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a critical list with discussions
Some Candidate Science-Fiction & Fantasy Authors and Books"'The Observer will decide,' I said."
What Makes a "Candidate"
About This Page
Regrettably, I have been spared little time of late for the development of this site. While I hope and expect that I will be returning to a heavier commitment to it soon now, in the meantime I thought to augment the site with a list of authors and books that I suspect--from considerable examination of others' comments on them (and on who those "others" are and how credible they are)--might plausibly end up, once I have read them, being added to the main lists at this site. Let me make it clear that I am not exactly "prejudging" these books, and that in consequence this list is unlike the main lists, in that it is not a list of recommendations but rather just a list of intriguing possibilities. As time (and, in the case of some rarer books, budget) allows, I will read these and either add them to the actual "recommended" lists or just discard them. I set forth this list only to assist those few--if any--who occasionally look to this site for some hints on new realms to explore in their reading.
This list is basically just a prettified and annotated copy of my personal "buy and read" list, but that list has some nuancing worth mention. Although I intend to examine everything on this list, I do not reckon equal probabilities of success for everything on it. Some authors sound--to the extent that we can deduce reliably from existing comment and review--like they are virtual locks; most just sound pretty interesting; and a few I am more or less skeptical about, but will examine owing to the total weight of others' critical approval. I have used color coding, explained farther below, to mark out each author's status in this list. While it may seem curious, or even hypocritical, to segregate authors whose works I admittedly have not personally reviewed, the distinction is of value, at least to me, in that it creates a triage order in which to attack the list; and having set up those distinctions, I simply pass them on for what they may, or may not, be worth to others.
I should further note that although I am treating all of these authors as "unread", in not a few instances I have read some--sometimes much--of their work, but so long ago, many decades ago in a lot of instances, that I can no longer trust either my memory or the status of my critical judgement at the time. Don't reckon that I am a quasi-illiterate just owing to the appearance of some major names on this "unread" list: been there, done that, at least at some time. But, as someone wisely said, the past is a foreign country, and only strangers live there.
Finally, I will note that in several instances of authors who work in the vicinity of the border between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction, it has been hard to deduce from the available commentary whether this or that particular book really qualifies for the designation "speculative fiction". Mainstream books, however meritorious, do not belong in these specialist lists, but I cannot simply omit the uncertain; I have, therefore, included those questionable titles, but have appropriately marked them out, as explained farther below.
(This issue--what sort of work does or does not belong in these lists--nagged at me enough that I eventually set forth some comment on the matter supplementary to what is already in the Apologia elsewhere on this site.)
Since the idea is to point you at authors and books generally consonant with those actually in the main lists on this site, let me also point you at some further resources for identifying such authors and books.
Another fine literary resource, not specific to speculative fiction but including many speculative-fiction authors, is the so-called "Authors' Calendar", a set of well-done short essays and select bibliographies for most of the notable figures of literature.
This list is liable to very frequent revisions, which--owing to that frequency--are not logged on this site's Change Log page.
In these listings:
The standard marks on this site also apply: a # mark after an author's name signifies that he or she produced only one or two books in our field (however many might have been produced in other areas), while a * after a book title indicates that it is a collection of tales, not a novel.
Where I know enough about the writer, I have inserted a brief note (note, not evaluation). I have also tried to provide an external link for each author. I think it important to emphasize that the titles listed are not necessarily a complete bibliography of a given author's speculative-fiction work; in many cases they are, but in others they are only an indicative selection (or even single book). The idea here is to point you (and me) at books with which we can sample the authors; if we like what we taste, we can (and I will) go on to assemble complete lists.
Ballard was a copious writer who eventually achieved mainstream reputation after a long science-fiction career. The list below is only a small sampling of his oeuvre, intended as a starting place for anyone interested (including me). Ballard is one of those writers whose work I last read so many decades ago that I need to refresh myself before definitively adding him into these lists. If he is as I recall, the final tabulation for him will doubtless be rather longer than this mini-list. A good starting place on line is the web site at jgballard.com; another is The Ballardian.
Beerbohm, a contemporary of Shaw and Chesterton, was held by such as they to be a wit supreme and an elegantly polished writer. His one novel has sufficient fantastic elements (though they sound like appurtenances to the tale, not core issues) to qualify for consideration here, as do at least some of the portraits in the collection below; if he is anything like as good as reputed, I'm glad to have the excuse to include him here. There is a nice on-line review of some books on his life and work, The Beerbohm Cult. (He has been referred to as "the world's greatest minor writer".)
"Bioy" was a good friend of Borges, and collaborated with him on some works. On his own, he was, by general report, a good writer, but nothing like in Borges' class. His chief work (in modern opinion) is the novel cited below, a curiously weird, humorous, sad, and philosophical work. Some--perhaps many--of his short stories also have a fantastical cast. There is an on-line discussion of Morel, The Invention of Morel, Adolfo Bioy Casares.
Braine is a well-known and respected mainstream author (Room at the Top) and the book below is his one fantastic work. It comes very highly recommended, from Mike Harrison on down--I saw no negative reviews.
The novel listed below derives from a short story that appeared in the New Yorker. It has been well received critically, both in the mainstream and in speculative-fiction circles. Brockmeier has other works, too, whose status as speculative fiction are iffy.
I have sampled her Vorkosigan "franchise", as David Tate has perceptively referred to it, and found it wanting; I don't ordinarily comment on what I may have found wanting, but David, and not a few others, insists that Bujold's output rose dramatically in quality in her later work, especially her fantasy, and that the books below--all set in the same world but stand-alone--are sterling candidates. So here they are. (She also now has another fantasy series--a true series--called "The Sharing Knife".) I hope to try one soon.
Carpentier is one of the very earliest writers whose works would come to be described as "magical realism" (indeed, he may have created the term, lo real maravilloso); he is said to have inspired such successors as Gabriel García Márquez. I have listed his complete oeuvre below, but I cannot yet solemnly swear it is all speculative fiction (though I think so). There is a pleasant article, Alejo Carpentier, Criticism and Essays, available on line; another good resource is Alejo Carpentier - a guide to his greatest works.
Carrington is both a respected painter and an apparently under-recognized author, chiefly in the surrealist mode. Her most-read book (in a relative sense) is The Hearing Trumpet; I have read it, and found it overall not quite up to these lists: but it is a mixed bag--if only it had finished as it started, it would have been at least three and perhaps four stars. The curious thing is the the first phase, which is much of the book, is screamingly funny--dry but wicked humor--but with very little that is fantastic (aside from the characters of the protagonist and supporting cast); then, all of a sudden the fantasy faucet is turned full open, but chiefly to serve a regrettably unsubtle Great Message about feminism. It is that unsubtleness--what I call wielding The Great Hammer of Obviousness--that in the end sinks the book (though I still think it a fine one-time read).
But since that novel shows a real talent that might, with more restraint (which the short-story form often imposes, and much of her work is short stories), be excellent. Thus I present this list of her other works. I think they are all fantasies, but I may err; there is too little information on line about her writing (though much on her painting). There may be some overlap in the contents of the story collections.
Christopher is a poet turned novelist. The novel cited below is a sort of "magic realism", though apparently even the non-fantastic elements and characters are just barely on the near side of abnormality. The New York Times gave it a decent review, though from reading other reviews, I think it barely skims the nature of the book. You can read more about the book on its page on Christopher's own web site, including a sample consisting of the first few pages of the book.
There is a tribute Michael Coney web site with much information on Coney, plus some of his work available to be read on line; it also has a large--but incomplete--bibliography of his extensive oeuvre. Also available on line is an appreciative obituary of Coney by Christopher Priest. The list below is only a sampling of his many works (see the Michael Coney Wikipedia article for a fuller listing).
Constantine has a rabid fan following for her substantial oeuvre, most of which at least sounds like things I would not fancy; the novel listed below, however, may be an exception (if, in fact, my deductions from reviews are correct as to her work), and seems well worth sampling. There is an "official Storm Constantine web site", Dreams of Dark Angels, which--though it refers to itself as a site--is really a blog.
This bizarre novel by a noted mainstream author very probably belongs here, but till I finish it--I once began it, but it has fallen aside for now in my reading--I can't say for certain. Coover also has some other work that seems arguably speculative fiction, but his stuff is near the heart of the question of whether strangeness in fiction suffices to qualify as speculation. I cannot find any solid Coover site or even page, but there is a on-line review of Association from The New York Times.
On the Authors' Calendar Julio Cortasár page at that excellent literary site, he is is described as "one of the great masters of the fantastic short story, who has been compared to Jorge Luis Borges." Cortasár also wrote a novel, Hopscotch, that--although written in an experimental style (read the chapters in any order, hence the title)--I don't think is really "speculative fiction".
Donohue is a fairly new appearance who is both commercially popular and well-reviewed by such folk as Graham Joyce and Elizabeth Hand.
Du Maurier is, of course, famous for "creepy" novels like Rebecca. But apparently her short stories are--at least some are--more overtly fantastic.
Yes, this is that E. M. Forster. While far and away best known for his mainstream fiction, Forster was always an adventurer into speculation, as his classic novella The Machine Stops (included in the second collection) shows. The stories in this collection are by and large parables, reportedly excellently written.
A lot of people like the author in general and this book in particular. The plot seems clever and the writing (from snippets) satisfactory.
One of the last of the diplomat-scholars, Fuentes "uses experimental techniques familiar from the nouveau roman and postmodern fiction" (per the Fuentes page on The Authors' Calendar) in literate tales that, by and large, focus on power and politics in Latin America. There seems, by report, little doubt that Fuentes is a writer of high quality; what is less certain, to me, is which of his books fairly fall under the rubric "speculative fiction" ("experimental techniques" is not quite the same thing as "speculative fiction"). The listing below is thus quite incomplete (Fuentes was prolific, with both fiction and non-fiction) and possibly in some error; I consider it a modest "sampler" list, which can be expanded at will.
Though Garnett wrote a number of later fictions, this, his first, is what he is remembered for--to the extent that he is remembered, for despite the book's having in its time won all sorts of literary prizes and the praise of the famous, neither it nor Garnett himself are much remembered today. There is correspondingly little about Garnett on the web; perhaps the best of that little is this little David Garnett bio.
"A novel-as-(existential)-thought-experiment" is how one review described it. Take that for what it's worth.
Gun is a Turk, now resident in the U.S., who writes in English and seems well liked by the literary establishment (here's an on-line micro-biography of Guneli Gun). The novel listed below is available online.
This is just one sample--a collection of four novellas--of her extensive work, but is probably as good a starting point as any. Ms. Hand maintains her own web site, Winterlong.
Hansen's first novel, The Chess Garden, stirred some strong positive reactions in competent critics. The next two look rather promising as well, based on a majority of published criticism from reputable sources. There seems to be no overall Hansen site or page on the web, but there are available reviews of the individual books, of which these are samples: review of The Chess Garden; review of Perlman's Ordeal; and review of Caesar's Antlers.
This came to my attention through a recommendation by M. John Harrison. Most reviews seem to like it. Harpur has a small essay on alchemy of some possible interest. This book seems to be a sort of cult "semi-classic", in that it is little known but those who know it like it.
Hesse is another world-class mainstream author who occasionally dipped into the fantastic (or the science-fictional). Professor Günther Gottschalk maintains the Herman Hesse Home Page.
Hollander is a top-ranked poet and scholar, and he used his abilities to construct this one fantasy work, which takes the form of a scholar's efforts to piece together and interpret a lost medieval epic poem; the resulting book is half an amusing commentary on scholarly research and half an actual epic poem, though in scattered pieces in different hands and different styles. The thing is said to be a delightful hoot.
I doubt even his staunchest advocates would call Irving more than a minor writer, but what a magazine used to call "good of kind". The Headless Horseman is tired and labored, but this little tale, as best I remember it now--which is why it's in this category--seemed charming and amusing in its way.
The first novel linked below is another that, even after reading extensive reviews and descriptions of it, seems to me hard to classify as "speculative fiction". Odd, yes, no doubt; told in an curious, experimental manner, yes; surrealistic or fantastic--maybe. But, it seems, definitely a good book, no matter of what sort. Here is a brief on-line evaluation of Ishiguro. (The second novel loisted here is definitely speculative fiction.)
Johnson is mainly a modern mainstream writer. The work below, set in a post-holocaust America, is reportedly atypical of others on the same theme, and is said to be excellent writing.
Johnson has a series of awards to testify to the quality of her writings: the Theodore A. Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short story of 1994, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Art's Crawford Award for best new fantasy novelist of the year, finalist for the 2003 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, finalist for the 2004 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, currently a finalist for the World Fantasy Award; she was an author guest of honor for the 2005 SFRA conference in Las Vegas. She has her own web page, Kij Johnson; separate from that, she runs her own blog, "Everything is a transition between something and something else".
A long-time and prolific writer of children's books (under another name), in 1984 Jones (under her own name) turned to science fiction; since then, she has been the winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the BSFA short story award, the Children of the Night Award from the Dracula Society, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and a co-winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. The work below is only a sampling of her total oeuvre; if it pans out, the list will likely end up rather longer. She has a web site of her own, Gwyneth Jones.
The work below is only a sampling of the total oeuvre of this remarkable writer; if it pans out, the list will likely end up rather longer. There is available an extensive discusion of the book listed below.
There is no least doubt that these classics by this famed author belong here; my only question is at how many stars, so I need to navigate them before adding them in. Kafka material on the web is voluminous, but the Authors' Calendar Franz Kafka page is a good place to look.
Here is another writer a lot of people seem to love, but who brings out, in me, only The Eight Deadly Words (described farther above). Nothing in his work seems particularly wrong in any way, but the sum of the elements--from the actual prose to the depth of the characters--seems always just that much off deep achievement. But several readers have suggested that perhaps I was reading the wrong works--some being supposedly much better than others, I guess--so I owe it one more fling. The two books listed below are probably as good a place to dive in as anywhere. There is an "authorized" Kay web site, Bright Weavings.
Kharms wrote short absurdist pieces in Stalinist Russia, which facts led, at least in part, to his incarceration, during which he died of starvation in the prison hospital. His works are short, often microscopically so, but are reportedly outstanding reading; so far as I can tell, the volume cited below collects all of these pieces. Kharms also produced a substantial body of books for young children, many of which are also said to be absurdist fantasy, and at least some of which are available in English. The Authors' Calendar Daniil Kharms page is useful.
This is said to be a very funny book; King, a Cherokee Indian, writes of the clash between traditional Indian culture and the modern world, and spares nothing and nobody from his pervasive wit, which is warm-hearted, not scathing. There is a fair amount of material about King on the web, none particularly deep or insightful; here is a typical King bio, Canadian Writers: Thomas King.
The work below is only a sampling of her total oeuvre; if it pans out, the list will likely end up rather longer. The New Zealand Book Council has a reasonably extensive web page on Elizabeth Knox.
Koster has written some other works, but this is the only one that seems to clearly lie in our fields; it is reported to be exceedingly clever and funny. There is remarkably little available about Koster, surprising in that he has been a controversial political writer for a long time. The closest to useful is perhaps this brief description of Carmichael's Dog.
Krausser has written a lot more; I don't know how much of it, if any, is fantasy, because little or none (save the one novel listed below) is available yet in English. In the novel we have, a psychiatrist takes on a patient who claims to be--and may indeed be--Satan; much hilarity (sort of) ensues. There seems no Krausser web page, but here's a review of The Great Bagarozy.
Krohn is a Finnish author of substantial output, but (so far as I know) the two books listed below are her only work yet translated into English. Tainaron is a rather unusual epistolary novel, the letters coming from an unnamed writer visiting a city of diverse, civilized, human-sized insects; all available reports praise it highly. Krohn's style is to build a whole out of quite small pieces of prose--such as the letters in Tainaron--which, though each seems almost independent, add up to a significant whole exposition. Krohn has several other works in her oeuvre, some possibly also fantastical. Besides numerous glowing reviews of Tainaron, There are a couple of mini-biographies available on line--here is one such Krohn biography.
La Farge (married to Wendy Walker, see farther below) specializes in adult tales of the Talking Animal variety. There is annoyingly little information on him or his works on the web; about the best available is this mini-review of Zuntig.
Lem is a late addition to this page, because I had read some of his work and found it jejeune. But it seems that a very great deal depends on the translation, with the developing consensus being that most English translations have done Lem's work great disservice. In the books list below, I have included only those translated into English by Michael Kandel, who appears to be the one universally praised translator for Lem. We'll see how this goes on the replay. (Note that Solaris, possibly Lem's best-known work, is not--yet, anyway--translated by Kandel.)
One reviewer describes her tales as "elliptical and spooky". She maintains her own web site, www.kellylink.net.
Jeff Vandermeer's review in The New York Times liked it a lot.
Mantel is a big-name author, mostly mainstream but with one novel clearly in our fields, and another that sounds like it is..
John Percival Martin (1880-1966) was a Methodist minister and missionary who liked to tell his children stories about talking animals. The wonderland of Martin's books is reminiscent of Carroll's, but far more modern and seedy, with lumps of industrial archaeology lying about the landscape. Its central character, Uncle, is a vastly rich elephant who affects purple dressing-gowns and lives in an improbable edifice called Homeward--half Gormenghast and half Disneyland. Most of Homeward's inhabitants are alarmingly eccentric, and would pass unnoticed in the Goon Show. The books have not been reprinted in a third of a century, and editions are hard to find and expensive. (Though a Wikipedia note says that "The first book was reprinted in paperback in 2000 by Red Fox . . . hardcover reprints of the first two volumes were published by the New York Review of Books in 2007-8".)
(Most of the above is borrowed from a neat article by David Langford.)
(Yes, the Poet Laureate Masefield.) Many critics seem to like these two novels, though the terms in which they speak lead me to believe that there is an element of nostalgia possibly clouding their critical judgements. Well, in time we shall see. There is an extensive Masefield biography available on line.
More a psychological and social study than a "supernatural" tale, this is one of the definitive renderings of the golem legend. One reader suggests strongly that the 1928 translation by Madge Pemberton (available in a Dover edition of the novel) is somewhat more flowing than that of Mike Mitchell, though the latter has done several Meyrink books of late. There are few pages on the web about Meyrink, but there is a decent review of The Golem available.
As with many other listings on this page, this is only a sample of a larger oeuvre. There is a decent Ib Michael web site available.
A first novel, a quest fable, told in elegant prose, liked by critics and readers.
Morris was catapaulted into current attention when Ursula Le Guin classed him one of the three master prose stylists of fantasy in the twentieth century (along with Dunsany and Tolkien). There is a good Kenneth Morris web site.
Murakami has become quite the bright light of modern literature. It's time to see why. The so-called "official American Murakami web site" is a programming disaster requiring the vile "Flash" plugin to show anything at all (perhaps the very definition of "brain dead" in site-making); fortunately, there is a nicely done "unofficial" Haruki Murakami site.
Nabokov is an eminently well-known "mainstream" novelist who is by no means always mainstream. I presently know him only by his autobiographical work Speak, Memory, which is first-class writing. There is a useful Authors' Calendar Vladimir Nabokov page.
Elsewhere on this site, I have praised Nye's book Falstaff, but not included it in the main lists because it is not truly a work of speculative fiction (though it reads much like, which is why I mentioned it). I now find that Nye has treated several other literary and historical figures, and if the results are as good as for Falstaff, there's quite a treat awaiting. I list below only Nye's books that do or might qualify as "speculative", but recommend to you anything you can find by him. (Incidentally, despite the success of Falstaff and some of his other novels, it seems Nye is best known as a poet.) There is a brief biography of Robert Nye, but not a lot more in any one place.
O'Leary is a popular young writer of speculative fiction. He maintains his own web site, Patrick O'Leary's Books.
Okri, a Nigerian African, is often compared to Amos Tutuola; Okri's books, set in modern-day Africa, are redolent of "magic realism" (whatever exactly that may be), with Yoruba myths and beliefs interwoven integrally with the narrative. Some readers report The Famished Road as complicated or difficult or, tellingly, as a book that reads as if written for an academic readership; others simply love it. The ever-helpful Author's Calendar has a Ben Okri page.
Pamuk, a Turk, is a commonly described as a bright star in today's literary constellations. The books listed below, though they seem all to partake of modernist writing techniques, are by no means assuredly what I would class "speculative fiction". There is a Orhan Pamuk web site (unofficial).
The novel below, a sprawling Decameron of sub-tales, seems known to few, all of whom ecstatically praise it. Note that the latest translation from the original French not Polish, as I previously stated here), by Ian MacLean, seems considered by many to be inferior to the earlier two-volume version by Elizabeth Abbot ("only version that captures the humor of the original"), which was published in two volumes (entitled The Saragossa Manuscript and The New Decameron.); yet another reviewer preferred the translation by Christine Donougher ("more successfully captures the surreal whimsy"--do we see a trend here?). There was a film of the book, said to be pretty faithful (and thus good).
(Actually, the history of the manuscript is complex, in that parts of the original in French were lost, the present English translations derive from an early translation of the then-intact whole into Polish, which translation was and is considered quite good.
Powers is a literary Big Boy, and perhaps deservedly so. Despite the general praise for the novel listed below (and his other work), I have a nagging sense of an Asimovian type of novel: "walking, talking ideas" as someone once put it. But I could be very wrong--only one way to find out. There is a useful brief Richard Powers biography available on the web.
Powys was a strange man who wrote strange books, though whether their strangeness is of the sort that makes them true speculative fiction is unclear to me. Of the Wessex sextet, probably A Glastonbury Romance and Porius are the likeliest candidates, but the others may belong, too. One thing seems sure: that Cowper could write exquisite, clean prose. There is a solid online appreciation of Cowper from The Guardian.
This Powys, a brother of the one above, both members of an extraordinary literary family--with its own following and their web site, The Powys Society--has been described as "a master stylist and one of the most original of all English storytellers" (Times Literary Supplement) and his work as "elegant and amusing, profound and sparse" (The Times). He, like his brother, was a strange man, though in different ways. His works are commonly called "allegorical", though whether they are actually allegorical as we today use the word or are simply parables (not quite the same thing) is hard to say from just reading reviews; all, however, deal with philosophical and religious questions, especially that of death. Though Powys stopped writing in 1936, his works were by no means wholly published in his lifetime, and "new" novels and story collections appear from time to time even today. The few listed below are a sort of "starter kit" to see if more is wanted (a bibliography of even his major work is hard to come by). There is a long essay, "Modernity and Medievalism in T. F. Powys's Mature Fiction", available on line.
For a writer who has received kind words from major newspaper reviewers, Prantera--an Englishwoman long resident in Italy--seems almost unknown. Her novels apparently divide rather sharply between mainstream and fantastical, though whether they are truly "speculative fiction" is not quite clear from the few minimal reviews available on line. The titles below, which may not be of equal quality, seem to comprise her fantastical works; the marking off of "likely" and "possible" (as to being "speculative") is, I warn, tentative. I don't normally link discussion threads here, but this Amanda Prantera forum thread seems the best material available in one place.
Pynchon's talent seems undoubtable (despite the occasional sniping at his difficulty); but, though his books are apparently all rather wild explosions of linguistic and conceptual fireworks, whether they are truly "speculative fiction" remains--for me--to be seen. But I look forward to finding out, no matter which way it goes. (This list is by no means his full oeuvre.) There are multiple sites about Pynchon; this Thomas Pynchon Home Page seems as good as any.
Ray is sometimes compared to H. P. Lovecraft, which is not, to me, a recommendation. This unabashedly "Gothic" novel is said to be at least "good of kind", so I suppose it deserves a look; but, applying triage, it is not likely to get read here anytime soon. The Violet Books site has a good article on Malpertuis (which has been made into a film).
Said to be side-splittingly funny, what it contains "is a series of extracts from the Surrealist Sportsman's Club Chronicles, in which the titular boxer, a gentleman of short stature and simian aspect, is pitted against an assortment of foes and obstacles, from villainous octopi to Butlins Redcoats" (from James Marriott). How far wrong can one go in trying this? There is a modest but interesting Maurice Richardson biography available on line.
This book is a hen's tooth, but I gather that a new printing is due out fairly soon from Savoy Books.
Rooke has seven novels and hundreds of short stories. Though much of his work is mainstream fiction, there is also--especially in his later work--a definite fantastical streak (which you can see in this on-line short story by Rooke, Polar Arms). It is hard to determine from reviews which of his novels partake of the fantastical; his short stories also apparently are quite a mix. I list below one story collection, listed elsewhere as an example of Rooke's speculative fiction, and one novel that, based on a New York Times review, seems rather fantastical. Rooke may well be an author worth following up (there is an on-line bibliography available on Rooke's own web site, Leon Rooke), though at least some of his work (such as the novel The Beautiful Woman is, by report, uncharacteristically weak.
Rulfo is deeply respected in Latin American letters despite having produced only two books: a collection of short stories ()apparently all mainstream), and the definitely fantastical novel listed below. Some have compared the tale (in "feel" rather than precise parallel) with Dante's Inferno. It is widely described as immensely powerful and deep, with large overtones of relevance that interfere not at all with the sheer story-telling. There is an Authors' Calendar Juan Rulfo page.
Quoting Wikipedia, "Russell has become widely known for her two novels which explore one of science fiction's oldest concepts: first contact with aliens. In this framework she also explores the even older issue of how one can reconcile the idea of a benevolent deity with pain and evil in the world." Russell maintains her own web site, Mary Doria Russell.
These two books (which are related but not sequential) are extraordinarily bizarre. Reviewers, both professional and amateur, seem to either love them or hate them. One of the favorable amateurs decsribed them this way: "dense, mind expanding, tongue twisting, mushroom chewing meditations on the limits of the imagination."
Schulz's work is described so variously as to make it hard to characterize just from what has been said of it. Two things, though, on which there seems virtually complete agreement are that 1) it is fantastical; and 2) that it is extraordinarily good. Schulz produced only these two books before his untimely (and bizarre) murder by a Nazi officer during World War II. The Authors' Calendar Bruno Schulz page is, as always, a good one.
Scliar is a Latin American Jewish writer (so identified here because his identity overtly powers his writing); while I think that if I read the phrase "magic realism" one more time I'll puke, his work does fit into that Latin literature that accepts and emphasizes the unusual in everyday settings. So far as I can judge from reviews and comments, the list below comprises speculative-fiction works (Max is the avowed inspiration for Yann Martel's Booker-prize-winning novel The Life of Pi, listed above.) Doubtless some of the tales in The Collected Stories of Moacyr Scliar will also fit under the same umbrella, but--since I don't know the percentage--I have not expressly listed that collection. There are reviews of various of his books available, but the closest thing to an overall insight is perhaps this on-line essay by Scliar, "Reclaiming the text - or reclaiming voices?" about his writing.
Though he has written numerous novels, some but not all speculative, the (speculative) trilogy below being considered his best work. Even within the trilogy, the first, Gog seems to be thought the standout work, with the others "somewhat less interesting" or "weaker".
This has gotten wildy differing reviews, though most are positive. The Complete Review has a nice discussion.
Smith is a British writer whose first published story won the 1991 British Fantasy Award for "Best Short Story" and whose first novel won the 1995 August Derleth Award for Best Novel. Smith maintains his own web site, www.michaelmarshallsmith.com.
Spencer writes weird books, typically featuring possibly insane characters. Some at least are also by report wildly funny (by design, I should note). I don't know why there are so many fine writers with no web site, but Spencer is yet another--lots of on-line reviews of individual books, but no central critical assessment. This review of Spencer's short-story collection will have to do for all till he, or someone, gets a site up.
Starrett, an always delightful literary polymath, seems to have produced only this one fantastic work, but it is said to be an uproarious delight. There is an on-line biography of Starrett, a fascinating man. (Mystery fans, and arguably everyone, should read his Sherlock Holmes works: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes; 221 B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes; the Adventure of the Unique Hamlet, one of the greatest pastiches ever; and the poem "221B", original source of the oft-quoted phrase "where it is always 1895".)
"Cyberpunk", I will freely confess, tends to give me a pain. If I want to learn about "hi-tech", I can read non-fiction. Stephenson is said to be literate cyberpunk; that strikes me as an oxymoron, but I can't know for sure till I try it. (Several reviewers question whether Cryptonomicon and some of his other books are truly speculative fiction, as opposed to historical fiction.) Stephenson has his own web site, Neal Stephenson.
The work below is only a sampling of his total oeuvre; if it pans out, the list will likely end up rather longer. There is a lot about and by Sterling on the web, but most of it (including his blog) seems mainly or wholly related to his various activist causes, not his fiction. About the most general thing is this general Bruce Sterling page (now a bit long in the tooth)) by Cosma Shalazi.
Stevens worked in a circus, and his much-praised tales use that background. Stevens has his own web site, Brooke Stevens.
Stockton produced children's tales, the most famous being "The Lady or the Tiger?" This being now and that being then, the tales are written in a style well above "children's books" of today, albeit a bit stiff and Victorian. I have read some paragraphs of Stockton's work here and there, and cannot conclude whether his work would be interesting at length. But I include this one listing as a fair sampler, for myself and those who would like to see his work (though there is some available on line). There's a modest but sufficient biography of Frank R. Stockton available on the web.
The work below, while her most famed, is only a sampling of her total oeuvre, which is children's and "young adult" books amenable to adult appreciation; if it pans out, the list will likely end up rather longer. There is a brief biography of Catherine Storr available on line.
Tarn was an eminent classical historian, and all his works save one are learned treatises. The exception is the book listed below, which is reported to be a great delight. It is a sort of fairy tale set in the isle of Skye, which the author ("the Student" in the tale) concocted for his daughter ("Fiona" in the tale). But it is a "children's book" in the same sense as the "Alice" books: clever, droll, witty. The New York Times contemporary review calls it "a book so beautiful, so whimsical, so exquisite alike in its humor, its loveliness, and its sheer charm that it will be a dull reader indeed to whom it does not bring an abiding joy." A brief sample of the first few pages seems to confirm that judgement. This now-little-known charmer may be a major buried treasure.
Tennant is best known for being what The New York Times eloquently described as a "literary ventroliquist", meaning she has written a hundredweight of sequels to or pastiches of famous works, from Pride and Prejudice to Gone With the Wind. But she has also written not a few original works, several of the speculative sort. One reviewer, speaking of Hotel de Dreams (a Pringle Top 100 fantasy and surely the best place to start sampling her) said that "While the book is certainly not lacking in the weird humour of her two previous books, and actually abounds in the grotesque, there is a shift away from satirical comedy in favour of psychological fantasy, from a broad perspective to a closed world. Even so, Tennant still provides a tangentially symbolic comment on the 'condition of England' issue through her characters and their dream-selves. All that should give you some idea of her. (The list of books below is a sampler, not complete, and some may not be speculative.)
Probably best known for the big-name movies made from his books--The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Color of Money--Tevis wrote several science-fiction books (including the one from which the movie Man Who Fell was made). Whether the others are up to his "big one" is unclear, but I will try them and see. There is a decent appreciation of Tevis and his works available on line.
Tiptree was the pseudonym of Dr. Alice Sheldon. I have read only one Tiptree story, "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?", which story won the Nebula award and tied for the Hugo award, in both cases for best novella published in 1976; all I can say is that those judges' criteria and mine are very different. I found it obvious to the point of juvenilia, didactic--one might even say whiny. But considering all the critical foofaraw over her work, I suppose that sooner or later I should read this entire collection, which seems to be the cream of her work. There is a James Tiptree, Jr. WWW Page on line.
Tutuola is a Nigerian whose works incorporate Yoruba folk tales; he manages to combine the ideas of old magic and modern hi-tech--seamlessly, the reviewers say. He is well regarded in mainstream literary circles. There is a useful Authors' Calendar Amos Tutuola page available.
I haven't read Twain for years now, and for most of these, probably never. I find Twain's humor usually a little heavy-handed, but he is Mark Tawin, so all of these deserve a critical re-reading.
Unamuno was a philosopher, but is today better remembered for his fiction. The tale below is his best-known speculative-fiction opus. There is a useful Authors' Calendar Miguel de Unamuno page available.
VanderMeer is, by all accounts, one of the exciting new voices out there in fantastic fiction, and I can scarcely wait to dig in. (Note that City of Saints and Madmen has appeared in three successively larger editions; the most complete is the 2004 UK edition.) VanderMeer maintains his own web site, jeffvandermeer.com.
Vonnegut is, I fear, another counter-culture cult fave who does little for me. Too often, what seems to mainstream reviewers and readers as strikingly new and bold is, to veteran speculative-fiction readers, strikingly old and humdrum. What I can recall of his prose did not excite me, and based on the summaries of his work, the plots are so thin that the prose has to be what will carry them if anything will. But I'll give him another go. The book below is probably a fair representation of his middle-period work, so I'll try it (sooner or later). There are several dedicated Vonnegut web sites, of which The Vonnegut Web is representative.
Everyone seems to just swoon over Walker's fantasy novel The Secret Service, which seems to be both intelligent and beautifully written. Of her other work, the short stories in The Sea-Rabbit are re-workings of classic fairy tales in Walker's reportedly lambent prose (there: I've been just dying for an opportunity to flourish "lambent", a word apparently beloved of literary critics). One reviewer (Elizabeth Willey) recommends starting with the stories, as an induction to Walker's prose styling. (Walker has another short-story collection, Stories Out of Omarie, which does not appear to be speculative fiction.) She maintains her own web site, Wendy Walker.
Irishman Wall writes of an unfortunate medieval monk, Brother Fursey, caught up between Irish monks and Lucifer, unable to either abandon or turn to either. The tales are superficially quite comic, but seem to have an underlying seriousness--one source refers to them as tragicomedies. I can determine little about the other work listed here save that it deals with (hang on) an attempted assassination of Santa Claus; one has to assume that Wall's writerly abilities were up to the task. I can find no information whatever on the nature of Wall's short fiction (collected in A Flutter of Wings), though I suspect that at least a bit of it is fantastical. There is not much about Wall on the web--this Mervyn Wall micro-biography is about it; there are, however, at least some reviews of the Fursey tales, including one from the SF Site's "Curiosities" series, The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return Of Fursey.
Wylie, who published in the 1920s, is a curious case: as one biographical notes puts it, "she was described by contemporaries as an icon of the age." The Virginia Quarterly Review remarks that "Wylie may never be known as more than a minor artist of great elegance and skill, but though there were other notable women writers in her life span . . . there were none with quite her quality." Yet today, she is scarcely remembered, least of all for her four novels (her forte was poetry). But, of the novel listed below, another online review remarked that it is "the most mannered and ornamental and beautiful allegorical Frankenstein tale you will ever read." (You can read more about the book at Georgia Tech's "Frankenstein Project", aka "Mary Shelley's Legacy in Science Fiction".) Wylie's other three novels are either not fantastic or, apparently (as with her Shelley fantasy), not very good. (The four novels and some short stories were collected in one volume, The Collected Prose of Elinor Wylie.) There are some bios available on line, of which this, Elinor Wylie, seems the fullest.
Zoline is an artist and a writer, her adult fiction being (she has done a children's book) being, so far as I know, wholly contained in the book listed here. Nonetheless, she is viewed by many leading critics as an outstanding writer, the title story of the collection apparently being her chef d'oeuvre. (See Mary Papke's essay "A Space of Her Own" for more on Zoline.)
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The site's Front Page
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· Apologia: Part 1
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