Anthony, Piers

Tagged: Author

Working name of US writer Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob (1934-    ) for all his published work. Born in England, he was educated in the USA and took out US citizenship in 1958, beginning to publish short stories with "Possible to Rue" for Fantastic in April 1963, and for the next decade appearing fairly frequently in the magazines, though he has more and more concentrated on longer forms; early work is fairly represented in Anthonology (coll 1985). He has written large amounts of both sf and fantasy; though there is no clear demarcation, it is certainly the case that he has more and more concentrated his energies on the latter form. His two most ambitious sf novels came early in his career. Chthon (1967), his first, is a complexly structured adventure of self-discovery partially set in a vast Underground Prison, and making ambitious though sometimes over-baroque use of Pastoral and other parallels; its sequel, Phthor (1975), is less far-reaching, less irritating, but also less involving. Anthony's second, genuinely ambitious novel is the extremely long Macroscope (1969; cut 1972), whose complicated Space-Opera plot combines astrology with more traditional Sense-of-Wonder concepts like successful SETI and the use of the planet Neptune (> Outer Planets) as a Spaceship. In constructing a series of sf devices in this book to carry across his concern with representing the unity of all phenomena, microscopic to macroscopic, Anthony evokes themes from Superman to Cosmology and Jungian Psychology; of all his works, this novel alone manages to seem adequately structured to convey the burden of a sometimes mercilessly hasty imagination.

The allegorical implications of Macroscope received more expansive – but less sustained or intense – treatment in two later series: the Tarot sequence, best read in recomposed form as Tarot (omni 1987) [see Checklist for details], in which various protagonists engage in a quest for the meaning of an emblem-choked Universe; and the Incarnations of Immortality series – beginning with On a Pale Horse (1983) and ending with And Eternity (1990) [see Checklist] – which features protagonists who are themselves embodiments or Icons of a meaningful Universe, and who are recruited to represent in their very being aspects of the Universe like Death, Fate, Gaia, Time and War. The final volume involves a search to replace an increasingly indifferent God (> Gods and Demons). Although the sequence is predominantly fantasy, portions of it apply sf logic to the organization of Heaven and Hell (Purgatory, for example, makes heavy use of Computers) in a manner distantly reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling's "On the Gate: A Tale of '16" (June 1926 McCall's as "The Gate"; vt in Debits and Credits, coll 1926).

In distinct contrast to complex works like these lies the Post-Holocaust Battle Circle sequence, comprising Sos the Rope (July-September 1968 F&SF; 1968), winner of the $5000 award from Pyramid Books, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Kent Productions, Var the Stick (1972; cut 1973) and Neq the Sword (1975), a combat-oriented trilogy assembled as Battle Circle (omni 1978). Here and in other novels Anthony resorts to stripped-down protagonists with monosyllabic and/or generic names, like Battle Circle's Sos, Var and Neq, or like Cal, Veg and Aquilon, whose adventures on various planets make up Of Man and Manta, a second trilogy comprising Omnivore (1968), Orn (1971) and OX (1976), assembled as Of Man and Manta (omni 1986): humanity turns out to be the omnivore. Both these series use action scenarios with thinly drawn backgrounds and linear plots not comfortably capable of sustaining the weight of significance the author requires of them. Perhaps the most successful of such books is Steppe (1976), a singleton featuring Alp, whose single-minded career playing Genghis Khan in a future dominated by a galaxy-spanning computer-operated game (> Games and Sports) is refreshingly unadulterated with any attempts at significance.

Prostho Plus (stories November 1967-October 1970 If and November 1967 Analog; fixup 1971) and Triple Detente (March 1968 Analog as "The Alien Rulers"; exp 1974) are both interstellar epics, the former comic and featuring a dentist required to treat a bizarre variety of Alien and even Robot patients, the latter concentrating on an Overpopulation theme and its solution through culling by Invasion. Far more ambitious – though again by no means more assured – are two series in the same vein. The Cluster series, comprising Cluster (1977; vt Vicinity Cluster 1979), Chaining the Lady (1978), Kirlian Quest (1978), Thousandstar (1980) and Viscous Circle (1982), is an elaborate Space Opera; it relates to Tarot [for this fantasy sequence, see Checklist below] in its use of Kirlian auras and other similar material in a universe ultimately obedient to occult commands. The Bio of a Space Tyrant sequence – Refugee (1983), Mercenary (1984), Politician (1985), Executive (1985) and Statesman (1986) – slowly but surely embroils its initially ruthless protagonist in a solar system whose complexities, which map allegorically on to contemporary world Politics, demand of him a moral (and therefore self-limiting) response.

The less wide-ranging Apprentice Adept sequence, whose initial trilogy comprises Split Infinity (1980), Blue Adept (1981) and Juxtaposition (1982), presents sf and Fantasy aspects of the same distant world (> Science and Sorcery), with repeated crossings of the "curtain" dividing a generic fantasyland from an inhospitable sf planet of Computers, Robots, and a prolonged Games and Sports tournament worked out with some inventiveness; the imaginary Element "protonite" which is a valuable Power Source on the sf plane is also the fantasyland's source of Magic.

Anthony is a writer capable of sweepingly intricate fiction, though his tendency to produce less demanding work may obscure this ambitiousness of purview. He is fluent and extremely popular, though his great success has done little to modify the truculent and solitary tone of his utterances on a variety of subjects. The critical apparatus surrounding the republication of But What of Earth? (1976; text restored 1989) with Robert Coulson, related to the Tarot sequence, serves as an extraordinary (and, with the original Laser Books edition not in print, not easily testable) exercise in special pleading: apparently Roger Elwood of Laser Books instructed Coulson to perform a substantial rewrite and billed him as co-author, while Anthony had expected no more than routine copyediting and sole credit. Anthony's autobiography, Bio of an Ogre (1988), similarly reveals a man unreconciled, unforgiving; though a later autobiographical work, How Precious Was That While: An Autobiography (2001) seems moderately less angered. It might be added, too, that few of Anthony's numerous fantasies (listed below) seem built to last. When he is helter-skelter – and much of even his better work is marred by hasty-seeming digressions – Anthony is of merely marginal interest; but the ongoing Geodyssey sequence – comprising Isle of Woman (1993), Shame of Man (1994), Hope of Earth (1997), Muse of Art (1999) and Climate of Change (2010) – is a strongly argued presentation of humanity's life on planet Earth, conducted through successive incarnations of exemplary human types beginning in the realm of Prehistoric SF. It seems to be the case that only when Anthony embraces a complex mythologizing vision of the meaningfulness of things does his work shake itself apart. He has become an entertainer of great skill, and his tales evoke powerful empathetic responses in a wide readership. [JC/DRL]

see also: Advertising; Asteroids; Astronomy; Berserkers; Climate Change; Crime and Punishment; Del Rey Books; Dinosaurs; Ecology; Fermi Paradox; Gamebook; Humour; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; Medicine; Memory Edit; Music; Technofantasy; Time Viewer; Under the Sea.

Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob

born Oxford. Oxfordshire: 6 August 1934




Of Man and Manta

  • Omnivore (New York: Ballantine, 1968) [Of Man and Manta: pb/]
  • Orn (Garden City, New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1971) [Of Man and Manta: hb/Frank Frazetta]
  • OX (Garden City, New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1976) [Of Man and Manta: hb/Richard V Corben]

Battle Circle

Jason Striker (martial arts)

Xanth (fantasy)


The Tarot subsequence is more a Science Fantasy exploration of Religion than sf.

Apprentice Adept (sf/fantasy crossover)

  • Split Infinity (New York: Ballantine, 1980) [Apprentice Adept: hb/Rowena Morrill]
  • Blue Adept (New York: Ballantine, 1981) [Apprentice Adept: hb/Rowena Morrill]
  • Juxtaposition (New York: Ballantine, 1982) [Apprentice Adept: hb/Lawrence Schwinger]
    • Double Exposure (Garden City, New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1982) [omni of the above three: Apprentice Adept: hb/Victoria Poyser]
      • Apprentice Adept (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1983) [omni: vt of the above: Apprentice Adept: pb/]
  • Out of Phaze (New York: Ace/Putnam, 1987) [Apprentice Adept: hb/Darrell K Sweet]
  • Robot Adept (New York: Ace/Putnam, 1988) [Apprentice Adept: hb/Darrell K Sweet]
  • Unicorn Point (New York: Ace/Putnam, 1989) [Apprentice Adept: hb/Darrell K Sweet]
  • Phaze Doubt (New York: Ace/Putnam, 1990) [Apprentice Adept: hb/Darrell K Sweet]

Bio of a Space Tyrant

  • Refugee (New York: Avon, 1983) [Bio of a Space Tyrant: pb/Jim Burns]
  • Mercenary (New York: Avon, 1984) [Bio of a Space Tyrant: pb/Jim Burns]
  • Politician (New York: Avon, 1985) [Bio of a Space Tyrant: pb/Jim Burns]
  • Executive (New York: Avon, 1985) [Bio of a Space Tyrant: pb/Jim Burns]
  • Statesman (New York: Avon, 1986) [Bio of a Space Tyrant: pb/Jim Burns]

Incarnations of Immortality (sf/fantasy crossover)

Kelvin of Rud (fantasy)

Mode (sf/fantasy crossover)

  • Virtual Mode (New York: Ace Books, 1991) [Mode: hb/Daniel R Horne]
  • Fractal Mode (New York: Ace Books, 1992) [Mode: hb/Daniel R Horne]
  • Chaos Mode (New York: Ace Books, 1993) [Mode: hb/Romas Kukalis]
  • DoOon Mode (New York: Ace Books, 2001) [Mode: hb/Daniel R Horne]


individual titles: sf

collections and stories

  • Anthonology (New York: Tor, 1985) [coll: hb/Joe Bergeron]
  • Hard Sell (Houston, Texas: Tafford Publishing, 1990) [coll of humorous sf: hb/David Welling]
  • Alien Plot (New York: Tor, 1992) [coll: hb/Erin McKee]

individual titles: fantasy

works as editor


about the author


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