“[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)
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 four previously posted reviews of Bishop’s work
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.