Update: Guest Post Series Announcement, The Science Fiction of Michael Bishop

michael bishop,header,02

Collage of Bishop’s SF covers created by my father

“[Michael Bishop’s] early stories and novels display considerable intellectual complexity, and do not shirk the downbeat implications of their anthropological treatment of aliens and alienating milieux” — John Clute, SF Encyclopedia

Michael Bishop (b. 1945) [official website] is no stranger to critical success for both his novels and short SF: he has won the Nebula Award twice (“The Quickening” and No Enemy But Time) and picked up nine Hugo nominations and an additional thirteen Nebula Nominations.  Two of his more famous novels, No Enemy But Time (1982) and Transfigurations (1979), were selected for inclusion and republication in the Gollancz Masterwork List. Although Bishop has not published a novel since the Hugo-nominated Brittle Innings in 1994, he received a Nebula nomination for his novelette “Vinegar Peace, or, The Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage” (2008) as recently as 2010!

With this in mind it is surprising that his extraordinary talent is not better known within the SF community.  John Clute in his article for SF Encyclopedia argues that “the earnest ardour and rigorousness of Bishop’s fiction has made him eminently publishable, but difficult to market to an audience expecting easier heroes to identify with.”

My complete list of guest articles.  

“Allegiances” (1975) (review by Peter S.)

A Little Knowledge (1977) (review by Heloise at Heloise Merlin’s Weblog)

Blooded on Arachne (1982) (selections) (review by Carl V. Anderson at Stainless Steel Droppings)

Brighten to Incandescence (2003) (review by MPorcius at MPorcius Fiction Log)

Brittle Innings (1994) (review by James Harris at Auxiliary Memory)

Catacomb Years (1979) (review by 2theD at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature)

“Death and Designation Among the Asadi” (1973) (review by Jesse at Speculiction…)

“In Rubble, Pleading” (1974), “Death and Designation Among the Asadi” (1973), and “The White Otters of Childhood” (1973), (review by Admiral Ironbombs at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed & Creased)

No Enemy But Time (1982) (review by Megan at From Couch to Moon)

“The Quickening” (1981) (review by Max at Pechorin’s Journal)


Links to my five posted reviews of Bishop’s work

A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975)

And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees (1976)

Catacomb Years (1979)

Stolen Faces (1977)

Transfigurations (1979)

Original announcement

In an effort to contribute to a greater interest in and readership of Michael Bishop’s science fiction I have approached a variety of fellow reviewers and frequent commentators (a few who have not read his work in the past), to submit reviews/observations/comments for my first ever Guest Post series!  Although I have only read his 70s SF, I gave no such instructions to my guest posters!

I too have ignored him for far too long.  I could indeed claim my relatively youthful age for I am a child of the late 80s.  But then again I am plagued (blessed?) by a desire to uncover, to explore back shelves, I should have read him years ago.  I remember quite vividly my first contact was not with the author and the story but with Gene Szafran’s egregious cover for A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975) as a teenager. I put the novel back on the shelf.  But perhaps that was a good thing for Bishop’s novels require a certain patience, a willingness to get delve into the deep, only then can you revel in his highly metaphorical and allegorical worlds.  I am not sure I was that type of reader at that age.  The aliens are uncomfortably alien.  The challenges real and the characters flawed.  I encountered the same bizarre Szafran cover in Half Price Books in my hometown but this time at the sight of the name on the cover, John Clute’s words of praise came to mind.

I have read three Michael Bishop novels: A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Stolen Faces (1977), And Strange At Ecbatan the Trees (variant title: Beneath the Shattered Moons) (1976).  The first two are quite simply masterpieces.  All three are virtually unknown. All three were characterized by a challenging intellectual density.  All three were incredibly rewarding.

Starting this week I will post the first in hopefully a month long project.  I will contribute reviews as well for Transfigurations (1979) and any short stories in the collection Blooded on Arachne (1982) not covered by the posters.

I invite you all to comment, visit the sites of my guests, and pick up Bishop’s work!


A selection of covers.  Click to enlarge.

51nDPjrHaVL  Funeralfortheeyes1st  CNTGGRSBL1994  PKDIDAL1988

Beneaththeshattered  BKTG21177  BLDDRCHN1982  CLSENWTD1986A

Littleknowledge NCNTFDYS1985A NDRHVNSBR1982 NWNTRNDN1984



14 thoughts on “Update: Guest Post Series Announcement, The Science Fiction of Michael Bishop

      • I stopped reading him about twenty years ago so it was fun to come back to see what I’d been missing at shorter length. Some of the early novels are good ideas but don’t quite gel. There’s an uneven quality to his work at length.

      • I have his collection Blooded on Arachne sitting on the shelf — it looks like it has some of his more important early works. I’ve adored his novels so far (linked in the post) — Stolen Faces, A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, and to a lesser extent, And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees (variant title: Beneath the Shattered Moons).

  1. I see SF Masterworks has one by Bishop. I collect whatever I can of these classic re-issues from the Gollancz publisher. If anyone is interested, I think wikipedia has an entire list of works they’ve resuscitated and they still keep them coming. The greatest contribution has been to the amount of works by PKD; which seems these days like there’s more publishers for him than any other author. Nonetheless, nothing beats a classic in a DAW paperback with that black lettering on the yellow spine – so easy to identify off the shelf when you’re feeling like Han Solo in that trash compactor except you’re sandwiched between two massive bookshelves of interspersed sci-fi and fantasy.. young and old.

  2. Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas, is my only experience with Bishop. The story is meant as an homage to and a pastiche of the work of Dick, who, in my opinion, is easily one of the top 3 sci-fi writers I have read. However, the plot is so derivative of Dick’s work (specifically Radio Free Albemuth) that I found it unfortunately distracting and disappointing. If I were to dive into the work of Bishop, I’d want to wade in the shallow end first, trying out a short story or two. I don’t believe I started out with the best sample of his work.

    • I haven’t read that one yet. I will eventually because I like both PKD and Bishop. You might consider (I know it’s a tad pricey) the link that David Marshall provided in the first comment — it’s a new retrospective collection of his best short works. Or, find a cheap copy of Blooded on Arachne which contains some of the more famous 70s short stories.

      Or, any of the seemingly innumerable Hugo and Nebula nominated stories.

  3. I was never much of a fan of A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire. I think the revised Eyes of Fire is better, You should also approach Under Heaven’s Bridge with caution. Neither author considers it very good.

  4. Pingback: No Enemy But Time (1982) by Michael Bishop | From couch to moon

  5. Pingback: No Enemy But Time, by Michael Bishop | gaping blackbird

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