beguiling dream which I delight in sharing with my readers.” The first four books of Sarjeant’s series were published under his pen-name,
Antony Swithin, in the 1990s, but then further progress on the series was forestalled by his untimely death. Sarjeant’s richly conceived project has been resurrected under the editorship of Canadian novelist and independent scholar, Mark Sebanc.